Friday, June 30, 2006


That's what my life seems like these days -- a series of random happenings with little rhyme or reason and even less focus.

But as June ends, I can see that there is going to have to be a concerted focus on Spence and Sadie all during the month of July. This will be interesting because I have to go to Seattle for 5 days in the 3rd week, and I have grandsons and their cousin coming the week before to go to sports camp.

I need to get 5 pages a day done in order to have some semblance of a rough draft by the end of the month -- let alone a finished product. So, wish me luck.

Today, of course, I was distracted part of the day watching Germany and Argentina and then Italy and Ukraine in the quarterfinals of The Men in Shorts. Commentators were saying that Argentina were the better team and bemoaning the fact that they lost. It seems to me that some of the same commentators were complaining that Mexico were better than Argentina when Argentina won that game, but they never complained about Argentina winning. Hmmm. At least the Germans are happy. And well they should be.

Italians are happy, too. And while the Ukrainian team is undoubtedly sad that they lost (and frankly it seemed much closer than the 3-0 score indicates, at least for much of the match), you did get the feeling that they were just extraordinarily happy to be there at all. So, hooray for them and for Shevchenko who pretty much got them there. I hope they're back in 2010.

Tomorrow England and Portugal and then Brazil and France. I need to get a lot of writing done tonight and then again tomorrow night if I'm going to watch both of those matches. I wonder if Spence and Sadie can be programmed to contribute through reward conditioning. Like, if they get 5 pages done tonight, then they (and I) can watch England-Portugal tomorrow. And if they don't . . .

Nope, don't want to go there. Just want them to get their pages done. Besides, I have to watch Beckham because I know my editor will be.

Have also just begun reading Janet Evanovich's Twelve Sharp. I know I shouldn't be reading anything, but I need to have a book going -- even if I only get as many pages read a day as I am writing. Life is not complete without a book.

Just finished writing up a small piece from Theo's point of view -- the hero of The Santorini Bride. In July our monthly feature for the Harlequin Presents Authors site is to take a main character from an upcoming book and do an "interview" with them. Various interviews by such authors as Sandra Marton, Kate Walker, Trish Morey, and others (and me!) should be posted sometime in the coming week on that site. Check it out if you want a glimpse into some future fun reads from Harlequin Presents.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Santorini Bride . . . pub date

With all this attention being given to Spence and Sadie, Theo and his lady were feeling a little like they'd been left out in the cold.

They, after all (they informed me) have a real, honest-to-God book under their belts which is more than some people can say. And now they have a date in the production schedule to go with it.

Their book, The Santorini Bride, is coming out in North America, according to the editor in charge of these things, as a February 2007 Harlequin Presents. It will be a paperback Mills & Boon Modern the same month in UK. Also according to said editor, it has "a beautiful cover."

I am pleased. And, in my best behaved fashion (because I'm trying to set an example for Spence and Sadie aka some people) I DID NOT say, "is it a cover I've had before?" You will recall (or not) that I have had the same cover on two of my previous books, albeit in different countries.

I trust this will not be that cover, although there is a beach in the book. Oops.

Anyway, I'm delighted to report that it is actually in the pipeline for both the US and the UK (and sundry other places as well, no doubt). Maybe it will be a source of inspiration for Spence and Sadie. I'm happy to report that she has finally emerged from the ladies' room. She rather hopes she looks cool, calm and collected whereas in fact, I think she looks about ready to brain him with her portfolio. Er, perhaps I'd better go supervise.

On an entirely different topic, has anyone else seen the film Seven Girlfriends starring Timothy Daly? And if so, what did you think?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bad behavior

I've sent Spence and Sadie to their own rooms. They can't be trusted with the computer in a room together, obviously. They bicker and fight and send messages to each other. And to the blog, apparently.

I certainly can't enjoy watching the men in shorts if they are going to be upstairs fighting with each other.

The trouble isn't that they fight -- it's that they fight while I'm downstairs. And the minute I come up, they clam up. They scowl. They sulk. And if they talk at all, it's to me. not each other -- so I can't write it down. Not when it's pithy stuff like Spence saying, "It's all her fault!" And Sadie saying, "Not all my fault!" And him saying, "Is, too!" And her saying, "Is not!" And him saying . . .

Well, you get the idea.

It does not make for good dialogue. It makes me crazy. And then, as soon as I leave the room, they start in again with the real stuff, the nitty-gritty stuff, the stuff I need to get down in the book.

So I've had it. I've separated them. I've put them each in solitary confinement until tomorrow morning. And since there will be no men in shorts tomorrow morning (no men in shorts until Friday. Sigh.), we can spend the day with them behaving better. I hope.

How about Zidane's goal? Amazing or what? Probably not, really. All in a day's work for him, I suppose. But definitely fun to watch. And that nifty little blip of a dribble over the outstretched arm of the goalkeeper that Ze Roberto did when he scored for Brazil. What talent. And the Ghana team were great. I thought they played more like a team than Brazil did.

Teamwork, that's what we need. I hope Spence and Sadie are listening.

Monday, June 26, 2006

What he doesn't know . . .

Spence is blustering again. I used to think he was sane and sensible and rational. Maybe he used to be sane and sensible and rational. Sometimes.

Not since yesterday.

He blames all this on me (and I accept that it was partly my fault). But it never would have happened if it hadn't been his idea. But try telling him that. And now he's being imperious and bossy and telling me what I have to do.

What he doesn't know is, I fully intend to do it. I want to do it. Who wouldn't want to spend a week on a South Pacific island? Just because I have to be there with him is no reason not to go. In fact it's the absolutely perfect reason to go.

So I can get over him once and for all.

Now I just have to go tell Anne that, so she can write it all down and then we can all go to bed. It's late. And she has to get up early tomorrow and work hard all day. Writers work very very hard (or so she tells me).

Just between you and me, it seems they spend an inordinate amount of time watching Men In Shorts. I like watching them, too. But every time I come downstairs to watch, Spence starts yelling again and I have to go back up and get to work.

