Friday, August 29, 2008


Research. Do you remember being a kid in grade school, "doomed" to write a report or complete a project? One that required--dare I say it aloud?--research? Oh, the horror! The humiliation! The agony of it all!

Research? Arrghh...while the other kids were outside playing?

I hated those dratted assignments, hated poking around for facts, figures, clues and clauses. I always wanted to be outside playing, too.

Thankfully, times have changed. Now I relish research, love digging beneath the surface and learning new things. Before I begin a book I usually have a--delightful!--chunk of hours devoted to research. They are a true pleasure now, an indulgence I relish. So different from hammering away at the keyboard, the research hours are almost like a mental beach stroll. I pick up, and examine, various seashells or bits of driftwood. Some I keep, thinking I'll use them somehow, somewhere, for something. Others, I toss. Who knows? Maybe someone else will see something in those bits I don't see.

Yes, research for a new book is like a bracing seaside stroll. When I'm done walking I'm ready to sit down and get to work. Now the research is the play; writing is the work. Yes, things really do change.

Today I'll begin researching a location for a new book. I've got most of the story plotted but it's taken a while to decide where to set it. Finally, I think I've got it. So, now...research. Between us, I'm looking forward to my hours poking about, learning new things and making them fit into the new story line.

Oh? Where will the story take place? Well, I'd been thinking of keeping it mum but since we're all good friends here I'll share.

Acapulco. I think my characters will have some fun in the sun.

Or maybe Bora Bora.

Or...well, who knows where my research will take us.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, wherever it leads you!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Writing Romance

If you are writing a thriller do you write your novel without a crime of some kind? Do you write a family saga about someone living alone without a family? Would you write a western where the cowboy doesn't have a horse? I can hear you all screaming, what is she on about, has she gone mad? Well perhaps I have.

I have been reading romances that are not romances, that's is why I ask. So many people seem to think they can write a romance about any old thing. I would like to advise them, you can't.

Romance is a genre that is just as specialised as any other kind of writing. There is a craft to it and the main ingredient is ROMANCE. There has to be two main catalysts who are generating sparks. They might initially be sparks because they rub one another up the wrong way (no pun intended) or she might fancy him and he not her and vice-versa. Their conflict is what keeps the story going. Sure other things are happening but the romance is the central theme. This is a world where things are going to work out, no matter how difficult those things become.

Funnily enough my dictionary does not give a listing for romance, but it does for romantic - "involving sexual attraction accompanied by loving feelings" That just about says it all, doesn't it?

So - you are writing your romance - HE - SHE - SPARKS - lots of other things happening but you have to keep going back to those three very important things.

Hope it all works out in the end - I mean it should do, shouldn't it?


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Following Giants

Many years ago I hit a drought in my writing and couldn't seem to finish my novel in progress. It just seemed like such a big effort for such modest gains. But then I read John Updike's A Month of Sundays and remembered why I began writing in the first place -- love of language, interest in characters, and a desire to entertain.

Now some twenty-five years laters, it's still the giants in literature that keep me glued to my computer. I won't ever write with their complexity and grace but they remind me what I'm aiming for. Funny though as I get older I've shifted from the men of literature --Saul Bellow, John Updike, Philip Roth -- to the women -- Alice Hoffman, Joanna Trollope, Alice Munro.

And I've just read P.D. James and added her to my list. I've always thought of her as a thriller writer and not a role model until I read The Light House which containd sentences like this,"...the secret service, like the monarchy, in yielding up its mystique in response to public enthusiasm for greater openness, seemed to have lost some of that half-ecclesiastical patina of authority bestowed on those who dealt in esoteric mysteries."

Now I'm probably not going to write a sentence like that today but I'm going to jump into current work and try.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


(Standing left to right) Stanley, Ralph, can't recall, Bill, Grandma, Grandpa, Marjorie, Florence, Virginia & Ruth, (kneeling left to right) Byron, Paul and Dad (doesn't he look like Elvis?)

I was looking through a box of pictures and came across an old one of my dad when he was a young man, and a couple of my sister Lois and me. It's funny how looking at pictures can bring back memories of times gone by. And even though these pictures are forty-five and fifty years old, I can look at them and recall so many times spent at family gatherings and picnics. Times visiting aunts and uncles at their homes, bonding with my cousins.

My aunt Virginia and Uncle Bennie lived on a farm over run by cats. Uncle Paul and Aunt Erdine lived in a fairly small house considering they had five children. We spent a lot of time there, as Uncle Paul was the closest brother to my dad's age. And of all my cousins I knew his children the best. To this day cousin Mary and I keep in touch and visit when we can.

Aunt Barbara and Uncle Stanley, he was my favorite uncle, lived in a house on China lake. Aunt Ruth sent my sister and me a big box of clothes for Christmas every year. Uncle Byron lived in a big house on a hill and had ten kids. I recall catching fire flies with them as we played late one after noon.

