Wednesday, December 12, 2007

13 Things I Can Never Fix . . .



1) A deflated balloon stuffed down inside the bathtub drain. Drano won’t budge it, there isn’t enough suction power in any wet/dry vac manufactured, forget the clothes hanger, the favorite piece of wire . . . nothing short of a plumbing miracle will remove that slippery piece of rubber.

2) Broken zippers on the favorite purse or backpack. Never fails, perfect purse for the perfect location, and then the dreaded un-zipping occurs. Or the backpack is loaded, kids in the car, dog at the ready, and three out of four zippers on the beloved backpack unravel.

3) Something too high (out of reach) when I can’t find my oh-so-tall son or my handy-dandy step stool. Why did I put that set of wine glasses, casserole dish, fondue set (filling in the blank) up there? Oh yeah, it’s because I never need them. Except, of course, now I do.
4) Brand-new ball point pens that won’t write. Isn’t there some sort of testing these things go through? Well, there should be.

5) The ‘Service Engine Soon’ light on new cars. It’s really all a twisted ploy by car manufacturers. There’s really nothing wrong with the vehicle, but that neon yellow light goes on and stays on until some certified mechanic rattles around under the hood of my car, mumbling about a lot of parts that do who-knows-what and how much it’s going to cost. Eventually, the lights reset until the next mileage trigger goes off, and I’m back at the dealership again.

6) Wiring a DVD through a VCR through a Satellite Box into a Picture In Picture TV. I knew I should have added an engineering minor to my college degree. I just didn’t know I would need it to turn on my TV.

7) A wobbly ceiling fan. Forget that penny trick on top of one of the blades to balance it. By the time I finally figure out which blade the penny needs to be on . . . well, I need a chiropractor to realign my back and shoulders. And the first time, I vacuum (yes, I do vacuum my ceiling fans. If you could see all the Texas dust that settles there, you’d understand why.) But the first time I vacuum the ceiling fan, I suck that penny right off. Then the wobbling starts all over again. I finally attached a string puppet and told the kids to watch that instead of the mis-wired TV.

8) That electrical surge my cell phone sends through my computer. (okay, ever read Stephen King’s book, The Cell, where everyone who was using a cell phone at a certain moment had their brain scrambled? Think it can’t happen? Put your cell next to your computer and leave it. When you get those unexplained squiggly lines across your computer screen, that’s when the master cell mind is downloading updates into your phone. Maybe scrambled brains isn’t such a stretch after all, Mr. King.

9) My not so newly planted mums. Mums are supposed to be hardy flowers, capable of withstanding the great perils of Texas climate. Mine, however, need to move to another state, because they ‘ain’t’ looking so good here in the Lone Star State. I’ve water, fed, even replanted and still no blooms. Lots of green on the bush, but nary a bud to be found. Do they make flowerless mums? Or is this some special talent I alone possess?

10) The one strand of Christmas lights that fails on Christmas Eve, right before all the pictures are about to be taken. I’ve even tried buying all new strands for the tree one year. Didn’t help. I still lost a strand.

11) No money . . . well, it’s not exactly no money, but more like the actual checking account. I mean, do I care where a missing penny or two goes? Oh wait, I put it on the ceiling fan for balance. And I saw how well that worked out.
12) My kids losing their clothes and it somehow being my fault. All right, it’s not like my kids (teenagers) are stripping in the street, so losing clothes should be tough, right? Apparently not. I am the laundry queen, I’ll admit it. I wash, dry, fold, and leave the clothes for my teen’s own personal escort service back to the appropriate closet, drawer, or middle of the floor. Yet, somehow on that perilous voyage across the house, clothes develop a mind of their own and leave the building. A little Elvis must be in my house, and maybe he’s wearing my kids’ clothes, because no one else can seem to find the treasured T-shirt, favorite-oh-my-God-I’ll-die-if-I-don’t-find-those-jeans, the game-winning soccer socks, or the ridiculously expensive new jacket . . . point made I’m sure.

13) The perfect biscuit. I like to cook . . . yeah, I honestly enjoy it. One of my family’s favorites is homemade biscuits. I’ve been making them for years, and wearing them around my hips for equally that long. After all this time, and thousands of biscuits, it only seems fair that I should produce the perfect biscuit every time. Not so, fellow cooks of the world. One out of ten times, I manage the perfect color, consistency and taste for a pan of biscuits. Oh, don’t think my family complains about the other 9 not so perfect breakfast treats. Far from it. They’re always eager to scarf down my less than stellar attempts. But it’s the principal of it. Somewhere along the line, experience really should be all that’s necessary. Now, if I can just find that line, then perfection will be in my grasp and I truly can fix everything.





Monday, December 10, 2007

Cats and Christmas




Does this describe you at Christmas? Squeezed with too much to do?



Or perhaps this one? It seemed like it would be a good idea, but suddenly you're out of room?



Or is Christmas just one lovely surprise after another . . .

I hope the kitties find you enjoying your Christmas spirit.

Stuff to finish before Christmas

All right, so I'm cheating a little bit.

I hope that by posting the things I really need to accomplish I'll make myself accountable. I'll let you know how it works out.

1) Finish shopping . . . it would be helpful if I knew exactly what I was buying for each of those left on my 'to do' list, but the reality is that I'm one of those who sees the perfect gift and buys it. Sometimes, it's perfect for me and not quite so perfect for the recipient. I don't let this bother me too much. They can always give it back . . . right?

2) Cook some goodies. Goodies translate to sweets. And there is the nut in the peanut butter and why I haven't performed this particular task yet. Once I start baking sweets, I feel this overwhelming urge to taste the product of my hard labor. Bottom line: I have to eat them. Since, I finally slimmed my hips back into size 10 jeans, I'm not all that anxious to expand them again. However, I'll eventually give into this temptation and cook some goodies and eat them.

