Friday, December 19, 2008

Thinking Ahead to Christmas ...

I can't believe it. This never happens. I'm ready for Christmas a whole week early. I've finished shopping, and I don't even feel as if I've broken a sweat -- probably because I did a whole lot of shopping online this year. Usually, I don't mind getting out in the holiday shopping crowds and sharing all that holiday spirit with a bunch of strangers. I think I'm pretty patient when it comes to standing in lines and fighting over parking spaces. But this year the thought of driving through snow and ice, mincing in and out of the stores without falling, and standing in long lines for the privilege of handing over my hard earned money just had no appeal. And since my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live across country and all their gifts had to be shipped anyway, it made logical sense to just order the gifts and let somebody's shipping department take care of getting it there. Ordering online also had the extra benefit of allowing me to avoid the ghastly long lines in the post office. Of course, that means I haven't done a whole lot of wrapping this year, and my daughter and son-in-law are both doing more than their share, but they don't seem to mind, so it's working out okay. Besides, my daughter likes to coordinate the wrapping paper on the gifts under her tree and my haphazard wrapping style always plays havoc with her efforts, so I think she's even a little grateful that most of the gifts coming from me will be properly coordinated this year. Not all of the gifts, of course. My oldest daughter and I did manage to buy a handful of things in person, and we wrapped them in assorted, uncoordinated colors and carted them to the post office a couple of days ago. We packed them into boxes and wound our way through the crowd to stand in a line that made my back ache just looking at it. Then we noticed the do-it-yourself station, and we high-tailed it across the lobby so fast we almost broke our necks getting there. We had to wait for one person to finish putting postage on her packages, spent about 2 minutes printing labels and postage for our boxes, and got out of there before the line we'd been in inched forward by even one person. Great, right? Yeah, except for some reason I don't feel particularly jolly about the holidays this year. Maybe it's because we're not all together this year. Maybe it's because we're all so concerned about being frugal and staying within budget. Finding the gift for someone is much harder when you don't have any financial wiggle room, and I've never liked giving gifts just for the sake of giving a gift. In fact, in my family, the goal each year is to find just the right gift -- the one someone never thought they'd get, the one that makes them cry. The more tears, the better. Everyone else in the family -- brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, parents -- knows what the year's special gift is, and everyone waits with bated breath for the gift to be opened. When you're the recipient of the "Let's Make Her Cry" gift, you sometimes realize in advance that the gift you're about to open is this year's IT gift. Your first clue is that members of the family who have wandered away to change diapers or refresh a drink suddenly scurry back to the tree. The sudden proliferation of cameras is also a clue that the box on your lap may be something special. But even knowing that, even with advance warning, the gift is always something that will take your breath away. Not because it's expensive (although it sometimes is), but because it's so meaningful. I already know what this year's IT gift is. It's the webcam we gave my daughter and son-in-law last Christmas. No, maybe I can't sit in the room with them when they open their gifts, but I can do the next best thing, thanks to technology and a little foresight. Just thinking about that makes me feel a lot more jolly!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary

This is going to sound weird. I know it is. But today is my aniversary. Not weird, you say? Okay, how about this? I was married (mumble-mumble) years ago today. We stayed together for 5 years, and divorced almost 30 years ago. Not weird enough for you? Okay, well, my ex-husband passed away almost 10 years ago. Not only are we not married, he's not even around any longer. Now what do you think? Before he passed away, my ex used to call me every year on this day to wish me a happy anniversary. At first his calls irritated me. Since we were at odds, the more irritated I became, the better he liked it. After a few years, I shifted from irritation to mere annoyance. That took a little of the fun out of the day for him, but by then I suppose calling me was a habit. And then, finally, when we were able to put the anger behind us and we became friends, the calls actually amused me. I'm not sure whether I'd think about the day if we'd chosen to get married in, say, June. But we got married two days after Thanksgiving, so when I start thinking Thanksgiving, I inevitably think wedding, and from there it's just a hop, skip and a jump to anniversary. Since he's been gone, I've taken over the anniversary wish department. I can't call him, but I do wish him a happy anniversary every year on this date. It seems like the least I can do, y'know? So Happy Anniversary, big guy! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Colorful Candy!

Today's theme is Colorful, so I'm sharing these pictures I took of a candy shop in Virginia City, Nevada.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ready, Set, Go!

