Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crystal Clear

Perhaps it's the time of year and the soul-searching it always seems to bring. Perhaps it's just me being contemplative for the sake of being contemplative. But, either way, I find myself thinking of ways I can be better in the new year...

A better mom.
A better significant other.
A better friend.
A better writer.

Because I want to be better. Not better than you. Not better than someone in another room. Just better than I've ever been.

Thoughts are starting to swirl for each and every area, special things that'll let my kids know (even more) how much I love them, creative ways to let my friends know how much I treasure them, goals I want to achieve in my writing, etc.

That said, I'm still open for ideas. Particularly surrounding #2. And since all of us love romance, I can't imagine there'd be a better place to set up a few chairs and invite a little brainstorming on this particular topic.

So here's my question for all of you...

What are some creative ways to let your sweetie know how much he means to you?

~Laura

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

Our family has traveled north this Christmas to spend the holidays together in Maryland. This Christmas morning, as always, I am the first one up. The first of many pots of coffee has been brewed. Our traditional sweet rolls are in the oven. And I'm waiting for the pitter patter of feet, both large and small. Once I hear those, pandemonium is sure to begin. Before that starts, I wanted to wish you and yours the merriest of Christmases, the happiest of holidays, and to add my heartfelt wishes that the New Year brings us all health, wisdom and success.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy holidays, and some recipes

It's Christmas Eve, my second favorite day of the year.

My favorite...yes, you guessed it...is Christmas!

I am so excited about tomorrow, and it's not about the presents, although I know there will be many. Too many, perhaps.

But the moment I live for is the one when my family sits around the dinner table, gives thanks for being together, and celebrates what a wonderful and privileged life we have.

Food is a big part of our holiday festivites so I thought I would share this year's dessert recipe - Eggnog Cheesecake - with you. Trust me when I say it is de-licious!

And of course we all know that calories consumed on Christmas Day don't count!


Eggnog Cheesecake

Crust
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
Combine crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325 F for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Filling
1-1/2 pounds (750 grams) cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
In a food processor (or mixing bowl) beat cream cheese, sugar, cream and flour until smooth. Beat in eggs, rum and nutmeg. Pour over crust. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 250 F and bake for another 45 minutes or until edge is set and set and the centre still jiggles slightly. Turn oven off. Run a sharp knife around edge of cake, put it back in the oven and let it cool in the oven for 1 hour. Remove to rack and cool completely.

To serve, remove from pan and drizzle with melted semisweet chocolate.
Serves 10 to 12.

Today on my personal blog I'm also sharing a recipe for a wonderfully easy recipe for a festive couscous salad. I'm serving it with chili tonight at my family's Christmas Eve get-together.

With best wishes for a joyous and happy holiday,
xoxo
Lee

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writing Advice

I'm posting writing advice on my author page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Chancellor . Please stop by if you use Facebook and "Like" my page. Click on "Notes" to see what I have posted so far. I've included information about query letters, getting published, research, etc. and I'll continue to post more workshops and writing "goodies" from my files and experiences.

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Tis the Season to be Thankful

As we near Christmas day, I'm taking this opportunity to tell everyone how thankful I am for my wonderful nieces and nephews in Louisville, KY. As many of you know from my Facebook posts, my older sister (actually, my only sister) Peggy fell and shattered her ankle in late October. Since then she's been in the hospital, had extensive surgery, and then recovered in a nursing home for weeks. At one point doctors thought her leg might not be saved. Her husband John is a diabetic with numerous medical problems and had to enter the nursing home with her since no one could care for him at home.







Even their cat, Bitsy, had to relocate but found a temporary home with a friend.






Now, thanks to lots of hard work from my nephews and nieces, Peggy and John are settled into an apartment as their home is not wheelchair accessible, and she won't be able to walk for many months. My husband and I drove from Texas to Kentucky last week and have been helping, as much as possible, to get them settled into the apartment. Having familiar items, furniture, art, etc. is very important to Peggy and John. Yesterday I spent the day hanging their favorite prints so they could see them, getting my sister's greeting cards and birthday list organized, and sneaking a favorite dessert in for us to share while my brother-in-law was at a doctor's appointment for five hours with my nephew.


I would like to think that I would do the same wonderful job as John G., Laura, Bek and John T. if I had to, but I'm not sure that's true. My nieces and nephews have done a tremendous job coming together to care for Peggy and John. They've made tough decisions (the family home must be sold) and performed many little acts of kindness to make their parents more secure and comfortable. Listening to their tribulations with Medicare, Adult Protective Services, and the Veterans Administration has made me realize how difficult growing older can be. I have no idea how people could exist for long without a caring family to do the hard work, fill out all the forms, and actually become the parents when their own can't perform that role any longer. It's a sobering and amazing realization.





My hope for the holidays is that you have a wonderful time with your family, however that family is pulled together, by blood or common interests or love. Hold fast to them and pray that they will always be strong and well, or if they are not, that they will have the benefit of a loving family to surround them. Be thankful for the time you have with them, this season and always.
(This photo, me beside our little Christmas tree at our lake house in Mineola, TX while our dog looks on.)




Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Tis the Season

‘Twas a week before Christmas, and all through the house…

Yes, I’m late. It can’t be helped. This past week has been loaded with things to do. Sunday was writers' group holiday party, Tuesday was critique group, Wednesday was Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert, Thursday was last chance to get titles for September book ready to send, Friday (last night) was oldest granddaughter’s performance in local ice show (she's the wooden soldier, below), and added to all of it is a January 3 deadline on that same September book, the sixth set in Desperation, Oklahoma. I am running behind. And now we’re down to that very last week before Christmas, and I’m hoping it at least begins to calm down.

I actually did sit down on Thursday and try to write this blog post. As you can see, that didn’t happen. Daytimes are filled with a 3-year-old grandson and his 1-year-old sister. It’s amazing how much time they consume. Type a few words, then run and find out why Payton is screaming, only to find that Jaxon took the book she was looking at or wouldn’t let her on the sofa or… Choose something, anything that can be used for torture.

But I do have my shopping done, which is a miracle. Well, all but three gift cards for three daughters and hungry sons-in-law, and I’ll pick them up Monday. Nothing is wrapped, but I did buy wrapping paper and ribbon! The tree is decorated…several times, since Jaxon and Payton seem to think everything needs to be moved around on it at least a dozen times each day. School will be out for the other three grands starting Wednesday, and guess whose house they’ll be at on weekdays for the duration of the holidays? And that deadline still looms.


So forgive me for being late today, but now that you’ve reached the end, be sure to take with you...

Merry Wishes and Blessings for this Wonderful Holiday Season!



Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy holidays!

Christmas is right around the corner and New Year’s just down the road. Hard to believe the year is almost over, isn’t it?

I hope 2011 brings you all the good fortune you can handle—and then some.

I’d like to take this post to say thanks to my fellow Harlequin American Romance authors here at the blog and to all the readers who have stopped by to chat and swap stories.

I'd also like to say how thankful I am for my own good fortune. With FAMILY MATTERS out just this past October, 2010 has been a wonderful year for me. The book garnered some great reviews and an award nomination. Even better, it has reached new readers who have written to me to say hello.


With A RANCHER’S PRIDE due out in May 2011, I’m looking forward to fabulous times ahead, too.

Hope to "see" you again soon. Meanwhile...


Best wishes for
a wonderful holiday season

and

a happy and healthy new year!


