Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas Week!

This year has passed so quickly, I can hardly believe it. I know this has been another difficult one for a lot of people and trust me, I’m very familiar with how that feels. Let’s hope that everyone has a better 2011 than 2010.

Between wrapping a few presents, cooking, and listening to all different kinds of holiday music, I’m also working on two projects. One is the sequel to Home by Morning and the other is something so different for me, I feel both a little scared and very exhilarated. I’ll have more to share on that in the coming months.

To all of you who bought one of my titles this year for your e-reader, my deep and humble thanks. If you haven’t, give one of my stories a spin. They sell for a fair price (about $3.00) and because they’re all historicals, I’ll carry you back in time with the characters to visit different places and events.

Have a wonderful holiday and hold your loved ones close to your heart, even if you can’t be with them this year.

Merry Christmas
Happy Holidays

and καλά Χριστούγεννα

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Heart Broken But Not Beyond Repair

After Chrissie's loss, I thought there would be a l-o-n-g period of grieving. She was so much a part of everyday life around here for years, such a presence, I couldn't imagine thinking about another dog so soon. And yet . . . a friend contacted me about the Great Pyrenees Rescue group in this area. I wasn't at all familiar with the breed, but I saw this photo and smiled. It turns out that--as I understand it--a lot of GPs are used in the southern US as livestock guards. The economy is still not what we'd like, people are losing their properties, and either just turn the dogs loose or surrender them to shelters where they are almost immediately euthanized. This is where the rescue groups come in. This girl named Lexus (more on that in a minute) showed up on, and though she was being fostered in the Houston area, she was due to be part of a shipment of GPs coming to the Pacific Northwest.
I jumped on this opportunity right away. That face--who could say no to that sweet face? The rescue group has made it their mission to place these dogs in adoptive "forever" homes where they will be cared for and loved. They do wonderful work. Becoming a rescue parent requires an application, a reference from a veterinarian who knows you, and other things like a yard with a good fence. That all worked out for me.
So last Thursday night, I was at the volunteer's house when a truck that had spent five days on the road with nine dogs pulled into the driveway. I'd first had the opportunity to meet her three GPs, beautiful massive creatures that are tall enough to look at an adult eye to eye while you're sitting down! Good dogs for Hagrid, if you're familiar with the Harry Potter series.

I chose Lexus, who I renamed Roxanne--yes, everyone sing along--because she's a mix and a little smaller, a little more shy. As for the name change, well, that wouldn't have worked out. I didn't want a dog named after a car, and I really didn't want one with name so similar to mine. The confusion over that on Thursday was enough to reinforce my decision.

I'm so glad she's here, and I think Chrissie would approve. As Temple Grandin, PhD, so aptly stated in the title of one of her books, Animals Make Us Human.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2010: Good Year/Bad Year

We're getting down to the last days of 2010--it's hard to believe how quickly the year has gone. Yeah, I know, it's a cliche. But trust me, the older you get the faster time flies. Remember in grade school when summer vacation seemed to last forever? Then by high school, those two or two-and-a-half months passed more quickly, and I'd think, geez, do I have to go back again?

For me, 2010 was a great year for my writing career, thanks to a lot of factors. Great readers, both old and new, e-books, and upgraded, more affordable technology. Plus I got to take some fun trips, was an accidental redhead for two unfortunate weeks, and I'm looking forward to more great times in 2011.

But this year wasn't so good for my pets. I lost my sweet cat Lucy in June. This last Thanksgiving weekend, I lost Chrissie, the dog who made me into a dog lover. For people who think of their pets more as their children, you'll understand that how difficult this has been. Lucy had been ill for a long time and she was miserable by the time I made the decision to release her from that misery. Chrissie, though . . . she was sick for only about six weeks. Her downhill slide was alarming. On Thanksgiving, my mom came for dinner and in the four hours she was here, she noticed Chrissie's advancing decline over that short time period. The doctor thought it was liver cancer or at least liver failure. She was scheduled for an ultrasound this week, but she was having trouble breathing on Thursday, and by Friday she could barely walk.

Lucy and Chrissie were about the same age--12 and 13--and it was my great privilege to have them spend their lives with me. I miss them both every single day.

But now 2011 is coming and each year brings new opportunities and joys. I'm looking forward to that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Same Thing Happens Every Year

With the exception of a very few times in my life, I can’t remember there ever being more than three or four people at the table for Thanksgiving in my family. I tried to grab my pal Penny before someone else claimed her, but I was too late. So unless something changes between now and Thursday, the group will include me, my bud Margee, and Mom.

So here’s the drill. As I write this, I’ve got a 15-pound turkey defrosting in the garage refrigerator. Sounds like a big bird for three people, and it is, but hey, it was free after reaching the required grocery purchase total. The Scotch will flow, probably my Gentleman Jack for Mom, and cabernet for me in my special monogrammed Tinkerbell wine glass (Tink wants a drink, damn it!) and even though I always promise myself I’ll be more efficient next year, it’ll be the same. Me sweating and swearing in the kitchen to get things done—the rest know not to offer help. The kitchen is too small and I’m a very poor delegator anyway. While the turkey spins on my Ronco Showtime Rotisserie, I’ll prepare enough food to make the casual observer believe this is our only meal for the year, or perhaps the last one of our lives. I suppose that’s common practice on these holidays. There will be stuffing, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots. I’ll make homemade poppy seed rolls the night before (ha-ha, if I’m organized enough, that is) and let them rise. Dessert is often a flaming cranberry pudding, drowning in brandy or rum and butter, the fire extinguished with a Matterhorn of whipped cream. Baby poop pie, or rather pumpkin pie, for Margee because she’s the most traditional of us all.

Meanwhile, as the alcohol is flowing, there are appetizers going on at the kitchen table, my favorite clam dip recipe and maybe some homemade tzaziki. Hey, my yiayia would be spinning in her urn on my desk if I bought this treat from a store. So everyone is getting stuffed full of chips and crudites before the main meal is even on the dining room table.

All those hours of work, and the whole event is over in 25 minutes. And of course, just to make things interesting, it wouldn’t be a holiday meal unless someone said something to spark an intense discussion [read: hot argument] that on top of everything else will have me swearing that I’m not doing this again next year, even if we have to eat in a diner at a truck stop. But here we are again, and here we’ll be next year, despite everything.

And then there’s Christmas . . .

