Monday, December 31, 2007

Hoppy New Year!

I'm trading in the ducks in a row for things that hop this year. I'm hoping for great leaps forward.

Ever the optimist, that's me.

I wish I had a Maine Coon kitten to introduce as a new family member (the dogs don't wish this at all). But I'm happy for those who do have, and I look forward to meeting both of them when I go to England again this summer.

In the meantime I'm not doing resolutions, but I'm hoping for some quiet progress in a variety of areas -- like organization, a semi-clean desk every once in a while, overcoming a few brick walls on the family history front, continued good writer-editor communication. And, especially, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for terrific heroes to show up and make writing their stories a pleasure this year.

I'd also like to meet some of you who read this blog. While we may not get it done in person, if you would just leave a comment and say where you're from and anything else you'd like on the blog today or later this week, I'd appreciate it.

Sometimes I wonder who's out there (if anyone -- besides Mads, that is, and Sadie, my godcat, and Sid, my feline hero across the pond, and Kate his transcriptionist). I look forward to waking up in the morning and reading some comments.

Hoppy New Year!


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Head Above Water

The taxes are done, quarterly payments sent in, receipts filed. The decks are cleared. I wish I could say the same for the desk.

Somehow it is as messy as it usually is mid-book.

Partly that's because I'm mid-project on about three or four other things, mostly to do with family history, local history and genealogy. And then there are three reviews I have to write. And a map project I'm working on.

And I don't want to neglect any of them, but I need to get more organized. I'm missing my Early Modern Genealogy book. I haven't seen it since I didn't take it to Texas for Thanksgiving, convinced I wouldn't have time to continue reading it. I was right. But I should be able to lay my hands on it again now. I can't.

That's what I mean about 'messy.' Ordinarily, when I'm dealing with a book, I know exactly where everything is, even if anyone else looking at my office would sigh and shut the door. But that's because I work on one book at a time. In my other lives I work on lots of things -- and obviously I can't keep track of them all.

So tomorrow, while I have my head above water a bit, I'm going to tackle the piles of stuff on the desk and on the floor and in boxes and see if I can find my book. And pick one project to focus on.

But first . . . I want to say 'welcome home' to Kate Walker's new family member -- Flora, an absolutely gorgeous 12 week old Maine Coon cat. Flora looks as if she is going to improve the quality of life in the Walker household (if indeed it can be improved inasmuch as Sid is already in residence). And Flora is lucky to have found such a terrific 'forever home.'

I'm sure you'll be seeing more of Flora both on Kate's blog and here in the future. More pix of the lovely young lady on Kate's blog, so be sure and stop and visit.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007


Today I had a list as long as my arm (literally) of things that needed to be done, people who needed to be called, errands that needed to be accomplished. And I've crossed them all off but the last one -- figuring out the quarterly taxes.

Figuring out the quarterly taxes is about as enjoyable as going to the dentist, which is on the schedule for next week.

I don't know about you, but columns of numbers have always intimidated me. I was always good at math, but hated every minute of it. And the anxiety that comes with it is the sort of thing I draw on when I'm trying to create the experience of ghastly horror and depression in the mind of a fictional character.

I think, "What's the worst thing you can think of? Quarterly taxes. Yep, that'll do." And I draw on the well of negative emotion and pounding heart and sweaty palms that comes with it. And the sick stomach feeling.

Are you getting the idea that I really don't like doing this? Yeah, me, too. That's why I did everything else first.

I'll get it done, though. And then tomorrow I can celebrate Kate's new arrival (which she promises to tell you about then) and watch a film and read a book and go to the Pink Heart blog and read my blog there (I'm doing Friday night film night this Friday, which happens to be "today" in a good part of the world, so it's up already). Check it out.

Here's a sneak peek of the hero.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

The ice and snow have left us with a winter wonderland. It's beautiful, except when we're chipping it out.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and if not, the joys of the season to each of you. Thank you for sharing the blog with me this year. Have a wonderful holiday season -- and don't forget to stop by my website and go to the contest link to sign up to win the 12 Books of Christmas. The contest ends January 6th.

I'll be listing the books in the coming days. So check back and see what goodies are going to be in the box.

In the meantime, from our house to yours:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

I think we discussed this once before.