As always,

All my best to you,

Barbara

~~~~~~

Barbara White Daille
http://www.barbarawhitedaille.com

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Old West Christmas Dinner


Thanks to the North Pole West, http://www.northpolewest.com I thought it would be fun to share a few Wild West Christmas Dinner Menus. Show these to your guests and they won't complain about the food at your table!

Christmas Dinner Menu Camp Desolation,1848
Recorded by Thomas E. Breckenridge, member of Colonel John Fremonts 4th expedition west.

Fried Mule Mule Chops Boiled Mule Stewed Mule Scrambled Mule
Shirred Mule French Fried Mule Minced Mule
Damned Mule Mule on Toast(without toast)
Short ribs of Mule with Apple Sauce (without Apple Sauce)
Beverages: Snow Water
"It really makes no difference how our meat was cooked. It was still the same old mule".


Booth Family Christmas Dinner, Four Mile House, Denver, Colorado 1883

Stewed Oysters Boned Turkey Stuffed Ham
Mashed Potatoes Candied Sweet Potatoes
Fried Celery Turnips Beets
Gelatin with Fruit Nuts Plum Pudding
Baked Lemon Pudding Fruit Cake with candied oranges
Coffee


Christmas Dinner Fort Custer, Montana
Troop G 1st US Cavalry 1889


Oyster Soup Macaroni Soup
Lobster Salad Franch Slaw Shrimp salad
Vegtables Roasted Potatoes Steamed Tomatoes
Chow Chow French Mustard Worchester Sauce Pickled Cucumbers
Pickled Onions Broiled Prairie Chicken Roast Porterhouse Beef, natural sauce
Venison, applesauce Pig Turkey w/cranberry sauce Oyster Dressing
Mince Pie Cranberry Pie Apple Pie
Preserved Peaches Preserved Pears Apples Raisens Nuts
Tea Coffee Chocolate


Christmas Dinner Fort Conger, Artic Circle
Greeley Expedition 1881


Mock Turtle Soup
Potatoes Green Corn Green Peas Asparagas
Roast Beef Fricassed Guillemot
Spiced Musk Ox Tongue Tenderloin of Musk Ox
Crab Salad
Ice Cream Grapes Cherries Pine-apples Coconut Pie Plum Pudding, wine sauce
Dates Figs Nuts
Candies Chocolate
Coffee Eggnogg


Wherever and however you celebrate this Holiday Season remember it's not the food that matters but the people--friends, family, neighbors--that you celebrate with!
Happy Holidays!

Marin
Roughneck Cowboy
*Men of the West* Feb 2011
The Bull Rider's Surrender *E-HQ Weekly Read* March 2011
Rodeo Daddy *Rodeo Rebels* April 2011
The Bull Rider's Secret
*Rodeo Rebels*
July 2011
www.marinthomas.com

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I love the holidays. No, really I do.

Or at least I’m trying to. Up until three years ago, my husband worked in retail. So from Thanksgiving until Christmas all he heard every day were Christmas songs. By the time he got home if I had Christmas music playing, he grimaced until I turned it off. He hated it. But he’s beginning to come around now that he’s in a different field. He even went shopping with me tonight. Not at a mall mind you, but shopping and that’s a big deal for him.

Funny thing is, I’m the one who hasn’t been in the Christmas spirit this year. Even with a brand new granddaughter, the holiday mood has escaped me. So back to my earlier comment, I’ve been playing lots of Christmas music to try to get in the spirit. At home and in the car. I took my mom and her sisters to a live Vocal Majority Christmas performance that was wonderful. We got into a discussion after Vocal Majority as to what the best Christmas song is. One started out with how O Holy Night makes her tear up. Her twin likes Silver Bells because it makes her smile. My mom chose White Christmas because it reminds her of WWII. I have quite a few favorites, but The Christmas Song is topping my list this year. You know, ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’. I’m also fond of Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow because of the romantic element.

So tell us what your favorites are and why. Do they remind you of a special person or Christmas memory?

If you have time, please stop by the Harlequin Community Open House tonight. The Harlequin American chat is from 7:00 – 8:00 EST. Hope to see you there.

http://community.eharlequin.com/forums/cafe-social/2010-annual-open-house-author-list

Wishing everyone a happy and safe holiday!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can I please have an extension on my Christmas shopping/decorating deadline?

Poor Daisy looks frazzled, too!! LOL!!

So I've been writing and doing laundry and paying bills and have to confess, I forgot about Christmas. Thanksgiving is usually my favorite holiday, but this year was a little rocky--long story. Hubby and I got home and collapsed. And apparently, stayed that way!! LOL!! Not only are there no presents under our tree, but no tree, let alone our usual two!! No Christmas village or giant Santa on the bar, guarding my favorite candy dish.


Yesterday, I shot into action by at least purchasing one gift. But then I got home from the ordeal and you guessed it--collapsed!! I didn't get Christmas cards written or gifts ordered for any of my long distance friends. I did manage a lovely pot of gumbo for dinner, but that was due to starvation!!


Today, I've really got to get with the holiday program. But then I also need to do my line edits. And wish my dad a happy birthday. And make sure everything's in order for our son's college transfer. And pay more bills. I'm ready to collapse, and I haven't even started!! LOL!!


I'm thinking what I need is a list--maybe several. One to manage everyday life and another for Christmas. Better yet, with all three kids home, I need to delegate. Like little elves, they can lug boxes up from the scary basement and run errands and if I really yell, get the gigantic pile of clothes a certain daughter left in the middle of the living room all hanging up and pretty in her room. Alas, she just crawled out of her cocoon to get ready for work. Rats, I lost an elf before hitting the starting line!!


Maybe instead of fretting about Christmas, I need to take a deep breath and be thankful all the kids are home and in full messing mode!! If we only have one tree, the world won't end. Maybe the true list I need to make is one listing all of our blessings. As for the rest, maybe Santa will bring me a holiday deadline extension. And if you're wondering about my elves, I just lost another one!! Don't you feel sorry for the only one left?!


All right, people, be honest, are you all ready for Christmas?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Life is Just a Box of Teabags!



Last week amongst my list of goodies to purchase at the supermarket was the tea my husband favors.
Twinings Russian Caravan smells like smoked camel dung, evoking memories of a bygone era when the great camel caravans roamed the Russian Steppes or the Silk Road. Since timber was heavy to carry and in many places, scarce, the nomads cooked over fires fuelled by camel dung. Good idea since it was no doubt in plentiful supply, however, the thought of drinking something that smells like it, is enough to turn my stomach.
Being the dutiful wife, I’m happy to lug a packet or two home when he needs to restock, brew up a cuppa and perhaps dream of a past life when he too drove camels or whatever across those ancient roads. Only problem is I couldn’t find the loose leaf variety he prefers. In fact not only could I not find Russian Caravan in loose leaf form, nor could I find any type of tea that wasn’t packaged in tea bags!
When I questioned the manager he explained that tea bags sold better and lasted longer than leaf tea.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to Sri Lanka, seen the vast fields where tea, aka Camelia chinesis grows under the blazing tropical sun, seen the gaily dressed ladies picking the newest tips of the plants, seen them dry it, chop it into tea leaf size and then pack it into old-fashioned tea chests to be shipped to wherever in the world they package tea. All every lovely and informative…
Until our guide cheerfully informed us that since the invention of tea bags, production had increased 25%!
My ears pricked up at this bit of fascinating information. How, I wondered, could this be?
He indicated the tea dust covering the floor which consisted of tiny remnants of the leaf tea that didn’t make it into the tea chests. “We sweep it up and put it in the tea bags.”
Being a practical person, I thought this seemed like a goodish sort of idea.
Until one of the workers hawked and hawked and then coughed up an enormous amount of phlegm and spat it on the floor.
Since any number of respiratory diseases, including tuberculosis, are endemic to Sri Lanka and just about anywhere else in the third world that produces tea, one could deduce that sweeping up phlegm-laden tea dust and putting it into bags is not only a bad idea, in spite of its thriftiness, but violated every hygiene standard known to mankind.
So as I watched them sweeping the floors and carefully collecting the tea dust into huge plastic bags for placement into tea bags and shipment direct to a store near you, I swore I’d never drink tea from bags. Never mind that the water that’s usually poured over the tea bags has been boiled—facing the prospect of death by tuberculosis, swine flu or even ebola for all I know—was a health risk too far.
So as I stood in the supermarket aisle debating whether it was worth risking my husband’s long-term chances of living a healthy life against how much I’d get in insurance if he succumbed to a teadust-laden disease, I remembered that long-ago trip to Sri Lanka and wondered just how did they impart that scent of camel dung to the tea? Perhaps a lump or two of dung was added to the tea chest or dropped on the floor prior to packaging?
