Saturday, August 23, 2008

They Call It French Country

I'm so excited! I have to share this news with everyone. I have new bedroom furniture. Now, I know some of you are thinking, big deal, it's only furniture. But I have been waiting years — no, decades — for this.

Let me give you a little of my bedroom furniture history, then you'll understand better why I'm overreacting.

When I was twelve, my mother bought me new bedroom furniture. When I got my first apartment as a junior in college, my mother gave me my childhood furniture. I continued to use it FOR YEARS. When my husband and I got married, we wanted something a little more "adult" for our first house. Not having a ton of money, we purchased a set of used furniture. Now, this was a nice set and of excellent quality, so it lasted FOR YEARS. Just to give you an idea how long, my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary earlier this year.

No one could argue that I was due for something new.

This picture I've posted really doesn't do my new furniture justice. And I couldn't fit all the pieces in one shot. But it's so cool. I actually a lingerie chest, for crying out loud. It's as tall as me with all these little drawers for my unmentionables, of which I had to buy more just to fill the extra space (grin).

Well, I've got to run. There's a teeny smudge on the front of the night stand that needs polishing.

Cathy Mc

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Road Trip

I went on a sixteen hour road trip with seven sixty-year-old women on Wednesday and I’m still exhausted. Holmes County , the home of a large Amish community, is four hours north. These women, quilters at my church, decided to go there on a fabric buying trip.

I tagged along.

We met at 6:30 am, and after agreeing that one cup of coffee was not enough, we all decided where the first stop should be.
And so it began. In two cars we took off. They drove-I hung out in the backseat-and we ate our way through Ohio. Along the way I realized that while my days revolved around my kids, my work, and my husband, their lives revolved around having fun.

Truth be told, I don’t think they would have traded places with me in a heartbeat.
When we arrived in Amish country, the first thing we did was pick up Clara, one of the lady’s good friends who’s Amish. Clara and I sat together and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. We have a lot in common-we’re both quick shoppers and love books. After a hearty lunch at Der Dutchman (we all had pie), all of us hit the quilt shops and gift stores. The eight of us would break up, scatter among shops like cockroaches, then reconvene with each other, proudly showing our purchases. Clara got a kick out of the Amish doll I bought who came with a name, Sadie.

After more stops to the Amish bakery and cheese shops, we dropped off Clara at her farm and started the long journey home. I ended up in another car with a group of women who had more stories to tell than any Harlequin display anywhere. They told me about thirty year old marriages-and marriages that lasted barely two. A girlfriend of theirs found out the hard way that love letters from a man in a local prison didn’t equal love-just lust.

They told me about nursing careers and waiting for husbands who fought in Vietnam. They told me about kids who became doctors and businessmen and drug addicts. About part time jobs they’ve taken and trips they’ve planned. About cheering for the Packers for fifty years. They relayed memories about Corvettes from 1972.

I told them about nagging my high school senior about college applications, which pretty much sounded boring and lame.

By the time we stopped for BLT’s at a Waffle House at 9:30 that night, I was exhausted-but hadn't laughed so much in a long time.

And when I finally pulled into my driveway at 11, I couldn’t wait to take a hot shower and go to sleep. For me, Thursday brought high school schedule pick up, grocery shopping, and nagging about summer reading assignments. For three of those ladies, Thursday was off to Chicago. Off on another adventure, reminding me that I’ve got a lot to look forward to, long after my kids are grown.

Obviously, one day I want to grow up to be just like them.

So, has anyone else gone on a road trip this summer?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Late Hello from Texas

Today is my critique group/lunch group day, so I didn't even look at my Daytimer, phone or computer until just now, and realized today is the 21st. Sorry to blog so late. The past few weeks have been rather foggy for me, and I don't mean just because of the unusually wet weather we've had here in the Dallas area. Let me tell you how it started.

In mid-July I attended and spoke at the Author!Author! event in Shreveport, LA with my daughter. Of course, since we were in Shreveport, we had to go to the casino. This was her one weekend away from her husband and two girls, ages three months and two years, and she really wanted to enjoy the freedom.

As we were leaving the casino, I spotted a little kitten in the valet parking area. It was hiding under a car and I was sure that it would get run over. No one at the casino knew anything about the kitten, so I made an executive decision that we should take it with us. It attached itself to my daughter's neck and didn't let go until she went into the convenience store and bought it some food. My daughter, who had been looking forward to getting a full night's sleep for the first time in months, ended up with a kitten curled around her head.

