Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Friday, July 30, 2010

Win a Prize from RWA Conference

Just post and say you missed us and you might win a great bag of goodies from Orlando and the conference!

We'll announce the winner Monday.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Personal Bubble???

As I write this I am sitting on an airlane as they replace a broken hand rail. The care that Air Trans is taking to correct this problem is very reassuring to me. If they are this careful with a hand rail I would like to think that they are even more care with the 2 million other parts that actually make the airplane fly.

The delay could be much worse since I am sitting here with eight other members of the fabulous Heart of Dixie Capter of RWA. We are heading to our national conference in Orlando, Florida. Oh, the fun we will have!!

I had already planned to write this blog about personal space and let me tell you that airplane seats give an entirely new meaning to "personal bubble." This past weekend Dr. Good Sense and I had a long conversation about personal space. She has a pretty large personal bubble-I think this has to to with the fact that she is an only child. Dr. Good Sense was recently in a situation where someone was invading her personal space. When she told me about it she said, "He just kept rubbing on me and touching my back." She was quite out of sorts because her bubble had been violated. This got me to thinking about about the "bubbles" of all the people that I know. My friend at Writing Playground, Smarty Pants, has a LARGE bubble and I felt sooooo honored when she gave me a hug one day because it meant she was really comfortable with me. I on the other hand am a much more hands on sort of gal. I am a toucher, a patter and a hugger. Most people fall somewhere between these two extremes.

How large is your personal bubble?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Head Over Heels for Historicals

Head-over -heels for Historicals

I’ve been an avid historical romance reader since my teens, starting off with the fabulous Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsay, Julie Garwood, and LaVyrle Spencer. Though the genre has changed a bit since those days, the HEA (happily ever after) is always clear. Readers know when they pick up an historical novel they will be stepping into a time machine which will transport them back through time and space. And with romance, readers also know when the final page is turned, happily ever after is what they will get. Guaranteed!

Attending the RWA (Romance Writers of America) National Conference has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself and my career as a romance writer. I’ve made amazing acquaintances and even more spectacular friends in the process. Workshops, agent/editor/author chats, pitch appointments, publisher spotlights and booksignings will fill my days this week. But there is one thing I look forward to most of all (besides hanging out with my roomies). This event happens only once every two years, the Beau Monde’s Historical Conference.

What is the Beau Monde? The Beau Monde is an online romance chapter specializing in the Regency Period. An excerpt from the chapter appears below:

“The Regency Period, strictly defined as Britain during the years 1811–1820, was a fascinating time. The plethora of events, fashion, the larger-than-life aristocrats who peopled the ton (Society), as well as their moral (and immoral) behavior is an ideal time for the historical romance writer to place characters. The Beau Monde, a specialty chapter of the Romance Writers of America®, is a community of Regency writers, both published and unpublished, who specialize in the Regency genre.”

With a membership numbering 260, and with over 100 published authors in their midst, the Beau Monde is the place to turn to when writing Regencies. As a Regency writer, I’ve found a safe haven and a wellspring of knowledge about the genre within this group. If you’re a Regency writer or would like to write a Regency romance, check out their website.

But I digress… Y’all, today I’m in heaven! I’ll break fast with fellow Regency authors, attending workshops like: Teaching the Regency Romance, Doddering Butlers, Pert Housemaids, and Faithful Retainers: Busting the Servant Myth, Life After Sexy, The Everyday Life of a Disreputable Lady, Inside the Lady’s Wardrobe, Adapting Modern Situation to the Past. There will be an annual membership meeting, luncheon with keynote speaker Gaelen Foley, an afternoon Tea and a Soiree, where attendees can learn how to dance to Period music at the call of a Dance Master or chance a game of cards. (If you can appear at the Soiree in Regency costume, all the better.)

As I immerse myself into bygone days, I leave you to ponder this: What historical era do you like reading about most? What is your favorite historical romance author? And if you could go back in time to witness one event, which one would it be?


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


In this day of so many books about vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, I often wonder how many of us truly believe in the supernatural – especially ghosts. For some reason, the idea of a ghost fascinates me.

I love Ghosthunters on the SyFy channel. Every Wednesday night you will find me sitting in front of the television (something I seldom do) watching “my guys.” I have been a fan since their first program. To me, their scientific approach to ghosts seems to lend credence to their findings. Ok, I hear all you out there groaning; surely an educated person wouldn’t fall for such nonsense from plumbers. But, I have – some of the things they have captured on tape over the years have left me flummoxed. No explanation for that soldier coming out of a locker in the basement of a hospital (they did capture it on infra-red). Just sends chills down my spine. I want to be a member of TAPS!

I have had personal experiences, too numerous to put down in a blog. Oh, yeah, I really have! I am a firm believer in ghosts, or whatever John Edward calls them (he is wonderful!). Some people just don’t want to move on – they stick around where they felt the most comfortable in life. Doesn’t make me comfortable but at least they are.