In the early days of the blog, when I was talking about questions people habitually ask when they meet a writer, questions about ideas are always right up there at the top.

And I have always said, "Ideas are everywhere." And the fact is, they are. Generally, for years I've been swamped with ideas, with characters clamoring for me to write their stories, with situations that seem to scream for pages in which to resolve themselves.

But when I sent PJ and Ally off, I didn't have any more stories.

Well, that's not entirely true. There's Sebastian and Neely, still waiting. And there is Lukas, PJ's brother. And there are those Savas guys -- including George whom we've got locked in the basement or the lab or some place like that.

But with the exception of Seb and Neely, they are guys in search of a story. They're standing around the street corners looking at their feet and going, "Who me?" None of them is jumping up and acting at all like a Presents hero. Presents heroes, whatever else they might do or not do, NEVER stand around on street corners looking at their feet.

They are MEN OF ACTION. Take charge guys. Pro-active. Get it done. Now. That sort.

I'm giving these guys a ten day shot at coming up with something. If they don't, well, I feel sure someone somewhere will drop by and tell me his tale. I'll be listening.

And there's always Seb and Neely who have moved to Seattle.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas -- a movable feast

Missed me? I missed you guys. But there was just no time to blog this week.

First, of course, there was Ellie and her parents. That was time-consuming enough. And better time was never spent. Of course I'm prejudiced, but she's such a cheerful, pleasant, happy baby. She reminds me of her aunt, my daughter. They have the same 'what's not to love about me?' personality. They expect the best to happen and, generally, they get it.

Ellie's dad is like that, too, come to think of it. Boundless energy and boundless optimism. Nice to be around.

The twins came, too. They're three now. Busy doesn't begin to describe it. They've had haircuts and are beginning to look like individuals rather than clones of each other. That said, it still takes a long look for Grandma to tell them apart. And what fun they are! I'm sorry the older boys weren't able to get here as well.

Thought I'd provide a pic of the dogs to say Merry Christmas to all of you!

Can you tell we had a good Christmas?

And it isn't even officially Christmas yet!

Still . . . it was lovely and I'll have no problem celebrating 10 days early every year. We did that with Thanksgiving one year when the middle son came home in October. It's a movable feast anyway. So we moved it to celebrate when he could be with us. Great fun.

So I took them back to the airport on Monday night to catch a before dawn flight Tuesday morning, then stayed there with my mother to take her to an eye doctor appointment the following day at the major university clinic nearby. She had a corneal transplant last year. She sees better than I do! (Not that she admits it).

And then yesterday we drove home through FOG. Like that stuff that prevented us going to Texas when we tried to get out two days before Thanksgiving. It was thick and soupy and generally impenetrable. I was glad to get home safe and sound.

Now I've heard from the ed that the tweaks were all that PJ and Ally needed and they are in the 'Modern' schedule for next November, and the Presents schedule is "TBA" and the title is, I think I may have mentioned, Antonides' Forbidden Wife. November seems like a long way off. I presume that means hardback in September, though. We shall see.

I'm supposed to start thinking about books and dates for next year's delivery. Hmmm. Got any ideas????

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ellie's Ocean

Ellie arrived today.

I can't say she brought the snowstorm with her because it was here before she was. Again. And again. And it wasn't my idea that we should be driving through snow to get her. But what can you do? I drove. The Prof graded papers (it's finals week).

And the roads were semi-okay going down. Less than semi-okay coming back. Pretty much snow and ice covered with a bit of intermittent rain and sleet. Where this is coming from when the temp outside is 23 degrees F. is beyond me. But that's what it was doing.

Ellie didn't much care. She was perfectly happy. She's generally perfectly happy. What a peach of a kid. Easygoing, non-fussy. Takes life in stride.

I put it down to her parents who also seem to take life in stride. And I give some credit to her ocean.

Ellie travels with an ocean.

Actually, it's a little tiny sound machine that can create a womblike sound and a heartbeat sound. It has a brook sound and a rain sound. It also has a lovely guitar lullaby that her mother assures me Ellie doesn't particularly care for.

She likes the ocean.

So Ellie brought her ocean with her.

And tonight, after her regular routine bath in her less than routine clawfooted tub and her new bed which isn't at all like her regular bed, she was still pretty much a happy camper because she still had her mom and her dad -- and her ocean.