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Now the Question is $2.99 or $9.99

Here's that money thing again. I was alerted this morning to a tweet from a reader who sees my backlist selling for $2.99 and wondered why another author's old titles are priced so much higher ($9.99). As I explained in a disjointed, multi-part message to the unhappy reader, I am in the fortunate position of owning nearly all of my backlist. I can charge whatever price I choose. After some inexperienced dithering at the beginning, I decided to follow Joe Konrath's example and price my books at $2.99, old title or new. There is an exception to this which you will find on this blog if you scroll down to look for it. Same graphic and everything.

I'm not out to gouge my readers--I want them to enjoy my work at a price that's fair to all of us, which e-publishing makes possible. That other author's books being sold for $9.99 are most likely still controlled by her publishers. I'm not knocking trad publishing, paper books, etc.  I've simply chosen the model that works best for me.

So for now and the foreseeable future, my books will be priced at $2.99. If you find them cheaper than that, please know that I did not discount the price, the vendor did. I'm not happy about it and I'm doing what I can to change the situation. $2.99 is more than fair. Less than that is not.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A New Kind of Online Store

Some industrious authors, including Patricia Ryan and Doranna Durgin (there are others, so please forgive me for leaving them out) have put together a very cool new store!

The Backlist E-Bookstore--
Actually, this store includes not only backlist print books that have been converted into e-books, but new, previously unpublished work as well. Our authors include Doranna Durgin, Patricia Ryan/PB Ryan, Deb Baker, Becky Barker, Lorraine Bartlett, Pamela Burford, Marsha Canham, Lillian Stewart Carl, Phoebe Conn, Christina Crooks, Winslow Eliot, Karen Fenech, me, Michele Hauf, Libby Hellmann, Mary Ellen Hughes, Kelly McClymer, Tim Myers, Terry Odell, Beth Orsoff, Ryne Douglas Pearson, Karen Ranney, Patricia Rice, Kathryn Shay, and Laurin Wittig.

Plus, authors are being added all the time. So if you have/want a Kindle—and don’t forget, you can win one from me right here—and would love to get a look at books you might not have read before or would like to see again, come and visit.

We also have a Facebook page that includes up-to-the-minute information about participating authors.

Friday, October 29, 2010


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, to share the fun and my good fortune I’ll be giving away a latest-generation Kindle. How to get in on this, you ask? Easy—this might take some of you back to the really old days of supermarket giveaways: in 25 words or less, tell me why you want an e-reader (seemingly the fastest growing segment of this moment’s technology). See--easy!!

The contest will run from November 1 to November 10, 2010. Winners will be announced no later than November 15. I’ll post the winner’s name on my website, and you’ll be famous!

So put your creativity to work and send me your entry at

Someone will win! It could be you!

Monday, October 11, 2010

For A Limited Time--Don't Miss Out on a 99-Cent Book!

For a limited time this week, don't miss the chance to snap up this e-book for 99 cents!

Even ultra-picky Mrs. Giggles gave this one an 87.
For your Kindle:
For your other e-reader:

Don't miss out!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

$2.99 or $3.99: What’s the Deal?

After I published my backlist online and it had been there a while, I determined that readers want reasonable prices on e-books (duh, makes great sense) and I made the decision to sell my books for $2.99, across the board. New titles, older titles, one price—$2.99. It's fair and it  worked for all parties involved, including me.

My books are available through two primary distributors, Kindle and Smashwords. Smashwords also acts as a clearinghouse, distributing my books to Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Apple and Diesel. Here’s where things got sticky.

If you buy my books directly from Kindle you’ll pay $2.99. But those other distributors that Smashwords works with can set whatever price they choose. So, for example, Barnes & Noble discounts my books by 20% and was selling them for $2.39. Several other sites also discount my books by varying amounts, sometimes taking the price as low as $2.19. The problem worsens because Amazon will not be under sold, so they have a web crawler out there looking for the lowest price, which they will match. It may not sound like a lot of money, but believe me, it is. For a good example of what kind of difference it can make, go see what Joe Konrath has to say at

Although I didn’t want to change anything, to even things out I raised my sale price at Smashwords (and therefore, the other stores) to 3.99. Now the books are discounted to $3.19, a bit more than $2.99 but close enough to be fair. I’m not making more money—don’t forget, everyone else gets their cut before I am paid—but just about the same.

So if you’ve been baffled by the disparity, I hope this answers the question.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Back to Real Life

SoCal was great fun, if too hot, and I didn’t get to see or do half of what I’d hoped. But for now I’ve returned to Real Life and the Magic Kingdom is another memory in my camera.

I’m thrilled and honored that so many of you are enjoying the second life of my backlist. It sat in rumpled brown shopping bags of used bookstores for a long time. Now a whole new set of readers has come along to make use of technology that has freed those books from their dingy prisons. Yay for that!

To thank all of you who have given these books new life—and those of you who will—I’m going to help matters along. In November, I’ll be giving away a latest-generation Kindle. Details to follow in a few weeks.

For the time being, I’m busy working on several projects that are nagging me for my attention. Besides writing, I’m putting together a trailer that I hope will soon debut on YouTube. More to come about that too!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Traveling Blogger

I came to Los Angeles with a friend who needed to attend a conference (just in time for a record-setting heatwave so that was grand too). I had a couple of things to take care of so it sounded like a great idea in the planning stages. She has a GPS unit for which she downloaded a map update so the nice lady who talks you through traffic and freeway nightmares had the latest information. If you deviate from her kindly instructions, she'll say "Recalculating" and you're on your way again. But the GPS lady takes special pleasure from confusing me if I'm driving alone. Or maybe she gets confused. In any event, both mornings I've dropped off my friend at her conference in Century City and tried to make it back to our hotel--I've gotten trapped on the same cloverleaf both times. Around and around I go while the soothing voice in the unit stuck to the windshield with a suction cup says, "turn right, then turn right." I keep seeing the same street signs--Avenue of the Stars, Olympic Blvd. West, Galaxy, "turn right, then turn right." And I'm trying to travel only a half-mile! My response to her wasn't as soothing and polite.

Finally, after the third time I purposely ventured down to Santa Monica Blvd. and made a few right turns till I got into a dead-end cul-de-sac kind of thing that Fox shares with their neighbors across the street. I thought it might break whatever loop she might have gotten herself (and me) stuck in. "Recalculating." It seemed to have done the trick. After she regathered her wits, I got better directions and saw my hotel in the distance.