And what other monstrous things were added to the original tea leaves to give them such flavours as Lapsang Souchong (sounds like a dog breed), Lady Grey (her remains?) Earl Grey (his remains!) Touareg (toe nails of North African nomads?) Buddha’s Tears (yuck!) Gunpowder (say what?) Golden Monkey (doesn’t bear thinking about!) and finally, White Monkey Paw, which I really don’t want to think about!
I wonder if Prince Charles drinks Prince of Wales tea? Which reminds me of something I think I read in the memoirs of Ronald Reagan. Prince Charles spent a night in the White House and next morning his morning cuppa arrived… with a tea bag in it. Himself inspected the item and asked what it was. Apparently he’d led such a sheltered life he’d never had to rub shoulders with a lowly tea bag before.
So the next time you’re at the supermarket and about to reach for that box of tea bags, ponder a moment: just how much does your health mean to you.

To celebrate the release of the third novel in my O’Malley Men series, Colorado Cowboy, and to win a copy, tell me your most grossly enlightening moment. I have three copies to give away!
Til next time,
CC

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Addicted

To Love, of course, but unfortunately for my writing, I've become addicted to games too. I thought my chocolate addiction was bad, and I almost cried when I had to give up real Pepsi for diet soda. But games? Oh, baby. Sign me on
.
I just found the free online sudoku. I played all day Saturday. Now, that sounds like an exaggeration. Y'all know me and know I like to tell a tale in a dramatic way, with humor if possible. But this is the honest truth.

I'd planned on a writing day, where my dear husband was gone and my dear son was ignoring me, er, playing on his video, er, doing his homework. I'd even made a schedule, for pete's sake, of how much I'd write this week. After all, I'd just read my first chapter at critique group and felt pretty pumped up by the feedback.

But after finding the game (at which I stink, btw, but that only spurs me on for some reason), I really did nothing else. Wait! Not true. I made lunch and chased a strange dog from the neighbor's yard (note to self: don't answer the phone when trying to play sud--er, write), and answered some emails, but that was it. Not a lick of writing. I didn't even open the document.

I had planned to hide my addiction. I was going to write this entry on how great family is at all times of the year, but especially at the holidays. Then they came in from different parts of the country and gave me a wicked cold, which dampened my enthusiasm a bit. I thought about writing about hitting the deer that jumped in front of our car -- had it stood still and not jumped INTO the road, we'd all have been fine, but alas, the car is still at the collision shop, so I can't quite get into a spirit of fun about the incident yet.

In the hope that confession will take away the guilt and the allure of playing, I'm spilling the truth instead. No more sudoku!

However, today, there on my FaceBook page was a little square showing a new (to me) game I love: Wheel of Fortune. Turns out I'm good at it. (Words, who'd have thunk it, right?)

So, it's time for y'all to step up and confess. What games do you play? And more vital, how do you stop? I'm not ready for an intervention yet, but a little advice would be appreciated.

Enjoy the holidays!
Megan Kelly
www.megankellybooks.com

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Monthly Recipes

My late mother-in-law, whom we called "Sudie," loved Christmas and
always fixed a wide variety of family recipes that my husband and
father-in-law looked forward to all year. She passed away in 2005 and we still miss her very much, especially during the holiday she loved best. I thought I'd share some of her recipes.

Appetizer: Garlic Cheese Roll

1 lb. sharp yellow cheese (cheddar) grated fine
1 small package cream cheese
1 c. chopped nuts (I believe she always used pecans, since we are in Texas!)
1 pod or more (to taste) garlic, minced fine
Paprika and chili powder

Mix cheese & cream cheese together until smooth and evenly blended; add garlic and blend again. Add nuts. You may then need to refrigerate depending on the temperature of your ingredients and kitchen. On waxed paper, roll mixture into one or more "logs" and even out the ends. Roll log(s) in a mixture of paprika and chili powder. (I believe she used more paprika than chili powder. I'm sure my daughter would recommend smoked paprika.) Roll the log up in waxed paper until ready to serve with crackers.

Sudie would always make two or three extra cheese rolls and send them home with my husband, who would slice them and eat with crackers for a snack or a meal, if I was busy.


Wild Rice Dressing

In a large bowl, mix:1 3/4 c. prepared (cooked) wild rice (Save 1 c. of water from cooking rice.)Note: This is NOT the wild rice mix, but 100% wild rice.
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3/4 c. diced celery
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried sage
2 T. oil
1 slightly beaten egg
To this mixture add:
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 c. water kept from cooking rice
Pour mixture into one large (about 11 x 17) or two small (about 8 x 8) shallow dishes and bake at 375 degrees until liquid is absorbed and dressing firms up a little. It will not be "solid" like
cornbread dressing. The recipe doesn't specify how long to bake it and I can't recall, but I would plan about 40 - 45 minutes.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

NOVEMBER WINNER!

CONGRATULATIONS MJFredrick! You’re the November winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Rebecca Winters and Laura Bradford through their Web sites.

To enter the contest simply leave a blog comment and your name will go into the drawing. Simple and painless. And FREE BOOKS.

So check back often and be sure to leave a comment. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Do You Have a Great Stuffing Recipe?

For years, my husband has made a fabulous stuffing every Thanksgiving and Christmas. It involved hot sausage and raisins and plenty of delicious taste … and fat.

He’s now on a healthy eating plan, plus we have some dear ones who don’t eat pork. For Thanksgiving, he tried out a new recipe involving oranges, which sounded great at the recipe level but turned out a bit sour. He added currants and raisins and some sugar, which brought it up to the level of palatable, but it fell short of his standards.

Do you have a great stuffing recipe that you can vouch for? Especially one that’s moderate to low in fat and doesn’t involve pork? I would love to have it, and I’ll share as many as I have space for with readers next month (assuming I receive some – hope hope!). Rather than post these, since they might run long and I might miss them, please email me at jdiamondfriends@yahoo.com. I hope we can find one for my husband to make this month for the holidays!

Meanwhile, I hope you’ll enjoy my December release, The Holiday Triplets. It’s book three of my Safe Harbor Medical series, but it stands alone, so you don’t need to have read the previous two (The Would-Be Mommy and His Hired Baby). There’s a fourth entry coming up in February, Officer Daddy.

Wishing you a great holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year, and I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Checkin' His List

My oldest was born just three days after Christmas which meant she was just shy of one when her first holiday season came around. Aside from the traditional shape sorter, chubby blocks, and fabric dolls that made perfect gifts for that age, books made it into her stocking and under the tree, too.

The same held true for my youngest who was just shy of three months when her first Christmas rolled around. Granted, she hadn't even reached the book-chewing stage, but still she got books. Lots and lots of books.

Books meant cuddle time.
Books meant quiet time.
Books meant the kind of special one-on-one time with each girl that I will forever hold in a special place in my heart.

Fast forward fifteen years with the one, and twelve years with the other and the one staple under the tree each year is books. Sure, they represent slightly different things at this point in their lives, but they are no less special now than they were then.

Books offer an escape.
Books offer a place to learn.
Books offer a chance to slow things down and regroup.

And giving books gives me an excuse to roam around in the bookstore for hours on end...

Ah yes, the truth is out (don't tell anyone, okay?). :)

So how about you? Do you give books for the holidays?

~Laura

P.S. I'm holding a sort of holiday contest on my alter ego's website. Each week, from now until Christmas, my blog readers have a chance to win a book for their best friend. Curious? Visit www.elizabethlynncasey.com/blog/posts

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thankful

I have a lot to be thankful for this and every year. Most immediately--because I'm writing this the morning after Thanksgiving--I'm grateful for the wonderful food and hours of laughter shared with my friends yesterday. Here are some other things I'm thankful for:

1. Having a husband who is also my best friend. He supports, encourages and pushes me and somehow knows exactly when to offer just what I need.

2. Having a good sense of humor. Most of what life throws at me is funny, even if I don't think so at the time.

