Friday, May 30, 2014

No Fun for This Friday

Actually, I should title this blog post FRIDAY WHINE.

Why?  Because that asthma I mentioned earlier this week has still not gone away.  I'm worn out from no sleep, and my ribs hurt from coughing.  (Coughing with asthma is good, as long as it's productive.)  I've been dealing with this for three weeks now, and in some ways it's finally getting better.  I can sometimes walk from one end of the house to the other.  Not always.  Just now and then.

I'm trying not to push it, but tonight is the kick-off of our annual River Festival.  That means sitting on the riverbank, listening to the symphony play all kinds of great music, then wrapping it up with the 1812 Overture and the most fantastic fireworks display that seems to never want to end.  Believe me, the audience doesn't want it to end.

But if I can't walk half a block without gasping for air, I won't be going.  We usually have to park several blocks away from the heart of the festival and walk.  At this point, I doubt I could make it.  And I'll miss the concert and fireworks, something I look forward to each year.  I'm secretly trying to devise a plan to drive to the baseball stadium, find someplace to park, and hope I can see the fireworks from there.  I'm dreaming, I'm sure.  The streets will be closed, and I won't be able to get even close.

So maybe I'll just go outside in the backyard, while the rest of my family goes to hear and see.  I can sit in my swing and turn on the radio station that shares the music being played by the symphony.  At least I can enjoy that.  I might even get a glimpse of some sparklies in the sky.  It isn't that far from my house to downtown.  And it's better than nothing.

This gives me a chance to catch up on those edits I'd planned to have finished a week or two ago.  I still have the last four chapters to edit, and while it was going well, concentration is hampered by coughing.  But I haven't given up, and maybe by the end of the weekend, I'll have the book edited.  After that?  I'm not sure, but I'm targeting some time in July to publish it.  There's so much to learn!

Life is full of disappointments, and I'm not going to let this one get me down.

Here's hoping that those reading this whine have a wonderful weekend or whatever part of your week lies ahead.
If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Monday, May 26, 2014

Oh, Those Cowboy Heroes!


This blog post was swimming around in my subconscious yesterday morning as I woke up.  I don't know where the thoughts came from, they were just there, and they seemed perfect.

I grew up back in the 50s and 60s, when television was still black and white for anyone who wasn't filthy rich.  An only child in a middle income family, with two working parents--something of an oddity at the time--and an imagination that bubbled over would be a good description of me.  I grew up watching cowboy shows, because those were the shows, in addition to the Mickey Mouse Club and Captain Kangaroo, that were available the most.  

Howdy Doody, up there, with Buffalo Bob Smith, along with Clarabell the Clown, Mayor Phineas T. Bluster, Flub-a-Dub and more, kept kids in the Peanut Gallery entertained with puppetry and silliness.  (For those who don't know, Clarabell was played by Bob Keeshan aka Captain Kangaroo.)  To be honest, when thinking of all those Westerns I watched as a little girl, Howdy didn't even come to mind.  GASP!
I knew I'd forgotten many of the shows I watched, so it was Wikipedia to the rescue!  There were adult Westerns and kid Westerns.  Of course I was drawn to the kid ones at an early age.  I did a quick count of the early shows and came up with some thirty-five Westerns I watched on a regular basis from the early 1950s to the early 1960s.  Keep in mind that back in the olden days, we had THREE channels.

So here we go with a list: (Most watched in bold)
The Adventures of Jim Bowie     The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin     
The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok      Annie Oakley     Bat Masterson  
Broken Arrow     Bronco     Cheyenne     Circus Boy     Davy Crockett      Death Valley Days    
Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre     Fury     The Gabby Hayes Show      The Gene Autry Show    Gunsmoke     Have Gun Will Travel     Hopalong Cassidy     Laramie     Lawman     The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp   The Lone Ranger     Maverick     My Friend Flicka      Rawhide  
 The Rebel     The Rifleman    The Roy Rogers Show     The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show   
Sky King     Sugarfoot     Texas John Slaughter     The Virginian    Wagon Train     Wanted: Dead or Alive   Zorro

