Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Great Skunkapade or How to get New Carpet...

Have you ever sat down to relax, after a hard day, and had your entire world disrupted in an instant? It’s commonplace around here. Everyone and everything on the place seems to know exactly when I’m slipping on my tattered old flannel housecoat and settling in front of the television to unwind before bed. ESP? Or it is some insidious underground network that has been set up to prevent me from ever relaxing for the rest of my life…?

Last Tuesday night I had worked diligently on my pitches for the upcoming HOD/Huntsville Library Luncheon and also on my newest book. A good day’s work and I was tired. After a soothing shower, I dressed for bed, grabbing my favorite flannel housecoat. I sat down in my recliner and flipped on the television, surfing channels for at least something to watch. My hubby, good man that he is, always takes the dogs for a walk before bed. I never do this after dark because I am night-blind and could fall down a hole before anyone knew I was missing. Any way, I had finally found something on TV when I heard the back door open. The dogs flew into the room, panting and whining. Then it hit! SKUNK!

Of all the people you will ever meet, I am the most squeamish when it comes to bad odors. I have a weak stomach and bad smells make me heave, a lot. This odor was enough for me to lose my lunch for a week. I jumped up, trying to determine who had been sprayed. Mason, the Doberman, was running around the bedroom, whining and pestering the mutt, Rusty. My Sheltie was cowering over in the corner – obviously the smell was getting to her sensibilities too. So, it had to be either Mason or Rusty. My husband came in and said that a skunk had sprayed somewhere near the house. I gave him a nasty look and informed him it had also sprayed one of the dogs. He argued that it was just the smell from outside until he got closer. He, coward, backed out of the bedroom, leaving it to me.

It only took one whiff – Rusty had taken the spray head-on. She was rolling on my carpet and then running to me to try to swipe the offensive odor on my favorite housecoat.

Mason, who seemed to be the only one enjoying the whole mess, was grinning from ear to ear. Chaos! It’s great! The lady is running around - time to have FUN!!!

I immediately tried to get Rusty out of the bedroom without touching her. Not happening. Every time I got near her, she began rolling and whining. I screamed for my hubby to help me before the entire room was permeated with the smell. He studiously ignored me, staying in the kitchen. Deciding that I was on my own, I tackled Rusty, pinning her down. I picked her up and, heaving until my eyes watered, stumbled to the garage. The smell in there was horrible! I remembered the thiotrol I had gotten from the vet for just such an occasion. This stuff is supposed to neutralize the smell of a skunk (no – from experience – tomato paste does NOT work). Now that the threat of contamination had been defused, hubby was more than happy to drench Rusty and me with the stuff. Rusty was relegated to the outdoors for the night.

Returning to the house, I stripped and threw everything I had on into the washer. I took another shower and then set about trying to do something about the smell in the bedroom. The thiotrol helped but it stinks too. Febreze, vinegar, baking powder – I attacked the carpet with everything. Around midnight I had the smell under control enough to finally climb into bed after changing the sheets and blanket. Exhausted, I fell asleep, still smelling skunk. (Not to worry, I cleaned the entire carpet the next day – all better, but I am going to get new carpet…)

Have you ever planned to have a quiet evening and had it horribly disrupted? Or had a time set aside to relax and had someone or something disturb your carefully laid plans? I know kids are good at that, probably more so than my lovely pets. Share an experience of total chaos with us!

Monday, August 30, 2010

I Like to Had a Come-Apart when I saw He Was Wearing Go-To-Hell-Pants

Vernacular can be a tricky thing for a writer. Stephanie and I sometimes worry that some of our phraseology might not translate to the non-southern speaking part of the world. We worry even more, since we speak our own brand of shorthand with each other, that we use language that we don't realize others are not familiar with. For instance we know that "Raefen out of here," means leave as early as possible. This comes from our friends, the Raefens, who after a weekend away, like to get an early start for home. Everyone in our circle understands it--even those who don't know the Raefens. We used to laugh when we said it. Now, it's part of our language and is no more funny than, "Let's get an early start in the morning." We would not use this phrase in a book but we have others that we have forgotten we invented.

In Lauren Lipton's fabulous book, Mating Rituals of the North American WASP, I recently ran across something I had never heard of--Go-to-hell pants. I quote:

"What do you call those preppy pants, the kind where the right front leg is, like, yellow, and the left front leg is pink, and the right back leg is, I don’t know, green and the left back leg --"

"Go-to-hell pants," Luke interrupted. "What’s your point?"

"You people are lunatics,” Bex scoffed. “You can wear pants like that, but you won’t say one little 'I love you'? Don't be such a WASP, Luke."

I was intrigued by this and immediately went to my friendly Internet and learned that these pants are generally any loud crazy pants, often with a repeating pattern of embroidered motifs like lobsters, golf clubs, or alligators.

Apparently, these pants have been around for a long time but Tom Wolfe got around to christening them go-to-hell pants in a 1976 Esquire article.

This is what he had to say on the matter:

". . . had on their own tribal colors. The jackets were mostly navy blazers, and the ties were mostly striped ties or ties with little jacquard emblems on them, but the pants had a go-to-hell air: checks and plaids of the loudest possible sort, madras plaids, yellow-on-orange windowpane checks, crazy-quilt plaids, giant hounds-tooth checks, or else they were a solid airmail red or taxi yellow or some other implausible go-to-hell color. They finished that off with loafers and white crew socks or no socks at all. The pants were their note of Haitian abandon... at the same time the jackets and ties showed they had not forgotten for a moment where the power came from."

Who knew? That's what I wanted to know so I conducted one of my master mind totally scientific studies--meaning I asked the people I was with.

Last night, after going to see Saban, Gamechanger, I found myself at dinner with The Guy, Godson's Mom, Mr. and Mrs. Classy, and Mr. and Mrs. Cutest Girl Alive. Now, this is a smart group--traveled, educated, creative, and professional. (I don't know why they let me hang out with them.) This crew has logged time in sororities, fraternities, locker rooms, golf courses, tennis courts, the Junior League, and any number of seedy and upscale bars. Not all of them are "From Here". Yet, when I said. "Hey, y'all, listen here. Who's heard of go-to-hell pants?", six pairs of clueless eyes turned to me. Six heads shook to indicate that they had no idea what I meant.

