Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

I'm about to fall asleep so I'm just going to say, "Happy New Year" to all who have joined me here over the past 11 months. I hope you'll come back and visit often.

I see Sid has already posted on Kate Walker's blog. Apparently he's going to be the subject of a catcake calendar this year. He's gorgeously photogenic -- almost Hugh-in-a-towel quality. Better than, he'd say. He's a definite charmer, so I look forward to his monthly poses. And I look forward to more correspondence with him over the next year.

As for here, I think we'll just begin as we mean to go on and take another gander at The Man himself.

As the year turns over, I've been thinking about significant events and people who've touched my life or made an impact in one way or another this year in general. I hope to re-cap some of them in the coming days.

In the meantime, Here Come The Brides . . .

As I mentioned before, to celebrate the publication of our three "Bride" titles coming in February, Liz Fielding and Kate Walker and I are having a contest.

The winners get copies of all three of our brand-new books. And if you enter on each of our websites you get three chances to win!

Here are the books:
The Valentine Bride, by Liz Fielding, Harlequin Romance #3932

The Italian's Forced Bride, by Kate Walker, Harlequin Presents #2605

The Santorini Bride, by Anne McAllister, Harlequin Presents #2610

All you have to do is find out the full name of the bride in each of our books and send all three names to us. Simple, huh?

The details of how to submit the names are on each of our websites -- or they will be as soon as our webmistresses get them up (mine might be taking New Year's Day off). In my case, just go to my website, click on the Contact Anne tab and send me your answers there. The contest ends February 1st, 2007.

I'll be telling you more about each of the books in the coming days and, if I can, I'll try to convince Kate and Liz to do a little "guest question and answer" session here. So stay tuned . . . and check back because you never know what those grooms might do once they find out about this contest!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Readers and Books . . . and Brides

Kate Hardy had an interesting "quiz" on her blog today that she pinched from someone else, so I decided to pinch it from her.
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

Literate Good Citizen

Book Snob

Fad Reader


What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

It appears that I am a "dedicated reader." No big surprise there. I don't know what the other possibilities were. You're welcome to take the quiz by clicking on the link in the table. If you do, please come back and tell me what you turn out to be (although if you're here, I can make a fair guess!).

Speaking of readers, I've just sent four boxes of books to my kids. Youngest son dragged them down from the attic while he was here (it's an ongoing project, this de-stuffing the attic) and I went through them and put them into piles depending on who I remembered reading them most (and who has the readers among the grandkids). And then I called them to see if they wanted me to give them away or send them on.

And guess what! They said, "Send them on!" Every one. So I did. The books have departed. The ceilings sag slightly less. It is possible to wend one's way from one side of the attic to the other without stepping over umpteen boxes. You only have to step over five or six now.

Some of the favorites were books we never had when they were growing up, but ones that had to be checked out on a regular basis from the library. Now even libraries don't have all of them, so we haunt used bookstores to get the truly memorable ones.

My middle son has now collected all the Henry the Explorer books that he loved when he was a little boy. And there is a brand-new boxed set of Paddington in my office just waiting for him to say the word. (He doesn't know to say a word, though, because he doesn't know they're here -- unless he reads this!). But when they're needed, they're ready to go.

Of the ones that came down from the attic, all the horse books have gone to my daughter for her daughter. The Black Hand Gang and The Secret Hideout went to Middle Son. Youngest son decamped with something about motors. And all the sports books (Jordan and Magic and lots of Sports Illustrateds) went to Oldest son for his oldest son. Yes, truly, the attic is much improved.

Now, if only I could get them all to major in German and Japanese and Dutch and Korean, I could palm off lots of my own books written in languages I can't read!

The Brides Are Coming . . . !

It's almost time for the Brides to have their contest! Kate Walker and Liz Fielding and I all have books coming out in February with the word Bride in the title. So we decided to creat a "Here Come The Brides" contest beginning January 1st.

Watch this spot for info about all the books and contest details!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year's Resolutions . . . and bull riding

The consensus seems to be that the best New Year's Resolution is not to make any because you're setting yourself up for failure if you do.

Probably true!