Friday, December 14, 2007

At the mercy of the weather

So tomorrow we go to the airport to pick up the granddaughter and her parents. Ordinarily not a big deal. It's about 85 miles to this airport from our house.

But the weather we've been having recently -- ice, ice and more ice -- has made travel problematic. I almost got run over by a skiploader full of snow and ice this afternoon when I went downtown to the post office. The last time it snowed was Monday into Tuesday. And they are still trying to find a place for it all.

Having been in much the same situation with the stuff in my house as the street department is with regard to snow, they have my sympathy. They can't just stick it in the Christmas ornament box and push it under the bed to deal with after the holidays. I admire what they've done so far because it hasn't been easy.

And my mother, the weather guru, is promising more snow. I hope she's wrong. I very much want her to be wrong. We'll see. I would prefer not to drive 85 miles each way in snow. And I do hope it's not snowing in Denver.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Cover For Christmas

Good timing!

I just sent off the tweaked manuscript of PJ and Ally, as I had a moment to actually think ahead, I dropped a note to the wonderful woman in charge of covers at Harlequin to ask if she'd seen a copy of One-Night Love Child, the story of Flynn and Sara.

Quicker than you can say, "cyberspace," she emailed me one back.

How's that for service?

And how's this for a cover????!!!

I must say I'm pleased. More than pleased, ecstatic. He looks like Flynn (well, if you discount the fact that James Purefoy was standing in for Flynn when I was mapping out the book on my collage). But in my head, this is really what Flynn looked like.

And Sara? Well, she doesn't have quite the down-to-earth Montana single mom look I'd carried around in my head. But she'll definitely do. Oh, yes.

I can hardly wait til I have the book in my hands. Within the month, I would think, she said, crossing her fingers.

For those of you wondering whatever became of my "Christmas contest," it's going on.

There's just no sign of it on my website contest page. That's because my laptop, from which I have to do all the website updates, has got a semi-terminal illness at the moment. And so I'm trying to get it up and running again. Until I do, there won't be any announcement there.

But you can go to the contest page and sign up anyway. The "Twelve Books of Christmas" contest ends on 12th night -- that means 12 days after Christmas -- January 6th. (Which should give me enough time to get the stupid computer fixed so I can get online with it). In the meantime, you faithful lot who turn up here are going to have the contest to yourself.

What do you get if you sign up? Twelve books, of course!

Count 'em. Or you can when I tell you what they are, which I will do when I get my office sorted out (working on the downstairs now. The office will come later this week). Anyway, trust me. There will be plenty of books to keep you busy reading through most of January.

And then in February Kate Walker and Liz Fielding and I are going to have our second annual Valentine's contest. You remember last year when the Brides had a contest and the Grooms came along and muscled their way in? Well, we've been hearing stirrings along those lines again. So stay tuned.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007


Well, PJ and Ally have been tweaked and sent winging their way back to England. Whew.

It wasn't difficult -- not like rewriting the basic premise of Spence and Sadie was. Not like a few books I remember less than fondly who seemed to need wholesale gutting and restuffing. No, PJ and Ally were far easier.

I liked the revision letter. It told me that my editor understood them and was on my wavelength. A nice place to have her, believe me. So her suggestions were, as they say, 'spot on.' She understood what I was trying to do, and helped me do it even better. So, thanks, Ed. I hope you enjoy them 'tweaked' as much as I enjoyed tweaking them.

Now I've got Christmas to see to. And a tree to trim and baking to do. And housecleaning. Oh, my, yes. And snow shoveling because for some reason the weather hereabouts (all snow and ice and freezing rain) has decided it likes it here and is planning to stay.

All I have to say is, "It better not be here next Saturday." Next Saturday it better be wonderful and clear -- here and in Denver and where my son and daughter-in-law and the world's most wonderful four month old granddaughter live. Because we want no hitches getting them here.

Cross your fingers, okay? You can still wrap presents and bake cookies and sing carols. But you need to keep your fingers crossed while you do it. I'll cross mine for you and yours, too.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

It's in the genes

One of the things I've always been interested in is family and local history.

I really like to know all I can learn about the people who came before me. They don't have to have been related to me. But I'm interested in what makes people tick, why they do what they do (or did what they did) and all that that entails.

