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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Miracles and More

Looking back over the past week I find that I had one of those years where I just never really "felt" Christmas.  I had the isolated moments - during the sing-along at the Missouri State University holiday concert (because outside of church where do you ever experience large audiences of people, strangers, join in song?) and the grand finale with the Pride Marching Band; placing the pieces, especially the last few as the day drew nigh, on the nativity calendar; having that private fireside supper with my husband; watching Ethan open presents (the first time I've ever had a little one around to buy for); hearing Welcome to Our World and Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel on the radio; listening to Dustin and Jim sing Strange Way to Save the World during our candlelight Christmas Eve service; and being surrounded by family and friends those couple of days.  I guess I just always wish that the feeling of Christmas would be strong and lasting.  Then, I suppose everyone wishes that, otherwise there wouldn't be so many songs and poems and stories that lament the passing of the goodwill of the season. 

Still, I had some great times and experienced a Christmas miracle, too:  Natalie, who you know will not have anything at all to do with anyone except Bruce and me, gave up her barking from the top of the stairs on Christmas Eve and ventured down into a house filled with a dozen plus people.  Granted, she sat in my lap and wouldn't let anyone come near her, but she did come down.  We have had Natalie in our home since mid-July and this was the first time she'd offered to be in the same room with anyone other than us.  Like I said, a Christmas miracle.

I also received an unexpected surprise earlier that day when FedEx knocked on my door and I opened a package from Robinson, Texas - a dvd of Mr. Kruegger's Christmas - sent especially to me from a dear, dear friend.  Shirley and I met when I lived in Abilene for six months during my seventh grade year.  She was a year ahead of me and we became friends at Abilene Christian.  The day my mother picked me up from school and told me we were moving back to Springfield it was time for Christmas Break.  Most of my classmates had already gone home, but Shirley was there with me.  She gave me her address and when I got back to Springfield I wrote her.  Shirley and I kept up a letter-writing friendship (pre-email, mind you) from that day on.  Our letters may have become more infrequent in our adult lives, but we do stay in touch (now through email).  Ours is the only friendship I know of that has survived thirty years of long-distance.  In that time I believe I have seen Shirley in person only twice.  Anyway, I was so surprised and so touched that she would do that!  Bruce and I watched it Christmas Eve after everyone went home and it was just as I remembered it.  Thanks, Shirley, for the gift, but mostly for the gift of your friendship.

The tree is down and the living room rearranged (because I usually have to do something like that over Christmas Break - also we have very tidy looking kitchen cupboards as of yesterday afternoon).  I've got a new Sting cd to listen to (the one with the letters and poems and lute - it's really beautiful).  I've got a new Bible to read from for personal devotions.  And, I've got a headful of ideas about what I'd like to emphasize and deemphasize in my life during the new year.  I would like to actually DO something about the new knowledge I've gained recently about human trafficking and the modern abolitionist movement.  I don't really know what that will be, but I think it has to start the same way my vegetarianism did - with a commitment to personally guard against being a financier of slavery.  Money talks.  If I can withhold my dollars from benefiting those who would abuse animals, then certainly I must withhold them from those who abuse human beings through physical bonds and through the emotional bonds of intimidation.  It's horrifying to read about, but being willfully ignorant is not an option.  Should I decline to feel sorrow and outrage for the sake of my own comfort when there are actual people - men, women and children of all ages in this world - being held in captivity?  No, I believe I should both feel and act.

That's what the New Year is all about, isn't it?  Reflection and resolve?  Not resolutions necessarily, though they have their place; rather a healthy acknowledgement that we are unwise in certain areas and a humble determination to be enlightened for the sake of love.  Christ gave Himself a ransom for me.  He compels me to do the same for others.  To live is Christ.  Let your light so shine before men.  Have a blessed 2010 and let Him will and work in you.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Wow! You Taste Great!"

On Dave Barry's The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog  - most definitely NOT something you want to read if you intend on going back to sleep anytime soon.  I laughed so hard I woke up Natalie.  Turn about's fair play, I guess.  Still, it's another hour later and I must be up for the duration now.  Seriously, though, the Dave Barry book - if you need a laugh, this is the one. 

It's a Wonderful Life

This week was a mix of fun and frustration.  The kids are so ready to be out of school that teaching was like tangling with a tiger.  Especially with the younger students.  I was ever so glad to see Friday come!  With just two more work days before Christmas Break I think I can make it.  That was the frustration.

The fun took several forms. . .

On Thursday I was the guest speaker at Parkview High School's Viking Readers Club.  I think that was probably the most fun I'd had with the book since I heard it was going to be published.  I was pretty nervous about it, but had a great time once I got there.  They were so polite and laughed and asked tons of questions.  It was great.  I was so honored to be asked and so pleased with how it went.  Thanks to Gail Eubanks and the Viking Readers! 