Well, I finally finished the revisions on SUCKER PUNCH, and the book has gone into production, so now it's time to ask myself what's next. My other professional obligations are finally a thing of the past, which means I'll have a lot more time to write than I've had in the past two years. This is a really good thing, and I feel almost giddy with excitement when I contemplate all the time I'll have to devote to writing and research. My term officially ends at midnight tonight, and I feel like a runner standing on the starting block, waiting for the starter's pistol to go off. Endless possibilities and (finally!) enough energy to pursue them have me feeling like a kid before Christmas. Turning in SUCKER PUNCH completes my current contract with my publisher, so I'm crossing fingers that we'll go to contract on another book or two in the series. These are the first books I've ever written for which I've needed to know the title before I can write. I've heard of authors who work this way, but I've never been one of them -- until now. Both CANDY APPLE DEAD and GOODY GOODY GUNSHOTS popped into my head without much effort at all. CHOCOLATE DIPPED DEATH and PEPPERMINT TWISTED were both suggested by my publisher, and it took me for-flippin'-ever to come up with SUCKER PUNCH. So far, I've had no bursts of creative genius on a title for the prospective #6, but I guess that should be my first step. I've also been mulling over a few ideas for a possible second mystery series, but I don't have anything concrete yet. That's okay. Now that I know the phone won't ring and interrupt me mid-thought with some crisis that needs to be solved, and now that I have no valid reason to check my e-mail 100 times a day, I should be able to concentrate. At least, that's what I'm telling myself! I'll ... uh ... keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars I really wanted to be bowled over by this book. I knew other people had been, and I knew other people would be. All the way through it, I tried to let it grab me in some way, but it never did. Don't get me wrong. My heart aches for this man and his family. It aches for his children, especially, because my own kids lost their dad a few years ago, and I know how deeply such a loss can affect children. But the book just didn't do what it felt designed to do. Maybe I'd feel differently if I'd seen the video or watched Pausch talking about his life, his death, and his family. But I haven't. I've only read the book, which felt dry and lifeless and, frankly, manipulative. All the way through, I felt like someone was trying to manipulate my emotions, and I did what I always do when I feel someone trying to manipulate me. I shut down. I backed off. I put up fences. I resisted. The concept is intriguing, the reality is heartbreaking, but the book was merely all right. I wouldn't tell anyone it was a "must read." I'd suggest you try the video on YouTube instead. View all my reviews.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #10

Thirteen Things in My Life Beginning with “H”

In No Particular Order

1. Holidays. I love ‘em. When I have the time and energy, I love to decorate for them. Love to celebrate them. Love to surround myself in the sights and smells of them.

2. Hair. For as long as I can remember, it's been the bane of my existence. Yes, you can have hair that's too thick. Trust me. Too thick. Too curly. Too dense. Just too. When I was younger, I wanted long, straight, thin hair. I'd still like to wear a decent ponytail just once before I die. I'm not sure it will ever happen. 3. Henry VIII. I'm fascinated by the history surrounding this man, and have been for years. I'm also a huge, huge fan of The Tudors on Showtime. Jonathan Rhys Myers does an incredible job portraying him. 4. History. Okay, I'll admit it. I'm fascinated by history in general, especially old English and early American history. 5. Home. I love to travel, but I also love to come home. Once I'm here, it's hard to pry me loose again. When I was a kid, I would have been perfectly content to have everyone come to my house to play. I saw no need to ever leave my house and my yard. Now, I'd rather go to somebody else's house so I don't have to clean mine :) 6. Honesty. It's very important to me. Tell me anything, but make sure it's the truth. The truth, I can handle. 7. Hopscotch. One of my favorite childhood games. Apparently, my favorite layout was the English one. The one they refer to as "American" had the X square in where 2 & 3 are in the picture here, and I tended to lose my balance. I needed those extra few jumps to get my footing, I guess. 8. Hope. Without it, life is flat. 9. Horses (imaginary). Another favorite childhood game was imaginary horse. My friends and I would play it at recess when I was in first and second grades. My horse was black with a star on her forehead, and her name was .... wait for it .... Star! Though I imagined myself a stellar horsewoman, I only rode real horses about once a year, so it's the imaginary ones that stick in my mind. 10. Hospitals. My family and I have spent entirely too much time in hospitals. They're not a place I like to go, but when I have to be there I'm awfully grateful for them, and for the people who work in them. 11. Hugs. From granddaughters. Heaven on earth.
12. Hungary. I've never been there, but my brother-in-law was born there, and his mother lives there still, and my nieces and nephew are half Hungarian, so it counts. 13. Haagen Dazs: I'll admit it. I'm a complete ice cream freak. Winter, summer, spring and fall. It's never too cold. I love Haagen Dazs Vanilla Bean.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Adventures in Food -- Or I Drank Goat's Milk and Nearly Gagged

Since I'm still butting up against a deadline and not blogging regularly, I'm going to cheat again and do a meme. This one was created by Andrew at Very Good Taste and looks kind of interesting to a Food Network junkie.

