Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Power

Jean here reporting in for Stephanie.

Due to the tornado that touched down on her block, she has no power. For you non southerns, that mean no electricity. Whether or not and how much power she has depends on what circle she is doing business with at the time. It ranges from almost none to godlike. (That's a little "g" as in Thor and the boys.)

Stephanie was going to write about Heart of Dixie's Readers' Luncheon that is coming up this weekend. Our speaker this year is Kerrelyn Sparks, author of the fabulous Love at Stake series (It is seriously scary, funny, sexy, and everything else you might want in a book.) I expect there will be tears at the luncheon this year because we will miss Beverly so much but I hope there will be some laughter too. I can hear her say, "Listen, honey,"--she said that a lot--"y'all just have a good time."

This will be our last post for the week. Big doings on Friday to make the whole thing happen.

See you back her Monday with a full report.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Time For Us: Remembering Beverly Barton

A time for us some day there'll be
When chains are torn by courage born
Of a love that's free
A time when dreams so long denied
Can flourish as we unveil
The love we now must hide

A time for us at last to see
A life worthwhile for you and me
And with our love through tears and thorns
We will endure as we pass surely
Through every storm
A time for us someday there'll be
A new world, a world of shining hope
For you and me

There are seasons for everything, spring, summer, autumn, and winter. There are food seasonings which make food eatable. There are rainy seasons, droughts, white-outs, tornados, earthquakes and hurricane seasons. And last, but not least, there are the seasons of life, creation, birth, teenager, adult, middle aged, and elderly. There is ultimately life and death, something we at Okay, Listen Here have experienced in the past week with one of our own beloved friends, Beverly Barton.

There is the knowing and a time to blog.

The earth tilts on axis, rotating like a top, spinning as it travels around the sun. We don’t know this is happening, though the gravitational pull experienced as a result keeps our feet on even ground and the tides on schedule. We DO know Darwin's Theory, if something drops, it will plummet, and if you trip you WILL fall. We know that atmosphere protects the earth from the universe and the sun. We KNOW these facts! Lately, however, I’m left wondering if the top isn’t spinning to tell me I’m in an alternate universe. As Leonardo D'Caprio did in the movie, Inception, the news of Beverly's passing has had a staggering affect on me. I can't help wondering if this is real.

In the knowing, one does not easily find acceptance.

I’m preparing for the Heart of Dixie’s 14th Annual Romance Readers’ Luncheon. This happens once every year. The event is the highlight of HOD’s calendar. I’ve worked on making sure everything is in place for HOD luncheons 4 years running. I KNOW how things work, when they’re supposed to be done, who needs to do them and why. A year’s worth of planning has gone accordingly. This year’s luncheon proved to be our most anticipated event. But then my axis spun off-kilter as if an asteroid hit, leaving a tremendous void.

In the knowing, one does not easily understand.

When my father died three years ago, I understood that I HAD to make a trip to Orlando just three days after his death. I don’t know how I did it, but I maintained decorum and kept my emotions under control so that my baby could perform at a national cheerleading competition and not see me fall to pieces. You see, if she had seen how much my father’s death hurt, she might not have performed to her utmost potential, which ultimately would then have endangered the entire team’s chances of making the final round. I did what I had to do then, while also planning my first luncheon. And I will do it again.

In the knowing, one does not easily function.

A top spins only as long as its rotation allows. People continue to work. Food continues to be cooked at fast food restaurants every day. And 174 people will be massing upon the convention center downtown expecting HOD will deliver another fun-filled event. How then, when we’ve lost one of our own most beloved authors, do I plan and prepare? We’ve initiated new things this year, Highland Warrior Simon Bade, a photographer and a romance book cover, and we’re raffling a Nook, not to mention over 40 raffle baskets, and 22 Door Prizes.

There is knowing loss even as life goes on.

How do you go on when your heart is breaking? How is it that people are laughing when you grieve? How is it that I can go outside and feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my skin and know that I’m alive, when I’m broken? I’m not alone. Heart of Dixie has over 70 members. RWA has over 10,000. Beverly’s books touched millions of readers. And yet, I feel her loss deeply.

You see, I cannot claim to have known Beverly Barton as well as others can. The two of us shared a special bond, a bond that began nearly 6 years ago, when I first joined Heart of Dixie. Beverly was one of the first to greet me. She understood right away that I’d sacrificed my dreams to raise my family. She had done the same. Family meant everything to Beverly, as so many others have said. And family history meant even more. She was a 6th generation southerner with a love for the south that, I dare say, went unmatched. The advice she has given me has made me a better person as well as a better writer. When I needed guidance, Beverly was there. When I had something to celebrate, she was one of the first to contact me. As newsletter editor of HOD’s monthly newsletter, The Heart Monitor, I kept in contact with her every month. Beverly loved HOD with a passion and sought ways to help members find the success she’d been lucky to achieve.

Vivacious, quirky, witty, sassy, loving and classy, friend, mentor, and proud southern belle, Beverly Barton, was all this and more. What an inspiration!

Beverly has left a legacy for us by lifting the bar higher than ever thought possible. You can be a published author, carry yourself with dignity, touch readers, mentor new blood, perceive the world to be inclusive, dare to live beyond your dreams, and share it all with those you love. How? By recognizing the seasons for what they are and becoming a starry guide to those around you. Life happens. Death is inevitable. What lies in between is the legacy that lives on in each of us.

I grew up listening to Donny Osmond sing, A Time For Us. I played it over and over again. The melody is haunting, the lyrics gripped my heart, and it is what I hear in my head as I remember Beverly, the woman with sparkling laughter and a contagious smile. I am a better woman, wife, mother, friend, writer, and mentor because I knew her and was blessed to have called her friend. Now it's time for me to pay it forward and keep her legacy alive.