3) Write my annual Christmas letter. Doesn't sound like that'd be hard for a writer, does it? But I have this unwritten rule -- I go with a theme for my Christmas letter every year. Now, it's not like I truly understand themes (ask my critique partners or my oldest child, the English Lit major and they'll tell you). I finish a 100K word book and then ask them what the theme is. That aside, I do like a theme in my letters (maybe because they're shorter and I can hold onto that thought). So, I've been vacillating over the theme. Actually writing this blog is another prime way to procrastinate on my letter. But it's time to 'Git 'er done' as Larry the Cable Guy says, so tonight it's writing my cheerful missive while drinking mass amounts of eggnog. Should make for interesting text!

4) Mail my annual Christmas letter. Last year half of my stack never hit the mailbox. Oh, they were typed, printed on lovely holiday stationary, stuck in envelopes, addressed envelopes I might add, and then perfectly arranged in a pocket in my husband's car. I found them in February. Oops. I really started to send them on anyway, and blame the post office, but I had a conviction of honesty and simply threw them away. So, if you were one of those who normally receives a card from me each year and didn't . . . the post office didn't strike with mean intent. I was simply, tragically unorganized. I did save the letter to my computer . . . if you're feeling terribly left out, let me know. I'll email it to you.

5) Finish my sewing projects. In years past, I've been the craft queen. Not this year, so I started a few sewing projects for my youngest. Now, all I need to do is get them completed. Half sewn garments sorta loss their impact when they're unwrapped.

6) Mail the gifts to out-of-town relatives. This is another biggy for me. Last year, my lovely sister-in-law didn't get hers until May. No, the gift wasn't stuffed in a pocket, but left in my office floor in an unmarked box. Spring cleaning hit and I found the gifts. Oops, again. I'm really going to do better this year.

7) Plan Christmas Eve (private time for just my family) meal, and plan the Christmas day menu. It's always at my house and somehow that puts me in charge of menu-planning. Considering my organizational skills, or lack thereof, it's easy to see how much my family loves me.

So what have I accomplished . . .?


All the decorations are up, inside and out.
I've wrapped every present that I've already purchased.
I've cleaned my house. Okay, so it's as much as anyone can clean with five folks and a dog constantly under foot. So, how about, I've relatively cleaned my house?
I've purchased gifts for at least 6/8ths of the folks on my list.
I ordered early enough that all my Internet gifts have arrived, and yep, they're wrapped.
I purchased special gift boxes for those expensive gifts.
I've even managed a special trip to Dallas for several hard to find things.
I bought replacement light bulbs for my 5 optical trees. Now, I just need to find the detachable plugs. Why weren't those in the box? No, good answer.
Updated all the addresses for my Christmas letter.


All in all, I'm feeling hopeful that I'll accomplish my 'to do' list, and if not . . . there's always next year, right? Maybe I'll just go to Valentine's card and save myself a little grief.
Happy holiday organizing to all of you fellow elves.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

13 great reads this year




My taste is more than a little eclectic, but I adore reading from all genres. Here’s what has entertained me this year. Please feel free to add yours.

1) STORM FRONT by Jim Butcher (the first in the Dresden series)

2) DEAD SHOT by Annie Solomon (fabulous romantic suspense author – won this year's RWA Rita for Blackout)

3) OBLIVION by Peter Abrahams (the author – not the book – came recommended. However after finishing this book, anything Peter writes would be worth my time.)

4) CLAIMING THE COURTEASAN by Anna Campbell (new Avon author and definitely worth the time and investment. I met this lovely Australian lady at the RWA Dallas conference this year. She was gracious and delightfully fun. Her second book hit the stands this week. Can’t wait to get my copy.)

5) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee (Don’t know how I missed this book during all my college English classes, but it’s a must read for anyone who loves great story-telling. And please don’t judge this book by the movie. You’ll be missing out if you stop at the movie.)

6) MEN’S GUIDE TO THE WOMEN’S BATHROOM by Jo Barrett (Funny, fast read and so darn accurate, I’m sure the author has visited a few of the same ladies’ rooms I have.)

7) DEMON’S DELIGHT (anthology) ANGEL AND THE HELLRISER by Vickie Taylor is a must read in this book. From the first line on, you’ll be hooked.

8) SWORD OF DARKNESS by Kinley MacGregor (this is my first MacGregor book, even though I’ve read a number of Kinyon books. Kinley MacGregor is a master at redeeming the most tortured of heroes. Great love story.)

9) FURIES OF CALDERON by Jim Butcher.

10) ACADEM’S FURY by Jim Butcher

11) CURSOR’S FURY, yep you guessed it, the third in the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. And you can bet when number 4 in the series hits the stands in December, I’ll be there for my copy.

12) THE SHEIKH’S CONTRACT BRIDE by Teresa Southwick (always entertaining, Ms. Southwick as usual captures the flair of sweet romances and draws the reader along for a great read.)

13) POPCORN DAYS & BUTTERMILK NIGHTS by Gary Paulsen (a long time favorite of mine that I hadn’t enjoyed in years. Mr. Paulsen cuts straight to the heart of young adults {occasionally known as teenagers}. If you or your kids have never read Paulsen, you’re missing a treat.)


Needless to say, this isn’t all the books I’ve read this year, but these 13 certainly made my memorable list – one’s that I’d enjoy again.

Please feel free to add your favorite authors or books – I’m always looking for the next great read.

Until next time . . . have a wonderful day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Feeling Feminist

I'm feeling my feminist's oats this morning. No, it's not something I ate . . . more like one of those things that when it's actually quiet and no one is demanding my time, I can start a thought at the beginning and carry it through to the end.

I've been reading one of my daughter's college textbooks, Sex In The Heartland, by Beth Bailey. It discusses the sexual revolution focusing on the small town of Lawrence, Kansas (University of Kansas is located in this town).

In the book a number of issues are discussed, but one in particular (Parientals) caught my attention. Parientals were a set of rules set up by most universities in the 50s that sought to legislate, regulate, mandate (pick your verb) sexual morality. They achieved this purpose by controlling a woman's rights. What time she had to be back in the dorm, sign-in, sign-out procedures, where she could meet a man, even down to appropriate dress code and public displays of affection. While we are past much of this . . .

Here's where my feminist side kicked in.

