Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, January 31, 2011

Don't Wear Your Deadlocks Wig to the Cemetery and Other Funeral Rules

There is no more fertile ground for sending yourself to social hell than a funeral.

Last week, after my blog, Grocery Store Rules According to Jean, my older godchild, Babygirl, called me.

"Loved, loved, loved, your blog," she said. (She talks like me.)

"Yeah?" I said. "Then why didn't you comment?"

"It's hectic over here," she said.

And it's true. Babygirl teaches fifth grade and, even as we spoke, Little Babygirl was screaming in the background. Mr. Babygirl has gone back to school and is in the home stretch. Babygirl even had to resign from Junior League, which Oldest Friend and I are still gnashing our teeth about.

"It was so good," she went on, "even if you did mention Precious Angel and not me." She adores Precious Angel, but we are a competitive lot over here.

"I don't believe I ever took you to the grocery store," I said.

She couldn't deny it so she changed the subject. (She learned that from me.)

"I think you should do a rules blog once a month. We know some rules."

"We do, at that," I agreed. Never mind, that we've made most of them up and the rest of the world may not agree with us.

"Funerals," she said. "There are lots of rules about funerals. Do that." We talked about that for a while. She supplied me with some, which that I will take credit for.

1. Don’t put a picture, a football jersey, a favorite rod and reel, or anything else in the casket. No props.

2. Don’t throw yourself on the coffin or into the grave.

3. Don't wear cocktail wear.

4. Don't criticize the floral offering until you get home, even if there is a carnation wagon wheel of death with a full spoke for each living sibling and a half for each dead one.

5. Try to keep hysterics to a minimum, while remembering this is the south and we're high strung.

6. Don't pipe in country music.

7. Don't try to get people to say "War Eagle", "Roll Tide", "Hotty Toddy", "How 'Bout Them Dawgs?" or any other battle cry. It's unseemly and besides, people won't do it if it's not their team

8. And, finally, (this is for you Babygirl, though I suspect you have forgotten this): Do not, under any circumstances, wear a dreadlocks wig at the cemetery.

Here's what happened:

For a brief time, my first cousin was married to Babygirl's aunt, on her daddy's side. During this time, there was a very sad death and Oldest Friend and I set off for the graveside service. It is unclear to me now why we thought it would be a good idea to take seven-year-old Babygirl, but there we were. I suspect she begged to go, knowing full well of the opportunity a funeral provides for socializing. We lectured her all the way. No talking. No dancing. No hopping up and down. No cartwheels. No cheerleader moves. No high spiritedness of any kind. (This was hard for her, even then.)

Unfortunately, no one said to her, "No getting the dreadlocks wig your daddy bought out of the car and putting on your head, even if the service is over." Some things just should not have to be said.

Oldest Friend was otherwise occupied. When I caught sight, over my Aunt Martha Burns's shoulder, of Babygirl moving toward the car as fast as her little black patent shoes would carry her, I suspected a faux pas in the making.

"Excuse me," I told my aunt. "I have to shut something down."

She already had it on her head by the time I got there and was about to rejoin the mourners. I caught her by her upper arm and she tried to twist away from me but I won. We had a talk about how it is unseemly to draw attention to oneself, in general, but not to be tolerated in a graveyard while the preacher is still present.

We don't like that rule about not drawing attention to ourselves—her or me, though we generally keep it in check at funerals.

What's the worst thing you've ever seen at a funeral?

Friday, January 28, 2011


Kathy is reading The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen.

Stephanie is reading Last of the Raven by Linda Winstead Jones

Jean is reading Call me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

What are you reading?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Courtship Rituals

Come a little bit closer you're my kind of man, so big and so strong....

These lyrics got me to thinking about proximity and courtship rituals.

Throughout history there have been many different courtship rituals that guide a lady's behavior when she sees a gentleman who catches her eye. I am sure that Kathy and some of the other historical authors can share more rituals from other cultures, but courtship rituals were clearly defined in Regency England. If everyone followed the rules then everyone else knew just where they stood in the whole courtship process. A dance or two could communicate both attraction and intention. Then there was the language of the fan. A lady could communicate by using just her fan. Wow, I wish I could do that!

As the resident single gal here under the tulip tree, I have got to tell you that things are NOT so simple now. Today many people meet their spouses while in college where every one mixes together and interacts repeatedly throughout the day. This interaction between the sexes continues day after day. If someone catches your eye you are bound to run into them in class or around campus.

This all changes as an adult. Unless you work with the person who catches your attention, in which case you are in much the same boat as a college student, you are just not going to run into the object of your interest easily. I think this may be one reason that there are so many online dating sites. Today, singles don't have any clear cut ways to signal their interest to each other so online dating sites provide a way to pave the path to a relationship.

When writing contemporary, this can also be an issue. How do you arrange proximity and/or interaction between your hero and heroine? Let's say they bump into each other while shopping or at the gym. How do you get them from smiling and nodding at each other because they recognize a familiar face to actually have a conversation and/or spending time together?

I will admit that I am struggling with this a bit. I tend to think that if a fellow is interested in dating me that he should pursue but when a guy catches my eye how can I signal Come a little bit closer you're my kind of man? What are some things you have done or had your heroine do to catch a guy's eye or encourage him to make a move?

The person with the best suggestion will win a prize to be awarded next Thursday so help a girl out!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Writers Can Look Forward to Amazing Feet

We’ve done a lot of chatting about rules and lists this week. As I sat with my legs propped before me and pondered the topics, I started thinking about feet. Mine, in particular, like massive Sasquatch entities without fur, are hard to miss. Suddenly, I had an epiphany! Feet are important extensions of our bodies and minds. If they are not rested or pampered properly, they get sore, swollen, and can even appear gnarly. You can tell a lot about someone by looking at their feet, the kind of life they’ve led, the kind of care they’ve given their bodies. The facts are plain, if we want our feet to carry us wherever we want to go, there is a hierarchy of learning to be had, dating from the beginning of our lives.


