Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentine's Day

Okay, it’s almost Valentine’s Day. I have to admit, I’m a party pooper. There are no decorations in my house, and except for the cards my kids buy to give their friends, we don’t do anything special. In fact, I try to avoid the holiday and have found that by doing so, it works out better.

You might find this weird, given that I’m a romance writer. As I write this, I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever even used Valentine’s Day in a book. Maybe, but if so, it’s a blur. Not like the ones I did for Christmas, like Unwrapping Mr. Wright and The Christmas Date. Those are crystal clear.

Since I’ve spent all but nine years of my life single, most of my Valentine’s days have been as a singleton. They’re filled with all sorts of mishaps. There’s Steve who sent me flowers, and the florist never delivered them. So here’s poor Steve waiting for me to call all gushing…and that didn’t happen. He finally asked me, all disappointed, a day or two later what I thought of his gift. I had no idea what he was talking about. Oops.

Then there was the Valentine’s Day that I was supposed to go to dinner. Gene scheduled dinner at eight at this really posh restaurant, but I was chaperoning a school dance that night. I told him that, reminded him, and basically I ended up double booked as the dance didn’t end until nine and once I got there, I found I couldn’t leave early as I’d hoped. We ended up eating at ten-thirty—crammed in a table near the restaurant kitchen door. Oops. Thank goodness he didn’t mind and forgave me, although it wasn’t the evening he’d planned.

You have to admit, Valentine’s Day is a lot of pressure, especially for the guys. A romance hero would get it right, but somehow, in my life it doesn’t work out that way. My favorite Valentine’s Days was spent with my friend Jenny. Here we were, two dateless losers. I was young, next-to-broke and not about to be paid for another week, and really, we had not much to do. So she suggested Bingo. She was going with her mom and grandmother, and invited me along. I was down to my last $25 and here we were in our 20s—everyone else was at least 50. The hall was full of intense bingo players, and we sat with Jenny’s mom and grandmother and their bingo friends. They tossed bingo markers my way, and we were off. Except for playing in grade school, and one time watching my parents in eighth grade, I had no idea what “real” bingo was like.

It was wild. It went fast. We had a pile of “bring your own” snacks on the table, and plastic cups filled with beer or soda from the bar. The women around me were watching a minimum of ten cards. I had three—all I could afford and all I could manage. And then it happened. I had all but I-27 for bingo. The woman next to me leaned over and put a clear square tile over the number. “The minute you hear that, you yell,” she said.

Two numbers later, I was shouting BINGO! I won $100, which was a lot of money and a very nice way to tide me over to payday. That was a very good Valentine’s Day indeed—and I’ve never played Bingo since.

This year I’m spending Valentine’s Day in the back row of the FHHS auditorium, where the drama club is doing a 7 PM showing of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. My thirteen year old daughter is meeting friends, and since where I work is 45 minutes from my house, I’ll simply hang out with the other teachers present while she goes and pretends not to know me. Sounds perfect to me.

So now it’s your turn. What’s your best memory of Valentine’s Day? How are you spending it? Do tell….

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I have survived the tornadoes! We had a scary line of storms move through our area last night. Fortunately for me, my house and car and trees are all still mostly intact. When those sirens go off it scares me to death. It doesn't seem to bother my husband, but he's never been through a tornado. (Anyway, last night he was on the train coming home and missed the whole thing.)

I've been through several tornadoes. When I was little, my dad used to make us kids get in the bathtub and put a mattress over us any time it seemed like a tornado was about to demolish our house. (We didn't have a basement or storm cellar.)

Weather warnings weren't as precise as they are today, but he could tell just by looking at the sky and watching the wind. We never lost our roof, but once the wind was so high it blew debris through a window. That particular tornado flattened a church about a mile from our house, then churned through some trees and took off a couple of roofs at the end of our street.