I educated them, as far as I was able.

Mrs. Classy said, "I've seen those pants. I know what you mean. I did not know that's what they are called." She did not approve. She is after all, classy.

I told The Guy I might buy him some. "Go ahead," he said in a tone that might have well have had a Clint Eastwood-style "make my day', tacked to the end.

"Well, I need some," Mr. Cutest Girl Alive said. "I'll wear them. But I need them to be in the colors of The Crimson Tide."

I'm going to get right on that. Being very nearly as cute as his wife, he could get away with wearing them.

Have you ever heard of these pants? What have you learned about other cultures in your fiction reading?

Friday, August 27, 2010


A big thank you to Katharine Ashe for being with us yesterday. Drop by and get to know her better at http://www.katharineashe.com/ and check out her book Swept Away By a Kiss.

And speaking off . . . .

Kathy reading Swept Away By a Kiss now!
Stephanie is reading The Best Man in Texas by Tanya Michaels
Jean is reading Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton
Cheryl is reading something. She always is. But Jean is a disorganized slacker and did not find out. Cheryl, what are you reading?

And that goes for the rest of you: What are you reading?

We are going to be a little out of pocket today. Our fabulous chapter, Heart of Dixie, is involved in an all day workshop with Huntsville Public Library. If we don't chime in with you today, check back tonight.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Heat. The Good Kind.

Okay Listen Here is proud and honored to have Katharine Ashe as our guest blogger today. Katharine lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her husband, son, two dogs, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of European history, she has made her home in California, Italy, France, and the northern US.

RT Book Reviews awarded her debut historical romance, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, a “TOP PICK!” review, calling it “a page-turner and a keeper.” Please visit her at www.katharineashe.com

Everyone please welcome Katharine to Okay Listen Here:

I’ve been thinking about heat. Various kinds.

I am a Yankee, a transplant to the south and a very happy one indeed. (Thank you, lovely hosts, for inviting a northerner onto your southern ladies’ blog!) I love hot sun and blue skies and baking temperatures, and even sweat. Yes, sweat. Doesn’t sound very southern-lady feminine, does it? Sometime during my college years in North Carolina, a friend told me real ladies don’t spit and they don’t sweat. They glow.

But any northerner who has lived amongst southern women and come to know them a bit understands the Steel Magnolia thing. Southern women are strong. Incredibly tough. They have to be to hold up in this weather—like Cheryl defending her animals from the heat wave! And, beneath their sunflower-colored linen dresses and wide brimmed mesh hats, they sweat.

All women sweat. But southern women don’t complain about it. They climb right up on that sizzling tin roof and make something of it.

Then there’s another kind of heat I’ve been thinking about lately. Spice.

The other day I ate a plate of Goan pork that blew the top of my head right off. My husband cooked it, doubling the Indian spices but not the meat for some unfathomable reason (bless his heart). It was an amazing experience. A full-body trauma. I’ve only once before tasted food that hot, in a Thai restaurant in Oxford, England. Sitting at the tiny table decorated with white cloth and a bowl of chicken apparently prepared by the Devil, my mouth flamed. To be expected. Then everything else did too. My throat contracted. My chest burned. My eyes—like emergency firefighters—welled, spilled, then streamed, seeking to put out the blaze and failing miserably.

This lasted for a full half hour.

I did not consider it a negative experience. On the contrary.

Why? Because in those moments I was fully, thoroughly, devastatingly alive. No longer safe in my usual routine. When I ate that diabolical chicken, the heat was part of the flavor, and I enjoy flavors. The more colorful, the richer, the more complex my experiences of life, the happier I am. Life is to be savored in all its glory—the tender and strong, sweet and sharp, vulnerable and powerful. The mild and scorching hot.

Which brings me to the kind of heat I’ve mostly been thinking about. The heat of passion. I read and write romance because of this heat.

I’m not talking about love scenes, by the way. I am talking about passion for life.

I adore romance novels—any novels—in which the characters seek out life, longing for more than The Everyday, more than they’ve been given, more than they even think they can bear. They ache for the extraordinary and refuse to rest content until they have found it, whether that something is the top of a mountain, a more just world, the love of another heart, or an unbreakable bond with their god.

No noble goal can be reached without great effort. Such effort takes courage. It takes determination. It takes a heart and soul willing to weep on the way to triumph. To get a little damp. And a little hot. Ask any mountain climber if she sweats while striving for the apex. I bet she’ll say heck yeah.

So you see, when I think about heat—and it’s mighty hot these days in the southeast—I think... life.

From a steaming cheese pizza to a sun-coated beach, a hunky actor to a sizzling romance novel, what’s your favorite hot stuff?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why Is The Rum Always Gone?

Arrr, mateys! I’m a pirate at heart. Though I live nearly six hours from the coast, bath frequently, and prefer my rum mixed in a strawberry daiquiri rather than grog, I yearn for adventure on the high seas and a head full of dreads. Though, in truth, I prefer daiquiris, this question always arises: why is the rum always gone?

“Did you see that undead monkey?”

I digress, you say? Well then, where does fascination with pirates begin? Perhaps mine began when I was a young girl and told a friend, “If you don’t do this I won’t be your friend.” Pirate! (As an aside, I have learned how to treat friends kindly. If you do, they will always guard your back.)

Did growing up with a younger brother who loved comic books and thought it was cool to pretend to be superheroes or sword-buckling spies inspire me to herald the black flag when it was the two of us up against the unknown? Oh, the innocence, the unspoiled adventurer born out of youth! Pirate!

Perhaps my love for adventure began with Captain Blood, Blackbeard’s Ghost, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Hook, The Black Swan, or Cutthroat Island? Aiding my inclination to rove, I have a large collection of research books. Who else but a pirate lover would devour books by authors: Fern Michaels, Suzanne Enoch, Michelle Beattie, Gaelen Foley, Joanna Lindsey, Rona Sharon, Lynsay Sands, Bobbi Smith, and Trish Albright, and raise a cutlass in salute to them all? Perhaps the wisest pirate of them all was Walt Disney, a man who brought the character, Captain Jack Sparrow, to life. Witty and resourceful, Jack is the embodiment of true piratedom. He is a man who knows how to pilfer his greedy guts out while saving the day and getting a slap across his face for his trouble. Pirate!

