Monday, December 31, 2007

My Little Stalkers

For me anyway. Now tell me, how am I supposed to get any writing done? Isn't she cute?

I have two, a juvenile delinquent, not kidding. Gin Gin's been in cat time out more that I ever had to put my daughter when she was growing up. And she's such a bad influence on our older cat, Rufas. He used to be so calm and quiet, perfect actually. But now he copies everything Gin Gin does. It's like he's in his second cat hood or something!

If they weren't cute and we didn't love them to pieces I'd tell them to go play out in the street! They're indoor cats. And when they're playing they sound like elephants stomping through the house. They're into everything! If you open a door, better check to make sure one of them hasn't snuck in because more than once Gin Gin has been locked up in a closet or kitchen cupboard. It's not until we hear her faint cries, and have to find her, that she's released from her prison.

And sleeping! Well, I've been woken up many times because my bed is their play pen. And they don't care who gets in their way. At times I feel like I've been sucker punched because one of them will jump on my chest, belly and at times face as they're romping around. My legs have been used as scratching posts, which reminds me, Gin Gin gets declawed next month:)

We love the little devils. They amuse us, and love us back unconditionally. Right now as I type this Gin Gin is next to me on top of the shredder, don't worry, it has a cover on it. And Rufus is at my feet. Wherever I go, they follow. I call them my little stalkers.

They say having animals around for the elderly is comforting and I have to agree. I see a definite improvement in my hubby, with regard to his health and outlook in life. He's retired and at home all the time, so when I'm working they keep him company.

Of course, he won't clean out their litter box!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Year's End

It's hard to believe another year has come and nearly gone. Where did it go? Seems it moved so quickly, almost like the blink of an eye. Yet when I sit and think back on the last months, I realize there are so many memorable moments that it's clear the eye didn't blink as rapidly as first thought. Days fille with love... laughter...a smidgen of sadness... goals met and hopes defined..new friends...relationships strengthened amidst giggles and tears... Yes, it's been a good year.

I hope you and yours have also enjoyed a wonderful 2007. As we bid this year farewell, I hope your memories are more happy than sad and that it was, for you, a year filled with more high points than low ones.

Wishing you all a wonderful New Year! Happy 2008!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Now that it is over...

Now it is over what are we going to do? We girls have huffed and puffed, pushed gigantic trolleys, cooked and ate and then done it over again. How on earth are we going to fill in our time?

Well, as for me, I am looking forward to getting back to my novel. I have 6,000 words to the finishing line and my mind is blank, too filled with happy memories, plus a large helping of guilt over what I ate.

This morning I walked there and back to the gym (4 miles round trip) and had a work out, I still do not feel any less guilty. Today our nephew and his wife are coming to help celebrate John's 77th birthday.I shall be cooking again and that blank computer screen is winking and calling...hey girl, I need you...sorry, mate, you will have to wait for tomorrow.

Hope that all your Christmas dreams were fulfilled.

Have a happy new year - don't forget to shake hands for auld lang syne.

Margaret.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I know I'm a day early but this is my last chance to blog before tomorrow. LOL This is going to be short and sweet because I'm babysitting today and I hear Alivia waking even now as I write. Don't know how long she'll be content in her crib before letting me know, in a loud way, that she's up and wants out! You know I'm going to have a busy, fun filled day:)

I'm sitting here in my daughter's living room, which looks more like a giant play pen. Oh, there is a sofa and TV but I can clearly see who rules the roost here. My daughter is a clean freak, but the clutter of Alivia's little things everywhere doesn't bother her in the least. And speaking of the little angel, I hear her now:) I'll have to say goodbye for now.

I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday tomorrow. Enjoy your time with friends and family members you haven't seen for a while. Enjoy the good food that helps you celebrate the day. And take lots of pictures so you can look back on your special day and smile.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A gift from my husband...

...that I'm sharing with you. Isn't it pretty?

Now, not to kill it before next week...


Friday, December 21, 2007

Speechless

Yes, I am speechless this morning, or very nearly so. It's an oddity, I assure you. I don't wonder if we shouldn't mark this speechless day on our calendars. Goodness knows it's an unlikely enough event! If I didn't feel fine I'd check my temperature...surely, such speechlessness could indicate a medical issue, couldn't it? But not to worry--I feel fine. I think I may just be experiencing what a lot of others are going through at this point.

Oh? What is it that renders me speechless, you ask?

The calm before the storm.

You know the one. We've all felt it at one time or another. It shows up at many times, for any number of occasions. Weddings. Parties. Interviews. Barbeques. You name it. Almost every storm, even happy ones, have that lull just before the flurry of activity begins.

In this case, I've got the pre-holiday muteness I associate with being content to wait. I've cleaned from top to bottom, baked until my fingers are blistered (not very good about using oven mitts!), wrapped a la Martha Stewart, mailed, shopped till I've dropped, planned as if I'm a general heading off to battle and have rewritten the holiday menus countless times. Now, I'm in a holding pattern. Ready and waiting for the festivities to begin. My brain has turned to mush. All I plan to do now is listen to carols, stoke the fireplace, eat the cookies and reread A Christmas Carol.

And I want to send wishes, from our home to yours, that your holidays be safe and happy ones. Whatever you do, wherever you go and whomever you're surrounded by, I hope you feel the joy that comes to us at this special time of year. Maybe you'll be like I am now, speechless--if only for a moment so that you, too, enjoy the feeling of contentedness that comes before, during and after a very pleasurable storm!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Coincidences

We all know what coincidences are - they are the life blood for novelists. Where would we be without them? They help us drive our plots forward.

This week I was thinking about my own life and wonder whether there is not more than coincidence in some of the things that have happened. It is almost as if someone is putting out a guiding hand. I tell you, some of the things that have happened to me have to be more than coincidence. Spritual - spooky, take your pick.

Anyway, last week I mentioned Roger and he is part of a coincidence. John and I were going to the South of France to escape the winter. It was 1971, we were carefree and looking forward to an adventure. We travelled through France in our little post office van, eventually we came to a cross road. One sign read St Maxime and the other St Tropez. We were heading to St Maxime, that is where we thought we would stay. However, John wanted to go down into St Tropez. I was a bit apprehensive, Bridget Bardot lived there, it was the haunt of the very rich and very famous. How would it look, us arriving there in our little old van. However, John won the day. "We have to see it," he reasoned.

Seeing it was believing. It was so lovely. We parked up by the harbour and sighed with pleasure.On a cool November late afternoon the Meditteranean appeared so vivid a blue, and reflected in its clear depths, were the old white buildings clustered around. We stayed sometime, just gazing out on a wonderful fingers of scarlet from the setting sun turning the view into a blaze of colour.

Suddenly, there was a knocking on the driver's window. We both started up, I can tell you, and fully expected to meet the stern gaze of a Gendarme, demanding to know what we thought we were doing, spoiling the view! However, it was not - it was a man with a lovely smile. He spoke better English than we spoke French and said he noticed we had English number plates. He went onto explain that some boys had left him with a British Leyland van in the summer. He wanted to get it going and wondered where he could buy parts...could we help?

John gave him some advive and then he got to talking about what we were doing. After we had told him, he said we should meet him in the square in an hour, and he would take us up to his home where we could freshen up and have something to eat.

When he had gone, I told John no way were we going but of course I lost out. "He's okay," John says, " and if he wants my money he will have to kill me first!" Charming! Once John gets an idea in his head there is no moving him. He was going, he liked the man.

I was thinking serial killers, white slave trafficers...all kinds of horrid images flalshed into my imagination. However, we go to meet him and he tells us to follow him. Well, I got more and more scared, the road led out of town, up a winding hill, it was pitch black and there was nothing to be seen. I pictured a gang of men in striped jerseys and black berets, knives glittering in the moonlight...

We eventually turned into the driveway of a house that stood back from the road. The front door opened and a woman stood there. She was wearing a plain brown dress, over a pinafore. No one dressed like that, I thought, was into murder and mayhem.

The story ended happily. Our guardian angel had brought us to the right place at the right time. Roger, for this is who it was, was the local handyman for the town. He needed someone to help him with electrics next day. John an Electrician said he would be happy to do so. That led onto us staying in a chalet in Roger's ground, and John working for him in the morning and in the afternoon, getting work elsewhere. We had a wonderful time. Roger was an unbelievable character and one that I must include in a story one day. His wife Fernande was kind and good to be around.

Coincidence? Choosing that particular road where there were crossroads - it being that particular day that Roger had a job to do at that house by the harbour. Who knows, I am just grateful that it happened.

Now is the time to say it. HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL.

Margaret.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hope Floats


I'm one of those people that can't function in the absence of hope and can't write fiction that doesn't offer the reader hope And that has been a problem in placing my short stories in literary magazines. I've cracked most of the women's magazines including Good Housekeeping and Woman's World but acceptance in literary magazines has eluded me and I crave it. Even though I know their stories are frequently depressing -- as in woman finds long-lost brother and he kills her with a blunt instrument -- I still desire the prestige of appearing in one.

