Saturday, April 25, 2009

And the winner is...

I’m taking advantage this “open” day to let you know that EllenToo is the winner of an eBook copy of With This Ring.


Please go to my website and send me an email (the address is at the bottom of every page) so I can pass it along. And if you (or anyone!) would like a bookmark, feel free to also give me your snail mail address and I’ll pop them in the mail.

Thanks again to everyone who visited the Harlequin American Romance Authors’ blog yesterday!


Friday, April 24, 2009

Lee McKenzie’s TV Talk Show Interview

Being asked to do this interview on the Harlequin American Romance Authors’ blog is really an honor, and it reminded me of a dream I’ve had for a long time—to be interviewed on a TV talk show. It’s never going to happen. I’m not a celeb and I haven’t done anything talk-show-worthy, but we all have these secret fantasies, right? The kind that include an Oscar, Olympic gold, a standing ovation, recognition for a selfless act of bravery. A moment in the spotlight.

So please bear with me. I may never be a guest on a TV talk show, but thanks to my imagination, I am about to walk onto the set of the Rachael Ray Show.

Why her show? I think she’s funny and quirky and practical all at the same time, and I respect her down-to-earthness.

Okay, deep breath, and here I go.

RR: Please join me in welcoming romance author Lee McKenzie. Thank you for being here today.

LM: Thank you for having me. This is the thrill of a lifetime.

[hug, mwah, mwah]

RR: Lee is joining me in the kitchen today and we’re going to make her favorite homemade tomato sauce while we chat. Before we get started, here’s the recipe:

Lee's Favorite Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
RR: Sounds great. Let’s get started, shall we?

LM: Absolutely. The first thing we want to do is chop all the vegetables.

RR: Sounds like a plan. While we work on that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your yourself. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

LM: I read a lot, and I enjoy nature so I try to get out for a walk as often as possible. And I love to cook.

RR: So you’re a gourmet?

LM: Not even close! I like simple, tasty meals made from as many fresh, natural ingredients as possible.

RR: Sounds gourmet if you ask me. Okay, now that everything’s chopped, what’s next.

LM: Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. We want it hot enough to cook the vegetables without browning them.

RR: Gotcha.

LM: Now we toss in the onion, carrot, celery and parsley, give it a good stir, turn the heat down to low, and pop on the lid.

RR: So the veggies aren’t sauteed?

LM: No, we want them to cook gently and slowly. I think the Italian word for this is soffrito.

RR: You speak Italian?

LM: Not a word. Except soffrito.

RR: How long do we let this cook?

LM: About 15 or 20 minutes. I like to check it and give it a stir every 5 minutes so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

RR: While that cooks, why don’t you tell us a little more about yourself. How long have you been writing?

LM: Since I was in high school. In those days I churned out a lot of dreadful poetry—angsty teenage stuff. At the time, I thought it was deeply profound. It wasn’t. I also used to write a lot of letters to friends and family.

RR: Real letters? The handwritten kind?

LM: That’s right. I love computers and email—I use them everyday—but it’s sad that letter writing has become a thing of the past. There’s something soothing and reflective about putting words on paper the old-fashioned way.

RR: Did you want to be a writer when you grew up?

LM: I did, although I didn’t think I could make a career of it. Oddly enough, my first real job was as an advertising copywriter. Not terribly creative, but I was in my early twenties and being paid for writing.

RR: That’s very cool. What inspired you to write your first book?

LM: I’ve always been an avid reader, and much of what I’ve read has been an inspiration in one way or another. Good authors make writing and storytelling look easy. Turns out, it isn’t. But I didn’t know that until I was hooked.

RR: Was The Man for Maggie your first book?

LM: It was the first to be published, but it was the sixth full-length manuscript I’d written.

RR: Really? So what happened to the first five?

LM: I submitted them to publishers and filled a file folder with rejection letters. But it’s not as bad it sounds. Every writer goes through a learning process. In my case, with each book I learned something new and my writing skills improved. I hope that continues forever.

RR: When can we expect your next book?

LM: I’ll finish my third book this spring, but I don’t have a publication date yet. It’s the first of a two-book series I was working on when I was diagnosed with melanoma almost a year and a half ago. Since then I’ve had surgery and a year-long course of immunotherapy. Not exactly a recipe for writing.

RR: A whole year? That must have been rough.

LM: It was like having a bad case of flu—fever, achiness, headaches—and a lot of other side effects. And yes, a year is long to feel sick, but that’s all behind me now. It’s been a year and three months since the surgery, and as of right now I’m clear and healthy and enjoying life to the fullest.

RR: Good for you. Do you have any health advice for people?

LM: Avoid excessive exposure to the sun, and trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, see your doctor. Early detection and treatment saves lives.

RR: Do you think you’ll incorporate this experience into one of your books?

LM: Maybe someday, but I’m not ready to write about it yet. It’s still too new and a little too raw to go into a book.