Why are the old and newly developed, much improved birth controls measures all a woman's responsibility? Why is the female the one who is altering her body in order to keep from getting pregnant? Why are the chemicals going into the female body? Why do the problems with weight gain, the side-effects (both short and long-term), the shots, the patches, and even the requirement to remember to take that little pill belong to the female of the species?

Are guys not part of this process?

Here's my answer: Corporate 'pharmaceutical' America still belongs to the man. As long as men still run the all-mighty buck then the responsibility will sit firmly on the shoulders of women.

Please don't demean all this to my being a male-basher. I'm ecstatically happily married for a long time, and I totally adore my son on the verge of his manhood, but even women content with their lives should look at the big picture.

However, here's the part they (male-dominated corporate America) haven't considered . . . if women have the responsibility for when they get pregnant, then in essence, women control the fate of the population and therefore, the fate of the world. Something to think about, ladies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Grateful for children

I recently visited a blog in which the author was relating a few of the reasons she was grateful for her kids. Her children are small -- that lovely phase of eyelash kisses and squeezing the stuffing out of mommy. Her stories brought back some wonderful memories.

And since it is almost Thanksgiving, I thought I'd wax poetic for a minute about the three in my brood. (Um, brood is the right word, as mine occasionally run around like chickens with their heads cut off.)

All three of mine are still technically teenagers (the oldest is almost twenty and informs me she'll be an adult at that age). Many folks aren't grateful for their teens because they can be lippy, know-it-alls, pushing the envelope, pushing their parents' buttons, and quite frankly, a danger to themselves.

HOWEVER . . .

My son at 6'4" is tall enough to reach anything I can't. I do occasionally put things on top shelves (using my step stool of course) just so I can call him into the kitchen to fetch whatever I need. Could I be manipulative? Maybe. But perhaps, I simply realize that like most males on this planet he needs to be needed. I'm simply providing that for him. Justified the angle nicely, didn't I?

My oldest daughter, yep, that's the 19 almost 20-year-old, makes me laugh. She has an acerbic wit that she must have inherited from her father, because I still have my smart a** attitude. I love her twisted sense of humor on her world, and her ability to laugh at herself. I project she'll be immensely successful because she's learning what to take seriously and what to let go.

My youngest daughter, who also happens to tower over me, has the most wonderful smile. And no, braces aren't the reason. When she was little, her laugh started at the tips of her toes and traveled all the way through her. It didn't matter what was funny or that it was even funny, but watching her laugh was infectious. She's found her laugh again (hey, she's thirteen. She's not supposed to be funny at this point) AND her smile. I'd missed that smile for the past year. It's wonderful to see that puberty and middle school hasn't destroyed what has always been there.

My children make my life busy and real and grounded -- fulfilling.

My children have taken over the remotes – thank heaven, because I don’t know how to program anything with the new technology and would be constantly watching a fuzzy screen. They also make sure mine and hubby’s favorite programs are recorded if we’re away from home.

My children make me realize that all the small stuff truly is small stuff. They're happy, healthy, and occasionally well-adjusted. 2 ½ out of 3 isn't bad.

My children still give me hugs, a kiss or two, loads of thank yous, and a great kick in the pants when I need one.

Which leads me to my last grateful memory.

As a writer, the road has been arduous and tiring, but my children have never stopped believing that I could accomplish my dream of publication. With that kind of support system, it's impossible to fail.


THE BROOD

Monday, November 12, 2007

Harm's Way Books In

They're here . . . they're here!

That's right; my shipment of HARM'S WAY has finally arrived.

A truly cool experience to open a box of books, sniff that great fresh print smell, and know that without me these books would never have existed.

Okay, I'm not diminishing my dynamite publishing house
The Wild Rose Press
, which BTW is where you can still download the ebook version of HARM'S WAY should your prefer; or my great and fabulous editor, Ally Robertson; or my tremendous critique partners, Shannon C, Sherry D, Andrea G, Mary K, Laura M, and Delores S who pushed me and supported me every step of the publishing way; AND certainly not my irreplaceable family, heroic Jim, and my three adorables who never stopped believing or considered giving up as an option . . .

However . . .

What's inside the pages of HARM'S WAY is totally a product of my imagination. For an instant after opening the box of books, the feeling is one of birth, sans labor. Oh wait . . . that took place while I was writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting again and so on. So labor was longer than the nine months it normally takes to get a kid to show up, but that scent of ink, the smell of paper, the high that always overtakes me when I hit the library, was only better this time because it was my personal library.

Jeremiah Johnson quote . . . The old trapper asked Jeremiah if all the pain, the loss, the love, the survival in the harsh mountains had been worth the trouble, Jeremiah replied with a shrug of his shoulders, "Eh, what trouble?" Humble man, honest answer.

Success is always worth the trouble.

May you know many successes in your life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

13 Thursday . . . Fall





1) Windows opened. Okay, I live in Texas and it's just not that often we really get to open our windows -- house or car. Most of the time we go from blazing Texas summers (um . . . fall is generally just late summer this far south) to freezing Texas winters. (All right, for those of you who live in the north, I know it's not really that cold here, but frankly, once it hits the low 30s and the wind is blowing about a million miles per hour, it's cold as far as I'm concerned and I can't keep my windows open.) So I happen to enjoy the brief respite of fall and open windows.

2) Crunchy leaves. Most people love the changing leaves, like to watch them finally let go and drift lazily to ground. Not me. I like 'em already down and dead. I love crunchy leaves and acorns beneath my feet. I always feel like I'm really getting somewhere when I walk through the racket.


3) House decorations. During the summer, it's simply too blooming hot to worry about putting up house decorations on the outside, so I wait for fall and then I can enjoy Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations. As my kids say when Christmas rolls around, "It looks like Santa threw up on the house." Okay, a little graphic, but you get the point. I like outside decorations.

4) Sweaters -- what's not to love about something warm and fuzzy?

5) Fuzzy blankets -- same principal as sweaters.

6) Cuddling. It cools down, I open the windows, leave the ceiling fans on high, and then snuggle with my hubby under a fuzzy blanket. Yep, those are great evenings.

7) Hot, spiced tea. It's comfort food (or liquid). Warm and soothing, tempting and relaxing. Yeah, I love tea on cool evenings.

