Friday, November 30, 2007
From Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:
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 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.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
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
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
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.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
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
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
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.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
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..............
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
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
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
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
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
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 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
Friday, November 2, 2007
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 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!