All the same, I'm going to make three:

  • to write at least 1000 words a week (not too difficult, that!) all the time I'm preparing for a book so that when I actually get into it I'll have some material to mine for 'good stuff'
  • to keep my calendar at hand so I can see when things are due and get going on them before they become last minute projects.
  • to go to Ireland.
Those I ought to be able to keep -- I hope.

The bull riding part of this post relates to the third resolution -- about going to Ireland. And i made it because of a comment today on a post I wrote back in November. It was about doing research -- and in that post I said that having a 'great idea' was a nice place to start, but it wasn't going to get you a whole book.

You need details for a book. You need an understanding of the ambience, of the way the landscape, the profession, the world your characters live in affect who they are.

Some, of course, you can do in books, newspapers, magazines, interviews with experts. But sometimes you need to be on the spot. You need to see things through your own eyes, experience the setting and the life first hand.

And in my case 11 years ago, it entailed going to bull-riding school.

The school was held over Presidents' Day weekend in Helena, Montana. It was taught by Brett Leffew using the methods his father, Gary, had developed in his own successful career and which he then passed on to others in courses taught both at his California ranch and in various other venues around the country.

It was three days in a world quite different from my own. It was also one of the high points in my writing career. I loved it.

I knew rodeo and roughstock riding marginally in my childhood. My stepdad's brother competed in local rodeos. But I didn't live with it. But seeing it up-close-and-personal for 3 days was a wonderful experience. One of the joys of being a writer is being allowed into all sorts of different lives. Bull-riding school was one of them.

Those three days only added to the vast respect for the young men who pitted their strength and determination and know-how against animals who were so much bigger, stronger and equally determined not to be ridden. Watching them pick themselves up time after time and learn from their mistakes, intent and determined even as they limped a little more slowly up the steps to the classroom between rides, taught me as much about their character as it did about the mechanics of riding a bull.

It got me right inside my own character's head. Not every man finds it worthwhile to attempt to ride a bull. So who does? And what does it tell you about him?

It told me a lot. It gave me pieces of the story I would not have had if I'd done my research only from books or even the ProRodeo Sports News. It gave me an inside view of the bullrider's world.

And Matt Owen's comment and thinking about what bullriding school meant to me -- and to my book -- made me resolve to get to Ireland. I need to see it first-hand. I need to know what Flynn's drafty castle was like, what it felt like for him growing up there, why he was so desperate to leave. I know a bit of that. I am sure I will know more after I come back.

I may have most of the book written in first-draft before I go. All well and good. It's the deepening, the texturing, the 'reality' that the trip will give me -- and Flynn. It will give Sara something too -- a sense of wonder, the chance to see Ireland for the first time just as I will (apart from the airport, that is!).

And there will be that 'driving on the left' experience, too. Ye gods. Well, I did it in New Zealand and lived to tell about it. I just hope the Irish will live to tell about it, too, with me on their roads. I'd take a train but somehow they don't seem to go to castles.

I can't imagine why.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Real Life

Taxes. Deadlines. Estimates. Contracts.

And all that fun stuff.

So Christmas is over and real life is back with a vengeance. I've spent the day dealing with all of the above. The quarterly adding up of little bits of paper. The one step at a time, no skipping to the end just to get there faster sort of stuff that I absolutely hate (Myers-Briggs will even tell you it's not my thing). It's like going to the dentist -- which, come to think of it, I have to do this week, too.

But at least now the worst of it is done -- besides writing the checks, that is.

And I have one fun thing that I can do. I never got to make my collage before Christmas. I was expecting to have time to do it with the glowkid. But we got so busy baking for the tea that there was never time to get into the collage. I've been thinking about it, though. Planning a bit in my head. Envisioning Sara who is becoming less Kate Beckinsale and more a combination of Eva Green (the Bond girl) and Winona Ryder. Maybe bits and pieces of each.

I bought a couple of magazines, too -- British home mags, which aren't Irish, I know, but in the midwest of America, you take what you can get. And I have my stash of Irish castle pics already here. And, it goes without saying, there's James Purefoy for Flynn.

I'm getting ideas. All of them, even the worst, are so much more appealing than adding columns of figures.