Through the years, my family has tried to discourage my fascination with pirates, though they still haven’t figured out how. A roving nature cannot be suppressed, you see. Maybe that’s why I’ve always taken to the life of a military brat and a military wife. Moving over land and sea to places like Japan, Germany and Italy, forced me to accept the challenging winds and land at ports unknown. Who but a pirate can do that?

I have a confession to make. Everywhere I go, if I see a ship, a pirate statue, pirate display, or a golden man who looks like a statue but is a live pirate, I must get my picture taken for posterity’s sake. And for this reason and this reason alone, I asked friends to join me at the Pirate Show in Orlando. Someone I know and love, whose name shall never bear the black spot, hated the mania. I, of course, drank in each and every minute of piratey fun by raising my grog in song. My blood was invigorated by the pirate horde, the damsel in distress and the hero who with his loyal companion stormed the ship to save the day.

Though there was gnashing of teeth, I made sure every vixen was photographed in a pirate hat. Some had to be threatened with steel. Pirate!

And still others were gifted with a complimentary hat to show they weren't forgotten.

Okay, me hearties. You’ve read this far and you’re thinking… “We get it. You love pirates! Where are you going with this?”

So glad you asked! Tomorrow we at Okay, Listen Here, will welcome our first guest blogger, Katharine Ashe. Her book, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, is out on the shelves now. I highly recommend this book and as a pirate, I implore you to make sail, brave the winds and steer a course to your nearest bookstore. This book is full of adventure, laced with mystery, and brimming with sensual tension. I can’t seem to put it down! All together now… pirate!

Before you go out and buy Katharine Ashe’s book, share an experience you’ve had that qualifies you to be a pirate. And if you please, is there an undead monkey hanging around in your life and why is the rum always gone?

Lynn Raye Harris, you're the winner of yesterday's blog. Please e-mail Cheryl at fracriso@aol.com to claim your prize. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Are We Possessed?

Last Saturday I attended Beverly Barton’s book signing for her new novel "Don’t Cry." As a member of Heart of Dixie, I am proud of each and every one of our members when they have a book coming out - whether it’s their first or their seventieth. Other HOD members came and we sat at the coffee shop talking as Beverly greeted her fans and signed books.

I watched those women eagerly discussing plot lines and their latest story ideas , so animated, and I began wondering why we write romance. I mean, every one of them have other careers and training in different fields – what made them choose the difficult path of writing in such a highly competitive business? Family, husbands, illnesses, tragedies – all affect us, distracting our attention and yet, we all eagerly escape to our little writing warren and lose ourselves in our latest story ideas. WHY?

The general public has no idea how difficult it is to birth a story, to give it life and dimension, and then put it out there to be criticized (sometimes unfairly) in the hopes of being published. The perception that a romance writer is a lonely, single woman sitting in a cozy bungalow, surrounded by cats, spinning fantasy about how love should be is about as far from the truth as saying you’re healthy as a horse (Horses are about the sickest creatures on this earth – I wonder how they have survived evolutionary destruction – I digress…). Romance writers are educated, literate women with full lives, other jobs, and who possess an intelligence that is amazing. So why do they do this? Suffer and agonize over the slightest details…I have to know.

I kind of fell into the genre by accident. At one time (before I was bitten by the writing bug and had more time), I was a voracious reader. I loved reading romances, seeing the conflicts and how the writer resolved them. The more I read, the more ideas of how I would write such a novel kept invading my brain. So, one morning, I sat down and began writing. I kept writing, hiding what I was doing from my husband for fear of derision (and death and mayhem when he did laugh). I poured my ideas into what I thought would surely be the next bestseller. I did not have a clue about what I was doing. I had never heard of the RWA and had no idea about the major industry involved with romance novels. I just wrote what I felt. I finished that 95,000-word novel and wrote four more in the series. I thought they were brilliant. (Sadly, upon learning more about the craft, I sort of cringe when I think back about those books and then solemnly vow to revisit them – rewrites).

I had begun this journey…

For me, writing is fulfilling the need to get those pesky little people out of my head. I see something and a story pops up, rolling around in my head until I have to get it down on paper (or the computer screen). It’s not some underlying need to write what I think love should be – it’s just a need to tell a story that happens to be romantic. I don’t sit and spin a fantasy about true love (I have that – thank God). So I guess I am not a sad little woman with her cats who is dreaming of the man she should have. I simply want to write a good story. After all, most novels are fantasy (including Stephen King’s novels – duh- and even John Grisham’s – lawyers do not act that way). Novels are just stories. Just STORIES…hmmm

So, tell me, why do you write romance? How did you begin in this genre? And, most of all, what keeps you writing? Share your story with me. Even if it’s all about becoming the next Beverly Barton, Linda Howard, Linda Jones or Norah Roberts and all that lovely money…

I shall reward one lucky commenter with an autographed copy of Beverly Barton’s newest release AND a handcrafted bracelet (made by me).

Monday, August 23, 2010


Football is upon us. I am so happy. I had my first real taste this past Friday night when Precious Angel played in the high school preseason game. For the occasion, Stephanie had the most festive flip-flops I have ever seen.

She was going to craft them herself but she talked someone else into doing it for her. She isn't ordinarily crafty but was willing to try for want of the team spirit flip-flops. Rumor has it that I will have some by this Friday for the first regular season game—which is between the two high schools in our fair little city.

I am beside myself.

Precious Angel was beside himself earlier in the week too, but his excitement—unlike mine—wasn't the happy kind. Godson's Dad (who is, of course, Precious Angel's father) called me bright and early Wednesday morning and said, "I've got to make this quick but I need to tell you that Precious Angel and QB-1 were horsing around in the pool O team party and Precious Angel split QB-1's head open. He had to go to the ER."

"OH NO!" I said. "Is PA okay?"

"Upset," said Godson's Dad. "You know you he is." I do indeed.

For those of you who do not speak football, let me give you some background and translate. Precious Angel plays right guard on the offensive line. His job, which he takes very seriously, is to protect the quarterback. (Rule one: Protect the quarterback. Rule two: Protect the quarterback.) The offensive team had a pool party—I guess to promote brotherhood and celebrate the start of the season. Precious Angel and the first string quarterback—whom PA has sworn to protect with his very life—knocked heads and it ended with a visit to the emergency room (for both of them; PA as a spectator and QB-1 as a patient) and stitches for QB-1.