I also got to have some fun Christmas shopping for Natalie!  What a blast to pick out toys and little Christmas-shaped treats for her stocking.  I told her that she has two presents under the tree, but I won't tell her which ones because I'm sure she'd peek while we're at work. 

Tonight Bruce and I had our annual weekend before Christmas fireside supper.  I made Polenta Lasagna (individual portions in some of my milk glass Fire King dishes) and we had pretty Italian cut green beans and some very yummy 3-cheese Artisan bread (they sell something called a "petite loaf" at Dillons and it was just right for a special occasion).  I hadn't decided what kind of dessert to make and that was fine because my mother turned up with some oh, so good peanut butter cake for us and we saved it for tonight.  Had some Peppermint Patty coffee and watched It's a Wonderful Life.  The only thing different this year was having Natalie there, but I just put a little sprinkling of cheese on her food for a festive touch and put a matching placemat down by us so she could have her Christmas supper, too.

Speaking of Natalie, she's the reason I'm blogging at 3:30 in the morning.  One of those rare, but insistent need-to-go-out-in-the-middle-of-the-night nights.  That was an hour and a half ago, but I just couldn't get back to sleep.  Emailed a couple of friends, payed a couple of bills and am heading back in to sit by the fire and read a Dave Barry book.

If this week proves to be anything like last, you might not hear from me again until the new year, so have a blessed Christmas.  Remember Jesus!


Sunday, December 13, 2009


I had my second book signing yesterday.  This time at Mediacom Ice Park during a MSU Ice Bears v. KU Jayhawks game.  We won - oh, yeah!  What a gratifying experience, though, to be able to talk about No Penalty for Love with team members and staff and fans.  I hope everyone who bought a copy enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  It was a challenge for me to get the technical aspects of the game on the page and let the thrill of it come through in the writing.  I never would have been able to pull off some of the scenes if not for the Ice Bears.  So, thanks again, Guys!

I'm feeling partied out this weekend - festivities abound.  Though, I did manage a Saturday morning at home yesterday to make some Christmas candies and cookies.  I found a recipe (another good one) in Grandma's recipe box - 4 Chips Good Fudge, it was called.  Rich!  Oh, my!  Made that and also some Maple Nut Brittle which didn't "brittle" so became a new and oh, so wonderful Christmas delight - Maple Nut Clusters.  Also some plain, but simply wonderful sugar cookies - not the frosted kind - icky - but just a touch of colored sugars to give them a little sparkle.  I wore my Snoopy Christmas apron and played Christmas music on the radio in the kitchen, sang to Natalie (she's the only one I sing to besides God because neither of them are critical of my tunes), and had a jolly good time.

Speaking of festivities, here are some romantic suggestions for December in case you  need a little Christmas right this very minute:

1.  Find a movie house showing one of the classics and go - It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, or Miracle on 34th Street (which Bruce took me to see at the Gillioz last night).  Barring that, dvr one and make a point of watching it.
2.  Gotta watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Other specials to revive your childlike enthusiasm for the season are Rudolph the Red Nosed Reineer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and, if you can find it (which I haven't) Mr. Kreuger's Christmas - apparently I remember a 1/2 hour long made-for-TV special from the '70's with amazing clarity.  It stared James Stewart.
3.  Burn a pine scented candle, light the fire and watch the tree blink lazily.
4.  Make a fireside supper - that's what I plan to do next Saturday night before the actual holiday week is upon us.  One of the great things about vegetarian cooking at Christmas is that there is an abundance of red and green food to choose from.  Makes for festive and lively plating!
5.  Sing - even if it's just to your dog.
6.  Get quiet and remember Jesus - if that doesn't make you happy and grateful, you're a lost cause.
7.  DON'T make any resolutions or bemoan the year past - just make sure you remind yourself that every moment of every day is a new beginning and nothing stays the same - good or bad - and plan to make the changes you want to see sooner rather than later.
8.  Make a Christmas treat for the birds - airpopped popcorn tossed out by the handfuls, or something more adventurous like backyard tree decorations made with peanut butter and bedecked with seeds.
9.  Read a great Christmas book:  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; anything Christmassy by Debbie Macomber.
10.  Count your blessings - as Bing sings - it's better than counting sheep by far.

Blessings to you and yours this holiday season -

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sarah, Can You Read Me?

Sarah Palin:  I left a copy of my book, No Penalty for Love, for you when you had your signing at Borders in Springfield, Missouri on December 2.  The organizers told me you'd receive your gifts.  Since you're a hockey fan I thought you might enjoy it for a bit of a lighthearted read on a long Going Rogue bus ride.  Thanks for the autograph and the handshake - come again!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What's My Line?