RR: I hear you. And I’m smelling something pretty yummy in the kitchen.

LM: Those veggies are cooked. So now we’ll turn up the heat and add a little more olive oil—just a splash—before we add the garlic. Once that’s sizzling, dump in the basil and give it a good stir. After about a minute, pour in the tomatoes.

RR: Your recipe says to use either canned or fresh. Which do you prefer?

LM: I always prefer fresh, but in this case I almost always use canned because they’re fast and convenient. Now we’ll add a pinch of salt—

RR: And toss a little over the shoulder for luck.

LM: I can always use a little of that. Now we’ll give this a quick stir, turn down the heat, and let it simmer uncovered for 10 or 15 minutes until it thickens.

RR: All right. That gives us a few minutes to get back to your writing. If you had to pick one word to describe your writing, what would it be?

LM: Lighthearted.

RR: Sounds like my kind of read. I know Harlequin publishes lots of different kinds of romance novels. Why did you aim for their American Romance line?

LM: They’re fairly traditional romances about a man and a woman who overcome obstacles and fall in love, within the broader context of family and community. They range in sensuality and in tone, from serious to comedic. They’re a thoroughly enjoyable read, which makes them thoroughly enjoyable to write.

RR: My kind of read, too. How’s that sauce coming along?

LM: It’s looking good.

RR: It’s smellin’ pretty darned great too, isn’t it? So is this it?

LM: There’s one more step. I like a smoother sauce, so I put it through a food mill. A food processor will also do the trick, but I recommend doing it in small batches and pulsing it just enough to make is smooth. Otherwise it tends to liquify.

RR: This looks great. Mmmm! Tastes great, too. What kinds of meals do you make with this sauce?

LM: Pasta dishes My family’s favorites are spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken cacciatore. Even on it’s own, it’s great on pasta with a little grated Parmesan. For anyone who’s interested, I’ve posted our chicken cacciatore recipe on my blog, The Writer Side of Life.

RR: Wonderful! I’d like to thank Harlequin romance author Lee McKenzie for being on the show today.

LM: It’s been a lot of fun, Rachael! Thanks for having me.

RR: One lucky member of our audience will receive an eBook copy of Lee’s second book, With This Ring. The winner will be drawn at random from those who leave comments on this post. Goodbye, and we’ll see you when we see you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Does My Garden Grow?

Some years ago I used to plant a lovely vegetable garden every spring. In those days, I had more time and energy to tend a garden. Nowadays, I'm lucky if I can manage to set the sprinkler out and water the grass twice a week.

For reasons I can't quite explain, I decided this spring to attempt another small garden, mostly tomatoes and a couple peppers (must have been struck with a wave of acute nostalgia). So, anyway, trowel in hand, I set to work and was quite pleased with my efforts...until the next morning when our dog, Miss Jules, dug up all my plants.

Now, let me explain a littel about Miss Jules. We've only owned her three months. She came to live with us on her way to the pound - where she was heading because of a chronic and out of control chewing habit (I told myself she was still a puppy and would out grow this). In hindsight, we were ignorant not to expect trouble.

Upon viewing the destruction of my little garden, I immediately chided Miss Jules. Later that day, I went to the store, purchased new plants, and then restored my garden to its pre-dog-dug-up state. Next morning, same thing. Mass destruction everywhere. I was mad. The dog's behavior was simply unacceptable. My son jumped to Miss Jules' defense, wanting to know why I automatically assumed she'd dug up the plants and not our other dog. I don't know. You examine the clues with me and judge for yourself.

Teeth marks on the hose

A big hole by the rose bush
Bits of chewed sprinkler lines scattered in the yard

I re-planted the garden three times in all and swore if Miss Jules dug it up a fourth time, I was calling it quits. So far, my luck's been holding. About a month has passed, and I have baby tomatoes. Yay!!

However, as you can imagine I can't let Miss Jules out in the back yard without constant adult supervision. Bad dog.

Happy Spring, my friends,

Cathy McDavid

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

To Auction I Will Go

Next week, Brenda Novak begins her annual auction for diabetes research. This is her fifth year, and the biggest auction yet. If you’ve never stopped by to take a peek, I hope you will. It’s a treasure trove of fun things for readers and writers. (go to for more information)

Editors and agents are offering to look at manuscripts and proposals-some with a week response time. For those of you who’ve submitted, you know how exciting that is. There’s also all kinds of ‘once in a life time’ trips, Kindles, lunch meetings, and dinner coupons. There are also all kinds of things that have nothing to do with writing at all-items like designer handbags, jewelry, Starbucks cards, and paintings.

This year I’m donating two prizes. The first is a collection of six of my Harlequins, along with a Barnes and Noble card so you can go buy more books, too. The second is a gift basket of Amish goodies. That’s listed under my ‘other’ name, Shelley Shepard Gray.

