Posted on 03/5/13
My mother grew up on a farm in South Carolina and she had some pretty interesting life experiences. One of them was riding a mule. Bareback. While simultaneously reading.
As a child I thought Mom had it made. I mean, she had a mule. And with a mule you could get from one place to another and read at the same time. I was busy pedaling a bike as a kid. You have to hold the handle bars and balance when riding a bike. You can’t read at the same time, more’s the pity.
So for most of my young life I did most of my reading in the big easy chair in the living room. It was big enough for me and the cat and a small friend. We’re talking the kind of easy chair you could curl up in. I also did a lot of reading in a hammock strung between two live oaks right behind my Uncle’s summer house on the Edisto River in South Carolina. So, as you can see, I was definitely a sedentary and stationary reader. Unlike my mom.
And then, late in life, and dare I say it a few pounds overweight, I discovered the recumbent bike. It was stationary, so you didn’t have to worry about balancing and handlebars. You could pedal away and read at the same time. And then, some years later, after becoming addicted to my recumbent bike (not really, it’s just that I love reading), I got an e-reader. A whole new bunch of stationary conveyances opened up for me and my reading addiction like treadmills and elliptical trainers. I have mastered the art of walking and reading at the same time. But only on a treadmill.
So, of course I don’t actually go anywhere like Mom did. It would be great if I could spend an hour walking to some useful place, like work or the store, get my reading in and then be someplace useful. That would be so utterly productive. Mom was on to something. Maybe I need a mule. Although I don’t think they have mule parking at my grocery store. Darn.
So where do you do most of your reading these days? And anyone who reads while riding bareback mule — and can prove it with a photo — is going to win autographed copies of the entire Last Chance series.
Posted on 02/14/13
So it’s Valentine’s Day. The High Holy Day of romance.
The Facebook and Twitter feed is going to be loaded with messages about love.
The flower delivery guys are going to be working double time.
Husbands and significant others are going to be sweating bullets, especially the ones who haven’t gotten their act together.
To be honest, as a romance author, I feel an enormous amount of pressure to hold up the whole V-day thing. I mean, I’m supposed to be an expert on love and romance.
(Which is why I’m sitting right here writing my obligatory Valentine’s day blog article.)
And, you know, I am an expert on this holiday. But not the way you might think.
Once, a long time ago, I worked in public relations for a trade association of very large retailers. And one of my job descriptions was to sell Valentines Day. Every year we did a survey of shoppers to find out how much they were going to spend on this holiday. And every year the gender gap between men and women widened. Women planned to spend under ten bucks on a few cards and maybe something fun for the kids. Guys were going all out buying diamonds and flowers. On Valentines Day I would wake up very early and spend most of the day on the phone doing radio interviews about this gender gap. And then I would make suggestions to the forlorn husbands, boyfriends, and significant others who had screwed up and forgotten. Every year my assistant and I put together a list of romantic suggestions that the Valentines Day challenged could pick up at their local big box retailer on the way home from work.
This experience put me off the whole thing. I mean, reducing love to the value of a gift is pitiful. And, increasingly, this is what Valentines Days seems to be all about.
Yesterday a friend of mine who is going through a pretty bad break-up made the comment that it was particularly annoying to have a guy who ignores you 364 days a year, turn around and give you something expensive on V-Day. At the same time, I used to remember how my assistant, who was not married and didn’t have a boyfriend, used to turn into a total grump every V-day when we had to pull together romantic suggestions for the romance-challenged. She felt lonely and left out, and she shouldn’t have.
Love is not about Valentines Day gifts. It’s not about flowers. Or any of that. Sure, it’s awesome when some guy sends you flowers, but just think about how much more awesome it would be if your honey sent you flowers on some random day, instead of feeling obliged to send them on February 14? This year I told my hubby not to do anything. He takes care of me every day. He keeps my car running. He’s redoing the basement for me so I can have a sewing room. He’s taking me to Spring Training on my birthday. He tells me every day how much he loves me. Not in presents, but in his actions. I hope I reciprocate. I think I do. I mean, I do his laundry every week, and that is love.