You'd think the author would have to do something, wouldn't you?

She owes me

Sadie owes me. Big time. And if she thinks I'm going to let her walk away after what she did, she's out of her freaking mind.

She'll argue. She'll fuss. She'll come up with a thousand -- hell, a million -- reasons why she can't do this. But she can, damn it!

And if she doesn't, I'm firing her.

Men in shorts, redux

I missed a week and a half of the men in shorts playing in the World Cup because I was in Alabama learning how to refine my ability to search for dead relatives. You have to realize -- from that -- how truly devoted to genealogy I am, because it's FAR MORE INTERESTING to watch men in shorts.

But a girl has to have her priorities. Though I have to admit that if I'd realized I was going to be going to Alabama in the midst of the World Cup I might have reconsidered. After all, I missed the previous three years due to sons getting married or other sundry friends getting married. I could have missed this year for the men in shorts.

Alas, I didn't.

I watched today, though, and I saw Australia lose a heartbreaker in the 95th minute on what looked, frankly, like a penalty kick that shouldn't have been awarded. But then, that's one of the things that happens in soccer. Guys fall down and act like they've been shot -- and then once the foul has been proclaimed, they are usually resurrected injury-free (not always, but you'd be amazed how much writhing is forgotten once the ref has made his call). So, I feel bad for Australia. And I feel happy for Totti who made a great kick. And bad for poor Schwarzer -- who really had no chance.

And this afternoon I get to watch Switzerland and the Ukraine (who'd a thunk it?) while Spence and Sadie come to terms with a new plot development. Hopefully they will do this upstairs out of the way of the men in shorts.

I wrote two books about soccer players -- a goalkeeper, Lachlan McGillivray, who was the hero of McGillivray's Mistress, and a striker, Joaquin Santiago, who taught Molly everything she needed to know in Lessons From A Latin Lover. If I'd been smart, I'd have written them so they came out in a World Cup year. But no, I missed it on both counts. Duh.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Good news

They've come out swinging -- or at least arguing. And things are beginning to happen. Glory Hallelujah. Because it was going to be a very weird Presents if it ended on page 40 with a homicide. I know I sometimes push the envelope where Presents is concerned, but I don't think even I dare to try to push it that far.

And the truth is, I don't want to. I want to find out what happens when Spence and Sadie end up on their South Seas sojourn. I'm as curious as they are. Maybe even more so because I think they might get a happy ending out of this. But they're going to have to suffer first.


Friday, June 23, 2006


He's yelling. Spence, that is. I can hear him from here.

Does he think I'm a dog he's calling? Idiot.

Or maybe I'm the idiot. Certainly I should have handled things better -- not to mention sooner. But there are some things that aren't easy to do. And I shouldn't have had to do it. And I'm sorry I can't tell you what it is, but if I do, I'll wreck the book and Anne would never forgive me.

As it is, Spence probably isn't ever going to forgive me, either. But he's being such a bull-headed jerk, why should I care? And he could use a little forgiveness, too, as a matter of fact.

I told Anne to tell him so, but she said he has to realize that himself. I said that hell will likely freeze over first. She didn't argue with me. I wish she had. I wish he'd go to remedial hero school and learn how to behave.

The other day Anne's friend Ms Map Cabinet (so called because she is the friend whose junk and antique hunt resulted in The Map Cabinet coming home to stay) was talking about having to go to Cotillion when she was a kid. You could tell from Anne's expression that she had never realized Ms Map Cabinet had gone to Cotillion. She was especially shocked because this had been happening while she and Ms Map Cabinet were good friends (clear back in the dark ages of junior high school!). Ms Map Cabinet said she'd never said anything because she was so horrified about having to go.

You want to know the truth? I think Cotillion might have helped both Spence and me. Not that I'm going to admit it to anyone but you. Still, we'd know how to behave properly now. He wouldn't be yelling in the hallway of some seat of New York government. And I wouldn't be lurking in the ladies room writing in a blog! We'd be sickeningly proper -- and we wouldn't be in this mess.

Yes, I hear Anne saying from the other room (not yelling, just commenting), but then she wouldn't have a book. Well, there is that. Or maybe she'd just have a different book.

But neither Spence nor I went to Cotillion (I don't think they even had it in Butte. I sure don't remember anyone going!). So Anne is stuck with us, rough edges and all.

Shut up, already, Tyack! Good grief, he's going to wake the dead. He'll get us thrown out into the street. Fine. I need to go sort him out. And help Anne finish her chapter. And read my etiquette book. Not that I'll need it for Spence!

Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Back at work . . .

Spence here. Anne has been fooling around for TWO weeks. First she went off to Alabama to deal with dead relatives and live cousins, and then she had her map cabinet friend back to stay and they have littered the house with paintings and there is nowhere for a self-respecting hero to get any work done.

Consequently I haven't done any. Not on paper anyway.

But I don't sit around. I don't waste time (like SOME PEOPLE I know). I have lots of irons in the fire, and if Anne can't be bothered, I have other things to do. I have spent the past week working on buying some old buildings in Naples and another in Greece. I wanted to have all that taken care of before I head off to the South Pacific the day after tomorrow.

Talk about business in paradise . . . we're building a resort on a private island. It's a venture on a scale that I've never tackled before. Working with other investors was never my forte. But there are occasions when, to get something done, you have to all pull together. The resort is one of them. I was looking forward to it. It was going to be my honeymoon.

Until Sadie showed up.

And now she's gone! Leave her in a room by herself for five minutes and she disappears. Where the hell is she? I can't even find the damn woman!

Sadie! Sadie, come back here!

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Writer's Journey

Christopher Vogler wrote a wonderful book about writing based on the same understanding of narrative structure that mythologist Joseph Campbell used in his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

Vogler's book, The Writer's Journey, was aimed primarily at screenwriters because his job was dealing with film treatments. But it works just as well for other types of fiction. Even though it is not exactly the same journey in a romance story as it is structurally in an adventure or a mystery or a piece of literary fiction, many of the elements remain the same.