And I'm enjoying the last couple of days with Youngest Son and his wife. They are gone this evening so I'm clearing up the last bits of tax stuff. Also trying to write my "Christmas letter" which traditionally tends to get sent the week after New Year's. There is, after all, just so much one person can do in 24 hours a day. And the Christmas letter always seems to get short shrift until Christmas itself is long gone. But then it becomes a recap of the year -- and that's not exactly a bad thing. I just have to stop thinking of it as the "Christmas letter."

Where are we on New Year's Resolutions? Should I be starting to think of them? Probably. Getting better organized seems like a good idea. Writing more and faster? Well, I'm not sure how that will work, but it's a nice thought, though probably impossible.

What about you? Any New Year's Resolutions you want to share? I could use some inspiration.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Variations on a Santa Hat . . .

. . . grudging courtesy of Gunnar, Mitch and Micah who send you all good wishes for the season and the coming year.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holiday Wishes

Kids have arrived. I'm vanishing for a day or so to share the holidays with them. If we can convince a dog to wear the Santa hat, you'll see it after the fact.

Did anyone notice that even Google has a Christmas kangaroo theme this year? Did someone post instructions somewhere that I missed? Well, it's nice to know that everyone is on the same page at least.

Except, of course, Sid. He has a blog in his honor on Kate Walker's blog today. Kate has been doing blogs about her cats, comparing each of them to film stars. Bob is Robert Redford. Spiffy is Cary Grant. Dylan is Jack Nicholson. And Kate asked me who I thought Sid compared to. You'll have to go see on her blog, but there was certainly no doubt in my mind. And I imagine you can guess. And you can see him in a Santa hat there, even if Gunnar declined.

In the meantime, all the best wishes for the holiday. Enjoy!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Minus one Santa hat

Gunnar has boycotted the Santa hat. And I don't have time to sew elastic on it and convince him to wear it long enough for me to take his picture. He doesn't suffer fools gladly -- and he has told me in no uncertain terms that it would be foolish to put him in a Santa hat even for a second. I believe him.

I'm still negotiating with Micah and Mitch.

In the meantime, since I don't know if I will make it back to the blog in the next couple of days, I just want to say Merry Christmas to you all -- friends, acquaintances, writers, readers, genealogy buddies and distant cousins as well as any strangers who may turn up.

It's lovely having you visit. Thank you for coming. I hope you will come back during the coming year.

All the best from our house to yours -- and special greetings from Gunnar, Micah and Mitch, minus the Santa hat!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

One of the Good 'Uns

Legendary western singer and songwriter, Ian Tyson, put out a CD a few years ago called All The Good 'uns. The CD contains a lot of the good 'uns -- songs Ian has sung over the years that not only are wonderful songs but bring back memories of a lot of good times.

The term has also always been our family shorthand for people who are "good 'uns" -- those folks who have made our particular world a better place.

One of those was a man named Lyle May who died earlier this week at the age of 95.

Lyle was, first and foremost, a cowboy. He cowboyed in Montana for a lot of years, then went on and did other things for a lot more years. When you live to be 95, you have time to do a lot of stuff. In his heart, though, Lyle knew he should always have stayed ahorseback. It's what he was happiest doing. What he was best at, he once told me.

I met Lyle 6 years ago when he wrote me a letter. He'd read a copy of my book, Cowboys Don't Cry, and he said, "It put me to mind of myself sixty years ago. It felt real."

A greater compliment no writer has ever received. I wrote him back, thanked him for his words and for taking the time to write and tell me so. He wrote me back. And I wrote him. We began a correspondence and conversations and visits that continued over the years.

Sometimes he would tell me he was boring because he didn't do anything anymore and he didn't have "nothin' to say." But it wasn't true. He always had plenty to say, stories to tell, tales to share. We talked about cowboying, about baseball and football, about politics and religion, kids and grandkids, about life in Montana then and now. Over the years I can't think of much we didn't talk about.

Knowing Lyle, talking to Lyle, listening to Lyle, laughing with Lyle were always times of joy. They were certainly an unexpected gift.

It is, perhaps, the greatest part of being a writer -- the joy of touching peoples' lives and being touched in turn -- in ways you never expect.

I know that I told Lyle how much his friendship meant to me. And he did the same. But I need to say it one more time, to remember again how lucky I was to have Lyle take the time to write that letter, to reach out and make that connection. He made my world a brighter, richer, better place. He was definitely one of the good 'uns.