A few years ago, my son, husband and I decided to go on a ghost hunt in New Orleans. The city is creepy enough after dark but I love it ( I would live there if I could convince my husband). It was the first season of Ghosthunters and I was pumped. The tour we signed up for was not one of those where you follow a guide around and he points out haunted houses. This was an honest-to-God investigation of a building in the Warehouse District. At ten o’clock at night we, along with some Yankees and a doctor from California, boarded a bus at the Brewery and were carted across town to a ramshackled old building. We were handed flashlights, divining rods and notebooks to jot down our experiences. My son, the consummate skeptic (especially about his mother’s sanity), chose to hold the divining rods; after all, he didn’t believe and he wanted to make sure that those rods didn’t have some “human” help.

Our guide put us in the building and left us. After standing around looking at each other for a few minutes, we finally decided to start. In the downstairs area at the back of the house near the fireplace, I kept getting chills. We were asking questions, requesting a response from the ghost by him/her crossing the diving rods but were getting no responses. Since this was a Creole period building, I, drawing on the only French I knew (from Bugs Bunny – God bless him), asked “Parle Vous Francais?” (Excuse the spelling – Bugs wasn’t much for writing it out). Immediately, the divining rods crossed. A positive response! My son stared at the rods in his hands, shocked and very quiet. Everyone in the group looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to ask another question in French. I shrugged, none of the other Looney Toons characters had every said anything else in French.

Excited, we moved to the stairs, asking questions as we went. At the foot of the stairs, I smelled turpentine. Another woman in the group also smelled it (no I didn’t have a brain tumor). I kept asking if there was any painting going on in the building but we saw no evidence of it. Since nothing was happening, we went upstairs to a bedroom at the front of the building. I immediately hated this room and did not want to stay there. The farther I went into the room, the more distressed I became. Eventually I started choking, for no reason, and felt very nauseated. The California doctor kept asking me what was wrong. He annoyed me, telling me that I was imagining it and to stop. Finally, I told my husband that I was leaving; I couldn’t stand it. I ran, not walked, down the stairs and out the front door. I sat down on the curb, trying to breathe. The guide and a security guard came over and asked if I was all right. Almost purple, I shook my head and gave them the “look.” Idiots! No I wasn’t all right! Eventually I calmed down but I refused to go back into the building.

A couple of hours later, the group emerged, having experienced some more responses on the divining rods. The guide collected our notebooks and began relaying the history of the building. Originally a house, a little Creole girl had died downstairs and she had been seen numerous times near the fireplace. Later, the building became an apartment house. A portrait painter, who lived upstairs, had fallen down the stairway, breaking his neck. Turpentine is a tool used by painters to clean their brushes (And no, there was no painting being done in the building at the present). The real kicker came from the front upstairs bedroom. The building had later become a brothel – a bar downstairs and the upstairs was used to accommodate patrons. One of the “ladies” had died in that room from tuberculosis, choking to death. Ok, I really didn’t like hearing that! Everyone in the group looked at me as if I had grown two heads. The California doctor explained to us lesser individuals that a person with tuberculosis would have difficulty breathing, erupting blood from the lungs and possibly swallowing it. That, he eyed me, could explain being nauseated.

On the bus trip back to the Vieux Carre (French Quarter), the guide told me that it seemed I was sensitive, No kidding? He asked if I would be willing to explore that. After what I had just gone through, I said no; forget it! Over the years since, I have experienced similar smells and feelings in houses and buildings. I don’t react or tell people; being committed is not on my bucket list.

Have you ever seen a ghost? Had a paranormal experience? Do you, as Mulder said, BELIEVE

Monday, July 26, 2010


The more that time marches on, the more I find that I want to do odd things like put glitter on my face and go to a calf roping. I think it's because writers draw on their experiences and it's essential to make new and interesting memories. Lately, I find myself with a yen to go to a church with a snake handling service. Rattlesnake handling and strychnine drinking are against the law but it goes on and I'm curious. Unfortunately, I can't get anybody on board with me and I do not hanker for this experience so bad that I am willing to go alone. I guess I'm going to have to be satisfied to read Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia by Dennis Covington. I'll let you know how that goes.

I know you can't tell from that lead-in, but I am going to talk about pitching to editors or agents.
Thanks to the fabulous training of the Queen of Pitches, Harlequin Blaze author, Kira Sinclair, and our own Katherine Bone, who can write a pitch like nobody's business and helped shine ours up, Stephanie and I are ready for our appointments. I'm not going to tell you how to pitch. I can't do it better than Kira. Go over to the Writing Playground and read her article. It says it all.