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Delight is Gone...

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran

As I sit in my study and try to think of something to write, I stare at the bookshelf next to my desk. It is my “bragging” wall. On it I have placed books written by all my dear friends at the Heart of Dixie. There is Linda, LJ, Kim, Lynn, Kira, Melanie, Rhonda, Lyn and Beverly. If someone comes to visit and sees the study, I proudly point out that these are people who are important to me. And yes, I brag that I actually know them.

Today was to be a special day for me. I was looking forward to getting Beverly’s new book “Dead by Morning.” I have read all of her “Dead by” series and I love the characters from the Powell agency. Now I find, like Jean said, how am I to read it? Beverly is gone and I can’t seem to find the same enthusiasm. Oh, I shall buy the book and dutifully place it on the bragging wall but it will not be the same. I won’t be able to pour through it and then tell Beverly how very much I enjoyed it. She is gone and the joy of reading her book has also gone.

As Gibran said, I am truly weeping for the loss of such a dear and wonderful person who gave me such delight. Her writing made me want to strive to be a better writer. But it was her grace and her charm that gave me more. I shall miss her laughter and her steel. She was the epitome of what we all wish to be – successful, brilliant but mostly just a good person. She made sure to speak to everyone, ask about them and their lives, and make them feel special. Who would not miss that?

And yes, I grieve because one more reason to feel delight has been taken. But I shall look in my heart and remember…

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Formal Feeling

Jean here. I don't have it in me to use my whimsical Pantster logo today.

Not long ago, when flipping through a notebook, I found a where I had started and abandoned a shopping list.

Underneath I had written. "I need to buy tomatoes, coffee, and toilet bowl cleaner. But David is dead, so how is that possible?"

Beverly and Kathy, RWA Conference, 2010

I have no memory of writing those words but I recall, in all too vivid detail, the feeling. I think Emily Dickinson described it best as a formal feeling.

Today, I feel that again. The world is a poorer place for the loss of Beverly Barton.

She was my friend and someone I deeply admired. I didn't know her longer or better than most of the people in her life, but when we met almost five years ago, something clicked between us. Because we held similar views on very important things like cloth napkins, hostess gifts, and silver iced tea spoons, she always teased me that we were sisters.

I took that as a compliment of the highest degree because nothing in Beverly's life was more important to her than family—not her career, not her New York Times Bestseller status, not the air she breathed.

At first, I thought I wanted to write about some things she would want to be remembered for. Then I thought, "Who am I to make such assumptions?" There are those who could, but it's not me.

So I am going to mention a few things I would like to see her remembered for. I think Beverly would be all right with that.

Beverly and Stephanie at RWA Conference, 2010

  • She was the consummate professional.
  • She was every inch a lady.
  • She was living out her Happily Ever After.
  • She wanted everyone to succeed. She would tell you what she had learned. If it was something she hadn't learned on her own, she gave credit to the person who taught her.
  • She was the epitome of kindness and grace but it was not of the meek sort. Her generosity of spirit and sweetness came with fire and life.
  • Her shoes and bag always matched.

Today, I have to buy milk, lemons, and laundry detergent. How is that possible?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Memorial to Beverly Barton - Our Friend and Mentor

We mourn the passing of one of our most precious friends - Beverly Barton. She was a wonderful woman who always had a ready smile and a generous heart. Beverly will be missed by each of us. Her quick wit, her lovely voice, her innate kindness and most of all her brilliance is silenced to the world but not in our hearts.

Please leave us with a comment about Beverly. Your thoughts, memories and stories of this great woman mean a lot to us here under the magnolia tree. Beverly Barton was one of the most extraordinary authors of our time and one of the best people God has graced upon this Earth. We love you Beverly!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Here Comes Peter Cottontale

Easter is just around the corner.  It brings back many  many childhood memories for me.  My daddy's family was big, big, big into the Easter celebration. While it was no Decoration Day, Easter certainly was a huge deal for our family. 
I usually got a new dress,underpinnings, and shoes.  And of course, we always got a new Easter basket and tons of candy.  My sister and I would dye Easter eggs at home or with my Granny.  She was the best at dyeing eggs because she was patient.  Of course, she had to be since she raised eight children including my mother. 

Some of my very best memories with my cousins were Easter egg hunts (The others mostly involve Shiloh but that is a blog for another day!).   We always had a ton of eggs that my daddy and Uncle Shorty hid.  I can still remember the excitement of being sequestered in the living room with all the curtains pulled closed so that we couldn't sneak a peek. My Aunt Linda Gail had the dubious honor of wrangling us all into the room and keeping us there.  My paw-paw always hid the prize eggs.  These were the only plastic eggs that were allowed.   There was a $20.00 egg, a $10.00 egg and a $5.00 one.
I think he always told my cousin Greg where the big bucks were since Greg was his favorite and  most years  Greg found a money egg.  We had the rule that you could only find one prize egg so if someone spotted a second one they would always get a favorite cousin to share the wealth with.  Oddly enough, I don't think anyone ever thought to share with a sibling!  There was also some sort of prize for the person who found the most eggs but it was usually some little treat like more chocolate bunnies so the competition was all for the prize eggs.  By now most of you know that I am a little bit competitive.  I believe that I got this gene from my father's side of the genetic pool because several of my cousins and I would do just about anything to beat out the others to find the money eggs.  One year my cousin Chris managed to find all three of the eggs and would only share with the boy cousins.  Let me tell you it was a LONG time before he got to eat anything from my Easy-Bake oven again!  Another year the youngest grandchild found the big money and it about killed some of us. We still believe there was no way she stumbled onto that big money, what with our years of experience.   I am SURE my paw-paw set that up too!