8) Speaking of comfort food . . . that would definitely rank on my 13 Thursday list. Steaming bowls of chili, homemade beef stew, a huge pot of chicken and dumplins – those are foods to warm any heart or tummy with the onset of fall.

9) Halloween is another reason I love autumn. There is something youthful, magical, and downright fun about kids parading up and down the streets dressed in their greatest fantasy costume. Why do we give that power of true belief away when we grow up?



10) Baking. I love holiday treats, um and so do my hips. This year I’m going sugar-free. Should be interesting to see how my recipes convert from the calorie-laden, sugar-packed fare of year’s past. Hey, if it doesn’t work, I can go always go back to a bigger pants’ size, but how exciting to think I can have my cake and eat it too – without the guilt or the calories.

11) Cold, clear, fall nights where the stars are close enough to touch. At least that’s how it seems when the air turns nippy and night arrives early. And the smell of autumn. Perhaps, it’s just the nip in the air, but I truly love the scents of fall.

12) Football. I’ve got to admit I do find a good game interesting. Maybe it’s simply that my family loves football, and we all enjoy cheering on our teams, shouting over bad calls, and lazy Sunday afternoons spent together.

13) Naps. Yep, that’s my favorite all time reason for loving autumn. In the summer I always have too much to do, and spring is all about pruning and planting and embracing the budding of new life. But quiet chilly afternoons and frosty twilight evenings are about peace, serenity and the occasional, deliciously enjoyed nap. Remember in Kindergarten when napping seemed for babies and who wanted to be a baby anymore? Hey, pick me. I do. Naptime is best enjoyed by those who can truly appreciate the simple pleasure of a nap ‘time-out’. Personally, I think giving up Kindergarten was severely overrated.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thirteen things I learned since turning 40 . . .




Okay, I had an absolute blast writing this blog entry. I knew I'd enjoyed life more since turning 40 and now I know why.

1) Gravity wins – no matter what you do, what you nip, tuck, stretch, strap down or hoist up, gravity wins.

2) I’m not as nice as I used to be – I have loads less patience for stupidity. Okay, mine included. Why do I put my glasses down when I know I won’t find them again? Where is that magical place that I keep putting my ‘most important’ documents? Why do people bother explaining things or giving directions when they don’t know how something works or WHERE they are, much less where I need to be? If I ordered a coke, I probably don’t want a sprite. Okay, end of that rant.

3) I’m nicer than I used to be – I finally understand when friends are in a funk and I can be genuinely sympathetic without being cloyingly smothering.

4) I learned the word ‘NO’ – Wow! That knowledge took awhile to show up.

5) I despise small-minded folks – whether they are bigots, racists, exclusive spiritual-puritans, chauvinists, extreme feminists, republicans who hate democrats or democrats who hate republicans. I’m sure that’s not all, but the rest I’ve wiped from my mind for the moment.

6) I’m not as smart as I want to be, but not as dumb as my children think I am.

7) I love the quiet. Okay, maybe it’s not really quiet. I love the wind as it brushes through my Cypress trees and rustles the needles around. I love the mundane sound of my ceiling fan. The sound of children’s laughter in the distance. I love the rush of water, determined and unstoppable, as it surges to shore. So, maybe I just love peace.

8) A good glass of wine can counteract the evils of PMS, post PMS, pre PMS, possible PMS, and it should-be PMS. Midol is for husbands.

9) My eyes are lazy. At least, that’s the reason the doc gives for the glasses I need.

10) I’ve become something of a smart-aleck this late in life. Or maybe I’ve always been a smart-aleck; I just enjoy it more now.

11) Good friends are irreplaceable and the true wine of life. They can right wrongs, deflect sadness, increase happiness, and generally make you smile.

12) I don’t think technology is all it’s cracked up to be. What happened to the simple way of doing something? Is there really a need for 40 buttons on a remote? Any remote? Why do the lights in my car have six different settings? How about on and off? When I need more passwords to access my accounts than I lived in years, even dog years, technology has gone overboard.

13) I like to smile often; laugh hard; enjoy simple pleasures; avoid too much stress, sugar, and bad-tempered people; and I like saying ‘I love you.’ If someone I care about leaves tomorrow, I want them to have no doubt as too how much I loved them today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

13 things I learned from teaching 4th grade:



1) Teachers, any of them, are not paid enough – NOT by a long shot!

2) A one-size educational system does not fit all children! Meaning – the government’s plan, ‘No child left behind’, doesn’t actually mean children aren’t left behind OR aren't passed on to grades before they are truly ready.

3) There are way too many chiefs (government bureaucracy regulations) and too few Indians (actual teachers) involved in today’s educational decisions.

4) After writing several weeks on the board, I can remember true cursive writing.

5) 4th grade English is harder than I remembered.

6) Nine and ten year olds (4th graders) have wonderful imaginations. Want to know all the possibilities that can be observed through a telescope? Ask a nine-year-old.

7) Apparently being married 26 years is something amazing to 4th graders, as one of my students expressed: “You mean you’re married to the same guy for all that time . . . and like, all at once?” Uh, yeah, that’s what I meant!

8) It is physically impossible for nine and ten year olds to NOT talk. Something like exploding heads results.

9) 4th graders like to smile and laugh. They prefer teachers who smile and laugh, too.

10) It is not possible to be TOO silly when explaining (teaching) anything. As a matter of fact, the funnier the teaching, the higher the success in learning retention.

11) Education riddle: When completing any assignment, what one thing will most 4th graders forget? To write their name on the paper.

12) The most annoying sound in the world is a pencil sharpener.

13) Teachers are heroes. If you haven’t told your kids’ teachers, or grandkids’ teachers, or simply the person who you know is a teacher that they are great . . . do it.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

No, I haven't . . .

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the planet.

I've been teaching -- and that's an accurate statement for my current job. I, occasionally, substitute teach in a surrounding-area school district. I love the elementary age. They like learning -- most of the time -- and they haven't turned lippy, yet. If you have a teenagers, middle school or high school, or have ever been around a teenager, you'll understand. My current teaching assignment is for a straight six weeks and requires grading, extra meetings, student assessments, etc. Real teacher stuff. I love the school and the kids are . . . well, they are nine and ten year olds, what's not to love?