Kira's Pitch Article

I'm also not going to give you a pep talk and talk about confidence and state of mind. I am going to tell you a few things that ought to be common sense but refute actual tips I once read that are supposed to make the pitch go better.

Pitch appointments are not the place to wear a costume, even if we are at Disney.

Inasmuch as I believe it is important to get out of the comfort zone (i.e. the snake handling), do not do it at a pitch appointment. If you write westerns do not wear a cowboy hat to your appointment. If you write erotica, do not priss yourself up in there wearing a bustier and carrying a whip. They will think you are nuts.

Do not take the industry professional a gift.

That's just creepy and they will think so too. So no mouse ears. No Hershey's kiss. NOTHING, except your business card—and don't write a personal message of any kind on it

Don't take a good luck charm—especially if it is distracting

Okay, if you've got some lucky earrings that are not flashing skulls, go ahead. But don’t go in and lay a rabbit's foot or a lock of your dog's fur on the table. Last year while we were readying ourselves to go pitch, I put on my charm bracelet. Like most southern women, my charm bracelet was started for me as a child. The bracelet itself has been replaced but I still have my first charm and every single subsequent one that has been added over the years to mark special occasions or just because I thought it was precious. As you can imagine, it jingles a little from time to time. Stephanie said, "You are not wearing that bracelet. Take it off." I whined a little. I pointed out that it was my lucky bracelet and that I have had a more enduring relationship with it than I have had with most people in my life. It didn't do me any good. "It rattles," she said. "It sounds just like a rattlesnake. Take it off." And she was right.

Don't take a rattlesnake to your pitch appointment, even if you are certain the agent or editor likes snakes.

This is the only point that is not in response to advice I read. I just couldn't help myself.

Tell us about your pitch experiences. Anybody pitching for the first time?

Note: Stephanie, Katherine, and I will all be at conference the rest of the week. Cheryl will be a little out of pocket too. The blogs will be business as usual and we will check in. Your responses to our blogs are very important to us and we will answer you. We may even tell you a little about what's going on with us. But forgive us if we don't get back to you as promptly as usual.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Stephanie is reading the Romance Writers' of America's Bylaws.

Jean is reading THE LUXE by Anna Godbersen.

Cheryl is reading the third Sons of Chance novel, CLAIMED by Vicki Lewis Thompson and starting to re-read (for the twentieth time) THE STAND by Stephen King.

Kathy is reading UNTAMED ROGUE, SCANDALOUS MISTRESS by Bronwyn Scott.

What are you reading?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

To Nap or Not to Nap? That is the Question.

Naps are funny things. Sometimes they make you feel better and sometimes they don’t. It seems to me that there should be a rule about naps. Something like if you nap for forty minutes you will wake feeling refreshed and revitalized but if you nap for longer than three hours you will wake feeling grumpy and sluggish.

Naps are also very personal things. Some people love to nap while others feel that naps are simply a way that lazy people waste their days away. When I was a child I HATED a nap. Now this was quite the problem for me since my mother is a great believer in nap time. I can remember trying to get her off the nap couch and she would pretend to be the couch and tell me to be very quiet or that I would wake up my momma. Unfortunately for my mother, I was a very logical child and knew that there was no such thing as talking furniture. That was against the rules so I just kept talking until she got up.

As an adult, I now have a very different opinion of naps. I love them. I wish that life would allow me to take a nap every single day. Since I am not yet independently wealthy, I must continue to work for a living so a daily nap isn’t really a viable part of my life. Perhaps this is why I so enjoy a nap when I do get the chance for one. It is a guilty pleasure.

Are you a napper? What is your best napping story?


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to My Handy Dandy Conference Scheduler

One week from today, Romance Writers of America will kick off another National Conference. Blogs have been blasting the air waves with helpful hints and lists to prepare a romance writer for the journey to Orlando, as well as imparting wisdom on how to survive those five inspirational and insightful days. Whether this is a romance writer’s first time attending, or fifth time, every attendee develops his or her particular way of getting through the week through a process of elimination. I’m no exception.

The best thing to do before leaving for conference is to gather every bit of advice, apply it and personalize it to fit your lifestyle or conference experience. (An excellent packing list is available in the archives of: www.writingplayground.blogspot.com/.)

No one should have to go into conference oblivious. Writing chapters and websites are loaded with advice and motivation: bring a sweater or pashmina (conference halls are chilly), wear comfortable but totally rockin’ shoes (a Heart of Dixie phenomena), bring an extra bag or box to send home free books, share a business card and strike up conversation with someone you’ve never met (the greatest friendships are forged this way), and remember to present yourself in a business-like manner (you are your brand).

How do you stay calm? How do you find the yellow brick road sure to lead to the best workshops, booksignings, author chats, spotlights on publishing houses, and special events without losing track of time or forgetting where you wanted to be? My secret is my Handy Dandy RWA Conference Scheduler.