Today is my book signing at Borders. After much kerfuffle! However, all this book promotion has provided for my education in some things I'd never imagined I'd need to know. Things like business licenses, tax certificates, self-employment taxes (oh, my! 15 3/10 % of the NET!) and the invaluable advise of a tax preparer. Thank you, Jean! This is not the fun part of having a book published. I think what I'm worried about most is what to write in the books I sign. If it's someone I have a relationship with, then that's fine - it's personal. But, I need a signature line of my own for people I don't know or don't know well and I'm drawing a blank. I guess there's the ever-popular Red Green sign-off: "Keep your stick on the ice." I am looking forward to this afternoon, though - 1:00-3:00. And then tonight . . . more hockey!

Last night's game against Lindenwood U was intense. The Ice Bears prevailed in overtime, though, and it was pretty! Tonight's game is the last home game until mid-December. Bummer! When they're back on home ice, though, I've been honored with an invitation to do a book signing at the December 12th game against KU. The people involved with the games and the team there at the Ice Park have been so terrific to promote No Penalty for Love during the games these two weekends. I nearly laugh every time they announce it. I'm really a shy person, so this kind of thing, while very welcome - and I am so grateful for their interest and kind attention - is hard for me. I'm just a fan cheering the home team. Go Bears!

Perhaps the upcoming holidays will spark some inspiration for writing. I've been suffering through too many false starts ever since I submitted my last manuscript. I need a new interest. It seems all of my manuscripts, novel and play, grow out of a passion for something. Usually it's something new I've become intersted in. Welcome to Joe's came out of spending so much time at Mudhouse (it's one of my favorite places to be). Related Spaces from a fascination with historic architecture. No Penalty for Love, obviously, hockey. My newest out of my infatuation with Dr. Who and branching off into reading sci-fi (although it is NOT a sci-fi book). I think I need a new fad.

If you're in the Springfield area, be sure to swing by Borders this afternoon and pay me a visit. I promise by then I'll have something pithy to write in your book! In the meantime, keep your stick on the ice!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What a Launch!

Last night's launch party was perfect. It was everything I'd planned and more. Of course, when you start planning an event a year in advance, you have a better chance of it working out nicely.

We had the Club Room at Mediacom Ice Park. A gorgeous (and very delicious) cake that looked just like the cover of No Penalty for Love baked and decorated by Julie's Chewies. Flower arrangements to match the colors from the cover including a hockey stick decorated with flowers for the head table (thank you, Mom!). Most importantly, though, we had around 80 guests - friends from church, work, old friends, new friends, and lots of family.

The Missouri State Ice Bears won their game against Northern Illinois and about 50 of the 59 people who requested tickets for our event got to see their very first ice hockey game. I think we made a few new fans! The front row, mainly people from our church, began pounding on the glass by the second period! Others took ice skating vouchers and spent some time in the west rink under the disco ball.

There was only one surprise for me the whole evening and, though I'm a shy person and normally would have hated something like this, it turned out very well. The General Manager of the Ice Bears is Stan Melton. His wife, Cindy, was a substitute teacher in my high school classroom a few years ago and she noticed my Ice Bears memorabilia on the wall. She also did some long-term subbing across the hall from me, so we had lots of opportunities to talk hockey. Since then we've spoken at games. Last night she had me paged during the second period to come to the tunnel at center ice. I watched the second period from next to the penalty box and between the second and third periods went out to center ice (in slick shoes and praying not to fall) and was interviewed about No Penalty for Love. The announcer also mentioned my book and where it can be purchased three or four different times throughout the game. So, unexpected publicity!

At any rate, when you write your book I highly recommend doing a thematic launch party if you can. It was an experience I will always treasure. Thanks to Kelly for grabbing up my camera and taking so many great pictures for me (pictures to come soon); to my mother for the decorations; to Bruce for keeping me grounded and for being so protective of me so that there was nothing put a damper on the excitement; to Shawn for sneaking off to give them the initial announcement about my book and to Cindy for making me go out on the ice; to the Ice Bears for a well-played game and showing our guests how fun hockey is; to Trey and Megan and the others on staff at Mediacom Ice Park for the accommodations and all the attention; to the ladies at Julie's Chewies for working so hard to get the colors just right and for baking such a sinfully good cake, and to each of my guests for helping me celebrate!

Go Bears!


Saturday, November 7, 2009


Tonight is my launch party. I'm excited and, truth be told, a bit nervous. Almost everyone we invited is coming. Because No Penalty for Love is a hockey-themed romance, the party is at the local ice park during a college hockey game. I believe for most of my guests it will be their first game.

What fun it has been planning all this! I think I started brainstorming ideas for the party the same week I heard from Chelsea that Avalon wanted my book. It's been just over a year in the making, so it ought to be good.

My book signing at Borders is still on for next weekend, though there were some snags in getting copies of the book. Snags I do not understand at all. But, I guess things are bound to happen that way sometimes. I'm thinking of asking Victoria's Secret let me do a signing there near Valentine's Day. (For those of you who've read the book, that will probably make sense to you.)