Disneyland is the next big destination--I'll be interested to see how that goes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Accidental Blogger

Not the most dependable blogger on the net, huh? I got caught up in ongoing family mini-dramas, friends’ major tragedy, a hair-coloring incident that went from wrong to way wrong and has now made me a redhead (despite extensive attempts to change it) and proofreading and brushing up on my high school French. In ’tween times I’ve also been busy writing, trying to stay on top of the rapidly morphing e-book trend, and reading for fun and for my continuing writing education. In addition, I'm updating the covers of my OOP-turned-e-book backlist. I needed a true professional's help; only a couple of the ones I created weren't dog's-butt ugly.

At this moment though, I’m taking a breather to sit down and chat with you. While Josie, my surviving cat, munches down on Whisker Lickin’s salmon treats beside me, I’m savoring the ambrosia of that wonderful Irish treat of my own, Bailey’s.

What I’m reading right now: Catching Fire, the second book of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It’s a wild ride of danger and survival in a dystopian land that once was America, but now seems more like Nazi Germany with futuristic technology. This is the third YA series I’ve read. If books like these don’t make readers out of young adults, I don’t know what will. They are gripping, imaginative, fully developed stories, genuine page-turners.

On Saturday, I’m going to LA for a brief conference, but I’ll be back in time for the Book Club Babes to ride again. I guess the question of my Halloween costume this year is partially solved. I’ll be going as a red wig.

Stay tuned, most especially as November draws near. I will have a very special surprise for you, a combination holiday gift and a way to thank you for your interest and support.

Now, to get ready for the strip-search and citizenship test one needs to take these days to get on an airplane. This is really a case of the destination being more fun than the getting there!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Embracing the New Technology - Part II

My Kindle 3 was delivered yesterday. Even though I know the UPS truck gets to my neighborhood after 5:00 PM, I didn’t want to leave the house. What if it was early? What if I needed to sign for the package? Every time a heavy vehicle went by, I looked up from my desk to glance out the window. As it turned out, I was up to my wrists in bread dough when the doorbell rang at about 5:40. I almost ran down the dog trying to get to the front door.

Although I’ve been self-publishing through Kindle and Smashwords for a while now, I really had no idea what a Kindle would look like. I don’t have any close friends who own one (yet), and so far they’re not available in retail stores around here.

As recently as five years ago, I was one of the many readers who said you’ll have to pry my print books out of my cold, dead hands. I couldn’t see the point of an e-reader, and my only experience with trying to read a digital book was something I uploaded to my Palm Pilot. A really crummy way to read anything, especially when a person reaches that certain age—the one of presbyopia, or nearsightedness.

So what do I think of the Kindle?  WOW! This is amazing! It does so many things, certainly more than I expected. And there’s a learning curve here to figure it all out. But I’m very impressed.

Those of you who already own one are nodding. Those of you who don’t probably share my previous opinion of this whole business. Trust me, you might change your minds yet.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Who Did You Say You Are?

    Writers have different techniques to flesh out characters. Some use a list or fill out a form that reminds me of some of the job applications companies used in the bad old days (before they were told they couldn’t do it anymore): physical description, religion, background, moral and philosophical viewpoints, political leanings, best and worst life moments, social organizations, best and worst qualities, etc. Or writers will use sketches on index cards, a check list, and so on. I tried these approaches, but usually came up with pretty silly responses. For example, under the column of “best qualities,” because it seemed vague and generic to me, I groped for entries. One time all I could think of was, “Can hold his breath for two minutes.” Wow. That was a big help. And not even true.
    These particular methods are great, but not for me.
    In my mind’s eye, my characters are all famous actors so I know what they look like. Occasionally I'll use the random neighbor or other real-life person as a secondary. (For the villain in Homeward Hearts, I used a UPS delivery guy who was an especial pain to deal with.) I’m working on the early chapters of a book, the characters of which I thought I knew. A couple of them haven’t been cooperating though, and sometimes the best way to handle this is through interrogation, um, I mean a character interview. It’s a kind of Ouija board Q&A, in that if I can think of the right questions, the resulting answers are not only helpful but can be surprising.
    1.  What is your name? (That much I usually know but it gets the ball rolling, and seems like the polite thing to do.)
    2.  What is happening right now in your life?
    3.  How did you get to this point?
    4.  How will you fix this problem?
    5.  Do you wish you had done things differently? How?
    6.  What’s the one thing I can give you that you’d like above all else?
    7.  What do you fear I’ll do to your part of the story?       

     And so it goes. The questions always vary, depending on how problematic the character is and how important to the rest of the book.
    Ah, I see one of them has arrived for her appointment. Let’s see what she has to tell me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Embracing the New Techology

    Whoa—look at that! Here it comes and it’s moving fast! (No, not Christmas, but that holiday will surely be involved again this year.) I’m talking about the e-book revolution, flying straight at us.
    True, e-books have been hovering around for years and in several incarnations. I first saw one about fifteen years ago and it was on an autographed floppy disc. There followed a few dedicated e-readers that tried to get the niche off the ground but human readers weren’t quite ready for the change—maybe those electronic gizmos weren’t either. I looked at and found this article:  It lists a surprising number of existing e-readers that most of us have probably never even heard of, and some extinct ones as well.
    Online publishers like Elora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing, and many others have offered e-books and POD books, and traditional publishers offered their own authors’ books as one more format, like audio books, in addition to printed books.
    Then the Kindle came along. At the beginning, I wasn’t excited about it. The price was prohibitive, $359 for the Kindle 2, and knowing better than to be the first kid on the block to own any new technology, I stayed on the sidelines to watch the parade. By Christmas of 2009, the price had dropped to $259. Just recently, a new generation was announced (the one on backorder to me) with two prices, $189 for the 3-G/Wi-Fi, and $139 for Wi-Fi alone. These have a new color option—graphite—as well as white, and an improved display, which Amazon claims to be 50 percent better over its previous models.
    Added to the mix are the Nook from Barnes & Noble, Sony’s Reader, and the iPad from Apple which is also a computer. Then there are apps for smart phones, PDAs, and a lot of other devices.