All ended well. QB-1 took the field and preformed well. As I watched Precious Angel block and tackle, I could almost hear him say, "Oh, no you don't! Not my QB. Not on my watch."

Are you ready for some football?

Friday, August 20, 2010


Jean is reading The Courtesan's Scandal by Julia London

Stephanie is reading Velvet Promise by Jude Deveraux

Cheryl is reading Double Play by Joanne Rock.

Kathy is reading Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin

What are you reading?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kick Ball Anyone?

Yesterday my class was playing kickball and it occurred to me how the roles people play in kickball as kids are often similar to the ones they eventually play in life. What follows is a true story. Not even my very fertile imagination could dream this up. You always hear about the emotional trauma of the kid who was consistently chosen last for playground games; well, at my school I was always chosen AFTER that kid. No really. First, the Athletic Als were picked, then the Fast Frannys, then the Average Amys, followed by the So-so Sammys, and the Slow Sallys. Then they would pick the fat kid with one eye. Seriously, we had a severely overweight boy in our class who had a glass eye. They would argue about whose team had to take him. THEN, they would look at me, point, and say, “You be the hind-catcher for both teams.” Now that said, I probably had it coming because I did hold an athletic record at my elementary school until it closed in the 90’s as the ONLY child to ever strike out twice in the same game of kickball.

As I watched the kids playing yesterday, I thought about the roles my childhood friends had on the playground and the adults they became. One friend was always the team captain. Today he owns his own business and is a great but bossy dad, still fulfilling the role of team leader. Most of the Athletic Als from my childhood played ball for years and now their kids are Al, Juniors. The Fast Franny that I knew in grade school is, indeed, still fast and she needs to be since she is the mother of twins and the principal of an elementary school. I am not sure where most of the Average Amys or So-so Sammys ended up, but at least some still live in my hometown because my nieces go to school with their children. The one-eyed kid moved away from our town during middle school and really who could blame him? I would have gone with him if my parents would have allowed it, but instead I find that I continue to try to be everything to everyone. I guess I am still trying to be the hind-catcher for everyone I know.

How about you?
What role do you see yourself as in the great kickball game of life?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


In the beginning, there was Naomi and Ruth, Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, Thelma and Louise, and the friends from, well… Friends. At Okay, Listen Here, you’ll find Jean, Stephanie, Cheryl, and me. Realizing how lucky I am to be part of such a fine group of southern ladies, I began to wonder who invented the mysterious, superfluous, and iconic relationship people need on a basic level… friendship.

A good southern woman is taught to be a friend from childhood. (Cue Steel Magnolia’s) Southern women are bred to offer companionship, sustenance, and solace to those they love and in times of need. Born in a Texan family with northern roots on my mother’s side, I was taught early on what it meant to give your word and follow through. Add my Army Brat roots on top of this and you’ve got quite a combination of loyalty, grit, duty, and service.

Friendship, as defined by The American Heritage Dictionary, ‘is a condition or relation of being friends. Friendly feeling toward another, friendliness.’
A friend, also defined by The American Heritage Dictionary, ‘is a person whom one knows, likes and trusts. Any associate or acquaintance. A favored companion... One with whom one is allied in a struggle of cause; a comrade. One who supports; sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement.’

Moving every three years when I was growing up taught me a lot about making friends, keeping them across a span of many separations, leaving friends and starting the process all over again. Though it may not seem like it, the world is a very small place. I often run into people I knew when I was a young Army brat or a military wife. It never ceases to amaze me when I run into someone I’ve known from another part of the world, especially someone who remembers lil’ ol’ me.

As children we learn early on how to set the dividing line between acquaintances and friends. Children instinctively grasp when someone can be trusted. A child has an uncanny sense about these things. Still, there are times when children and adults overlook these hints and learn the hardest lesson of all… betrayal. Loyalty and betrayal are closely linked. Without opening oneself, friendship cannot be achieved. Without trusting another soul, intimacy cannot be met.

What a joy it is then, when friends are found who can be trusted, when friends appear in your time of need. Who, but a friend, would know without asking when you aren’t feeling well or have had a bad day? Who, but a friend, cringes at your wounds, cries with outrage when you’re slighted, or applauds your grandest achievements?

I have always envied women who have been friends since childhood. (Cue Designing Women) My particular upbringing has given me friends for life, but friends I rarely get the chance to meet or see. After putting down roots in the south and joining my local writing chapter, Heart of Dixie, times have changed. I’ve been given the opportunity to make the kinds of friendships I’ve always admired in the movie, Steel Magnolia’s. And at Okay, Listen Here, I’ve found the Southern that makes life worth Living in the friendships I’ve made with Jean, Stephanie and Cheryl.

I leave you with a snippet of this poem by Lucy Larcom, called Plant A Tree.

He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.
Rootlets up through fibres blindly grope;
Leaves unfold into horizons free.
So man’s life must climb
From the clods of time
Unto heavens sublime.
Canst thou prophesy, thou little tree,
What the glory of thy boughs shall be?

Extend a hand to someone in friendship. Maintaining friendship is a mysterious journey, a journey that begins with a simple ‘hello’. We are the fibres binding rootlets which uphold the tree of life. Each of us must help the other climb in order to bring glory to each bough.

If your friendship resembled a tree, what kind of tree would that be? And are you the root or the bough?


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We're Having a Heat Wave...not a tropical one

In light of the recent heat wave (no pun intended), this blog is a how-to instruction on how to beat the heat if you’re an animal and have a crazy lady to take care of you.

Farmers have had a rough go of it lately. Temperatures have been well over 100 nearly every day for the last couple of weeks. Farmers don’t go insane, however, about their animals. To them animals are, well, just that, animals. They insure there is plenty of water and a shadey place for the animals to escape the direct sun. End of story.