Thanks, Lyle, for being my friend.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tut Before Breakfast

As promised (and this is a big promise from a couple of non-morning people like my daughter and me) we were up and ready to go to The Field Museum before 7:30. It was the glowkid who couldn't wake up! But finally she did, and got dressed and brushed her teeth -- and we headed off to get tickets for Tut.

It was an overcast morning but the sun broke through over the lake, making everything look bright and promising. There was no wind at all for a change in The Windy City. The temps were quite moderate. All in all a perfect start to the day -- and we were the first people in line when 8:00 rolled around and it was time to buy tickets for Tut.

What I know about King Tut is minimal. I learned a lot more today. The glowkid learned even more than I did -- and she knew more to begin with. She took a notebook and sat down in front of every introductory piece and copied all the hieroglyphs and their meanings. She has to write a report for her class and give it when she gets back after vacation. Knowing her, it will be written in hieroglyphics!

After Tut we had breakfast in the Corner Bakery in the museum and, as my daughter said, "digested" what we'd seen. The glowkid was actually pretty quiet, and I expect she was -- as we were -- absorbing a lot of amazing sights.

After breakfast we got to see Sue, the tyrannosaurus (it would be hard to miss Sue as she's right there on the main floor and she's, um, BIG). Then we also toured the Field's regular exhibit on ancient Egypt, then branched out and did the Eskimo and Inuit carving exhibit and followed that up with the American Indian tribes and, particularly, the Pawnee Earth Lodge.

Of course we left much undone. It isn't possible to do justice to the Field in half a day. Or even a day. But we left happy and satisfied that we'd done what we'd come for. We'd seen Tut, we'd learned lots, we'd experienced much of the best of Chicago at Christmas. We even actually went inside a gingerbread house made of real gingerbread!

We made memories for a lifetime -- and that's what it was all about.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas in the City

We are in Chicago -- sitting on the edge of Michigan Avenue overlooking Lake Michigan (honest, we've got a lake view -- off to one side, but still a view of the lake). Pretty impressive. The lights on Michigan Avenue are beautiful. Glowkid and her mom and I are like hicks from the sticks enjoying every minute.

I don't know Chicago that well. I've been here maybe a dozen times in my life, far fewer and for far less time than I've been in New York. So I am not as familiar with where things are, but it's a pretty easy place to navigate. And we've had a great time so far.

We went to the Field Museum to get King Tut tickets, but got there after 4 pm so we didn't manage that. Will have to turn up at 8 am tomorrow to get tickets then. Not a problem. We'll be there. Going over we got to travel around the new version of Soldier Field which glowkid's dad came to earlier this year to go to a Bears game. She was impressed. So was I as I hadn't see the "new" version of Soldier Field. It does resemble a space ship grafted onto a roman temple or a greek temple or something classical and incongruous. Or maybe it's the space ship that's incongruous. Anyway, it was interesting.

After we got back we walked up Michigan Avenue and had a wonderful meal at The Artist's Cafe where they know how to make spanikopita and also a very fine chocolate cake. From there we walked up further past the Art Institute (the lions on the steps had wonderful wreaths around their necks and were most impressive) and headed over to State to Macy's -- formerly Marshall Field's -- which was a treat indeed.

There aren't a lot of stores around like those anymore -- where you can find nearly everything you might conceivably want for Christmas in one place. The tree in the Walnut Room was gorgeous. The glowkid's eyes were big as dinner plates as we went up and down the escalators from top to bottom. And we walked around looking at the mechanical figures in the windows, all with scenes from Mary Poppins, and talked about my great uncle Van whose company did the arrangements for one of the big New York department stores about 50 years ago. He used to bring big photos home to show us when he came to visit. I never saw those sorts of window displays in person until Youngest Son and I were in NYC in 1990. The photos didn't do them justice. Glowkid and I thought these were equally cool.

We are now back and exhausted (in the best possible sense) and still raring to go tomorrow morning back to the Field to see Tut. Then Glowkid and her mom will head out to Texas and I'll head back home. The museum shop had some pretty impressive stuff today, which probably means the exhibits will be impressive tomorrow. Will report back.