You may scoff at my anal attempt to be organized. Those who know me know I love spreadsheets. But don’t be fooled. It’s extremely hard to keep up with all the events going on at conference. And for a borderline introvert/extrovert, with one look at my Handy Dandy scheduler, I know what is going on, and when and where I need to be there. Less headache, double the fun!

Where do I get this schedule and how do I go about creating one, you ask? First, decide which track you are on at this stage of your writing career. Do you want to learn more about Craft, Publishing, a Writer’s Life, or Research? Is this the year you want to learn as much as you can about the particulars of writing in general, publishing houses, editor/agent panels, and diverse or trendy genres? Are you in need of inspiration? Author chats and special presentations are good for encouragement and rejuvenating the muse. Deciding these key points puts you 1/3 of the way there. You've dodged the wicked witch of the east, confusion, and are headed to a headache free conference.

Second, select the workshops you are most interested in, hour by hour, day by day. Print off the schedule RWA has posted online. Highlight workshops on your track. Pick 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices because classes are sometimes rescheduled when you arrive. This also gives you the ability to pick something else right away— and I recommend sitting at the back of the class if you are so inclined— and in that case, slip out and attend one of the other classes on your list. Now you're skipping 2/3 of the way to a headache free zone.

Third, add this detailed list to the Handy Dandy spreadsheet I use at conference. I’ve developed my own formula in Excel to keep me organized. With this schedule, I never feel overwhelmed or flustered. There are columns for Meals, Publisher spotlights, Booksignings, Events and three Workshop choices. Later, during conference, I can easily pencil in something new or change my mind. But the basic shell of my schedule is always there to keep me from feeling overwhelmed. Oh, Dorothy! No need for ruby slippers. You've made it to Oz!

I’m including the basic shell of my Handy Dandy spreadsheet in this blog for anyone who would like to give it a try. There is no reason to be unprepared at conference and with a little bit of planning on your part, you can walk into every room with confidence so you can learn and network with the best.

So what helps you stay on track at conference? Do you rely on lists? Is this spreadsheet something you might be willing to give a try?


Kathy Bone

Snail Mail

The United States Postal Service, the “Post Office,” is a government corporation which handles millions of pieces of mail everyday. My mail is very important to me but, to some of their employees, it isn’t.

I live in the country, way off the road – far, far away from my mailbox, apparently in another dimension and galaxy. My previous mail carrier did not like to deliver packages or certified mail to my house. Evidently it was too far from the road. Guess she just didn’t like to take the time from her busy schedule. I would be home and decide to check my mail. So off I would go in the golf cart to get the mail. The moment I opened the mailbox there, sitting like a rattlesnake ready to strike, would be one of those yellow slips of paper which informed me that she had tried to deliver a package (usually one I needed immediately) and no one was home. I would stand there, reading the slip with incredulous disbelief. I WAS home – no one rang the doorbell! The slip also said I could pick the package up the NEXT day at the Post Office after three o’clock (it had been sent overnight – what was their hurry?)

I usually stood there, in the middle of the road, contemplating my options (which, if truth be told, were zilch). One option was always jumping into the golf cart and going in search of her. Thoughts of confronting the woman with the yellow slip of paper, waving it in her face and saying I was home would run through my head. The only thing that usually stopped me was the fact that the batteries in the golf cart probably wouldn’t make it that far. I do own a car; it’s just when you’re angry you don’t think clearly or at all. Frustrated and with no alternative, I would collect my mail and go home. The next day at the post office, I would complain bitterly, to no avail. Nothing ever changed.

One day, ta da, I came up with a PLAN. I would lay in wait for her! My insidious plan would go into effect if I were expecting a delivery that day. I would be outside, doing something obscure like looking for a four-leaf clover, surreptitiously watching. Then, when I saw her pull up to the neighbor’s mailbox, I would leap into the Gator (a faster mode of transportation) and meet her at the mailbox! It was brilliant and sly, utterly foolproof. Except…I was always the fool and she would thwart me time and time again. The woman would fly by, barely stopping long enough to throw the mail in the box and speed off. I would make it to the mailbox just as a cloud of dust billowed across the road. Yes, I ate her dust. There, sitting in the box would be that yellow piece of paper…Arghh!!!

It became a game that I usually lost. I tried all sorts of ways to catch her, including hiding in the bushes, but nothing worked. If any of you have seen “Funny Farm” with Chevy Chase you can understand what I was up against. In the movie, Chevy had a mailman who would throw the mail out and drive off, maniacally laughing. I saw myself as Chevy. This continued for a few years, I never gave up trying to catch her – I’m not made to quit. But evidently she was – she resigned one day. Probably took a better job like delivering Meals on Wheels – throwing food at the elderly. Much more satisfying than frustrating a middle-aged house frau.

