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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What's up with the weather?

By Norah Wilson

I live in Atlantic Canada, and we’ve had the mildest winter I can remember, and very little snow. Heck, it’s the end of March and the only remnant of snow I could find on my ramble with my geriatric dog was a small patch of ice in the woods. Those of you further south are no doubt enjoying full-blown spring, but we’re accustomed to long, hard winters and cold, wet—and yes, snowy—springs. This year, I’ve already raked my lawn, for goodness sake. Granted, my grass is still brown, but what a novelty!

But even as I enjoy our good fortune, I worry about weather changes. A friend from Alabama told me they had a Jubilee this winter. A jubilee is a phenomenon where crabs, shrimp and fish swim out of the depths to beach themselves in shallow tidepools. The locals, of course, help themselves to the bounty. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, these things are supposed to occur only in summer. What does that suggest about the ocean's temperature? And what will that mean for the coming hurricane season? It's scary stuff to ponder, especially when I have so many writer friends in Florida and the Gulf States.

But enough about that. It’s too gorgeous a spring morning to get depressed.

Here’s something funny: I work for a hospital association. When we convene our board of directors five times a year, we have a dinner on the eve of the meeting. Often we invite representatives from other health stakeholder groups to join us for an informal dialogue. Well, we had one of those board dinners last week, and the guests were representatives from the provincial Medical Society. When we all got seated and went around the table with introductions, one of our board members realized that the president-elect of the medical society was his cousin! They hadn’t seen each other for 26 years, and on that one occasion when they got together, our guy spoke only French and his cousin spoke only English. A surprise reunion! ("Patrice!" "Gerald!")

And if that doesn’t reinforce what a small province I come from (less than 750,000 people), maybe this will. Several months before that, at another board function in the same hotel ballroom, my boss discovered that he and our guest speaker (the special assistant to the President of the University of New Brunswick) were double cousins. Henceforth, I’m taking a leaf from my boss’s book, and beginning every conversation with a stranger with, “So, where is your family from?” Who knows? We might be related.

A Brilliant Day - by Trish Morey

Yesterday was a brilliant day. It was 26C degrees, sunny and still after some light rain a night or so before, simply a perfect autumn day. But the weather wasn't all that made it perfect. For one thing, I was post manuscript, and just contemplating revisions. And that's a very nice place to be in a lot of ways - you have all the relief of knowing the editor hasn't rejected your ms outright and you also can recognise that after a break away from your manuscipt you can see where you editor is coming from and concede that maybe, just maybe, she's right. Especially when she's picked up on just about all those points you were kind of nnnh about. So it's a good feeling because you know you're going to make that ms better.

Anyway, I digress. Because what made yesterday truly brilliant was grape-picking. One of the mums at my girls' primary school has her very own small vineyard in a valley nearby, her vines surrounded by stands of magnificent candlebark gums that stretch white and waxlike into the sky forever, and her grapes producing some extraordinarily good, not to mention, prizewinning sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. And every year for the last few years she's asked whoever can make it to come in for a few hours on a couple of days this time of year to bring the grape harvest in. And for the last few years I've regrettably found myself on deadline and been unable to spare even a day. This year I was delighted to make it! At 9am we assembled, a ragtag bunch of many of the locals from the neighbourhood along with school mums, school dads and granddads, and one mum complete with her 11 week old baby in a pram.

Before long the early morning mist burned off and the sun rose above us, bright and turning up the heat. Wasps came and went, spiders and other insects were dispensed with or ignored, and hour by hour we steadily ascended the hill, filling buckets with fat round grapes, working, talking, a baby in a pram sleeping between the rows of vines, her mother taking her out to feed her in the shade of those same vines when she cried. We weren't fast, we weren't terribly efficient but we talked and time didn't matter. Instead of saying a quick hello or goodbye when passing other mothers in the school corridor, we got to talk - about how long we'd been married, about how we'd met our partners, about what high schools we'd sent our older children to and why. Instead of a quick wave to people we'd normally just pass while walking the dog, we got to meet their neighbours, discover mutual acquaintances and expand our local knowledge.

