Friday, October 05, 2007

Home from the Women’s Fiction Festival

I am just back from 18 days in Italy! What a wonderful time we had (my husband went with me). I could go on for hours about the food, the people, the poetry of the language, and all the fabulous art and buildings. Instead, I’m going to focus on the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, which I attended. I also gave a workshop there and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

First, a little about Matera. This unusual town of 65,000 is divided into old and new sections. The conference and our hotel was in the old section, where about 3,000 people currently live. This part of town has been populated for 7,000 years (that’s no typo— seven thousand), making it the longest ongoing town in the world. The first dwellers built their homes in the rock that rims the city. They lived in these caves (called Sassi, or homes of stone) along with their animals as if they were in the middle ages until 1950, when the Italian government was shamed into moving many of the people into homes with running water and electricity. (Thanks to a book about the subject, Christ Stopped in Eboli by Carlo Levi, which I intend to read in the near future.)

Many of the Sassi have been modernized. In fact, our 28-room hotel was once a group of Sassi houses and businesses. Our room was part of a church built in 800 and de-sanctified in 1950. It looked like a roomy cave, with light, heat and air conditioning, comfortable furnishings, and even a few windows. A fun, novel place to stay! (For a few photos of the hotel, visit )
The conference was small, about 50 attendees (mostly female) from the US, England, Italy, Germany, France and Sweden. Translators were available, too, and these amazing ladies were able to instantly translate English into Italian—no easy feat. Liz Jennings, the organizer of the festival, promised to make us speakers feel loved and welcomed. She lived up to that promise and then some. The night before the conference we met in an upscale boutique in Matera for a lovely cocktail party. Food and wine abounded, and we met other writers in town for the conference. After that, we enjoyed Happy Hour in one of the old squares, sitting outside to enjoy hors d’oeuvres and wine, while we listened to two very attractive actors read poetry in Italian. Made my little heart go pitty pat. ☺

Friday evening, Liz organized a tour of the town (during a full moon!), complete with a visit to Musma, a unique sculpture museum. We wandered into a huge cave consisting of room after room on various levels into the earth, where modern sculpture is artfully displayed. The juxtaposition of ancient and modern is truly marvelous.

And the food… There is nothing better than slow food. By that I mean pasta made and prepared on site, using fresh ingredients. Long, leisurely lunches and dinners. Oh!!

There were several agents and editors in attendance, and it was easy to sit down and chat. Plus lots of wonderful authors from America. Barbara Samuel, who I thoroughly enjoyed, Cindy Gerard with her fabulous energy, Kayle Perrin, Rosemary Laurey (aka Madeleine Oh) and Rachelle Chase. Liz Fielding (a Harlequin author from England) was there, too. Also editors Raelene Gorlinsky, Hilary Sares, and Karen Stoecker—fun ladies, indeed. The two agents from the U.S., Katharine Sands from the Jane Freymann Agency, and Christine Whitthohn from Book Cents Agency, both stayed at my hotel. I enjoyed our morning walk to the conference center. So we trudged up tons and tons of stairs that left us panting and somewhat warm from all that exertion. The exercise kept me from gaining a single pound, despite enjoying plenty of pasta, gelato and wine.
I gave a talk on creating realistic characters. It seemed to be well-received. A real thrill for me was when an Italian woman who runs a blog brought Another Life, which she had ordered from Amazon, for me to autograph. Another was that my name was mentioned in the local paper—in bold! If only I could fully comprehend Italian… ☺ For all I know, they said I was no mountain goat. Which would’ve come in handy for scaling all those stairs…

I didn’t stay for the Saturday cocktail party (we wanted to spend time in Rome before coming home), but it was hosted in an old olive oil factory/cave. For more info on the festival, visit .

Well, I’ve rattled on enough for one time. It’s good to be back, and I don’t intend to miss any more blogging days if I can help it.

Until next time,
Mitch Takes A Wife, August 2007
All I Want for Christmas, November 2007

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Huge Pileup on Superhighway!

The Internet is a wonderful thing. It's allowed us access to virtually unlimited information. It's given us an easy way to maintain contact with family and current friends. And it's provided plenty of stress-free opportunities to make new friends.

On the other hand (no pun intended), it's caused thousands--if not millions--of cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, eyestrain, and back problems, along with a whole host of other physical ailments.

And for some, it's become a time sink, a procrastination tool, and/or The World's Largest Pile of Paperwork.