Recently I've been tracking a bunch of 17th and 18th century people all over Dartmoor, trying to sort them out. I have a surfeit of Sopers and more Gregory Sopers than you can shake a stick at. While "the name's the same" doesn't make the one man out of two or three, it's tricky trying to figure out which is which.

What are the subtle differences in who they are and how they live their lives that makes one Gregory different from another one in the same parish?

That's been the question I've wrestled with all week (when I wasn't doing revisions and chopping ice and shoveling snow).

In trying to sort them out (it's rather like doing a puzzle) I ran across a will from a Henry Soper in 1698 leaving his son Gregory the "justment by the name of Burches" with a lot of tacked on bits about who had to die before he would actually have a right to it.

And I found myself asking, "What's a justment?" And after a day and a half of research and some judicious questioning of my husband's cousin, a lawyer as well a family historian, I think I've got a grip on it.

"Justment" comes from the more ancient term "agistment." In ancient law it meant to take in and give feed to the cattle of strangers in the King's forest, and to collect the money due for the same to the king's use. In modern law it means to take in cattle to feed, or pasture, at a certain rate of compensation.

It has to do with more than land. It's an occupation.

My husband's cousin asked, "Do you understand what it means?"

I said, "Yep. He was a cowboy."


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Baby For Christmas

I wrote a book called A Baby For Christmas a few years back. It was all about the unexpectedness of a baby on a doorstep -- or a veranda in this case -- and what happened next.

It was a lot of fun to write, and at this time of year I get nostalgic for babies at Christmas -- even fictional ones.

I hadn't planned on having one of our own.

And technically, we don't. But that's only if you define Christmas narrowly, as in "December 25th."

We're not narrow constructionists. Around our house Christmas is expandable.

And to our delight our newest granddaughter, Ellie, is coming in 10 days for a holiday visit!

It was a serendipitous spur of the moment sort of thing. We certainly hadn't planned it. We'd expected we wouldn't see her or any of the out-of-state family this year. Then we got one of those 'weekend fare' emails that announce flights from nowhere to nowhere.

Only this time they had a flight going from Somewhere to Very-Nearly-Here! I couldn't believe my eyes. Not only that, but affordable, too.

And so Ellie -- and her parents -- are coming for Christmas (actually from the 15th to the 18th). But that works for us. We can hardly wait.

I'll have to have the revisions done by the end of the week so I can put up the tree and start getting the house ready for the early Christmas holiday!


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Here Comes The Ice

Winter has arrived.

Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Yesterday they (the National Weather Service, the name of which makes it sound like they provide the weather instead of predict it or diagnose it or guess it) said we were going to get a gigantic nasty ice and snow storm starting Saturday.

We said, Uh huh.

Or words to that effect.

The National Weather Service is, locally, less than reliable about the timing of its prediction. It's generally more or less accurate about what is coming, but rarely about when it will show up.

Today they were spot on.

9 a.m -- winter storm, they said. And about 9:04 it began to precipitate. You could barely see it at first. None of those big fat wet snowflakes. Nope. This stuff was seriously incognito. You had to stare at our neighbor's dark green yew bushes intently to see something whizzing past vertically. But it was there.

It was ice.

We continued to have ice for the rest of the day. Occasionally we had a bit of snow. Now and then there was some rain. Mostly ice. And more ice.

Not nice.

My friend Linda came to visit on Friday (she with whom I share Jess Harper) and is still here. No possible way she could go anywhere, though she'd intended to drive home this morning. Tomorrow, maybe. In the meantime , ice. And more ice.

We have now watched all 13 episodes of Wonderfalls. This is the third time through for me, and I love them just as much as I did the first and second times. It was Linda's first trip through the series. She loves it, too. If you haven't seen it, rent it.

If you've watched Pushing Daisies this season, you'll recognize Lee Pace. He was great in Wonderfalls -- a harbinger of things to come. I wish they'd find good spots for all the other great members of that cast. We did crosswords. We ate biscotti.

A good time was had by all (The Prof enjoyed the biscotti. He didn't watch Wonderfalls or do crosswords. Too busy with end of the term papers).

Everyone should have an ice storm where they don't have to go anywhere. It's a wonderful chance to kick back and relax and enjoy good company.

The revision letter came Friday. Tweaks. Nothing more. I'm sooooo happy. That made the ice storm even better!