All in all, I enjoy Brenda’s auction just for the sheer enjoyment of spending a little bit of time each day dreaming about possibilities. I imagine bidding for a lunch with Debbie Macomber. I wonder what I’d say if I was lucky enough to sit with some of the editors and agents for afternoon tea. During the month, I bid on all kinds of things. Books and baskets and Mary Kay gift certificates. Rarely do I ever bid high enough to claim the prize, but it's a lot of fun! Dreaming about possibilities and bidding on books seems like a great way to celebrate the month of May.

I know I’m not the only one to donate and/or bid. What have some of you donated? Has anyone besides me ever bid on an item? Best of luck to you all, and Happy May!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Earth Week

This is Earth Week, and as always I’m watching lots of shows on HGTV and DIY Network. Have you ever seen Carter Osterhouse? Need I say more? I completely embrace the idea of reducing our carbon footprint. I completely embrace the idea of Carter Osterhouse convincing me of anything! (Seriously, Google him if you’ve never seen him on a TV show. He started out on Trading Spaces. I want him on the cover of my books!)

Anyway, the hints they give on “green living” makes it sound so easy, and I’ve been practicing all types of recycling and energy reduction for years. My compost heap runneth over. All my coffee grounds, tea, fruit and vegetable waste (that I don’t give to my tortoises) go into compost, along with shredded credit card offers and those pesky “balance transfer” checks I never requested and don’t want. I buy dozens and dozens of blue recycling bags for cans, glass, plastic and paper. We've replaced every window and door in our house. I’ve replaced almost every lightbulb with energy saving fluorescents, even though the tone makes my skin look absolutely jaundiced. However, all this energy saving has a cost.

My time, energy and sanity.

Last night, as I was really tired and berating myself for not using my numerous canvas RWA and local writing conference tote bags for shopping (instead of requesting paper or plastic,) I realized that energy saving takes its toll in other ways. I think about what I should be doing when all I want to do is the most convenient method of getting from point A to point B. All that sorting, accumulating, separating and planning takes time. I remember back in the “old days,” when I used to throw all my trash in one (albeit sometimes stinky) container. Back when I turned on a light and it was immediately “light” rather than dusky twilight until it warmed up. Way back when we used to drive around aimlessly in our gas-guzzling cars just to attract the attention of boys.

In many ways, those were the “good old days.” In other ways, they were terribly irresponsible and should not be idolized. Of one thing I’m sure; they will not be repeated in my lifetime.

I suppose that I will have to be content to cruise the cable channels rather than the drive-in burger joints in search of that tall, dark and handsome carpenter-turned-energy-enthusiast, Carter. After all, I’m old enough to be his mother and besides, that would require even more energy (my own.)

Best wishes for Earth Week, and please share any memories of the “good old days” or hints for recycling almost anything. I could use the advice!

Monday, April 20, 2009


By the time you read this, I'll be back in the classroom, sorting out from being gone for two class days with my students in Phoenix, AZ. Today is a wacky schedule as there's End of Course testing (the new state of Missouri testing thing) and the spring pep assembly last hour. I'll only see 1/2 of my classes, and yearbook will not be one of them. I won't even have my plan time.

The photo above is of me (I'm in the yellow sweater) and my students at dinner Thursday night. It's tradition to all go out somewhere nice on the Thursday of convention.
We arrived at Phoenix around 8 PM Wednesday night. Check in was smooth and really everyone simply crashed as Phoenix was in the 50s and windy. Heck, we had that at home. Thursday was warmer and a group had classes and some of us rode the light rail into the Mill District by ASU in Tempe. Friday was classes and competition, and by Saturday when we had to leave, of course the weather was great. Then we left, and flew right into rain and more high 50s, which hung around even through Sunday.

My students had an awesome time. The only issue we really had was boarding the plane, and realizing the the concierge hadn't printed one of my student's boarding passes for Southwest. So we ran to the counter to get that. Then I discovered going through security that my daughter had failed to remove two bottles of water from the carry on. Of course, I had that bag at the time as I'd swapped it with her when I went back to the counter for the missing boarding pass, so I got to endure the bag check and the joy of getting my shoes swabbed. Thank goodness I always wear socks so I don't have to walk barefoot on that nasty floor.

All in all it was a successful trip, especially since I got the honor of sitting by the cute junior boy that they all ogled the entire flight. His English teacher was making him read a Nora Roberts novel in class and so I told him I'd met her, which I have.
The ride did get bumpy at times with a few lovely stomach dropping moments which made reading impossible, but we did get home safe and sound around 10:15 PM. I found out Sunday morning that two of my students placed in national writing competition they'd done with in Phoenix, taking the equivilant of second place, so that was awesome. My students also snuck into my "featured speaker" session on Friday, and came away with "We didn't realize you were somebody" as over 100 people came to hear me talk about how you write and sell a book. Now we just have to hit the big yearbook deadline on Friday night.

If you are ever curious about exactly what I do, aside from yearbook and newspaper, you can check out the news at which is my students' online news site.