   This years-old technology is finally an overnight sensation.
    What this means to the future of traditional print publishing is a hotly debated topic and since I left my crystal ball in the back of a closet, I’m going to stay out of it. Prognostication is a hit-and-miss practice in most cases. Personally, I don’t think this digital revolution will be the end of printed books. Even wild horses will not drag a lot of people to an e-reader, and for justifiable reasons. They love the feel, the scent, the paper, and the experience of reading a physical book. They are true bibliophiles. (For my part and with very few exceptions, I’ve never liked audio books.) And some books, such as cookbooks, or any material that is graphics-intensive, will not yet lend themselves to a dull black-and-white image. As time passes and e-readers continue to evolve, that will probably change.
    But here’s something I know for certain, and it’s the most exciting part of it all. Readers have been complaining for a long time about the limited sorts of fiction available via traditional publishing. One post I saw on a blog somewhere went so far as to say that rather than actually giving readers what they want, publishers convince readers that this is what they want. For marketing and financial reasons, publishers buy trend-intensive work from writers. All those vampire and erotica novels? Yes, there has been a strong demand for them, but not only them. This new literary epoch will let authors with good, strong stories about a variety things have the chance to take their work straight to the consumer, stories that have been or would have been rejected by agents and publishers as non-commercial. It won’t cost the writer much at all, the work can be reasonably priced, and everyone wins.
    Sure the downside is that I can’t do booksignings for a digital book and can’t meet my readers that way. I used to be able to walk into any big-box bookstore in the country to sign stock, give my name to the person at the cash register, and enjoy instant recognition. Those were wonderful experiences. And I’m not saying I will never do it again.
    But for the time being, this is working so well for me, I think I’ll stick with it. And to meet my readers, well, I’m guessing some enterprising individuals will come up with conferences where this can happen.
    Oh, I’m looking forward to the end of the month! That’s when my Kindle, my magic carpet ride to the future of books, is due to ship. What wonders I’m going to see . . .

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sail On, Sailor

    I’m a fan of Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel, and it was my great privilege to meet Captain Phil Harris in the summer of 2008, only a few months after he suffered a pulmonary embolism. He was in Portland doing some promotional stuff which ultimately took him to a pretty gnarly pirate joint, and that was where I went to see him. It was the end of the day and he was tired, but he was the same humorous, tough-talking good sport we see on TV who was gracious enough to spend a few minutes talking with me.
    When he passed away this last February a friend called me at 9:00 AM, something my pals generally know not to do. But this was important. Captain Phil was dead. And although I didn’t know him, after watching him on TV for four years and then meeting him, it felt as if a friend had died following a massive stroke. In the past few weeks, the series has highlighted his determination to get back on his feet, and watching that made me feel like he had died again.
    Maybe one of the reasons I’m so interested in the show is because A Light For My Love, my second book published by NAL, was about seafaring merchant seamen and tall ships of the late 1800s. I read everything I could about it. I made two research trips to Astoria, Oregon and pored over their library. I read about sailors’ customs and superstitions—and I don’t think any line of work beats them when it comes to the minutia good luck-bad luck. I learned more stuff than I could ever use, but it was fascinating.
    After news of Captain Phil’s death was spread to the other crab boats that participate in the show, Captain Sig Hansen noticed a seagull sitting on the rail of the F/V Northwestern and did a kind of double-take. He said seagulls that appear at the instant of a sailor’s death are said to embody their spirits. I had even used that tidbit in A Light For My Love years before Deadliest Catch had been thought of.
    Although most of my books have been westerns, ALFML continues to hold a very special place in my heart. It’s a story about risk-taking and redemption, love and honor, a passion not only of man for a human woman and his mistress, the sea, but for the chance to right old wrongs.
    If you’ve seen it on Kindle, Smashwords, or some of the other e-book retailers, download a free sample and see what you think.
    The Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial is “dedicated to promoting safety in the fishing fleets and easing the burdens of the families and friends of fishermen/women lost at sea.”
    How similar in spirit is this mission statement to the prayer my heroine China Sullivan intones each night when she lights the lamp in her window that overlooks the Astoria harbor. “For all men gone to sea, living and lost. May you find the way back to your home port."
    Rest well, Captain Phil. We’ll miss you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Robbing Shakespeare to Make a Coke Buy

    I have a habit, a demanding one, that I’ve lived with for the past 30 years. It’s seldom that I miss a day without feeding it. At times that are too close to payday, I’ve scrounged change from the sofa, the change jar, the bottom of my purse, the car. I’ve even robbed Shakespeare.
    It’s good to have cash in the house for some emergency and I’ve kept money in one of my Shakespeare books since my teens. I usually consider it to be off limits but when that jones demands to be fed, Will has seen me plunder his bank. I did that today.
    I quit smoking 21 years ago, I don’t drink coffee, and I’m not a drug-user. But I want my Diet Coke. Every day. Decaf is best when I can get it, but I’ll drink the leaded stuff too. What I don’t do is buy it in cans or bottles—I don’t like the taste. Made with 100% aspartame, it’s too sweet. According to Wikipedia, “Diet Coke from fountain dispensers still contains some saccharin to extend shelf life,” and that makes all the difference.
    I want my Diet Coke to come from a fountain where the syrup and carbonated water mix together at the moment it’s dispensed. In fact, I used to dream of making enough money to get a fountain from the Coca-Cola Company so I could have it whenever I want, but that wouldn’t be practical.
    Sometimes writers don’t get out for days at a time, depending on their schedules. Leaving to get my fix gets me out of the house and gives the car battery a chance to charge since I don’t live close enough to any store/fast food place to walk there.
    I’ll drink Diet Pepsi only if there is no possible alternative. I rather liken it to the Cullens getting their vampire blood from wildlife instead of humans. They’re better sports than I am.
    Today I left Mr. Shakespeare an IOU that I’ll honor this weekend.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Want To Make Some Dough?

    Over the course of my writing career, I’ve tried to do some of the chores I have given to my heroines, mostly for the sake of authentic experience. Since I write historical novels, those tasks can involve things necessary to basic existence 100 or 150 years ago. I’ve tasted brandy (cheap stuff that accounted for its resemblance to kerosene, so it really was a chore), baked bread, made candles, canned tomatoes and raspberry jam, tried to churn homemade butter, and a few other things. For some of you, this is no big deal—canning, keeping chickens, baking bread, making soap, etc., are part of a lot of people’s lives even now. But I was a city kid, raised by a busy single mother who worked outside the home. My grandmother taught me to sew and crochet, and I learned to cook in home economics and by experimentation. I’m a pretty good cook, and Mom says the tuna-noodle I’ve been making for the past four decades is her ideal comfort food.
    A couple of years ago I came across a recipe for no-knead bread in The Oregonian. There are dozens of recipes for easy breads, but all of the others I’ve found require a minimum 18-hour rise. That takes some planning. The recipe I found was a variation and, I think, a great improvement of the original idea. This bread will rise in four hours, produce a beautiful artisan loaf with a lightly crisp crust, and is so simple and easy, even non-bakers will have no trouble with it. Give it a try and let me know how it goes! (When fall sets in, I’ll give you a fabulous soup recipe to go with it.)