Did I mention that she's allergic to cats?

The next day, I tried to contact the animal rescue groups, but no one returned my calls. I ended up at Wal-Mart before going to the author event, buying lots of things for what we now called "Lucky," as in the luckiest cat in Shreveport. Fortunately, the hotel we were staying at accepted pets. Staying in the kitty crate all day was very effective at litter box training Lucky.

We brought Lucky home to Richardson, TX with us. I was sure we could find him/her (I wasn't really sure) a good home, and we did. The daughter of our neighbor was ready for a cat now that she was in grad school. She was on vacation for a week, though, so we kept the kitten in our house. To get Lucky ready for his/her new home, however, I felt obligated to take the kitten to the vet, spending about $250 when I discovered he had three parasites and ear mites.

Did I mention that my husband and I are both allergic to cats?

The outcome of all this kitty story is that first I got allergies, then a cold, then a sinus infection. I had already decided not to go the the Romance Writers Conference in San Francisco, which turned out to be a great choice since that was probably my sickest week ever. I've been on some really strong antibiotics for three days now and I'm feeling much better.

But, I console myself with the fact that the luckiest kitten in Shreveport now has a good home, no worms, parasites or ear mites. And I'll be well soon. I hope. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hi! My Name is Michele Dunaway and I am tired

Hi! My name is Michele Dunaway and I am tired.

You probably know the feeling. It's that one that has you saying "if only" there were 25 hours in the day. If only I didn't need sleep to survive. If only food cooked itself...

I have been teaching since August 11. I am up again at 5:20 and back to the world of grading papers, planning lessons, and getting ready for the first issue of the school newspaper. I have a curriculum to write for the district by Sept. 20 (the deadline of which landed on me today) and I have one more newspaper to judge, uh, by Aug. 26. That's up tonight and tomorrow.

I am coordinating an auction for the Student Press Law Center to be held in St. Louis in November. I have an article for C:Jet Magazine to do by Dec. 31. That stuff is for next week. I do have a partner for both, but she hasn't called because, like me, she's swamped under with back to school stuff. I have a book partial due Oct. 15. That's in there somewhere.

Somehow I'll get all this done. But I'm a tad overwhelmed. They've closed the road I always drive to work for a month, adding 10 miles one way to my already 28 miles one-way trip. They are repaving the main road I drive and starting by doing repairs; I'm hoping the two slow downs don't overlap too bad. The repaving hits me on the way home; I leave before it starts. Yesterday I had to take my daughter into the doctor for a surprise illness. She's fine but you know how those unplanned things go. A few of those plates you juggle wobble a bit.

So life is a bit overwhelming. To add to the craziness, my daughter and her friend found a baby bird in the park. It had been kicked out of the nest and it wasn't doing too well. Since they'd already carried it half way around the park before showing me, we took it home. We managed to get it healthy, only to lose it about 3 days later. It was a hard lesson in nature, but a valuable one. Still, it makes me sad.

Yet enough with the misery. I try to balance everything by staying focused on positives. Gas is $3.37 where I live. The weather is raining, but we need it. The days aren't hot like they usually are in August, and Michael Phelps got 8 gold medals. I also joined a new church that I love and my yearly mammogram was negative. I am back online after getting my computer fixed.

I'm also excited because we've got some great surprises coming to the blog next month, and I can give you a hint in my next blog as to what we've palnned. So think happy, get some sleep for me, and I'll catch you in ten more days.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008


It's my turn for an interview. Enjoy!

1) How long have you been published?
I sold my first book on December 23, 1999. (At 10:39 am, but who remembers details like that? ☺)That book, Stranger in a Small Town (Special Edition), was a November, 2000 release. And a Romantic Times nominee for best first series romance.

2) What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Three things: 1. Join Romance Writers of America. The organization is the best around at teaching the craft of writing, explaining the business side of writing, and sharing information about the publishing industry. 2. You can’t learn the craft without plenty of practice. Write every day, even if you only have time for a paragraph or two. 3. Be open to suggestions for improvement.

3) What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Memorable, three-dimensional characters that readers think about them long after they finish reading the book.

4) What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
We were in Italy last fall, I tried lardo, which is fried white lard flavored with salt and garlic. That may sound gross, but trust me, it was delicious. So tasty that I’m glad it isn’t served here. I’d be in big trouble!

5) What comes first: the plot or the characters?
As soon as I say characters, the answer will change to plot. LOL. In other words, it all depends… Sometimes a story idea begins with an interesting character and sometimes with an intriguing situation.