Baby feet are pudgy, with adorable little piggies waiting to be counted. But baby feet are worthless, unable to take a baby anywhere until muscles in legs and hips grow strong enough to support a baby’s weight.

A toddler’s feet help a child scurry across the floor from one activity to the next and it is up to parents to teach a child not to run too fast, too soon. Sometimes children have to fall in order to get back up and take another step.

‘Tween feet are usually too big in proportion to a child’s body. At the rate feet grow at this age, shoes are needed almost every 3-4 months. But, a child’s tendency to do too much can be curbed at this age easily enough, and heels, though doable in the future, are not in a child’s wardrobe… yet. And a ‘tween can’t drive anywhere… yet. A tween still relies upon teachers, parents, and peers to show the way.

Enter the teenager. (You thought I was going to say ‘Dragon’, didn’t you?) Teen feet grow as fast as lightning. Shoes are more expensive, coinciding with trendy tastes and peer pressure, a constant source of woe. Teen feet dance, run around race tracks, get stepped on in school halls, smell worse than a cistern, and have a tendency to put the pedal to the metal when parents and policemen aren’t looking, giving parents gray hair before their time. By now, feet have grown to their peak. The growth has stopped, learning to thrive and balance in heels begins.

Time passes. Days of late night dancing, barefoot summers, and shoes without arches become a thing of the past. Feet, like body counterparts, grow older, wiser, settling for ‘comfy’ shoes rather than suffering overlong in stilts when a shoe insert can belay the pain. There is less stress on feet when the mind is assured of a destination.

Feet, my friends, are a metaphor for a writer’s life!

A writer’s first love, books, is the vehicle in which a writer journeys into the imagination, leading a writer upon the road he/she was previously unable to walk. Out of the ‘walk about’, a writer is born.

Wobbly first steps lead to research and ‘how to’ books map the way. Soon a young writer learns how to run away with prose.

Wrong turns are taken, hands are smacked in contests or rejections, and still the young writer returns to the page. Like a toddler scurrying to discover new and interesting things, a writer is a glutton for knowledge and punishment, eager to meet like-minded souls and test boundaries, anxious to share ideas, and oblivious to anyone who doesn’t believe the book can be written.

In the first few years of a writer’s life, a writer builds a foundation, a career. Workshops, online classes, conferences, listening to other writers share their journey; these are things that appease our ‘tween’ writer, a writer who is eager to drive a successful career in the right direction... TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!

Behold the teen writer…

Look Ma, the shoe finally fits! And oh, what a spectacular shoe it is, (fill in the blank). Now a writer has found the right pair of stilettos, sturdy, balanced, fashionable shoes that will never be outgrown. (Chances are they will be replaced before the new wears off.)

This writer can drive a smooth and efficient plot, no training wheels, crutches or braces needed. With seasoned, athletically muscular legs, a writer races off to this conference to network with that author/agent/editor, and that workshop to present a class. The growing writer has excelled and nurtured a strong voice, exemplifying skill in keeping the prose fresh and intriguing, mystifying and enrapturing readers like J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter Series or Stephanie Meyer with the Twilight Series.


Settled into a rhythm and standing on a fashionably firm foundation, a savvy writer can now write one book after another, confident that the journey taken was worth the athlete’s foot, corns, bunions, and warts that now plague a writer’s feet. Remember there must always be SACRIFICE!

Didn’t think I could do it, did you? Feet ARE essential to a writer’s life. Decorative, worn, haggard, sore feet are the epitome of a writer’s journey. My feet may be big, but they have already taken me places I’ve never dreamed of reaching. Like my goal of becoming a published author, my imagination and my feet were created just the right size to lead me wherever I or my characters need to go.

Pamper your feet. They’ve been in training for you your entire life. Look at them with new eyes. You are where you should be at this stage in your life. But there’s still plenty of time left to let your feet take you where you want to go.

Birth. To the top! Success. Sacrifice. Standards good enough for any calling. Where do you want your feet to take you?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cars and Their Drivers

I am picking up where Jean left off yesterday except my gripe is with cars and how they are driven or used. I recently got a brand new ride – a shiny Lexus sedan. I love the car, its fully loaded, and it’s NEW. I have been guarding it ferociously but I know eventually, when I least expect it, someone will scratch or ding it. That is the way of today – my car gets no respect.

So I was sitting here thinking after reading Jean’s blog about being annoyed. What aggravates me worse than people popping gum? Inconsiderate drivers and, well, just inconsiderate people in general. I know, I said my gripe was with cars but that is a machine and you have to really blame the operator.

My first pet peeve is when I am driving along, doing the speed limit, and see a car about a thousand feet in front of me that is about to pull out onto the road upon which I am driving. I immediately begin the mantra “Don’t Do It!” But they do! The car waits until I am about a hundred or so feet from it and then pulls out. I am slamming my breaks, clutching the steering wheel and trying to avoid finding out what the trunk of a 1975 Buick looks like. And the other driver? Instead of seeing on-coming death and destruction goes blithely on, driving twenty-five miles per hour.

I also hate it when cars pull into the cut-through on a four-lane median. Inevitably these idiots pull on the wrong side because, duh, that’s the way they are turning, instead of treating it as you would the road (you drive on the right why would you pull in to turn on the left?). I enter the cut-through and am stuck on the wrong side, unable to see the on-coming traffic because Bubba has just planted his dually directly in my line-of-sight. I am stuck, sitting there glaring at Bubba, who’s talking to his girlfriend on his two-way (another thing I hate). I can’t pull out because I don’t need the nose of my car taken off by a semi which is barreling down the four-lane. Eventually he moves and I have to hurry – can’t have another Bubba come and block my view again.