The first time I read it (and I have now read it upwards of ten times) I was struck by how I'd done instinctively the setting up part of the book. And even more deeply struck by where I always hit my brick wall.

It was stage 6, which I forget the descriptive phrase for now, but what it amounted to is -- here's where the whole world of possibilities opens up; choose the ones that will make your story.

And every time I am paralyzed by choice. The story could go this way or it could go that way depending on the choices I make.

It's easier in the beginning when you're just setting out and the conflict is being set up and the characters are just finding each other. And it's easier in the end when, if you've done things right, there is a logical inevitability to the story. Of course there may be surprises, but they shouldn't come out of left field. They should grow organically out of the plot even if they aren't initially obvious (or else how could they have been secrets?).

But stage 6 -- when there is so much potential, so many avenues to choose from -- there is always the chance of trouble. Actually trouble for me at this point is inevitable, too. This is where I really have to find out who my characters are. Because what they do and say here is really how the choices in stage 6 get made. If I don't know them, I have no idea which choices they will make.

It's taken me a long while to get to know Sadie and Spence well enough to write the particular part I'm working on now. Not because it's difficult and not because I didn't know what was going to happen. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I just didn't know their particular reactions to it. So I had to let them react. I had to let the words come out of their mouths and see what they had to say. See what they thought, what they felt. And sometimes there were dead ends because some of the things they said didn't really feel right. They didn't reflect the people that Spence and Sadie are.

It gets a little boring writing the same bits over and over. It's kind of like "take one," "take two," "take twenty-two." But eventually it turns out right. Eventually the choices they make are the ones that advance the story, that are true to who they are. And then we get to go on.

Finally, we're going on.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Flirting With Forty

I have already flirted with forty. In fact I became well acquainted with it -- and have now left it behind. But the Flirting With Forty I want to talk about today is Jane Porter's new book which is coming out in July.

I got to know Jane when she started writing for Harlequin Presents. She writes intense, dynamic dramatic Presents which are just about the opposite of the ones I write which tend to be lowkey, slightly flippant and understated (readers have not yet asked, Are those characters breathing? But I suspect my editor may have thought it once or twice). You always know that Jane's characters are breathing -- and emoting. Strong, powerful stuff.

I wondered what her first more mainstream book, The Frog Prince, was going to be like. I bought it right after it came out, took it to bed to read one night -- and barely got any sleep because I was so caught up in her heroine's life and plight and voice. It was so not the Jane from Presents. It was every bit as wonderful (actually, I think, more so, but I hate to play favorites with friends' books), but it was laugh-out-loud funny at times and terribly moving at others.

I gave a copy to my daughter when I went to Indianapolis with her last year to the NATA conference, and she needed her sleep because she was going going going every hour of the day in the way that conferences seem to require. But she, too, stayed up most of the night (sitting in the bathroom on the edge of the tub reading so she wouldn't wake me or her daughter in the hotel room). So -- The Frog Prince was a great book.

And now we have Flirting With Forty. We have Jackie, turning forty and trying to put her life back together after a divorce that changes every constant in her life. I feel blessed not to have experienced that in my own life. But I know -- and am related to -- plenty of women who have. So I found Jackie's experience to be devastatingly accurate and painful and funny and moving, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes in such quick succession that I simply reeled.

But that is what it's like, one of my dear friends assures me. And I believe her. I believed in Jackie -- in her insecurities and her worries and her tiny toehold on self-confidence, a toehold that grows into a solid staircase which she will ascend as she becomes her own woman. I believed, too, in her friends who didn't quite know what to do with her when she was still a member of their crowd, but didn't have the requisite husband anymore. I believed in their wanting to help, and then in their panic when she began to do things they weren't convinced were right. I believed in them when they came through at the right time -- when she most needed them. Women do that for each other -- even though they can be devastatingly brutal at other times.

There is a romance in Flirting With Forty. It's not the sort of romance that Jane writes when she writes Presents. It's secondary to Jackie's discovery of her own path to being her own person. But it is an integral part of the story -- and promises a future for Jackie far different than the one she'd once expected. And that, pretty much, is what life is all about.

How many of us ever have the lives we expected to have? How many of us meet people or make choices that take us in a completely different direction? How many of us have lives jolted out of their intended path when our spouse decides that our marriage isn't fulfilling anymore? And then what?

That's the question Jane Porter so deliberately asks -- and answers -- in Flirting With Forty. It's a fun book and an emotional book. It's one of those laugh-through-your-tears books. Because, after all, when life happens, what else can you do except take hold of it and make it the very best life you can?

Jackie did that.

Thanks, Jane. It was a great read!


I'm ba-a-a-a-a-ck!

And my enter key works here. And I am brain-dead but basically ready to get to work again. I hope. I have had lots of thoughts about Spence and Sadie and I'm hoping that today they get busy and cooperate. And in between loads of laundry and vacuuming the dog hair that has accumulated while I've been gone, that I can get them underway again.

I have only good things to say about IGHR. And I want to clarify something about my interest in genealogy. For me -- and I think for every other person there -- it is, as Michelle Styles, commented in her response to one of my earlier post this past week -- about the stories. It isn't about "names and dates and let's move on;" it's about getting to know as much as I can about the people whose lives had an impact on mine.

This isn't just my 'blood relations' either. It's my step-dad's family, because everything they did eventually led him to where and when he met my mother. It's neighbors' families and friends' families of my ancestors and of my own, because I find people endlessly fascinating. I want to know why they did what they did. I want to know their motivations.

It's an off-shoot of writing, I guess, though I certainly couldn't tell you which came first -- the interest in characters or the interest in dead relatives. They seem to have always been a part of my life since I was a kid (I sometimes think it's because the dead relatives were so much easier to deal with than the living ones, but don't tell anyone I said that).

Anyway, I love the stories. I try to bore my children with them. And I need to write some of them down so I can bore future generations -- and delight the one or two people who actually give a damn.