If you want to be romantic, remember that love is an active verb. It can’t be bought for the price of a dozen roses. And we do our men a serious injustice by expecting them to put out on this day every year. It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to us, either.
So, to get everyone into a truly romantic mood, here’s Clint Black singing one of my favorite loves songs, Something That We Do.
Posted on 02/4/13
As some of you know the series of books I’m working on right now are all partially based on well-known, and well-loved classics that are in the public domain.
I’ve been kind of running below the social media radar for the last few weeks as I put the finishing touches on Last Chance Knit & Stitch, the Little Women adaptation. I’m on the home stretch. And when this is done, I’ll turn my attention to Jane Eyre.
But for now, I thought y’all would enjoy a little snippet from Last Chance Knit & Stitch. As always it’s a dance scene. I don’t know about you, but the dance scenes in classic romantic novels just speak to me.
To set up this scene, it takes place during Dash Randall’s wedding (and you’ll have to read all about his romance in Last Chance Book Club, which will available in March 2013.) The hero is Simon Wolfe, one of Last Chance’s prodigal sons. The heroine is Molly Canaday, the daughter of the high school football coach and a female mechanic down at Bill’s Grease Pit. You’ll meet Molly and her mother, who owns the Knit & Stitch in Last Chance Book Club. If you’ve ever read Little Women, you’ll recognize Molly’s personality. She’s very much like Josephine March, one of the main characters in Louisa May Alcott’s enduring classic. Here is the excerpt:
Molly stood up and put her hand in his. His palm was warm and dry and sexy as hell. Her own hands were rough and callused. She was aware of this fact only because Jane had clucked over them the whole time she was working on Molly’s manicure.
“I sure hope I don’t trip over these shoes,” she said as they stood on the floor facing each other. He was clearly waiting to catch the beat of the dance.
“Trust me, you’ll be fine,” said Simon, looking down at the blue satin shoes she’d borrowed from Rachel. He evidently approved of them. Or maybe he was admiring her thin ankles.
He took her in his arms, and in an instant, away they went, not very gracefully because Molly had no idea how to waltz or even let Simon lead. But, even if she stumbled and almost turned her ankle, she discovered that dancing with Simon was fun. Way more fun than standing on the sidelines with Les making rude remarks about people.
“Molly, you are so beautiful this evening I’m almost afraid to speak with you.”
“Ha, you’re only afraid because you know darn well Coach is over there watching us like a hawk and disapproving of every minute.”
“No. I’m not afraid of your father. But I swear, Molly, if you dressed like that on a regular basis, you’d be turning heads from one end of Palmetto Avenue to the other.”
She looked up and met his dark eyes. “Don’t tease me. I know I’m not beautiful. I went to the Cut ‘n Curl this morning to get my hair done, and Ruby, Jane, and Rocky Rhodes dressed me up. I think it was for their enjoyment, but I know I don’t look like me in this dress. By the way, it’s your Cousin Rachel’s dress, and I think I ruined it.”
“I’m sure you look better in it than Rachel ever did.”
“Ha ha. Very funny. Your cousin is gorgeous, and I’m not. I’m odd and strange. So quit. If you want to know, I feel kind of like a dressed up Barbie or something. Not that I ever played with Barbies, but obviously Ruby, Rocky, and Jane did. I don’t even know how I got myself into this situation. I just wanted Ruby to cut my hair is all.”
“Remind me to thank Ruby.” He glanced up at her hair. “You’ve done more than just pile it on your head, haven’t you?”
“I didn’t do anything, except let Ruby mess around with it.”
“Would you let me mess with it?” he murmured.
Oh heaven help her. He was seductive and irresistible. And a tease. She had a little girl crush on him and a big girl case of sexual frustration. He was going to drive her insane, because there was no way he’d really cross Coach. No one in this town crossed Coach. Ever. Especially one of his former players.
Posted on 02/1/13
It’s the first of February. A brand new month, and I’m hoping it’s a brand new beginning. Because, frankly, December and January were tough.