Did I mention? I am not a farmer even though I have one (sort of). My vet calls my place a spa resort for horses, dog, cats and fish. He said he wants to come back as one of my pets. Fat chance, I’m leaving way before he croaks…

Any way, as the temperatures began rising, my worry level began to rise. I ran around checking water, watching the animals. The first victims were the cats. Now, these cats go out during the day, doing cat things and ending up on my back porch at night to be ushered in and fed. They know the routine – the crazy lady won’t let us out until sunrise – there are animals out there roaming the woods at night (wish she’d let us join them). They laze around the pool and on the porch, making forays to the barn to chase mice, then back to the porch with presents. I would let them out in the morning but by nine o’clock, I began running around, snatching them up and forcing them inside to enjoy (and they’d better enjoy it) the air conditioning. It worked a couple of days until they got wise and started running when they saw me– who wants to be inside with those dogs? Three cats were easy. But one, Tiger, did not want to go in. I would sneak around and grab him by the pool where he would hide under a lounger. He got smart about that too. I reached around a chair to get him, he ran and I lost my balance falling fully clothed into the pool. He sat on the porch, cleaning himself and smirking about me standing there dripping wet. I nabbed him anyway. Teach him to smirk.

We have the common tin barns which you usually see now on farms. Did I mention – tin barns get very hot? The first horse, a twenty-year old stallion, to succumb to the heat got a trip to the vet and a stay in the air conditioning because he wouldn’t eat in the heat. We have fans in the halls, wind tunnels in fact, and fans on each stall but it was still hot. He stayed a couple of days, luxuriating in the cool and making eyes at the mare across the way. Then the vet called and said to come get him, he was tearing up the place (sort of like an aged rocker trying to impress the girls). I panicked – how would we keep him cool? A mister! We put a mister fan on his stall and he loved it – standing there letting the cool breeze hit him and soak him to the skin. Then I looked around – the other horses were jealous. Misters for the house. But the barn was still hot.

Soooo… I have teenage boys who help me with the farm, sort of. I grabbed one and told him we were working on the barn the next morning at six. He rolled his eyes (teenagers do not like any hour before noon). I got the equipment and met him the next morning. He was barely awake but willing to help the crazy lady. We dragged out the ladder and began our assault on the summit – thirty-five feet up to the ridge of the barn with – ta da – soaker hoses! My plan was to run them on each side of the ridge and cool down the tin. He gave me another one of those teenager looks and began walking up the roof. I, being older and wiser and afraid of any more broken bones, was crawling up the tin. I screamed for him to get down and he did, skinning his knee in the process (I got the blame for all the blood). We worked diligently, spreading the hoses until we reached the end when he nonchalantly reminded me that today was his birthday as he was hanging over the edge to attach the water hose. Imagine my horror! It just doesn’t look good on the headstone to have the same dates. I grabbed his leg and told him to be careful, nearly scaring him off the edge. Another teenager look and we were done. Water is now dripping down the eaves of the barn and the inside is cooler. However, people have nearly wrecked their trucks passing the barn and seeing it dripping – it isn’t raining, so where’s the water coming from? That has been a source of entertainment for the neighborhood. Did I mention I live in the middle of no where? We are easily amused out here…

I bought umbrellas to put around the koi pond; can’t let the little fish get sunburned. Watching the sun and checking its position, I run out, moving the umbrellas like any good cabana girl. Only I don’t get a tip. Cool water is applied liberally – can’t let them heat up. Still no tip.

The dogs, well, they seem to be the smartest animals on the place. We take our little jaunt in the morning. But, when they are done, they rush the door. They do not like the heat. I usually find then lying under a ceiling fan during the day. Wish I could join them but I'm too busy running around trying to keep every one else cool.

For the last few days, I have been outside in the heat, applying water to plants, horses, cats, dogs, and fish but not myself. I finally succumbed, suffering heat stroke. Now everyone is smirking at me…

How do you beat the heat? Lying at the pool or just staying inside? Any heat related stories out there? Or are you smarter than me and avoiding it all together?

Monday, August 16, 2010


Mixing another genre with romance isn't new. Romantic suspense and historical romance, for example, are our old friends. But it seems that every day there is another fun new blend out there.

If the Duke waltzing with the debutant at Almacks only comes out at night and blood is his meal of choice, you've got yourself a paranormal Regency romance. If a twenty-first century aspiring actress wakes up in the arms of a medieval knight, you can bet she has time traveled and, since it is a romance, there will be a happily ever after. If the hero rides a unicorn to visit the heroine, it's a fantasy romance.

If the point of the story is the romantic relationship, it's still a romance—even if the hero and heroine are robots fighting slugs from outer space.

I had an idea for an inspirational, medical, science fiction romance. What do you think?

Herman Montrose thanks the Lord above every day for the rusty nail he stepped on because, if not for it, he might have never met Dr. Tiffany Sue Ledbetter, who gave him a tetanus shot. But after he is bitten by a demon serpent in a snake handling service, Tiffany Sue is forced to amputate his arm to save his life. Herman loses faith in God, Tiffany Sue—and himself.

In an attempt to create a miracle that will bring her luscious mountain man back to her, Tiffany Sue endeavors to clone Herman's arm in her lab, which was once her granddaddy's moonshine steel. But things go awry and Tiffany Sue ends up with double the trouble when she produces another one-armed Herman.

Or is it double the fun?

That was a joke. It's hot. That's my only excuse.

What's your favorite genre blend?

Friday, August 13, 2010


We are reading:

Stephanie--Fourth graders' papers

Jean--Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

Kathy--Jane Slayer, The Literary Classic... With A Blood-Sucking Twist by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin

Cheryl--Born on the Fourth of July - a Blaze trilogy by Jill Shalvis, Rhonda Nelson and Karen Foley

What are you reading?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

2010 RWA National Conference

As I was thinking about writing today's blog I was torn between two subjects that are really on my mind right now-Conference and football. It has been tough to get into the swing of things at school because I want to stay at home and either read about football or work on the requests we got at conference. Neither of these trains of thought are really very conducive to teaching 4th graders reading. In the end, I chose to talk about last month's RWA national conference since there is really still a little more time until football season starts, even in Alabama.