3. Having a good imagination. Even though this gets me into trouble at times (I hate to fly, because I can always come up with the worst-cast scenario for every bump, jostle and shimmy that plane makes), it has led me into writing and opened up worlds.

4. Having a great family. No matter what, they're there. How cool is that?

5. Having fabulous friends. We laugh, cry and sometimes even scream together. I couldn't get through life without them and they know it.

6. Having good health. So far, so good, but I don't take it for granted and I exercise every day. (Even though I hate it, lol.)


I'm sure there are a hundred other small things to be thankful for, among them would be caffeine, chocolate and wine.

What are you thankful for?


Friday, November 26, 2010

Shop or Sleep, That is the Question

At around 5 this morning, I heard our neighbors pulling out of their driveway. My first thought was, I wonder if they're going shopping for Black Friday. For the last several days, the ads for Black Friday sales that started at the unholy hour of 4 a.m. have been everywhere. 4 a.m.? Seriously? That's prime sleeping time in my book. :) Plus it was cold. I'm not standing in a line when it's 20-something degrees unless I can be guaranteed a 52-inch flatscreen for 100 bucks or 50% off the new driveway I'm having poured soon.

I've never really been a Black Friday shopper. The thought of all those lines, the crowds, the mad dashes to get the few items available at the advertised super-low price just don't appeal to me. I'd rather go to the stores when I can shop leisurely or order presents online. But that got me to wondering...if you love the madness of Black Friday shopping, why?

So, dear readers, are you shopping today? If so, did you get any great deals? Or do you want to wait for calmer shopping conditions?

And let's pretend Santa is listening...What do you want for Christmas?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Yesterday, dear hubby and I braved five hours’ worth of heavy traffic in our trek north to Tallahassee for a weekend of family, food, and football. Because it’s Thanksgiving weekend in the United States. Officially established as a national holiday by President Lincoln in 1863, it’s a day when we remember the first thanksgiving of 1621. That year, after a brutal winter, the Pilgrims threw a feast to give thanks for their survival. Nearly four centuries later, the day before Thanksgiving has become the busiest travel day of the year as families across this country gather together.

Today, there will be parades to watch, turkeys to roast, the laughter of family and good friends. We’ll give thanks for those who are with us, say a prayer for those who are not, eat, catch up on one another’s lives. And, after the dishes are cleared and the leftovers are stored, someone will break out a guitar, another will reach for a fiddle. My sister will pick up her mountain dulcimer, and there will be music.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I love most about the holidays is...

ETA: The winner is...

Virginia C

Congratulations, Virginia! Please email me via my website and send your mailing address!

***

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love everything about the holidays. I've also had a lot of wonderful things happen in the past month and have much to be thankful for, so it already feels a lot like Christmas. So I hope you'll help me celebrate by posting a comment here, because I have stuff to give away.

What exactly am I celebrating?

First there was the fabulous cover for The Wedding Bargain (January 2011).

Then I learned that my December 2007 American Romance, With This Ring, is being reissued next month, along with Michele Dunaway's Bachelor CEO, as a Mills & Boon Desire in Australia and New Zealand. Here's the cover.

This is my first foreign sale and I'm very excited!

And then RT Book Reviews gave The Wedding Bargain a fabulous 4-star review. Here's what they said:

"McKenzie's tale evolves with sincerity and sizzling passion as two wary individuals fall hard in this touching story."
Color me happy, happy, happy!

Okay, so enough about me.

What's in this for you?

Well, for starters I'm giving away a copy of Firefighter Daddy (July 2010).

The book will be personalized for the winner to keep, or simply autographed so it can be re-gifted. This is one of those times when I am totally cool with re-gifting.

The winner will also receive a festive, handmade polka dot garland. How fun is this?

I do have a thing for polka dots, but this was not made by me. It's from Love Monkey.

In addition to these two prizes, I reserve the right to throw in a few other goodies, at my discretion.

Now for the big question...what do you have to do for a chance to win?

Simply post a comment that finishes this sentence:

What I love most about the holidays is...
The name of one commenter will be drawn from my hat and posted here...at the end of THIS post...on Friday...the day after Thanksgiving. Check back then!

Happy reading! Happy Thanksgiving! Happy holidays!

Until next time,
Lee
LeeMcKenzie.com

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday Night Lights, Modern Texas Style

On Thursday night when we arrived in our home away from home, Mineola, TX, the local grocery (Brookshires) was just gearing down from a big "Yellow Jackets" pep rally in their parking lot, complete with a barrel style grill still belching hickory smoke. On Friday at the barbecue restaurant we visited for lunch, we saw a panther (stuffed animal) hanging upside down on a rope, with the banner "Sting the Panthers." The whole restaurant was decorated with signs and banners. Everyone who worked there wore orange Mineola High School football T-shirts. (BTW, I'm not sure why "Yellow Jackets" in Mineola are actually orange, rather than yellow, but I'll answer that question in another post!)


Ah, high school football playoffs. This was the first round (district) and Mineola hasn't been to the playoffs in over 50 years.
The Mineola Yellow Jackets photos are from the Facebook page
"Mineola Yellow Jackets Playoff Run 2010" from fan Carrie Ann Stafford Kerby.

On the other end of the playoff spectrum, our daughter, an English teacher at Rowlett High School in the Garland Independent School System, attended their playoff game. Since they are a large, suburban school in the Dallas area, they played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. In 2009, one of Rowlett's stars, Marquise Goodwin, graduated and went to The University of Texas, where he is a excellent wide receiver and expected to be a favorite in the 2012 Olympics Track and Field competition. This photo is from her I-Phone as she and her husband walked toward the stadium. Inside, this is what the Rowlett playoffs looked like. (I hadn't realized the giant high def video screen was quite that large!)

Back in Mineola, I wanted to find out how the Yellow Jackets were doing in their playoff quest. I logged onto Facebook and went to the KMOO page. KMOO is the local radio station, located just down Hwy. 69 from us. (http://www.kmoo.com/) On their FB page, 999kmoo, they had someone updating the scores from not only Mineola, but several other schools as well. (Lindale, for example, is just down Hwy. 69 and is the home of country singer Miranda Lambert.) It was great to be able to get the updates as they happened.

I tried to find the same thing for Rowlett, searching for scores on the Internet after trying in vain on the school district website, the local TV station pages, etc. I could not find the score anywhere. Since we don't get the Dallas TV stations in Mineola, I knew we wouldn't find the scores any other way. My daughter had uploaded her photos to Facebook, but then went silent on the score. Despite all the modern conveniences of the "big city," I couldn't find out if Rowlett was winning or losing!

The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, took the lead against the Maypearl Panthers and kept it throughout the game. The final score was 34 to 20. Saturday night at the Mineola Country Club (the only place in Mineola where you can get a drink!) we discovered that they are next playing New Boston in Mt. Pleasant. This was from someone we didn't know who used his Blackberry to find out the information when we asked.


It may seem odd that the small town atmosphere of community, school pride and "clothesline gossip" can be found in person and online, but that is definitely the case in Mineola. As I sat in my living room, I felt very connected to the KMOO reporter who updated the scores on Facebook. I didn't have to wait for news of the next playoff matchup; I only had to ask the man across the small bar at the country club. (BTW, this would have been the case if I'd been anywhere in town, I'm sure.) I still don't know the score of the Rowlett game, but I believe they lost. The Yellow Jackets, however, are big winners in my opinion.


I've never mentioned high school football in any of my Harlequin American romances, even though I've created two small Texas towns where it should be a big part of the community. I'm going to remember this experience and try to include the spirit of the season in my fictional Brody's Crossing series. It's just one more way that small towns are special.


I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends or family. I'll be posting some holiday recipes on Dec. 4th, so I hope you'll check back in then.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Best Thanksgivings

A week from today we’ll be gathering around the table with our family and friends, stuffing ourselves like the turkeys we’ll be enjoying. But there’s nothing like a holiday to bring back memories of the past.