However, I've been a little busy. Between grading papers in the evening and still working on Fast Draft, there's been no time for blogging.

I miss visiting your blogs and hope to be back soon.

Until then, happy writing to all of you.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Texas Trivia


Betcha didn’t know . . .

1) Texas is popularly known as The Lone Star State.

2) The King Ranch in Texas is bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

3) The Austin state capitol building is made from 15,000 carloads of Texas pink granite.

4) The armadillo is the official state mammal – only in Texas would we name a ‘critter’ a state mammal.

5) The first word spoken from the moon on July 20, 1969 was ‘Houston’.

6) More species of bats live in Texas than in any other part of the United States – okay, this explains a lot. No wonder I don’t understand many of my fellow Texans. We’re all batty!

7) Dr Pepper was invented in Waco in 1885. The Dublin Dr Pepper, 85 miles west of Waco, still uses pure imperial cane sugar in its product. There is no period after the Dr in Dr Pepper. – ummmmm-um! It’s good stuff, too. You can take a tour of the Dublin plant for about $2.00 a head.

8) The world's first rodeo was held in Pecos on July 4, 1883 – told you we had the first cowboys.

9) In Texas, it's illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow – well, of course it is.

10) Seventy-five % of the world’s Snickers bars are made in Waco at the M&M/Mars plant. Soda and candy, no wonder we think we’re an Independent state!

11) In Texas, it is illegal to curse in front of or indecently expose a corpse – okay, you gotta love our laws.

12) Early Spanish missionaries in Texas hoped to encourage the spread of European values by offering flannel underwear to Native Americans – have you ever worn flannel underwear? No wonder the Indians went on the warpath.

13) Lubbock, Texas doesn't have any storm drains. – so that is what’s wrong with Lubbock!


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Pictures

All right, so I'm fast-drafting again tonight and the blog has to be quick.

How about a few pictures from my recent Barnes & Noble book-signing?

Yep, it was fun. Loads of people showed up and I sold out. How much better can it get?


These are two of my hugely helpful CPs, Delores Shaffer (on left of pic) and LA Mitchell (on the right) They were terrific and kept me calm through all my insanity at the signing table. Thanks girlies!

Oh, and please don't ask me what I was doing in this picture. I know it looks like I was directing traffic and maybe I was, but it's more likely that the camera person happened to be my 19-year-old daughter who can always manage to show her mom's, um, strange side. Thanks, Mary for taking the pictures! *GRIN*





Janice and Terry Higgs (favorite friends back from my Burlington Air Express days -- wow, was that a life-time ago!) This lovely couple has kept in touch and couldn't wait to have a copy of the book. Thanks Terry and Janice.





And my sign . . . in huge Black & White (well, color too) If I could wax surfer for a moment . . . it is, like, poster-size, dude! This is the stuff to make me keep writing when I hate my characters, the plot, the backstory and every little detail. It was truly inspiring to see my name in print.

Monday, September 3, 2007

FAST-DRAFT

Started fast-draft today. For those who don't know, fast-draft (the brain child of author and writing guru, Candy Havens) is a technique of setting a goal for writing X number of NEW pages per day and living with that commitment for 14 days. A group of writers bond together -- each one making his/her goals public -- then each writer is accountable for hitting that number.

My page count is 7 new pages per day. No matter what happens, I've commited to writing SEVEN or 1,750 words each day. That's in addition to any other writing commitments I have.

Today, I edited 80 pages in front to make sure the transitions would be smooth then I hit my page count. As I'm working out of the house all this week, 7 seemed realistic. I hope to blow that number out of the water, though.

Don't forget my next book-signing for HARM'S WAY:
Barnes & Noble
8525 Airport Freeway
N. Richland Hills, TX
Thursday, September 6th, @ 7:30pm


Oh, and don't forget, if you'd prefer an electronic download of HARM'S WAY go to:
The Wild Rose Press and order directly from this link.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sparkling Today




I'm Sparkling today at SPARKLE THIS!

Come over for a visit on An Unlikely Hero.

Until next time,
~Sandra

Thursday, August 30, 2007

13 Things You Don't Want to Hear your Kid Say



After mothering for almost a score of years, I've decided there are a number of things that no matter which of your kids (daughters or sons) say, it normally means disaster. At least a little one . . .

1) I don’t know what happened to the dog/cat/bird/hamster/guinea pig – honest.


2) But I only added a little soap. I don’t know where all those bubbles came from.


3) Sure I closed the fridge door. Oh, you meant all the way!


4) Little Johnny said there isn’t any stork. So where do babies really come from?


5) Did I get the keys? You mean, like before I closed the car door?


6) Little Johnny’s mom said he could spend the night – forever.


7) There’s something wrong with the car.


8) The puppy loved my bowl of chili.


9) Mom, something in the microwave just exploded.


10) Hey, look, mom, I can flick the lighter. See On. Off. On. Off. Nope, I don’t smell anything burning.


11) But Little Johnny swallowed one, too.


12) The teacher needs to see you. Again.


And my personal favorite . . . 13) Mom, we have a problem.

Monday, August 27, 2007

SOLD-OUT . . . next signing, Thursday, September 6th, 2007

All righty, then, my weekend at my HARM'S WAY book-signing was fabulous.

I sold out, yep, that's right, I sold out of HARM'S WAY in 45 minutes.

Lots of wonderful family, friends, and co-workers all turned out for the event at Barnes & Noble in N. Richland Hills. It was unbelievably to walk in to the store and see so many familiar faces.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming out to share this once-in-a-lifetime moment with me.

To all who took pictures, please feel free to send copies to my email: sandraferguson@sbcglobal.net

Here are a few pictures from my dear friend and Romance Writer's of America, Golden Heart finalist: LA Mitchell. If you were at the book-signing, she was the lovely lady seated to my left. Delores Shaffer, another special critque partner made sure you all received your 'autographed copy' stickers.