And Interstates… Yes, these have higher speed limits but that doesn’t mean it’s the autobahn in Germany. I usually try to stay in the right lane meant for slower traffic but I do the speed limit. Eventually I will come upon a car or truck that is going below the limit and I will start to pass them. Suddenly, out of no-where there is a huge SUV doing about a hundred. The SUV is on my tail flashing headlights. I guess that is the International signal for move out of my way. Since I see no blue lights and just because you want me to move, I usually take my time in passing the slower car then I carefully check to make sure I have clearance to pull over into the right lane. By this time ol’ SUV driver is pounding his steering wheel. Gee, I’m sorry.

An addendum to the preceding paragraph, which involves the Interstate and passing slower cars, is when I can’t. It really ticks me off to start around a car and suddenly the other driver either wakes up or realizes that he is being passed. Can’t have that! Immediately the slower car increases his speed making it more difficult for me to get around them. Eventually I get tired of this pacing and I punch the accelerator, leaving the other car in my dust.

In Huntsville, there are new round-abouts (Shades of Yes) like they have in Europe. This was done to increase the flow of traffic and avoid four-way stops. It always amazes me that people can’t understand them. I have actually seen people go around and around trying to figure out how to get out of them. It’s actually funny unless, like me, you are trying to get somewhere and the confused driver is blocking you.

And what is it with wide loads? Do they think that the entire road belongs to them? I get so angry when there is a semi-truck moving half of a prefabricated house with that big yellow sign “Wide Load.” I can’t pass and I am stuck doing ten miles an hour on the Interstate, along with about a hundred other cars. Why can’t they limit moving those things to hours when there is less traffic?

The last moving violation I wish to include is the person who is eating, talking on a cell phone and, yes, driving with his/her knee. No wonder the car is all over the road. I have seen this frequently and, for a person who can’t walk and chew gum, I am amazed. However, I am also incensed. These are the people who cause wrecks and then wonder how it happened.

Now, on to parking lots. Most parking lots have made their spaces much smaller while cars have gotten bigger. I know it was a result of the smaller car trend but dang, who can park a truck in a Mini Cooper spot? And, if you do manage to get your car into those postage-stamp spots, there is always some uncouth idiot who is going to slam their car door into the side of your car. Or roll a shopping cart into the back. Until the newness wears off my car, I am parking at the end of the lot with the employees.

Boom cars. Need I say more? I love music and I like to hear Queen really loud but not to the point my car is shaking. I hate sitting at a red light and one of those boom cars pulls up behind me. The low bass vibrations start my teeth to grinding. I feel the urge to destroy – like the Sandworms in Dune drawn to thumpers. I send nasty looks in my rear-view mirror which I am sure cannot be seen – the other car also has tinted windows, front and back (which is illegal but hey, who cares?). It is a relief to get away before I put my car into reverse.

I could go on and on about other people who are inconsiderate drivers and just inconsiderate. I am sure a lot of you have your own pet peeves when driving so let me hear what ticks you off.

Just thought it was a funny Trooper picture!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Grocery Store Rules According to Jean

Being a peace loving sort of person, I don't have that many altercations but 99.9 per cent of the ones I do have, happen at the grocery store. Is it because I spend more time there than anywhere else, excepting home? No. I put in plenty of time at bookstores, restaurants, church, movie theaters, coffee shops, and discount stores of the upscale variety. I don't have much trouble at those places.

So—it's not me; it's you and I think I know the reason. It's because people do not follow the rules. Today, in anticipation of the impending snow, I had to join the masses on the required run for milk and bread—and in my case, cheese, vegetables, eggs, and a big fat chicken that I intend to roast with garlic and herbs. Anyway, I am happy to report that I did not have an altercation but I came close, so so close, and on more than on occasion.

Then it hit me. Maybe the reason these people are not following the rules is because they don't know the Grocery Store Rules, According to Jean. As a gift to humanity, I will now supply them.

1. Do not park your cart in the middle of the aisle. Keep right and cross the aisle on foot to get your Thousand Island salad dressing. It's like driving.

2. Hang up your cell phone and stop steering with your forearm. You are NOT calling your husband to ask if he needs beer and, if so, what kind. You are talking to your BFF about how somebody did you wrong at work. Save it.

3. Do not let your kid sit on your hip while you talk on your cell phone and steer with your elbow. I know it's hard to shop with a toddler. Precious Angel was once a toddler and I kept him quite a bit—partly because his mother was finishing her degree and partly because I wanted him with me. We did some shopping. We also had some Come to Jesus Meetings in the dead space between dairy and meat cases where he learned what our jobs were: mine was to push and his was to sit. I'm not saying there weren't days it didn't cost me an Oreo but I am saying he sat in the kid seat.

4. Do not let your kids spread out across the aisle like participants in a mini Hands Across America.

5. You have the right to have that giant notebook of coupons. I even respect you for it a little. But due to laziness and bad character, I don't have one. I don't mind how long you study the individual boxes of Craisins, or whatever other thing you are about to buy for half of nothing and not eat. Just please let me by.

6. Don't shop on the buddy system. Please. Just don't, unless your buddy is recovering from surgery and you need to lift her milk and flour. Even then, don't shop side by side.

7. Don't have reunions—class, family, church, or any other type—in the aisle. There a big old parking lot right outside.

8. Do I even have to go into what's appropriate for the Express Lane?

9. Do not sit in your car and wait for me to get my groceries loaded and leave. If you glare at me, I will move slower. I will take my cart all the way back in the store. I might even stop to pass the time of day with all the drivers of the cars that are lined up behind you because you are trying to score my parking spot.