Annie Oakley was one of my favorites.  She could ride and shoot like any cowboy.  Rin Tin Tin was a beautiful German Shepherd dog that saved Rusty, the little boy who was a part of the cavalry, and anyone else who needed saving. (Think Lassie.)  Fury and My Friend Flicka were all about a boy and his horse.  Or two boys and their horses, as it was.  Hopalong Cassidy was just, well, Hoppy, and I rarely missed it.  I still remember that big ol' white hat he wore.  The Lone Ranger?  What female's heart didn't pound at the sight of that masked man.  And Tonto, played by Jay Silverheels, wasn't all that bad, either.  Which brings us to Maverick, and I still adore James Garner and always will.  Sky King flew a plane and had a neice named Penny.  I was envious.  Zorro, too, had a mask, and was a part of Disney.

Fess Parker played both Davy Crocket and, later, Daniel Boone.  Circus Boy starred a little boy named Mickey Braddock, who later became Micky Dolenz of The Monkees (1960s music group, for all you youngsters).  Stars were born.  Stars faded, and some went on to other things.  Tom Tryon (Texas John Slaughter), became a author, writing Harvest Home, The Other, and Lady.  The first of those was a terrific horror book, similar to Stephen King's writing.  Bronco actor Ty Hardin's real name is Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr..  I learned that when I was 10 and he was a teen heartthrob.

Those were the good old days.  The good guys won, the bad guys lost, and the cowboy always got his girl.

Yes, there are many later TV Westerns not on the list.  Bonanza, The Big Valley, The High Chaparell, Here Come the Brides (considered a Western, but set in post-Civil War Seattle), Lonesome Dove, and many more.

How many did you watch?  If you're too young for many of these, ask your parents if they watched.  And head on over to Wikipedia for a full list of TV Westerns.

It's fun to take a look back at the things we enjoyed, long ago.  There's a lot of difference between then and now, and we don't see nearly the Westerns on TV or in the movies as we once did.  But we do see a lot of Cowboy Heroes in romance books.  I wonder how many romance authors were raised on the Code of the West as I was?  Is it any wonder I have a soft spot for a soft-spoken, well-mannered cowboy?
The good old days are now. ~ Tom Clancy

Friday, May 23, 2014

Summer!! Or Good Enough, At Least

I'll be honest.  I have no idea what I'm blogging about today.  I'm simply happy that school is out and summer vacation has officially begun today.

Taking a quick look out the window, it would be difficult to call it summer.  The sky is overcast, leftover from early morning storms, and the temperature, which reached into the low 90s yesterday, is just under 70.  I have no doubt that will quickly change by tomorrow.  But we need the rain here, and there's no reason not to welcome a cool day.  After all, we already passed 100 earlier this month.

Mallory, the youngest of my four, and I spent much of yesterday attending graduation ceremonies.  (Two of my grands, her nieces.)  The first was youngest granddaughter Payton's Pre-K.  The class presented parents and friends with songs they'd learned over this school year.  I especially liked the "Five Little Monkees Jumping On the Bed" song.  It reminded me of my own girls' days in Brownie and Girl Scouts.

The little guy on the left in the light blue shirt was a showman and such a cutie.  When one of the songs was over, he turned to his mom (blonde, in white shirt) and said, "Take a picture of me, Mom."  He was obviously proud, as well he should be.  They all should.  After all, they came away from the year with nifty songs, knowing their alphabet and able to count, and especially how to get along in a classroom of their peers.  A step in the right direction!

All the kids seemed to understand how special the day was for them and their families.  Smiles abounded, giggles and squeals filled the room.  These kids were excited!