It was kind of like I imagined it must have been in areas of Italy and other parts of Europe in years gone by, with the whole village working together, stripping the vines of fruit, talking, laughing, enjoying the camaraderie of working in the sunshine, while a babe suckled at its mothers breast in the shade. It was like bonding with the past with the very best of community offered today.

It was a brilliant day, and next year I know for a fact I won't be too busy. Care to join me?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why I Hate Grocery Shopping

I hate grocery shopping because...

1. Getting past the bakery is on a par with Odysseus sailing past the island of sirens. My strategy is to hug the deli on the right, but I can see the donut case and hear the table of 2 for 1 brownies calling to me on the left side of the wide aisle.

2. Even as a “preferred shopper” at my local grocery store, which supposedly provides me with a substantial discount on my purchases, I spend a wad of money on a week’s worth of food for three people and one zaftig cat.

3. I always forget something on my list and have to go back the next day. Apparently, pepper jack cheese is necessary to my husband’s existence.

4. The bag boy calls me “Ma’am.” While I appreciate polite teenagers, the moniker makes me feel OLD.

5. Even though I’d rather have someone else put my groceries in the van, I always tell the bag boy I can do it myself because I need the exercise. Pathetic but true. Some days it’s all the exercise I get.

6. Unnecessary items, such as People magazine, which I know I can read the next time I bring my daughter to the orthodontist, and those occasional necessaries (i.e. peanut butter cups which truly are the best cure for PMS) end up in my cart.

7. I buy lots of fruits and vegetables with the best of intentions to eat healthy, but some of them end up rotting in my refrigerator.

8. I have to clean out the refrigerator.

9. Other activities are far more appealing, such as checking my e-mail, petting my cat, or watching Oprah.

10. People can learn a lot about you from what’s in your basket. I’d like mine to say confident, sexy woman, who likes filet mignon and red wine. My basket says middle aged housewife who can’t give up her addiction to coffee and bread, buys cheap paper towels, and owns a cat who likes clumping litter.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Coming Up Dry

by Ila Campbell

Well, after all the excitement of the Golden Heart (by the way, well said, Delle!) I tried to come up with something inspiring - or heartfelt - or entertaining - or even mildly interesting - today, but am coming up dry. Just out of the physical and mental energy for ideas today. So what I really need to do is head out to my favorite little public bath where the sauna isn't too hot and smells like pine, the baths are full of herbs and masseuses are standing by. That is, if I can find the time.

So how about you all comment here, telling us your favorite way to recharge when your batteries run down. Maybe I'll get some other ideas that aren't so time-intensive.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sure Is Quiet Around Here

Along about this time of year, it gets very quiet on the romance writers' Loops. It's a Saturday, and Saturdays are quiet almost all the time, but the day after the Golden Heart and RITA finalists are announced, things have gone from wild elation of yesterday to sudden stillness, as if the whole of the romance writers' world has gone to sleep beneath a dark gray pall. If you're a finalist, sometimes you feel as if the world around you, which only yesterday was a whirl of congratulations and excitement, has suddenly gone still. You might even wonder if those friends who have said nothing to you are angry. You might be right.

It's the time, sometimes, when the denigrating statements come out-- the sour grapes type. When non-finalists note the Golden Heart and RITA are really just crap shoots, and they don't mean anything. And if you're a finalist, that really hurts, because you just put everything you had plus $50 and shipping costs into this story that five judges think is great, and the people who won't have a chance to win are now saying it's not worth anything anyway. Maybe you ask yourself why, if they mean nothing, did two thousand people plunk down $50 plus shipping along with the books of their hearts? Not because it's worth nothing.