I could go on. And on. And on. I'm known for it. You got a dead horse you want beaten? Bring it to me. But I'll stop. Besides, if I put another rule, it will be number ten and then my margins won't line up right and I'll have to fix them to keep Stephanie and Kathy from having a bad day. Cheryl wouldn't care.

Would you like to make a rule for the world at large? Here's your chance. Share.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Guest Blogger--Kira Sinclair. Could You Walk Away?

Today we have with us our good friend, Blaze author Kira Sinclair. She has a brand new book on the shelves right now--just the thing to heat up these cold winter days. She will give a copy to one lucky commenter, so chime in!

Could You Walk Away?

Could you walk away from your life? Everything you know. Your home. Your family. Any wealth, legacy and possibly your job?

I’m betting most people would say no. I know that it would take a bullet and/or a kidnapper to get me to leave behind my kids.

But what if you didn’t have any family you cared about? If you were a young adult with way more money than responsibilities. Could you walk away from millions of dollars? What if you knew that it was the right thing to do? Not for a moral reason, like the money was stolen, but because the presence of it prevented you from living up to your fullest potential. Could you walk away from it then?

I’d like to think that I could. That I could put my happiness, satisfaction and sanity ahead of a life of luxury. But I’m not sure that I really could.

In my latest release, Caught Off Guard, I got to play with this exact question. What could drive a person to leave behind millions of dollars and a life of ease and excess? Annemarie Prescott had a fantastic reason for doing just that. She walked away from it all to make a life she could be proud of – under her own steam and on her own terms.

Asking myself what it would take to make me walk away from everything was intriguing enough. But then I started wondering...what could possibly drag me back? What – or who – could make me question every decision I’d ever made?

I think that’s one of the things I love most about my job. I get to play devil’s advocate…to ask myself the hard questions and make someone else live through the answers. Throw in a darkly handsome man who wants to protect my damsel in distress, even if she doesn’t want the protection, and you’ve got a powder keg of emotions that was so fun to write.

So, tell me, assuming you have no kids or significant other, could you walk away from a life that was holding you back?


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Great Expectations

As I write this we are barely into the new year and my thoughts have turned to what I expect from 2011. As most of you know, 2010 was a pretty big year for me; I finished graduate school and got tenure at work! Accomplishing these goals feel huge to me because it means that I can turn my thoughts and energy to other goals.

Pantster and I are working a new manuscript that I am very excited about. We have gotten some great feedback and are making some changes that will make it even better. We plan to pitch it at the Romance Writers of America's national conference in New York this summer. In fact, that is another great expectation for 2011. National Conference is in New York and should be a great adventure. I am a newly elected Vice President for my wonderful chapter of RWA, Heart of Dixie, and I am probably going to get represent my chapter at the Leadership Conference. I am also the chair of a committee for the organization and get to meet some great folks and work behind the scenes a bit so it should be a ton of fun!

On a more personal level, I am working on some fitness goals. I am going to the gym more and making healthier choices in the food I eat. Of course, I would love to lose some weight but I would also just like to have more energy and feel better. I would also like to find true love. I am a great believer in the Happily Ever After fairy tale romance. Perhaps 2011 will be the year I find it for myself.

What are your expectations for the new year?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Go Into The Mist

There is something spectacular about mist. It is in the ethereal nature of mist to cloak surroundings, creating an echo that can be thrilling and frightening at once. Sometimes mist can be thick and dense, fog-like, moistening clothes with each engulfing caress. Other times, it’ll float languidly and light across the road, perhaps hovering above a creek or a copse of trees.

Should we wish it, we could ramble on and on about the scientific properties of mist. I, for one, would like to rely on what I know to be true.

In the Black Hills of South Dakota, there is an old Sioux legend that the mist that enshrouds the Hills is exhaled from a sleeping white giant or the breath of the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka. The Black Hills are a sacred place. After the Sioux won dominion over it, they were promised by soldiers and a president they could keep it, but when whispers of gold were posted in newspapers out west in 1863, miners risked death to venture into the Hills and stake a claim. It wasn’t until Custer came through with an expedition to find gold, in 1874, that the public learned there definitely was ‘gold in them thar hills’. Why? Because most miners who sought gold in the Hills, were never heard from again.

What about fog? The movie The Fog warns us, “Don’t go into the fog!” (I always hear that bit of dialogue when I see fog.) And, I half-expect Captain Drake and his crew to come walking out of it with a fishing hook in their hands.

Clint Eastwood played a DJ and got embroiled in the worst side of fandom when he heard ‘Play Misty For Me’ over the airwaves.

In Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End, a gigantic English armada waits on the other side of mist.

Have you ever walked in woods surrounded by mist? That would seem silly, but movies love this particular scene, especially when dealing with werewolf and vampire themes and a heroine too stupid to live. (TSTL syndrome isn’t rare among mortals.) Take Twilight, for instance. The bad vampires always appear from a mist as if floating on air: beauty and the beast, strength and weakness, love and fear, peace and mayhem, insulated in one entity, mist.

Today, as I was driving home from work, mist hovered low upon the ground and visibility was limited off in the distance. How was I to know there wasn’t an English fleet waiting to challenge me on the other side, if I might find myself stranded in the Bermuda Triangle, or whether or not I might meet Captain Drake, himself.

Imagination. Amazing how it works, isn’t it?

Imagination has power!

As writers, we often feel as though we are struggling free of mist, fleeing the beast bearing down upon us. When we cannot see what awaits on the other side of this achievement or that final or that request, and we cannot look back to see how far we’ve come, how are we to know that each challenge outweighs the risk?