Christmas in the city has been a wonderful Christmas present for all of us!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tea For Twelve

In fact there were thirteen who turned up for tea today -- a baker's dozen, the glowkid said. It was a lot of fun despite the fact that I so rarely get down my mother-in-law's very good china and serving stuff that I always end up washing it again at the last minute and trying to remember where half of it is.

Organized aren't necessarily us.

But, as my friend Nancy reminded me, everyone will have a good time. They don't care if everything matches. Good thing they don't. But she's right -- everyone did have a good time and several even said, "Maybe you could do this every year?" Hint, hint.

In fact we have done it every year since glowkid was two and had fallen in love with a teapot. But she's not always here at Christmas, so sometimes we do it at Christmas and sometimes we do it in the middle of June or July. Anyway, it is always well worth doing.

Now we are off to Chicago in the morning to see the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum. This is glowkid's Christmas present -- and her mother's. The weather seems to be cooperating, which is very nice to know. And I hope it continues for the rest of the week so she gets home to Texas, I get home from Chicago, and Youngest Son and his wife get home for Christmas. As so many people are traveling at this time of year, I have fingers crossed that everyone gets a spate of good weather for traveling.

I've had some emails asking for the recipes for some of the things we served at our tea yesterday. Most people who weren't here want the biscotti recipe. Those who were also want the cranberry-orange cookie recipe and the Grasmere gingerbread recipe. I'll post the first two as soon as I can, but I've put in a link to the Grasmere gingerbread one so you can get started on it right now if you're desperate for more fattening food to serve for the holidays! It is wonderful, though -- especially with a nice cup of tea or, some tell me, coffee.

No idea if I'll have a chance to get online tomorrow night or not, but if not, I'll report on King Tut when I get back.

By the way, there are those who did very well with the NaNoWriMo scheme that I didn't do so well at. Several of us were pacing each other -- checking in periodically -- and I'm delighted to report that Trish Morey and Bronwyn Jameson have both finished their books and sent them in. They didn't do 50000 words in November, either, but they did a lot more than I did, and they have finished books to show for it now. Congrats, ladies -- and enjoy the holiday coming up!

What? You don't remember there's a holiday? Well, it's not too late. And at least you got your books done!

NaCoBaDa -- aka National Cookie Baking Day

I did my best on National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) in November. It turns out, not surprisingly, that I'm not good at it. Or maybe I'm not good at writing that fast about a book I haven't given a lot of thought to. Suffice to say, I didn't make anywhere close to 50000 words by the end of November.

But it turns out that I am much better at intense cookie baking. We all have our strengths, obviously.

But the tea party scheduled for 9 short hours from now (some of which I intend to spend sleeping), has prompted me and my daughter and granddaughter (aka glowkid) to bake Grasmere Gingerbread, poppyseed cake, cranberry and orange cookies, white chocolate and almond cranberry biscotti, lemon bars and two varieties of scones.

Suffice to say, we feel like we've had a marathon day in the kitchen. We were aided and abetted by the four grandsons who arrived to stir up dough (and trouble -- in the case of cranky two year old twins) and watch football and make me very glad to see them all together in one room, which happens so rarely it's a picture taking event. They even had their great-grandmother in the picture with them. I think she was a little overwhelmed by the kids and the cookie baking, but she survived. And she might even dare to come back tomorrow for tea. Cross your fingers!

Anyway, glowkid and I were going to collage, but we never got out of the kitchen. So that's on the agenda for tomorrow afternoon (we hope). In the meantime, wish you were here to share some of the carbs -- and much of the good will -- with us.

It was fun.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Christmas of the Kangaroos

Now that my kangaroo has appeared, they seem to be everywhere.

I had an email from Marion Lennox this morning recounting the very large black kangaroo having a drink out of the birdbath in her garden. Inasmuch as Australia is deep in drought these days, it's no wonder he came calling. Sadly she didn't get a picture of him.

But Anne Frasier has a kangaroo on her blog, too. A definitely seasonal one. But, as it was 56 degrees here this afternoon, he wouldn't have lasted long in our yard.

I've just returned from fetching my daughter and granddaughter from the airport. We have a list of to-dos for the holidays that we need to get started on bright and early in the morning -- mostly having to do with the tea we are hosting for a dozen or so friends the next day. This is a more or less annual tradition, begun when the glowkid (so called from the glow-in-the-dark blanket she was wrapped in when, as a premie, she battled jaundice) was two and enchanted with tea parties.