It's November now which is my second-favorite month. It always puts me in mind of Robert Frost's poem, My November Guest - My sorrow, when she's here with me thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be. . . However, I think it's supposed to be 72° today and I'm going shopping for a new outfit for upcoming Christmas parties. Funny to think about Christmas on a 72° day.

This past year has been really a great one for me. I didn't know how different life would be when I turned 40 and if I had guessed it I wouldn't have dreamed of all that has happened. Besides the book, I lost 38 pounds. Since turning 41 I've lost 14 more for a grand total of 52 and am at a normal weight and BMI for my height for probably the first time in my entire life - seriously. I wonder what new and wonderful things the next year will bring? I should write a memoir.

I keep hoping to hear soon about my second submission to Avalon. I've got another started, but keep stalling out. This was parent-teacher conference week which required late nights at school. With the holidays coming it gets more and more difficult. But, I'm determined.

Meanwhile, since it's still early November, I have the opportunity to relish the season. Romance is all around this time of year!

How about:
1. Pumpkin Butter on toast for breakfast
2. Watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles
3. Don't forget A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
4. Light your pumpkin spice scented candle every evening once you're home to stay
5. Crunch through the leaves before you mulch them
6. Read Robert Frost (how often has he shown up on my Romantic Things To Do lists so far?)
7. Buy a new pair of soft gloves (no leather, suede or fur, please!)
8. Go to an art gallery or, if your town has one, attend a Friday night art walk
9. Try dinner at a quiet restaurant if you can find one
10. Go see something live on stage - The Importance of Being Earnest is my favorite one to watch for. If you live in a college town someone's bound to be doing it.

And, because November and December bleed together as far as holidays go - grab your tickets now to some wonderful, not-to-be-missed Christmas event. Around here that would be the Missouri State University Elizabethan Dinners!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

When October Goes

My! How quickly the view from my windows has changed. Just a week ago in a half-hour span I watched as three people stopped their cars in front of my house to take pictures of the tree in our front yard. It was brilliant orange, full of its leaves and making all the rooms on the north side of my house seem candlelit. Now, on a dreary late October afternoon I see so much more of the neighborhood to my north than I have for months. I can even see the oddly shaped branch several blocks over which is undoubtedly a forever reminder of the awful ice storm we had a few years back. It looks like a broken wrist with its leafy hand hanging down awkwardly.

Robert Frost had it right, I think. "These dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be." Indoor recesses aside, I have savored the gray skies we've had of late. It only makes the trees that much more lively. And, it is the week of Halloween after all. You need gray skies now and then.

I was thinking the other day that God blessed me with the kind of autumn this year that I've always dreamed of and never seem to experience. I always have this deeply felt desire for fall to be long, though as a transitional season that is hardly a fair expectation. This fall, though, lingered long. We had cooler weather earlier on and the leaves have turned so gradually that there always seemed to be some tree on the street at its peak all the time. The drizzle, the gray, the cool - they haven't bothered me. I just put on a pot of chili and say, "Let's stay in tonight." We've done a lot of staying in lately. Home is a wonderful place to be. I guess I'm about as Norman Rockwellish as a person can be. I'm truly, truly blessed. Nattie's on my knee, watching the words progress across the screen. For once she's not trying to help me type. Even she seems content.

If you haven't yet, be sure you do some October things - some are absolute musts as far as I'm concerned.

1. Watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
2. Take a deep breath near a yard where the leaves have been on the ground a few days.
3. Collect a few acorns from the yard and sprinkle them on your table runner.
4. Light candles.
5. Make chili.
6. Listen to the song When October Goes (I love it on a Barry Manilow album - Paradise Cafe')
7. Go one day with little or no make-up or, if you can swing it, spend a whole day in your pajamas.
8. Bake pumpkin bread - splurge and stir in some mini chocolate chips.
9. Walk around the block near twillight - slowly - and take in the coziness of lights on in homes and glimpses of families gathered around tables (it's a rare sight and worth watching for).
10. Read Robert Frost - especially My Novembr Guest, Ghost House, and Nothing Gold Can Stay.
And for good measure - take a bubble bath - there are some lovely autumn scents available now. Talk about luxury!



Friday, October 9, 2009

On the Shelves

Suddenly things are moving fast. My official publication date is two weeks away. My launch party is November 7. I have a book signing scheduled at Borders on November 14. On Sunday the News-Leader will be running an article by Juliana Goodwin about local authors and she included me in the piece. Tonight I just made a trip to Barnes & Noble where I saw twenty or so copies of No Penalty for Love on the shelf for sale. My mind is officially blown. How many people get to actually realize a dream? I'm so blessed. As if this great autumn weather wasn't wonderful enough on its own - I get this, too.

Right now, though, it's Friday night. I have a loving, supportive husband in the other room and a little black dog begging for my attention. I'm going to just go love on them for a while, because of all the dreams I've had and all those I've been blessed enough to have realized - these are the most precious. Home and family.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can't Get Enough of that Oatmeal

Oatmeal Pie is a very good thing. I'd never heard of it before, but it was much like pecan pie. Very sweet. Very, very yummy.