Each year when I was a young girl, one of the aunts (my great aunts) or cousins would host Thanksgiving, then another would host Christmas. Those were the two times a year I could count on seeing all my cousins. Sometimes it was our turn, but I liked it best when we went to Aunt Dorothy's house. She and her husband lived on the farm in the big house near Clearwater where Uncle Milt had been born in 1900. For many of those years, it seemed to me that it took most of the day to drive there from our house in Wichita, although it's only about twenty-five miles.

My mom was the designated turkey roaster, and I would awaken on Thanksgiving morning surround by the aroma of turkey. I doubt we ever missed the Macy's Christmas Parade back then, even as we packed up the turkey and other delights to head down the road to our holiday destination. Everyone brought something to eat. Aunt Dorothy's chocolate pie was always in high demand. At her house, there was a huge, solid wood table where the grown ups all sat. There were always at least a dozen of them, laughing and talking as they passed around the food. Kids sat at card tables, sometimes on Sears catalogs to boost us to the right height.

When dinner was over and the women had cleaned up, while the men--mostly farmers--sat in the living room, talking throughout the football games, the decks of cards were pulled out of the drawer in the buffet and the rousing games of pitch began. The games lasted throughout most of the afternoon and into the late evening, long past dark, and I can still hear the sounds of their voices, whooping and hollering at each other over each hand dealt and each card played.

But it was later in the evening that became my favorite as we grew a little older. My three female cousins and I made the table talk. Some call it table knocking, others call it table rapping, but whatever it’s called, the use and purpose is the same. One person on each side, if possible, hands flat on the table top and concentrating so hard that the house should've rocked, we mentally lifted the table on one side/two legs. Questions asked were usually yes or no, or sometimes involved counting. One knock for yes, two knocks for no. The adults eventually grew quiet, ending their last game of pitch to watch us. Uncle Sterl (Aunt Lucy's husband) would hoot and boo at us, convinced that one of us had to be tilting the table. We weren't. "How can we?" we'd ask and show him that the table could rise several inches...with no legs touching the floor. He never did believe us. One of my cousins reminded me recently that one year the table talking was so rambunctious, one of the legs broke!

I miss those holidays, and especially the talking table. We kids grew up and had kids of our own, who now have kids of their own. We made new traditions. My great-aunts, great-uncles, parents, and even a few of the older cousins are gone, but those Thanksgiving and Christmas memories will always be my favorite. If, like Emily in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, I could choose a time to revisit the past when I'm gone, it would be a holiday at Aunt Dorothy's house.

Have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Dessert

My husband and I have moved around a lot throughout our twenty-four years of marriage and many times during the holidays we were without family. That's both good and bad. I enjoy being with family but it's a lot more stressful than just spending the day with your husband and kids. When it's just "us" for the holiday I don’t have to clean the house. I don't feel pressured to go all-out on the decorations. And for fun we've been known to have a "non-traditional" meal on occasion. If it were up to our kids we'd have pizza all the time, so they no longer get a vote.

The one thing I've done through the years whether we eat alone or with family is to prepare a special dessert. I love to watch the food network when I can and Paula Deen's show is one of my favorites. Because of Paula I now have a favorite Thanksgiving dessert. If you're looking for a twist on the traditional pumpkin pie you must try Paula's recipe for Pumpkin cheesecake. It's to- die-for. You can find more of Paula's recipes at www.foodnetwork.com

No matter who or how you celebrate Thanksgiving this month, I wish you and yours a blessed holiday.

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Cheesecake



Ingredients
Crust:
• 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
• 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 stick melted salted butter

Filling:
• 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
• 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
• 1/4 cup sour cream
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust:
In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For filling:Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Enjoy!

Marin
Roughneck Cowboy (Feb 2011)
Rodeo Daddy (April 2011)
www.marinthomas.com

Monday, November 15, 2010

Life has been a bit crazy since my last blog


On October 28, our daughter-in-law gave birth to our second granddaughter, Katherine Grace. This is their second daughter plus my older son and his wife have two boys, so Katherine is not my first grandchild, but she’ll probably be our last. Not only does that make her especially precious, but my daughter-in-law invited me into the delivery room. This was the first time I’ve ever been in a delivery room when it wasn’t me delivering and it was quite an experience. I got to watch them clean up the baby and all the hubbub that happens those first few minutes of life. I got to see the expression on my son and daughter-in-law’s faces as they first held their beautiful daughter. I too got to hold her when she was only a few minutes old.

I guess I’m feeling nostalgic, but in addition to our family my best friend and her family were at the hospital to help celebrate Katherine’s birth. Debra and I started 4th grade together and have been best friends ever since. Our kids grew up together and went to the same high school. And Debra babysits both her granddaughter and mine so they are growing up friends. As will her new grandson and Katherine.

That’s three generations of friendship. I feel blessed in so many ways.

Do you have friends who have always been a part of your life? People who you are almost closer to than family? I take that back. Not ALMOST closer to, but actually CLOSER.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

When Am I??


I know--I'm only experiencing the end of daylight's saving time, not time travel. No big deal, right? However, I have been traveling, although just from the Midwest to the Eastern time zone. Still, it threw me off. For a week, I waited for my TV shows to come on...and waited. It's an hour later there and I have no problem staying up. It's just that I know Hawaii 5-0 starts at nine on Monday. When it wasn't on, I got a little panicky, until I realized the program on the TV wasn't replacing my show. I hadn't missed Steve McGarrett going swimming. :)


After six days, you would think I'd have adjusted, right? But my sister, convinced despite my arguments that daylight savings was last weekend, had changed the clocks without telling me. What a mess. Now I'm back home, but I returned on a Tuesday. All week, I've been asking what day it was. I'm just getting oriented, and guess what?: now it really is daylight savings. Sheesh. So fall back, everyone.
How long does it take for y'all to reorient yourselves after a trip or after a time change? Am I the only one crazily spinning?
By the way, it's three a.m. as I write this, and even the crickets aren't chirping this time of year. I feel very much like "the only one" awake.
Megan Kelly
THE MARRIAGE SOLUTION, May 2011

Thursday, November 04, 2010

November Recipes



Autumn is finally here in Texas, with cool temperatures at night and not-so-sweltering days. It's a lovely time of year. In a few hours we are heading out to the lake in Mineola, TX to enjoy the annual Iron Horse Festival on Saturday. The train played a big part in the town's development and Amtrak still stops there. If you ever want to visit, it's about halfway between Shreveport and Dallas. Here's a photo of Lake Holbrook from last November, just after we closed on the house.



With the cooler weather comes the desire for warm, hearty food. I want to share two recipes for soup this month. Last night I made a pot of bean soup, which is an unwritten old family recipe that I'm sure lots of people have made before. I didn't make a big pot because there are just the two of us at home and hubby isn't a huge fan of leftovers. In case you don't have a recipe or have forgotten how good bean soup can be, here's our version, which makes about four big bowls.




Victoria Chancellor's Bean Soup




3/4 of small bag of Great Northern Beans


1 T. butter or oil


3/4 c. of diced fresh or frozen onion


2 stalks of celery, diced or sliced thin


3/4 to 1 c. diced leftover ham or other similar meat


6 oz. can of tomato paste


Salt and pepper to taste (You need a little more salt than you think you'll need!)




Soak beans overnight. Change water several times and rinse well.


In a large saucepan or pot, Dutch oven or other covered cookware, place rinsed beans and over about 1 inch over top of beans with water. In a small saucepan saute the onion, celery and ham in butter or oil until limp and slightly browned. Add to beans in saucepan/pot along with tomato paste, salt and pepper, and stir well. Raise temperature only until bubbly, then reduce temp, cover and cook for about three hours, until beans are tender. Serve with cornbread and ice cold milk for a great dinner.