MY BROTHER

THE FOLKS

LOVELY, HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY AUTHOR (AND AGGIE), GERALYN DAWSON, ARRIVED A FEW MOMENTS AFTER I SOLD OUT. THANKS SO MUCH GERALYN FOR COMING, AND PLEASE DO COME BACK. ALSO PICTURED, DEAR KELLEY WITH CK2SKwipsandKritiques. THANK YOU BOTH FOR COMING OUT.
BECAUSE I SOLD OUT . . . Barnes & Noble placed an emergency order with the book distributor and I will be signing books again.



So next book-signing:
Barnes & Noble
8525 Airport Freeway, NRH (near NE Mall)
Thursday, September 6th, 2007 @ 7:30pm

Friday, August 24, 2007

I'm Sparkling Today!

Good news about my book-signing event and an excerpt.Pop over and see me at SPARKLE THIS!

Oh, and BTW, you're all welcome at my book-signing this Saturday, August 25th, 2:00 until 4:00pm, Barnes & Noble, 8525 Airport Freeway, N. Richland Hills, TX 76180

~Happy Reading
Sandra

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thirteen Thursday




What I learned since signing my publishing contact . . . in no specific order!

1) Take time writing your book blurb.
2) Share your good news with everyone you know.
3) Order business cards -- flashy and have them ready to pass out.
4) Start a blog or journal on your website. Keep people posted on what’s ahead.
5) Don’t be afraid of re-writes -- tightening with the help of your editor is priceless.
6) Join Yahoo groups.
7) Ask questions of fellow authors, where do you get the gold ‘Autograph Copy’ stickers, did you host a book-signing? What worked? What would you do differently?
8) Order some of your books in print when they become available.
9) Ask your CP and friends to post reviews on your website, Amazon.com, the publisher’s website.
10) Keep writing. Some editors do want the next book.
11) When you set up a book-signing, mail your own reminder cards for the event.
12) Determine your author brand and develop a slogan that captures the essence of your writing style. In a few words ONLY, what sets your writing apart from all others.
13) Post excerpts of your book everywhere on the Internet! Okay, maybe not everywhere, but research which sites allow excerpt posting then surf the site for a few days and see if excerpts along the lines of your book are posted there. Yeah, they are? Then post away.



Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fort Worth Botanic Gardens


All right, all right, it's hot outside, but not unbearable. Right now, temps are hovering in the mid-90s and for Texas in August, that's almost sweater weather.

Okay, maybe it's not that cool. Fact is we, Fort Worth-inites are enjoying breezy afternoons, occasional cloud cover and the end of summer is almost upon us. Before the dog days of summer slip away, check out the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.


Isn't that beautiful?

No, I'm not being paid by the Botanical society, although maybe I should send them a bill -- just a small one.

This is actually a message to my fellow Texans. If you're heading through Fort Worth, stop for a visit at the Botanic Gardens -- 109 acres of pretty spectacular stuff.

Address: 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd. It's off IH-30 (of course, what isn't off 30 when you're talking Fort Worth)



This year, my kids and I discovered a different aspect of the gardens -- the 10,000 square foot Conservatory. For a mere buck, we strolled through a proverbial rainforest -- a little humid, but then so is most of Texas. Nothing we couldn't handle. We saw extraordinary plants and bushes. No, don't ask me what they are. I wouldn't remember. Besides you'll see them for yourself when you visit.




Do you have a favorite garden spot? Share, please

Monday, August 20, 2007

Character Name

What’s in a character’s name?
How does a writer select the perfect name?

Is it the symbolism behind a name? Some personal preference? Just what comes to mind?

I recently watched I, Robot. Great film, heavy symbolism, terrific imagery – well worth the invested time to watch. However, it was one character’s name that stopped traffic for me, one name that held center stage, the robot: Sonny

The meanings behind such a simple name captured my attention. Was the robot so named because . . .

1) The doctor considered himself to be the figurative father of all these robots, but specifically this one that existed only because of his creative powers. He made Sonny personally – rather like fathering a son.
2) Or did the original creator of I, Robot, author Isaac Asimov, mean to enact a more literal link: Sonny as the actual son of God. Certainly, the imagery exists for viewers of the movie, I, Robot to make this connection. Watch the closing seconds of the film. Sonny stands atop a hill in front of a destroyed bridge (that closely resembles a cross) as thousands mass beneath the hill and turn expectantly toward him and the insight he can provide. What will these gathered masses learn? Sonny has the secret. All are created with the ability to choose – the ultimate freedom. It does smack of Christianity, does it not?

Whether you're a writer, a reader, a TV/Movie buff, you have an opinion on a favorite character’s name. Share and tell why. Are you a parent? How did you pick your children's names? Family tradition? Favorite name? What you'd like to be named? Come on -- do share!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Color, color, everywhere


Want to expand the color in your writing? Then visit me today at SPARKLE THIS! and learn some insider's secrets to highlight color.

Oh, are you just looking for a new shade to paint a room? Then click on the link and see what color surprises are in the bucket (sorry for the pun) for you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thirteen Thursday




Things that make me smile!


RELAXING


GIFT GIVING AND BEING GREEN


KIDS AT PLAY


CHRISTMAS


MY DOG, AUTUMN



VACATIONS TO NYC



MY SON (YES, WE LOOK REALLY SERIOUS -- THE SUN WAS IN OUR EYES!)


MY OLDEST


MY YOUNGEST


FAMILY

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BEACH TIME


FRIENDS


GREAT BOOKS

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Made me laugh

My mom sent me an email 'If women ruled the world' and some of these pictures are keepers.

Feel free to steal them.


All right, all right, I'm not insinuating that women can't drive. Far from it. I tool around in a full-sized van, 6600 pounds, thank you very much and I can park the puppy in a rat hole. Do remember, I'm from Texas and things are bigger here than in other parts of the world -- rat holes included. But gals are normally handling a number of things while trying to park and I think it's only fair we should get a bigger parking spot.


Okay, this one you got to love!