Over a year ago I heard Whiskey Creek Press was putting out an anthology of stories with Hope as the theme. Two of my stories were accepted and I was thrilled. Before I'd received contracts for them, I heard from a prestigious literary magazine that they wanted one of those stories. Now mind you, they had held that story (Mrs. Moody) for 22 months and never communicated they were considering it. I assumed they'd lost it when I submitted it to WCP. Though I hadn't yet gone to contract with Whiskey Creek, a deal is a deal. Still for a few days I felt like doing myself in with a blunt instrument.

But I got over my angst and was thrilled to work with three wonderful editors, Katherine Smith, Louise Bohmer and Giovanna Lagana. Giovanna also taught me the art to a great blurb which has benefited me ever since. And during this season of Hope, I learned the anthology finaled for an EPPIE. So am I ever glad to have let a certain magazine pass me by.

My New Year's resolution this year is going to be the same as always: place a story in a literary magazine. One of these days I'll make it and in the meantime I can say I was an EPPIE finalist.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Getting Older...

Isn't what it's cracked up to be. Does anyone really age gracefully? Most of my life I've heard references to "gravity". Well, I figured out what that meant at the age of thirteen when I had to start buying D-cup bras with the wide straps. It started there but one day I was looking in the mirror after my shower and to my dismay discovered my butt had fallen. No one told me that would happen!

As each year passes I notice more things "falling" on my body. My face has definitely changed as those lines of wisdom have pulled my mouth downward. For the first time in my life I have a double chin, which I suspect used to be part of my face. The flesh on my upper arms have fallen. My belly is in my lap. If the madness doesn't stop I won't be able to see my feet!

To add insult to injury I need glasses to find my glasses. Speaking of glasses, some of you can relate to this. I have a pair in my purse, a pair at my desk at work, a pair next to my computer and a pair next to my chair in the living room. I used to laugh at my hubby for that but now I see the wisdom of it.

I move slower, too, and seem to be a little less graceful. Just in the last couple of months I've fallen twice. Okay, it wasn't my fault I didn't see the hole when I stepped out of the car. It was covered with grass for goodness sake! The second time was because the side walk was uneven. Wouldn't you know I hurt the same darn foot twice!

This morning my hands are stiff and ache. Is that a sign of arthritis? I'm too young for that! Maybe it's the chill in the air. For the first time this winter season we're having some decent, winter temperatures. I opened the house up last night to enjoy the crisp cold air and nearly froze my butt off. But wait...nope! Unfortunately it's still there. Well, not where it used to be but if I hold it up a little I can still see it in the mirror.

All in all I'm enjoying life and have much to be thankful for. I'm really not that old, but I guess having a much older hubby makes me feel his age more than mine at times. I'll certainly be prepared when I reach his age:)

Don't feel sorry for us ageing folks. You'll be in the club some day, too.


Congratulations Ruth, you're a winner! Contact me to claim your books.

Friday, December 14, 2007

'Tis the season

...for thinking about the New Year. Yes, The New Year. It looms large and important, and only a few weeks away. I'm smiling as I write this because really, does the world feel any different on January 1 than it did on December 31? Maybe for some it does, but for me? Not a bit. Still, I love the idea of a fresh slate, even if only as a place for jotting new notes and goals.

Yes, goals. That's what I'm thinking about at this point in the season. You've already noticed I'm one of those type-A, cleaning-crazy people so I sincerely doubt you'll be at all surprised to learn that I set goals for myself at the beginning of every year. This year I'm keeping the goal setting to a minimum. Why? Because I've got a few novels coming out next year and I figure they'll keep me hopping. Why heap any extra pressure on myself? Besides, it's always all right to exceed one's goals, isn't it? This year's items, although few, are no less important to me than last year's list. I'm hopeful that I'll follow through on the goals I set for myself during this holiday season.

What are my goals? I won't bore you completely with the details but there are three: one is for personal growth, one is aimed at my career and the third has to do with making the world a better place, even if it's only in a small way. (I figure if we all do our small part, the world will eventually be a happy, healthy place for everyone. )

So 'tis the season for setting New Year's goals in our house. Next, 'tis the season for baking cookies!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A box on wheels?

John and I are not into cars, or so we have believed. I mean these kids with their fancy cars, spinning around the traffic island near my home, stereos blazing, imagining they are so cool, just a pain in the rear really. To us a car is a lump of metal with four wheels, it is for getting you from A to B and nothing else.

Now I am wondering if I really believe that. You see, last Friday our little blue car went to the graveyard for cars. It was old but well loved. It had been part of us for fifteen years, and before that had belonged only to my cousin's wife. Little blue car took us down to the south of France and over the border into Northern Spain. It brought us back again without any mishap. No I confess seeing the lump of metal on the back of a low loader brought a tear to my eye.

I look on the drive and see a newer, black car now but it is just something with wheels to get me from A to B, well for the moment it is, will it worm its way into my heart? Who knows.

It got me thinking about other cars we had had mainly vans. When I met John he had a little red van that he had bought from the Postal Service. If you ever see old English films, you might just spot one of these. It was a smashing little van and took me on my first ever camping trip, and I found camping so enjoyable. The little van also took us down to Saint Tropez where we spent almost six months one winter. We had a blissful time.

Little red passed away and we had "custard" a yellow post office van, and that did not go very far, just to Wales and back on a regular basis. It gave up the ghost in Wales and left us stuck on a field with all our camping equiment. Someone came to the rescue, a couple of fellow campers who were from Manchester, and they took us home. Bless them.

John said he would look for something else at the auctions. He phoned to tell me he had something and I was not to be too shocked. Shocked? What did he mean? Knowing John you can never be sure what will happen. A loud drumming had me running to the living room window...it was HUGE, a Comer walk-thru, the kind of van I see in American movies and out of the back of which always comes the SWAT Team.

"What the blooming heck!" I screamed. But John was right. Big red turned into a camper and we had many enjoyable holidays and travelled through Europe for three months, ending up for eight weeks on the Bay of Biscay in the hot summer of '76. When big red decided it had had enough. John stripped it down. From the engine, various parts and the metal and one thing and another he got back the money he paid for it.

So there you have it...perhaps a car or van is more than a piece of metal on four wheels to get from A to B, it is a store of memories. Without big red we would not have met our German friends, or enjoyed those three months in France. Without little red, I doubt we would have ever have met Roger in Saint Tropez...ah but that is another story for another time...

Margaret

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Out On a Date

One of my favorite books is Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Called chiropractic for the artist's soul, it offers tools to banish all the obstacles that keep you from creating. One of the most beneficial for me is the artist's date. According to Julia, you need to go out and do something fun and you need to do it alone.

"There are as many ways to evade this commitment as there are days of your life," she says. Still it is important because "your artist needs to be taken out, pampered and listened to."

It doesn't require money just soltitude and fun. Some of the things she suggests: a long country walk, a trip to the beach to watch the sunset, a visit to a church with a choir. Some of my favorites are morning jaunts to thrift stores, gift stores, coffee shops and museums. Soaking it all in primes my pump and I'm back to writing again.

Lets face it, this is a dangerous time a year for writers. The holiday demands can snuff your own projects out like a candle in a fierce wind. Don't let it happen. Plan your escapes and quiet time. It only requires two hours a week and your worth it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Tuesday


Yeah, I know everyone else is decking the halls with balsam firs and poinsettias but remember how I said I'd "misplaced" 15,005 photos last week? This is one of them. I thought I'd share it with you because this morning as I look out my window and see my yard slicked in ice, I can't help but recall the warm, sultry breezes that swept my cheek as I took this photo.
Just thought I'd share a memory. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 10, 2007

PEN NAMES

Why do we use them? I write under DA Wallace for New Concepts Publishing, Debbie Wallace with Whiskey Creek Press and Tory Richards with Whiskey Creek Press Torrid. You can probably guess what Tory writes:)

I don't use a pen name because I'm ashamed of what I write. Let's face it, this day and age a few steamy sex scenes are in just about every romance novel. The difference in writing a torrid romance is that you throw in a couple "C" words. Sex sells and the romance readers of today don't always want the softer side of sex.

The reason for the pen name, from my stand point, is to protect me from any unpleasant situations that might arise at work. You see, most of us have full time jobs on top of writing. It's the real world. It takes time to build relationships with your readers but in the mean time, we still have to pay the bills and eat. I like eating most of all:)

I work for a huge family oriented company. I doubt they'd like to find out one of their employees is writing smut. Tasteful smut, though. My stories have great plots and suspense and aren't just sex with no meaning. After all, they're romance novels. Besides, writing is a private side of me that is my business and no one else. People at work know I write, some have read my books, but no one there knows my pen name.

My first novel, "IT'S ALL IN THE JEANS", under Tory Richards comes out in February. And I was just offered a contract for a new book, "WICKED DESIRE" this past weekend! I hope you won't let the fact that they're a little more spicy than the others keep you from reading them.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Housecleaning

I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm a (sometimes) compulsively neat person. Yes, I lean a little more toward the Felix side of life than the Oscar side. The good thing is my husband is a bit Felix-y too so we go together like peas and ... well, peas. (I don't like carrots.) Anyway, our home is usually neat, the yard tidy and there are no cobwebs in the corners, not even in the garage.

