Friday, May 30, 2008

Inspiration...on wheels

No, this isn't our car. I wish it was, but it's not. A few weeks ago we saw it in a local park and I couldn't resist taking a few photographs of it. The shiny teal, brilliant chrome and roomy interior (yes, I took a peek inside!) made my heart flutter. I love old cars, just love 'em. They hold so many stories.

If this old Desoto could only talk, what would it say? Would it tell tales, or keep its "lips" sealed? Did it carry children in the backseat? Or teenagers? Bags of groceries in the trunk? Maybe that trunk held suitcases while the car carried its passengers on family vacations. And who knows? That backseat could have had some very romantic moments...at a drive-in, maybe? Or parked behind the high school bleachers? For all I know this car may have brought babies home from the hospital. Between us, I hope it did do just that--at least once or twice.

As I said, we saw this car a couple of weeks ago but it's still very much in my mind. I'm probably going to write a story because of this car. It's funny, too, because most times that's all it takes for me to begin to write a new story...just a passing thought, a scent in the air or something I've seen or heard. People ask, "Where do ideas come from?" and they don't believe me when I say, "From everywhere." But it's true. Just ask this car. It knows. I'll bet it does.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend! Me? I've got a story to start writing.

Once upon a time there was a handsome man, a smart, funny woman and a shiny turquoise car...

;-)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Publication Day

Tomorrow 30th May, is publication day for the above novel. If this were not real and in a t.v. show or a movie, they would show the author attending a glamorous party, eating nibbles and drinking copious amounts of expensive wine...the reality is very different. Celebrations in this house are saved for when the book is ACCEPTED, the rest is just hard work. Trying to get some publicity (I have been lucky this year with lots of coverage in my local paper and also in the local paper of where I used to live) and telling as many people as possible that the book is now available. The glamour is as much a fiction as my novel is! I guess if you are a best selling author then you get the party but the rest of us out there do their very best just to get noticed.

Don't think I am moaning about this, I don't mind at all. I am not one these days for glamorous parties, my figure won't allow me to eat too many nibbles and copious amounts of wine would do me no good at all...two glasses max, that is me these days. I am delighted my book is out there -
and pardon the plug - any passer by at this site - the book is available in book stores, from the publisher direct at www.halebooks.co.uk and of course that old faithful amazon.com!

Cheers - have to rush, laundry to do, supermarket to get to...see what I mean, glamour? What glamour?

Margaret

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Finished


I typed the last words on my novel today. Generally when I get to the end of a big writing project there is a let down. But today it felt so exhilirating to finish.

And though strolling violionists didn't serenade me as I did my victory lap around the keyboard, a couple equally good things did happen today. Margaret Blake's new novel, Breaking the Clouds came in the mail. What a beautiful book. And speaking of beautiful, Wild Rose Press redid my cover for Overdue for Love and e-mailed it. So I'm doing the happy dance down here in Florida.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

When it rains...

it pours, doesn't it? Goodness, the Larks are really getting hammered by life. It is impossible not to feel saddened by what's going on with Debbie, Kathy and Margaret. I'm honestly at a loss for words, something that doesn't often happen, I assure you. But what to say in the midst of so much pain and suffering, so much sadness? I can only hope and pray that beyond the rain clouds bright skies await for each of them and their families. And really, I hope the warm breezes find them soon. Really soon.

Here? Oh, let's just say we muddle through, take each day as it comes. We take pleasure in the good moments and know that the not-so-good ones will be bearable as long as we've got each other. So it's all good.

Now if we could only help the other ladies find their way to smoother times things would be really fine.

Hope you all have a weekend filled with happy moments.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Not much today


We all seem to be having woes lately. Lots of things happening in our lives, today I am no exception. My husband has gone into hospital so have not been able to blog, instead I am posting a picture of Lake Windermere on a late Spring day. Like us, it is not always so sad and misty, somedays it is blooming beautiful.


Margaret.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Writer's Reaction

There are moments that forever change the landscape of your life. I know Debbie's family is reeling from one and mine is too.

Writer's react the same way as anyone else in the moment of trouble. They worry, they cry and they don't sleep much. What is different is that later -- sometimes much later -- they will write about their grief. They won't use the exact set of circumstances but will give the event a universality that readers can relate to.

I lost a much loved brother three weeks ago. His heart stopped. Mine felt as if a bomb had exploded in it. For a few days I didn't think I'd ever write again. A friend said to me, "He is still with you." I felt too bereft to accept that. But I did continue writing. For me, it is like breathing and I can't stop. So I decided to finish my novel and dedicate it to my brother -- something positive to do during my grief. But it all seemed so trivial.