As some of the other gals have mentioned, conference this year was GREAT! I personally had a wonderful conference. I got to attend the Leadership Conference on Wednesday for my local chapter; then, on Thursday I got the chance to present the newly declared candidates for the upcoming elections at the Annual General Meeting. I also had the opportunity to meet lots and lots of people. I gave out over 200 cards and got many back in return. Meeting new people is one of my very favorite things. I know that many writers are more introverted than I am but I absolutely love getting to talk with all the different people I cross paths with.
Of course. this year one of the highest of highlights was meeting the another writing team, Staci and Sara! It was wonderful to talk with another pair about their process and how the partnership works for them.

I was reminded of again and again through out the conference, how absolutely great my local RWA chapter,Heart of Dixie, is. The chapter members all pulled together and helped each other in hundreds of different ways. I know we have mentioned before how great we think our RWA chapter is, but seeing how everyone worked hard make the conference good for our first timers truly warmed my heart. I feel very fortunate and blessed to be part of such a fabulous sisterhood--and the shoes aren't bad either!

What has been the best support, help or advice that you have received?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hay Is For Horses, Isn't It?

Hay Is For Horses, Isn’t It?

The word ‘hay’ has been in existence since before 12oo, according to my new Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, The Origins of American English Words (clapping hands together with glee!). According to the World Book Encyclopedia, ‘hay may be made up of cultivated grasses such as timothy, bluegrass, and redtop.’ World Book goes on to say that hay can also ‘be made from some of the wild, or prairie, grasses, Alfalfa, clover, velvet beans, rye, barley, and oats’. And, this ‘dried-plant food dates almost as far back as the taming of the horse’.

I’m a southern girl at heart, Texas born and bred, though I’ve lived all over the world. But lately, after spending many Sundays driving up to Tennessee to visit my father-in-law, who’d had surgery, I found myself taking note of the many hay bales dotting the countryside. Round monoliths weighing nigh to 1 ½ tons (actually 1.4 metric tons), the shapely/earthly sculptures caught my fancy. Soon I found myself wondering what it was about hay bales that intrigued me. Was it a reminder of the past glories of harvest time? A nod to simpler days when men were men and women outwitted them? (As an historical writer, I particularly love that one! )

Apparently, my fascination goes deeper. You see, when I look at a large round hay bale, I see a design that flows toward its center, swirling/curling to the focal point, the inner sanctum which can make or break a farmer’s harvest.

The round sculptured hay bale! Like a delicious chocolate dessert with a gooey chocolaty center pouring out onto a plate, I had an epiphany. You guessed it. Hay is a metaphor for writing. Indeed, my friends! When hay is baled wet and too soon, it spoils. Hay sweats. Therefore it becomes toxic when heated in a barn, a lethal weapon of destruction certain to destroy that which houses it.

Writing is like that for me. My stories need to cure in my mind, like hay needs to dry in the field. If I bale my harvest too soon and don’t give my ideas time to percolate, my characters, my plot ferment and mold, becoming unrecognizable, forcing me to rewrite again and again. If I follow through with preparation, allowing my ideas and plot to air/formulate, I prevent the ensuing motivation and conflict’s incineration. Further, if I keep, what I like to call, a character/plot book in which I can jot down character traits, names of the cast, backstory and important plot points, I house my story in a safe and adequate house.

If you bale it, horses will come. Okay, that sounds silly, but isn’t it true? Now, imagine that scenario with your writing. If you write from your center, agents and editors will love it. Readers will buy it. They will come to your house (the bookstore) and put down hard-earned money to own a piece of your harvest, which you as a writer have researched, prepared and stored properly for such an event. From the heart of a hay bale or a book, the reward is tangible. It all comes down to what’s inside.

Today, my wish for you is to think about your center. If you’re a writer, are you nurturing what inspires the muse, filling your well with positive influences and welcome praise for the smallest of everyday accomplishments as you achieve your writing goals? If you’re a reader, what books fill your well and what is it at the heart of a story that ignites your interest, be it historical or contemporary?


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Can Make It To The Fence In 2.8 Seconds. Can you?

I have a very friendly FedEx guy who is always pleasant and is always ready with a smile. Except the other day...

The white truck pulled up to the front of my house and the dogs, as usual, went wild, barking and jumping against the sidelights. In order to escape the din, I stepped out on the porch to accept the delivery. I walked down the sidewalk to meet the FedEx guy, save him a walk, and take the package. Suddenly a flipping metal noise behind me erupted just as the poor guy met me. Ninety-five pounds of Doberman Pinscher had just rushed the door, opened it and was bounding down the sidewalk, headed directly for the guy. The package was shoved abruptly into my hands and the guy bolted through the flowerbed for his truck. I have never seen someone move so quickly in my entire life. He was fumbling with the sliding door on the truck just as the dog made it there. Mason, the love of my life, stood silently grinning at the man, doing nothing. I walked over, took a firm grip on his collar and dragged the dog back to the house. The FedEx guy tore off down the driveway, never looking back. The sign obviously meant something to him. Needless to say, I don’t know if the guy will ever come back or if he will be smiling if he does.

Meet Mason – a German Doberman (not like the American Doberman because his head and body are bigger and more powerful).

I never believed fifteen years ago that I would ever own a Dobie. I had always heard how vicious they were and that they turned on their masters. Not a truth to any of it. Someone threw out a Dobie at our farm and there began my love for the breed. That dog has since passed and I, stupidly, got another one from a breeder of German Dobermans. Mason was the runt of the litter and the breeder didn’t think very much of him. I knelt in the middle of his littermates and he was the only one who came bobbling over to me, climbing into my lap. Well, he grew and grew, surpassing the biggest of his littermates. I have a small horse in my house.

Mason or “Moosey” as I call him is a veritable bull in a china shop. He lopes through the house, sending cats flying and all of my chachkas crashing to the floor. He owns the bed, sleeping between my husband and me. I have been awakened mid-air just before I hit the floor when he stretched his paws and pushed me out. He has no remorse – it’s his bed.

The other day one of my other dogs, a mutt who is extremely smart, found a mole. I never knew moles scream but, believe me, they do. She was tossing it in the air, playing. It captured Mason’s attention and he trotted over while I started running. I knew what he was going to do. Before the female dog realized what was happening, Mason grabbed the mole and swallowed it whole. No amount of screaming, “Drop it” did any good; the mole was gone…for a while. Later, in the house, I heard a strange noise in the living room – the mole was back, just not in as good a shape as before. Gagging and cursing, I kept wondering as I cleaned up the mess “Why do I have this dog?” He plopped down on the floor, obviously feeling much better.