I got a lung infection the first week of December that turned into bronchitis, which hung around for weeks and weeks. The Newtown news in mid-December dragged down my spirit and cast a pall over my holiday. In January, I got slammed at work and found myself dodging deadlines. I had to travel on business in December and January, and going through security and dealing with jet lag can get a girl down.
I kept telling myself this feeling of exhaustion and disconnection would end. Because I had an appointment with my soul doctor on January 31st.
Well, he isn’t really a doctor. He doesn’t have a medical degree. But he practices musical medicine. He’s a singer-songwriter named David Wilcox. David’s music is deeply emotional, wonderfully cathartic, and always optimistic. When he sings, he’s practically transcendent, and he can pull an audience right along with him. I never leave one of his concerts in a bad mood. His songs touch me soul-deep. There is nothing quite like a David Wilcox high.
Okay so I’m a big fan girl. But David’s music opens my eyes and my heart. He makes me turn away from all that crap that gets me down and reminds me of what is really important. And, to be utterly honest, he is my muse. His music has inspired plot lines, character traits, conflict, and resolution. If I’m stuck for an idea, I strap on the iPod and listen to David sing.
Last night he sang a lot of new songs, one of which just happened to give me the solution to a plot problem I’ve been worrying about.
He also sang a bunch of old songs, and one of them–”Show The Way”–a song I’ve heard thousands of times, rose up and grabbed me by the throat and almost brought tears to my eyes. He uses a metaphor in the song about writing a play that appeals to the writer in me. But the song is about so much more. It’s about the deepest kind of love. And it reminds me why love stories have always appealed to me. And why I chose to write about love above all other things.
So here’s a video of David singing that song. It’s not from last night, but from a performance taped in 2004.
Posted on 01/28/13
Today is the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Pride and Predjudice. I’m celebrating the occasion at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. Come on over. I’m talking about Last Chance Book Club too.
Posted on 01/20/13
Some women are golf widows. I am not one of them. If anything, my husband is a golf widower. Not that he would notice.
No, the DH is one of those men who isn’t happy unless he’s got a project going — or one or two. For instance, he’s been “working on” a 1982 Fiat Spider sports car for at least four years. It sits in our driveway, shrouded. The car parts — including a transmission, engine, and dashboard, clutter up my closets and basement. In fact the car’s tranny sat in my laundry area right off the kitchen for a good nine months. It got so I didn’t even see it, which is sort of pathetic.
The DH has other, smaller projects that run the gamut from tying flies,to building model airplanes. And since he makes big messes with his project, I very unselfishly gave him my daughter’s bedroom when she went off to college. (And unlike some of my friends the daughter is fiercely independent and never came back home to live.) So the good news is that I can, mostly, shut the door on his messes.
But the downside is that I got the much smaller room for my writing space. And this room has no space or storage for my projects, which usually involve yarn and fabric. So when the sewing bug hits, I take over the dining room. And because I’m just a tiny bit OCD, I will make sure that I finish my project quickly and clean up the mess. I don’t ever have the luxury of closing the door on a project in progress.
I’m not complaining, the DH is very conscientious about his honey-do list. And, the 1982 Fiat notwithstanding, he’s wonderful about finishing the DIY home-improvement projects he starts. He’s built me all kinds of things. Decks, a laundry area, a new kitchen. He’s handy. He looks cute with a tool belt too.
Which brings me to the basement.
Ok, I will admit that I used my feminine whiles. (Because, really, whining and nagging do not work with this man and I’m not really a whiny nagging sort of person.) I simply commented that my yarn stash was taking over the house. (And I left baskets and knitting all over the place.) I stared a sewing project and let it sit for while in the dining room for a few days while apologizing profusely for the mess.
And, hooray, he got the message.
Right after Christmas, while I was recovering from bronchitis, he got a bug up his butt and started cleaning up his crap from down in the basement junk room. He got his tools and his car pieces and his fishing stuff all organized and found places for all that crap up in the shed. And then — because I was watching HGTV non-stop during my recovery, while simultaneously calling his attention to every basement renovation — he asked if I would like a sewing room for my birthday. I showed my appreciation and then went in to a coughing fit.