What are some of your Easter memories?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ain't Life Weird

Life has a way of weirding you out, doesn't it?

One minute you are on the path to the summit, wind in your hair, a country flag to stake with pride, and a vow never to quit upon your lips, and the next, an intimate knowledge of rocks and nature’s cruel realities force you to hurdle and jump to gain the smallest ground.

To every noble stride, there are steep grades to scale, and scrub brush to pick out of aching flesh. No matter where you go, there will always be rain and the diagonal grade of a mountain which becomes a slippery slope. (Cue the early Columbia scene from Romancing the Stone.)

“Ooh, what a ride!”

What goes up must come down or vice versa, right? Isn’t that Darwin’s Theory? There will always be hurdles to jump and whistles to answer. Life is filled with Plain Jane rules, but it is more often than not a master of disguise and a mischievous villain contorting the hands of fate. Just when we think we’ve learned all we can, the way to our prize, destiny, is abraded by an unseen hand. What do we do? Scatter? Curl into a ball and pray? Or do we strap on a harness and repel down the mountain to safety?

The choices we make are the difference between succeeding and failing. Settling for normal has killed a great many gifted souls. Without a mountain to climb, there can be no appreciation of a beauteous summit. Without scrapping a knee or bloodying an elbow, nothing in life is worth the trouble.

I often ask myself why mountaineers scale Mt. Everest, Mt. McKinley and all the historic peaks of the earth. What draws climbers? What lures them to face challenges that kill and maim? Is it being able to say, “Only the favored few have or will ever make it to the top?” Or is it the struggle, the guts and brawn needed to make it there, which appeals to us the most? Does the prize mean as much when dues haven’t been paid? What happens when we make it to the top but are afraid of the heights?

Fighting for what you want will always take your breath. No matter the hurdle, whether that be starting a new job, bringing a child into the world, fighting for freedom at home and abroad, grieving death, the loss of a job, separation from family, there will always be a valley on the other side of the mountain. Whatever the mountaintop, rocks, mudslides, snow, wind, rain, and thirst, cannot stall the human condition. If the ambition/drive is there, the quest for excellence can and should be achieved.

In Romance the Stone, Joan Wilder, the mousy, NYC writer, took the first step up the mountain (in Manolo’s, no less) to reach the other side and save her sister. In the process, a true hero entered her life. The way up the steep grade was not easy. Columbian drug lords, thieves, and crocodiles proved to be tremendous hurdles. But together, Joan and Jack scaled the summit, attained their heart's desire, and repelled to safety, winning an HEA. Success came at great cost to their 'normal', but they discovered more about themselves than they thought possible during the climb.

Are you like Joan, stepping out of your comfort zone and risking it all? Or are you like Jack, hiding from destiny only to be called out of the jungle by fate?

What mountain rises before you? Share your stories with us under the Tulip Tree today.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Psychedelic Dresses - a 70"s Flashback

Dresses. Have you looked at them lately? I feel like I am having a Sixties/Seventies flashback and it’s not a good trip. I started looking for a dress for the Heart of Dixie Luncheon set for April 30th. I thought, what with my new weight loss and new hairstyle (thanks Maven Linda), I could pull off wearing one of those cute new spring dresses I keep seeing on television. Girded for battle, I started shopping.

The first thing I noticed upon walking into the department store was the harsh kaleidoscope of colors – brown with pinks, orange with pink, chartreuse (no one looks good in this so why even try to pawn it off on us?) – My Gosh who did this? Have they never heard of the Color Wheel? Somebody obviously forgot you cannot combine Spring with Summer colors. A definite disaster.

I courageously went forward. I WANTED to wear a dress to the HOD luncheon. I plowed ahead, fingers swiping through racks, looking and rejecting each. Too old, too young. I kept thinking of the saying from “Fried Green Tomatoes”: I’m too old to be young and too young to be old. I quickly decided to go to the designer section. Surely the designers would be more circumspect and make a lovely dress for someone my age. WRONG. I was met with the same color explosions or old lady chiffon. Where were the cute dresses?

I went to another store and found a few that I thought I might could pull off. I chose what I thought would be my new size, draped some dresses across my arm and then headed for the dressing rooms. I hung them up, ruefully eyeing my choices. I plucked the first one from the dressing room hook and tried to get it on. Yes, tried, there was no zipper. Okay, so it slipped over the head. I struggled and finally got it on. My Gosh, what was I thinking? The view look like sausage stuffed in a casing! I HAD lost weight so what was this? Best to get out of this nightmare. Or so I thought. Have you ever been stuck in a $250.00 dress in a department store and can’t get out of it? I pulled; I struggled until finally I managed to get the dad-blasted thing off. I got dressed and picked all the dresses up, intending on going out to find a LARGER size. As I was walking out of the dressing room, I noticed a girl about my height and a good sixty pounds heavier telling her mom that she needed a smaller size – two sizes smaller than the one I just tried on. I started to say “Good Luck with that” but figured I didn’t want to be found dead in the dressing room when the store closed. She was a lot bigger than me…

I went from store to store, searching, trying on dresses, rejecting dresses, and getting depressed. Finally I gave up. Leaving the last store, I saw a lovely jacket, shell and pants, all lined up for me. Guess I’ll be wearing pants again this year…

Do you feel like all the designers think we want to dress like we were twenty? Maybe some of you ladies out there are closer to twenty but for those of us who don’t want to be like “bless her heart” Aunt Mary wearing a mini dress what are we to do? So, tell me, are there any places that have chic dresses that aren’t made for teenagers? Tell me about your latest shopping expedition and what you found (probably peasant blouses, halter dresses, and psychedelic colors – flashback anyone?)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rules for Common Courtesy

Last week, after I expounded on movie theater behavior, Beverly remarked that she longed for a return to common courtesy. I am with her and I've been thinking about it all week.