Most non-finalists are not so crass. They're well aware what the value of both awards is. They know, just like the entrants in a beauty pageant or dog show or most other competitions, the judges must make subjective decisions. They must judge. They must perform the extremely difficult task of quantifying their personal and objective feelings. So most non-finalists were quick to congratulate and support those who became the Queens for the Day yesterday.

But today is their day. (And men who write romance, please don't take offense if I refer to romance writers as female. Please just read "he" where you see "she".) Their disappointment shows. They've pulled inward and become quiet. They feel the pain deeply, and the self-incriminating questions begin to surface.

Only about 1 in 10 entrants becomes a finalist. When you look at it that way, that's not so incredible. Why couldn't they have been the 1, not the other 9? They've forgotten for the moment that although a thousand entries were accepted, many others did not even enter. For the unpublished Golden Heart entrants, that represents another seven thousand or so RWA members who didn't even try. This is especially hard those who were finalists in previus years, who feel a need to repeat their previous success. They tend to see their previous finalist status as tarnished by the new failure. They were flukes. They really don't have "it", and when in a previous year they thought they did, well-- maybe they were being embarrassingly foolish. They have lots of company, but for an author seeking recognition, lots of company doesn't feel good. It's likely their perception is wrong. Every year other previous winners demonstrate that there's much more to the subject than who the current year's finalists are. But that doesn't make the non-finalists feel any better.

So what is it that writers, particularly romance writers seek that is so important that they are willing to go through this yearly grueling competition, knowing their chance of failure is greater than their chance of success? What makes them keep on submitting to editors when in the best of circumstances their chances of getting bought are so slim? Why, when they know in this world of publishing, even a sure thing can be done in by a lazy Snail with red, white and blue stripes, do they keep on trying? Well, I have my own theory, and not everyone agrees with me.

Readers of romance fiction (that being the fiction I know) do not read romance to be enlightened or educated. They get that elsewhere. They want what they already know or believe they know, reaffirmed. They have ideas in their own minds about what makes a great relationship, how it ought to be, at any rate. They want this new story to take them on the same journey yet again, thus once again reaffirming their beliefs. This isn't bad. We couldn't function in this world if we didn't own personal concepts of what makes a relationship worthwhile for us. And it doesn't mean that we expect the romantic ideal in our own life. Most of us want something more practical for the real world, but we'd still like to have that ideal lurking back in the deeper corners of our minds.

When the romance author writes her story, she is writing what is in her heart, the way she sees romance unfolding, what makes it at its best. The romance editor buys stories she believes fit the romantic concepts most women feel in their hearts. And she probably got her concept from a combination of what readers buy and what she feels herself. So when we submit our stories to editors or contests, we are hoping that what is in our heart fits with what is in their hearts. Women, and men to a certain degree too, have a need to belong to a community of like-minded people, need a common sense and set of beliefs, including their romantic ideals. Yet at the same time, we're all different. We all have certain needs in common, but we all put our own unique spin on them.

So the author, having poured her heart into her story, seeks validation that what she believes deeply in her heart resonates with what others believe in their hearts. And if the story is rejected, the author sees it as her failure. Her story doesn't resonate with the hearts of others. All right, maybe it simply didn't resonate quite enough, but she doesn't feel it that way.

Validation, to a writer, doesn't mean just being one of the pack. It means standing above the pack. Being the one who leads, who knows, who can tell others all about this curious phenomenon called humanity. We want to be like the others, yet rise above. Validation tells us we are right. It tells us we are strong, smart, winners. It tells us we are part of that inner circle that "gets it", that knows what romance and life are all about.

We didn't just put a story on the line, we put our hearts there. And when our quest for validation fails us, it's our hearts that get trampled. We're told sometimes by those who buy stories not to take it personally. But they're just buying stories. We're selling our hearts. Nothing could be more personal.