Imagine my shock when I realized I've been harboring a garbage dump -- right here on my desk! Yes, my computer was akin to a wasteland, filled with rubbish piled so high it's a miracle I didn't drown in it.

This past week I've learned a lesson about computers that you probably all know but me, computer novice that I am, had no idea about. It is, however, a tidbit of information I shall never, ever forget again. The recycle bin needs to be emptied. Let me repeat my newfound nugget of wisdom, if only to reinforce it in my own mind: The recycle bin needs to be emptied. I feel like I should embroider it on a sampler and hang it above my desk.

I've spent this whole week sorting through old files, spreadsheets, edits, contracts, erratas, stories begun but never finished, stories finished but never submitted, the flotsam and jetsam of any ordinary writer's life. Ugh. I'm thinking of changing professions...do you think middleaged ballerinas get a lot of files in their recycle bins? What about oyster boat captains? Fat recycle bins? Oh, there's got to be something I can do that doesn't shelter a wastebin inches from my nose!

Oh, right. Maybe I should just empty the recycle bin more than every three years or so. Yes, you do have a point. Thanks. :) I could do that.

And now that I've spent days doing nothing but sorting, tossing out and shaping up, things are starting to look pretty good. Uncluttered, the way I like them best. And my computer is running well again. Not slow and sluggish, uncooperative or testy, the way it has been recently. Yes, maybe I will keep doing what I've been doing. After all, I don't drive boats really well and my knees won't support ballet lessons. Yes, I'll stay at my desk--especially since this silly black box has been thoroughly cleaned out.

I've been reminded of something important this week. Oh, no, it's not all about computers, although I have learned a fair bit about them in the past days. But I've gotten a gentle reminder that things aren't always as they appear. I can forget that sometimes.

But sometimes, often lurking beneath a placid exterior, is a wild world that I can't even begin to fathom. One that is shocking, surprising and can, when it wants to, consume 15,005 photograph files. Thankfully, it is a world that will, when coaxed, spit them back out.

Yes, I've had an interesting week. I hope you have, too. This weekend I'll work on catching up on all that's been neglected while I computer cleaned these last few days.

What's on the agenda for next week? One can only imagine...

Have a nice weekend!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

That Certain Feeling!

Do you remember when you were young and foolish and first fell in love? There was no feeling quite like it. Ah, the exhilieration, the pitter patter of your heart, the blush on your cheeks when that certain some passed by. The hours of waiting for the telephone call, or the letter. The anxiety, the pleasure, all those wonderful adrenalin rushing feelings that are a blessing and a curse...if he turns you down, they definitely are the latter.

Ah well, all gone now. I am not likely to fall in love again like that - but I do go half way with the men in fiction. I love Harry Bosch (Michael Connolly's detective). I know I am the woman he is waiting for if only he knew. He chooses the most unsuitable women, I can see it going wrong before it even starts. Also I have a thing for Kathy Reich's Andrew Ryan, that Temp woman just does not deserve him. Always wondering whether she wants to be with him or not, stupid woman! Kathy O Connor's underwear modeling detective Sunny Cloud gives me goose bumps too, just the kind of guy I could really fall for. Look, Sunny I am waving at you, can't you see me?

Are the men in literature actually better than those in reality? Ha ha, I aint saying.

As to that certain thrill, well I get it sometimes, especially when I have written a book and it has been accepted, but the bigger thrill comes with receiving that book. Opening the first page, pressing it to my nose and smelling that unique and fresh, tantalizing scent. Bliss!

Margaret

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Angels

Angel is used in Hebrew to denote either a divine or human messenger.
For Christians angels are represented throughout the Bible as a body of spiritual beings intermediate between God and men: "You have made him (man) a little less than the angels" (Psalm 8:6).

I think about angels a lot this time of year. My wardrobe includes angel pajamas for when I'm sick. I have an angel key ring that keeps the rejections away. And three days after my mother's passing I won an angel bear. Might have been a coincidence but I didn't think so.

So this year I'm decorating with angels -- at the top of the tree, on the mantel and the nightstand. I think there are celestial beings guarding us but there are human angels too and I'm surronded by them. A neighbor just brought my garbage containers back up to the house after the truck came through and another went grocery shopping for me.

So on the second night of Chanukah I'm thinking about the Hebrew definition of angels -- a divine or human messenger.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Three C's

Coffee, caffeine and chocolate! Which one are you?

Coffee and caffeine are not the same thing. Though some folks would argue that you get your caffeine from coffee. Only I can't seem to get started in the mornings without my decaf. And it has to be the good stuff. My all time favorite is Barnie's Santa's White Christmas. Hubby hates the flavored stuff though and says it's crap. That's because he likes the black, thick as tar brew that will put hair on your chest! Humm...if only it put hair on his head:)

Caffeine comes in the way of tea for me. I'm talking sweet tea. Anyone from the south knows I'm not talking about hot tea loaded down with sugar. I mean fresh brewed tea from tea bags, or even better, like my dad still makes it. He fills a pot with water, fills a tin tea ball with loose tea, and then brews it. While it's still hot he adds plenty of sugar, then pours it into a pitcher half filled with water and stirs it up good, then puts it in the fridge to chill. Yum, yum!

Chocolate...Is self explanatory. I keep a bag of York mint patties in the freezer. It's a low fat food. And it will satisfy me most of the time. But, when I want to binge on chocolate (due to stress or any other reason I can come up with at the moment) it has to be the good stuff. Sound familiar? Guess I'm spoiled. I like white chocolate too but you can't really binge on that because it's so darn sweet! Chocolate with nuts is the best!

Coffee, caffeine and chocolate at the same time? That's definitely an overdose of the three C's but oh but oh what a way to go!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Challenge

Challenge. By far, one of my favorite words. So many possibilities in those nine letters. Endless, really.

From Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:

challenge

1. to demand as due or deserved
2. to order to halt and prove identity
3. to dispute especially as being unjust, invalid, or outmoded
4. to question formally the legality or legal qualifications of
5. a: to confront or defy bodily
b: to call out to duel or combat
c: to invite into competition
6. to arouse or stimulate especially by presenting with difficulties
7. to administer a physiological and especially an immunologic challenge

Great word, isn't it? It's one of my favorites. Oh, right--I told you that already. Silly me. What I haven't told you is why it's sitting so heavily in my mind right now, as we begin the final day of the month.

November is when the National Novel Writing Month Challenge is held. Over 100,000 people from around the globe signed on to challenge themselves to writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I've done the challenge for a couple of years now and, honestly, at this point November wouldn't feel like November if I wasn't writing furiously on the first draft of a NaNo novel.

I love taking the NaNo challenge! This time I wrote a novel called Seaside Shimmy, which will be fine tuned in January, after I've settled down a bit. It is a follow-up story to my upcoming (March) release of the first Anna Romeo mystery, Vineyard Mambo. I had more fun writing this book than I think I should have. I giggled at every turn, smiled as Anna danced around a corpse. Oh yes, it was great fun! I will admit, though, that it was a challenge trying to squeeze writing into the already hectic holiday month. But the challenge of squashing writing in, finding extra hours to devote to NaNo, is part of the fun. Anyhow, that was my big November challenge.

Ah! But November isn't over, is it? There's still, according to the time counter on the NaNo homepage, about 15 hours left to the month. That gives me (ample!) time to finish the last challenge of the month. I'm writing a story in a genre that I've never written before and, between us, it's giving me a run for my money. It's a short story that has a December 1st deadline and you would have thought I'd written it earlier but hey, let's just call this the super-challenge, okay? Or, if you will, the author-who's-taken-leave-of-her-senses scenario. You choose. :)

To mark the end of my fun-filled month, I'm giving away a surprise to celebrate. Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog post, sharing a challenge they've taken recently, before December 1st will be elegible to win. Tomorrow morning (after I submit my infernal...um, challenging story) I'll randomly choose a winner. So please, won't you let us in on what challenges you? Tell us how you challenge yourself? Please?

I challenge you. ;-)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

History? Is it Bunk?

Many publishers, or so I have been told, are not accepting historicals, apparently some say there is no market for these. I feel like yelling down their ears. "HELLO - have you looked around lately?"

History is every where, book stores have shelves of historical books, some novels, some not. Historical series are all over television and at the cinema. Regencies are more popular than ever.

Here on television, we have all kinds of historical related shows. Odd bods and professors are exploring the past. There are shows about archeologists messing about on building sites, discovering all kinds of wonderful stuff. Then there are documentaries, historical re-enacments. History is buzzing at the moment. There is the new film on Elizabeth, and think about Cold Mountain and those other splendid films that have come out of Hollywood. Also not forgetting the Tutankhamen exhibition which has everyone keen to go.

Now in the Autumn we have historical series like The Tudors , Cranford, and coming up Sense and Sensibility and Oliver Twist. What about Rome? HELLO, are you listening, people love history!