1. If your food isn't to your liking in a restaurant, quietly and discreetly send it back. If you gripe throughout the meal, you ruin everyone's good time.

2. For the love of God, please understand that no one, apart from a health care professional, wants to hear about the body functions of yourself, your child, or your animals.

3. Don't talk about a party or outing you were invited to in front of people who were not. It is beyond rude.

4. Do not tell half a story and refuse to finish it because you were asked not to tell. Just keep your mouth shut in the first place. It's clear you want everyone to know that you know something they don't and you shouldn't have been trusted in the first place.

5. When you text and answer your phone in polite company, you are saying, "I'd rather be somewhere else with someone else." You should just go there.

6. When a casual friend asks after your children, keep it short. As in, "She is doing well. She just got a cheerleading scholarship to LSU and we are all very excited." A little information is fine but unless you are talking to a relative, very close friend, godparent, or news reporter, chances are excellent that they don't care about batting averages, ACT scores, progress on potty training, colors of prom dresses, or the number of times Hunter and Mary Paul threw up last night.

7. Do not name drop for professional purposes unless you have been granted permission by the person who owns the name.

8. Do not name drop socially for any reason.

9. Don't double dip. That shouldn't have to be said.

This doesn't begin to cover it, of course. What social sin sets your teeth on edge?

I can't wait to find out, but I'll probably have to. By the time you read this, the Virgina cousins will be here. My job tomorrow is to be witty, hospitable, and serve good food. I'll check in with you when I can.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Cheryl is reading The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart
Stephanie is reading The Bride by Julie Garwood
Kathy is reading Earl of Darkness by Alix Rickloff

Jean is reading Vampires in the City by Kerrelyn Sparks--

Which I have something to say about, which I can because I am posting this. Kerrelyn Sparks is going to be the guest speaker at the Heart of Dixie Readers' luncheon on April 30. (For more info, ask Kathy in comments. She is the fabulous chair of this fabulous event. She will be happy to tell you.) Anyway--I really only intended to read one of the books this series. You know when you are going to hear an author speak you want to read a book. Well. It's like crack, but in a good way. I got up at midnight last night to read some more. I had book club tonight. I went and drank the wine and ate the cheese but I had not read the assigned books. "Sorry, girls," I said. "No wisdom from me tonight about the assignment. I've got these vampires I'm worried about. I couldn't read the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Information Super-Highway

This past Saturday I presented a short program to some members of my local Romance Writers of America Chapter, the fabulous Heart of Dixie.  This program was, more or less, about how to research people using the Internet.  Last night I was conversing with a friend about the program and how easy it was to find out all kinds of things about people using just the most basic of facts. 

Miss B had already told me about how she had taken a taxi van ride with her family and a couple total strangers in Atlanta over the weekend. Apparently these strangers had been not just three, but four, sheets to the wind and had volunteered their names and occupations, along with some fun facts like their home town and that he was married to her best friend. (In fact, they called said wife/best friend from the taxi; seriously, no one would buy this story!)  So after I start telling her about my program on Saturday, I followed up with  how  when I had once  Googled someone, I found some pictures of their house, complete with their favored  brands of plastic wrap and vodka. I went on to explain how that felt sort of "stalker-like" even though I didn't set out to stalk anyone. Miss B said, "Hey, I'm gonna Google that guy from the taxi just to see if I can find him."  She typed his first name, occupation, and town of residence; within three minutes  she had a picture of him, his last name, the address of his office, and his fax number.  WOW!! That surprised even me! 

This lead us to a very interesting discussion about how much information is out there in the ether of the world wide web about all of us.  I know that many of us think before we post on blogs, put things up on Facebook, or websites because we want what exists by or about us to be complementary--or at least not be crazy or mean.  Most of us understand that once something is up on the Internet, is is there for everyone to see.  As Precious Angel once said, "It's called the WORLD wide web! Hello!"

Have you ever crossed the line when "researching" someone into a more scary mode or have you ever had anything on the world wide web that you later regretted putting out there?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kathy's Movie Picks

Jean and Cheryl have been making lists this week, most notably producing a list of movie rules and top southern behaviors. As I pondered these topics, I realized I might fall a bit short of receiving a true southern nod, but I do follow Jean's rules and I know a great deal about movies and the entertainment industry.

I'm enamored with People and Entertainment magazines, which offer an insider peak at the entertainment world as a whole, revealing news and upcoming events. (Hint: I also like to cut out celebrity photos so I can use them on my storyboard. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;)

It is true people have individual tastes. Some likes and dislikes of the moving-picture industry can run the gambit from romantic comedies to romantic suspense. When I hear romance authors talk about how they cannot stand to watch romantic comedies, I shiver. Yes, some plots are slow or blatantly obvious to a fifth grader, but unlike some movie goers, I go to movies to be entertained. Every movie is the product of a director, screen writer and the actors who play the leads. I take a lot of plots with a grain of salt as long as the plot doesn't sink into stupidity. (Though I'm quite partial to silly. Shout out, Will Farrell!)

Movies are meant to be enjoyed. Yes, the cost of movies has skyrocketed, but theatres are there for those who are willing to shell out for entertainment. Ergo: this is why Jean listed rules for theatre behavior. No one wants to pay to hear someone else's child cry or get blinded by the blue light radiating from a phantom phone in the audience.