Will try to keep you posted. If you're in the neighborhood, the kettle is always on.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Four Things

Michelle Styles tagged me with the meme about Four Things. We did a variation on this some months ago on the Harlequin Presents Authors site, so if you're interested in a lot of peoples' takes on four things, go there (and I effectively "tagged" all these people, I'm not going to tag anyone else by name for fear of wearing out peoples' good will).

Suffice to say, if you want to be tagged, go for it.

Anyway, here are my four things:

Four jobs I've had:
1. Teaching Spanish
2. Capping deodorant bottles
3. Ghost-writing sermons
4. Copyediting textbooks

Four places I've lived:
1. Santa Barbara, California
2. Manhattan Beach, California
3. Pagosa Springs, Colorado
4. Dubuque, Iowa

Four favorite foods:
1. fish tacos
2. green chili stew
3. cranberry almond biscotti
4. poppyseed cake

Four movies I could watch over and over:
1. Charade
2. LA Confidential
3. Paperback Hero (Hugh, but no towel)
4. Dear Frankie

Four TV shows I have enjoyed:
1. Sports Night
2. Alias (the first four seasons; I'm trying to forget the last one)
3. Coupling
4. Remington Steele (the first season)

Four places I've traveled:
1. Vienna
2. Harbour Island, Bahamas
3 New Zealand
4. Australia

Four places I'd like to visit:
1. Ireland (beyond the airport)
2. Greece
3. South Africa
4. India

Four websites I go to daily:
1. Kate Walker's blog
2 The Pink Heart Society
3. USA Today's Crossword puzzle
4. various friends' blogs

The kangaroo has been something of a hit. I'm glad. She/he makes me smile every night when I walk out into the living room and glance across the road. I'm quite sure a run-of-the-mill metal angel wouldn't be nearly as effective in promoting the joy of the season.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Christmas Kangaroo

First, I don't live in Australia. Second, my eyesight since cataract surgery is very good. Third, I haven't had anything to drink except a half dozen cups of tea today.

That said, there is a kangaroo celebrating Christmas across the street from me.

In broad daylight I can tell that it is not a kangaroo. It's an angel. A sort of metal frame angel with metal frame wings and a hymn book open in her/his hands (I think it's a her, though I'm not sure why I think this. The long dress, perhaps?). Anyway, in daylight it's pretty clearly a seasonally appropriate piece of yard art.

At night it's a kangaroo.

The bushes behind the kangaroo are covered with white lights. So is the kangaroo, except for her wings which are covered in blue lights and from our house the blue lights are not visible, blending as they do into the night. The lights that are on the kangaroo come from the lights on the bushes. There is a tail of them leading to the kangaroo. The hymn book is not a hymn book, it is the kangaroo front feet (paws? arms?).

A kangaroo. See what I mean?

So I've been reflecting on this kangaroo, and it occurs to me that seeing kangaroos across the road is basically what writing is all about.

It's seeing the Bond girl by daylight and turning her into a nurse in New York City with bills to pay and a five year old son at night. It's taking my charm-your-socks-off reporter uncle and imagining what might happen if charm didn't fix a drafty Irish castle with a leaky roof. It's seeing someone else's own Irish castle and appropriating it for Flynn and moving the rooms about and shifting it to a different county and cobbling on a stable for race horses besides.

Writing is seeing potential (and kangaroos) where other people see only what's in front of their eyes.

It's a world that makes sense on its own level where incongruity is interesting, worth contemplating. It is, for example, believing that Sid the cat has his Christmas cards finished when I've just barely begun mine. It's corresponding with him and knowing full well he'll answer. It's fun.

It's work some of the time, admittedly, and play some of the time, of course. I've done it for over 20 years now, and I wouldn't want to do anything else. It beats capping deodorant bottles and teaching Spanish and ghost-writing sermons and copyediting agricultural science textbooks and filling in little boxes on computer printouts -- all of which I have done. They were grist for the mill. They were not particularly fulfilling.

Writing is.

On the blog-writing front, we have a 33rd country which has just turned up - or something that neo-counter thinks is a country, complete with flag (albeit tiny) called Asia/Pacific Region.