Fast No-Knead White Bread
(Makes 1 big artisan loaf)

3 cups bread flour (if you weigh instead of measure, 15 ounces)
1 packet instant yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt (I use kosher)
1-1/2 cups water
— Oil as needed (I use olive oil)

    In a large bowl, whisk together flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended; dough will be soft and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.*
    Lightly oil a work surface and your hands; put dough on the work surface and fold it over a couple of times. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise 30 minutes.
    Immediately pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic**) in the over as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Oil your hands again and put the dough into the pot. Shake pot once or twice to evenly distribute the dough.
    Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 10-20 minutes (oven temperatures vary so use your judgment), until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

*I put my dough in the microwave (DON’T turn it on). It’s a warm, draft-free place.
**I use a cast-iron dutch oven or a ceramic lined iron dutch oven.

    This bread is great with butter, dipping oil, or plain. If you have any left over you can make some killer croutons. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Music to Write By

A lot of writers listen to music while they work. We all have different tastes and choices from which we gain inspiration. I once read that Stephen King listens to, among other stuff, Guns N’ Roses—the image of his psychopaths nailed to an audio backdrop of Axl Rose’s screaming thunder fits so well. (I’m a BIG GN’R fan, by the way.) Stephenie Meyer listened to other rockers while she toiled on the Twilight series. A lot of us also wish we had the ability to include the music with the book; music makes a big difference in the way a movie is perceived. Think of Jaws with that menacing undertone that means the shark is coming. Writers have a movie going too, in their mind’s eye.

I have a quirk—I can’t listen to any music with singing or lyrics when I’m writing. The repertoire I favor tends to run to instrumental soundtracks, piano solos like George Winston’s work, and those themed CDs you can buy from displays in Target and other places that let you listen to a sample.

Right now, I’m listening to the soundtrack for The Cider House Rules by Rachel Portman. I admit I didn’t like the movie. But the music is much better, wistful and yearning, perfect for illustrating what I’m writing: late summer blue skies hanging over miles and miles of pastoral fields. The movie camera in my mind’s eye pulls up and back to a high overhead shot of a woman waiting for the approach of a distant figure she hopes is the man she loves and has believed to be lost. The tall, yellow grass bends in the breeze and brushes against her skirt. The sweeping violins swell as her long, dark curls are pushed away from her shoulders. Sigh . . .

Other good scores that work for me are The Shawshank Redemption, Titanic—especially while I was writing The Irish Bride—and Lonesome Dove, The Last of the Mohicans and Dances With Wolves for a lot of my westerns.

When I wrote the love scenes for some of my books, I played CDs of recorded thunder and rain without music. The characters didn’t need it. They were the music, and nature gave them the elements.

Oops, I need to restart the CD. Back to work.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Shifting Gears For A Moment . . .

Okay, I don’t mean to bring anyone down, but I lost a wonderful friend last week. I debated whether to even post this, but I feel I owe it to her for every great minute she gave me.

Some of you know that the Queen of Fairview, my special cat Lucy, died last week. Rather than dwell on her last days, which were heartbreaking for me and not at all good for her, I’d like to mention what made her so fabulous.

She was smart. That Lucy, she figured out how to open the interior doors in the house except for the pocket doors to the bathrooms. You couldn’t have a private moment in there either—she’d come and pound on the door until you let her in.

She was attracted to shiny things. She’d “borrow” jewelry, hair clips, paper clips, etc., play with them for a while and then move on. I once searched for a gold ring for days before I found it under the recliner.

She loved a good high. Lucy on catnip was great fun. She wasn’t tidy about it but she always demanded and got tuna for her munchies.

She was funny. I’d be standing in the kitchen, and she’d walk in and yell at me, then run away again, daring me to chase her. I’d catch her, scoop her up into my arms and cover her face with kisses and let her go. Then she’d twine around my ankles and start the game all over again.

She never clawed the furniture. She was the first cat who ever owned me who actually used all the scratching posts I bought for her.

She kept me company. Lucy would sit in her office chair while I wrote, hour after hour, content to be with me, never bored. She’d sleep, I’d work, and didn’t mind that the dog wandered in an out.

She was so loving. Now and then she’d wake up, jump on the desk and tap my arm with her paw to give me a straight-on look of love so meaningful, I’d always stop to hug her. At night, she’d jump on the bed after I turned out the light and flop against me to let me know she’d arrived, and she’d begin her bath.

She was elegant. While the dog and my other cat Josie think the laser pen is a lot of fun, Lucy never bothered. At first I thought she might not be able to see the red dot, perhaps due to some kind of color blindness. Then I realized she could see it just fine—she’d lift her chin and look away with haughty disdain for those so easily amused.

And she was an elegant lady to her last moment. When she reached the end of her thirteen years, with shaking hands I sewed Lucy into a linen pillowcase I’d once embroidered with my initials on it. I hired the landscape guy to dig a three-foot-deep hole in the back flower bed, and some kind friends and I gathered to lay her to rest. I have lost people in my life (who hasn’t?) and losing her was every bit as hard. Aside from the consolation of knowing her all those years—still too few—I also know where she sleeps with a lovely garden angel watching over her.

Oh, but I miss her. I will miss her for a very long time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Those Pesky Words

It’s word pet-peeve time here at the blog, and today our subject is overused words and phrases in current circulation.
Language is fluid, and words will slip into use for a while (sometimes w-a-y too long) and then be gone again. They seem to make their first appearances on TV news and in journalism. So here, in no particular order, are those that I hope will leave us soon.

1. Gone missing. This was originally a British expression, to the best of my knowledge. It works well for them—the British can use this and get away with it. Here, not so much. It sounds like some kind of odd activity or destination, and can apply to inanimate objects such as car keys and barbecue tongs, or to gravely serious subjects like children and elderly adults. Some hypothetical examples:
    “Where are you off to, honey?”
    “I’m going fishing, shopping, to get my hair highlighted. I’m just going missing.”
    “Where’s Bambi?”
    “Oh, she’s gone missing.”
    “Did she say when she’ll be back?”
    Better still: “Kobe Bryant, you just won your fifth NBA Championship! What are you going to do now?”
    “I’m going missing!”
    How about, Bambi is missing?

2. Gone extinct. This is one of gone missing’s ugly step sisters and has some equally ugly tenses, as in go, going and went.
    “Today a report released by the EPA says the double billed walla walla, native to the coldest areas of the upper Midwest, will go extinct in the next ten years due to habitat encroachment by the single billed walla. This is the second species threatened by the walla. In 2003, the frilled loppydoozy went extinct due to the walla’s invasive behavior.”
Become/became extinct is probably more correct.