Of course they are not all good, can I change tack and talk for a moment about The Tudors? You folks will get to see The Tudors, it is an HBO production, like Rome. Well it is reasonably good, but a bit slow. It is ruined for me by the performance of the kid playing Henry the Eighth. He is lousy in the part, good looking but come on! He plays Henry the Eighth as if he were a spoilt rock star, having lots of tantrums and throwing stuff around. There is no regality in the performance, or anything of the Renaissance man. Henry when he was younger, was all things to all people. He was artistic, talented and masculine. However, the series is saved by the performance of Sam Neil as Cardinal Wolsey. A spellbinding performance from Sam. It helps that he, as ever, dishy!

So if all this history is garnering an audience, why are some people saying the day of the historical novel is dead? I think it is a rumour, probably started by someone from another genre - ha, ha, only joking! But seriously, where do these ideas come from? A poll is only as good as those poled and no one has ever asked me what I think.

SO CARRY ON HISTORY, WE CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF YOU.

Margaret

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gifts




My story, Something Borrowed, was released by The Wild Rose Press this week. At first I thought it looked kind of silly there among all the Santa and misletoe stories. It's about a woman going to a wedding where her ex and his new bride will be in attendance. Rather than go alone and feel a bit pitiful she decides to hire an escort -- the best studly specimen that money can buy.


But Jody never considers not going to the wedding. She knows her presence is important to her cousin. And that very quality of hers kind of makes this a holiday story -- that generosity of self.
My husband and I experienced a lot of that type of generosity this weekend. He sustained a bad knee injury -- the writhing in pain kind. The emergency room gave him morphine but there was no orthopedic surgeon on staff so they sent him home for the weekend. So many friends showed up for us -- with medical equipment, food or to walk the dog. Another friend arranged medical transport to get him to the orthopedist today.

Their presence was a present. This holiday I need no gifts with bows and wrapping paper because I've already been blessed with such generosity. And in the future I'm going to always try to be there for friends whether it's by the hospital bed, at the wedding or the egg nog party. As Woody Allen said, "Ninety percent of life is just showing up."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Typical Monday Morning...

...at the doctors. Sorry I'm late...again. If you knew me you'd know I'm NEVER late. I hate being late. I'd rather miss the whole thing than be late. And it's my pet peeve at work, when you go to a meeting and people walk in late and don't think a thing about it. They don't even apologize for holding everyone up.

Are you like that? Some people go through life at one speed...slow. Not that that's a bad thing. But I've always been the kind of person running at a hundred miles a minute, people have to literally run to keep up with me. If you saw my round little body you'd laugh and say, I don't believe it. It's true I swear!

One day a co-worker and I were going to a meeting and I felt like we were horses in a race, nose to nose. We kept picking up speed and finally I said to her, why are you walking so fast? She said, to keep up with you! And here I was just trying to keep up with her:)

Yes, I tend to do everything fast. Hubby is always saying, slow down, take your time, you're huffing and puffing. I just glare at him. He's retired and can afford to slow down, take his time in everything he does. Since I work a full time job and take care of the house chores, etc., I want to get them done with the thought in mind that the faster I do it, the more free time I have to sit around and relax. Or work on a new book.

Am I wrong for feeling that way? Maybe I don't take the time to smell the roses, but I only have one speed and it's fast. I don't exercise so maybe it counts as exercise. Yes, that's it! The next time I see my doctor and she asks me that dreaded question, do you exercise, I can say yes. I move fast. Surely that burns up calories.

Unfortunately they're not FAT calories:)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Must we...

...rush right into post-Thanksgiving-frenzy mode? I just saw the news and CNN showed people lining up at 4am to get a "jump" on holiday shopping. 4 am?! Isn't anyone digesting pie? Dreaming of leftovers? Smiling in their sleep over the silly joke Uncle So-and-so told at the Thanksgiving dinner table?

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I smiled when I saw Kathy's comment about a progressive dinner. Wouldn't that be too much fun? I'd love the chance to meet the other Larks in person. Maybe someday. :)

Here we had a very quiet, peaceful holiday. It wasn't at all what we'd planned but health issues and weather forecasts altered our plans. We adapted well. We enjoyed the quieter, slower pace of the day. Watched the Macy's parade, cooked while we giggled over silly things, then danced in the kitchen while we waited for the apple pie crust to turn the perfect shade of brown. Until the wee hours we watched scary movies, hands clasped tightly while we huddled before a roaring fire. Yes, we had a lovely Thanksgiving. We have many blessings to count and so much to be thankful for. Mostly, I'm thankful to be able to spend my days and nights with such a wonderful man. I am a very lucky woman.

I can assure you that I'm much too mellow today to even contemplate getting a "jump" on holiday shopping! If you're braver than I am and are in a mall with the other early birds, I commend you and wish you well. I hope you get the best bargain of the day! But if you're like me, staying home and basking in the afterglow of a quieter holiday, I want to remind you that apple pie tastes just as yummy the second time around and cranberries go great on crepes!

Whatever your pleasure, I hope you enjoy the day. :)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

I just had to write something about this most special of feasts. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I believe the origin of Thanksgiving goes back to the time when the early Colonialists were saved by the Native Americans. That the settlers had been on the point of dying of starvation and the Native Americans came and brought food, and this saved their lives. How different, I wonder, would things have been had this not happened. Frightening to think. And what wonderful human beings those Native Americans were.

We don't give Thanksgiving for anything over here, which is such a shame. There is something so special about our Thanksgiving. Families come together and share food and company, what could be nicer than that? Of course it happens at Christmas too, butcommercialization has ruined that ( see my last blog!). Thanksgiving is just food that you share. No one else gets in on the act persuading you to buy this and that, probably bankrupting yourselves to do so.

I remember my first US Thanksgiving. I was on my own and pretty lonely and very, very down. A family invited me to share with them. It was one of the happiest days I ever spent. The food was magnificent and I tasted my first pumpkin pie. (Hey ladies, I have a thing for pumpkin pie!)

I shall never forget the kindness of that hospitable gesture. Like the Settlers, I was a stranger in a foreign land but it did not stop them opening their doors to me. The true spirit of Thanksgiving.

The rest of my time I worked Thanksgiving. I was a waitress at the time, and I did not mind. It was great really because those diners really wanted you to be part of their joyous get together. Everyone was in a good and happy mood, it was such fun. I liked working as a waitress in the States, you were always treated as an essential part of the celebration. You were never looked down on as you are here!

So friends, do have a wonderful day. Think of me, dreaming of pumpkin pie...ta, ta for now.

Margaret.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Larks


The turkey is thawing, most of the casserole dishes have been located and the pies are in the oven. It's starting to look like Thanksgiving and on Thursday we will gather with friends to celebrate our bounty of blessings.
Every year there is so much to be grateful for. This year two exceptional things happened that I will give thanks for. I got to be a Lark and I got to meet Margaret Blake -- in person.
With an ocean separating us, ours was the most unlikely of friendships. We met at a Whiskey Creek Press chat nearly two years ago and immediately hit it off. I loved her humor. I read her book, Fortune's Folly, that afternoon. It was my kind of novel -- romantic without being syrupy and sophisticated without being tawdry. We started to e-mail daily and shared our writing and our history. She taught me neat expressions: gobsmacked for being stunned and shattered for being tired. And as a person with fibromyalgia, I do feel like a broken window when I got tired. When I lost my sweet dog last November she was the first friend I told. She e-mailed back in ten minutes and I knew we cried together.
But I never thought we'd meet. Then last March she came to the U.S. to visit her son and his family and I got to meet Margaret and her daughter-in-law at a nearby restaurant. Margaret was exactly as I expected attractive, athletic, with an engaging smile. What a great visit we had!
And then this year the Internet brought me two new friends. I read Sarita Leone's story, Freedom's Touch last winter and was so moved that I sent her a fan letter. She sent a gracious reply and I gobbled up more of her inspiring stories. When she was looking for fellow bloggers, I was in like Flynn because she is one of those positive people that lift you up to be in their company. And then as a bonus I'm getting to know Debbie Wallace -- a fellow animal lover and warm and funny lady. I worried about her when she was late for her blog last week and I'm in love with her Detective Mike Denton.
So ladies before I get too shattered from my holiday preparations, I want to let the three of you know I'm grateful to have you in my life.

Monday, November 19, 2007

THANKSGIVING MENU

In just three short days my favorite holiday of the year will be here. I've always loved Thanksgiving. This year we're going to have a houseful as we've invited family and friends to join us for a day of visiting and eating. What's on the menu at Debbie's house?

turkey and home made dressing of course...none of that box dressing for us
spiral cut ham

cranberry sauce...I think it's a law or something that you can't eat turkey without it
mashed potatoes
sweet potatoes
fruit salad with walnuts, mandarin oranges, coconut, bananas, apples, grapes, cherries and more
home made bread...okay, I confess I use a bread maker
pumpkin and pecan pie with lots of whip cream
green bean casserole...yummy!


Pretty traditional food, at least for our family. I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving this year!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hey! It's moving too fast!

