Saturday, June 16, 2007

First Meets

Summer Lovin' Contest update…..had to ditch the cowboy hat and use a paint bucket from Home Depot for all the names I'm keeping track of daily. I want to fill the whole bucket, so keep posting away!!

I invite all of you to join me June 25th when True Confessions begins…my daily on-line read at Come meet Patrick and Dolly, two characters that make an appearance in the last of my McKade Brothers series, Ryan's Renovation (August 07).

Okay, today's topic…First Meets--when the hero and heroine meet for the first time in a story.

One of the most fun "meets" I've ever written was in my first book, The Cowboy and the Bride, when the heroine gets caught up on a barbed wire fence in her wedding gown and the hero (rancher) has to figure out a way to get her unhooked before the bull in the pasture charges to fence. In the end the poor guy has to rip half the dress off to free her and just in the nick of time! The bull is left trotting away with the lower half of the heroine's wedding gown hanging from his horns.

Your turn…share one of your favorite "First Meets" that you've either written or read!

Happy Reading!
The Preacher's Daughter *Summer Lovin* June 07

Friday, June 15, 2007

Rites of passage

Eighteen years ago, I was sitting on a curb in the small California town of La Habra where I lived, watching an old-time parade pass by in honor of the local Corn Festival. There were decorated convertibles, school marching bands, and members of the Shriners club riding in funny little cars.

Along came a clown who tapped my extremely round abdomen and said, “I bet you’ll deliver that today!”

She was right. About an hour later, my waters broke and I was on my way to the hospital to deliver a ten-and-a-half pound baby boy. By Caesarian section, thank goodness, considering his size!

Yesterday, on a sunny afternoon a few miles from there, I sat in a football stadium at Cal State Fullerton with my husband, older son, mother and two wonderful mothers-in-law (my husband’s mother and stepmother) and watched that young man graduate from high school.

Here’s how, as a novelist, I might have expected one of my characters to react: with nostalgia, a longing for loved ones who didn’t live to see this day, and an intensified awareness of the cycles of life. Plus, of course, joy.

Well, I experienced all those emotions. And another I wouldn’t have expected: amusement.

Before the ceremony, I couldn’t help chuckling at the guy behind me on a cell phone, loudly struggling to guide a relative who showed up at the wrong campus (Fullerton College) and couldn’t seem to figure out which streets ran east-west so he could join us. Okay, I shouldn’t laugh at someone having an even worse sense of direction than I do, but I’ve never actually gone to the wrong campus for an event!

I was also amused by my older son’s observation that, since his brother had to buy his robes and mortarboard, we now have a Halloween costume lined up. My husband and I then had a playful argument about which of us will go as The Graduate and who gets to be Mrs. Robinson (I won. I think).

Later, watching the graduates arrayed in the school coldors of green and gold, I reflected that, when my older son went through this ritual, I was grateful not to be finished yet with the parenting years. Yesterday, though, I saw what a difference three years has made. Come fall, I’ll miss those boys when they go off to college, but I’m ready for that empty nest.

It occurred to me that not only the students were graduating; a lot of us parents and grandparents were graduating, too. For us, too, I see this as a commencement.

We’re moving on to the next stage. I look forward to seeing what the future will bring.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I don't know about you, but when I think of summer, I'm envisioning long, lazy days at the neighborhood pool with the kids, great reads, Popsicles and plenty of watermelon. After finally getting all three kids successfully through their freshman year of high school, getting my new Harlequin American contract and setting the deadlines just right for allowing plenty of time for fun, my happy train has now come to a screeching halt. Why?

The January ice storm that's still haunting us even though it's ninety!!! ARGH!!!! Okay, so this winter, we had this crazy ice storm that lasted FOREVER, and coated our house in ice. An ice dam formed around our chimney, forcing melting water into our living room, which ruined the ceiling. After waiting FOREVER for the insurance company to make their move, we're finally all set to go, when the contractor who calls me "Darlin'" says we have trouble. Never something you want to hear in conjunction with having no living room ceiling!!! Turns out the roof the insurance guy said was fine, has been leaking since January!!!! The insurance guy insists nothing's wrong. Oh--but if there were something wrong, it'd be a $200 easy fix. Right.

This pic is of our living room after the ceiling was torn down. I asked the contractor why no drop clothes were used. He said, Hubby told him we're getting new carpet. After a few moments of wild laughter, I told him, "Um, not unless he won the lottery and didn't tell me." At this point, he says, "Darlin', don't worry, it'll all just vacuum right up." Uh huh.

I'm now switching writing genres from romance to horror!!! LOL!!! Guess who's going to be my first victim??

On to a waaay more fun topic, thanks to all of you entering Marin, Ann & my (is that grammatically correct? ) contest for our anthology, Summer Lovin'!!! The book was so much fun to write!!! I hope all of you enjoy reading it during what is hopefully turning out to be a way more peaceful summer than mine!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Summer Sales

Now that's a subject that makes me crazy - sales that start before the season is even in full swing. In our part of the world (the Pacific Northwest), the kids aren't out of school and the stores are already emptying the shelves of everything pertaining to summer. Next thing I know, they'll be advertising back to school supplies. Yikes!! By August you can't buy a pair of shorts for love nor money.