Oh, yeah, Tupelo. It's where I spent 3 1/2 hours yesterday. I was flying from Birmingham to Memphis to catch a connecting flight yesterday morning. It's a 35 minute flight. Ask yourself what can possibly go wrong on a 35 minute flight. Well, weather in Memphis and 68 planes waiting to land. So . . .we set down in Tupelo.

We were the first plane to set down in Tupelo. Three more joined us. They all got to leave before we did because our crew went out to lunch (no, I'm not kidding, that's what the guy on the flight deck actually said. He said, and I quote, "We'd been up six a.m. And we were hungry and we wish we could have taken y'all with us."

Yeah, we did, too, as we were also hungry, most of us had been up since 6 a.m. and the Tupelo airport is perfectly fine (and the people were kindness itself) but it is NOT equipped to deal with 4 planeloads of extra passengers. It has a soft drink machine and a candy/potato chip machine. It does not have air conditioning. The least this hungry crew could have done was told us we were going to be stuck while they went out to lunch (and the other three planes left) and we could have ordered in pizzas -- or driven to Memphis.

Anyway, I have only good things to say about Tupelo. And while I sympathize with the NWA crew who was hungry, I think they could have been a bit more forthcoming in their communications with the passengers.

I always told my kids that travel is a different kind of time, like the aboriginal dreamtime. Only in 'travel time' you give up all right to expectations from the moment you start traveling until you get off at the other end, whenever that may be. It takes all the pressure off. You can't do anything about it, so you don't worry about it. And real life starts when you are in command of your own life again. It's a way to stay sane in modern travel mode. But it doesn't keep you from getting hungry.

Friday, June 16, 2006


How weird is this?
I can go to my Word Perfect program and the ‘enter’ key works just fine. Why? What is not connecting in my email and online program that will connect just fine elsewhere? Seriously, I would like to know, so if anyone out there reading this has the answer, please tell me. I’m baffled.
But since I can now type in paragraphs and cut and paste (well, actually I can, but then it takes away my skipped lines when I get in here. Curiouser and curiouser) , I will tell you that I fully intend to make reservations to come to IGHR next year, too. And maybe the year after that and the year after that. They offer so many tempting courses, and they all sound like they would wake me up and challenge me and take my writing in new directions because I would learn so many new things.
Plus, it was delightful to meet so many interesting people. Not that there aren’t interesting people elsewhere. But genealogy is either a love it or be bored to tears by it sort of interest. My mother’s eyes glaze over the minute the words "did your grandmother . . ." come out of my mouth. "They’re dead," she says. "Who cares?"
Well, I do. But I am in something of a minority in my family, though my kids seem somewhat interested, though very busy with their own lives, and The Prof has a life.
Still, I met a couple of hundred people (or more) who feel pretty much the same way I do. And it was refreshing to talk to them – and listen to them – and it was a joy to meet my cousin –- and we have begun working on our mysterious missing ancestors. With all this new knowledge we might actually find some. Here’s hoping.
And if anyone is interested in seriously studying how to get the most out of your hours spent pursuing dead relatives, give the IGHR at Samford some thought. It is a really great program run by very talented, helpful people. And I would love to meet you all here next year. (See I can say, "you all" now. My dad would be proud!)

The best of two worlds. . . and one small glitch

I just finished up the Intermediate Genealogical and Historical Research course at the IGHR at Samford University. I don't know when I've had such a fun week. The speakers were almost all dynamic, knowledgeable and challenging, the topics were all interesting and thought-provoking, and it made me long to get back to work on a hundred different possible leads for learning more about family and local history. It also taught me a lot about how several day writers' conferences compare to this experience. And it gave me new perspective on Spence. Hooray. Maybe I can take that new perspective and fly with it when I get home. I hope so. Sadly, though, the glitch is that somehow something screwed up my computer so that now I can't use my 'enter' key to paragraph, which is why you are getting this all in one long paragraph. The good news is I am going home tomorrow, and I hope I can get it fixed sometime soon (or at least get my desktop back). I will write more about the whole experience when I get home. I HATE long paragraphs, and this is probably the longest one I've written in twenty years.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Serendipity II

So, today I was standing in line with my cousin waiting to get into a room, and earlier she had said she wanted to track down a couple who had listed surnames which were ones she also was researching. The woman in front of me in line was one of the two the cousin was looking for. Turns out their g-grandparents were sisters.

What was the joke about in the south everyone you marry is your cousin. Well, yeah, pretty much!

Interesting day. Lots of good stuff on courthouse records and on military records. But you know the best thing is having so many experts around that, if you have a question, you can ask it and -- bang -- about three people will instantly know the answer. It's so refreshing. So empowering. It's just a wonderful experience.

Now, if only every time I asked Spence or Sadie a question they knew the answer! What a wonderful world it would be. But I can't ask too much of them. They are doing their bit every night for a half or hour, before I finally collapse from exhaustion.

Monday, June 12, 2006


What are the chances that I would discover a genealogical seminar that I wanted to attend, that I would travel to Alabama to attend it, that I would pick a particular course as being the best one to suit my interests at this time, and that I would walk into the classroom, survey the empty seats, see several in one row with several strangers, pick a seat and end up sitting next to my cousin?

I don't know either, but it pretty much blows me away.

This is a cousin on both sides of my dad's family. On Dad's mother's side she is related because her g-g-grandma and my g-g-grandpa were siblings. On Dad's dad's side, my g-g-g-grandfather and her husband's g-g-g-grandfather were brothers. My cousin and I have corresponded on and off for about 8 years, but we had never met. In fact life got in the way and we hadn't corresponded in a couple of years at least.

I didn't know she was coming here. She didn't know I was coming here. We certainly, then, didn't know we'd chosen the same class or the same row of seats.


And quite wonderful because we have been able to compare notes and give each other ideas, and I have no doubt that this will, when we go home, spark a flurry of emails and further research that will get us moving in the right direction with renewed enthusiasm.

It works like that in writing sometimes, too. A completely unexpected serendipitous event comes along that jolts me and I see a new path, a new way for things to develop, a way that probably existed all along but it took something startling to awaken me to the possibilities.