Pardon? What's moving too fast? Oh, I'm sorry... It's time. Time seems to be moving very quickly lately. Has that ever happened to you? I kind of think it probably has. The feeling of the swiftness of time's passing has most likely touched every life from time to time.

I'd been paying no real attention to this fact until recently. I'd just been enjoying life, savoring the moments and not really caring much about the passing years, greying hairs or any of the rest of it. But then, in a heartbeat, life changed.

I got an invitation to my high school reunion.

Egads! It's going to be my --th Reunion? Already?! How on earth did that happen?

Easy. Time passed. Quickly. While I wasn't paying any attention.

I'm actually very excited about this reunion. Notice I didn't divulge what number reunion it is? It's my-- nope, I can't do it. Sorry. But regardless of the shocking number I'm looking forward to the party. Seeing how everyone else's fared in life will be fun. Catching up with people who have drifted from my group of friends should be interesting. Laughing at the silly things we did as teenagers should be a hoot. Yes, I'm quite thrilled by the invite--now that my initial horror has passed.

Hmm...I wonder where those old jeans are? In a trunk somewhere, probably. I wonder if I'll ever be able to fit my middle-aged bottom into them again? Who knows? I've got nearly a year to work on it--and you can bet I'll be watching time a little more closely from now on. At least until the reunion, that is.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Christmas is Coming!

Why does Christmas have to start so early? I know in the States Christmas was not around until after Thanksgiving Day. Last time I was in Florida, I saw that Chritmas had sneaked in way before then.

I guess here in the UK it starts in October Why is it just Christmas that has to start way before the event, is it really just a commercially driven holiday now? I mean Jewish people have Hanukkah and they do not start getting ready for it in August. Hindu folk have Divali, the Festival of Light, I never see them getting ready in July. It is just us Christians with our early Christmas fever. When did it start? Why did it go this way? I find it so depressing.

Sometimes, I like to blame Charles Dickens. Think about his novels where he describes splendid Victorian Christmas food In Great Expectations even Pip's miserable, cold sister prepares a feast that gets the gastric juices flowing. Think about Scrooge and that delicious goose he buys!

Of course it was not just Dickens, it was the sentimental Victorians in particular, Prince Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria. He introduced us Brits to the delights of the Christmas tree, we just used evergreen before then. Next came the "penny post" a postal service that was open to anyone with a penny, was that when the card sending started? After all we were starting to have a greater degree of literacy than ever before.

However, even these folks kept their Christmas to December, they could not start much before, of course not, there were no freezers in which to keep things, and I doubt anyone but the seriously wealthy had the money to buy so many presents.

When I was little included in my Christmas stocking, were tangerines (a rarity to me) and nuts and books. I was very happy with these simple gifts but now...well gifits have to be more exciting than that, or so we are told.

I don't really object to that, after all people can spend their money as they wish, but for me the thing I dislike is what is known as the "run up to Christmas." The commercialisation that demands we start in October. Am I being a curmudgeon for wanting to see nothing about Christmas until the lst December. Probably I am, but I want the magic back, the anticipation yes, but by the lst December that has just gone these days.

The best time for me is 4.00 p.m. on Christmas Eve...that's when Christmas starts to work its magic on me. That is when I start to anticipate...and no, I am not going to wish you all a H C time for that later!

Now where did I put that Christmas card list..............

Margaret

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tis the Season for ... Novellas

Sometimes I read long lofty novels because they’ve been selected by my book club, The Lady Bugs. Left to my own devices I frequently read mysteries. But at holiday time I read novellas – romantic ones.

Shortly after Thanksgiving I get a stack of them from the library. They come in paperback and generally feature the work of two pretty famous romance writers. I love them because you can read one of the duets per night before drifting off. What you get is a good story with a Christmas theme without a lot of secondary characters and subplots. I need that at holiday time because life gets complicated enough on its own.

Often these are stories about women seeking refuge from the holiday. They go off to a log cabin in the woods only to find the unfriendly hermit next door with the linebacker shoulders (from chopping all that wood) can thaw pretty nicely by New Years.

Recently I read a long novel by a famous author. I didn’t care for the main characters but loved the secondary ones with their witty repartee and budding romance. So what I did was skip the main story and read the subplot – turning the book into a novella – which it should have been in the first place.

A novella is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel generally somewhere between 17,000 and 40,000 words. The markets for them aren’t plentiful (too short for book publishers and too long for magazines) so writers will frequently pad their stories to get them up to novel length. And that’s a shame because there is something special about a novella besides that is nice and light to hold in bed. In the introduction to a novella anthology titled Sailing to Byzantium, Robert Silverberg writes: [The novella] is one of the richest and most rewarding of literary forms...it allows for more extended development of theme and character than does the short story, without making the elaborate structural demands of the full-length book. Thus it provides an intense, detailed exploration of its subject, providing to some degree both the concentrated focus of the short story and the broad scope of the novel.

And looking in Wikipedia I found that there have been some pretty lofty novellas.
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and The Pearl, Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony, George Orwell's Animal Farm, Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

So maybe next year I will get my book club to read a short lofty book.

Monday, November 12, 2007

It's Still Monday Isn't It?

I know, I know, I'm late and I'm so sorry! I have a good excuse, though. My daughter's wedding was yesterday and I volunteered to babysit so her and her new hubby could have a wedding night away from home. Which turned in to all day today as well. Ever try doing anything on the computer with a rambunctious fifteen month old around?

Everything went great yesterday and everyone looked wonderful. The ceremony was at Leu Gardens at the Courtyard Gazebo. My little granddaughter, Alivia, looked like a little princess and stole the show. But mommy and daddy didn't care. A little tip, if you're ever looking for a gown for a little girl to wear to a wedding check out christening gowns. The place where my daughter got her wedding gown wanted a hundred dollars and up for a dress for Alivia. We found a lovely christening gown for half the price.

The weather was wonderful as well. Cool at nine o'clock in the morning, yet it was a little warm in the sun so we managed to find plenty of trees and lush greenery for shade. The reverend and photographer were there early and waiting for us. Can't wait to see the pictures. I bet he took five hundred at least! It pays to have friends in the business:)

By the time we arrived at the reception the cake was set up and all the food delivered. It just couldn't have gone any better if I had planned it myself. Oh, wait, I did plan it! LOL But I have to give credit to two of my sister-in-laws who opened their larger homes for the reception, painted, decorated, did all the flowers. I'll never be able to repay them.

That all said, I'm glad it's over. I'm looking forward to the coming weekend where nothing is planned.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Free advice...

--it's sometimes worth taking. I've read this, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Authors from The Irene Goodman Literary Agency, so many times I've paraphrased it in my mind for quick retrieval and almost mantra-like use.

Hmm? How does it sound between my ears? Oh, like this...

The Seven Staples:

1. Same time, every day.
Show up, do the work--no excuses.

2. Don't give up.
Successful authors don't say, "I quit writing. It was just too hard, so I gave up, Oprah."

3. Pay attention to comments.
Even lousy ones. They're all useful.

4. Readers--give 'em what they want.

5. Figure out what you want, then get it.

6. Have a life.

7. Open the door.When opportunity knocks, open the door!

I may not say it as succinctly as Irene Goodman but I've taken the words to heart. Who knows? Maybe they'll give you something to think about, too. :)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hi Cousins!

That is what the media calls us and granted we have similarities. The most important one is a shared language. But even here there are differences!

It amuses me that you Americans always say. “Wait a second!” “Just a second.” Everything is in a “second” where we use the word “minute” Ha, the difference is important, for you are the “get up and go people.” Let’s get on with it and that is really shown in the way you use a word about time!

Of course you have lost the “u” in lots of words, so much easier for kids, I always think; colour is one word that comes to mind. There are lots of others. I remember when I was working in New York State, I had to type a finance report and used the word “cheque” not knowing that you spelt the thing that comes from the bank, as check! That check to us is a pattern, or something we do to make sure there are no mistakes. Incidentally I had to type the whole thing again – no magical computers then.

Then there are the different descriptions of things – we use the word “knock up” to mean literally “knock someone up” i.e. come and rap on their door to get them out of bed. This stems from the old profession of “Knocker up” a man or woman on a bike, with a huge pole would come around and they would rap on the bedroom windows of the mill workers. No alarm clocks in those days, so you paid this person a few pence a week to get you up at 5.00 a.m. to get to work. So if an English person asks you. “Shall I knock you up?” It doesn’t mean he is going to drag you into bed, but rather drag you out of it!

Keeping to the “sex” theme, what you call erasers, we call rubbers. Gosh that could be really confusing couldn’t it? How embarrassing to ask the Mother in Law if she has a rubber, what would she think!

However it is these differences that I love. How boring if there were not these things that can raise a smile after the event, and when explanations are made. It is our differences that perhaps keep us together. Vive la difference, I always say.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Chat with Jeannine Van Eperen

Last week the Lark Journals got to to interview talented author, Jeannine Van Eperen, about her Whiskey Creek Press novel, Willow Spring. She also gives us a peek into some of her other novels. To learn even more about Jeannine visit her website at: http://www.jeanninevaneperen.com

1. Really enjoyed Willow Spring with its complex characters and intricate plot. What came first when you were planning the novel -- plot or character?