My new mail lady is an improvement. She actually comes down the driveway and sits there blowing her horn for me to come get my package. Hey, it’s an improvement! I have since moved on – there are other battles to be waged, say with the cable company…

Have you every had an ongoing crusade with a company or government agency? How did that work for you? Did you win? Or are you like me - a loser?

Cheryl - the intrepid...

Monday, July 19, 2010


Romance writers from all over the civilized world are all a twitter--literally and figuratively. It's that time again: Romance Writers' of America's National Conference. This will be my third. After wonderful conferences in San Francisco and Washington DC, I was looking forward to taking a little road trip for the conference that was to be held at the Opryland Hotel. Well. A little visit from Mother Nature took care of that in the form of a flood. Like the South, the Opryland will rise again but not in time for the onslaught of over 2000 writers, ranging from Nora Roberts and Linda Howard to someone with a vague story idea and a dream.

So look out, Mickey. Orlando here we come.

"Are you ready?" everyone is asking. Well, I certainly am. There in no one more ready than me. I can't wait. What's not to like? I'm going to have a five day slumber party with some of my favorite people. I'm going to get to hear authors I admire impart wisdom. I'm going to see people I haven't seen since last year. Stephanie and I have some great pitch appointments. I'm going to a pirate show. I'm going to get to sparkle up my face and go an awards dinner. Who wouldn't be ready?

But, see, people who ask, "Are you ready?" aren't really asking if I am eagerly anticipating the conference. They want to know if I am packed.

I am not. Nor do I have a list. Nor am I going to make one. I don't worry about packing and I never do it until the last minute. This has been a point of concern and, sometimes, contention among my traveling companions. Once, when we were going to Europe for two weeks, I thought Oldest Friend was going to have apoplexy because I would not pack. The Guy has been known to ask numerous times, "Is your bag ready to come downstairs." He always says it sweetly but what he really means is: "For God's sake! Will you put your freaking clothes in the suitcase?"

Yet, I always get where I'm going on time with what I need. Never once have I made anyone late. Do I ever forget anything? Occasionally, but never anything major and my forgetfulness rate is no higher than that of those who pack in advance.

In my defense, I've traveled a lot, so I can pack in my sleep. I keep up with the laundry and the dry cleaning, so everything is always pretty much ready. I have duplicates of my toiletries that stay packed.

Now, Stephanie, plotter that she is, has a plan. She knows what she's going to wear every minute of every day. We even had a fashion show. Then we went up to my closet room. (Yes, I have a whole room. California Closets made it happen for me. Go ahead. Make fun of me. I don't care.) There we explored the pantster style of packing. I jerked some stuff off the racks and some shoes off their precious little shelves and said, "I was thinking about these. I'll decide what to wear when, when I get there."

It didn't faze her. She doesn't care if I live like that as long as she doesn't have to.

How about you? When preparing for a trip, are you a plotter or a pantster?

Friday, July 16, 2010


Thanks to everyone who joined us for Cheryl's and Kathy first week.

This week we are reading:

Jean: Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons

Stephanie: At the Sheik's Command by Kate Walker and The Deadly Game by Christine Feehan
Oh, I am also reading the RWA By-Laws.

Cheryl: Ambushed (which is the second book in the series "Sons of Chance") by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Kathy: The Accidental Princess by Michelle Willingham

What are you reading?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rules Rule!

Okay, so as a kid, did you ever break the rules? Are you one of those people who think that rules are made to be broken or are you a person who thinks that rules exist keep order in the world?

It has been my experience that people fall into one of these two categories. As you might guess from previous blogs and knowing that I am a plotter, I fall firmly in the latter view of the rules. I think rules exist to help us. If everyone followed the rules then there would be more order in world which would be a good thing, in my opinion.

There are rules for almost everything in our world. Some rules are written and we can study them--traffic rules, for example. Okay they are technically laws, I guess. I don’t know about you, but I studied hard for my driver’s license test. Everyone knows the rules for driving (not to be confused with the Rules of the Road by you Kevin Smith fans). Yet, every day I sit at my desk and watch person after person run the stop sign at my corner. It says “Stop” for heaven's sake. Even if they don't know the traffic rules, one would hope that the drivers can at least READ. I am guessing that the folks who don’t stop fall into the “rules are made to be broken” category. Some rules aren't written--like you should be quiet at the funeral home.

Yesterday in Alabama we had a run-off election. It was the result of the primary elections that we had a bit ago. All day long folks kept asking me to go vote in the Republican Run-off. I kept telling them that I couldn’t because I had voted in the Democrat’s Primary Election. This is a very odd situation because, apparently, the Republicans and the Democrats in Alabama have two different sets of rules governing their Primaries and Run-off elections. WHAT!!! How can there be two sets of rules about one thing? And even more important, which set should I go by? I have to know the rules. In this case, by voting in the Democratic Primary, which is where several local elections were decided since there wasn’t a Republican candidate in the race, I agreed to only vote in the Democratic Run-off. I couldn’t believe the number of people who said to me yesterday, “But who would know if you switched?” The answer to that is, "I would know."