I had a moment like that with Spence last night. He did something that surprised me. And it surprised Sadie, too. It hurt Sadie and she did something that surprised Spence.

Life is interesting -- and good. (Except I see the US lost today in the World Cup. But I was in class and missed it).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tennessee Two

When I titled this, I was thinking about Johnny Cash's backup guys, Marshall Grant and Luther Perkins, because that's what the Tennessee Two originally meant to me. And I've been thinking about them again lately because of my recent experience watching Walk The Line.

But the Tennessee Two I'm proud of today are Spence and Sadie who actually got some work done while we had a layover in the Memphis airport. Do you suppose there are some latent Tennessee genes in these two waiting to come out?

Don't know. All I know is that while we were there, I thought I might check my email (having become enamored of wireless connections the night before at a Holiday Inn Express). But you have to pay $9.95 for a day's access to the Wifi at the Memphis airport, and I didn't want my email that bad (definitely having now seen it, I made the right choice). So I didn't go online, I brought up chapter two and let Spence and Sadie have at it.

I should have got them finished in chapter two last night, but they were balking then. Today in Memphis, though, they finally grabbed hold of the story and took off. Of course then the flight was called and I had to put them back in the backpack. But I'm hoping I can get another page or so tonight. I'm actually exhausted so who knows if it will happen, but I hope so.

IGHR is like summer camp for genealogists. I met a lot of new people, all very interesting. And I am completely drained. It's what comes of being an I (introvert). I like meeting them, but after a while (and not a very long while at that) I want to go hole up in my room and read a book or write an email or work on Spence and Sadie. Too much stimulation. People are endlessly fascinating -- and in groups sometimes draining. But it's going to be a wonderful week!

And the new "Tennessee Two" are behaving at the moment. I'm sooooo pleased.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Alabama Bound

I've had my dose of men in shorts for the day, and trust that my editor will be in good spirits on Monday morning because Becks did well in the English side's win over Paraguay. I actually preferred the Trinidad & Tobago-Sweden match myself. More enthusiasm all around.

It was one of those soccer matches where you can leave saying T&T won 0-0 and Sweden lost 0-0, and you could certainly see it on the faces of the team members and the fans. In my extended family we have a brother-in-law of one of my first cousins who is from Trinidad, so there was, of course, no doubt whose side we were on. Though down the road, depending on who they are playing, I may well be cheering for Sweden.

But who could not cheer for Shaka Hislop, who almost singlehandedly saved the day for T&T over and over and over.

I am all packed and ready to go. Spence and Sadie have promised to behave themselves. And they are going to spend the evening with me, anyway, working because we will have nothing else to do in the airport hotel tonight. So we should be well into chapter three before I take off, which is not where I would like to be ideally, but it's at least realistic. Getting to the end of chapter three may be a stretch by the time I come home. We'll see.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Men in shorts . . .

It's that time again.

Every four years we are treated to the best of the world's men in shorts playing in the World Cup. It began today with the match between Germany and Costa Rica in Munich, and I was right there watching.

I should, of course, have been finishing up my quarterly taxes, or doing the laundry before departing tomorrow, or at the very least working out the beginning of chapter three so Spence and Sadie can get on with things.

But I wasn't. A girl (even one my age) has to have her priorities, after all. And ever since I spent June and July in Europe in 1990, watching match after match and getting seriously hooked, I have stopped whatever I was doing -- as much as possible -- so I could watch. It's not like I slack the rest of the time. Just every four years I take a little hiatus from "real life" so I can watch men in shorts with incredible stamina (theirs, not mine, though mine -- for watching -- isn't bad either).

Time passes, though. I remember in 1990 that Jurgen Klinsmann was a young star for Germany. This year he's the coach. Not so long ago I remember Eric Wynalda playing for the USA. Now he's a commentator on ESPN2. But it's still fun to watch. At least I (and a few billion other people think so). My friend Linda thinks it's like watching paint dry. Oh, well. She can at least watch the paint dry in High Definition at her house. At mine I'm still watching on the little TV now perched atop the famous map cabinet. Doesn't matter. I'd watch it on my iPod, if I had one (even though the men in shorts would look more like ants in shorts). Do iPods have screens or am I thinking of something else? I'm sure someone will set me straight.

Anyway, it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, even though I did finally finish the taxes, did use up the last of the rhubarb making something my 88 year old neighbor Elda called "rhubarb delight" -- which I will share the recipe for sometime.

But I still have to do the laundry and pack and go buy dog food so Micah doesn't starve while I'm gone.

Tomorrow England and Paraguay. David Beckham! My editor will -- for sure -- be watching. And so will I, though probably not solely to see Becks.

I am thinking of mentioning 'the beautiful game' to Spence. If he played this month, I would be tempted to pay much more attention to him. Come to think of it, I haven't seen him yet in shorts.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Blessed silence . . .

Ah, I got my blog back.

The interlopers have taken their battle elsewhere. They are on the laptop at the moment, nose to nose. Spence is being sarcastic (purely a defense mechanism, but you can't tell him that), and Sadie is having all she can do not to let go with those steel-toed boots (actually I think she's in open-toed sandals at the moment and probably has decided that he's not worth breaking a toe on, but I can't tell you how tempted she is).

I am delighted that they are finally in the same room. Particularly since it's the other room, and not the one I'm in at the moment. Silence reigns in here. I love it.

Letting them blog was probably a good thing, but once they got started, I didn't think I was going to be able to shut them up. I see, however, that Sadie must have realized this as she has set up her own blog (called Sadie and Spence, I believe), but she doesn't seem to have written anything in it yet.

Maybe she will while I'm gone. I'm leaving for Alabama on Saturday (well, I'm only going as far as a friend's Saturday -- a friend who lives near the airport -- so I can leave there at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. We night people are not fond of 6:00 a.m., but in this case there didn't seem to be much choice).