I think in this case the idea of a woman returning as a widow to the town of her birth. I don't really plot but let the story lead me. As I remember, I heard the Merry Widow Waltz, and I thought, how about a story, more realistic, with a widow, but she really isn't merry, she's hurting. She loved her husband and doesn't truly want to believe he is gone forever. Alana, also, now has money and she wouldn't have to feel inferior to some of the town's social leaders, and she believes the real reason she left is no longer there.

2. Alana and Bill have a bit more emotional baggage (and Alana has a child) than characters in some of your previous novels (such as Highway to Love). How did that change that writing process?

I really have no idea. I write light romances and some meatier novels. When I begin I'm not sure which it will be.

3. Melanie is a very likeable and realistic child. Did you model her on any one?

Not to my knowledge. I have a son and grandsons, but I also have a lot of nieces, so she probably is a conglomerate of all of them.

4. Willow Spring reminds me of so many small towns that have seen economic downturns. What was your motivation for writing about it? Have you lived in a town like that?

Oddly enough, I haven't, but I've seen a lot of them, especially westerns towns that have seen better days, and have gone downhill after Interstates whisked around them and then malls and Wal-marts closed the small businesses. There are a lot of small towns like that in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona that I have witnessed their deterioration while driving through over the years. I know it has happened in a lot of other states, but I'm most familiar with those I mentioned. Route 66 isn't what it used to be. I especially like the Texas Hill Country and believed it would serve the story well. Some of the towns' there have weathered the change to large shopping malls better. My husband and I especially like the town of Fredericksburg, so I brought it into the story. Willow Spring is, of course, fictional. Other towns mentioned are still going strong in Texas.

5. Willow Spring has an amazing cast of secondary characters (Mother Tucker, Minerva, Sid, Cora) that help drive the story. Did this story require more planning and research because of them?

Can I give a short answer, no?

For a longer answer, I believe I've run into people like those from time to time. Mrs. Tucker is an old-fashioned, Texas woman, trying to make ends meet by running a small boarding house with a few cabins. She's been around for a long time and she knows what's going on in town. She's not a gossip, but could tell a lot of stories if she wanted. Minerva has had a terrible shock and is trying her best to also make ends meet in her own way. My mother was in a nursing home for awhile, and I naturally observed the people there while visiting her. Some looked as if they felt lost, and I believe that is how Minerva felt--lost but trying to find herself. Sid is a typical down-home Texas boy (man) of which, I've seen a lot, and Cora is trapped in an abusive marriage and trying to find a way out. I believe most of us have unfortunately seen women in that circumstance. People usually believe I've unobservant. I don't as a rule notice their new decorations or hairdo, etc., but I must notice the other important things that matter in life.


6. You've turned the Pride & Predjudice romantic formula of wealthy man/financially struggling female upside down with Alana's dot.com wealth. Did you have fun with that?

Yes, I did. I hope I got it right.

7. Do you believe its possible to go back home again and fix what didn't go right the first time?

Let's hope that sometimes it is. I like to believe in happy endings.

8. What's ahead in your writing?

As you know I write for several publishers. With Whiskey Creek Press, I have a book coming out next year that is hard to describe. It's called Wydecombe Manor, and takes place in Cornwall, England. Several years ago I saw this huge house (mansion) high on a cliff above the sea. It's grey walls drew me, and I knew I had to write a book about people within that building. The story goes from the present to 1480s and tells the story of a love that went wrong, that never died, and finds fulfillment in the present, or at least tries to do so. I have another book that Whiskey Creek is considering, which means I've submitted it. With another publisher, Wings ePress, I have a mystery, set in Chicago, coming out in January called A Matter of Blood. I've already seen the cover and it is wonderful. Then I have a romance that takes place during the Great Depression, set in New Mexico called Rose of the Rio Grande, and a general fiction novel You Can Bank on It, set in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the 1950s, that features the lives of several women who work in a bank. I recently completed a manuscript, a contemporary romance set in Chicago and Portugal. I'm doing my last read-through before submitting, and I'm working on two other stories. I also have another book that was published in October, No Escape from Love.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Perfect Monday Morning

...and this is it. Here I sit in my old rocker recliner, built in the 40's but solid as a rock and very comfortable. Fits my little round body like a glove. It might not be pretty and the gold fabric is certainly outdated but its outlasted hubby's two expensive recliners. He's heading towards number three:)

The temperature has finally dropped to a cool 57 degrees, bringing a relief to us Floridians we've long waited for. I've opened up the doors to air out the house and enjoy the crisp air. The reality is by late afternoon it will be warm again, the doors will be closed and the air conditioner turned back on. But until then I intend to drink it up.

The TV is off. We sometimes just like to sit and enjoy the quiet in the mornings. And talk. We're both looking forward to a weekend away at Vero Beach. My daughter's wedding is this Sunday. Thanksgiving will be here soon. As I drink my favorite coffee, Barnie's White Christmas, I watch the kids (our cats Rufus and Gin Gin) running through the house as they play. Soon they'll be heading off to their hiding spots to sleep most of the day away.

This is the perfect morning to me.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Which is it?

...fall back and spring forward, or spring back and fall forward? LOL I have to confess it confuses me sometimes. In fact, it confuses me as to why we have to change our clocks in the first place. I think it had something to do with the farmers, and them needing extra daylight time. All I know is we change the clocks tonight and I'm going to wake up feeling good because I gained an extra hour of sleep, or crappy because I lost one! Either way I have put in ten hours of work tomorrow at my real job. You know, the one that pays the bills.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Distracted, Derailed and...Enchanted

Oh, I had a topic in mind for this morning's post. Really, I did. But a few minutes ago I flicked on the television to see the morning's news headlines and found my favorite singer on the Today show. And in an instant, all my thoughts vanished.

Andrea Bocelli, the Italian tenor, is responsible for my current state of distraction. Honestly, it's all his fault. I had a grip until I heard that amazing voice of his. Now, I have a smile plastered on my face, a full heart and my toes won't stop tapping no matter how hard I try to still them. Yes, I'm entranced. Totally. He's derailed me.

When I write, it is usually without music. But if I do turn the CD player on, it's Andrea Bocelli I choose to accompany my words. Often I write characters who love music, as I do. It's no surprise that they listen to opera, or the Stones, or something else from my collection. I think we can learn a lot about people *and characters* from the music they listen to. And, I think that whether or not they sing when they listen is telling. Very revealing, that.

Me? Sometimes I sing along. But mostly I let Signore Bocelli do the singing. After all, it only takes a line or two from him before I'm completely...enchanted.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November

Today is the lst of November, and I was recalling the lines written by TS Eliot about "April being the saddest month," for me it is always November that is the saddest month.

November in the UK brings Armistice Day - the 11th of the 11th, the remembrance of those hundreds of young men in the First World War. All those talented young men, the great poets and writers and "ordinary" beautiful young men, who must have had so much to offer, killed in an unbelievably brutal conflict. Yes, it is November that is the saddest month.

All is grey with swirls of mist, cold winds rushing in over tempestuous sea, wood smoke and the heating turned up high. Of course that is my vision, but would you not know that today it is mild, grey but it is not cold! Anyway, that is how I see November, so there!

Of course November brings good things too - especially on the television. Perfect viewing for dark nights. Yes, November is for curling up with a good book or the t.v. not for going out and about. Now I can see, after months of repeats, what good things are in store for me this month.
We will be seeing new adaptations of the classics (always a firm favourite with the British). We have Cranford by Mrs Gaskell, starring my favourite actress Dame Judy Dench, then there is Room with a View, and I think a new version of Oliver Twist.

Ah a feast for me. You can always tell it is winter when the BBC trots out an adaptation of a classic. They generally do a brillient job, last season we had Jane Eyre, and a couple of years ago Bleak House. Now that was a production worth turning down a date with Robert Redford for (well almost!). Perhaps you have not had this in the States, but look out for it, especially for a mesmersing performance from Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock, conveying, with just a movement of her lips, the internal agony of someone whose life was spiralling out of control. Magic!

So that is me - sad but curled up nice and warm and snug - enjoying a feast of t.v. - come and join me!

Margaret.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No Tricks just Treats


I love Halloween. It is one of the oldest holidays with origins going back thousands of years. And in its honor I will be giving away a print copy (U.S. only) of my scariest mystery, No Accident (see excerpt below). So anyone who posts a comment between now and next Monday on any of our posts is eligible. Winner will be announced next Tuesday. And next week we have a new contest and an interview with Jeannine Van Eperen, author of 15 books and a FAR award winner.


David Forjane threw his briefcase in the back seat of his new red Saturn. It was a sporty enough car, but did not quite make the statement he desired. He was two years away from the blue BMW. Life was always a waiting game.