I can't google that term and come up with a specific "country" or location. So if you are from Asia/Pacific Region, welcome, and please stop back tell me where you are and how to get a bigger pic of your flag so I can feature it.

I wonder: do they have kangaroos in Asia/Pacific Region?

In broad daylight, probably not. But at night, who knows? If they have writers, anything goes.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

One more candidate

I went to see Casino Royale today. It was research.

I expected that I would go and spend my time appreciating Daniel Craig and admiring the many and varied ways he finds to kill people as James Bond. And admittedly he does a very good job. I think I like him as JB. He has a definite edge. I can't imagine anyone else that they seem to have had on the short list who would bring that edge to the character. It helps.

The scenery was worth looking at, too. Lake Como, which seems to have been doubling for Montenegro, was as usual spectacular. I talked with one of my sons after I saw the movie and said, "I knew that was Lake Como, didn't you?" and he said, "Huh?" And I said, "Lake Como. We were there on that trip we took when you were in high school." And he said, "We were? Where was I?" And I said, "Probably reading a map," because in fact I think that's exactly what he was doing.

He was a skiing fanatic in those days and the time we spent in Chamonix and Vallorcine and various other seriously alpine places were far more interesting to him then. He bought maps and studied them avidly. So I suppose he missed Lake Como entirely.

He doesn't plan to miss it the next time he goes to Italy. I don't either.

So anyway, the scenery was to die for.

But the real plus was finding Eva Green, the Bond girl who could possibly be Sara. Now, before you jump on me and say no Bond girl could ever be a small town Montana girl like Sara McMaster, take a good look. She can play down. Or up. And she's definitely got That Look.

I may not be able to settle on one Sara. I may have to take bits of two or three. That's all right. I expect my readers will do the same. They'll see someone in their heads who is nothing like what I see. I don't care. Whatever works and brings the character alive in their minds. Reading is a reciprocal event -- between writer and reader. We both bring something to the process. So if readers want to bring someone entirely different, that's fine with me.

We had a great "party" today on the eharlequin site -- lots of readers and writers and prizes and talking of books and life and such. Got some good ideas for books I'd like to read and ran into old friends and met new ones. I discovered that my old friend Day LeClaire who wrote many terrific Harlequin Romances is now writing for Desire. So if anyone has missed Day's books, as I have, start looking in Desire come February.

The collage is beginning to take shape. If anyone has suggestions for Irish places and more pix of terrific heroines (or heroes for that matter -- guys who look like James Purefoy for Flynn!), send them along. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Candidates for Sara

Two candidates have emerged to play Sara on my collage and in my brain.

One of them -- Winona Ryder -- I had already considered when Harlequin Mills & Boon medical writer, Margaret McDonagh, suggested her, too. So I must have communicated something in my mutterings. At least it got through to Margaret, too, that Winona could play this part (in my head).

The other, Kate Beckinsale, Christa suggested a little while ago. I must say I hadn't considered her. But now that I think about it, I've seen her in roles where I could imagine her as Sara. It's intriguing to imagine Sara now with Kate's longer wilder hair because I've always thought of Sara with the short dark no-nonsense sort. But . . . hmmmm . . . .maybe we're onto something here.

And could she have grown out her hair since Flynn saw her six years ago? Oh, I think she could. and what would he think then?

Yes, I can see where this collage business is creating all sorts of possibilities I hadn't really considered. What do you think?

I found a great pic of a little boy missing a front tooth, too. I now have visions of a gap-toothed Liam in my head. We shall see what happens next.

Also found something called self-sealing something or other at Staples today which I can put over a piece of poster board to anchor my stuff, but not stick it down permanently. I know me -- and I would become far too attached to any collage I made and storing collages ranks right up there with storing four kids' art projects for umpteen years (it isn't possible) and the collages, oils, water colors, acrylics etc etc etc that my mother-in-law painted in a career that was something like 75 years long.

In other words, we have enough stuff in this house. We don't need my collages, too. Once the book is over they are going to have to deconstruct. And I will not be able to throw out James P -- I know that already -- so I'm making provisions. Thinking ahead.

My mother would be shocked.

If you have any more suggestions for Sara or Liam or castles or wolfhounds or anything else that strikes your fancy, send 'em along. This is just getting interesting.