My pet peeve is going to a movie that has been promoted as a comedy only to find it is a drama. Don't solicit my attention by promising me a good laugh and then punch me in the gut. Grrrr! That I hate and will never forgive, Pembridge Scholars!

Kathy's list of must sees

Romantic comedy: You know movies like Sweet Home Alabama, Made of Honor, Cry Baby, Crocodile Dundee, Working Girl or my all-time favorite, The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. These movies combine quirky characters who have just sworn off their last date but participate, against plan, in the cute meet. Both characters immediately loathe each other, but as the movie progresses and pasts come to light, the characters begin to sympathize with one another and bond. This bond is tested on all sides but eventually true love wins. Goody! (Happy hands!)

Romantic drama: Plenty of angst and sorrow accompany these movies. Usually a loved one is lost, sometimes even a pet (Ooh! Don't kill off a dog or horse! That really gets my goat. Can I get a Marley and Me, which was promoted as a romantic comedy? Huh? ...I digress). In romantic drama, the primary characters are using each other to further their goals but fall madly in love when forced into situations which glorify their likable traits. Perhaps the heroine is saved by the hero or vice versa. Either way, movies like Someone to Watch Over Me, The Notebook (though this is typically not 'romance' as the author mercilessly repeats), Love Story, Legends Of The Fall, and Under The Tuscan Sun fit this bill. Yay! (Warm and fuzzy all over.)

Romantic adventure: Here I delve into the movie genre with a keen appreciation, a trusted compass and my eye on the horizon. I have special love for Pirates of the Caribbean's I-III, but the movie to outlast them all would have to be Romancing The Stone and its sequel, Jewel Of The Nile. No romance writer would neglect to add these to their must see lists. Many more fit this genre, to include: Medicine Man, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Dances With Wolves, Pathfinder, Twilight, and The Last Mohican (the soundtrack rocks!). ("I will find you!")

Romantic suspense: I'd be remiss if I didn't include Casablanca here. Rebecca, The Tourist, Play Misty For Me, The Bourne Identity (1st movie), Cliffhanger, Reds, Disturbia, Eagle Eye, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith all fit this bill. These movies vary in structure, characterization and length. Characters are secretive as long as they can be, until the final scene reveals one cataclysmic plot thread that seals their fates. Happy endings need apply.

You see? On a personal note, I'm not that picky. Just give me a happily ever after, that's all I ask. Is it too much? Isn't it worth me going to the theatre to abide by Jean's rules or paying money to buy the DVD and then switch that out for BlueRay?

Seriously, I love movies! Give me a comic book character with a love interest and I'm as content as a Cheshire cat. By the way, didn't anyone else notice Alice and the Mad Hater had a budding romance in the new Alice And Wonderland movie with my favorite actor of all time, Johnny Depp? What will they think of next? The Lion King? Wait. He found love with that lioness and they had children of their own. All the Disney Princesses found love, even the Frog Prince managed to snag a bride. Hmmmm... There's definitely a pattern here and I believe it states love changes lives, builds futures and justifies existence.

So what is your favorite movie romance genre and what movies ignite your heart with laughter and passion?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

She's Got a Voice like Tupelo Honey...

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the women I know and what makes us uniquely Southern. We all have a lot in common and we have a lot that makes us different. I started listing traits that make a Southern Woman. I am sure that other regions have stereotypical things that women do but in the South we tend to cling to our tradition with a tenacity that a bulldog would envy. Below is a list of things which make us unique (you might even say a little bit crazy). Those of you who were born and bred here will recognize some and maybe, hopefully, add a few of your own. Those of you who have correctly chosen to live here (including you Yankees) can probably point out a few we don’t recognize in ourselves. So, here goes:

1. Know Your Roots – Always be prepared to discuss your ancestors in any given social situation. Lineage is very important to Southerners. You never know when you might be asked to join the Daughters of the Confederacy or, be still my heart, the Daughters of the American Revolution. The ability to recite back at least five generations on both sides of your family tree is a definite “must” for polite conversation.
2. Manners – Always be polite and respectful. Hold your tongue even when you are so annoyed with someone that you have gritted your teeth until the fillings in your jaw teeth have collapsed and you will need an appointment with the dentist for a root canal and crown.
3. Clubs – You have to be a member of some club. Junior League, garden club, historical society, the save-the-endangered-minnows-at-the-bottom-of-Sam Beauregard’s-well club – just join some type of club. Social clubs give you a purpose to do good outside the home and allow you to learn the latest gossip about everyone else.
4. Hobbies – You must have a hobby which elevates you to a certain status in your social circle. Some women cook – making the best RC cola cake in town. Others can sew – creating the loveliest little dresses for the next Junior Miss pageant. Growing vegetables, like Weezer’s tomatoes, makes you the go-to girl for that special salad at the Junior League luncheon. I crochet doilies, endlessly, which everyone wants for something like Aunt Sally’s drop-leaf table. You never know when someone is going to put something on that polished mahogany. Doilies protect the aged wood surface from such uncouth behavior.
5. Appropriate Sayings - You must have a plethora of sayings to fit any occasion and be able to use them appropriately. For instance, if someone in your club is acting snooty, you use “I wish I could buy her for what she’s worth and sell her for what she thinks she’s worth. I’d be a millionaire.” Or, if someone needs to know the unvarnished truth, you can say “I’m not here to blow sunshine up your skirt” (that one I borrowed from Jean).
6. Never Leave Home without Make-up On and Your Hair Styled – Even if you are just running to the grocery store, you must be properly coiffed, painted and dressed. You never know who you’re going to run into on the produce aisle. It would never do to be the subject of talk at the next club meeting about how bad you looked standing next to the cantaloupes.
7. Quirky Relatives – Every Southern family must have at least one “quirky” relative ( a nice way to say a relative is “as crazy as a bedbug”). For instance, Aunt Betty Sue like cats; she has thirty of them, all named for a Confederate General or an important battle of the Civil War.
8. Be One of the “Boys” – You must be able to be one of the “boys” while maintaining you “Scarlett O’Hara” femininity. Having the ability to join your husband at the local fishing hole in the morning, clean and gut the catch at noon and then attend a local cotillion at two o’clock that afternoon (gloves cover a multitude of sins) is a plus in any Southern gentleman’s opinion. Men like to brag about their “women” that way.
9. Being Well-read – Every Southern woman must reading a book at any given time. You must be conversant about all Southern writers like Harper Lee, William Faulkner or the down-trodden Zelda. Being literate is what separates us from the beasts.
10. Never EVER Raise Your Voice – Southern women must be soft-spoken. It goes with the accent. Yelling and stomping your foot is never considered polite behavior. You must have the ability to shred someone into pieces for a social slight while remaining lady-like and soft-spoken. Delivery of a cut direct or a stinging barb while your voice drips Tupelo honey makes you a Southern lady.