Here’s what you do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions. 2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. 3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. 4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison 2. Nettle tea 3. Huevos rancheros 4. Steak tartare 5. Crocodile 6. Black pudding 7. Cheese fondue 8. Carp 9. Borscht 10. Baba ghanoush 11. Calamari 12. Pho 13. PB&J sandwich 14. Aloo gobi 15. Hot dog from a street cart 16. Epoisses 17. Black truffle 18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes 19. Steamed pork buns 20. Pistachio ice cream 21. Heirloom tomatoes 22. Fresh wild berries 23. Foie gras 24. Rice and beans 25. Brawn, or head cheese 26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper 27. Dulce de leche 28. Oysters 29. Baklava 30. Bagna cauda 31. Wasabi peas 32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl 33. Salted lassi 34. Sauerkraut 35. Root beer float 36. Cognac with a fat cigar 37. Clotted cream tea 38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O 39. Gumbo 40. Oxtail 41. Curried goat 42. Whole insects 43. Phaal 44. Goat’s milk 45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more 46. Fugu 47. Chicken tikka masala 48. Eel 49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut 50. Sea urchin 51. Prickly pear 52. Umeboshi 53. Abalone 54. Paneer 55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal 56. Spaetzle 57. Dirty gin martini 58. Beer above 8% ABV 59. Poutine 60. Carob chips 61. S’mores 62. Sweetbreads 63. Kaolin 64. Currywurst 65. Durian 66. Frogs’ legs 67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake 68. Haggis 69. Fried plantain 70. Chitterlings, or andouillette 71. Gazpacho 72. Caviar and blini 73. Louche absinthe 74. Gjetost, or brunost 75. Roadkill 76. Baijiu 77. Hostess Fruit Pie 78. Snail 79. Lapsang souchong 80. Bellini 81. Tom yum 82. Eggs Benedict 83. Pocky 84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. 85. Kobe beef 86. Hare 87. Goulash 88. Flowers 89. Horse 90. Criollo chocolate 91. Spam 92. Soft shell crab 93. Rose harissa 94. Catfish 95. Mole poblano 96. Bagel and lox 97. Lobster Thermidor 98. Polenta 99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee 100. Snake

Okay. Not bad. Slightly more than half, so I still have a way to go. I'm open to trying almost everything on the list that I haven't tried already -- and there are a few things I think I may have had, but I'm not sure so I didn't mark them.

How about you?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

All is Well!

To everyone who has asked about Abigail's health, thank you for including her in your prayers over the past few weeks. She had a follow-up visit with the doctor today, and it looks like the operation has been successful so far. Everything in her little brain is working the way it's supposed to be working. She'll have another follow-up visit in three months, but for now all is well. So, to our family and friends, to all of you who held our sweet little girl in your hearts while she went through the brain surgery, to her surgeon and the entire medical team who cared for her, our heartfelt thanks. We couldn't be more pleased with today's news.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #9