This second recipe is from the blog of friend and fellow writer Winnie Griggs, who is also from the East Texas region. I haven't made this gumbo yet, but if you have a little more time and need to serve more folks, it sounds like a great recipe.




Winnie Griggs' Cowboy Gumbo


(from Petticoats & Pistols blog 9/30/10)



Ingredients:
■1/4 cup butter or vegetable oil


■2 tblsp flour


■2 cloves garlic, minced


■1 small onion, chopped


■1/4 cup green onions, chopped


■1 stalk celery, finely chopped


■1/3 cup chopped bell pepper


■5-6 cups chicken or seafood stock (can substitute water if this is unavailable)


■1 can (12-15 oz) diced tomatoes (if you’d like an extra kick, use the kind with chopped green chilies or southwestern style)


■1 can (6-8 oz) tomato paste


■2 bay leaves


■2 tablespons Worchestershire sauce


■3 teaspoons chili powder


■1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


■1 lb sliced okra (best if sauteed separately with ½ teaspoon vinegar until ‘slime’ is gone)


■4 lbs meat – any one kind or a combination of your favorites. Meats that work well in a gumbo are Sausage (cut into ½ inch slices), deboned chicken or other fowl, pork, shrimp, crawfish, crab or even game meats


■Tobasco sauce or liquid crab boil to taste (optional)



Directions:
■Use flour and oil or butter to make a roux. Do this by combining the two ingredients in a heavy saucepan and cooking over a low heat, stirring constantly until the mixtures turns the color of a copper penny (about 15-20 minutes).


■Add garlic, onions, green onions, celery and bell peppers. Cook until tender


■Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT okra (and shellfish if applicable) and bring to a boil.
■Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes


■Add okra (and shellfish if applicable). Return to a boil.


■Reduce heat and simmer for another twenty minutes.


■Remove bay leaves, skim excess oil, and serve over rice.Leftovers (if there are any!) can be frozen for later consumption.




Enjoy your hearty soups and stews! See you next month for some holiday inspired recipes. Best wishes, happy reading and happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Heirloom

Don’t tell my son, but we now have an elephant foot in our house. Yep. It’s real, it’s old, it’s icky, and my 19 year old son wanted it badly.

Perhaps I should back up. My husband’s Aunt Sandy used to be a flight attendant for TWA. Back in the 70′s, she brought home an elephant foot table from Africa for her dad-my husband’s grandfather~AKA-the man who had everything. Rumor has it that the table was used and bragged about, and was the focal point of more than one house tour.

Years passed. The foot went into storage. When both grandparents passed away, Tom’s mom couldn’t bear to just toss out the thing, so it was passed to my husband’s relatives, taking up space in attics. Sitting and, well…molting. (the years have not been kind to this foot)

Fast forward to last month. My husband was talking to our son Arthur, who reminded him that the University of Alabama’s mascot is the elephant.(Roll Tide!) And, well, didn’t Dad think that elephant table would go GREAT in Art’s apartment?

My husband agreed!

(No, I wasn’t consulted)

Two weeks ago, we went to Charlotte to go to Tom’s cousin’s wedding. That’s when my husband decided he was going to track down that foot.

And so he did. Before the wedding and during the reception, Tom went from one relative to the next, just like a police investigator. Finally he discovered that Matt, the groom, now owns this foot! It’s in his mother’s attic. No, Matt’s new bride didn’t know about the foot…and no, she did not want the thing in their new home. (She is beautiful and smart!)

But Matt was not going to give up the heirloom easily.

Turns out, Matt needed tools. So Tom made a deal. He offered to buy Matt and bride tools as a trade for the foot. After all, it was their wedding day.

Done.

The next day, Tom drove to his aunt and uncle's house, got that foot, and took it to UPS. There, he asked them to carefully wrap it up. They were grossed out, but just like they say in their ads, no job is too big or too small.

Last Thursday~the 40 year old elephant foot, all hairy, yellowing, icky and molting~arrived here. Tom plans to tie a red bow around it and give it to our son for Christmas!

Until then, it’s out of the box and taking up space in my husband’s office. The wiener dog barks at it every time she sees it. I can hardly look at it.

So…I’m thinking maybe my son needs his surprise Christmas gift sooner than later. Arthur comes home this weekend. Maybe it’s time for an early Christmas present?

I hope we’re not the only ones to have possession of a truly awful family ‘heirloom’. Anyone have something they’d rather not have that gets passed down from generation to generation?

Shelley Galloway

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

OCTOBER WINNER!!

CONGRATULATIONS Winter! You’re the October winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Roxann Delaney and Trish Milburn through their Web sites.

To enter the contest simply leave a blog comment and your name will go into the drawing. Simple and painless. And FREE BOOKS.

So check back often and be sure to leave a comment. Good luck!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Covering the Subject

About a week ago, my December cover flats – printed covers showing both front and back – arrived in the mail. The artist did a great job of capturing the little stars of The Holiday Triplets, along with my pediatrician heroine and my hunky, dark-haired hero.

He’s an obstetrician and hospital administrator with whom she butts heads while adopting the triplets after she learns she can’t have babies the traditional way. This is a love story multiplied by their growing feelings not only for each other but also for the little ones.

It’s impressive that the artist got everything right, from the genders of the babies (two girls and boy) to the hero and heroine’s coloring. Of course, we writers fill out a form for Harlequin, providing this information in advance, but the artist has to find models who fill the bill, compose the picture and capture the warm, loving spirit of this family-to-be.

Recently, I’ve loved all my covers, but that hasn’t always been the case. Before I start grousing, though, I should explain that there’ve been far more hits than misses among my 84 published books (with three more scheduled for next year). Also, I appreciate the work of the professionals even more now that I’m designing smaller, simpler covers for reissues of my early, non-Harlequin books for the ebook reading devices Kindle and Nook.

One outstanding cover received special recognition. In 1999, Harlequin published The Art of Romance, subtitled A Century of Romance Art. This small volume contained 30 postcards, each an actual Harlequin cover beginning in 1914 and ending in 1997. I was impressed to find that the collection included the cover of my 1996 Harlequin American Yours, Mine and Ours. The cover shows the hero, heroine and three small children arrayed pinwheel style, head to head, lying on the floor, and it’s really cute. I only wish the artist had been credited so I could compliment him or her.

What’s my least favorite Harlequin cover? (I have a few least favorites from other publishers too, which I’m very happy to replace as I post the ebook editions). Ironically, it’s The Runaway Bride from 1995, the book that came out right before Yours, Mine and Ours (it was not the same artist; I recall the editor mentioning that). My heroine had an outdated hairstyle and wore an ugly, short wedding gown.

But that beats a historical romance cover I once saw from another publisher. If you looked closely, the hero had three arms. That might have made for some unusual love scenes, but no thank you.

Although we’re all warned not to judge a book by its cover, readers can’t help doing that. As for us writers, we’re grateful and appreciative when our covers match or surpass what we hoped for.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Finding Me

I'm less than two weeks away from the release of my first-ever holiday romance, Miracle Baby, and I'm excited for so many reasons...

First, I love this story. Maggie Monroe is reeling from the death of her beloved husband and infant daughter ten months earlier. And while each day without them has been hard, the holidays (with all their hopes and dreams) are a million times worse. She tries to put up her tree, tries to decorate, but it's simply too painful. Rory O'Brien is a carpenter in the inn where Maggie has fled to heal. Drawn to the light he's convinced is buried somewhere inside Maggie, he sets about the task of helping her live life. And he does it, by granting wishes--wishes she never even realized she had. It's a beautiful story about second chances (for both of them) and Maggie's journey toward living a life she wasn't sure she even wanted anymore.

As the release date for this book grows closer, I find myself hoping (and praying) that people will love this story as much as I do. I'm hoping, too, that it gives people hope. Because we could all use a little bit of that, couldn't we?
But there's another reason I'm excited for the release of Miracle Baby. You see, while I haven't experienced the kind of loss Maggie has, I know what it's like to try and figure out your life--to find out what excites and motivates you.