We have been thrown out of three obedience classes. One occasion was quite memorable. A lady with a miniature Doberman (absolutely no relation to the large breed Doberman) kept bringing her dog over beside Mason. She kept saying, “Isn’t this cute? A big Dobie and a little Dobie.” I kept saying “Lady, if you value your dog, please get him away. Mason isn’t vicious but he hunts rats at the barn…” She didn’t get the subtle hint and a few seconds later, Mason was trying to swallow her dog. The trainer quietly told me that we had to leave. I didn’t get a refund either.

In actuality, Mason and all Dobermans are a very gentle breed (Yeah, I hear you, he tried to eat a dog – okay it did look like a rat…). They are smart, cunning and extremely loyal. As long as Momma says you’re ok, he’ll show you the good stuff in the house and let you take it. He tries to climb in everyone’s lap – he doesn’t really realize he’s big. However, if Momma don’t like you – you ain’t coming in the house or the yard for that matter. I once caught a guy trying to steal one of our tractors. Mason on the job – he chased the guy over the first fence and by the time the guy hit the second one, Mason had nailed him. He came back grinning with blue jean material in his mouth. Oh, yeah, if Momma don’t like you…

So, do you have a pet who owns the house, the yard and everyone in them? Tell me your “baby” stories. Mason needs a play date; he’s bored with chasing the cats and the horses and everything else that moves.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Men do not understand the workings of the female mind. That's a fact. They will tell you. Well, I'm not sure I understand how the male mind works much better--at least the male mind that belongs to my own particular male. This was brought home to me last night--again.

My neighborhood had a social last night and my good friend and neighbor, Precious, called to ask me what The Guy was going to wear. That was easy. I didn't even have to ask him. "Khakis and polo shirt," I told her. Precious hasn't lived in the neighborhood long and has never been to one of these soirees. I told her if she wanted to dress Mr. Precious up in shorts, that would be fine. The attire is always kind of Muffy Matron meets aging fraternity boy.

"Is The Guy wearing khaki shorts?" she asked.
"Oh, no. God, no." I had to tell her. "The Guy doesn't wear shorts--not unless he's actually on a boat. He's got a lot of rules."

"Really? Do tell." She was fascinated and I know why. She, too, is forever on a quest to understand the male mind.

I listed off his fashion rules:

1. No pink shirts.
2. No lavender shirts.
3. No short sleeve button-up shirts unless they are Hawaiian print, seersucker, or linen and then never to work.
4. No flip flops unless he's on a boat and then they must be Teva.
5. No sandals, ever, period.
6. No matching pajama sets. PJ pants are fine, but they must be worn with a t-shirt.
7. No umbrella, no matter how hard it's raining.
8. For formal wear, vest, no cummerbund, and no black patent shoes.
9. French cuffs when possible.
10. No boot cut jeans.
11. Absolutely, no, never, never, never big pony Ralph Lauren shirts; don't get him started.

Now mind you, he has never told me any of this stuff. I just know. And lest you think all this is because he views himself as some kind of cock-eyed conformist, think again. Case in point, he owns a pair of zombie contacts that he bought just for Hallowe'en. He wears them every Hallowe'en--even to work. Heaven help us if he ever has an important meeting that day.

Here he is. As you can see, he has no problem with orange shirts. Normally, his eyes are a lovely hazel.

How about the guys in your life? Do they have any fashion rules? Do they make any sense to you?

Friday, August 6, 2010


We are giving away an autographed book today. Tell us what you're reading and the first one who matches the genre of our prize wins.

Crystal won last Friday's prize of a bag of goodies from RWA.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Back To School Time

Hey Y'all,
I know that many of us are still recovering from RWA's national conference but I have already moved on to the next adventure. I am frantically getting my classroom ready for Parent Orientation at 10:00 on Thursday.

Of course, I can't just work in my classroom. I get to attend meetings and workshops for much of the day and then work in my classroom, which is the most fun. There is a lot of excitement in the air as my entire school prepares to receive students and parents for the new school year.

We are creating bulletin boards and arranging desks. Everyone is keyed up and working like Santa's elves on December 23rd. I even made a sail boat this afternoon!

All of this hustle and bustle has brought to mind my own back to school memories. I can remember going to get new clothes and school supplies. I still love the feel and smell of a brand new notebook. To this day, I think of back to school time rather than the New Year as the best time to make resolutions and changes in my life. I
think this is connected to my love of a new notebook. It is a blank slate to record new adventures on.

What is your best back to school memory?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

There’s Always a First Time for Everything!

In my very first blog, I brought up the phenomena of firsts, ‘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”.’ Firsts are unforgettable. Firsts are the ‘fire’ in firecracker, the ‘hee’ in heehaw. They keep us going when we’re down and move us ever forward no matter what befalls us, sustaining us through difficult or joyous times.

Previously, I mentioned that I’d finaled for the first time in a writing contest, the Romance Through The Ages contest, sponsored by the Hearts Through History Chapter. The winners were to be announced at the RWA National Conference in Orlando, at a cocktail party co-chaired by the Celtic Hearts Chapter. The event happened as planned and I was honored to be accompanied by good friends from the Heart of Dixie who helped me feel special that night. (Jean, Stephanie, Sherry and Lesia, you deserve my warmest thanks! I’ll never forget you were there for me. And dearest Cheryl, your positive and encouraging e-mails touched my heart. Thank you for your support!)

I’d like to tell the readers of this blog that the RTTA contest is well run and the coordinators and judges should be commended for doing such a fabulous job. Second, I placed 3rd! Another first! First positive contest experience, first final and now first top three placement!

That night, I had the opportunity to meet the final judge of the Georgian/Regency/Victorian category, Barbara Poelle. Young and energetic, she would certainly be a great agent for any aspiring writer or published author. Though she may never see this blog post, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Poelle for her encouraging comments.

Pitching appointments are what many of us fear and look forward to at the same time at national conference. While I was unable to get appointments when they first came open this year, some new ones appeared and Jean called me right away. Thanks to Jean, I’m now able to celebrate another first, a conference full request!

Kismet: fate, fortune. ‘Good things happen to those who wait.’ ‘The universe is unfolding as it should.’ Perhaps holding onto my fortune cookie fortunes has been a good thing.