6) When you looked in the mirror this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
I recently completed a fabulous seminar sponsored by Wings (Google Wings, Eugene, Oregon). In it I learned tools for getting the most out of my life. Part of the seminar included writing a personal contract, which I repeat several times daily. This is what I thought about when I first looked into the mirror today. I’m happy to share my personal contract with you: I am a clear, courageous and beautiful woman, freely giving and receiving abundant love. So when I looked into the mirror, I saw a clear, courageous and beautiful woman open to giving and receiving the abundant love around me.

7) Describe your writing space.
We have a daylight basement. My office is there, in what was once someone’s bedroom. Nice, thick carpet, plenty of bookshelf space, and a bathroom across the hall. The windows are high up, so I can’t see out, but I do get plenty of natural light through them.

8) Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
I blogged about this last month! Luckily, I have never suffered writer’s block. Probably because I believe in taking time to fill my creative well often and in a number of ways. By shopping, meeting friends for coffee or lunch, seeing shows, traveling, and most recently, by starting salsa lessons with my husband.

9) What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
If we’re talking fiction, there is no one particular book or author. In a way, whatever I read influences my writing. Even bad books, which make me determined to write something better. Good books push me to stretch my own skills.
If we’re talking nonfiction, there are several books that influenced me. Three are: Techniques of the Selling Author, by Dwight Swain, Scene & Structure, by Jack Bickham, and Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon.

10) What are you reading now?
The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir.

11) Do you re-read your books once they're in print?
Never! I cringe at mistakes that can’t be fixed.

12) What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
I write eight pages per day, pretty much six days a week. If I’m lucky enough to finish in two hours, I get the rest of the day off. If it takes 10 hours, oh, well. I track my progress on a spread sheet and give myself a smiley face for meeting my daily goal. Corny, but it works! I also pay myself $.25 per page, or $2 per day, putting the money into a box. Once I finish a book, I spend the money on something just for me, my treat for working so hard.

13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
To date I have sold 15 books. Because with every book my writing improves, my favorite is always the one I’m writing now.

14) Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?
I get email mostly, but some snail mail letters. Writers tell me they love my stories. That my characters could live next door. People ask about books I have written before and when the next one will come out. They write to say they love my website—the color and the information. I appreciate every email and letter, of course!!

15) Tell us about your family and where you live.
I live just outside Seattle, Washington. My husband and I have three grown daughters and one three-year-old grandson.

16) Are you working on anything at the present you'd like to share? At the moment I’m finishing a proposal for a women’s fiction novel with strong romantic elements. As soon as I finish I’ll get to work on creating a proposal and synopses for a Harlequin American miniseries featuring four brothers.

17) Did you ever eat paste or Elmer's glue when you were a kid?
Once. That stuff tastes foul!

18) What did you do career-wise before becoming an author? Well… Several things. Before I got my MBA, I was a realtor and later a tax preparer. During my MBA, I worked part-time at Nordstrom. Try going to grad school, working part time, and raising three young daughters!! Thank goodness for my supportive husband. After I had my MBA in hand, I worked as a financial analyst in a large commercial bank, and later as a personal banker. Several years later I took a job as a trainer for large commercial banks. I taught several technical courses and flew all over the country, working for numerous banks. I loved that, but then my writing took off. And writing is my passion, so I followed my heart and left banking.

19) How has the American Romance line changed since you first began writing for it? The situations are more realistic and less fantasy. I love the sense of community and the quirky secondary characters found in Harlequin Americans.

20) What helps inspire you when you write? Do you have any 'rituals' (like music, candles, a favorite scent) that helps you find your writing zone? Sometimes I listen to music for a little while, but I always stop when I get into the writing. Other than that, nothing really. Mostly I think about whatever I’m working on all the time and can’t wait to sit down and get to work.

21) What do you want to know about the future? Nothing. It’s exciting to NOT know and let life unfold.

22) Can you taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke? If so, which do you prefer?
I never drink either. I prefer coffee, water, tea, and ICE, in that order. (With occasional wine, cosmopolitans, gin and tonic, bourbon and water or scotch and soda thrown in. ☺)

23) Have you ever made a crank phone call?
Of course! In grade school and junior high.

24) Who's you're personal hero--past or present? My husband. He’s a warm, loving man, not afraid to shed a tear now and then. (He’d die if he knew I shared that!)

25) What is your dream car? A Jaguar!!