Sure, I know I love to write. That's been a constant since I was ten. But, beyond that, I'm at a point in life (as sad as it sounds) where I'm not sure what I like to do. I know what I enjoy doing with my kids...but me? That's not quite so clear.

So, in the absence of a Rory of my own (although my own special person is pretty great), I'm trying to figure that out.

I know I like to take long walks outside. I know I'd like to learn to rock climb. I know I love to wander in bookstores and read for hours. But there has to be more.

The key is finding it.

So tell me, when you have time for yourself, what do you like to do?

~Laura

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Little Help From Your Friends

I just got back from the New Jersey Romance Writers annual conference, Put Your Heart in a Book. As usual, it was a ton of fun. There were wonderful workshops, great conversations about writing and lots of laughter. My friend, Sarah White, and I presented our workshop on flawed heroes again. It went well, despite our spate of nerves when Sharon Sala, keynote speaker for the conference, sat in on it.

Giving a workshop has been a real learning experience for me. As the saying goes: I know what I know. Putting it into a coherent format and imparting it to others is the toughest. But when I see heads nodding and maybe an “aha” expression on someone’s face, it’s the greatest feeling. Better still is the question and answer session at the end where we get to help people figure out some of the “hard parts” to their stories. Because everyone needs help with the hard parts. Conferences are a great place to get that help, whether it’s via a workshop or a conversation with a new friend about your latest work-in-progress.

Oh, and I have to give a shout-out to my fellow Maryland Romance Writers. Of the five chapter-mates that I knew attending the conference, two had finalled in the Put Your Heart in a Book contest, and two had finalled in the Gold Leaf contest. Better still, Christie Kelley won the Gold Leaf for her historical romance, Something Scandalous, and Marta Bliese won Put Your Heart in a Book for her unpub’d paranormal, Hangman. Yea!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Break out the Bubbly!

This week I got my first glimpse of the cover of The Wedding Bargain, my January 2011 book...and I love it...which is always cause for celebration!

I was especially pleased that they included the champagne flutes on the cover because this book is set in San Francisco and Michael, the hero, runs his family’s winery.

Of course writing a book about a winery required a little research, so last New Year’s Eve my husband and I went on a wine country tour in Napa Valley.

The first stop on the tour was Domaine Chandon, a winery that produces sparkling wines.

The park-like grounds are spectacular and the winery is huge.

Yes, all these vats are brimming with bubbly.

After a quick tour and brief explanation of the traditional method for making champagne, we were treated to a tasting on the terrace, which was decorated for a New Year’s Eve party that evening. A perfect way to ring in 2010, even though it wasn’t quite noon.

Which brings me to my favorite way to serve sparkling wine...in mimosas for brunch. For each mimosa, I use three parts chilled sparkling wine to one part chilled orange juice. Simply pour the wine into a champagne flute, top with orange juice and serve. Or, for a fresh twist on this classic favorite, replace the orange juice with pomegranate juice. Delicious!

Virgin mimosas are every bit as festive. Simply replace the sparkling wine with chilled ginger ale, lemon-lime soda or tonic water.

And as always, if you drink, don’t drive. If you’re pregnant, please don’t drink at all.

Cheers!

Lee
Visit me at www.LeeMcKenzie.com!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Proposal Advice - From You!

I'm working on a new proposal for Harlequin American Romance, which will be the lucky seventh book in the Brody's Crossing series. This may be the last book because I'm running out of young, single characters! Of course, there are always more ranches and people move into town all the time, right?

I'd love your advice on one aspect of this new story: children. Specifically, I'm thinking of twin boys about age four. Here's the setup.

Colby Yates (older brother of Charlie Yates, the hero in book six, The Texan and the Cowgirl) has dated a single mom from Graham, TX, but they discovered they were better friends than lovers. She has twin boys and is estranged from both her disapproving family and the boy's father. She worries about her boys, so she lists responsible rancher Colby as their guardian in case something happens to her. Which, unfortunately, it does.

Colby is running his ranch and really cares for the boys, but he needs help fast.

Darla Maxwell (who has been in all of the Brody's Crossing books) has been the nanny for Cal and Christie Crawford's two children since the oldest was a baby. Before becoming the Crawford nanny, she was a kindergarten teacher. After her roommate Debbie McMann (introduced in A Texan Returns and the heroine of The Texan and the Cowgirl) marries Charlie Yates, and other friends are also married with children, Darla decides to get a life for herself. She wants freedom from caring for other people's children (even though she loves the Crawfords) so she can eventually have a family of her own.

Darla and Colby were a couple in high school (first love) but broke up when she went away to college, then married and divorced. Colby is hesitant to ask her because of their history, but he really needs help and can't think of anyone more qualified than Darla to care for the two boys. After she meets them, she reluctantly agrees to help until he can find someone permanent. She still intends to leave town and pursue her dreams. Of course, she gets drawn into their lives and grows to love them all.

I have one daughter, one step-daughter, and two granddaughters. Needless to say, I haven't been around boys very much! I would love your input on twin boys, four year boys, or any type of advice on fostering or guardianship. What is the most fun thing about twins? What type of trouble do four year old boys get into? If anyone has been in a guardian role, what was the most rewarding aspect for you?

Also, tell me what you think of the story. I'd love to discuss this new proposal! Thanks in advance for all your help.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Spirit of the (Halloween) Season

If you haven't noticed the rows and rows of Halloween costumes, candy and decorations in the stores, you haven't been out of the house in the past two weeks.  Next to Christmas, Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year in our family.  It isn't because of the five grandkids, but because of my own four daughters who still haven't given up planning and wearing costumes.  Me?  I live on a quiet street where no one trick or treats, so I content myself with watching favorite Halloween-y movies.  This year it will be Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic

Halloween--or All Hallow's Eve or All Saint's Eve--is celebrated in many parts of the world.  Its origin is linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), when ancient Celts believed the curtain between this world and the spirit world thinned to allow spirits to pass through.  Have you been thinking of having a seance?  Halloween would be the perfect time!  Even today the holiday is celebrated in much the same way by Pagans and others.  In case you're curious, wikipedia.org has lots of interesting information about the history and traditions of Halloween.

This year my youngest daughter and I went on a walking tour of one of the haunted areas of our city.  The fact that I grew up half a mile from the area made it even more interesting!  I blogged about our experience at my blog, Diary of a Mad Romance Writer.  We had a great time!

Also this month, the writing group I belong to is blogging about Halloween and other scary things.  We love having visitors, so stop by Bits & Bytes: Romance...the Writer's Way and join in the discussion!

And last but not least, the lastest book in my series set in Desperation, Oklahoma, is available this month.  Unfortunately The Reluctant Wrangler doesn't have a Halloween theme, but that's definitely an idea for the future!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The awful truth about great reviews


My third Harlequin American Romance, FAMILY MATTERS—out right now—has received a few reviews. And they’re awesome!

You can check them out at my “Buzz”/links page on my website, if you’re so inclined.

http://barbarawhitedaille.com/links

At the moment, I’m on deadline, so this blog post is going to be quick and—

You thought I was going to say dirty, right? Sorry to disappoint you. ;-)

This post is meant to be quick and honest.

The awful truth about great reviews is that each review is only one person’s opinion.

On the other hand, the wonderful thing about great reviews is that each review is only one person’s opinion—and reviews are most often written by people who are not our mothers, fathers, siblings, critique partners, friends, coworkers, workout partners, or grammar school lunch buddies.

I’ll confess, I used to think the opposite was usually the case. I’m ecstatic to report that it’s not! :-)

And now, a question for you: what stirs your interest in a book? A glowing review? A negative one? Or the content of the review itself—that is, the details of the book?


All my best to you,

Barbara