This got me to thinking about all the times that I follow the rules because they are the rules. I mean as an adult it isn’t like the rules' police are gonna swoop down and kick me off the playground. I think it all goes back to personal outlook on the rules.

Are rules made to be broken or to help make your world a better place?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

There’s a First Time for Everything!

There are so many firsts in life. Few are casually discarded. Most are unforgettable like a baby’s first word, a toddler’s first step, the first day of school, first date, first job, first car, first kiss, and saying, “I do”.

What makes a first time for anything special? Surely who you are with or what time in your life these events occur plays a significant part. In this, I am extremely lucky to be part of the Okay, Listen Here blog, and I thank my blog sisters, Jean, Stephanie and Cheryl, for inviting me to be a part of this great group. Today, as I branch out into the blogosphere for the very first time, I’d like to share some of my firsts with you.

In just two short weeks, I’ll be headed to Orlando for the RWA National Conference, where my book, PIRATE BY NIGHT, is a finalist in the Romance Through The Ages contest, a historical romance contest. Finalists will be judged by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Agency. While this contest is not the first one I’ve ever entered, it is the first I’ve EVER finaled in. (There’s nothing like validation to thrum the heart, let me tell you.) There are 5 other books in my category. Though I’m hopeful PIRATE BY NIGHT will do well, I’m making sure to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground. Whether or not I win first place, second, third, or place even lower doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. (Though it would be oh! so wonderful to win!) What really matters here, however, is my writing finally engaged someone. A reader actually liked my voice and my story! A fantastic first!

Another first for me: I received a full request from Harlequin Mills & Boon for PIRATE BY NIGHT and appear to finally have a book that appeals to an editor too. Another gigantic step in the right direction!

Day in and day out, writing is a lonely business. Rejections defeat the muse. Solitude crumbles self-esteem. Whether you’re a writer, a hardworking businesswoman, or a housewife, validation comes in many forms: a kind word, a promotion, a kiss, or a mysterious letter in the mail.

I’ve found wonder in firsts this year. What firsts have you experienced? Let us know so we can applaud your efforts.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yippee Ki Yay!

Recently I was checking my e-mail and a news article caught my attention. It said: “TV Horse to be Auctioned.” Since I love horses and was seriously trying to avoid doing any real work I clicked on it, wondering what horse would be for sale. There are no TV shows with horses. Imagine my surprise when a picture of a stuffed Trigger came up on the screen. Memories of my childhood in the sixties, sitting in front of a black and white television watching Roy Rogers and Dale Evans ride the prairie and catch the bad guys, flooded through me.

I adored Trigger (Roy’s glorious palomino), Buttermilk (Dale’s buckskin horse) and Bullet (the German Shepherd) – they were stars! Every kid wanted a horse like Trigger, one that was smart and beautiful. I was no exception. When we played cowboys I pretended to ride Trigger – dashing across the plains, righting wrongs and winning because back then the good guys always won. It was from stars like Roy and Dale that most of my generation developed a love of the West and a sense of honor. Nostalgia and some tears clouded my eyes as I read the story.

When Trigger died, Roy (who really loved that horse) had him stuffed. I know, it sounds morbid and unfair to the memory of the animal but I believe Roy did it for us. He preserved Trigger as a memorial, allowing my generation to see the horse we all loved. The Roy Rogers Museum also had Buttermilk, Trigger Jr. and Bullet preserved on display. Evidently Roy and Dale’s children no longer wanted to run the museum and were closing it. They were left with these icons, not knowing what to do with them.

The article said the children offered the stuffed animals to museums but, due to economic problems, no institution wanted them. I didn’t understand why. The article did not mention the Smithsonian but surely it should have jumped at the chance to have them! There are already plenty of stuffed animals at the Smithsonian, what are four more? I grew indignant. These animals were stars and part of our national heritage! We should want them! But no, Trigger and the rest were rejected. I sat there fuming about Julia Child’s kitchen and Archie Bunker’s chair at the Smithsonian – how could those compare to Trigger? And, as usual, my first thought was “I am going to send a letter, expressing disbelief over the government’s stupidity…” Then I calmed down. What was the use? It’s already done. Once again, unlike the days in the sixties and seventies when people actually banded together for a cause, I knew I’d be the lone Ranger if I expressed an opinion. That depressed me. No one seemed to care about things any more; we just blindly accept decisions and live our little lives with no thought to the nation as a whole. Ok, so enough preaching…Peace man…

Any way, to continue - Trigger, Buttermilk, Trigger Jr. and Bullet will be auctioned July 14th and 15th by Christies. I am sure they will bring a large amount at the auction, more than I have squirreled away in my cookie jar (I actually thought about it for a minute, mmm where would a rearing horse look good in the house?) They will probably go to separate owners, splitting them up forever. A sad thing.