And then yesterday a funny thing happened. I was writing in my hero's voice and I heard my brother Jack speaking. My hero's name is Yuma and his assistant was explaining to him that he couldn't fire someone just for being an idiot. Warnings must be issued. Yuma answered, "If I put my large hands around his ivy-league neck, I'm sure we'll get a proper resignation." It was my brother's voice. He didn't suffer fools gladly especially over-educated useless ones. I suspect this character was always a bit like him and I only realized it now. So though I'm still hurting, I'm beginning to accept what my friend said, 'He is still with me.'

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Last Week

On Mother's Day about 11:30 at night my niece and I found my dad (step-father) non-responsive in his chair at home. He'd had a stroke. We don't know how long he was there like that but my niece had spoken to him earlier that evening and he was fine. Later, when a friend of his couldn't reach him by phone they became worried and phoned another neighbor who lived next door. When they went over they saw dad through the open curtains and knew something wasn't right. He then called us.

He was rushed to the hospital, put on life support and they immediately began treating him. After three days he began to come around and was taken off life support. And yesterday they moved him out of ICU. Now he's trying to eat a little and we're able to have a conversation to a point. At times he's still confused and non-responsive, his speech slurred. But we're hoping for a full recovery, he's still young at 69. It appears he's going to be hospitalized for a while, though.

During the week my daughter, niece and I have made countless trips to the hospital, either before work or after work, to see him and speak to his nurses. He's also had many friends visit him. While he was in ICU he indicated he knew you were there by squeezing your hand. It was reassuring that he was aware of your presence.

We have yet to meet any of his doctors as you know how that is, if you're not around when they make their rounds you're out of luck. And if you are around you'd better talk to them quick because they're always on the run to the next patient. Don't they realize that family members are anxious over their loved ones? That we have questions and concerns and want to be assured everything is going to be okay? Today I let the nurses at the hospital know, and called his main doctor's office staff to let them know I wanted to meet with the doctor to discuss dad's treatment. It's been over a week and receiving bits and pieces from different nurses isn't cutting it.

Anyway, just wanted y'all to know if I'm not around as much as before, or I miss a post, that most likely it has something to do with dad.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Quiet week here

If you read my blog, From the Heart, you know I've scaled back on spending time in my office. I'm planning to blog only a few days a week for the next couple of months, and to spend substantially less time writing and working. Why? Because...well, just because it's what my life needs at this point. My family has always come first, and now they just need me to be more available than I've been in the past.

Are you wondering what I'm going to do with all my newfound downtime? I'll admit the first week or so that I reined in my work schedule I was a bit at odds. I'm not a big "relaxer" so the idea of having so much leisure time is really very new to me. But let me assure you, I'm learning--quickly!--to adapt to this new lifestyle.

This past week I baked. I love to cook and bake and on any given day I'll spend a good chunk of time in the kitchen but now that I've got all this extra time... Oh my! It's like Paradise! I'm not rushed and can dawdle over choosing recipes and ingredients. I'm having a blast.

Every day this week I baked something. The house smells heavenly, my husband wears a constant smile and I'm getting to create some of my favorite goodies. I'm going to share with all of you two of the recipes I baked this week. Both are from my latest cookbook, Tea Time. Neither recipe is time consuming or difficult to make--my kind of recipes!--so I hope you might consider trying at least one of them. And I hope you and yours enjoy them as much as we do!

You know, too many months of relaxing might just have an adverse effect on my bottom. Hmm...maybe I'll have to think of putting myself on some sort of exercise program...then again, maybe not. ;-)

Happy weekend!

Daffodil Bread

1 cup vegetable oil

1¾ cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. baking powder
½ t. salt
1 T. lemon extract
1 cup finely chopped almonds
2 cups lemon yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together oil, eggs and sugar.
Add remaining ingredients and mix.

Grease and flour bundt pan.
Pour batter in pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes.
~




Orange Cake

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup dairy sour cream

1 t. soda
½ t. baking powder
½ t. orange extract
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs. Beat well.


Add sour cream.

Sift together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients and orange ingredients

to creamed mixture and blend well.

Pour batter into a greased bundt pan.
Bake at 350° for 60 minutes.

If desired, cake may be frosted with a mixture of 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

and the juice of 2 oranges.
~

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Survival

Look at these lovely little flowers, there they are growing out of rock, surviving the harsh conditions and looking beautiful. A bit like our heroines, don't you think? We put our heroines through the wringer, experiencing the most scary episodes, things that would terrify we writers and reduce us to quivering jelly. But not our girls, they go on and tough it out and come out smiling at the end, usually on the arm of some gorgeous guy. But it is all escapist fun for us, whereas for these lovely little flowers it is a reality.

The photo was taken on my last walk in the Lake District. That was quite an experience because my walking friend, Sheila, and I got separated from the group. Not our fault, they simply did not wait up for us and we went the wrong way, nearly three miles out of our way. However, we met a hero who put us on the right track. Did this brave heroine lambast the group leader who had not waited for us...what do you think?

