Friday, February 22, 2008

Valentine Ladies

What’s new with me? Not too much. It’s been snowing here-pretty much like everywhere else in the Midwest. We’ve had lots of snow days which don’t bother me at bit because it means my two teenagers will be home. We made it through another wrestling season and my son is now quietly eating me out of house and home. My daughter broke up with her boyfriend of two months, cried on a Saturday and now has someone else in mind. My husband has continued to do what he does…travel for his job. I’ve been spending the month working on revisions for a Harlequin that should be out about a year from now.

Actually, the best thing that happened recently didn’t even involve me at all, but I thought y’all might enjoy hearing about it. February brought forth our town’s newest Valentine Lady.

Yep, you read that right. At the end of January a Valentine Court is selected and on February 1st, an honorary Valentine Lady is chosen. It’s a big deal. The lady is someone who has usually lived in our town for quite some time and has contributed in countless amounts of ways over the years. This year’s Valentine Lady was actually someone I know…the mom of one of my neighbors. She’s also a cancer survivor, a tireless volunteer and an all-around thoughtful person.

You might ask, what does a Valentine Lady do? She stamps the annual town Valentine, of course! Yep, every year a local artist designs a new card. It’s sold for a dollar at most any local store, and after you fill it out, you can take it to the post office and either this year’s lady, one of her court, or a past Lady will stamp the envelope for you. The Valentine Lady also visits schools and nursing homes and gets honored at a Valentine breakfast on…you guessed it, Valentine’s Day. These ladies are truly beautiful women, inside and out. They wear red for these public events and lovely smiles. They must have a whole collection of red sweaters and blazers and cute heart necklaces.

As you can probably tell, I like everything about this whole process- a lot. I love that women are being honored for just being all around nice people who care. I love that there’s a table in the post office manned by these minor celebrities. I love that I got my Valentines and got them stamped just because I knew the lady and wanted to wish her well.

Valentine’s Day is over and all the hoopla that surrounded the day has come and gone. I imagine all the Valentine Ladies are probably still trying to recover from their very busy month. I’ve heard it’s hard work being a mini celebrity!

I, for one, will miss them. Every once in a while I think we all need a reason to take a deep breath and walk outside our lives…and celebrate the many people who just quietly do what needs to be done. Do any of you know a person like this? A person who’s thoughtful, caring, and usually under the radar?


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Happy Birthday; Now Get to Work!

This week has been one of highs and lows because today is my birthday. I'm very lucky to have family and friends who provide me with multiple lunches and dinners to celebrate, but unfortunately, I also have a book due. I'm torn between having fun and sitting bottom in chair! I simply can't do enough of both!

To complicate matters, I'm at that point in the book, right before the black moment where the romance seems doomed, where I must make things temporarily "nice" for my characters. The calm before the storm, so to speak. The momentum I'd gained by escalating the tension in the relationship has slowed as I prepare them for a big letdown. The problem is that I don't really want to do this to my characters. Wouldn't it be okay to let them just live happily ever after?

No, they must resolve their issues and EARN their happily ever after ending. This means more angst for them, more work for me. I really, really want to get to that resolution so they can be happy. After all, I'm not exactly sure how the book is going to end. Should my heroine give up her position as mayor so she can travel and spend more time with the love of her life, or should he give up his beautiful home in Carmel, California to move back to their small Texas hometown?

I once wrote a time travel romance (Across the Rainbow, Love Spell Timeswept) where my hero was an air cargo pilot who flew out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming into the past. At the end of the book, my heroine had to make a decision to stay with everyone and everything she loved in her time, or take a chance on flying off into the future with him. She had a horse that she especially loved, but she left it behind. A writer friend asked me if I couldn't just give the hero a bigger plane, so the heroine could take all her animals with her. That, I told my friend, would defeat the purpose. My heroine had to make a huge sacrifice in order to gain ultimate happiness. (By the way, all the animals were okay as she found out through a journal kept by the old mountain man who took care of them, but I still cried as I wrote about their lives.)

So, my heroine will have a huge adjustment to make, as we all do, when we get married. But I'm not going to be too mean to her. This is an American Romance, and I'm not expected to make her suffer too much. Just enough. Hopefully, I can find that right balance within the next 35 pages. Please, wish me luck! I'll be back in my chair after dinner tonight.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Snow Days

My students are tired of snow days.

I'm in St. Louis, and this year's weather has been nastier than normal. By nasty, I mean rainy, gray and snowy. While our water table needs it, everyone is ready for spring.

Forecasters are predicting more snow, sleet and general mess Thursday night into Friday morning. This may mean another snow day, pushing us back behind Memorial Day as to our summer vacation. I think we've used two already this year. Maybe it's three. Usually it's only one, if any at all. If we have a snow day on Friday, it will distrupt yearbook work night, district basketball, play tryouts and a host of other things.

The first snow day is fun and everyone catches up on needed sleep. The rest get to be annoying since everything has to be rearranged and rescheduled. Now even the kids are complaining.

I guess it wouldn't be so bad if we could hibernate like the bears.

Anyone else ready for spring?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Animated Shorts

With the Academy Awards just around the corner, my husband and I recently watched the 2007 nominated animated shorts at a local theater. We did this last year, for the 2006 shorts, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Animators do amazing things, and you wouldn’t believe how many people it takes to make a 15-minute film! Interestingly, my favorite short last year, The Danish Poet, won. This was a heart-warming animated short of how the narrator’s parents met. I wish everyone could see these films, but unfortunately animated shorts aren’t easy to find. Here in Seattle, they’re only shown, billed as the 2007 best animated shorts, for about five days. Then poof! They’re gone. (However, I did find it on UTube. Type in UTube The Danish Poet and it comes right up. When that clip, the first half of the film ends, click on 2/2 below the screen to see the rest. If you see it, let me know what you think.)

This year’s selections were just as fun. Lots of incredible animation. Claymation folks now make their figures with realistic human faces, especially the eyes. I love that. However story-wise, some of these shorts are severely lacking.

As a writer, I am hyper aware of what makes a good story. The main characters each need a story goal. Each character must deal with conflict of some kind and either surpass great odds or fail. By the end of a good story the main characters should be in some way transformed.

All the glitz and animation tricks in the world can’t make up for a poorly-written story. A writing course or two, and a few good books on craft, would do these folks—and we, the viewers—a world of good.

Until later,
The Pilot's Wife, March 2008, a Romantic Times top pick!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Now that the flowers are fading...

Another Valentine's Day bites the dust, and I'm battling the blues.

Oh, I had my share of flowers and chocolate this year, along with a beautiful card and the promise of a nice dinner out when our schedules slow down and coincide--sometime next week, maybe! All in all, I really can't complain.

The reason I feel like whining, though, is this:

I love presents--big or small, expensive or not, fancily wrapped or in a plastic grocery bag--any present will do. As you might imagine, I love Christmas. I have a great time about six weeks later, when my birthday rolls around. And I'm in chocoholic heaven six days after that, on Valentine's Day.

And then, oh no, it's such a long time until Christmas again!

I know, poor little me, right?

Actually, not. I've got a wonderful husband who surprises me with gifts all through the year. Still, there's something to be said for those days you know well in advance you'll be getting something special. Anticipation is half the fun, isn't it?

Now that Valentine's Day is done, I'd love to hear what romantic, funny, or silly things you'd given, gotten, or done this year. Please share!

All my best to you,



Barbara White Daille