I'm going to spend a week filling in all the gaps in my genealogical education at Samford University's Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research. It is, from everything I've been told, the Harvard or MIT of genealogical methodology. I am looking forward to it -- the learning bit. I'm not exactly looking forward to sitting in classes much of the day. Not used to it anymore. Wonder how I did it for so many years. But it's only for a week, and I expect to learn a ton which I can then apply to my own research.

I don't expect to have much time to do that in the near future which, once I get back, is going to be spent with Spence and Sadie. But for the past three years I have either had a wedding to go to or been out of the country during the one week a year this institute takes place. So THIS YEAR I'm going. No matter what Spence and Sadie do to each other while I'm gone.

I'm hoping they will take the battle to another level. I told Sadie last night it would probably get worse before it gets better. Sadie is, as you might have been able to tell from her post, not convinced that things are going to get better. Ordinarily Sadie is not a pessimist. But then, ordinarily, Spence is not an idiot. Well, stress -- and love -- can bring out the strangest things in a guy.

Not, of course, that he would recognize love if it kicked him in the shin with a steel-toed boot.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sadie's turn

Hi, This is Sadie Morrissey. Anne says I should introduce myself and let you get to know the real me before you believe all that nonsense Spence is spouting.

Let me just say, there are a few things about me that Spencer Tyack doesn't know. In fact there's at least one thing about Spence himself he doesn't know.

Or he didn't -- until yesterday.

Now he's ticked. Like it's my fault! Like I wouldn't change it if I could. Like he's Mr Perfect. I don't think so!

Anyway, about me. The first thing you should know is that I don't normally write with purple ink. But Anne said that, if we wanted to make it clear who was who, I should get a distinct ink and a distinct font. So I have. (The purple is me trying to sound like a heroine. I think I'm heroine-challenged. Anne thinks Spence is hero-challenged. She says we make a pair).

So . . . I've known Spence forever. I did not, however, imprint on him like a duck. I might have followed him and Danny, my brother, around for a few years -- well, okay, a lot of years -- but that's because they always did cooler stuff than the girls I knew. I'd have rather climbed a tree than played Barbies. I'd rather have played baseball than hopscotch.
And they let me. Because it was handy, I think, to have someone to blame things on.

Like, believe me, I wasn't the one who broke Mrs Sullivan's front window when we were playing baseball in the street! And I didn't eat all the trick-or-treat candy in Spence's grandma's mixing bowl before the trick-or-treaters got there, no matter what anyone says. (I think she figured that out when I was the only one who didn't throw up.).

And regardless of what he's been saying, I didn't follow Mr Hot-Shot Tyack around forever, either. I worked for him when I was in high school and he was just getting started buying old houses and renovating them. But when I graduated, I left. And I went to college in California -- at UCLA, for heaven's sake. Hardly next door to Montana. And Spence was nowhere to be seen.

Yes, all right. I admit it. I went home during the summer. But someone needed to straighten out his files. For nine months he either fired the people he hired to do it, or he left everything in a heap for me. "Sadie can do it," he always said.

And I always did.

Maybe I shouldn't have. Maybe when I went away to college, I should have left for good. And maybe I would have if Spence hadn't come to my graduation. If he hadn't grinned his million megawatt grin, teased me, tempted me, told me he couldn't live without me.

He couldn't live without me? His business couldn't live without me, he meant!

I should have known.

No. I did know. But I was stupid. I thought absence had made his heart grow fonder. I thought he'd realized I'd finally grown up. But the truth is, maybe I hadn't totally grown up. If my heart still beat faster every time he came into the room -- even when it was just to thrust a folder of papers at me or ask me to do a title search -- how grown up could I have been?

Not very.

Not grown up and not smart, despite the summa cum laude college degree. I guess you could say I was too stupid to live. Certainly I was stupid enough to get myself into the most awful mess I've ever been in my whole entire life. And now I've got to get out of it. Or something.

I wish I knew what. Even Anne doesn't know. I asked her and she just shrugged and said, "That's up to you and Spence."

Well, no hope there. That's all I can say. She might as well quit now or move on to someone else. But she says no. She says she's worked with a lot of pain-in-the-neck guys before. She says some of them take two or three or four books to turn into heroes. Anne says Spence might need to go to Remedial Hero School.

I wonder if she's kidding. If she's not, I should find out if there's one for heroines. I've never been a heroine before. I've never exactly thought of myself that way. "Like a princess?" I asked her.

"No, like you," she said. "Like the very best you that you can be."

She said that I can do everything else. That I am beautiful and wise and kind and generous (and that I would have to be to put up with Spence all these years without tying his ears in a knot). So she says I can become a heroine if I try. She also said she'd get me some steel-toed boots, just in case I need them.

I might.

But truly, if Anne thinks she's going to get a happily ever after out of Spence and me, I think the Remedial School had better be co-ed. And we'd both better sign up.

Just one heroine

Sadie wants to know why she didn't get invited to blog. Is this a 'heroes only' event? she asked me.

And you know, it's not. So I invited Sadie to blog, too. She says she has a few things to say to Mr Spencer Tyack, but then she'll be right along.

I never thought they'd take over, for heaven's sake!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Out of the woodwork . . . or a surfeit of heroes

Who'd a thunk it?

Spence has started a deluge. First he blogs. Then he comments. Then he blogs again. And now this morning Vittorio Corsentino showed up, muttering about Kate. And tonight some guy I've never met before, a Rafael Delacruz, turns up complaining about his author, Dom Guagliardi!

What is it with these heroes?

Do they have nothing better to do than complain? Whatever happened to competence? To fortitude? To honor? To taking matters into their own hands and acting heroic?

Thank heavens, Sadie was there defending my honor and the honor of authors everywhere. I think I'll go out and buy her a pair of steel-toed boots just in case Spence gets it into his head to make any more irritating observations.

And no matter what he says in the comments section, there were thunderstorms today! Big ones!

Does he expect me to keep writing and fry my computer? And him? Bet he didn't even think about that.