Loved the concept, but this one isn't a complete kit -- where's the duct tape? No woman's purse is actually complete without duct tape. Want to know how to hold a fence in place? Duct Tape. Keep air from leaking out of a tire? Duct Tape. Prevent anything from flapping in the wind? Duct Tape. Okay, I rest my case. However, I have hung many a picture with a shoe, and no, I don't measure before I put it on the wall. Hang and bang--that's my philosophy. And I can screw anything in place with a butter knife or better yet a metal nail file.

Got a special tool for your leisurely ladies life? Share.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Did someone say Dessert?

Oh yeah, it was me.

I should be writing, I have been writing, but I wanted to share this easy-to-do and simply delicious low-cal, low-sugar dessert.
What’s needed?
A package of Phyllo dough (generally found close to the frozen pie doughs). This is a great pastry for those who are watching calories and fat grams.
Fresh fruit (cook’s choice)
1/4 Cup Fat-free, plain yogurt
2 tablespoons Low-fat mayo or miracle whip
2 packets Splenda
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 tablespoon Honey
2 tablespoons Reduced fat margarine (I now use the Smart Balance Light because it has the Omega-3 oils)

I cut off about a three inch section of the Phyllo dough from one end – keep this moist.

Melt margarine (microwave), add Splenda and ½ of Cinnamon, stir and set aside.

Wash and cut fruit into bite size.

Mix yogurt, mayo, honey, and other ½ of Cinnamon, stir and chill.

Coat cookie sheet with spray cooking oil (if Teflon pan, omit the spray).

Begin building your cookie from the Phyllo dough. Unroll your moistened dough; remember to keep covered what you’re not working with as it will dry very quickly. Pull off a thickness of 3 to 4 strips of the Phyllo dough and lay on cookie sheet, brush with margarine, Splenda and Cinnamon mixture. Add another layer of Phyllo dough on top, brush with more margarine mixture. Repeat two more times. You will have a layered, cookie. Repeat this process until you have 4 laid-out lengths of Phyllo dough, bathed in the margarine mixture on the sheet. Bake dough per directions on the box. Cool, then cut into manageable cookie squares.

To finish the dessert:
Plate two cookies, top with bite-sized fruit, and drizzle yogurt mixture over the top.

Eat immediately.

Okay, this one is yummy enough to be well-worth the effort to make the cookie base.
This is a lovely treat after a hard day of writing.
The best payoff – it’s low-cal and delicious.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Spakling Today



Looking for me today?

I'm across the way Sparkling with my writing buddies.

Be sure to visit
SPARKLE THIS!
I have a great verb game I'm posting. Be sure to pop over and play.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Texas Biscuits

Got a request for another recipe on my site – something else Texan. Baking biscuits can be a fun Saturday morning activity – with or without kids. It takes a little practice, but I couldn’t cook my way out of a basket when I first married and I learned how to do it. So, belly up to the kitchen, gals and guys for a little homemade fun.

Okay, I know biscuits aren't just a Texas 'thang' but mine to happen to come from an old 'Texas' family . . . so I'm going to say that counts.

INGREDIENTS:
2 ½ Cups all purposes flour -- sift this into a large bowl
1 teaspoon salt -- I prefer Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
5 teaspoons of baking powder -- I will warn you, if your BP is old, it affects how well the biscuits rise.
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 Tablespoons Crisco - I like the sticks, it's easier to measure.
1 Cup + a kiss of buttermilk. I'll explain the kiss in a minute.
1 Tablespoon Canola oil

Okay, that's it. All you need.

Mix your dry ingredients together, and then CUT in the shortening (Crisco) -- you'll need a fork or whisk to do this. You want small pieces only (less than pea-size, like half of pea-size) when you've finished cutting in the shortening. Some people will substitute butter for the shortening.

**I don't use butter. I've cooked biscuits for a really, really long time -- you thought I'd tell you how old I was, didn't you? Not today. Let's just say I've been cooking biscuits longer than you've owned a lot of the appliances in your house. *GRIN* And I don't think butter cooks as well in biscuits. Sorry, Alton Brown.

Preheat your oven, NOW – 375 degrees or so. And I say ‘or so’ for a reason. Not every oven cooks at the same temperature. If your oven cooks true, then 375 will work. If it’s a little hot, then adjust down just a smidgen – and if you’re a country gal or guy, you’ll know what a smidgen is. The same goes for if your oven cooks a little cooler, then adjust up.

All right, you want to take the Canola oil and pour it on a ‘good’ cookie sheet. The double-metal layered cookie sheets work the best. About $10.00 almost everywhere.

Now, back to your biscuit dough. Time to add the ONE CUP of buttermilk. WAIT – not all at once. Pour in half then fold over the dry mixture. Then pour in the other half and fold again. The secret to light, flakey biscuits is to NOT overwork the dough. This is a by-the-feel thing and not a precise science. Sorry, I can’t get the webcam to work in the kitchen or I’d just show you how. If you have a dry section of the mixture left – then add the kiss of buttermilk. That’s enough. Too much and you’ll never get the biscuits in the oven.

The dough should be very, very sticky at this point. Let it rest for a few minutes, and you will see it start to rise. Buttermilk loves baking powder and baking soda.

I lay out a sheet of wax paper, roughly 24 inches or so long. Flour liberally. Then turn out your dough. Sprinkle flour on top of the dough. This kneading part is totally up to the individual cook. Some like to get their hands in there and some don’t. You can fold up the wax paper, sandwiching in the dough to work the mixture. Fold from one side, then squish down the dough. Release the paper, then fold from the other side and squish down the dough. Repeat this process – several times. If the dough sticks to the wax paper, add a pinch more flour. If you like to use your hands for kneading, just make sure to liberally flour them.

What are you looking for? The dough should have a fairly smooth look to it when it’s done. No gloppy chunks or pieces of dough hanging loose. Pat it out until the dough covers the wax paper – about 1 and ½ inches in height. DO NOT ROLL out your biscuits. Trapped air is what makes them great.

Use a biscuit cutter, a glass, or pinch off and roll a small amount to get the actual biscuit shape. Cook’s choice.