So, these are some of the traits as I see them Please add a few of your own to the list. If we get enough, perhaps we should see about turning this into a book. I believe it would be a New York Times best seller because, after all, who wouldn’t want to be a Southern Lady?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rules For Movie Going According to Jean

This should not need to be written, but it does. Anyone who doesn't have enough sense to grasp these basic concepts ought to be banned from every theater in the United States. Maybe in foreign countries too but that doesn't affect me. When I am in another country, I do not go to the movies. (Nor do I eat at American chain restaurants or expect to be able to buy diet Mountain Dew and have salad dressing. But that's another blog.)

Back to this movie thing.

1. Get there on time and shut up. You might not care about the previews but I do.

2. Go the restroom before you come in. I will forgive you for tripping all over my feet once but I won't forgive you twice.

3. If you don't understand the plot, don't ask a lot of questions of your friends. In fact, don't ask any questions. Shut up. When you get home, read about it on the internet.

4. You notice I said, "When you get home". Do not whip out that smart phone for any reason. You may think texting and looking up the movie plot won't bother anyone but you are flashing it in my eyes and I don't like it.

5. In fact, turn that phone off. If you cannot make yourself do that—and so many cannot, it seems—leave it at home. If you can't do either of those things, stay home with it.

6. Do not bring your preschooler to an adult movie. I have no interest in having him cry, talk, and kick the back of my seat.

7. By the same token, if you are an adult and choose to go to a children's movie at two o'clock on Saturday afternoon, expect crying, talking, and kicking. Take it with good grace. You're on their turf now.

8. If it's a musical, don't sing along. If the public wanted to hear you, you would have been cast.

9. And could you please wait until you get all the way out into the lobby to turn your phone on and start reading and replying to those very important text messages that you received in the last 214 minutes? I mean, I know they're important. Your 23 BFFs had to let you know that, OMG, they are ROFLMAO at the picture of the duck riding a Great Dane that you sent them earlier and you need to give them a VBS back. But you see, chances are excellent that I need to go to the restroom since I haven't tromped down the aisle over your feet and you are slowing me down. DUGI?

10. If you are on a first date with a person you met on the internet, do us all a favor and go to Starbucks instead. I don't want to hear you try to build a relationship in two hours.

11. If I haven't made it clear yet:

Not you, of course, and certainly not here.

These can't be all the rules. Do you have some?

Friday, April 8, 2011


Stephanie is reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Cheryl is reading The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

Jean is reading Eat Prey Love by Kerrelyn Sparks

Kathy is reading her own manuscript before sending it out.

What are you reading?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Devil's Heart and 10,000 Other Body Parts

So last night as I lay alone in my single-girl-bed, I read a great description of the struggle we often face when our heads and hearts say one thing while our carnal bodies insist on another.

The book?  The newest release by our friend, the fabulous Lynn Raye Harris, The Devil's Heart.  The story is a reunion story and the spunky heroine struggles with her attraction to the tall, dark and dangerous hero when she thinks, "Her head knew that Marcos was bad news.  Her heart knew it too.  Her body, however, stubbornly wanted to straddle his and fulfill all of the fantasies she'd ever had about him."

Wow! Those few words summed up the entire struggle that we often face. Well, okay, the struggle that I have.  Y'all are probably much smarter than I am and don't have to learn the same messy lesson over and over. Pantster and I are working on some revisions,. especially on increasing our conflict as well as sexual tension.  I have a new appreciation for tight writing that clearly communicates. What a great job these few words do to accomplish both of these tasks!  We can clearly see how the heroine is having a major internal struggle.Since it is over physical attraction and her own mental fantasies, the sexual tension just sky rockets!

I will be giving away an autographed copy of                                      
The Devil's Heart  at 9 p.m. to one lucky commenter!

I would love to hear about books that you have written or read that
increase conflict or sexual tension in a way that sucked you in deeper and deeper.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

We’ve been discussing book characters and characters in real life lately. This got me to thinking and when that happens, unusual things take place. LOL!

This past weekend, we drove up to North Carolina to bring our youngest son his belongings after we had taken them home with us from Oklahoma when he was scheduled to go to Air Borne School. What a beautiful drive! Dogwoods, Redbuds and Cherry trees in bloom! We made it safely and were able to visit with him all day Saturday.

He had many errands to run and we set out to help him lasso his needs. Going into our foray into this North Carolina town, we didn’t know much about, we were equipped with a GPS. Using it didn’t turn out as easy as we expected but by 9 p.m. (Eastern Time) we were ready to eat dinner. By the time we got to a Japanese restaurant, we were famished and were ushered in to a Hibachi room.