I think I may have been overly ambitious when I imagined what this blog would be. Often my summer plans turn into fall's long to-do list once school starts. Perhaps I need to rethink. After all, what's romantic about life when you're being called to previously unannounced "mandatory" meetings after school every other day and when you arrive home so talked out that your voice croaks? In my heart I believe I can retain a sense of wonder and romance - even in the onslaught of life. I have to believe that. After all, most people work twelve months of the year at their jobs. I hate to think that Thoreau was right - that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

September flew by for me. I didn't get (or take) the opportunity to enjoy it enough. It was here and it is now nearly gone. It's a double shame because the weather was so perfect - not like some of the hotter Septembers I'm used to. This one was coolish and there were cloudy days and the starts of color in the trees. Just right. I haven't been out in it enough though. Not enough walking. Not enough porch sitting. The one thing I did get right was the baking and cooking. My house smelled like autumn with the windows open and the scent of spices and vanilla in the air. I regret not having really lived this month. I find myself wanting to make a personal vow to really observe October (which is my favorite month of the year).

So, what are some things I can do to take advantage of these last few days of the month? This weekend the observatory is holding an open house. I've wanted to go for years but haven't. My husband emailed me the other day that he'd found it was going to be open this weekend and asked if I'd like to go. Being with husband at an observatory - romantic - check.

The idea of studying the stars and the night sky is a terribly romantic notion for me. I am awed by the vastness of all that's out there - known and unknown. On Saturday nights on PBS I watch the little Jack Horkheimer Stargazer show. It's about ten minutes long and is on right before Dr. Who (have I mentioned here before that I'm a huge Who fan - a real Wholigan). Anyway, he's a funny little man (Jack Horkheimer, not David Tennant), but I love to watch because I'm always finding something to be watching for in the night sky. And, what's more fascinating is the concept of light years - that a star or a planet I'm looking at right now isn't even in that spot anymore, but was thousands of years ago - I'm looking at something that isn't there. It's so magnificent! The scope of space, of this universe - it's just so awe-inspiring. I'm so struck by God's - well, His Godness - when I consider what all He's made and how little I understand of it.
So, observatory visit - romantic. Definitely.

What about. . .
Buying a pot of mums for the porch - this year I may buy the deep wine-colored ones
Finding a nicely shaped pumpkin
Picking up a fallen leaf that catches your eye
Listening to the Ahn Trio's c.d. Lullibies for My Favorite Insomniac
Listening to Kenny Loggins' c.d. Return to Pooh Corner
For that matter, rereading Winnie-the-Pooh, because, face it, you're never too old for Pooh
Crunching into an organic Fuji apple
Buying some cloth napkins at the flea market and stop buying paper ones
Training yourself to wipe a drippy nose with a real hankie - the kind with embroidry on it
Reading To Kill a Mockingbird and then watching the movie with Gregory Peck

Or, going through your mother's or grandmother's old recipe file and trying your hand at something that sounds wonderful when you read it - something like Oatmeal Pie.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I don't know what it is with me lately, but I am absolutely hooked on oatmeal. Not only that, but I am in the kitchen cooking several nights a week and baking on Saturday mornings - and enjoying it! I am a self-proclaimed cooking-hater. I always have been. I've always felt inadequate in the kitchen. Now I'm making curry and beautiful pumpkin canneloni for weeknight suppers and baking oat bread and pumpkin oat muffins for breakfast. Right now, on a Friday night after what has to rank as one of the lousiest weeks of my teaching career just because every single day of the five was stink-o, I have an Oatmeal Pie in the oven. I found the recipe in my grandmother's old recipe box. Neither she nor my mother ever indicate how long to bake things. They just write "until done." So, I set the timer for 20 minutes and am hoping for the best. It smells wonderful!

Maybe I should credit the movie Julie and Julia which I saw on a Saturday afternoon with my mother and then convinced my husband to see with me on Labor Day. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and related to Julie's feelings about her job - doing my best to help and being smacked down at every turn. Her commentary about cooking at the end of the day bringing some sense of continuity to life, being something you can count on, really hit home with me. And, while I'm not willing to kill a lobster or debone a duck, I am having fun with some vegetarian recipes and am actually putting to use the small collection of vintage aprons that heretofore were merely decorative in my kitchen.

Twenty minutes turned out not to be long enough, but I'm keeping a careful eye on it. I only have enough calories left today to sample an extra-small piece (what Grandma would have termed "a sliver"), but I'm looking forward to it. Let the public education system twist itself into knots if it will - I'm eating oatmeal.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance Part 3: A Kiss is Still a Kiss

Sometime or another their lips have to meet. You're going to have to write it and it's going to have to be believable and satisfying while still creating in your heroine and your reader a longing for more. After all, isn't that what kissing is for?