A little over an hour later, we were back at the school for Payton's older sister's graduation from 5th grade.  While the Pre-Kers had been in a party mood, the older group understood what this day meant for them.  Grade school would be a memory, when the doors to middle school open in the fall.  Many of them had spent the past six years together, growing and learning.  A video presentation at the end of the ceremony of random shots of the students in classrooms and on the playground was followed by a beautiful rendition of Katie Perry's Roar filling the auditorium.  These kids understood that they're were stepping out of one stage of life into the next.

The last group of four to receive their diplomas stood patiently in line.  That's Allie, waiting her turn to get her Certificate of Promotion.
 It's hard to believe that it wasn't all that long ago that Allie was finishing Pre-K and then Kindergarten.  She's growing up into a fine young woman, and I hope she weathers middle school well.  From my own memories, it's the worst of all the stepping stones of education.

The graduates listened to a memorable speech by the Operations Division Director of the City schools, and he presented each one of them with a special gift:  A small, flat black stone, like the one he had carried throughout his own school years and still kept as a reminder of how far he'd come and the wonderful gifts in his life--his family.

And of course these are the years of giggling girls and selfies.  How lucky we are that technology has given us instant photos to keep that will remain as memories in our hearts for years.  Let's hope these girls all remember the good times they had in grade school as they walk, sail, and fly through their lives.

Then it was over.  Another year, another two graduations.  Last year it was oldest granddaughter Scarlett (our ice-skater) from 5th grade, and youngest grandson Jaxon's graduation from Kindergarten.  Next year will be another two.  Gavin from 5th and Payton from Kindergarten.  It's like stepping stones.  Before we know it, we'll have three 8th grade graduations in a row, and then will come high school.

The years go quickly.  Too quickly, most of us would say.  Each year brings new memories for us to treasure.  How lucky is that?

Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going. ~ Tennessee Williams

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Time to Get Moving

For me, summer is two days away.  By 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, freedom reigns . I can't remember looking forward to summer as much as I am right now.  Except maybe once, and that was long ago when my high school graduation approached.  That last summer of being a non-adult was fast approaching.  That last summer to spend with friends, to be free and unencumbered, if only for a few months.

A month ago I blogged about how I'd written only four new pages.  In fact, my total for April was 10 pages.  Ten pages.  That's abysmal.  And, sadly, that's pretty much where I still am.

Now comes the B U T.  By later today, I'll be halfway through the first round of edits on a new book.  They're going well.  The story is there and it's moving along.  Building, even.  I wrote the first draft a year ago and had forgotten about all the things in the story.  I'm pleased with it.  And even though I'm not doing fresh writing, I'm moving forward, and that's the key.  And I'll be done before the end of the weekend.

With the upcoming opportunity to have more time, one would think I'd be waiting until the interruptions of "real" life have begun to fade.  Instead, I chose to dive in ahead of time.  By the time Monday rolls around, I'm hoping my head is back in the writing game, and I can move forward from those pitiful ten pages that were written in April.

Motivation to write is fickle.  After burying myself in a deadline during January and February, I spent March recuperating.  And April being lazy.  I have an idea in mind for a new series, I sort of know the characters and there's a vague idea of where the stories will be going.  And that's it.  The harder I tried to push it, the faster my mind would snap shut.  Agatha Christie was right.  "The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes."  Are you pressed for time in real life?  Is every possible have-to knocking at your door?  Story ideas will abound.  But if you're sitting there, strumming your fingers on the keyboard, waiting for inspiration, you'll get nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zero.

When you can't get to the things you really, really want to do, you're going to want to do them that much more.  That has to be one of Murphy's Laws.  You've set your goals, you're ready to roll.  And then life steps up and throws you a curve ball.  You come down with the flu, one of your kids needs a costume for the school play, taxes are due, your partner loses or gains a job.  Major life events happen, along with minor ones, and your plan--your goals--are set aside.

But there's always those dishes to do...  "The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes."  Read that one more time.  The best time for planning a book IS while you're doing dishes.  You've been given the gift of a mindless chore, when you can let your imagination run wild.  Not only is dishwashing time a good one, but any time you have a few quiet moments.  Vacuuming or dusting?  Bedmaking?  Doing laundry?  A fifteen minute break at work or lunch on your own?  Brainstorming can happen at any time, any where.  It doesn't need to be a big chunk of time.  Any bit of time will do.