We come prepared. We believe. By writing every day, nurturing our imaginations, tendering our hearts, balancing our mortality, and venturing where no writer has gone before, we WILL break out of whatever hurdle, or mist, stands between us and the bridge over the abyss. Like the Sioux in the Black Hills, if we focus on the sanctity of our calling, the breath of the Great Editor/Agent will spill down upon us, bringing us peace… and a three-book deal.

Now, isn’t that imagination? ;)

What do you think when you see mist? Do you get fanciful notions about pirates and villains, or can you see your way through it and to the other side without looking back?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Journals - Do You know Who Will be Reading Them?

Journals of daily life are not a a new phenomena. Back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people kept journals of their lives, writing down mundane things like crops, visitors, numbers of animals owned, marriages and death - nothing personal. I guess, of course, there were personal diaries with more intimate facts but probably not to the extent we write today. Kathy could probably tell me if that were the case since she is our resident historical expert.

In bookstores and department stores there are stacks of beautiful journals to be purchased. I love looking at the different kinds, especially the hand-tooled leather ones (I love the smell of leather - LOL). Today we buy these journals for the purpose of writing down our inner-most thoughts, hopes and dreams, expounding on what we want, what we love and what we dream. These are probably personal and intimate thoughts. I suppose it's sort of like self-help therapy. Get it down on paper, exorcize the thought and then move on. We spare nothing of our feelings . It's all there for people to read after we have shaken off our mortal coils. Ever thought about that? It is a scary thought. I know, I'll be dead, so who cares if I hated the milkman? Still, the image of my relatives reading my most intimate thoughts gives me pause. As writers we love the written word and isn't it wonderful that we can write in these beautiful journals about what whirls around in our heads? Well...the idea of it made me start thinking maybe this might not be such a good idea.

I came up with a solution that pleased me! I decided to keep two journals!

In one journal, which I write in every day, I chronicle what I do, who I spend my time with, my tasks or my achievements - mostly the happy things in life. This is the journal which will survive me for posterity. People two hundred years from now (if it survives that long) will only read about my every day life and think "Gee, she sure was a positive and happy person!" I also think they might consider me quite a boring person.

It's the second journal, one which I don't write in every day (unless someone has serious peeved me), that will never, ever see the light of day and will never be read by anyone else. I keep it well-hidden in case of snooping relatives. This is the one I call "My Hate Journal." Sounds kind of sad doesn't it? But it's not really. In it I write all the negative things that boil up in my life. All the social slights. All the people who annoy me. All the fights I have with others. All the things I perceive as offending me. I pour my anger, rage and hurt into its pages, sparing nothing. It's really very cathartic. I get the bad stuff down on paper then it's out of my head and my heart. I can move on without being consumed. However, the difference between this one and the one I shall leave sitting on my bookshelf in case I die is that once I fill it, I burn it. I take it outside, put it in the little burn area I have and light a match to it. While it burns, I watch the smoke and tell my anger and disappointment good-bye and good riddance.

So, I just wanted to put that niggling little thought in all of your heads. LOL Who will read my journal if I die? Will my children sit and read about my secret crush on Hugh Jackman? How embarassing! Do I want them to know all my secret thoughts? I know most of you like to sit down and look back to last year's journal and see how far you have progressed. BUT do you really want to read about that little check-out clerk who threw your bags at you? Or maybe even something worse? Re-living all the hurt or anger? Just a thought...

Do you keep a journal? Do you consciously avoid putting down your true feelings because you don't want someone reading them in the future? Or do you really care about that? What do you think about my two-journal theory? And no comments about being paranoid....

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dream a Little Dream

Happy Martin Luther King Day. Seems like a good day to talk about dreams. There will be a lot of talk today about dreams, as in desires and whims. That is fitting because Dr. King had a big dream. If he were alive today I don't know if he would be thrilled with the progress but I think he might be pleased.

But what I want to talk about is "sound asleep in the bed" dreams. I'll go on record right now saying that I do not believe dreams are prophetic. I think they are the sum of what has been swirling around in your subconscious. I do believe dreams are a way for the the mind to give you what you need sometimes.

But then, I didn't used to believe in ghosts until I went round to two with the house down the block. I would like to believe some of what I dream will come true because I often dream that I can fly, and how cool would that be? I also dream in color.

By now, everyone knows that Stephanie Meyer dreamed the meadow scene with Edward and Bella that got her on the road to writing the Twilight series. I sometimes dream about my characters but I never get any new material--it's mostly a movies of what Stephanie (Plotter; not Meyer) and I have already written.

How about you? Do you believe dreams are prophetic? Do you dream about your characters? Do you, like Stephanie Meyer, get new ideas while you sleep?

One commenter will get a nifty new sleep mask.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Opps. I'm late this morning.

Kathy is reading Almost an Outlaw by Patricia Preston, a new novella at Carina Press.

Stephanie is reading Dark Desire by Christine Feehan and My Man Micheal by Lori Foster.

Jean is reading The Baby Agenda by Janice Kaye Johnson.

What are you reading?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

We Are The Champions!

I am always proud to have attended Auburn University. The degree I received there gave me many opportunities and has been the foundation of my professional life. This past weekend amidst the roar of the crowd. I became even prouder of MY university.

I know, I hear most of you groan and say “But Football?” Yes, football. It has nothing to do with the fine education you receive from attending Auburn. It has to do with what we call the “Auburn Family.” When you meet a fellow Auburn fan, you say “War Eagle.” Not because of the football but because we are family. It's our greeting to each other. We aren’t a nation or a club – we are family. We love the Plains, Toomers Corner, the eagle flying, Aubie and our proud traditions, just as any college alumni would. We are proud to be the Auburn Family.