Aunt Marjorie, believe it or not the very first time I met her was about six years ago. The oldest girl and twenty years older than my dad, she was farmed out to another family when she was a teenager. Something large families did back then. She's the only one still alive at ninety-eight. I don't remember much about Uncle Bill except that he was a drinker. Uncle Ralph and Aunt Lucille? Other than living with them for a while I remember their son turned out gay:) One uncle's name I can't recall.

The pictures of my sister and I when we were around 4 & 5 were taken outside my Aunt Florence's home in China, Maine. She was my favorite
aunt and always remembered our birthdays and Christmas. The earlier picture of Lois and me was taken in Milo, Maine, where we were born.

I miss all of these people, and most of all the simpler times back then when spending time with your families filled your days with adventure and memories. You hope not to lose those with the passing of years, and finding old pictures easily bring them back to the surface.

I just wanted to share a part of myself with you wonderful ladies.

Yes, I'm in a nostalgic mood.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Winding Down

August is winding down. The Olympics? Winding down. The summer...uh huh, that too. And if we look at the calendar, the year is winding down.


How did that happen? I'm still getting out my summer skirts and the nights are turning cool. Not really, but that's how it feels. I really wish I could stretch time, to make it last longer so we could enjoy it more fully. I'm totally into the swing of summer, loving every moment of it, and here it is--almost fall!


Scary, no?

When you look back on the summer of '08 will you smile? Cry? Scowl? Or will you be like me, doing all three yet wishing it had been a few weeks longer?

My dad is visiting with us and we're having a wonderful time. I surely don't want to see his visit end. My head knows that's going to happen but my heart...well, that's another story. It's a stubborn heart and is going to savor every fabulous moment of this visit...even if it is, unfortunately, winding down.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend! :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Feeling Good

What external forces make you feel happy. Perhaps a good book that you have just read? A piece of music, a movie or television programme? I was mulling on what makes me feel good the other day, it came into my mind because I was feeling really good.

I have a lot going on in my life that does sometimes really get me down. I was feeling down when my friend Teresa called me. We had been trying to fix up a date for an afternoon movie, could we go that afternoon? Sure, why not I thought.

The move we wanted to see was "Mamma Mia" so off we went. The cinema was full of ladies of 50 plus, just like us! The music I love, I have always adored Abba music. Hearing that ignited a small spark inside me - by the first couple of reels I had forgotten my problems. The colour - the music - the exuberence of the cast, everything worked to send those blues packing, not yet to resurface.

I had seen the show but the film is out of this world. I dare anyone to say they do not feel better after seeing it. More importantly, as well as having all these delicious men to gawp at, there is Meryl Streep. What a revelation, Meryl as we have never seen her. Looking older but so full of life and she sings brilliantly too. She gives hope for us all - after all she ends up with....(oh I am not going to tell you that, go see it!).

Now all I need is that cheque in the post from Benny and Bjorn - but not really, if you guys should stop by to read this blog "Thank you for the music..."

And thanks Teresa - you made my day!

Cheers, Margaret.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cozy with Cora!

Good news!

The always delightful Cora Applebaum has posted our chat at Orchard Hill Highlights. I am a big Orchard Hill fan so cozying up and chatting with Cora is definitely a high point for me.

Thanks Cora!

I hope you'll take a peek. :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

What are we supposed to do?

You drive up to a red light and stop, and right there on the corner or median is a homeless person. You look everywhere but at him, but you know he's there. Dressed in worn, dirty clothes, sometimes a baseball hat on his head. Long dirty hair hanging down to his shoulders. Carrying a cardboard sign that says "Homeless. Will work for food." The ones that say "Veteran" or "Vietnam vet" really tug at the heart strings.

What are we supposed to do? Would they really work for food? I've given them money before. Then later see them smoking. I won't support a nicotine habit. There's one regular who looks like he has a beer belly on him, he certainly doesn't look hungry. Still, once in a while I give them money. Not often. I wonder what they'd do were I to hand them a sandwich? I've thought about it.

As I sat at the light and watched the homeless man with his little cardboard sign I couldn't help thinking that I work hard for my money, five days a week. He just stands around with a sign and preys on the sympathies of others. Maybe that's not fair of me but I live in a right to work state. Surely they can find a job! Even if it pays the minimum it's got to be better then standing out in the heat all day.

Maybe that is their job. I've heard they pull in quite a bit by the end of the week. And they don't have to pay taxes! LOL

Friday, August 15, 2008


I've got to admit it. I'm bedazzled by Beijing.

I have always been intrigued by China but now I'm even more so. I want to see the Great Wall. Walk in the marketplace. See the Square for myself. I would love to taste the vegetables (hold the fried scorpion, please!) and see how they're grown.