Put your cookie sheet with Canola oil into the oven for a few minutes – watch this – it will heat in a hurry. Remove then take your prepared biscuits one at a time and lay them on the cookie sheet, coating in the oil, then flip over and leave in place on the cookie sheet. Why? Because you want the oil on the top to keep the biscuits from having a powdery look when they’re done and because they brown better and because that’s the way everybody’s grandma whoever cooked biscuits did it. **Hey, just so you're aware and nobody tries to sue me for burning their fingers -- this oil will be hot when it comes out of the oven so be careful. I've never let my kids do this part because it's too tempting to touch the oil -- no matter how many times I've said, 'That's Hot.'**

Now, put your loaded cookie sheet into the oven and leave it for fifteen minutes. DON’T open that door. Biscuits are bread and they will fall if you jerk open your oven door during the cooking process. Leave ‘em alone. Check after fifteen minutes. Crack open the oven door, just a smidgen – we’ve already established you should know how much that is. Are they golden brown on the top? Then they’re done. If not ease closed your door and wait another two minutes. Check again.

Remove from oven – I don’t bother with cooling. Biscuits are for eating hot with butter and honey.

Enjoy, I always do.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What's with?

My bulk email box is piling up faster than the kitchen floor when a two-year-old is loose with a box of cheerios. Okay, so I don't have a two-year-old anymore, but I remember.
Vaguely.



Back to the email . . . what is with all the e-card announcments from companies such as, greetings.com, shoebox.com, 123card.com, etc? Pick a card title and it's been in my Inbox. I supposedly have received e-cards from mates, friends, spouses, loved ones, school buddies and on and on. I managed 4 to 5 of these little missives per day. I don't know that many people, much less people who would like me well enough to send me an e-card. So what gives?

Is your Inbox filling up with an influx of e-cards? Then enlighten me, please. I can always stand some enlightening.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Writers Beware

Found a new site: Writers Beware
I've added this under my blogs and websites to visit.

What's it about?

Victoria Strauss and A.C. Crispin have designed a blog to give writers more practical information on protecting ourselves. It's a scammers world in publishing so helpful facts are always a must.

There are loads of past blogs on scam artists, specifically regarding agencies. It's worth your time to browse the post. Also, consider adding
Writers Beware website
to your list of frequently visited websites. Ann and Victoria spend time and effort to gather information regarding the scammers in this business. Law enforcement officials recognize the strength of this site and contact this pair to post warnings to authors.

Make sure to protect yourself with the knowledge.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Looking for me?

Looking for me today?

I'm across the way with my writing buddies.


Be sure to visit
SPARKLE THIS
I'm providing a list of reviewer and promotional sites. Be sure to pop over.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Top 5

Top 5 reasons I’m possessed to pound on the keyboard or, as it’s known in polite circles, why I write:

5) I can’t stand the voices in my head anymore – best way to silence chatty characters is type them on page.

4) I miss my characters and their shenanigans and/or adventures. I have characters who know how to pilot planes, sail boats, shoot guns, design buildings, paint beautiful landscapes, practice law, run multi-million dollar businesses – nope, I can’t do any of those things, but it certainly is fun going along for the ride with my characters.

3) I might earn some money from doing this. *GRIN* Okay, not much, but I can buy dinner at Sonic.

2) I can’t wait to find out what happens at the end of the story. No, I don’t plot all the way to the end. It’s too much fun to discover how the ‘happily ever-after’ works out.

1) Top reason I write, to delivery another story, in which one reader (more would be nice, but I can live with one) tells me, ‘This story kept me up all night. I couldn’t put it down. Couldn’t wait to find out what happened.’

What did I discover in compiling this list?

That I’m selfish. Uh-oh, not a great character trait, but a true one.

This process of writing is a solitary task. Not exactly the whole single-soul-locked-away-in-the-desolate-tower-until-the-writing-is-done, but it does feel like that at times. When there’s nothing but the blank computer screen, hands posed over the keyboard, and NOTHING in the brain, it can feel extraordinarily desolate.

So, do writers ever use outside help?

Sure. There are plotting sessions – my critique partners and I call them ‘plot-luck’ dinners. If my brain needs to work then food should be involved. Writers also use CPs or critique partners who ask tough plot questions, push for deeper character motivation, and overall better writing. Many writers use a BETA reader (someone totally not involved in the writing industry, but who loves to read – and will read the finished work just for fun). However, those persons claimed, the actual process of birthing words on paper, the creating of characters, building worlds, designing the perfect paragraph, well, that’s all solitary, lonely and oftentimes relentless in order to reach the end.

Maybe it’s not strange, after all, that my motivations for writing are so selfish. If I wasn’t motivated internally, what the psyche books refer to as ‘a real self-starter’ then I doubt I would ever have finished the first manuscript, much less five.

Okay, when there are a thousand great books to read, movies to see, things to do with family and friends, what motivates you to plunk in the chair and stay there until the writing is finished?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Harm's Way review

Judy Thomas, a reviewer for The Long & Short of It said . . .

Harm's Way reminded this reader of Nora Robert's suspense books. It was so good, I had a hard time putting it down. I'm looking forward to the next offering by this talented writer. I predict, and truly hope, we'll see much more of Ms. Ferguson. I'm her latest fan.

Whew, did you just see my socks roll up and down, then right off my feet? That review blew me away. Okay to be likened to Nora Roberts, is just pretty darned good, but that this reviewer, as a reader, found HARM'S WAY enthralling enough to not put down -- that's worth a serious happy dance.


Thanks to the Wild Rose Press loop who opened my eyes to this particular reviewer's site.

Want to read the review in its entirety? Click on: The Long & Short of It

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Harm's Way review



Just received a new Review for Harm's Way, but I have to work out the link -- sorry!

I'll post this tomorrow, gals and guys. It's been a really, really -- with a start around 4am this morning -- day.

Happy writing.

Texas sayings

~Watch your step! Cacti, tumbleweeds, and an occasional armadillo might be ahead.

~Welcome to the land of tar-bubbling summers, gas-guzzling pickup trucks, standard Stetson headgear, and mile-high hair.

~Welcome to the Lone Star State, and Romance With A Texas Twist!

Quote of the Day