3. Albeit. Isn’t this word just too, too precious? It sounds like someone’s middle name. Ferdy Albeit Grayson. In fact, it is a real word and the usage is correct, but archaic. Albeit comes to us straight down the centuries from Middle English and has been lurking in the shadows since the 1300s. It’s a contracted form of the phrase “although it be.” Can’t we just say although?

4. Arguably/Inarguably. Major sigh. These two are from 1890 and 1925, respectively. There should be a list for the world’s worst adverbs because I’d add both of these.

That’s all for now. The next time we touch on the subject of our tortured language (at some distant date) we’ll take a look at a few of the most ghastly online communications. About ten years ago, author Nancy E. Turner wrote a wonderful historical about life in the Arizona Territories entitled, These is my Words. She might not have realized at the time that some people writing on the internet would make her protagonist’s awkward prose, indifferent spelling, and random capitalization look contemporary.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

We'll Be Right Back After This Message

Right now through Sunday, June 13, visit for a 15% savings on all of my titles when you enter the following coupon codes:

Harper's Bride - MT62J
A Light for My Love - BK34T
Homeward Hearts - MJ34X
Home By Morning - NA78E
The Irish Bride - XL57B
Montana Born & Bred - YT36L
A Taste of Heaven - RF32C
Allie's Moon - WA55F
The Bridal Veil - FA97G

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What Goes On at Those Book Club Meetings, Anyway . . . Part 2

Oops, first one week goes by and then another, and pretty soon I realize I’ve missed my weekly installments here. And now I find myself looking forward to hosting the Book Club Babes this Friday evening. For the first time ever, we will be reading one of my books, which is somewhat daunting. At least that was the assigned title but if you’ve been reading along with me here, you know that we don’t always get around to actually discussing the book. If we do, hopefully, the Babes will be kind.

That’s one of the cringe-inducing realities of book reviews. I have read some that made careful, thoughtful, and therefore worthwhile observations about a given title. Others have the tact and manners of some primitive beast—the heavy sighs and eye-rolling of the reviewer practically leap from the screen, dripping with the same acid used in the movie Aliens. Odd, but reading one of those reviews causes my stomach to produce a nearly identical substance that can burn holes through every organ and layer of tissue without mercy.

Sometimes an idea that gleams like the sun in an author’s imagination might find disfavor among negative naysayers. It’s to be expected; readers’ tastes vary widely and what one will be enthralled with, another will savage in an online review. I’ve read a lot of them and received a few. Well, you know, it’s bound to happen. It’s just about impossible to please everyone. We have only to look at local or national politics to see that. And with the hit-and-run anonymity of the Internet, people feel pretty free to say just about anything.

I came across this on another blog and thought it was pretty interesting.
The pages are also beautiful to look at.

 In the meantime, the Book Club Babes and I lift a glass to you. Keep reading and have fun!

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Been A Long Time Coming . . .

About eight years, according to the dates on my WordPerfect files. And that doesn’t count the year or two I spent mulling the idea in my brain before I acted upon it.

I began a journey to write a book about which I felt so passionate, it demanded to be written. Because I strive for accuracy and wanted to know my subject inside and out, I bought about twenty books which I read cover to cover. I learned a lot. For example, I never knew much about World War I. There weren’t nearly as many movies made about it as World War II. I must have studied it in school but probably zoned out because the subject was presented like three-day-old unbuttered toast. I discovered that after almost a hundred years, farmers and military personnel regularly find unexploded bombs stockpiled beneath the earth in France. A couple of years ago, someone found several cases of extremely valuable Napoleon brandy within the trench works. (While wine will go sour, time apparently is a friend to brandy.) Some of the land is still unable to grow anything because of the chemicals that leached out of the various products intended to part a man’s body from his soul.

I knew only a scintilla more about what I’d heard called the Spanish Flu around my house. My grandmother had survived it as a young woman living in Constantinople. They didn’t teach this in school at all. In fact, it’s surprising how little was known about it until the rumble about H1N1 began to look like it might turn into a real problem. People just didn’t talk about it. But I didn’t grasp the magnitude of either of these events until I undertook the research myself.

So I began writing Home By Morning, the story of Jessica Layton, a female physician who goes back to her hometown for a visit and gets stuck there when the epidemic hits. There is no other doctor in town except for cranky Granny Mae Rumsteadt, a colorful café owner who also offers folk medicine to the locals, thinks aspirin is poisonous, and doesn't mind helping a farmer pull a calf or two if the need arises.

The book has a bit of everything: jealousy, treachery, broken hearts healed by the love that broke them, battle scenes, love scenes, vigilantism, character assassination, scandal, hopelessness, hope restored, and scores settled.

I hope that this book strikes a chord with readers and makes them curious enough to find out what happens in the sequel, Home By Nightfall.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Little Book That Did

Since making my backlist available on Kindle and, I’ve noticed the most amazing trend. The books that I thought would zoom to e-readers like lightning are doing very well. But one book is leaving the stratosphere: Harper’s Bride.

I wrote Harper’s Bride as a kind of anniversary tribute to the last great gold rush of our time in the Yukon Territory. That the book was released during the strike’s centennial year was mere good luck. As with all of my projects, I did a ton of research and bought so many books from Powell’s City of Books downtown, the clerk asked me if I was planning a trip up there.

I learned that J.W. Nordstrom made enough money in Dawson City to open his first shoe store in Seattle. When I was a kid, that’s what Nordstrom did—they sold only shoes. I also learned that the most dependable money was made not in mining, but in supplying the miners. Because of Dawson’s near inaccessibility, and because inflation always follows a captive audience (think popcorn at the movies or a burger TGIF’s in Times Square) prices for everything were astounding. A dozen eggs went for $18. A fairly current copy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer sold for $50.

Of course, those are just facts. The story concerned Dylan Harper, a man with a shadow in his past who went to the Yukon and opened a supply store. One of his customers ran up a big bill he couldn’t pay. When Dylan pressed him, he offered his wife Melissa and their child to clear the debt. Dylan figured he was on the losing end of the proposition but his conscience made him agree to it when he saw the bruise on Melissa’s cheek.

It had a very nice cover when it was print published by Penguin, and a nice run. Readers liked the story and it received a lot of great reviews.

Now though, Harper’s Bride has a second life that’s a happy surprise to me and apparently a satisfying one to readers. I’m very pleased to have the chance to share my backlist with you.