At the beginning of this year I hardly hoped that our football team would win eight games. I have attended every home game and some away games for years because I love Auburn. I never expected what would happen this year. All I could hope for back in September (sorry Jean and Stephanie) was that we would beat Alabama. Throughout adversity this year, we never lost hope – not during all the close games or the snide comments about our quarterback. We took the criticisms and we held our head high. We are Auburn. You don’t desert family if there is a problem. And yes, even now, I can hear the comments that this may still end badly for Auburn (shades of USC) BUT so what? We will still have our family, our love of the university and our pride in that university. We will still be FAMILY. For a moment, when Wes Byrum kicked the winning field goal with two seconds left, we all became one, jumping, screaming and hugging complete strangers. We were National Champions! WE WERE AUBURN!

As most of you know, I had the privilege of attending the BCS bowl this past weekend in Glendale, Arizona. Such a surprise, I took a lot of pictures. I thought I would share some of them with you.

I was at the Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. I got to the point of if you've seen one cactus, you've seen all of them.

The views were beautiful out there on the desert.

Darling hubby who surprised me with the trip and bought me lots of jewelry in old Scottsdale.

A few Quackers in front of the stadium before we went inside. The stadium is nothing compared to the SEC stadiums but it was nice.

Clicked this banner as it flew over the stadium.

The view from our seats before the game started. We were offered five thousand a piece for those seats before we came inside.
Gee, maybe we should have taken them and gone to the hotel to watch. Nah....

The ESPN crew were right below us. Note "Mushmouth", as I fondly call him, in the center.

The band, which is near and dear to my heart, spelling out Auburn.

The coin toss. You can't see it from this photo but those Oregon shoes were neon yellow, atrocious.

We'd won! Confetti everywhere!

The championship trophy being awarded to Auburn.

I have lots more but didn't want to bore you guys. I had a great time and just wanted to share.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Wasn't Expecting That

Welcome to the tulip tree. We hope you are not confused; today is Wednesday and you are usually reading a lovely thought provoking blog by Katherine Bone. This week, since Cheryl is on her way home from the BCS championship game we switched some things around a bit and I am blogging with you this week on Wednesday. So this is probably not what you expected when you clicked here to visit us....

This leads me to my topic: the unexpected. Tonight, I was invited to dinner by some friends who were cabin crazy. I said I would go if I could come straight from the gym. "Sure come on!" they said.

I arrived at the restaurant thinking that I was meeting my three close friends, but when I rounded the corner (after falling outside on the ice so I was sort of rattled) there was a HUGE table of people. My face clearly reflected my surprise since they all laughed at me. I joined the group and made sure they understood that I had come straight from the gym. After I calmed down, it turned out to be a lot of fun.

There are some times when unexpected is bound to happen. I tend to think that anything unexpected is going to be bad but I am learning that often this isn't the case. Sometimes unexpected means something good. For example, the snow days this week are turning out to be a great bonus. Recently Pantster and I received a rejection and we are looking at taking this manuscript to a different place that we are very excited about. So again, an unexpected bonus from a negative situation.

I guess it is sort of like that old platitude--a door never closes unless a window opens. While I am a "the glass is half full and oh, what a pretty glass it is" sort of gal, I have never really bought into the whole idea that doors closing on my dreams can be a good thing. Maybe that's because I don't want to try to climb through a window.

Have you ever made plans only to find out that reality had a different idea? Did the new reality turn out well?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dwell In Possibilities!

I’m surrounded by positive quotes at my computer to encourage me every day. Since writing is a solitary business and there are constantly plenty of road blocks in the way, it’s important to never lose sight of the goal. But what is this goal? First, one must understand the goal and envision it. Second, one must plan how to get from point A to step B. Third, one must work hard to achieve each rung in the ladder leading up to the goal until the final product is in hand.

January is a month to meditate on goals and at Okay, Listen Here, we’ve been no different. But when do goals materialize and become tangible entities that will positively influence lives?

I recently had the opportunity to hear a published writer speak about setting goals. She advised to set a goal and then double the time sequence for it. Since I had already set goals for 2011, I now have to take a more serious and practical look at those goals. Are they tangible? Am I setting myself up for failure? Under this writer’s direction, it appears I have.

Today, besides waiting for the BIG game to start (Auburn vs Oregon), I’m reconsidering my 2011 plan. After all, it’s almost mid-January and I still have yet to produce any writing. Why? Well there are too many reasons to go into here, but one important reason would be spending time with my children before they had to go back to school or their jobs. And of course, there is getting the house back into order, putting away Christmas decorations and moving furniture back into place. Thanks to a snowy day, I took the opportunity to chalk those things off my list today. ;)

(Cue Scarlet: “Tomorrow is another day!”) But unlike Scarlet, as writers, we neither have time to waste on words, nor chance any threats to our productivity.

So where did I go wrong in visualizing my goals? Here’s where I erred. I did not take into account the holiday transformation of my home, nor the kids being home and everything that entails. I also didn’t factor in illness, vacation, trips to and from children for whatever reason, and down time. Just yesterday that hit me full force when I heard that my grandson had fallen and broken his elbow. He’ll have surgery tomorrow. (Please pray for him.)

But I digress. Is it back to the drawing board so soon? Well, thankfully it is never too late to start over, to reinvent oneself, or redirect goals for whatever reason.

Tonight, while I think of my grandson and cheer, War Cam Eagle!, I’ll be restructuring my goals for 2011. And as I do, I’ll keep in mind these quotes, which have been an neverending source of inspiration to me.

“Struggle as hard as you can for whatever you believe in!”

“If it is to be, it is up to me!”

“Never, never, never give up!” Winston Churchill

“Live your dream, love your life.”