I suppose he thinks that just because he's a 'character' and not a 'real person' he can be 'backed up' and thereby has more lives than a cat (sorry, Sid. He drove me to this). Well, maybe he can. But today we were living dangerously. I was writing as fast as I could -- because he kept talking and talking and talking -- and I didn't even have time to back up. And then the thunder came. Or rather, then the lightning came, and then the thunder, and I knew I'd better quit because two years ago on a similar day I got my fax machine fried.

So I was watching out for his welfare. And mine.

And tonight, because the skies are clear I'm going to go back and let him finish his scene -- and thus the chapter. And then, I hope, he will let me get a good night's sleep.

As for Vito and Rafael, I hope they behave, too. Best of luck to you, Kate and Dom, in keeping your heroes in line. If they persist in this behavior we might have to send them to Remedial Hero School.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Irresponsible Authors

She left!

I don't believe it. She natters on for weeks about how she needs me to get my act together and show up for work. And I do. I cooperate all day long. I bide my time in New York City, cool my heels, wait for my cue, and I make my phone call right when she needs me to. And what does she do?

She lets Sadie drop her bomb -- and then she leaves!

McAllister. Not Sadie. Sadie's still here looking nervous -- which is pretty smart.

But McAllister has just waltzed out of the room without so much as a by-your-leave (whatever that means). She waggled her fingers and went out out to feed her husband, walk her dogs and then, she informed me, she was going to watch part of a DVD!

How responsible is that? How helpful? How adult?

What's her editor going to say, I'd like to know. If she worked for me she wouldn't get away with this. I expect my employees to be there whenever I need them. Of course I only have one employee -- Sadie Morrissey.

But Sadie is there. Always. Even today when I thought she wasn't going to show up (and now think life would be a whole hell of a lot simpler if she hadn't), she showed.

But McAllister? Nope. She took off. Went out to have fun. Left me here with a scene half written, cooling my heels. Foaming at the mouth, more like! I have a truckful of things to say to Sadie Morrissey as soon as McAllister gets back here to write them down!

But is she coming back? Like hell! It's after midnight. Next thing you know she'll turn up and tell me it's too late tonight. So sorry, Spence but she needs her beauty rest.


You can't get reliable authors these days. They think they have their own lives. They think they don't need us. They're wrong.

And I'm going to tell her so next time I see her.

Wait. Is that her? I hear footsteps on the stairs now. Right, well, she needn't think she can just turn up and expect me to start spouting off now so she can write it down.

Not on your life. I'm going to make her suffer a bit first. Show her who's boss.

Hey! Where'd she go?


Good grief. She shut me in the office and went off to brush her teeth.

Just wait until morning, McAllister. Just wait.

Back at Work

They both turned up for work this morning. I turned on the computer and there they were -- just like they'd never been away. In fact they talked my ears off. First Sadie, now Spence.

He is a bit dazed and confused. Not to mention furious. But it's good that all his excess energy has a focus. Even if it's aimed at poor Sadie.

Poor Sadie, like hell! How could she just sit there like some bloody clam all this time and never say a word. What did she think she was doing?

Ah, I see Spence has invaded the blog again. Not even waiting for an invitation this time. I suppose you want to spend the evening ranting at her, do you, Spence?

Damned right I do! I've got to get this mess sorted out -- and quick. She can't just walk in here and turn the world upside down. We're going to sort this out right now. Hey, you! McAllister! Anne! Annie! Where do you think you're going? Come back here! We've got work to do!

You have work to do, Spence. I'm busy. We're having company this evening.

Company? You can't! No way. You absolutely cannot walk out of this room and leave me with that scene half written. Get back here and -- !

Later, Spence. There are dogs that need walking first. And a friend coming over to watch a couple of episodes of the first season of WINGS on DVD. Maybe after . . .

After? After WINGS? I'm less important than a DVD? You're going to play instead of work? Just watch a DVD and leave me pacing here?!!!!

Apparently I am.

But --

Characters don't get their way all the time, Spence. I'll be back in a while. In the meantime, give some thought to what you might want to tell Sadie.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Guilt . . . and other pleasures

On her blog today, Kate Walker said lots of very nice things about me and about my books and, incidentally, about her cat, Sid. No surprise about Sid. He gets in lots of blogs. It's a talent of his.

One of the great things about writing, as Kate pointed out, is that you get to meet such interesting cats . . .er, people. And you get to go visit them and drag them around the countryside looking for dead relatives or live cowboys or whatever turns you on. You even get to meet up with them on the far side of the earth and share moments with Hugh-in-the-towel (sadly a two-dimensional Hugh-in-the-towel) and reminisce about Robert Fuller (and tax deduct it).

But in order to get to do those great things, you have to write books. Well, I suppose Kate would still let me come visit her if I stopped now. But who knows who else I might meet if I keep writing (Hugh-in-the-towel might turn up. You never know.)?

So, I have to keep writing. For that and because I have stories to tell. Even this story about Spence, who should be feeling guilty that he has kept me waiting so long. As I will feel guilty if I keep my editor waiting. And I do not like feeling guilty. I do not like being late with books. But I like writing them (sometimes). And I like the people I meet doing it. And I've told Spence we need to get busy.

Tomorrow morning Spence is showing up for work. He told me so. He was even here a while today. It was very nice seeing him again. He's a little upset. His world -- as he knows it -- has shifted considerably in the last few days. He is having to come to terms with things he had never expected to. I don't like being the one to tell him that it's going to get worse before it gets better.

So tomorrow I'm going to let Sadie do it.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

In the good ol' summertime . . . or making Spence wait

Well, imagine that. Spence . . . blogging.

So where is he when I need him? Where is he when the computer is on and the WordPerfect file is on the screen? When I am sitting there with my fingers poised over the keyboard and Sadie is talking to herself?

Then, of course, he is nowhere to be found. Thanks a lot, Spence, she said sarcastically. What a hero you're turning out to be.

Though, to be fair, if he did show up today, I wasn't here. My oldest son called shortly before noon and said he was playing semi-pro ball in a town near us if we wanted to come and watch -- and, incidentally, see the grandsons.

Did we? Need you ask?

It's been a couple of months since we've seen the grandsons who are now 19 months old and capable of running in two directions at once (because there are two of them, not because they are spatially gifted).