Thirteen Things In My Life Beginning with "G" (In No Particular Order)
1. Grandbaby. Oh, come on! Surely you're not surprised. 2. Goody Goody Gunshots, coming to a book store near you on September 2!!!!! 3. Gasoline Prices. Again, no surprise here. And don't get me started talking about the oil company executives!!!! 4. Gavel. I have one with my name engraved in it. How's that for a useless bit of trivia??? 5. When I was a very little girl living in Montana, I used to get nosebleeds frequently, and for no discernable reason. My mother took me to the doctor, who decreed that the blood vessels in my nose were too close to the surface. After that, my mother used to swab my nose with the glycerine-soaked end of a cotton swab. If you have never had your mother shove the glycerine-soaked end of a Q-Tip into your nose and swab around, you're missing an experience! 6. My mother once went to a chiropractor who thought that goat's milk was the one secret ingredient that could cure all of the world's ills. When I told him that there was a definite (and not necessarily positive) difference between the taste of goat's milk and that of cow's milk, he told me I was crazy. He swore up and down that it was impossible to tell the difference. Frankly, I don't think the man had any taste buds. 7. God, who brings me all good things in my life, and who has carried me in His hands on more than one occasion. 8. Golden Gate Bridge. I'm going to San Francisco in a week, and it's the first time I've been back for any length of time since my parents lived there. They didn't live in San Francisco, exactly, but in San Mateo, on the peninsula. I remember going to the city once, long before my parents moved there, and getting sucked by traffic onto the Golden Gate Bridge over and over again while my dad tried to find a hotel for us to stay in. It kept getting later and later, but traffic never thinned. The rest of us fought the giggles. My dad just kept getting more and more frustrated. 9. Giggles. Ever come down with a case of the giggles? They always hit at the most inappropriate times, usually when you're in a place or a situation where you should remain silent. I remember once when I was probably 12 or 13, my mother and I got the giggles while we were at the library. This was back in the day when libraries were truly, truly silent, so even our quietest efforts to pull ourselves together echoed off the vaulted ceilings. I don't even remember what we were laughing about now, but that's the best thing about the giggles. They come upon you without reason. 10. Granny Smith Apples -- just about the finest apple ever created. If you ask me, apples have no business being red. 11. Great Salt Lake -- Along the western edge of the Salt Lake basin lies the Great Salt Lake. According to, it's the largest salt lake in the Western Hemisphere, the fourth largest terminal lake in the world. Water flows in, but it doesn't flow out. It evaporates here in the middle of the dessert, leaving a deposit of minerals (salt) behind. It covers an area of about 1,700 miles, although that fluctuates a lot since the lake is so shallow. It is not like other lakes. There's no recreation on it, there's no life in it except brine shrimp, and there's no real reason to spend time near it, if you ask me. Bottom line? It stinks! 12. Gumbo. Okay, this one isn't in my life, but I'd like it to be. I'd love to get my hands on a really good recipe -- not too hot. Not too difficult. 13. My cousin Gary, who passed away unexpectedly on September 23, 2006. Here's to you, bud!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #8


Thirteen Things in My Life Beginning With "F"
(in no particular 0rder)

Just realized that I hadn't completely finished this blog post I started on Thursday -- so here it is, slightly late.

1. Florida -- which is where my daughter, her husband, and the Wonder Baby live now. It is also where I just came home from after a heavenly two-week visit. It is also where I am planning to move, just as soon as it's practical, despite the humidity and the bugs and the gators and the snakes and the bugs.

2. Family -- Top on my list of important things/people. Kids, the grandkid, my sister and brother, nieces and nephes, my mother. Dad too, even though he's no longer with us. Cousins ... Do I have cousins! Aunts. Uncles.

3. Friends -- Can't get through life without a few.

4. Fry Sauce -- without which I cannot eat french fries. For those poor souls who have no idea what fry sauce is, it's usually mayonnaise and ketchup, sometimes with a dab of barbeque sauce or something else to give it zing.

6. Faint -- A feeling I've been fighting for months until I finally learned that I was suffering from anemia. Now, after a month of iron supplements, I no longer feel as if I'm about to pass out all the time. I'd almost forgotten how it felt not to feel as if I was going down for the count.

6. Faith -- An element that's of ever-increasing importance in my life.

7, Freedom -- I don't think you can have a family member in the military without thinking about freedom .... a lot. I'm grateful for it. I thank our founding fathers for fighting for it. I thank my dad, my uncles, and my son-in-law for putting their lives on the line for it. I try not to take it for granted.

8. Father
-- Mine passed away nearly two years ago, and I still catch myself wanting to forward an e-mail i think he might be interested in, or thinking I see him in a parking lot when I'm out running errands. I miss him.

9. Fiction -- Of course. I mean, it's what I do!!!

10. Firewalkers -- The name of the group of my closest friends, who are also a critique group on occasion. I say on occasion because I don't remember the last time all four of us were producing pages in a new manuscript simultaneously, and especially during the past couple of years of pregnancy, various battles with cancer, depression, and moving, nobody's been at the computer long enough to even e-mail, much less write. But we'll get back there. I have faith.

11. Forgetfulness -- According to my kids, I have the world's worst memory. I think they may be exaggerating a bit ... but probably not by much :(

12. Forsythia -- One of my favorite bits of flora in the world. It blooms in early spring, and it's bright and cheery and full of hope and promise after a long, cold winter. When I was young and newly married, my then-husband planted three of these in the back yard where I could see them from the kitchen window.

13. Fuel Prices -- Ridiculous. Absolutely unacceptable. And since I'm not alone in this one, I'm not going to say much more.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Brought to You by the Letter "O"

Oh, the possibilities! The things that come to mind when I think of the letter O. Like ....

Well, like origami, for instance. What do I know about origami? Absolutely nothing! Except that it's the art of folding paper into oddly intricate shapes. Don't get me wrong, I think it's kind of fascinating. I don't know if I would have the patience to turn a piece of paper into an angel or an armadillo or a six-pointed star box, but I admire anyone who does.