Nevertheless, although the 8 mile walk turned into just over 12, Sheila and I survived, we lived to tell the tale and like these little flowers, came up blooming in the end.


Cheers!

Margaret.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Running on Empty

Lately my conversations with friends have been turning to discussions on how much we all paid for gas. A friend sent me the following suggestions for saving some pennies at the pump and I thought I'd share.

1. Only buy or fill up your car or truck in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground the more dense the gasoline, when it gets warmer gasoline expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening....your gallon is not exactly a gallon. Service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps.

2. When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look you will see that the trigger has three stages: low, middle, and high. You should be pumping on low mode, thereby minimizing the vapors that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor. Those vapors are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.

3. One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL. The reason for this is the more gas you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation.

4. Another reminder, if there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up; most likely the gasoline is being stirred up as the gas is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom.

5. And probably the most important money saver is to conserve this resource. I now combine trips and try to carpool when I can.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Little Gin Gin


Isn't so little anymore. I had to take her to the vet the other day and she weighs in at almost 12 pounds. I was surprised it wasn't more because she seems so much bigger and feels a lot heavier than Woofy. And the reason I had to take her to the vet? This is funny. Because my hubby was worried she had a tumor. She has this big sack that hangs from her belly and sways back and forth when she walks. I told him I'll take her in but that they're probably going to charge me $32 just to tell me she's fat.

That was exactly what I told the girls at the counter after we walked in, too. They laughed and one said, let me take her to the back and if she's fat we won't charge you. Wasn't that nice of her? So I sat and waited and when she came out with Gin Gin she laughed and said, "yup, she's fat!" Then explained that when some female cats are spayed they get a fat sack that kind of hangs there. She said some males can get it, too, which explains Woofy's little one.

As promised they didn't charge me and hubby was relieved.



On a different note, I hope everyone had a great Mother's Day yesterday!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pivotal moments

In writing, as in life, there are pivotal moments, times where the action, emotion or tone of a story changes. Sometimes the moment is subtle but more often it's a big one, an action or revelation that every reader sees and feels.

When I write mysteries one of the pivotal moments I try and concentrate on is the discovery of the corpse. I mean, the body is a necessary part of the story so when, how and why it turns up is pretty important, I think. And the person, or people, who find it? They matter--a lot.

Currently I'm eyeball deep in a romance. Writing one, that is. And last night I, well, I reached a pivotal moment. A big one. Hmm? The moment? Oh, sorry. It's *cue music and dim lights* The First Kiss.

Yeah, it's a biggie as far as writing romance goes. It's got to be just right. Not like in real life, where sometimes first kisses are too fast, awkward or even nose-battering or head-butting. In real life, there's a chance to giggle, blush, try the first kiss again. And again. And again. But in a novel? Uh uh. How could I have my heroine smack her heard on the hunky man's forehead? I can't. So I'm agonizing over the pivotal moment in romance known as The First Kiss.

My first kiss? Ah...I remember it well. Yes, I'm blushing. What about you? Do you recall The First Kiss in your own life? Was it storybook perfect or did you have to try again? And again?

Hopefully by the end of the day I'll have figured a way to have lips meet and hearts warm. I've got to say, I'm loving thinking about it!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Neighbours

John and I make sure that every night we watch the Australian soap "Neighbours" I like it because I like Australia and it reminds me of my happy time there. It has lovely characters and deals with problems, in a positive way, that affect young people. It really is a young people's programme. It was great when I was working with young people because it told me, much of the time, what they were into and what really bothered them.

The thing that is excellent about Neighbours though, is the way the writers handle conflict. Conflict can be very difficult to do, you can have too much conflict, too little, or the conflict is resolved too soon ( a fault of mine that I have to beware of) but in the soap they do it brilliantly.
I have learned a lot from watching at 5.30 p.m. in the evening.

So, you see, I am not wasting my time, sitting like a couch potato in front of the t.v. I am actually working...well you might believe it!

Cheers,

Margaret.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Just stopping by

I know, you're all expecting Kathleen to be here today. Sorry to disappoint but our good friend has some other things that require her attention this morning so I thought I'd poke my head in and say hello. So...hello.

How's it going in your neck of the woods? Hope all is well with you. We're fine here. Just fine, and enjoying the gorgeous springtime weather. I know, I talk about the weather a lot but remember I live in the middle of nowhere on a hill so the weather? It's a big thing up here!

And since I wasn't planning on stopping in and haven't yet had my morning tea my brain isn't exactly...well, you get the idea. All I can think about is the weather.

But I do have a photo or two to share. The first is something that surprised the heck out of me yesterday. It's early. Unexpected. Beautiful. And the second? Needs no explanation. Hope you enjoy them.