Now they know the sounds of lots of animals. They know how to stir water with sticks, how to convince their mom that they need cheetos and that it's more fun turning themselves orange than letting her stick a cheeto in their mouths. They tell each other to "Get Down" off things, not because they are worried about each other, but because the one on the ground, saying it, simply wants to take his brother's place. They are also very attached to mommy at the moment -- except when they prefer to run after balls or run around the bases. Though for a 19 month old, it is possible to get lost between second and third. The outfield beckons.

I discovered that I can tell them apart now. The Prof thinks I'm lying because he says they look exactly alike. But I don't think so. One of them always looks like my father. The other one never does. There is no reason why either should because Eldest Son is adopted, but we find the resemblance something of a cosmic joke. Even better, we've discovered that one is turning out to be right-handed and the other a lefty. So it won't be as easy for them to trick people into mixing them up.

Anyway, we went. And we had a great time. Not just with the twins and their parents, but because watching town team semi-pro baseball is simply a lovely way to spend a summer Saturday afternoon in the Iowa countryside. The weather was spectacular -- sunny and warm but breezy. The views across the fields were magnificent (yea, cataract surgery!) and Eldest Son's team won and he got two hits and the save, striking out five as he pitched the last two innings.

So if Spence did turn up looking for me, he'd have been out of luck. I am back now, though, and very happy to get to work should he put in an appearance. And I think he might. Apparently he found out what Sadie knew that he didn't. So I expect he'll be here any second, ready to strangle her.

Ah, conflict.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Blogging . . . by Spence

You thought I wouldn't do it, didn't you? You thought I was too busy or too inarticulate or too uptight to spill my guts out here for all the world to see.

Think again.

When I was a kid I wrote all the time. I had so many ideas I couldn't keep track of 'em all unless I wrote them down. Not that I'd have shown them to anybody. Not then. Not yet.

"Got dreams bigger'n all creation," my ma used to say and shake her head. "Just like your old man."

She didn't have much good to say about my old man. And who could blame her?

Anyway, I learned pretty quick to keep my mouth shut. Didn't matter what I said anyway. Only what I did. "Put up or shut up," my uncle Joe always said. Works for me.

That's what I'm telling Anne. You know -- Ms McAllister. The A.U.T.H.O.R. She can't let me sit on park benches THINKING. That's not me. Not even with the bottle of scotch. Which she ought to know. Because I swore off scotch. Haven't touched it since . . .well, she knows when. And she knows why. So I don't know what her problem is.

Well, I do, actually. She's too damn vague. She's got to get a goal. A focus. Forget about all the peripheral stuff, get her sights set on one thing and go for it. That's what I do. It's what I've always done.

Sometimes it doesn't work out. You don't win every time. But you don't let it stop you. You can't.

She's pacing around the room right now, coming to look over my shoulder, then muttering and going away again, still muttering.

"Go make a cup of tea," I told her a few minutes ago. She did. But now she's back. drinking tea and muttering. She drinks gallons of the stuff. Mutters a lot, too. Something about Sadie.

She'd better not mess with Sadie.

Sadie Morrissey and I are a team. if she thinks she can jumpstart her damn book by messing with Sadie, she's asking for trouble. Not that Sadie would let her. Sadie is the most dependable woman in the world. The most organized. Throw a thousand details up in the air and Sadie would have them filed alphabetically before they hit the ground.

I can sketch out in vague terms any idea, and Sadie can follow what I'm saying and sometimes get there ahead of me. Hell, she knows what I think before I do. She knows what I need. She's like the nurse who hands the doctor the scalpel before he asks for it.

What? Anne's over there rolling her eyes and going, "Oh, please," and looking like I don't know what I'm talking about. I do! I know Sadie. Have known her since she started following her brother Danny and me around when she just learned to walk.

Maybe she imprinted on me. Like a duck.

Smartest damn duck in the world. Most reliable. Least likely to kick up a fuss. So why on earth is Anne carrying on about her? Sadie's fine. She's doing a job she loves. I pay her damn well to do it. If she thought she wasn't getting paid enough, she'd say so. I know Sadie. We're a team. That won't change when I marry Dena.

What? Stop sputtering in your tea, damn woman!

Oh hell, enough of this! I've got work to do. I'm getting married in an hour. Then I'm heading off to the South Pacific on my honeymoon.

And Sadie, since you ask, will be back home holding the fort. Taking care of business. It's what I pay her for. She watches my back. Like I said, Sadie and me, we're a team.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

It's All About Backstory

Backstory, the stuff that happens before the book essentially starts, is often the key to why a book won't go forward. At least it is for me.

I have to know a lot about the people I'm writing about -- and not just at the moment the book begins -- but about a lot of the moments that brought them to the beginning of the book.

I know that Spence is a self-made man, a boy who grew up in a hard-scrabble mining family in Butte, Montana. He was a boy who knew no one else was going to take care of him, so he had to take care of himself. And he did. He had ambition enough for twenty. And he was never afraid of hard work. That part I knew about Spence very early on. It made him who he very clear is -- wealthy, successful, hard-nosed, determined -- and a champion of the underdog. It was how he ended up getting a part in Theo's book.

But there are other parts of Spence's life that I don't completely know about yet -- like how he has always felt about Sadie. They've been a part of each other's life for as long as Sadie can remember. She was his buddy's kid sister. And, of course, early on she was a 'kid sister' to Spence, too.

But did that ever change? Did he ever -- when she was 16 or 18 -- look at her and see someone other than Danny's sister? Did he ever want her? And if he did, why didn't he ever do anything about it? If he didn't, why should that change?

Tricky questions -- and ones that Spence seems disinclined to answer right now. For all that he is frank and forthright about many things, he keeps his emotional cards very close to his chest. At least the emotional ones that matter. At least he isn't telling me much about them!

I bribed him with an island, and he's still ho-humming. Maybe he'll tell you guys what he won't tell me. Maybe if I invited him to blog . . .

What do you think?