No time to write?  Of course there is!!  We give non-priority time too much weight. Snatch that 15 minute break at work, or the time spent waiting for school to let out.  Instead of thumbing through magazines at the doctor's office, take a small notebook, brainstorm and make notes.  Whatever comes to mind.

This just popped up on Twitter.

By wisely investing this moment, this hour, this day, this time you're in, you can continue to reap its benefits long after it has passed.
So there it is.  One sentence.  Twenty-five words.  It's time to get moving.  Let's do it!
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. ~ William Penn

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Aftermath of a Productive Weekend

"The best laid plans of mice and men..." 

That's the beginning of a line in Robert Burn's poem, "To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough," and often describes my weekend plans.

Not this past weekend.

In fact, the weekend was more productive than most and considerably more satisfying.  I had a list.  Not a long list, only four items.  For once, I didn't go mad and overdo, which leads to disappointment in myself.  No, this one was simple.

A load of laundry and several loads of dishes on Friday (we've been saving up *wink*), followed by the replacement of a light switch on Saturday morning.  Yes, I'm a handy little devil.  Or would be if I had done it right.  Unfortunately, I didn't, but neither did I cause a flash fire.  That's a win.  And, after a little more research, I discovered what I needed to do, so it now reappears on my list of chores-for-later-in-the-week.  No need to push it.  The light hasn't worked for some time.  A few more days won't matter.  Live and learn, right?  The last of the errant dishes---how do they manage to meander into other rooms?---were done, and I moved on to finish some small updates on my website.  Not a lot of work, but everything on the list crossed off.  Well, except for that light switch, but that's covered.

There was also the editing of the first three chapters of what will (I hope) be the first of a series of books that I wrote in the spring a year ago.  The tentative series name is The Divine Misfits.  Maybe.  We'll see how that goes.  So what if there are still  eleven chapters to go?  It's begun and, with luck, will be finished by Sunday.  That's the plan.

This feeling of accomplishment is rare, and I think I've discovered the secret.  Of course, most everyone but me knows that secret.  I'm a little slow on the uptake.  And what is it?  Don't overload yourself with trying to do too much!  Obviously my goal setting has weak spots.  But I'm working on that.  When it comes to writing, it isn't difficult.  When it comes to normal, everyday life, yeah, there are problems.

Yesterday (Sunday) was good, especially because it was our writers group meeting.  A week later than usual, thanks to Mother's Day, so even more welcome.  There's nothing like getting together with like-minded and wonderful friends.  I could do this all the time!  And with a handful of us vowing to meet for critiquing once a week, it's all good.  I'm pumped.  But I'm also trying not to get over-pumped.  That leads to downfall.  So it's take one small thing at a time and enjoy.

I'm learning new things.  I'm reading blogs, books, articles and whatever appears as a gift from the Universe to see life in a different way.  I like to call myself a realist, but over the years, I've become more pessimistic.  If something good happened (and it does), it was easier to say it was a fluke.  Now I'm trying to expect the good stuff.  Why not?  Shouldn't we choose the good over the bad?  I mean, if we have a choice---which we do---let's choose not only good, but great!  I like that.  I really do.  (Doing some weird Sally Field channeling here.)

Yes, there are a million things that need to be done to get the things in my life in line to the way I want it.  But they can't all be done in a day, a weekend, or even a week.  They take time.  And time is often our enemy.  Instead, let's make it our friend.  Don't overload yourself with trying to do too much!  Yes, it's definitely worth repeating.  And now that I know the secret...