If I was describing my first "grown up kiss" it would have to be said that it was much like finding my lips stuck in a plate of cold mashed potatoes. Therefore, my heroes will always have firm lips. Kisses on the page should be all the things kisses in real life should be - tender, passionate, thrilling. But, let's face it, sometimes in real life kisses are . . . well, humorous. Within the realm of romance we all could learn a thing or two about genuine laughter.

Ever clashed noses when going for a kiss? Closed your eyes too soon and wound up off-center? Been within a hair's breadth of his lips when the answering machine announced a reminder of your dental appointment the next morning? I'm sure you've got some stories to tell. Why shouldn't your romantic couple as well?

Whether in public or in private, a kiss is still a kiss. Variations on it are up to you. Just remember, the path to romantic love is often established in that first kiss and you, as the author, are the one charting the course.

In the last part of this series, we'll talk about the necessity of the author's determination of what will and will not take place between her characters on the page.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Holding in my hand an acutal copy of my first published book: No Penalty for Love. The author copies arrived unexpectedly at my door today and what a moment of awe it was to open the box and see them there. I've never had a baby, but now I have this! I've wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old and in Mrs. Pyle's 4th grade class. Now I am. I hadn't really thought about what it would feel like - or at least hadn't settled on what I thought it would feel like. I laughed. I stared. I teared up. Wow. I mean this is so just beyond . . . wow.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


This is the last weekend before back-to-school meetings start. It's funny to me that no matter how much I determine I will savor the moments, live in the now, I will suddenly find myself in the middle of planning the future or even dreading it sometimes. I think what I dread most is that once school starts the whole dynamic of life changes. The rhythms I've been comfortable with, the ones which seem to suit me best, are altered and the good things about summer seem irretrievable. Swallowed up in business and busy-ness. The demands of learning a new schedule, of professional development and faculty meetings, of lesson planning and dealing with behavior issues, of planning meals in advance and grocery shopping on the way home - they all seem to suck the life right out of living.

I start new writing projects right before school begins with the thought that I'll have some momentum built up in the story before time is shorter for writing and it'll be easier for me to keep up with the story that way. It works for a while. I cut myself some slack in the first month, but then when October and November roll around I get back into it. My writing time diminishes significantly between Thanksgiving and Christmas which I deem normal and then when Christmas Break comes I find myself trying to recapture enthusiasm for the project. When second semester comes it will likely be Spring Break before I return to it for more than a brief visit. Over Spring Break I become frustrated and think it will never be done or maybe even consider throwing it out altogether and starting fresh with a new idea. It will set dormant until summer vacation when I will set some sort of personal deadline for mid-July and push, push, push to finish and submit.

What I hate most about this is that I don't get to enjoy it along the way nearly as much as I should. I love writing. It is my favored way of spending time. I love being so lost in a story, so interested in my characters' lives that they become a part of my own reality until the story is resolved and I can release it to a publisher. I'd so much rather write every day, but not as a scheduled part of an already fully scheduled day. As a joyful personal pursuit which doesn't come last because it is personal.

It's August 15th and I'm facing all again. The countdown to school has begun. There's a three-page start of a third novel on the laptop, a 120-page start from last year at this time, and a headful of questions as to whether I'm interested enough in either idea to see it through. If not, what other ideas are brewing that might be worth spending hours on the next few days just to get that jump start on the school year?

Without any solution to the problem of altered rhythms, I'm maintaining.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance Part 2: Warming Up Slowly

I'm incredibly annoyed by banter on morning radio. I'm also annoyed by it on news shows. It just seems unprofessional. I actually quit listening to one local radio station because the man and woman they had paired up for the morning show made me feel like I was always on the outside of an inside joke. Having said that, I do have to admit that playful banter is a great flirtation device and very appropriate in a romance.

I had a crush on a boy in high school. A secret crush. He was as annoying as could be. He tormented me. It was awful. I found the thought of being in his presence delightfully nauseating. I loved him. I hated him. I thought he hated me. Now, years later, I'm confident enough to look back at it and believe that it is possible he may have actually had a secret crush on me, too! Don't we torture the people we love most?

But, this is not high school we're talking about. We grow up. We learn to flirt with more finesse. We can be subtle, bright and alluring. We can use our intelligence to gain the interest of someone we want to get to know. We can use our words to make them laugh, make them gasp, or just leave them breathless. It's all a matter of degrees.

It's important to establish mutual attraction early in your story. It doesn't always have to be about physical attraction. It can be a cerebral attraction. What is they say in Sleepless in Seattle? "Your subconscience was attracted to his subconscience subconsciously." You're reader can get a real giggle out of a war of words knowing both hearts will ultimately succumb. Initial disagreements cast in a playful light can become the essence of necessary conflicts later in the story. What a challenge to write two people who spar and spark at the same time! How joyous when they finally get together in spite of the raging battle!