Storms fascinate me, and several years ago I happened to read a newspaper article about storm chasers, and I knew I had to find out more. I tracked these guys down and begged them to take me with them. I went on three different trips with the chasers in their vans and trucks bristling with antennae and high-tech equipment (just like in "Twister"!). The first two trips were busts--I was in far more danger of dying from our vehicle hitting a cow than from any storm. Third time, though, we ended up smack in the middle of a killer tornado in Oklahoma. I still remember the tennis-ball-sized hail hitting the van--it sounded like gunfire. I was trying not to scream and cower so as not to humiliate myself in front of the boys. I never actually saw the funnel, though, because of all the rain.

The guys claimed we were never in danger, that they knew precisely where the storm was and were never directly in its path.

Of course, for me there's no point in such thrill-seeking behavior unless I’m going to write about it. I've put tornadoes in at least three books (plus a couple of storms at sea in other books). I even wrote a whole book about storm-chasers. Whenever I’m plotting a book and I get stalled, I'm always tempted to throw in a tornado. The awesome power and sheer unpredictability of a big storm can sure liven up a story.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Frugal Valentines

I loved Linda's post about how she met her husband. Valentine's is one of my favorite holidays for any number of reasons. Obviously, as a romance writer I love a holiday that celebrates romance. But Valentine's Day is a feel-good holiday that embraces all kinds of love -- parents for children, friends for friends and neighbors. You can give Valentine's Day cards to anyone who is special in your life, not just your sweetheart.

I also like Valentine's Day because celebrating the day does not require extravagant expense. Sure, you can spring for a dozen roses and bling, but I think the best Valentine's Day gifts are homemade cards and home-baked brownies.

The holiday has a long tradition of homemade cards, from Victorian lace concoctions to a child's construction paper heart.

A friend of mine once made a card that consisted of three photographs of herself. In each photo she was holding a red heart made of poster board with a single word. The pictures in succession spelled out I Love You. This would be cute to do with children, also. I once made a card that consisted of hearts taped together accordian style. On each heart was written something I loved about my husband.

If your special someone likes crossword puzzles, you can make a free crossword puzzle that uses your words and clues here.

I've also cut photos into puzzle pieces that had to be reassembled for an interactive card.

Of all the cards I've made my husband, my favorite was one I fashioned from the cover of a romance novel (One purchased at a used book store for the purpose -- I couldn't bear to cut up a new book). I chose a gorgeous historical romance cover with a woman in an elaborate dress and the long-haired, shirtless hero. I cut out the faces and substituted pictures of my husband and myself. Then I wrote something about him always being my hero. (Now I could use one of my own cover flats, but this was before I was published.)

What fun and creative things have you done for Valentine's Day? And has a romance novel ever inspired your celebration?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Hubby and me at a booksigning.
Valentine’s Day is less than a week away and I was thinking how a romance starts, with a glance, a stare, a first meeting that leads to more. Every love story starts with two people meeting and a spark whether positive or negative that last a lifetime.

I met my husband on a cold December day at a wedding of a friend. He was on leave from the National Guard and he and his buddies crashed the wedding. They’d heard there was beer and girls at the reception and dance. The soldiers were a hit and the girls were eager to meet them, including myself. I zeroed in on one soldier who had a woman’s red high heel poking out of the pocket of his camouflage jacket. When we were introduced, I asked about the shoe and he grinned and said, “What shoe?” The smile got me and he was so good looking. But he’d also had too much beer which didn’t appeal to me. When he called later in the week and asked me out that part didn’t seem to matter. Did I mention he was good looking? Back then, as a na├»ve teenager, my list of priorities changed daily.

The high heel belonged to a bridesmaid who he’d been talking to. She’d kicked off her shoes for the dance and he took one knowing she would come looking for it (clever). He never dated the bridesmaid and to this day he denies the shoe being in his pocket. I bring it up sometimes to annoy him and to see him smile.

It’s been over forty years now and I still remember the first time we met. How about you? How did you meet the love of your life? Was it love at first sight or did it take a while for love to grow?

Harlequin celebrates love with every book they publish. And to celebrate sixty years of publishing Harlequin is offering 16 free downloads (just in time for Valentine’s) - a book from each line. You can even download to your computer. Once a Cowboy is one of the books. Check it out.

Happy Valentine’s Day!
The Sheriff of Horseshoe, Texas – Mar ‘09