In the end, what I got from all this was that I could have the best of both worlds:  Getting things done AND enjoying the weekend.  What could be better than that?  There's still laundry to be done, winter clothes to wash, dry, fold, pack away until the weather turns cold again.  Small closets and not enough drawer space means everything can't always be at hand.  That's okay.  We understand it.  It's become a tradition to start mentioning it as the weather begins to change, and finally saying, "Let's get it done today."  There's still the office that could use a bulldozer, but it, too, will be done in small doses and chunks.  Why not?  It isn't going anywhere on its own.  Lots of sort and toss and store...and finding new places to store.  Just how many file folders need to be on hand at all times?

In a few days, school will be out, and this summer may be unlike the past nine summers, filled with grandkids bickering and running crazy, trips to the library and trying to find enough food to please and fill up five growing youngsters.  I need the break.  I deserve the break.  (See that positive there?)  I want to enjoy this time.  It's MY TURN.  (Please pass that on to my offspring.)

Monday Madness will remain as it's called, only because it's MONDAY, but there'll be some small changes.  Change is good.  Change is healthy.  Change is fun!  One day at a time.  One step at a time.  And, hey, I might actually become that productive person I dream of being?

How was your weekend?  Did you have (TAKE!) the opportunity to make it a good one?  Or would you like to climb out of the rut?  Let's take the road together and see where it takes us, pitfalls and all, because there will always be those...unless we live on a faraway island where no one can find us.

Check back next week and see if this new positive course continues to work.  Yes, there will be a failure here and there, but focusing on the successes will take care of those, right?  And next week I'll share some links I've discovered that are helping me along my way.  Maybe you'll find something helpful, too.!
"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence."  ~  Confucius

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday is Finally Here!

It's been a tough week and a half.  Mid-week last week, I was hit with an asthma attack.  They're rare, but when they come along, it's like being being slammed head-on by a semi.  No warning, just WHAM!  I struggled through the weekend, felt better on Sunday, and decided to do a little weed-eating in the backyard.  Bad decision.  By Monday, I couldn't walk ten steps without thinking I would never be able to take another breath.  I went to the health care clinic Tuesday morning, spent almost $200 on an inhalation treatment and meds, and was breathing fairly well again by that night.  It's been better each day since then.

Oh, did I mention that when I got up on Mother's Day, I discovered the power supply on my computer had died?  I ordered a new one on Monday, it arrived late Wednesday afternoon, and I had it installed just after midnight.  Four days with no computer.  It's tough enough when the internet goes down for a day or two, but MY COMPUTER?

Now you know why there have been no blogs.

My plans for the weekend?  No weed-eating, that's for sure.  Gutting my office may be the best thing to do, since I've been thinking about it for months and getting nothing done.  Or my bedroom.  Or the kitchen.  There's always plenty of things waiting to be done, aren't there?  Friday comes along at the end of a work week, then flips over to Saturday, when all the other things in life need attending.  The one thing I can honestly say that there's never a time when there's nothing to do.  I've totally forgotten what being bored is.  I guess that's what makes life exciting.

Now that school is almost done for the year, I'm looking at what I want to accomplish, beginning next Friday, the FIRST DAY OF SUMMER VACATION!  (Whatever a "vacation" is.)

I'm working on edits for a book I plan to self-publish, hopefully this summer.  Set on the coast of Maine, the 3-book mini-series follows the Divine Misfits, three high school best friends who have gone different ways, but are coming together again after the death of the fourth misfit. I'll take you along on this crazy ride into the new publishing platform and share the ups and downs.  It promises to be interesting, if nothing else.

 I also have a three-book proposal for three half-brothers, who inherit a ghost town in Texas, to work on for Harlequin American.  It's going slowly.  Agonizingly slow.  I'm hoping that by doing the edits on the ebook above, I'll get my mind back into writing again.

And I have a couple of announcements.  My next Harlequin American, THE COWBOY MEETS HIS MATCH, the next to last book of the Desperation (Hearts of Desperation) mini-series will be available in August.  This story is close to my heart, as it centers around Erin Walker and her long-ago love, Jake Canfield.