There are six-hundred-fifty-plus messages in one of my e-mail accounts and four-hundred-plus in the other. And those are only the totals from the inboxes! It doesn't take into account anything archived in the outboxes, saved in the draft folders, pending review in the junk mail and bulk mail folders, or (gasp!) stored in sub-, sub-sub-, and sub-sub-sub-folders!

The good news is, all those messages are there because, instead of reading them, I'm busy doing the things I'm supposed to be doing.

The bad news is, even though all those messages that will need to be taken care of...someday... are "invisible" since they're packed tidily into my computer, they're starting to feel just as towering and intimidating as any humongous piles of "real" paperwork.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who's dealing with traffic jams on the Information Superhighway!

All my best to you,



Barbara White Daille

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Perfect Meeting

My father passed away years ago. Since I don’t live anywhere near where I grew up, and life is what it is, I rarely come across anyone who knew him.
One thing special about my dad was his ability to keep friends. He was a dedicated letter writer, and he often kept in touch that way. He often corresponded with friends that he’d had for twenty or thirty or forty years. One of those people was Bill Cosby. They’d met in California back in the sixties, and both loved cars. For that, and I guess because they just hit it off, he and my dad kept in touch.
Anyway, when I read in the paper that Mr. Cosby was scheduled to perform at the Belterra Casino in nearby Indiana last Saturday night, my husband and I decided to go. When we got there, I gave a security guard a hastily written note on the back of a business card, and asked if she could pass it on to Mr. Cosby. Well, I got handed over to person after person. I carefully told them that Mr. Cosby had known my dad, and if he had a moment, I’d like to say hello after the show.
Maybe because I’m a writer, I had envisioned all kinds of things happening. Maybe we’d get moved from our balcony seats to the fancy VIP ones when Mr. Cosby got my note. Maybe he’d mention my dad during his show. Maybe the security guard would signal us over and tell me that Mr. Cosby was ready to visit with us, soon. Of course, none of that happened.
Mr. Cosby’s show was wonderful. Tom and I laughed and clapped, and all in all, it was a nice evening out. But I was kind of disappointed. I’d wanted to speak to him in person, not because he was famous, but because he knew my dad. So, I stopped by the security booth on our way out. The lady found her boss, who assured me that Mr. Cosby had, indeed, received my card before the show. End of story.
Okay. I’ll admit it, I was sad. Even though I knew it had been a long shot, I’d still imagined things differently. Well, my husband likes to gamble. We’d planned to have some dinner, and go to the casino for a little bit. After all, our usual Saturday night highlights are waiting for our kids to come home by their curfews. But I didn’t want to stay.
So, there we were, standing in the middle of the lobby of Belterra, with my husband very sweetly trying to convince me that we still had a fun night out and it was time to move on. And then, just like in the movies-out came the security lady from the crowd!
In short, Mr. Cosby had someone read him my note after the show and he said he wanted to see me. That put everyone in a tailspin. This lady was given the job of tracking us down. In a matter of minutes, we were escorted back into the theater, through a back door, and right to Mr. Cosby, who had quite a few people there, getting pictures taken with him.
Finally it was my turn. I introduced myself. Reminded him who my dad was. And then I got the best present of all. He gave me a hug and said, “Shelley your father was a good friend.”
Our talk might have lasted five minutes. I introduced him to my husband. We thanked him for seeing us. He shared a quick story about my dad. And then it was time to leave. Yep, Tom and I got some dinner and I played the slots for a little while. And I was happy once again. I’m glad my dad had taken the time to keep a friendship over several decades. I’m grateful that a friend of my father’s took the time to say hello to a daughter.
And I hope I remember this often and remember to write a note or two to people I haven’t seen in a while. Keeping in touch makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

September Blog Winner

Congratulations to Danny, September's HAR Blog winner! To claim your prizes, please contact the following authors (Jacqueline Diamond, Laura Marie Altom, Kara Lennox and Linda Warren) Their websites are listed along the sidebar of the blog. Include your name and snail-mail address.

Authors giving away a book for October include, Marin Thomas, Shelley Galloway and Cindi Myers. Keep those discussions going--there's a new winner every month!

Gotta love the month of October--A shift toward cooler weather, a burst of vivid color before the bleakness of winter sets in and the beginning of a continuous rotation of front-door decorations--Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Valentines Day

And October is doubly special for me this year because the first book in my all-new miniseries for the American Line *Hearts of Appalachia* hits the store shelves. For The Children takes place in fictitious Heather's Hollow in eastern Kentucky.

To help kick off this series, I've got a brand-new video trailer on my webpage-- I invite you to click on where you'll be transported into the Appalachian Mountains, complete with pictures and music.