Not to mention the fact that we're probably the only place in the western hemisphere that hasn't had a glimpse of summer - lows in the 40s, highs in the 60s. Yep, I know - you're all playing
Poor Pitiful Pearl on your smallest violin. LOL But, when winter rolls around, we have RAIN!

So that's my rant for the day. It has nothing to do with writing, but I did make a pilgrimage to Coldwater Creek to their 60% off sale. Big smile - I got some cool stuff.

Georgia On His Mind - August 2007
The Perfect Tree - Christmas Anthology - November 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fact & Fiction

Okay, we all do it. There’s an old adage that says you have to write what you know. Now that doesn’t mean you have to commit murder to write a mystery, for example, but writers are students of human nature.

There’s also an element of truth in a lot of writer’s works. Just look at John Grisham, who used his insider view of the legal world. And we all know that The Five People You Meet in Heaven was inspired by Mitch Ablom’s uncle Eddie, and that Nicholas Sparks used the romance of family members to create The Notebook. For today’s blog topic, I thought I’d share some insider secrets as to what was real, sort of, in two of my works.

From my first book, A Little Office Romance (Oct 2000), the scene at Busch Stadium (the old one) where Alex is in the bleachers and Julia’s in another section and the bleacher section starts calling her name: real. This actually happened to my friend, Lisa. Her friends couldn’t find her, so as the game time neared they abandoned her, and she didn’t have a ticket to get in as they’d taken it inside. Some nice businessmen gave her one of theirs and she sat with them on the third base line since the bleachers and the rest of the stadium didn’t directly connect. When her friends saw her on the Jumbotron, they got the crowd to call her name. I was up in the nosebleeds with the kids I was babysitting. When I wrote my story, it seemed a fun way to actually take the hero out of his element. As for where Julia went to college, it was Webster University, my master’s degree alma mater. (And this Lisa is the one to whom Nine Months' Notice is dedicated.)

The Wedding Secret (Dec. 2006) ranks as one of my favorite books. The entire scene at the wedding where the Luke declares Cecile to be his date is based in reality, right down to the switching of the bridesmaids because of height. This all took place at my friend Jane’s wedding, many years ago when she was the first of us to succumb and marry a great guy named Joe. The sad thing is, I showed up an hour late to the rehearsal. I felt like a real heel until I asked where Jenny was, and Jane admitted that her other bridesmaid hadn’t showed yet either. (Oops. That’s what you get for putting a rehearsal at 5 PM on a Friday and have poor working girl bridesmaids who can’t afford to take off.) So Saturday, before the wedding, we were jostling for who had to walk with whom, since we weren’t there the night before to get this important detail nailed down. I ended up with Paul, who thankfully was cute and sweet since I had to eat dinner next to him. (You know how those head tables work.) As one of my very single sorority sisters went by in the line for the buffet, which wound past our table, she started asking him all sorts of questions, including where his date was. He declared it me. Okay. First I’d heard of it, considering I’d just met him a few hours before. However, unlike Cecile, I didn’t imbibe in a magical sleepover or ever see him again as he lived in New Orleans. Mostly we danced and he spent the night pulling up the front of my dress which didn’t fit very well and kept threatening to fall down. Such was my life, and when I started this book, I knew that I simply had to use the memory as it simply would set the tone for the rest of the work. As for the rest of it, all made up.

More insider secrets in my next blog post!

Michele Dunaway

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ducks and Books

I am up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday, in front of my computer. No, it's not because I have this creative urge to work on my current book (which is, by the way, 94 percent done). It's not because I'm doing online promotion, or even obsessively checking e-mail or my Amazon rankings.

No, I am watching wood ducks. Via webcam.

Wood ducks are a brightly-colored (males, anyway) species that nest in hollow trees as much as 60 feet up. After the baby ducks hatch they get to spend one night in the nest. Then the mother duck leaves the nest and calls to her babies to join her. They must jump or climb up to the exit hole (see picture), then take a big leap of faith and JUMP down onto land or into water.

Many people build specially designed nest boxes for wood ducks because they are declining due to habitat loss. Some clever person in Greenville, Texas, has put a webcam in her nest box. I've been watching since the first eggs were laid. Yesterday they hatched! There were 19 eggs (laid by two different females) but I don't know how many actually hatched. At least 10.

Anyway, today is the day. At some point this morning, these darling little fuzzy chicks will have to make that leap of faith, braving that jump and predators to join Mom, who will escort the brood to the pond for their first swim and their first meal. Those that can't get out of the box on their own will not survive.

That's how I think of my books. (You knew I would bring this back to writing, right?) Each one is lovingly brooded and hatched, but ultimately it has to go out into the real world and sink or swim on its own merits. Some won't hatch at all. Those are the half-baked ideas and stray chapters that I give up on because they're no good. And some, sadly, will be sent out into the cruel world, only to be eaten by crows (those mean editors who send rejections!) But no matter how scary it is out there on the pond, no matter how low the chances of surival, it's still better than staying in the safety of the nest box.

Better to risk rejection than sit in a box under the bed to starve from neglect.

By the way, before I even finished this blog, all of the ducklings--15!--made it out of the nest and safely to the pond.