So now I have concrete dust everywhere, because when my honey undertakes a project like this he’s like the guys on the DIY channel. He does it right. He is, after all, an engineer. One reason the basement went so long without any attention, is that one corner of it has a water problem — but only when we have a hurricane or tropical storm. Unfortunately those things are happening more often.
So before he builds anything he has to extend the sump pump drain. This project requires breaking up the concrete floor to create a trench. Yesterday he was jack-hammering down there. (You just imagine how little writing I got done with all that noise.) He is down there shoveling dirt, as I write this morning.
Once this project is done, he’s got to frame out the walls, hang sheet rock, lay a cork floor, paint, and install storage units. He says he’ll be finished by the first week of March. We’ll see. But for now we’re under construction.
And, I’m living with his mess, of course. But, what else is new?
So is your honey a project guy? Or are you a golf widow?
Posted on 01/2/13
I don’t know about you, but New Year’s resolutions demoralize me. I have never carried through on any resolution I’ve ever made on January 1. And I’ve made so many – losing weight being the perennial favorite. But I have others, like cleaning and organizing the closets, getting rid of the clutter, not eating out so much. You know the drill. I’m not terribly original with my resolutions.
It’s kind of funny how we approach the new year, determine to make ourselves “better” in some way. It’s like we all decide to engage in a month of early Lent. And, let’s face it, how many people do you know who have actually carried out a New Year’s resolution.
I don’t know one person. Although I do know that they all seem to show up at my gym every January, crowding the showers and the makeup mirrors. But the crowd at the gym is back to the morning regulars by February.
I’m determined not to make a resolution this year. Or, better yet, make a resolution that would be easy to keep, like drinking a glass of red wine every day – for heart health. Or baking cookies once a week. Or spending more time playing my guitar and less time stressing about work. You know, resolutions that aren’t intended to make me a “better” person, but which might make life a little more enjoyable. Maybe if our resolutions were more fun, we wouldn’t give up on them so easily.
How about you? Are you trying to make yourself better this year? Or have you joined those of us whose only resolution this year is to swear off making resolutions?
Posted on 12/20/12
Posted on 12/17/12
I spent the weekend with my family doing what we always do this time of year. We trekked off to into the wilds of Virginia on a warm day in search of the perfect Christmas tree. We found a beautiful Norwegian spruce and put it up in the living room, where it more or less takes over the room. We lit it up with lights. We hung a star on top. We sang songs. We had fun.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about those New Town angels. I kept thinking about their parents who are planning funerals instead of holiday activities. This tragedy has left me feeling blue.
I agree with the President. We can do better in this country. Not just by having some common sense on guns, but by also showing compassion to people with mental illness, by providing support for people who need help. And by being kinder. By turning off the violence in our popular culture.
I know, without question, that love is the answer. And I know that love lies within me. I don’t have to wait for that star atop my tree to shine. I can shine my own light. I can make a difference. When I hang on to that truth, it makes me feel better.
So for those of you who are suffering the New Town blues, like I am, I offer up this lovely song by Peter Mayer, and this very moving video Christmas card that one of Peter’s fans put together a number of years ago. The title of the song in “Stables.” Its message is love.
Posted on 12/12/12
Christmas decorating is, perhaps, my favorite thing about the holidays, because it allows me to indulge my inner child. And that inner girl has a love affair going with dolls. My favorite thing is to bring out the the doll house I made a number of years ago. It’s Santa’s workshop, and I not only built the house (with some help from the dear husband), but I made the dolls, too. They aren’t really professional grade, but I had such fun making and dressing them. I experimented. so each of them is different. Their faces are made of Fimo clay and their bodies are made of pipe-cleaners and fiber fill. It’s always so magical when the doll house is on display, all lit up and the elves are helping Santa load his sleigh.
So what’s your favorite part of holiday decorating? Post a photo and share. On December 19, I’ll be giving away a $25 Barnes & Noble gift certificate to one lucky commenter.