Across from us were seated three men, two women and a couple with their teenage daughter. Seated to the left of us was a younger couple (husband having just gotten back from Afghanistan and celebrating his 23rd birthday!) and to the right, a couple with their 9 yr. old daughter. Very cozy!

The first chef arrived to cook and serve the table across from us. We watched him perform his duties, all the while becoming more aware of the three men on the other table. One gentleman’s face got red, his eyes a bit woozy. He put his arm around the woman next to him. Okay, my writer’s brain is beginning to sort this all out. The couple are married (man had on wedding ring and she did too) and are out celebrating with friends, which would explain the Saki they drank and chased down with beer.

The woman next to the man spoke animatedly. She teased the men, cracking jokes, leaning back on her mother, using “Mama said,” quite often in conversation. Finally, the chef did something fantastic and the woman’s voice rose with a most notable southern accent, “You done good, baby! My mama always said if I told a man that, I would go far.” (I nearly busted out laughing.)

Meanwhile, the couple and teen at the end of their table cast awkward glances about them. We, on the other table, watch as though expectantly waiting for the next weirdest thing to happen.

Happen, it did! While the spectacle escalated, our chef arrived. He was very creative, but it just so happened that he was missing his front tooth. He began to shuffle his spatulas like they were numchuks but had a mishap. He said, "I'm much better with knives." My eyes bugged out of my head! (Imagine an oriental chef with no front tooth, knife twirling problems, and a southern belle making a ruckus across the way.)

To add to the escalating chaos, the southern woman held up her breasts with both hands, in front of the men, and gazed down into her lap to see if she’d spilled anything. The man next to her got up over and over again, once swerving as if he didn’t know where he was. He always returned and put his arm around the woman who laughed and conversed with them as if she’d known them all her life.

Our chef — remember him? — cooked shrimp then flicked one of the tails onto the man’s lap. He never noticed and we busted out laughing. But our wily chef wasn’t done with us. No! He had an ever greater trick to play.

Be patient, grasshoppers! Wait for it!

Where was I? Yes! Oh, our chef was very creative. After he cooked shrimp and mixed vegetables for us to snack on, he then unloaded a ton of rice onto the Hibachi grill. Tons! Enough that he was like the Michelangelo of the Hibachi Grill. He worked the rice with his spatula. "Is that a football?" I asked. He grinned and continued to sculpt. “Is that an arrow?” I asked again because I’m always curious. Another sly grin.

Now, I beg of you to imagine the Hibachi grill in your mind’s eye. See a big lump of rice molded into an arrow shape. Yes, you’re almost ready… He sculpts some more, smoothing out the sharp edges of the arrowhead, which now looks like a long shaft with a curved base. I looked at hubby. He looked back at me. I turned and looked at the woman next to me. She looked back at me and then we both looked at her 9 yr old daughter. The chef squint his eyes appreciatively, his hands ever working the rice sculpture with ease. He then took out some sesame seeds and— wait for it! — covered the now duel / rounded shaped base in patches. I looked at the woman next to me and busted out laughing. Was it? Did he? All eyes go to the 9 yr. old girl who is thankfully oblivious. Our laughter cannot be staunched. Can you envision the image before us? The sly/jovial chef then slits the long rice shaft and puts half of a lemon on the base. OMG! “It’s a rabbit!” I cried with relief.

“You people have dirty minds,” our chef said with a wink.

Meanwhile, across the Hibachi more mischief is going down. The waiters come over and sing Happy Birthday with bongo drums and threadbare enthusiasm. The woman then stands, does a dance, then sings over the man’s shoulder, “Happy Birthday to you, Your wife’s gonna kill you!”

All hope of ever keeping the 9 yr old in the dark has now passed. The young girl repeated the lyrics, singing them and laughing out loud. The singers then turned to our table and began the tune (with drums) again. Our returning war hero stood and performed the Sprinkler to the delight of his wife and all of us. We applauded his return from Afghanistan. But our odd evening was not over. No! Before the southern belle left table across from us, the man she'd spent her meal with had gone on another bathroom run, and she found the other two men haggling over the bill, thinking to rip off their buddy. “He’s too drunk. He’ll never know,” they said. The young womanizer swerved back into the room and as the woman passed him, she yelled over her shoulder, “You’d better watch out. They’re going to rip you off.”

Then, as mysteriously as she'd entered our lives, the southern belle was gone.

I turned to my husband and said, “You just can’t make this stuff up.”

What stuff have you seen that simply could not be real? ;)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"The Artist's Loving Hand..."

Words are a writer's medium, like paint is to the artist. Writers create their worlds using words. Broad strokes, short strokes - all to portray a meaning or a feeling by description. An artist uses the faintest umber to give depth or a clear white to show closeness of surface. A writer crafts the feelings of happiness, sadness or anger through words ranging from dark to light. Artists and writers are similar because they both are trying to convey a story, whether on paper or canvas. Both want to show their view of their world.

I have a print in my living room by Vincent Van Gogh which touches my soul with his story. It is not one of his more famous works and is probably unknown to you. Called "Pink and White Roses," the work is a montage of pinks, whites, greens and blues with a slight touch of dark reds. When I look at it I imagine I can sense the joy which Van Gogh felt when he painted it. Perhaps for a time in his troubled life, I like to imagine, he experienced the beauty of the roses and was happy. And that is what I perceive from the painting - profound happiness. On close examination, the abrupt brush strokes and the jarring fever of the artist is evident. No peace or serenity exists in the frenetic strokes with which he painted to capture the scene before the colors faded and the petals dropped. But, if you step back and allow the entire work to coalesce before your eyes, the beauty and serenity creeps in, filling you with the child-like ecstasy he must have harbored when he gazed at that simple vase with its overflowing colors. Understand, if you look too closely, you cannot see the miracle he painted.