And have a great day! :)

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Orlando Magazine

Okay, I have to find one! According to Jay Boyer, who used to write for the Orlando Sentinel and now writes for the Orlando Magazine, there's supposed to be a write up about "THE SENATOR'S DAUGHTER" in the May issue. At least, that's what his plan was. If anyone gets their hands on a copy and the article is there, please let me know. I just went to www.orlandomagazine.com but they only offer so much viewing of the magazine online and I have no idea where the article would appear in the magazine.

Authors, in the January issue of the Orlando Magazine Jay included a small article at the bottom of his book report page asking local authors with a new or recent book release to contact him. You have to send a print copy of your book to: Jay Boyer, Orlando Magazine, 801 N. Magnolia Avenue, Suite 201, Orlando Fl 32803. Also include your phone number and e-mail addy, tell him where you live in Central Florida. He doesn't accept self published work, technical, poetry or strictly academic books.

I worried that he wouldn't accept books published through epublishers but in his January issue he included authors from Medallion Press and Cerridwen Press. So, if you're a Floridian author this is your chance for some free exposure!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Reading, Writing and the Ridiculous

I'm amazed by people who have trouble coming up with ideas. I'm not one of them. My mind goes overtime so sometimes I wish I could be one of those whose mind keeps quiet for what must be blissful stretches. But me? A quiet mind? In my dreams, only.

But back to the topic of coming up with ideas for writing. Even if there are no whispers from the muse there are lots of places to find inspiration. Take the news headlines, for instance. There are enough wisps of ideas in the daily stories to furnish a boatload of plotlines.

Although the titillating stories are usually the ones that get the most attention I'm a sucker for the less flamboyant ones. They intrigue me, the tucked-away side stories that seem more ridiculous than most. Or the ones that highlight the spectacular--they get me every time.

This morning there are a few that call me. I can just see a story whose hero makes a discovery--like this. Can you imagine the thrill of discovering a 500-year-old wreck? I see a mystery involving an old, creaky wooden ship, laden with all kinds of booty. A storm. The creak of splitting timbers, a flood of water and the sinking...told from a survivor's viewpoint. Sure, in my mind there's a survivor. Sharks in the water? Hmm...makes it all the more interesting, doesn't it?

Some stories in today's news are just dying to be pulled into a plotline. Now I'm not saying I've got any intention to use this one but wouldn't it be, well, funny to have a criminal as inept as this one? I mean, a check that size? It sounds like something from a romantic comedy, doesn't it? And I picture Steve Martin, or maybe Martin Lawrence, playing the bank robber. Of course he'd want the 360 billion dollars for, I don't know, a big engagement ring? Or to take his intended on the trip of a lifetime, the one she's always dreamed of? Or maybe he'd just want to start his own company. Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction.

But the point is, stories and inspiration are all around us. Of course we can't use the actual headlines bit by bit, but as a jumping off point? Why not? I'm sure lots of people do and I'll bet putting a personal touch and a few twists and turns could turn almost any headline into an offbeat, murderous, adventurous or funny plot.

But pulling writing from reading headlines? Sometimes the outcome can only be ridiculous. Like this Friday morning post!

Have a great weekend! :)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Golden Ages

Debbie's blog had me thinking about the past. Many of us think back on the past as a golden age. I know my mother did, as did my Nana and Dad and Grandpa. I do it too. Lots of people must, judging by the popularity of clogs and shawl sagas.



Was my past a golden age? I don't really think so. One of my grandson's had a project for school in which he had to ask Nana what was invented in her life time. Well, the list was endless, all sorts of good things. Jet travel was in there, without which I would not get to see him every year!



When I travelled to the States to live amongst you, I came by boat. Now that was a way to travel. No, I wasn't in first class but ordinary class was great. The food was tremendous and there were lots of entertainments. Now you can be in the States in seven hours and not in the seven days it took me originally. Yet there is no glamour in jet travel. Not like on the big liners. So that is something has has its pluses and minuses.



When I was growing up we lived in a house with no hot water. If you wanted hot you had to boil a kettle or bucket on the gas stove. Nana had a cooking range and always had a kettle boiling away just above the glowing coals. We had no indoor plumbing and the comfort station was in the backyard. A bit spooky going out there at night, I can tell you. And don't think of a yard as you Americans know it, I am talking of a courtyard with just stone flags and a hut by the back gate. I tell you when I got to America I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Hot showers, hot baths, running water, fridges, washing machines and all that food in the Diache supermarket. I won't even get into colour t.v. and cars.



No it was not a golden age, certainly there were compensations - little crime, a feeling of being safe, but it could be a narrow, hard society for anyone that didn't conform. If you were born in a certain class it was hard to climb out of it too. This is the golden age, for all its faults. Let us be thankful for what we have. As a great writer once said, "the past is another country."



Chin chin,



Margaret