A new title is just around the corner. I’ll be sure to let everyone know when it’s officially available. For now, though, have a seat. Do I have stories to tell you!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hoot, Mon! Or Writing A Scottish Historical

I have a book that’s been bouncing around in my computer(s) for years now. (I say computer(s) because most of us can’t make one last longer than 3-4 years max.) It’s a Scottish historical that takes place a few years before the Reformation.

Although I’m familiar with what I’ve written, it’s a big departure from other stories I’ve done. It has battles, love scenes, 16th century castles, intrigue, betrayal, a bit of the paranormal—all the good stuff. But it’s different. The dialogue is way different. The lifestyle is much different. There are many solid reasons for why I’ve tended to stick to late 19th century American stories, one of which is that research is a lot easier. I’ve studied that era enough that I often don’t need to look things up because I know them.

I didn’t know anything about clans, chieftains, wars, etc., except for other fiction I’ve read, and that doesn’t count. There’s a certain forgiving elasticity in fiction, but some historical facts have to be correct. I have to be sure they're correct. If I said the Battle at Culloden took place in 1890, someone would certainly notice.

I think my biggest problem has been with the dialogue. Like the US or any other country for that matter, Scotland has different dialects and trying to identify the correct usage is tricky. Then there’s the matter of avoiding anachronisms. Saying “Your ride is awesome, dude!” in an American historical is obvious and easy to catch. But how about, “Fer a yung la' prob scouser yer gorra nauld edon yer shoulders la, gud look son, I think you'll do it.” Excuse me, but whaaa? This seems to have something to do with pub crawling, but I couldn’t swear to it.


Then there’s the matter of North, Highland North, Mid, and South, with some other geographical miseries thrown in too. “Pittin the mither tongue on the wab!” Eh? I beg your pardon! This particular phrase is Ulster Scots, to confuse matters even further—north far enough but on the wrong island. And it’s contemporary besides; the wab means the web, as in Internet.

I have a great book I got on a remainders table at Barnes & Noble, The Scots Dialect Dictionary. It’s big with lots of listings, but the problem is that it lists the Scots word or phrase first and then a mostly understandable English equivalent. If I had a month with absolutely nothing else to do, I would create a database from this book so I could look up whatever I needed, in English first.

Writing any sort of dialect is a matter of careful balance. Not enough worked in and the story could be set at anyplace and any time. Too much and we’re back to “pittin the mither tongue gorra nauld edon yer shoulders la.” It will swamp the reader and overshadow the story.

Writing The Irish Bride was somewhat easier because I had great audio to listen to for cadence and arrangement of words, thanks to the late and wonderful storyteller and teacher, Frank McCourt. I have his books on tape and CD and that was a big help.

My most accessible audio reference for this book has been Groundskeeper Willie on the Simpsons, and I don’t think that’s going to do the trick.

But the story is coming along fine, thank ye verra much.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Death of A Computer - The Hard Way

As computers tend to do, mine was slowing, s-l-o-w-i-n-g, s..l..o..w..i..n..g down. I knew a reformat was overdue and looming before me. I dread the job. Some people actually pay a geek shop to do it, but it isn’t that I don’t know how, or that the geek shops would do it any faster. It’s just a tedious, mind-numbing task that comes around about once or twice a year depending on how much stuff you have on your computer (I had TONS), how often you access the Internet (most of my waking hours), and despite all the anti-malware, anti-spyware and other fix-it programs you might have. For the most part, I don’t like to pay big bucks for something I know how to do myself.

Last Wednesday, I had to finally bite the bullet and get it over with. I was having to reboot many times a day, things were hanging up, crashing, etc. But because I do have so much stuff on my hard drive, I like a little supervision when I do reformats. A good friend with solid computer skills offered to come in and start it for me. Yay! I knew everything was in good hands. Did I mention that I also have a USB hub with three jump drives where I back up/store my ideas, story notes, character sketches and WIPs because I thought they’d be safer there? Well, not anymore. Those jump drives were wiped clean during the “getting started” portion of our program. Lucky for both of us, I heard the news after a glass or two of Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet, and said only, “This is catastrophic.” My friend has a program that can do a search and rescue for those apparently deleted files, but that’s a bigger task than reformatting the computer. The files appear in long lists that aren’t dated, have no file extension such as .doc, wpd., etc.

In the midst of this mental anguish and suffering one of my cats, who is getting on in years, is on a drug regimen of thyroid medication and an antibiotic. It doesn’t take much for her system to get out of whack, so while I was busy tearing out my hair with both hands, I was also cleaning up after her. The washing machine, the carpet cleaner, and my computer all were busy.

I’m happy to report the cat has improved.

But the hunt is still on for a story that I’ve had hanging around longer than the Jonas Brothers have been on this earth. One that was finally starting to come together for me. You know—that perfect light bulb moment when it all begins to make sense and the muse kicks in. I’m sure it will be found, but till then it’s just a needle in a cyber haystack.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Goes On At Those Book Club Meetings, Anyway?

Five or six years ago, a group of women—some from the same family—some more loosely connected, got together and decided to start a book club. I was very pleased to be included in this intellectual pursuit, where titles were decided upon, and to be read and discussed with lofty goals and ideals. We had nibbles and wine, and created a reading list for several months out. A reasonably good time was had by all as we got to know each other and listened to different viewpoints and opinions.
After a few meetings, we realized that people did read the assigned titles but getting around to discussing them was becoming less salient. There would be a few earnest attempts and the discussion would get sidetracked by talk of vacations, music, food, wine, and wine and food. Pretty soon music and dancing worked their way into the proceedings.
A shout would go out, "Did anyone read the book?" Often the answer was yes, but that’s as far as the discussion went. On to the food, wine, music and dancing! One time the title I chose was one of Lisa Jackson’s suspenseful heart-stoppers, Unspoken. At the time, Lisa was very busy and under a fast-approaching deadline. Despite all my begging and pleading, and appeals linked to our long-standing friendship, to come to the meeting and make me the belle of the party, she couldn’t. In the end, that was good. No one had read the book except me. It wasn’t because no one was interested. Our priorities were just beginning to shift.
One of the members mentioned that she belonged to a different book club where the book was not only discussed and dissected, the group was staid and calm, not nearly as much fun as ours, the Book Club Babes. (By now we had a name.)
These days, the question will go around, "Did anyone read the book?" and that’s the end of it. We are all voracious readers, and we’ll either read the assigned title before or after the monthly get-together, but we have so much more fun just enjoying each other and ourselves. We’re a diverse group—we have a teacher or two, a former rock star groupie who can dish about nearly any major 80s band, a physician, a writer (me), a legal assistant, and the list goes on. No one actually quits. We may not see a Babe for a few months and suddenly she’s back and welcomed with open arms.
So if you’re not having as much fun at your book club meeting, you might give our model a try. I guarantee you’ll have a good time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eccentricity or Common Hoarding?