He peeled out of the garage anxious to get a mile away from the concrete fortress that was the Rayex Chemical Company. Something about the building affected radio reception, and he was now ready to hear the silky-voiced Samantha of WKAC. Always his companion for the commute home, she spun records for the heartsick and lovesick. He enjoyed their dim patter. Yesterday he heard his girlfriend call in and request a tune for David; a song called Gone. He could not quite believe it. It was his Peggy, of the repetitive conversation and robotic sex, doing something interesting and original. When Marta Johns serenaded him with, I’m beginning to see you’re growing bored with me, David answered, “Oh Peggy, I’ve been bored with you for a long time.”

He looked into the rear view mirror and was surprised to see the departmental loaner car barreling up behind. He thought he recognized the driver, but not the passenger. The twosome was going like hell and about to pass on the left. David reached down to turn on the radio.

A single bullet slammed through his brain before his hand reached the dial.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

GHOST STORY...or not

Since Halloween is here I thought I'd share a story about the strange happenings in the last house my hubby and I lived in. Now, I'm a firm believer that there are UFOs, people with ESP, and the souls of the dead who haven't gone into the light because they might have unfinished business here on earth. I don't obsess about it, I just have an open mind that these things could be real.

Almost immediately upon moving into the house I began to experience weird things. Nothing alarming. However, added together I guess they would unnerve the bravest soul. The picture of my hubby and me turned over in the bedroom, the light over the bed going on by itself in the middle of the night, the bathroom door in our bedroom opening by itself. And there were the shadows, always out of the corner of my eyes or moving past my bedroom doorway.

I didn't mention these strange occurrences because they didn't bother me and I just brushed them off. But what I didn't know was that my hubby was also noticing things out of the ordinary. Only he didn't say anything because he isn't the kind of man who believes in that kind of stuff. He just thought he was imagining things. Then one day out of the blue he started telling me about the voices, unexplained noises in the middle of the night and the feeling that someone was behind him. I just stared at him, and then told him my experiences. We both knew at that point that it wasn't our imagination. Something was going on.

Never once did I get scared, unless I was in the house alone at night. When hubby went on trips my daughter would come and stay with me. After a while she wouldn't come because it freaked her out. Then I was left alone with Henry...the, ah, ghost. I had to give him a name and I was certain it was a man because I saw him one night.

The strangest thing that happened to me was one night while I was sleeping. I felt the bed go down. You know, like when someone gets into bed beside you, the bed dips and you roll toward them? I actually reached over thinking, hubby must be coming to bed, but there was nothing there! Get a chill yet? I certainly did.

Not long after that I woke in the middle of the night, for some strange reason, and saw the outline of a man leaning over me. I remember thinking it was my hubby but I could see right through him. But there was definitely the white outline of a man. Not very tall, kind of stocky. I blinked and he was gone. I never saw him again.

We learned to live with the strange occurrences and when we decided to sell, we didn't say a word.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Feeling Fall-ish

The northeast has a special kind of beauty in the fall. The sound of crunching underfoot, blindingly clear blue skies and the faint scent of woodsmoke wafting in the air. As trees find brilliant burst of color and leaves rain to the ground the world seems magical, as if it knows a secret it's yet to reveal. And with spooky ghosts tumbling from trees and scarecrows on every corner, I feel the lure of the unknown beckoning me. Pumpkins gain personalities all their own and even the most ordinary winter squash looks festive when propped beside a bundle of cornstalks. Yes, I love fall.

But hey, I'm a sucker for any season! It's true. I love 'em all. Each one brings a different slant to my writer's mind. Each season encourages its own sort of story.

Winter makes me want to write cozy, snuggle-in-and-hibernate, contemplative stories. Spring, of course, brings tales of renewal. Maybe an adventure, or even two, with optimistic, outgoing characters. Summer? Hot, romantic love stories come to mind, and my fingers itch to create characters who live in the warm, passionate moment. And then there's fall...

Mysterious and alluring, fall naturally encourages me to write stories magic, the unknown, ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night. Too, I yearn to write about endings, followed by beginnings. Doesn't seem logical, does it? Most people think the end follows the beginning, but I feel it's the other way around. Why? Because although the last leaf is about to drop, the first snowflake is waiting to flutter to earth. A new beginning, seamlessly following the last ending.

I've got to admit, my writing is greatly influenced by the seasons. I'm beginning to flesh out the plot of a new novel in these fabulous fall days. It is a tale of murder and intrigue, one whose last chapters will be more about what's found rather than what's been lost. An opening of sorts, at the close.

I just hope those last few leaves hold to the maple branches outside my window long enough for me to become engrossed in writing this one. If not, I may end up with a novel whose ending is somewhat wintery!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Moving Genre

How many writers, I was wondering, swap genre? Do romantic novelists long to write gruesome crime novels? Do the writers of mayhem long to write a love story? If they do, would we know?

I know quite a lot of writers who have different names for different genre. I used to have a different name for romance and historical. (Ellen Noone was my alto-ego for my first romance novels). Many of the writers that I know move between sagas, romantic novels and historical romance, but I don't know anyone who goes from really dramatic blood and guts to romance and vice-versa.

If writers don't move between the two, why not? Is it that the mind that can conceive of the gruesome cannot conceive of the gentle. Having just had a suspense novel accepted, it made me pose this question. I have now moved three times - historical - romance and now suspense. But are my novels that different? Sure there will be some murder and mayhem in my suspense, but there is also a love interest. I know I could not see myself writing a book that did not have "some" romance. Is that because I am essentially a romance writer?

It would be wonderful if other writers who do switch genre got in touch and let us now. Surely, it is not a question of "never the twain shall meet" That would pretty sad, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What's in a Name?

What pet name does a modern politically correct male use for his special lady? I’m struggling in my current novel to get this right.

Shall I use the ubiquitous ‘baby?’ When Ranger whispers ‘baby’ to Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich novels it sounds great. But Ranger lives in a cave and does solo commando-type work. My hero works in a more coed environment.

‘Hot Mama’ sounds good coming out of Trace Adkins' lips. But when anyone else uses that term it sounds kind of menopausal.

I studied Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. A ‘good profiler’ was the sweetest endearment the work-obsessed Harry ever used when referring to a female.

And let’s face it sweetie pie only sounds sexy when sung by Frank Sinatra.

So what else is there? I turned home for inspiration. My husband calls me Kathleen. Family and friends call me Kate, Katie, or Kathy and I like that just fine but when my husband uses the elongated version of my name it makes me feel cherished.

So maybe my hero will just call his woman by her name – her full name. How cool is that?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hubby's Little Quirks

I smile as I write this blog today. I love my hubby dearly but he has quirks that drive me insane. Like for instance, when I want to hang a picture. I learned a long time ago to wait until he's not home and then hang it myself. I have a good eye and all I need is a nail and a hammer.

The last time we hung a picture together you would have thought we were going to do brain surgery or something! He laid out a rag and on top of that a level, tape measure, kit of different size nails, hammer, and pliers. Have no idea what those were for. He measured the wall all different kinds of ways to make sure the picture was exactly in the middle. What would have taken me two minutes turned into a 20 minute job.

Then there's when I come home from working a ten hour shift to find he's taken the dishes that were left to dry in the dish drain the night before, and laid them out on the counter beneath the cupboard doors. I asked him once, why don't you just put them away? His reply...I don't know where they go. Yet he manages to put them directly beneath the cupboard door where they belong. He doesn't realize I would much rather come home to them in the dish drainer than spread out everywhere. He leaves the clean pots on the stove top:)

The most frustrating thing he does? Leave the cheese package open in the fridge so that by the time I reach for a slice it's as hard as a rock. I think that's a man thing anyway. They can't figure out how to close the package once they rip into it:)

I think about what life would be without him. Boring, lonely and yes, frightening because he's my rock. And besies, I'm sure I have little quirks he has to put up with...but darned if I can think of any now:)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"I'm still waiting for an autographed copy"

I want to add to what Margaret said when she blogged this past Thursday. I work for a large company, have many friends and family. And with the exception of a few, most of them are waiting for an autographed copy of my books. But do they go out and purchase my books for me to autograph? Rarely. They want me to give them one. If I had a friend who was published I'd be the first one to buy their book, even if it wasn't something I particularly cared to read.

I get tired of hearing, "I'm still waiting for an autographed copy." Another good one is, "oh, it's an ebook"...what, is it poison? LOL Then I have one dear friend who did purchase a couple of my books but then said when number three came out, "Your books are a little too spicy for me." I guess that was her way of letting me know she wouldn't be buying any more.

It's a good thing I write for the love of writing. I write for me and I do love sharing my stories to anyone who wants to read one. So, are we rich? Not all of us. But we do enjoy what we do and we do it for all the right reasons.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mona Lisa's ... brows?

Hey, what about the smile? Isn't that what we're all supposed to be obsessed with?

Ah, I see... It's time to focus on a different part of the lady's face. *sigh* Isn't that typical? Just when interest over one body part settles down, a new issue comes under scrutiny? Who can tell how long it's going to take before we all stop staring at her eyebrows? The smile thing took five hundred years so two brows and two sets of lashes? That could take forever.

Yesterday's revelation by a French engineer, Pascal Cotte, that Leonardo da Vinci originally painted his masterpiece with brows and lashes was well received. A collective sigh of relief, one heard round the world, followed. Apparently many have speculated about the elusive brows for some time, spawning as many theories about her lack of facial hair as there are stars in the sky. Who knew? I have to admit I've never given them a single, solitary thought. Never. Sorry, Mona. My apologies, Leonardo.