~~~~~~

Barbara White Daille
http://www.barbarawhitedaille.com

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cowgirl Sayings

Today I posted a blog over at www.sweetheartsofthewest.blogspot.com about using Cowboy Slang in western-themed romances. After I stumbled across this website http://theurbancowboy.net which posted a list of cowgirl sayings I decided it might be fun to give the cowgirl her own say right here, so…I surfed the internet, found a few more sayings and added them to the list.

I know the cowgirls we write about in our modern-day romances must display the proper decorum to be considered heroine material but we authors can play fast and loose with cowgirl "secondary characters." I'll be launching a new series beginning April 2011 called Rodeo Rebels. We've all heard about the "Buckle Bunnies" that follow the cowboys around the circuit and those sweet honeys make perfect secondary characters that add color and humor to our books. In Dexter: Honorable Cowboy (July 2010) I mention a buckle bunny named Roxy who hounds Dusty--Dexter's infamous "Wild" twin brother. If you've read a rodeo cowboy story then you know it just wouldn’t be any fun without a buckle bunny around to shake the cowboys' spurs loose from their boots.


Cowgirl up!
Cowboy butts drive me nuts!
So many cowboys, so little rope!
Cowgirls do it in the saddle.
If you get in the saddle, be ready for the ride!
Boots, chaps and cowboy hats… nothin’ else matters.
If it doesn’t involve ropin’, ridin’, or saddles, count me out.
Cowboys are proof that cowgirls can take a joke.
When you count your blessings, count your horse twice.
You wish you could ride like a girl.
When in doubt, let your horse do the thinking.
Tell a gelding, ask a stallion, discuss it with a mare.
My other ride is a cowboy.
Cowgirl: A better-looking cowboy with brains.
Pretty in pink…wicked in spurs.

Thanks to http://www.zazzle.com/ here's the last saying!


Have any favorite cowgirl sayings you'd like to share?

Marin
Roughneck Cowboy (Feb 2011)
Rodeo Daddy (April 2011)
www.marinthomas.com
www.firstfamilyofrodeo.blogspot.com
www.sweetheartsofthewest.blogspot.com

Friday, October 15, 2010

Not Ready for Winter, but loving Fall


Anyone who knows me knows that I am a warm weather person through and through. I don't typically complain about 100+ degree days in Texas. Winter on the other hand. . . However, last week my husband and I took a trip to Galveston Island with another couple. The highs were in the low 80s and evening lows cool enough that we wore hooded sweatshirts so we could sit outside and feast on seafood. Warm enough to take long walks on the beach and swim yet cool enough that we didn't bake. An awesome time to be at the beach after all the kidos are back in school and it's quiet.

Tonight my husband got home and wanted to take a drive in our old Fiat Spider convertible. We put the top down and went for dinner at a little Irish Pub we'd been wanting to try. Great dinner, but I got chilled on the drive home. A fire in the fireplace actually sounded inviting. The red one is ours.

So, yes, I'm loving Fall this year. But I'm not ready for winter.

What's everyone else's favorite thing about Fall?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

(The view from my St. Thomas beach chair!!)

Hard to believe it's October already--especially as it's still HOT!!!! LOL!!


The Altom house is even nuttier than usual!! I thought once everyone set off for college, they never came back--wrong!! I now not only have our kids most every weekend, but surprise kids from other countries!! Last weekend, we met two young men. One, from Guatemala and the other, from Qatar. Actually, the night turned out to be fascinating. I knew nothing about either country, so I proceeded to drill our guests with questions. Our daughter was mortified, but the guys were gracious and didn't even balk at inquiries such as had they ever met a sheik or what they eat!! (For the record, Mohammad has met the king's son, who's a prince, but he hadn't met any sheiks!! LOL!!)


Not sure if I've mentioned it before, but our daughter is an Ice Girl for the Tulsa Oilers hockey team. The season starts Friday night and we couldn't be more excited!! Alas, she popped into the house on her way home from rehearsal and tanning last night to show us her official uniform. Um, if what little fabric was there could even be called a uniform. Yikes. I'm used to having the school superintendent dictate her cheer attire. In high school, the more clothes, the better. Apparently, when it comes to cheering for professional sports, the opposite rule applies!!
Hubby and I will still attend every game, but with huge towels we'll use to ambush her and then wrap her mummy-style!!!


In other news . . . Oklahoma had a 5.1 earthquake yesterday!! The dogs and I were working up my new contract proposals when my fave green chair began to tremble. My canine crew woke from their morning naps and Daisy--the Yorkie--seemed alarmed. Gotta say, the whole thing was quite unnerving. I've never experienced one outside of the earthquake machine at the Tulsa Zoo!! Not sure why, but I was useless the rest of the day. It really "shook" me up--ha ha.
At least with our usual tornadoes or ice storms, we have time to stock up on milk and toilet paper, but this was too much of a surprise for my taste.


Nothing exciting to report on our two boys. This is probably a good thing. Both seem to be adjusting to college life with a minimum of drama--at least when it comes to school issues. On the topic of lady drama . . . I just shake my head!! And cry!!


Hubby and I took an amazing second honeymoon to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. All I can say on that topic is WOW!! We had a super amazing time!! After two weeks of lazing on the beach, returning to the real world was tough, but oddly enough, no one seems to feel too sorry for me.


Saturday afternoon we'll attend the Parent's Day party at Hannah's Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house, and from there, on to The University of Tulsa's homecoming game. The weather's supposed to be gorgeous, so we're looking forward to that. Sunday, we've been invited to my parents' sailboat for a picnic. Whew--busy, but fun!!


What are you doing this weekend?




Thursday, October 07, 2010

All About ME...Or Not

Hey, Megan here. Earlier this week a reporter wanted to do an interview. I said sure, what's the focus of the article and how do you want to set it up? Got an answer on how we'd do it (via phone call). I checked out her articles, which were well done. So...
After exchanging pleasantries, she asked how old I am. [insert crickets chirping] Now, this isn't a secret among my family and friends, but... Is it relevant? Which is what I asked. She said absolutely. I countered with my many years of marriage being more relevant to my writing, my belief in HEA and working hard at marriage to make that HEA a reality. These things I bring to my writing.
I got a lecture on journalism. She got a...an explanation, lol, about privacy. I also wouldn't tell her the year of my graduation, although I did tell her my hometown and high school. She balked again and had to go to her editor for permission to continue.
So I emailed her my thanks for the offer and said, "also tell your editor that while I may tell you I have two kids, I won't tell you their names or ages either." Their lives are theirs to protect or flaunt as they wish.
There's not going to be an article. I can't be sorry about it except... EEKS I just turned down publicity. It makes me uneasy, to say the least. While part of me insists the important thing about me is my determination to improve my writing and my struggle to get published, there's that internal editor (nag) that says I should have just told her. My age is not a big deal, nor the date of my graduation. The kids, though...I draw the line there.
What do y'all think? Is a person's age that vital to an article? Should I submit all the details of my life for public consumption? Or is there a line?
Megan Kelly
The Marriage Solution, May 2011
www.megankellybooks.com