For five years in a row, I was a Golden Heart finalist, seven times total, and I won an unprecedented three times. But I can count eighteen total entries over the years. That means eleven did not final. My last winner finalled in two years, 2002 and 2005, but did not final in the one intervening year in wich it was entered. Only one of my entries never finalled at all, but most of them were entered but didn't final, more than once. So I've been on both sides of the fence.

This year, I chose not to enter. And even though the decision was entirely mine, I've found I still feel that sense of loss that comes with the disappointment of not finalling. I've been softened around the edges by a lot of buffeting over the years, though, so I know it doesn't hurt so badly for me. But still, I know the feeling. And I wonder sometimes why authors keep on trying when so very few of them can actually reach up and touch their dream?

It's because, even with our tender and vulnerable souls, we must have a toughness to us, and we cannot write without it. We want so very much to be a part of the common dream, to achieve validation that we "get it". But at the same time, we know how different we are. We know, no matter how many times we reach for the stars that are far above us, the odds are against us. But we believe we will the be one who will succeed. And when we begin to doubt, somehow we find the strength within us to go on. We recover, and we reach out again.

No one ever gave us any guarantees, but we don't need them. Because we are writers. That is what we do.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

A Dry Day at the Blog Factory

I just realized I’m supposed to blog on Friday. (I’m writing this on Wednesday.) Since I missed my February slot and I have a quiet house for the moment, I decided I’d better sit down and think of something inspiring. But I'm dry.

Hmmm, what could I write about, what might be on people’s minds these days…keeping in mind this is going to post on March 24. Nothing special about that day, of course, but hmmmm. Surely I can think of something.

Geez, you know, I’m coming up with a complete blank. I’m sorry. Maybe some of my Noodler friends might feel inspired to post. Anyone got anything they want to share?

p.s. Good luck Golden Heart entrants ;)

Writing With Children

by Jill Monroe

Deciding to stay home with my children was not a difficult decision. There were many pros - the first obvious - I could stay home with my children. I always wanted to be a writer - now I could, and all my (small teaching/advising) income would be eaten up by daycare anyway. It was a no brainer.

And really, think of all the time I would have to write, write WRITE.

I had visions of children happily playing with toys at my feet while I typed away at the computer.

I'm sure you're laughing at this point. Because as any mommy who's tried to go to the bathroom in peace can attest, children cheerfully quietly playing while you're trying to do ANYTHING just doesn't happen. Unless of course you're trying to clean their room. Then they're anywhere but there.

So, I adjusted my schedule a bit. Instead of getting the scads written I'd hoped, I snuck in writing time during naps. Or after bedtime. When my husband began getting up at 5:30 in the morning, so did I. And beleive me - that internal editor is not awake then!

I finaled in my first writing contest when the youngest was a baby and sold my first book before she went to Kindergarten. So, it can be done.

Now we've moved into a whole new phase for us. Booksignings, contract calls, RWA meetings - the kids have heard the names of my editors so much, they probably think we're related. They do think they're related to some of my critique partners.

So, I've learned a few things. First, children are not impressed by your writing. Your booksigning. Or that you've been asked to speak at another writing group. Going to a bookstore to see your book on the shelves may MAY be cool the first time. It's not cool when you decide to visit every Wal-Mart, Target, Waldenbooks, Barnes and Noble and Borders within a 30 mile radius of the house.

My youngest tried to be helpful, pointing out every clinch cover book with a red spine, "There it is, Mommy!" really loud in each store. The oldest got to giggle every time she told a stranger her mommy's book was "Never Naughty Enough."

Kids are not swayed by bribery. I've told my kids that if I sold a fourth book - we'd take them to Disneyland. BUT, they'd have to let mommy work. Yeah, doesn't work. (Fourth book you ask? Hey, we still owe on the college student loans!)

Last year, my oldest asked me if I were famous. Now anyone who knows my sense of humor knows EXACTLY how I answered that. Man, what a difference a year makes. Now the kid KNOWS I'm not famous.