26) If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? I’ve been to Europe and parts of Mexico, but next I’d like to visit Mexico City, Spain and France.

27) If you were locked in a closet for one hour who would you want in there with you? Gosh, I don’t know. My husband, I guess. We never run out of conversation, and if we get bored talking… Ahem, I won’t go there. ☺

28) If you were stranded on a deserted island what kind of hero would you want with you--A Cowboy, a Viking Warrior, a CEO, a Forensics investigator, a Chef or an Accountant. And why? Since the island is deserted, I’m thinking a chef and accountant wouldn’t be much use. Or a Viking warrior. Now a CEO might know what to do to get us found. A cowboy might be able to wrassle up some grub and build a campfire. So I’ll go with the cowboy. ☺

Thanks for letting me talk, and until next time,
Ann Roth

Monday, August 18, 2008

School Bells Ring, Are You Listening...

Oops, wrong season! No winter wonderland out there. Not yet, anyway.

Here in Kansas, the school year starts early. This year is definitely no exception. And after looking at the school calendar, it really appears that, at least here, we're moving little by little more to year-round school.

I admit that in the past, the thought of going to school throughout the year, without three months of summer off, made my jaw drop, but as I get older and see the benefits, the dropping of said jaw has been getting less and less pronounced. I've recently decided that having children in school all year might be much more beneficial to all than I'd ever considered.

Could that be that after 11 weeks of having four grandkids for five (and sometimes six!) days a week, I'm more than ready to get back to having some quiet time during the day? Now don't get me wrong. I love my grandkids. I love watching them grow, and I love watching them learn. The wonder on their faces at times is so priceless, it makes me want to weep. But after 11 weeks (long, bickering-between-them weeks, at times), the daily routine of getting them off to school began last Thursday, and I'm already loving it. I may not be saying that in the freezing, icing and snowing days of winter, but right now, it's heaven! (And they'll be too busy to dump a brand new bottle of chocolate syrup on the trunk of my car!)

I don't remember feeling this way when their moms were young, maybe because I was, too. My patience wears much thinner these days, and my outlet--writing--hadn't yet begun and wouldn't for several years. We share a lot of memories, my daughters and I, of those days, especially the ones of the first day of school each year. The year my #3 daughter started kindergarten, it rained so much, we couldn't get to the school because of the flooding. She was so disappointed, she cried all the way home when we had to turn around and go back, unable to get into town on the water-filled country roads. My fondest memory of going back to school was only a day later, when they were finally able to go. #4 daughter wasn't born until October, and I remember taking the three girls to school that day and returning home to the quiet of an empty house, something I hadn't experienced in nine years! I sat in the rocking chair in the corner for hours, cherishing the solitude of that first day. But when that first day of school was over, I also remember going to pick them up, eager to hear their stories of new friends and new teachers. And then life took hold, and I never spent another morning in the corner rocking chair again.

I value teachers, those women and men who have dedicated their lives to educating our youth, our children. They must have been specially chosen for their outstanding patience and love, the first being something I seem to run short on more often than I used to. So today is my (unofficial) salute to all of them, and especially those HAR authors here, who care for and nurture our children and grandchildren in so many ways. Bless you all!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Elena Does The Macarena From Morocco - OR - What's In a Name?

Anyone with access to television, radio, newspapers, or Internet during the past few weeks will probably understand the title of this blog post. If you don't get it, I almost hate to explain.

In a nutshell, a family-court judge in New Zealand recently made a nine-year-old girl a ward of the court in order to change her name, which was: "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii."

What were her parents thinking?!

When I was growing up, even the kids knew the importance of a name and that having one open to taunting would scar a person for life. Heck, even the wrong initials could be disastrous.

Various articles, newscasts, and blogs went on to list the rather...odd choices made by parents over the years. I won't go into them here.

But in view of the importance of names, I do want to say that finding the appropriate names for my characters is essential to me. I spend a lot of time choosing something that fits a particular character. (And that won't lead to teasing or offensive initials!) I even go so far as to make sure the heroine's first name works well with the hero's last, because in my books, you know she's going to wind up with him.

Trust me, if I pick something that doesn't fit, the characters are the first to tell me. And once they've wrestled me to the ground to convince me of what they should be called, it's a done deal--the names are approved, permanent, and going into print!

I'd like to ask what some of your favorite names are, and why, for both male and female characters. Since I'm so fascinated by the subject, I'll be very interested in your response.

And who knows--one of your favorite names just might find its way into one of my books.

All my best to you,



Barbara White Daille