Think Scarlet and Rhett. Think Harry and Sally. Think Wesley and Princess Buttercup. Think Beauty and the Beast. And, if all else fails, turn on a morning radio show for a few pointers.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Morning

Michael Franks has to be hands down the best jazz lyricist. Just thinking this morning before I go upstairs to get ready for worship about the line from a song about lazy Sunday mornings: "your kiss is made with orange marmalade, apple blossoms, toast and tea. . ." . Favorite Franks album: The Art of Tea. Probably because it was my first. Although, the Watching the Snow album is perfect for that Christmas feeling year-round. I love that on his site he asks people to join him in support of a no-kill shelter and the humane society and even advertises a CafePress item which will benefit the shelter.

If you haven't surmised by looking at my must-reads, I'm very interested in animal-welfare. I am a vegetarian since my 2006 reading of Lisa Graham McMinn's The Contented Soul (which isn't a book about becoming vegetarian, by the way). It is a life-changing book and I highly recommend it to everyone. My copy is all marked up - margins are filled with notes-to-self and epiphanies along the way. Anyway, in reading the book I had one of those moments when I realized that I had to make a decision. So, I did (after forcing myself to read all the information about factory farms that I'd been avoiding reading for years). I'd played around with vegetarianism as a teenager and through my early twenties; but I was 38 when I finally made the commitment and I'm very glad I did. I'm not living against my conscience (or avoiding my conscience) in that area anymore. It's a relief.

So, anyway, as I finished the preceeding paragraph my husband came to tell me it was time for me to go get ready. The poor man has to constantly be reminding me that it's time to do something because I get so lost in whatever project I'm working on. And I'm always working on a project of some sort. Now it's getting close to 4:00 a.m. MONDAY morning. Sunday was good. Our pastor is back in the pulpit after recovering from a major heart attack and I enjoyed breakfast with my mother and brother before going to church. Spent the afternoon with the computer on my lap and the dog at my feet. I was dreaming of a third novel and she was dreaming, I suppose, of treats and snuggles from her people - those are the only two things she seems to get very excited over.

Monday has not started out so great, though. I was having trouble falling asleep - probably too much Mudhouse coffee and the intensity with which I watched two Doctor Who episodes right before bed (The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords - I like the quirky fun ones best, but those which delve into the heart -pardon me, hearts - of the Time Lord, his solitude in the vast universe, make me cry. Honestly.) When I finally did fall asleep after seeing the time 1:37 on the clock, I woke from a horrible dream and repeated it to my husband before noticing the time was 1:40. Talk about fast-tracking the REMS! After that, though, I had that nagging worried feeling that you can't really explain and I still felt like I was sleepwalking or sleeptalking or something, so, after praying for the people I love - which I often wake up and do in the night - I came downstairs and turned on lots of lights, the TV and the computer. I'm feeling quite tired and my eyes feel like they have gravel in them. In just a few hours I'll be working on lesson plans and reminding myself that these are EXTENDED contract days and school doesn't actually start for a couple more weeks.

In the meantime, though, I'll post this rambling blog entry covering far too close to 24 hours of my life.

Sweet dreams. . .


Friday, August 7, 2009

Living the Romantic Life in August

Remember the philosophy of Life as a Great Romance: Romance is for everyone. It is born in the mind which is open to experiencing beauty and love. A romantic person is one who recognizes and appreciates subtleties; encourages and admires creation; and chooses to be vulnerable without forfeiting strength or personhood.

You don't have to be in a romance to live a romantic life. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for things you can do this month to feed the romantic in you:

1. Count the fireflies in your yard before they're all gone for the summer.

2. Attend an outdoor concert. Take along a furry friend on a leash, some sparkling water, and some strawberries. Oh, and maybe a bite of chocolate.

3. Speaking of furry friends, take an online assessment to determine whether or not you're ready for the responsibility of pet ownership. If you are, start visiting the shelters and rescues. Someone there wants to love you!

4. Read one of the classics before summer ends. My personal favorites are Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.

5. Memorize a poem.

6. Dig out some of your old vinyl record albums, sing at the top of your lungs and dance.

7. Shop for school supplies. Buy all you want and then, if you don't need them yourself, donate them.

8. Notice the smell of the mimosa trees.

9. Really savor some of the favorite flavors of summer: ice cream, melon, berries, home grown tomatoes, a snow cone.

10. Attend a baseball game.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance Part 1: When First We Met

Creating the potential for romantic interest right off the bat is essential. Let's face it, if your readers found your book in the section headed ROMANCE, they have certain expectations. That doesn't mean smooth sailing for your heroine and your hero. In fact, readers would be largely disappointed if they found that final proclamation of love came too easily. That being said, your starring couple need to either spark or spar fairly early in the story.