Being a huge fan of the panda, I think I'll make this my first attempt. I may not get to it for a few days (or weeks), but I'm going to give it a whirl.

Of course, now that I say that, I've just about obligated myself to try. Which kind of annoys me, because I hate feeling obligated.

Holy Disappearing Author, Batman!

March? My last post here was in March????? I'm hugely embarrassed. As some of you know, I'm deeply involved in some time-consuming work for a writing organization this year, so my time is rarely my own. Add to that a bone-deep exhaustion that just would not go away and what do you get? An author who appears to have dropped off the face of the earth. Thankfully, it appears that we've finally identified the cause of my exhaustion -- not depression as the doctors have thought for the past 4 years, but anemia. Amazing how an iron supplement can do what all the anti-depression medication in the world cannot. :::sigh::: Anyway, I'll try to do better. Honest, I will.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins #1

1. Seeing new things and meeting new people are the best thing about traveling. 2. I love a good warm blanket and thick socks when I'm cold. 3. I often use excuses to procrastinate things I really should be doing right now. 4. I'm reading a book I'm judging for Romance Writers' of America's RITA contest right now; I can't talk about it. 5. My kids' upcoming move to wherever the Air Force is sending them is something I dislike talking about. 6. When I visited Orlando I most looked forward to seeing Disney World. Yeah, I'm a Disney fan. I admit it. 7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to picking up the Wonder Grandgirl, tomorrow my plans include Christmas shopping for the holiday we postponed while Ian was deployed and Sunday, I want to relax until we go to my mother's for family dinner!

Friday, January 11, 2008

The 7th Annual No Pants Subway Ride

If you routinely take public transportation in New York, Boston, Washington DC, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Adelaide Australia, Baltimore, or Salt Lake City, you may want to keep your eyes open tomorrow. On second thought, you may want to keep your eyes closed instead. It seems that tomorrow is the 7th Annual No Pants! Subway Ride. The event is to take place at 3:00 p.m. sharp on Saturday, January 12th. Apparently, the only rules for participation are a willingness to take off your pants on public transportation, and the ability to keep a straight face about it. Organizers are (thankfully) encouraging participants to wear modest underwear under their pants. No thongs or other skimpy items please (seriously! please!!!). Participants are encouraged to wear normal winter clothes and to bring a backpack. In case you're wondering, I will not be participating.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

The hardest thing about blogging to me is coming up with interesting things to say. I mean, I'm quite sure you don't want to hear about how I spent my New Year's Eve. As New Year's Eves go, it was nothing to write home about. New Year's Eve is one of my least favorite holidays anyway, and last night, since I'm fighting a cold, I sat home covered by a blanket and didn't even stay awake until midnight. I haven't made any official resolutions because I'm tired of making resolutions and not keeping them. I'll just keep plugging away at being a better person. One thing I know for certain -- 2008 is going to be a busy year. I'll be traveling to Houston at the beginning of March, Minneapolis at the end of March, Los Angeles at the end of May, and San Francisco at the end of July. I'll be speaking at a writer's conference at Park City in October, and somewhere in between all that I need to find a way to visit the kids in Florida at least once. Speaking of the kids . . . I sent Christmas presents to Vanessa and Abigail at the in-laws house in Missouri via Fed Ex ground, and they still haven't arrived. Now, admittedly, I was pretty late getting them off, and they're not actually Christmas presents as much as tide-them-over-until-we-have-Christmas-in-January presents. But still . . . The whole point of sending tide-them-over gifts was to have them arrive in time for Christmas so the tiding over could begin. When I discovered that sending them Fed Ex overnight would completely drain my checking account, and two-day was almost as bad, I had to settle for ground which, according to my friendly Fed Ex guy, meant they should have been delivered about four days ago. That wasn't really possible, though, since the Fed Ex site says they didn't even leave the state until the day after Christmas. According to the site, the packages are currently on the truck for delivery and would have been delivered yesterday except there was a weather delay. I just hope they actually receive their gifts before they're ready to come home. On the book front, PEPPERMINT TWISTED, the third book in the candy shop series, is in book stores and available to order online now. GOODY GOODY GUNSHOTS, book #4, is with my publisher and in production. I have a terrific idea for the fifth book and I'm busy researching for it now. I can thank my niece's husband for this idea. He was explaining how he hurt his hand skiing the day before Christmas, and before I knew what was happening, I was plotting a murder. Obviously, my Christmas was a lot more interesting than my New Year's! And now, before I sign off for today, I'd like to thank you all for reading about Abby and the folks in Paradise in 2007. I wish you all the best in the coming year!