The same is true of what we write. To perfect our work, we take classes and listen to lectures. We concentrate on the minutiae. Great attention is paid to the grammar, the syntax, the punctuation and the proper way to write in order to please an agent or an editor. After all, this is a business and we must strive to please the market.

I still pause to think of Van Gogh who never received recognition during his life for his work but is now considered one of the Masters of Impressionism.

We strive to be perfect, centering on the smallest of details to make sure everything is correct. But, if we step back from our work and view the entire story can we see the beauty of what we have created? Does our story fill the reader with emotions? With the basic sense of the work - the STORY?

I sometimes feel bogged down by the miniscule and the mundane of writing. Does the sentence work or is the chapter properly in the right point of view? I think that when that happens to us we should take a step back and allow our stories to coalesce before us. Never forget that, even though it is a craft, writing is also an art. The ART of STORYTELLING. Don't lose sight of the wondrous tale you have in your head. Believe in your story and tell it well, with emotion and heart, not programmed grammar. All the jarring little strokes of those computer keys paint a bigger, more beautiful tale - exactly as Van Gogh did with his oils and brush. The broader picture is, after all, just a sum of the whole.

"We spend our whole lives in unconscious exercise of the art of expressing our thoughts with the help of words." - Vincent Van Gogh.

What do you do when you are overwhelmed with the sameness of your story or the intricacies of your work? Have you ever thrown your hands up in exasperation, forgetting that thought in your head which made the story wonderful? How do you revive the artist within you when the mundane threatens to take over?

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Didn't See That Coming

Just when you think you can 100 percent predict what someone will do, he goes and pulls his pants down in public. I did not see that coming.

This Grease business started months ago. They'd already had the dance tryouts when the director ran Precious Angel down in the hall of the high school. "I hear you can sing," she said.

"I can," he said. He will not tell you his strengths unless you ask but, at that point, he sees no future in beating around the bush.

"Please," she said. "Please come to tryouts."

"Okay," he said. "But I can't play a lead. I will sing a solo but I don't have the time to learn a lot of lines." Those were his terms. I guess it didn't occur to him that he might not be cast in a part that required a solo and a lot of lines.

Originally, he was to be Teen Angel. One song—"Beauty School Dropout"—, almost no dancing, absolutely no lines. Over and out. That lasted until rehearsals started.

Though he can sing, his comic skills exceed his musical ones, and his dancing exceeds both. I'm not exactly sure how the director found out he was funny and could dance since he was only supposed to be crooning "Beauty School Dropout" while he sauntered down some steps, but I highly suspect he had taken it upon himself to do a little unsolicited coaching on the side. You know, just helping his pals out a little. That's the way of him.

Anyway, next thing we know, Precious Angel is no longer Teen Angel, but is Roger, the class clown T-Bird. I think his name was Putzie in the movie, but we're talking Broadway Musical here, though not so much Broadway, as the auditorium of Decatur High School. I guess he relaxed his terms a little when he got caught up in the whole thing. For whatever reason, he now was in practically every scene and had more lines than fleas on stray dog. And then there was the singing and the dancing--including a little number called "Mooning". You see where this is going.

Stephanie said, "Did you notice him up there pointing and ordering people around on that stage like he was the boss of them, just like when he's playing football?" Yeah, well. I like to think of it as being a leader. "He's come a long way since 'I see London, I see France, I see Jean's underpants.'" Yeah, Stephanie was there when, just shy of his second birthday, he pulled up my skirt in public and intoned that little piece of poetry for the world at large.

Speaking of underpants, and back to Grease and the point of this blog.

If I had been asked, I world have bet the farm and my last cup of coffee that this child would not have been willing to—not once but twice per performance—pull down his pants and expose his smiley-face-boxer-shorts-clad rear end to the citizens of this town. Even in the name of art. Not that I think there was anything wrong with it. But I know this boy. In spite of his self-confidence, he has a small streak of shy and a huge streak of modesty. And he'd already proven he was willing to dictate, if not stick to, his terms.

Yet, there is someone I know even better than Precious Angel. His name is Luke and he is the hero in the story Stephanie and I are revising. Some of our characters are hers, some mine, and some a blend. But Luke is mine, mine, mine. I expect him to do what I tell him.

However, a few days ago, he said something that I didn't think of and didn't think was a good idea. I took my hands off the keyboard and stared at the screen.

"Oh, no you don't," I told him. "That's not what you would do."

"Yes, it is," he said, smugly. (Because he is smug.)

"Stephanie is not going to like this," I told him.

"I don't care," he said. (And he doesn’t) "Besides, don't blame it on her. You want to be the boss of me. Nobody is the boss of me." (And isn't that the truth.)

"Can we compromise?" I asked.

"Absolutely not. I don't compromise. You ought to know that." (Sigh. I do.)

"I'll make you pull your pants down in public," I threatened him. "I have the power."

He laughed at me. "Go right ahead. Just try it, and I'll never let that woman bring me to my knees. And then, where will you be?"


So, no matter how well you think you know them, sometimes they will surprise you. And aren't those the best moments? It used to scare me when I couldn't handle them anymore. Now I know that's when it's working.

Do you handle your characters or do they handle you?

Friday, April 1, 2011


Cheryl is reading: Deadly Promises a trilogy by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love, Cindy Gerard and Laura Griffin.

This has never happened before but Kathy, Stephanie, and Jean are reading the same book:
The Devil's Heart by Lynn Raye Harris.

What are you reading?