“You’re holding the seeds of your own future in your hand right now. Step out in faith. Start now planting one good seed after another. Eventually you’ll enjoy a good harvest every single day!”
Where are you in your 2011 goal plan? Have you had to backtrack like me or are you on track?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Easy as ABC--or Not

I love bookstores. Of course, I do. I am a writer and before that I was a reader. The first bookstore I loved was called The Bookmark. It was privately owned and located next door to Parisian. (That was before Parisian moved from Gateway Shopping Center to the mall, where it met its demise. That's another story and one I could easily get started on, but I will resist.)

Anyway, my mother would give me money and let me go to the Bookmark while she tried on 300 dresses and 500 pairs of shoes in Parisian. I loved the smell, the order, the quiet, but most of all, the possibilities. The Bookmark, like most small bookstores, is long gone. By the time it went to the great bookstore in the sky, there was a Bookland in the mall. It was bigger and better organized and I transferred my love easily. By the time it died, I had a mega store in my town and a different mega store in the next city over.

The megastores remain and loving them is easy because there are books and coffee. Well, mostly, it's easy. I am having a little trouble. Three days after Christmas The Lady Most Likely by Judith Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway was released. I was ready. I was excited. I had my gift card. I went to the mega store in my town. I looked in the new books. No book. I looked in romances under each of the authors' names. No book. I looked everywhere it should have been and a few places it had no business being and, still, no book. Two days later, I was in the next city over. I went through the same drill at the other megastore and still, no book. Two days after that, I went back to the mega store in my town and—well, you get the picture. I finally got it at Target, which I did not want to do. I want my bookstores to stay in business so I want to buy from them.

I know it's on the tip of your tongue. "Jean, did you ask for help?"

I did not. You see, this has happened before and I have asked. It has never done one bit of good. And in spite of the fact that I was a librarian for 23 years, graduated from college, and matriculated quite successfully through the first grade, I just cannot seem to make heads or tails for the alphabet these days. I mean, they must have changed it. Or maybe I slept though the part where aliens abducted me and took to an alternate universe where T occurs right in the middle of the C's.

And today I went to the mega store in my town to take a gaze at the January category romances. There's a new Superromace with a quarterback for a hero that I am all aquiver about. No luck. The December books are still out.

So what did I do? I came home and pointed and clicked my way to what I want. The book will be on my doorstep Tuesday. I realize that isn't doing one thing to help me keep a bookstore in my town but, more and more, it seems, they aren't doing much to supply my demand.

So what's the answer? Where do you get your books?

Friday, January 7, 2011


Jean is reading: The Lady Most Likely To by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway

Kathy is reading:
The Admiral's Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly

Stephanie is reading:
Everlasting by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Thursday, January 6, 2011

One Word

This past Sunday at church I heard about a new twist on New Year's Resolutions. The idea is to, rather than make a bunch of resolutions that are broken by February, chose one word to describe the characteristic you want to focus on. There is even a website devoted to this idea--myoneword"dot"org. There are some very interesting posts about the words people selected and why they picked them. The lady I learned about this from chose the word "intentional" for her word. She selected it because she wants to be more intentional in everything she does from parenting to work. This got me to thinking...

As writers, words are very important to us. Jean and I often discuss particular words and how they set the tone of the sentence. Many of you have heard us talk about this because it is often funny, especially when it involves body parts or sex scene. There are words that each of us hate and yet inevitably we convince each other that the character would use or think the word, so that the story HAS to have the hated word. It has led to some very, very funny discussions.

After prowling around the myoneword website and thinking about what my word might be for the new year I decided to choose the word "focus." Anyone who knows me knows that I have some trouble with holding a focus. Oh, I can get a job done, usually well. It is just that I often spend a lot of mental energy getting the job done that I would gladly use to accomplish other tasks. I have decided to really try to focus my attention on one thing at a time - to just key in on success on that one specific task or goal.

What would your one word be to describe what you would like to accomplish or change in the new year and why?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Life Is How You See It

“Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and your chicks for free
Now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain't dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb.”

More lyrics: http://http//www.lyricsfreak.com/d/dire+straits/#share

This song by Dire Straits has everyone thinking ‘we’, those who create music, write lyrics, or books have it made. One morning, a creative thinker can be in subzero weather, the first to hit the south since 1966, shoveling snow away from the front door so a trip to the car is feasible, and the next minute, in a Caribbean resort soaking up rays while motioning a cabana boy for another drink. How? It’s all in perspective. The mind has a way of tripping a fuse. You know the fuse I’m talking about, the one that turns on rose-colored glasses with rhinestone settings or darkens the world via a distorted lens. Or for a writer, that might be called ‘a muse’. ;)

To each his/her own.

How do you see the world? Glass half-empty, glass half-full, milk the cow or anger the bull?

Life is how you see it. And life for a writer is no different. Writers live the best life! Using imagination, a writer’s greatest tool, a writer can wield a therapeutic sword as an emotional outlet, hacking away worry, danger and physical or emotional injury with one swift motion, or countless crimes, armed only with a pen, a piece of paper and a string of well-strung words. ;)

Why write? Writers have a fanciful way of looking at the world. Some see the world filled with the divine or riddled with suspicion. But if you really want to be satisfied, write romance! Why? Romance writers live the dream. Prince Charming never fails to produce a happy ending, commonly referred to as an HEA (Happily Ever After). The Fearless Damsel or Lady In Waiting, no matter how old, or her background, ends up charmed and/or saved by the handsome Alpha male who has swept her off her feet with promises of protection and a forever love that can never be sated.

Ah! Talk of love, of sated love… Now I have your attention. ;) Yes, these are great reasons to be a romance writer. But as Susan Hatler said it best on Patricia Preston’s blog recently, “there are 10 things I love best about being a writer:”

1. Thinking is working.
2. Watching movies is working.
3. Reading is working.
4. Making things up is working.
5. Hanging with writers is working.
6. Commuting is two feet.
7. People-watching is research.
8. The dress code rocks (mainly sweats & slippers).
9. I can write anywhere (laptops travel).
10. The subjects to write about are endless.