I'd especially like to learn to speak Chinese. I've considered the language in the past but it's seemed such a daunting task. But I saw a taxi driver on a news segment who learned to speak English mostly through determination, practice and exposure in preparation for the Olympic games. The man's example inspires me. Maybe I could learn to speak Chinese someday. Who knows? Maybe it'll come easily. (Yeah, and pigs might fly, too...)

What about you? Are you enjoying the Olympic games? And are you getting as big a charge as I am out of getting glimpses of China and its citizens?

This Olympic experience is even more special because my dad is staying with us. I remember watching the games with him when I was a little girl. Now we get to watch them as adults. It doesn't get much better than that.

I hope you're enjoying the experience at your house, too. So...anyone up for learning a new language? Hmm? I need a study partner! :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

His Other Wife

"A passionate love story of two people who should never be together"
I thought I would just introduce you to my new novel that is out now. It is available from in e book and printed form.
It tells the story of Saul, Roxie and her son Josh. Saul feels responsible for Josh as he is the son of his dead brother. However, there is Roxie his mother, a woman who is spikey in the extreme. Roxie has had a hard life, abandoned as a baby, Roxie has had to struggle to become the successful woman she is. Afraid to love and comit, Roxie nevertheless cannot struggle against her attraction for Saul - a man she believes has had everything.
Margaret Blake

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Spencer Tracy

I've had fun reading about my fellow bloggers' pets and thought I'd tell you about Spencer. We've had our rescue dog for fifteen months. He had been abused and we promised him a quiet, stress-free life.

Of course, we lied. The dog has watched my husband weather several health crises and dealt with sirens, paramedics and visting nurses. He has adapted and now follows Doug around the house and watchs him obsessively. He loves his new family but we know his past still haunts him. He sometimes has nightmares and is afraid and barks when anyone comes to our door.

We have spent a fortune on dog trainers and he is a bit better with strangers. Mostly I think he is doing the best he can. He gives kisses and likes to be held. Sometimes he looks at us as if to say, "Before you guys nobody ever thought I was special."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Waiting for Me

This is what I come home to everyday. Woofy waiting for me on the back of the sofa, staring out the window. The minute I open the car door I hear his little meow of welcome. Then he runs and meets me at the door. It's a great feeling to come home after a long day of work, to something that loves you unconditionally. To something that misses you and is there to greet you. And all he expects from me in return is acknowledgement in the way of a hello and a pat on the head. He's a cuddler though and loves attention and contact, which he gets plenty of.

Gin Gin, on the other had, could care less. She's so darn independent and aloof. I think it's a big act because once in a while she slips up and cuddles with hubby or me, or gets friendly. Then goes back to being unfriendly when she realizes what she's doing. She's a good cat most of the time, a little too curious which lands her in trouble once in a while. But you know what I do to punish her? I pick her up and love on her! LOL She hates that.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Here I am back from my trip. What a beautiful city Edinburgh, Scotland is. Ancient and modern, and very walkable. You can be in tiny little passages lined by huge stone houses, and then on a broad shopping street that is as good as anywhere in the world.
The Royal mile links the castle and Holyrood house, the home of Mary Queen of Scots at one time. It is wonderful. The only blight was that it rained from my getting there to my leaving. However, I enjoyed being with my friend, Loren from New Zealand, and we did not let the terrible weather stop us from doing anything that we wanted. I am going to attach a picture of The Royal Mile, but it is taken at night, still you might get the atmosphere.

I also saw the cafe where JK Rowling sat writing the Harry Potter stories, picture attached. Can you imagine - Scotland and Edinburgh in particular is very rich in the literary tradition.

I am looking forward to writing my blog on Thursday so will chat to you again then. By the way, the best news when I arrived home was a letter from my Publisher, Robert Hale, telling me he was going to buy my new romantic suspense! When that book comes out, it will be my 22nd - I have to say it of myself, "way to go Maggie!"

Cheers, Margaret.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Zucchini Friday

Good Friday morning. Please forgive me if I've been absent this week, not commenting anywhere or chatting on loops. I've been swamped, completely buried, and trying to keep up with the deluge has taken nearly all of my time.

Hmm? What's been keeping me occupied? Well, honestly, it's been...our garden. Or should I say gardens? We've got several, and they're all producing bumper crops. I've been busy making jam, and canning and freezing fruits and veggies, and of course we're eating fresh produce like there's no tomorrow. I've just been spending all my time either in the gardens or in the kitchen. I'm not complaining, just sharing.

Last night we had friends here to share dinner with us and of course we pretty much fed them from the garden. It was wonderful, and so healthy.

Today I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite zucchini recipes. I thought maybe some of you were buried under zucchini mountains too. I hope you enjoy them!