And while I find this interest in art and the beautiful lady heartwarming, I still wonder about that enigmatic smile she wears. I can't help myself. I see the set of her lips, the way her cheeks have a faint blush and the knowing stare she fixes on me and my pulse quickens. My mind races. So many questions unanswered...possibilities to be explored...scenarios that may explain her smile. Has she witnessed a crime? Scorned a rival? Sought satisfaction for an ancient vendetta? Made love with the most wonderful man?

Let others focus on Mona Lisa's brows. Let's face it; I'm just not ready to get past the smile.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Church Mice?

People always assume, when I say I am a novelist, that I must be rich. Writers equal money in people's imaginations. When I have to confess to the fact that I, like many, many writers, am not rich, they cannot understand why I even bother doing what I do.

Some writers are rich, millionaires even, think J K Rowling - Dan Brown must be worth a pretty penny too - but what about the majority? Are they poor as church mice and if they are, why do they do it?

Well speaking for me, I do it because I have to. I have all these people living in my head, they have lives, they have experiences to, well, to experience. They need to travel. I tell you they're there hammering like the devil to get out. What am I going to do about them? Can I turn them off? No, they are not a radio, can I block them out? Well I guess I can try.

Now suppose I am on a solitary walk, no distractions, no worries about what to get for dinner because I am not in a supermarket, I can't pretend to do anything but put one foot in front of the other. That's when they get really anxious to get out. They start up telling me what they are doing, where they are going - heavens above they even give themselves names! If I did not go home, sit down at my computer and start to type, these characters would drive me to drink, or even worse. I have to do it. I have no option to quit.

If that sounds grim, well it isn't, it is such fun. I can live life vicariously through their adventures, and I don't even have to leave home to do it. Sure I do it because they keep coming into my head but what came first - the cart or the horse? Who put them there originally? Some unseen source? I don't think so, I started it all off. I had to have said one day. "I am going to write," and low and behold it happened.

Of course that isn't to say there is no such thing as writer's bloc, that there is no desperate search for a plot. I mean, everyone has to have heard the joke about the writer who, having died, was being lowered into his grace. He sighed happily. "Ah, a plot at last!"

We all suffer the slings and arrows of being unable to create but thankfully it passes. Sooner or later the characters come back - the plot might be more difficult, but hey if I can start with a character I can get around that. Somehow.

No, writers on the whole do not write because they want to earn money, they write because they have to...at least that is my story.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

National Novel Writing Month

It’s time to load up on cartridges for the computer because November is coming. In just two weeks it will be Halloween and for writers it’s the eve of National Novel Writing Month.

If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo go to http://www.nanowrimo.org/ and get the details.

Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

As the site says, “Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.”

By defeating procrastination and perfectionism, you can outwit that internal censor that constantly spewing negativity and as Sarita advised ‘write from the heart.’

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reference Books for Writers

Recently I attended a writer's conference in Tampa and one of the attendees kindly shared his list of his favorite books for writers. It's a pretty comprehensive list though it doesn't include my favorite, Elizabeth George's Write Away. Any others I should add?

1. Make Your Words Work, by Gary Provost. (Excellent for fiction and non-fiction)
2. Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein
3. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King
4. Write in Style, by Bobbie Christmas
5. How to Grow a Novel, by Sol Stein
6. The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman
7. Stephen King on Writing
8. Elements of Fiction Writing/ Characters and Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card
9. Elements of Fiction Writing//Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
10. Elements of Fiction Writing/ Dialog by Gloria Kempton
11. The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, fourth edition
12. The Complete Guide to Editing Your Fiction, by Michael Seidman
13. The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, Writer's Digest Books 2002
14. The Handbook of Good English, by Edward D. Jonhson (grammer)
15. How I Write by Janet Evanovich
16. The Chicago Manuel of Style, 15th edition, University of Chicago Press
17. Writer's Market, Writer's Digest Books
18. Harbrace College Handbook (mine is 3rd edition, 1951)
19. Printice-Hall Handbook for Writers Leggett/ Mead
20. Elements of Writing, Complete Course by Kinneavy and Warriner

Monday, October 15, 2007

We have a new baby...

No, it's not the hunky stud muffin sleeping with his mouth ajar. It's Gin Gin, our 10 week old calico. Isn't she cute? She's the reason I'm late blogging this morning. Had to get up early and get her to the vet. She's been sick the last couple of days and we were very worried about her. Turns out she has a cold. The vet said it could be caused by stress at being taken away from her mother, being spayed, and brought into a new home. So, we loaded up with antibiotics, worming medicine, nose drops and saline solution for her eyes and came home.

I took this picture a couple days ago. Caught my hubby, who doesn't really care for cats or so he says, and Gin Gin taking a snooze. Hubby wasn't too pleased as he has a reputation to uphold. You know, the big tough he-man syndrome. They've already formed a strong bond and it's cute watching how he looks over her like a mother hen.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Life is good...

I got my monthly pedicure, haircut, it's sci-fi Saturday and I get to babysit my little granddaughter tonight. My cup is full, what more could I want?

Friday, October 12, 2007

What do you know?

There is a ton of advice available to beginning writers. We've all heard it before...show don't tell, keep active rather than passive and on and on. There's really no end to the pearls of wisdom to be had when it comes to writing. But you know, I think there may be too much advice given. Really, I do.

Why not simply write from the heart, without paying overmuch attention to the mechanics of it all? Oh, I can hear teeth gnashing, hands wringing and gasps of outrage at the thought! Writing might be much more satisfying without worries about correlating advice tidbit #16 with # 64, meshing items 32, 96 and 113 with #s 44, 28 and ... you get the idea.

My advice? Just let it happen. The rest will fall into place eventually.

When I began writing for publication I was in high school, and taking advice was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to write, period. So I did. Unconsciously, though, I took in what may have been the most important piece of writing advice I have ever gotten. It's one that everyone has been given.

Write what you know.

Simple, isn't it? At first, most people think But I don't know anything anyone would be interested in reading. But that's not true. We're all fascinated by other people's lives, thoughts, ideas, experiences. And most people know more than they think they do!

I write mysteries because I love to solve puzzles. I write romance because that's a subject I know first hand, thanks to my wonderful husband. My curiousity about history leads me to write historical romance. My characters often have interests that I have. They garden, watch old films, spend time on the water and at the beach. They talk about seashells, in other languages and opera. See? They know some neat stuff just because I write what I know.

What do you know? I bet it's more than enough to feed a writing bug!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Whether the weather?

Bob Hope used to say "England has four seasons - all of them in one day!" It had me thinking about the weather - and how this affects writers. It certainly is used by film makers. Think of the film Body Heat and imagine it set anywhere else but steamy Florida. Just would not work.

The glorious romantic novel Wuthering Heights could not be set anywhere else but the wilds of the Yorkshire Moors. That damp, wind swept, empty landscape lends itself to this passionate romance. The Yorkshire Moors is a place of dramatic weather.

Tuesday here in England, it was pouring with rain - yesterday the sun came out and it was blissfully warm. I was walking in the hills beyond the coastal strip of Morecambe Bay - a place of dangerous tides and shifting sands and magnificent views. You would write a different scene if it were a stormy day, yesterday the area looked quite benign and a gentle scene would be easy to put together.

Thomas Hardy, the great English novelist, uses the weather and the seasons effectively. Think Tess of the D'Urbavilles. When (I always think) the drippy Angel Clair sees her for the first time, she is dancing in a sun speckled meadow - so different from her in hard times, digging for turnips in a cold, frosty field in mid-winter. Gone is the happy carefree milkmaid.

I like to set books in warm climes when I can - I love the heat myself and feel happy then. But the winter storms can be very useful for scenes that require mystery, tension and suspense. There is something frightening about that bare tree tap tapping on the window pane. The wind whistling under the door...bound to have the reader asking. "What is going to happen?"

How boring it would be, I think to have no changing seasons at all - to have summer all year round, no rain - no glorious pictures of frost sparkling on the evergreen, what would film makers do? What would writers do?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Short Story Markets

I love short stories. My favorite is "For Esmé with Love and Squalor" by J. D. Salinger. Originally published in The New Yorker on April 8, 1950, it’s the kind of tale that lives on in your heart long after you’ve read it.

That was a golden time for short stories. I’ve been writing short stories for thirty years and have to admit the markets aren’t as lucrative as they used to be. But they are out there. A good link for researching where to submit is http://www.duotrope.com/

I write inspirational, literary, mystery and romance stories and have been excited to see some new markets. Last year I had stories in some brand new mystery magazines: Mouth Full of Bullets and The Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine. What a great experience! A new market for romance stories is The Wild Rose Press and both Sarita and I have published with them. Last year Whiskey Creek Press put out an anthology called Hope that was just chock full of inspirational stories. And new literary magazines are constantly appearing.

So if you write short stories, be persistent, study magazines, and submit. You just may be the next J.D.