You can find out more about Susan Hatler’s blog here: http://patricia-preston.blogspot.com/2010/12/guest-blogger-author-susan-hatler.html

Yes! Yes! Yes! Doesn’t it all make sense? Writers are always working, but the work, though it varies, can be an amazing array of wonderful ‘stuff’. Where else can you get by with staring at people, examining their accents, deciphering flaws and emotions, writing down tid-bits of conversation, shadowing a particular occupation, and/or traveling to experience and create the aura of a book’s setting, all in your pajamas?

Yes! Yes! Yes!
(Cue Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally) I have a thing for research books! My study is filled with them. My hubby can attest to the many museums we have frequented and the purchases made to fulfill my connection with the past. (Writing Historicals can make an historical romance writer ‘hysterical’ if curiosity hasn’t been sated.)

Yes! Yes! Yes! (Cue Frau Bleucher from Young Frankenstein~~
He... Vas... My... Boyfriend!)
[horse whinny]

Yes! We may not be moving refrigerators or lugging color TV’s, but we are doing what we love, even if we don’t happen to be getting paid for it— YET. As I sit deciphering my goals for 2011, with my trusty new calendar, I know there will be blisters on my little fingers and on my thumbs, but the effort will be well worth the price. And while I tap… tap… tap… away at the computer keys this year, I will keep Susan Hatler’s list nearby. Her list reminds me that Yes! I have a great job. I’m a writer and I’m going to live the BEST life yet.

2011 here I come!

What is your top 10 list for 2011?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Angry Birds

I have an I-Pad. Purchased for what I thought would surely be work-related endeavors. I have downloaded books which I intended to read. I have used it to find out the weather in locations where I am headed. I have used it to search the Internet for useless information. I have used it for navigation and maps. But I have never used it for work, yet. My latest “use” of the I-Pad came home with my husband. All the doctors at work have been sitting around, waiting to perform miracles, while playing “Angry Birds.” He downloaded the game and made the horrific mistake of showing it to me.

I grew up in the age of board games and charades, nothing electronic. When I was younger, anything electronic would have taken an entire building to house a computer with the memory of the I-Pad. My first introduction to video games was the Atari while I was in law school. I played Asteroids until my eyes fell out of my head. Then came Link (is that spelled correctly? I can’t remember) and I lost interest in video games. Those endless searching and role-playing games bored me. Give me something to explode and I was happy but don’t ask me to solve a puzzle and find the treasure. My son came along and he had to have all the video games. I lost count of the names and types of games he played. Too many. Nothing interested me about them. All I knew about them at that time was I had to fight him to make him leave that dang controller and eat dinner. Video games became a bane to my existence.

But, once again, I find myself in heaven, blowing things up and trying to take out those dastardly pigs. Angry Birds is a game invented by Rovio Mobile and it is very, very addictive. When my husband showed it to me I had to play it so he would shut up about how much fun it was (humor him so I could continue with the book I was reading). Okay, I sat down at the table and gave it a whirl. Four hours later, my son was walking into the kitchen trying to find out what was for dinner. Dinner? How about roasted pig? The game involves shooting birds out of a slingshot at various structures housing evil pigs. Sound interesting? Not really until you play it. It is like a puzzle – where do you shoot the birds (no pun intended) to bring down the pigs’ barricades and destroy them? Angles, trajectories, explosions – Angry Birds trying to win. So many levels, so little time…

At my age, I should really be sitting sedately, crocheting or knitting. Instead, I am hopelessly hooked on a game which involves violence (those pigs can get black eyes from flying debris) and mayhem (the pigs explode – no guts or blood – please, I do have some inhibitions). So, until I reach the next level there will be no dinner. And there is no controller to take from my hands…

Have any of you tried this game out on your I-Touch or I-Pad? Are there games out there you have become addicted to? My son and husband don’t want me to know if there are – they’ve missed a few meals over the Holiday Season.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goodbye, Mr. McElroy: It's Been a Pleasure

Good morning, college football fans—and the rest of you too.

It's nearly over and I am sorry. By the time the BCS Bowl has been played on January 10, there will have been thirty-five bowl games played this year. It wasn't always that way. In the sixties there were eight. By 1970, there were eleven and it has grown from there. Some people think there are too many bowls these days. Not for me. The more the better.

I cut my teeth on Crimson Tide football and I can't remember a year when I've been prouder. Oh, don't get me wrong. I love a National Championship and an undefeated season. Who doesn't? Last year was fabulous. The next one (number 14) will be fabulous.

But the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day was pretty sweet. My team, who lost with grace three times this season, won their bowl game like gentlemen, with class and humility.

Greg McElroy, who just quarterbacked his last college game, always gave his team credit for successes and took personal blame for mistakes. He made blocks when he needed to and when no one would have expected it of him. I'll miss him. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, two of the best running backs in college football, never displayed one iota of personal competition but supported and cheered each other on. These things spell winner.

My favorite moment of the season did not occur on the field but on the bench. Greg McElroy had just suffered a concussion and didn't seem to have a lot of information about his identity and location. He sat on the bench beside star wideout Julio Jones, who had also been injured. Julio sat quietly with his arm draped around Greg's shoulders. I don't know if he was giving or seeking comfort or if he was just trying to stop his quarterback from hunting his helmet and attempting to head back on the field.

But I thought, "There sits a couple of champions and that is why I love this game."

As writers, we've all taken a sack or two and we aren't always able to get up again without help. I am thankful that when I have needed the help, it's always been there for me.

And that is why I love what I do—and all of you.

Happy New Year.