As I researched this series, I stumbled across some interesting Appalachian recipes. Here's one I actually tried and it wasn't half bad!

Sawmill Gravy
Ham, sausage or bacon grease, 3 tbsp flour, milk, salt and pepper and water. Add flour to grease in hot pan to brown. Thin the mixture with a little water and add milk. Salt and pepper. Stir until thick. Add crumbled fried sausage for a real treat. Serve over homemade biscuits.

Anyone out there with an Appalachian recipe they're willing to share?

Happy Reading!

For The Children *Hearts of Appalachia* (Oct 07)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Memorable snapshots

Old photographs. New photographs.

They take on special meaning at a family reunion. The reunion itself takes on extra significance when it celebrates your mother’s 90th birthday.

Last month, my husband and I flew from California to my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, to celebrate the 90th birthday of my mother, internationally renowned ceramic sculptor Sylvia Hyman. (Try Googling here – you’ll be amazed what you find!). We also honored her 22nd wedding anniversary to my stepfather, Arthur Gunzberg, and held a family reunion.

The event coincided with an exhibit of my mother’s recent work – fool-the-eye ceramic sculptures – at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Also, we viewed a wonderful half-hour documentary about my mother, Sylvia Hyman: Eternal Wonder, directed and produced by Nashville filmmaker Curt Hahn.

There’s far more in my memory than I could possibly write here, about touching bases with beloved relatives, meeting other cousins for the first time, and spending time with my mother and stepfather, whose mental sharpness outpaces most 20-year-olds.

Thank goodness for photographs, and not just the new ones, either. There were old photos in albums, shared by relatives, who asked my mother to identify that mystery person in the back row or where the shot was taken.

Of course, the new photos – emailed to each other, posted on websites, pasted into scrapbooks – save these latest memories for us and our kids. Someday, perhaps, my grandchildren (if I’m lucky enough to have any) will be asking me to identify who’s who.

Let’s just hope I remember!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weddings, Funerals, and Birthdays

Today is my youngest daughter's birthday. She's already opened all her presents and I don't think we're going to be doing much to celebrate--maybe a trip to Chuck E. Cheese or something for dinner. Her party for her friends will be in a few weeks once things calm down--which really never happens in our life.

Last night my oldest daughter and I went to a wedding and reception for Lucy Kate McMenamy while the youngest went on a Girl Scout roller skating outing. I used to babsit Lucy and her older brother every day after school and over summer break for five years. I started when Lucy was in first grade and left when she was in fifth or sixth. By then she didn't really need a babysitter; I was more the adult to be in the house. Lucy then babysit my two daughters. So I wouldn't have missed the wedding for the world, but my oldest (who is 12) wanted to skip it until her dad called (I'm divorced, btw) and told her that her great-grandmother had died. The funeral is on Monday (tomorrow) and everyone but my children are headed down to Mississippi. We're in St. Louis; the rest in Alabama.

So I went home and picked Alison up between the wedding and the reception as there was about an hour and a half free time. We arrived at the Grand Hall in the Hyatt Union Station and all had a blast. I remember that when I left I really needed this. It's great to watch two young people you know are going to make it get married. It's great to see old friends who knew you long ago--I typed those first books (that will never see the light of day) on their computer during those long summer days. Now they are in awe and thrilled--20 books! Wow!

As for my young charges, John is doing his residency and specializing in radiology. He's in Dallas.
Lucy works for the Hyatt hotel chain as a banquet manager and her husband is an executive sous chef. They met at work when they were both in Kansas City--now they are on the east coast. He's eight years older. Sounds a bit like some of the books I've done but probably without the conflict. All was beautiful--the church, the flowers, the 55-pound wedding cake that the Hyatt chef in Austin carried up in boxes (unfrosted) on the plane. She then used the St. Louis kitchen to put it together.

Working for the Hyatt and having the reception at the Hyatt meant that everyone pulled out all the stops. In two days Michael and Lucy are off to Hawaii for 10 days.

As for me, this morning, life was back to normal as my two daughters got into a fight before church.

However, while I was there last night, parts of my next story wrote themselves in my head. The muse clicked and put the ideas where they were supposed to be. What about my hotel manager Hank being asked to be teacher Jolie's date? He owes her one, and she needs to dig up a guy for a family wedding. I like it.

As for the pastry chef idea, I just did that in The Marriage Recipe, out in April 2008.

Michele Dunaway
Hart's Victory (Harlequin NASCAR) Dec. 2007
The Christmas Date (Harlequin American) Dec. 2007