Do you believe in fate? Do you hang onto fortune cookie fortunes? What kind of firsts are you hoping for next?


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wordsmiths: That's What We Are

Lately, I have been thinking of my grandmother (we called her “Bigmama”) and her quaint little words or sayings. As I have grown older, those words have been coming back to me and I realize that I should have listened a lot closer to things she had to say. Born in 1906, she lived through two World Wars, a Depression and living on a farm all her life – yet, she knew many things that common people didn’t know. She was well read and well mannered: a genteel Southern Lady till the end.

Funny thing about genteel Southern Ladies, they have a wicked sense of humor and sometimes a mouth. One of my favorites was when she saw a woman who had an inflated opinion of herself. Bigmama would say she wished she could buy the lady for what she was worth and sell her for what the lady thought she was worth. Then Bigmama would laugh and say, “I’d be a millionaire.” Nuff said about that lady. I use that one frequently when I run across similar “ladies.” Another one was to call the woman (same woman with an inflated opinion of herself) "Mrs. Astorbilt." I never got clued into that one until I got older and learned about the Astors and the Vanderbilts. Bigmama had made a new word up by combining two very wealthy families with high opinions of themselves to describe a conceited woman. She had quite a few sayings, some of them not printable.

The one I only recently learned the meaning of was “karn” (pronounced ke yarn – long e). If there was a bad smell in the room, she would say it smelled like karn. I always thought it was just one of those things she made up. Until…I was watching a documentary on Ireland and the “cairns” – burial places on hills (guess that didn’t smell very good). Bingo! The Irish say it the same way as Bigmama did. So, putting two and two together – Bigmama was using a word her Irish ancestors had taught her. Amazing!

I looked at some other sayings recently; always wanting to learn new things and avoid doing things I should. Here are a few:

Hussy – a corruption of housewife – guess all us married ladies are hussies!

Tawdry – Once a cheap lace was sold on the island of Ely at a fair in honor of St. Audry. It was called St. Audry’s lace. Over time the first two words were run together resulting in tawdry.

Toady – Originally a magician’s assistant who swallowed toads (to show the magician could cure anything – toads were thought to be poisonous). The toady did what it took to please the master.

Window – comes from the term “wind hole” in a castle. The wind hole was a hole in the wall which let in fresh air. Run together, it became window.

Boudoir – from the French bouder meaning to sulk or pout. Women went to their rooms to sulk and pout. Guess we don’t do that any more in our boudoir – we have fun, right?

Swashbuckler – (In honor of Kathy) – A buckler is a small shield. To “swash” means to swish. A swashbuckler “swishes” his sword and rattles it on his shield or “buckler.”

Naked Truth – Once Truth and Lies went bathing. Lies got out, dressed in Truth’s clothing and ran. Truth, unwilling to appear in Lies’s clothing, went “naked.”

(I got some of these from “Why Do We Say It?” Published by Castle Books. This is a fascinating little book I could look at all day long.)

One more Bigmamaism (Hey I made a new word) is about people who dream big dreams and do nothing about it. She would say, “Yeah and if a bullfrog had wings he wouldn’t bust his butt trying to fly.” I definitely do not want to be such a bullfrog! So maybe I shouldn’t be looking at all these sayings when I should be writing…

On that note, I leave it with you folks. I would love to hear some sayings or words your family uses. Or maybe give me some meanings of words that are unusual. Word origins fascinate me. I am waiting to learn more new things so tell me a few…

Monday, August 2, 2010


So sorry I am late with my blog this morning. For reasons that are too boring to expound on, our plane was four hours late last night. I came home, ate Indian food, and fell asleep in my chair.

I am turning into my father.

I am glad to be back with all of you and Cheryl. We are not leaving without her again.

I know how fortunate I am to be a member of the Heart of Dixie chapter of RWA but being at conference with these astonishing women always brings it home. It is a time to bond and celebrate. We shore up each other up when it's time to pitch or present a workshop and we put glitter powder on each other when it's time to dress up. And, always, we ask each other, "How did it go?"

We've learned from the best of the best. I refuse to drop names but there are three of our chapter mates who have great big fish to fry—the New York Times Bestseller variety of fish. But, always, always, always, they are there with a hug and a, "How did it go?" and a "That's good; you said exactly the right thing." And best of all,if you said the wrong thing, they would say so.

There's no place like the Romance Writers' National Conference. We have many pictures to share and we will tell you more in the coming weeks but here are some my personal highlights:

Our own Katherine Bone placed third in the Hearts Through History contest with her manuscript Pirate By Night. Much celebration followed.

Our good friend Harlequin Presents author Lynn Raye Harris and her book, Cavelli's Lost Heir, were featured at the Harlequin Spotlight. I already knew the wonderful things they said about her but I admit I got a little teary-eyed.

Our good friends Kimberly Lang and Rhonda Nelson won Harlequin Readers' Choice awards. Kimberly writes for Modern Heat and Rhonda writes for Blaze.

As RWA Leadership Development Chair, Stephanie announced the slate of national officers at the Annual General Membership meeting. We were so proud of our chapter mate Linda Winstead Jones, who is a candidate for President Elect. She is a great lady and will make a great president elect and president. And Stephanie looked fabulous in her new Lucy Ricardo shirtwaist dress and kelly green shoes. Her feet paid for those shoes later but it was worth it.

Stephanie and I met another writing team and we absolutely loved them! It was so much fun to talk to Stacy and Sarah and compare our writing processes. We already have promised we are going to stay in touch and get together at conference next year.

That's only a sample of many of the wonderful things. But the best part was coming home to The Guy. Let me tell you what he did.

Back-story and I'm not even going to try to weave it in: I love Eloisa James's books. I always buy them the day they come out. but A Kiss at Midnight was released last Tuesday, the day I flew to Orlando. I intended to get it at the literacy signing on Wednesday but it didn't happen.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: A postcard announcing the book's publication came in the mail and when I went to bed last night, that book was on my pillow.

Who wouldn't want to come home to man like that? One of this year's Golden Heart winners said in her acceptance speech that she couldn't write a better hero than her husband. As my mother would have said, "She said a mouthful."

Did you go to conference? What was your best experience?