Then I noticed the comments on the story and I just had to read them. Maybe there was a movement to save them! What I read surprised me even more. The main comment was that the animals should just be buried. Others (I am sure the Beanie Baby generation – talk about stuffed animals) told me and my generation to get over it, our time was passed and no one cared what happened to moth-eaten…I clicked it off before I responded and started an Internet War. Roy wouldn’t have liked that.

Anyway, I hope someone in my generation buys them. After all, if you spend that much money on buying stuffed animals, you’re going to take care of them, right? So, as a country we lost our chance to keep them, but I still have my memories: a beautiful palomino with a handsome cowboy riding the plains forever. Happy Trails!

Do you have fond childhood memories? Are there things you would want to preserve for future generations that meant a lot to you when you were a child? Better yet, want to join a movement…?


Monday, July 12, 2010

Changing Times

Jean, aka Pantster, here. Stephanie, aka Plotter, and I have some great news. We have a new blog address and some exciting plans.

First, and most important, two fabulous friends of ours, Cheryl Crisona and Katherine Bone, are now a part of the Okay, Listen Here family. They are great writers and you will love what they have to say.

I will continue to start the week out with you on Mondays. You can look for Cheryl on Tuesdays, Katherine on Wednesdays, and Stephanie on Thursdays. This month, continue to check in on Fridays and tell us what your reading but beginning in August we have some Friday Fun

So bookmark our new address and stop by and meet Cheryl tomorrow!



Changing Times

Jean, aka Pantster, here. Stephanie, aka Plotter, and I have some great news. We have a new blog address and some exciting plans.

First, and most important, two fabulous friends of ours, Cheryl Crisona and Katherine Bone, are now a part of the Okay, Listen Here family. They are great writers and you will love what they have to say.

I will continue to start the week out with you on Mondays. You can look for Cheryl on Tuesdays, Katherine on Wednesdays, and Stephanie on Thursdays. This month, continue to check in on Fridays and tell us what your reading but beginning in August we have some Friday Fun

So bookmark our new address and stop by and meet Cheryl tomorrow!



Friday, July 9, 2010


Pantster here.

We are a little brain dead right now. As Plotter reported in yesterday, our online pitch went very well and we got a request for a submission. Technically, I am between books, but I am about to crawl in bed with:

The Prince's Royal Concubine by Lynn Raye Harris.

Plotter will chime in later and tell us what's she's reading. In our excitement, we forgot to talk about it today.

What are you reading?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Harlequin American Romance Pitch Contest

Pantster and I were chosen as one of the five winners in the Harlequin American Romance Pitch Contest. This means that tomorrow we will have the opportunity to pitch our manuscript online to Harlequin Senior Editor, Kathleen Scheibling. We entered a one page synopsis and a brief log line. We learned during this experience that a log line is sort of like an elevator pitch--just a couple of sentences.

I know that many of you are finding it hard to believe that we were able to contain ourselves to a brief one page synopsis. You may find it even more difficult to believe that our current work in progress, which is PERFECT for Harlequin's American Romance line is under 60,000 words. Yeah, I know it sounds so implausible that I am still grasping it too.

We'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


It's hot. This is not news or a surprise. I do, after all, live in the Deep South and it is July. The last few weeks, I've been pondering something. Why do people feel led to eat outside on the Fourth of July? I've examined this with anyone I can draw into the conversation, which to be honest is only Ms. Classy and Dr. Effervescent. Ms. Classy loves to wear a subject out as well as I do and Dr. Effervescent is an anthropologist. You know how they love to ponder. Everybody else looks at me like I'm crazy when I try to make them speculate about this behavior, which I consider to be unbalanced.

This is what we've come up with: It's not because of making ice cream. I admit making ice cream with the old salt and ice method makes a mess, but try eating it outside. Pretty soon you've got liquid ice cream, which is what you started with in the first place. I pointed out to Ms. Classy that, these days, most people have those ice cream makers with the cylinders that you freeze. No mess. Ms. Classy said that you can buy ice cream. She should know. She's got nineteen-year-old twin boys and they can eat. She buys a lot of ice cream.

Dr. Effervescent thinks it's because somewhere along the way some man wanted to have a party on Independence Day, and his wife said, "Fine! But you're cooking. I cooked Christmas, Thanksgiving and on everybody's birthday. I'm not doing it." So the man cranked up the grill. That explains the cooking outside but not the eating. Grilled food can be taken inside where there is air conditioning, I know. I've done it. Anyway, lots of people eat outside even if they cooked inside or bought barbecue.