When I wrote my first play, Welcome to Joe's, Joe and Jane (there was a reason for their names, trust me) met very early in Act I. When Jane entered Joe's she was just one of the clamoring coffee crowd. The audience couldn't spot anything unique about her to single her out as the love interest until she placed her order. To this point in the story Joe had revealed quite a bit about himself in the opening monologue, so when Jane ordered a plain cup of coffee the audience knew immediately that these two were headed for romance. Because this play was written with a Christian theatre in mind, the natural conflict between them was a matter of faith and, because I'm a sucker for a happy ending and personally motivated to express the message and joy of the Christian faith, that issue was resolved so that romance could bloom.

The same conflict presented in my second play, Related Spaces. Here Renee and Will meet and immediately knock heads. A romantic interest in one another seems unlikely from the start, but the more the two are on stage and the more we hear what each has to say about himself or herself and each other, the more we know they are destined to be together.

Whether your hero and heroine meet on sweet or sour terms, your reader must believe that they will ultimately end up together. Creating the tension in the romance will best be achieved through character development. The best character conflicts stem from the challenge to personal value systems. This is why you have to know your characters well and why it is so necessary to spend time letting your reader get to know them. The little things count: it was important that Joe drank his coffee black; knowing that Renee was raised in a family of strong, forward thinking women was essential to the conflict which was ultimately happily resolved.

A point of departure for me is always letting my characters talk first - at least in draft form. I listen to what they have to say, let them rant a bit on the page and then decide who will be the love interest and how they will first meet. Usually, since I am a career person myself, it is easiest if my hero and heroine meet through contact in the business setting. Joe and Jane met when she came to his shop for coffee; Renee met Will when he came along with a friend to inspect the property she'd purchased; and Patricia and Josh met when. . . well, you'll have to read the the novel to find out. Business settings provide an abundance of fodder for a cornucopia of conflict and ample opportunity to find out what the characters really stand for. Are they philanthropic? Friendly? Hard-workers? Money minded? Strong-willed? Easy to get along with? Problem solvers? Anything that can be a conflict at work can certainly be a conflict at home.

Creating a back story for each of your main characters is so important. How many of you have discovered just how alive your own past really is when it collides with the living past of someone else in your life? We all bring our stuff into relationships and our characters should, too. Back story can easily be revealed through conversations between characters. Think about how you got to know the personal histories of the people in your life. You talked, reminisced, ranted, compared notes. Just make sure that when you put it on paper it is natural and conversational; your readers shouldn't be subjected to a transcript of a therapy session just so they can figure out what makes your characters tick.

Establishing romantic tension early in the story is foundational for a successful romance. The next two parts of the Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance series will deal with degrees of tension.

Happy writing!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

August: Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance

One of the most frightening things to me when I set out on the road to writing my romances - both the plays and the novels - was the idea of creating appropriate romantic tension in the stories. Under the umbrella of "appropriate", one has to consider the characters and their value systems, the potential market for the manuscript, and how the characters' choices will change the direction of the story.

Most importantly, before even beginning a romantic writing project, the author must answer this question: What degree of romantic tension will my own value system allow me to create? If the author has not answered this question with certainty in his or her own mind before beginning to write, the story line will meander and the characters will not be fully developed. Rewriting once you've let your characters get the better of you that way is a real chore.

In August, I have planned a four part series on Adjusting the Thermostat for Romance. Part One will address the delicate prospect of creating romantic interest early in the story. Parts Two and Three will explore creating increasing tension from playful banter to that inevitable first kiss. Finally, in Part Four I will revisit the question of author values.

Because this blog is not just about writing the romance, but living it, I will also include some suggestions for living life as a great romance in August. So, be sure to check back often!

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering - Vacation Bible School was just great, but I'm glad to be through with rubber chicken flinging.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Of Peaches and Rubber Chickens

This is my first foray into blogging. My husband and I are helping out as group leaders with 1st and 2nd graders at our church's VBS this weekend and he is busily cutting out peaches for our group's banner while I'm fiddling around with html and font colors! He's the real peach!

I am doing and learning so many new things here at mid-life and it's all so exciting! I am having my first novel published in just a few months; I am about to enter my second year as a school librarian; I've finally lost the weight I wanted to lose and am in the healthy ranges for weight and BMI for perhaps the first time in my life; and I'm blogging. So, this is 41? Come on in, the water's fine!

This blog has come about as the result of an article in Romance Writers Report which suggested that if creating a website was too daunting a task, authors try blogging. Sounded like a fun idea to me! I'm just sorry it comes so late in the summer. I start back on extended contract days next week and my brain is already shifting from writing to bulletin boards. Ugh!

I have scheduled the launch party for my book, though. No Penalty for Love is publishing October 24, 2009 (Avalon Books). It's a hockey-themed romance which I wrote just for kicks - to keep myself entertained one summer. Bruce and I have arranged to host our event at the local ice park during a college hockey game in early November. I'm looking forward to it.

I guess I'd better get back to VBS prep and practice - I have to throw a rubber chicken during a skit tonight and I about took out the backdrop during rehearsals last night!