There are a few TV programs that I never miss, including Breaking Bad—the writing is SO fabulous, I think Vince Gilligan must have channeled every great literary mind in history—Deadliest Catch—I met the late, fun Captain Phil Harris in a rough-edged pirate dive almost three years ago, and Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC and Hoarding on A&E.
The hoarding shows fascinated me from the first moment. Like nearly everyone else, I sat there, slack-jawed and mesmerized by the utter chaos the subjects live in, some with junk (and unspeakably worse stuff) often stacked so high that therapists and the house cleaners are forced to walk on layers that sometimes put their feet at table or counter height. Often the inhabitants of these homes have that shopping gene that I seem to have. Part of their accumulations include merchandise with price tags still attached and going unused. They can’t find anything in their "hoard," and are forced to go buy replacements because of that. They hang onto things they believe will someday be useful, or would be a shame to ditch. Of course, these people are troubled and usually have inciting incidents in their histories that trigger their behavior.
In fact, I’ve seen enough episodes to begin to recognize a touch of that behavior in myself. (Please see photo.) I used to boast that yes, my office is a mess but I know where everything is. After ten years in the same location, that doesn’t seem to be true any longer. I bought ink cartridges for my printer last weekend and now I can’t find them. I put something down on one of the two desks in my office and, like creatures from a Harry Potter novel, the furniture consumes the item. I know I’m not the only writer who works in this kind of environment. Yes, there are those who need the zen simplicity of a monk’s cell with a table, a chair, a laptop, and nothing else in the room except perhaps a view. Or a lighted candle.

Others of us have stacks of reference books on the floor, copies of printed manuscript sections here and there—my dog seems to have taken over one of them—and pens. Oh, yes, yes, baby, give me pens, give me all you have. I LOVE good pens. Sharpies. Highlighters. Beautiful pens. Fountain pens that flow with the blood of words. Susan Wiggs unknowingly fed this desire when she reported that she writes with an economical Sheaffer fountain pen and peacock blue ink. What a wonderful idea. Let’s go shopping on eBay for pens and ink and sealing wax and seals and high quality paper. Oh, and more pens.

Now if a person is famous, or an artist, or in some other way creative, this behavior is considered eccentric. If that person is just an everyman or everywoman, they’re seen as hoarders or disturbed, etc. I confess I like the eccentric designation a lot more. It has a flair and a dash of interesting romance to it, don’t you think? Here I sit amid my stacks and stacks of CDs, loose papers, the occasional visiting cat or dog, books, spiral notebooks I get for 10 cents apiece at the start of every school year, photos, and pens, toiling away in creative abandon. (I’m making the job sound easy again, aren’t I? Sorry, it's not.) Anyway, my printer is sending me messages that its cartridges need replacing and I can’t find the ones I bought.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to finally excavate in here to find where those things have gotten to or I’ll be out of commission. One of my rewards will be, I'm sure, the discovery of more pens.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"I've Always Wanted to Write a Book . . ."

I've always wanted to play the piano.

I spend a lot of time at a computer. That goes with my job. Sometimes I stare at a blank screen with a blank brain, and other times, when inspiration is on fire and luck is sitting beside me, the words flow. But there are times when I have to get away from it and I can come up with a number of time wasters, um, diversions to distract me.

One of those is the piano. First, let me point out that these are not my legs in the photo, in case there was any confusion. Even the Steinway isn't mine (where to put a concert grand . . . ?). I've always yearned for the talent of Billy Joel, Elton John, and the late, great Freddie Mercury, all of whom make playing a keyboard look so effortless. So effortless that I got fooled into thinking, hey, it's easy! I could do that too! Back in the mid-70s, I decided to give it a shot and signed up for piano lessons with the mother of a friend from my high school days.

I slogged through all the exercises and learned the keys, and even, at the insistance of my teacher, reluctantly participated in the humiliating ritual of a recital. I was the biggest kid there. The rest of the cast was, at most, 12 years old while I was twice that and sneaking outside for a cigarette now and then. I was a pretty good student in that I was willing and happy to practice three hours a night. I'm sure the other kids didn't--there were no Mozarts among us. Still, despite the lessons and the practice and the recital, I came to realize, hey, this isn't easy at all!

After dragging my spinet from one apartment to another, I finally sold it about 15 years ago. And even though I never went near it except to dust, I was immediately sorry. I missed it. In the meantime, technology had made a huge leap forward in electronic keyboards. So had teaching methods. I could get CDs, DVDs, and great books with titles like Piano for Quitters, and avoid the stern, exasperated teacher standing over my shoulder sighing with impatience. Wow, I can do this! Again! So a few months ago, I bought an electronic keyboard on eBay and a shelf full of instruction.

Yeah, I plunk around and fortunately remember some of what I learned early on, but it's still not effortless. I've had readers tell me I make writing look so easy. That's the biggest lesson of all--it might look easy but it's not. It's hard work, and practice, practice, practice. If you really want to write a book, remember that. Put your backside in the chair and write. You'll hit some clinkers, but that's okay. Keep working at it. Hone your craft and sharpen your skills.

Now I'm off to practice Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Geez, it's hard, but I'll keep working at it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Time to Jump Onboard

I know, I know, I'm probably one of the last computer users on the planet to have a blog, and certainly one of the last authors. But lately it has become obvious that a lot of my readers wonder, whatever happened to Alexis Harrington? Is she still writing? In jail? Gone off to live and die in LA? No, none of those things have happened. And I decided I ought to stay in touch beyond my website, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace pages.

I'm still writing and I have two or three projects in various stages of development. In the meantime, I have made my backlist available on Kindle and through

Currently I have a finished manuscript in the estimable editorial hands of Judy Gill, who liked the story so much she tracked me down while I was on vacation at the Oregon Coast last weekend. (Aw shucks, Judy, thanks . . . )

So it's my hope that this story, which was true labor of love for me, will catch the attention of a print publisher. If not, it might just become a digital indie book, with a pretty cool sequel. And there are other books that I'm eager to put in your hands as well.

To my established readers as well as those of you who are new to me, welcome to my blog. Sit down and get comfortable--I want to tell you a story.