I guess people think they are supposed to have a picnic because it's the Fourth of July like they are supposed to have a Christmas tree. This I blame on the media. People on television and in magazines have picnics to celebrate this country's liberation from England--complete with red, white, and blue bunting. Everybody's supposed to fall in line. Well. I can almost promise you those people with that patriotic bunting, live where it's cooler and they are grabbing one of their few opportunities to be in the great out of doors for a holiday.

This is what I think. Here in the Deep South, we need to keep ourselves and our food inside in July. If we are going eat outside on a holiday, it should be Thanksgiving when it's seventy degrees, the trees are turning, and the bugs are dead. Then we should go on television and in magazines and demonstrate to the rest of the world that turkey is to be eaten outside.

Did you have picnic on the Fourth of July? If so, why?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Out of Focus

I hope everyone had a good Independence Day weekend. I am always reminded of the joke, “Do they have the Fourth of July in England?” Of course, you know the answer is yes but it isn’t a holiday to them. You would be surprised at how many people say, “No.”

On to more important matters…. Over the weekend I lost a contact. For some, that might not be much of a problem but since I am practically blind without corrective lenses it was quite the problem for me. I was out of town and I had my glasses, but I hate them so much that I rarely wear them. In fact, my own nieces didn’t know that I owned glasses until a few weeks ago when I was “caught” wearing glasses early one morning while my mother was in the hospital. I feel so strongly about avoiding my glasses that I always carry a spare pair of contacts in my travel bag, and, indeed, I had containers for a spare pair. I hope you noted that carefully worded sentence--I had containers, but only one extra contact, the one I didn’t lose, and one extra contact CASE. That’s right. The contact that I needed was just an empty case. So at that point I began to experiment. Which was a better choice, one contact and nothing in the other eye or the left contact in both eyes? With two left contacts and no right I didn't have many options.

At the end of the experiments, I chose to wear a left lens in each eye. My focus was a bit bleary but better than the alternative. I spent the remainder of the weekend a little out of focus. On the way home yesterday, I thought about that. How did I stay focused, and how hard it is sometimes to stay focused on writing or writing related projects. We all have families, friends, and most of us have day jobs that pay the bills.

What do you do to stay focused on writing?

Monday, July 5, 2010


Dariana may be an elf living in an alternate universe, but her pie would fit right in at any Fourth of July Celebration. It's a little extra trouble, but worth it. Ask Tylden!

Dariana Silvan's Apple Pie
(Sometimes known as Tylden Bait)

For the Crust:

1½ cups of all-purpose flour½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons shortening
½ cup extra sharp grated cheddar cheese
5-6 tablespoons ice water.

Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry blender until crumbly. Toss in cheese with a fork. Add water one tablespoon at a time, mixing until soft dough forms. Chill covered for 15 minutes. Roll on a floured surface and place in pie plate. Chill for 30 minutes. Proceed with recipe.
For the Pie:

½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8-teaspoon salt
6 cups thinly sliced apples of assorted varieties. This will be about six apples. (Just go to
the market and get six different kinds.)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 recipe topping mix (recipe follows)
Preheat over to 375F.
Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. In large bowl toss apples slices with lemon juice. Add flour mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to chilled cheese crust. Sprinkle with topping and place pie on a cookie sheet. Cover edges with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 25 minutes.

Topping Mix:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup quick cooking rolled oats
½ cup cold butter
Mix together brown sugar, flour, and oats. Cut in butter until it resembles course crumbs.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Plotter is reading:

The Murder Game by Christine Feehan
The Chief Ranger by Rebecca Winters

Pantster is reading:

Her Very Own Family by Trish Milburn
Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn

What are you reading?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Paper Love

I recently re-read The Lost General by Elswyth Thane. This is a story set after World War II about a young woman from New England who falls in love with a Revolutionary War general and goes to North Carolina to search for his grave. Once there, she falls in love with the young Southern gentleman whose family owns the land where the fallen general is buried.

Reading this reminded me of the book, For the Love of Robert E. Lee by, M.A. Harper. Here, a young girl in the 1960’s falls in love with General Lee, as she researches him for a report at school.

Many of you know of my love of a cowboy and some of you know the root of it. I love to read Louis L’Amour westerns, especially the Sackett stories. A friend once told me that one reason I have so much trouble finding men that I am willing to date is because I am in love with William Tell Sackett, but that he understood because he is more than half in love with Echo Sackett. It's easy to see why my friend would fall in love with a woman who, in her resolve to save her family's land, faces adversary with bravery and strength—even if she is fictional. I admit it's hard for a real flesh and blood man to measure up to my precious Tell Sackett; after all, he is perfect in my imagination.

Have you ever had a crush on a historical or fictional character?