And I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

One of our all-time favorites...

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

zucchini blossoms
2 cups whole milk
4 Tablespoons flour
An egg, lightly beaten
Olive oil for frying

Trim the stems of the zucchini blossoms, remove flower parts from inside the blossom and wash gently them gently. Pat them dry, using a delicate touch.

Combine the milk, flour and egg.

Heat the oil in a deep pan.

Lightly salt the zucchini blossoms then dredge them in batter. Immediately drop them into the oil and fry them until golden. Drain on paper towels, then serve them hot.

Make more than you think you'll need. Believe me. Make more.

Zucchini Brownies

2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine all ingredients.

Pour batter into a greased, floured baking pan and place in a 350-degree preheated oven.

Brownies will be completely cooked in 30-45 minutes. Check by poking with a skewer to test for doneness.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

You Got to Have Friends

I've been all work and no play for a long time and a vacation is out of the question. So I've decided to designate Monday as a fun day. I meet a couple friends for a light breaksast and then we shop. We don't go anywhere expensive just a local outlet that may lack ambience but has lots of bargains.

I come home with a jump on my holiday shopping and an eagerness to get back to my writing. Between breakfast and shopping we never spend more than twenty dollars, but the relaxation and the conversation is priceless.

My mom used to play bridge every Sunday and I never understod the appeal of that card game. Now I realize it wasn't the cards but the weekly ritual of being with friends that she enjoyed.

Time is precious but so are our friends. I find if you gather at least three prople you get laughs and good times. Wasn't it the three bears and three muskateers? So I'm one of the three shoppers. And yes I've orchestrated this whole blog just so I could use this photo.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cutting Back?

Kathy had an interesting post below about making changes. It's funny because lately I've been thinking seriously about doing the same thing. I find as I get older I want to simplify my life to suite what I want. And in the fast paced world we live in I know it's not going to be easy. Sometimes making choices isn't easy, because we all want to make the right choices. How do we know what those are?

I just got back from spending three days with my daughter and her family. My little granddaughter, Alivia, turned two. My niece was there, my dad showed up from South Carolina to surprise us all. We were all together. As small a family as we are. We had a little birthday party for Alivia and for the first time I got to hear her say "gamaw". My niece and I discussed taking a short cruise together. All is good. No cut backs to be made here:)

So what changes will help simplify my life? Having a housekeeper is a good place to start, but I like cleaning my little house and it doesn't take up that much of my time. Hubby keeps the outside done. No worries there. Taking care of two little kitties isn't all that hard. They're pretty independent and besides, I enjoy having them around. No cut backs to be made here:)

Work? These days who can quit work? I enjoy that part of my life because I'm around co-workers who have become my friends. The job isn't that hard and I make decent money, that's always a plus. Sure, I wish I didn't have to work 5 days a week, 3 would be perfect! Still, I'm not special. If the rest of the world has to work 5 days a week then so should I. Gee, when I was younger I held down three jobs! No cut backs to be made here:)

What then? My writing? I can't give that up! Writing is in my blood, it's my passion. Sure, it became more complicated once I became published but I wouldn't give that experience up for the world. But there are aspects of writing that I can...trim. Getting back to Kathy's earlier blog, she said she belonged to 20 something groups. I belong to almost twice that many, several different networking sites, I have two websites and a blog of my own I need to maintain. Ah! Here's where I can start to cut back.

So like Kathy I will eliminate some of the groups I belong to. A couple of the networking sites will have to go, too. My websites and personal blogs will definitely stay, though. I will start eliminating my time on the Internet so I can do more writing, which has suffered because of all the time I spend playing. And I will stop committing myself to so much that I can't keep up with it anymore.

Sound like a plan?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Fluffy and Fido

This is our cat Piglet. She's 12 and we think she's the sweetest little thing around. She's got a personality that could charm a snake and purrs so loud she sounds like she's hiding an engine somewhere on her furry self. We love her. A lot.

Have you noticed that most people have at least one pet? Or, if they don't currently live with a pet, they've had one. Or plan to get one. Yes, animals do play an important role in our lives. I know our world wouldn't be the same without our Piglet.

I've noticed that so many of our favorite characters have pets. Pigs, birds, fish, cats and dogs seem tame. I've read books where falcons, wolves, penguins, sharks and ferrets have filled out the family unit. I think one of my favorite pets was in the Laura Kinsdale novel Midsummer Moon. In that story the pet of choice was a hedgehog!

I believe pets belong in novels. So far I haven't brought any odd pets into my books but there's usually at least one cat, and sometimes a dog. After all, in the real world we love our feathered, furry and sometimes slimy friends. Why not invite them into our characters' lives, too?

How do you feel about pets in novels? Do they belong on the pages? Or should they be left on the author's lap?

Have a nice weekend! :)