One Big Secret…
Broke and in need of a job, barrel racer Erin Walker has returned home after years of traveling the rodeo circuit. But the only job available is working for the man who broke her heart and left her pregnant and alone. Not a day goes by that she doesn't wonder about the son she and Jake had, whether he's happy with his adoptive parents or what her life would have been like if the three of them had become a family.
Jake Canfield just wants to get close to Erin again and perhaps rekindle what they once had. But is that possible? It depends on the sudden appearance of the one person who could bring them closer together!

Stop by my website,, for more about THE COWBOY MEETS HIS MATCH (my 15th book!) and an excerpt.  I'm planning a few give-aways and contests, so stay tuned here and on my author page on Facebook.  If you haven't visited there, please stop by. The last of the series will be available in April 2015, and then we'll hopefully be off to Hallelujah, Texas, and those ghosts!

Last but not least, my five Silhouette Romance books are available as Silhouette Romance Classic ebooks.

RACHEL'S RESCUER, my very first published book and the first of my SilRoms, won the Maggie Award in 1999 and set me on the path to publication.  It was also a National Reader's Choice Award Finalist in 2001.  You can find them at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, among others.

So there's my plan.  My Friday plan, at least, spilling over into summer.  Do you have a plan?  Have you been working on goals?  Because now is the best time to get started on those!  Feel free to share, because your enthusiasm will spill onto others, and how great is that?
The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. ~ Christopher McCandless

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

We're Never Too Old

And here everyone thought the school term was about to come to an end until Fall.  For some, that may be true.  But for most of us, we keep learning.

Maybe we don't believe we continue to learn, but it happens.  We often simply don't realize that's what it is.

For me, learning is an ongoing thing, and I welcome it.  Recently the bulk of that learning has been about ebooks and especially about how to format a Word document for conversion to an ebook.  The learning curve isn't as steep as one might think.

The publishing world is changing faster than we can keep up.  This past week, HarperCollins (owned by NewsCorp) announced the upcoming aquisition of Harlequin.  It was like WHOA! for many of us.  Not even a whisper had leaked.  But it isn't just the shifting within traditional publishing that's happening, it's the world of publishing itself that's opening up for all of us.

Ebooks and self-published books have been around for what seems like forever, but it's been in the last decade that electronic has come into its own.  Thanks to Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and other online bookstores, the quality and availability of ebooks has risen.

It's true that anybody can publish a book.  What's also true is that there are poor quality books out there.  I downloaded a book from Amazon a few months ago.  I like to read an occasional YA, since it was originally what started me on the road to writing.  This particular book was cute and engaging.  I enjoyed the story.  But there were problems.  Not the formatting, but the writing.  Poor grammar and spelling and punctuation too often pulled me out of the story.  I still enjoyed the story, but not as much as I would have if the writing had been better.  I hope the author takes the time to either have someone professionally edit her books or educates herself on what is needed to write a fabulous book.

Writing isn't simply putting words on paper.  It takes time to learn what's needed to be a good writer.  For some, certain things come more naturally than others.  For some, it takes studying and learning the basics.  But no matter where a writer is, learning should always be a part of writing.

As we write, we grow.  With each new manuscript, we find new ways to write and tell a story a little better.  It takes time.  Don't give up!  The majority of published authors did not sell their first books.  They also didn't give up.  They kept learning and trying.  Yes, rejections are hard and often heart breaking.  We artsy people tend to let the negatives get us down.  But if you're really trying to be a better writer, wallow in a couple of hours of self-pity, then build on your determination to do better by continuing to write and learn.

I'm excited to learn the new things epublishing encompasses.  I've learned a lot by reading books and articles on what it takes to build an ebook, beyond the story.  My toe has been dipping in the water for some time, but I haven't yet made the plunge.  While I'd love to share what I've learned with others, I don't yet feel I know enough to do that.  But I can point to places and people who can help.

If you're thinking of self/epublshing a book, do your homework and start learning.  We've been blessed with access to just about anything anyone would want to know about.  All it takes is looking and asking.  And never give up. We're never too old to learn new things.
We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. ~ Walt Disney