Lastly, sometimes you just have to sacrifice. There are times when I was watching Tellytubbies or playing Barbie when I'd think wistfully of my work in progress. But it seemed like I blinked and they were already in school. So not every book I wanted to write got written when they were little. Not every conference (or a cute outfit to wear at that conference) did I attend. But an impromptu hug or a smile because I stayed up all night sewing a Raggedy Ann costume makes it all worth it.

Although this year at The Romance Writers of America's National conference, Meg Cabot of Princess Diary fame will be signing. I plan to get autographed books for the kids (if someone can tell me how you get books signed while you're also signing - hopefully). THAT will impress the kids.

I wonder if Meg has kids, and if they're impressed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In Search of the Best Dark Chocolate by Debra Holland

The cold I thought I had last week turned out to be an allergy to glutin. So I had to ban all products with glutin from my life for two weeks. No problem. I already try to keep my carb use to a minimum. Then I discovered glutin is in more than breads, cereal, pasta, etc. Apparently, glutin is used as a binding product, and is in other types of food, like the turkey hot dogs I eat, and my favorite ranch salad dressing. Chocolate candy bars are also on the proscribed list. More eating adjustments. Still doable, I think. I just need to read the packages of everything before I buy it. And since plain, dark chocolate is still allowed, I won’t be too deprived. Or so I thought....

Then, when I was at the grocery store, I picked up a package of my favorite candy--Lindt Dark Chocolate truffles and found that one ingredient is barley malt powder. ACK!!! I looked at another brand of dark chocolate and found no hint of glutin. Whew! But what brand to buy? I’ve always been a milk chocolate fan, until I discovered the truffles, which I prefer dark. And since dark chocolate is good for you, it’s guilt free eating. ☺ I’ve been a big fan of the truffles ever since.

In the store, I stared at the different brands of expensive European dark chocolate and some American ones, debating.... Then I decided to comparison shop--a rather expensive proposition. But I needed to find a brand I’d enjoy eating through the next weeks.

Feeling totally decadent, I bought eight bars of chocolate. I opened the first one, Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 85% cocoa, on the drive home and ate some. Big mistake. Ick! It tasted sooo bitter, that it immediately soured my enthusiasm for the whole experiment. The bitterness stayed with me for quite a while, making me not want to try another. But by lunch, I was ready to continue the search. I ended up being disappointed by the results. There were a few others I’d never buy again and some that were ok. Nothing came near the truffles that I love.

Here’s my list:
Would buy again:

Ritter Sport (Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts)
Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate
Perugina Dark Chocolate with Almonds

Would maybe buy if there was no other chocolate around:

Garideli Dark Chocolate
Lindt Swiss Bittersweet Fine Dark Chocolate

Would never buy again:

Valor Dark Chocolate with almonds %70
Barellini Extra Dark Chocolate 72% coca
Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 85%

I’m still missing a few major challengers. The store was out of Dove Dark Chocolate. They also didn’t have the new big Hershey’s dark chocolate with the nuts and dried fruit. And one of my students told me that See’s carries a bar of dark chocolate, which tastes good. So those are still on the taste test list.

I’m hoping that one of the brands I haven’t tried, will go into a “this is great” category. But if not, in two weeks, I can gradually reintroduce glutin into my diet to see what happens. Guess what’s first on my list?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Week

It’s been nice knowing you. I hope you all have prosperous writing careers, and maybe mention me in your dedication someday. It can be something like this: To Mary, whose head exploded waiting for the Golden Heart calls.

The first time I entered the Golden Heart was in 2003. The morning of March 23rd (no, I didn’t remember, I had to look it up), one of my friends mentioned that the following week the calls would be going out. They’d be going out on Tuesday. I had kind of put it in the back of my head before that, but teased about taking Tuesday off to be home for the calls. (In those days, I would do anything not to go to work.) I turned away from the computer, told my husband the calls would be going out the following week and I’d be depressed.

Less than an hour later I got a call.

I don’t even remember what the woman said. I had only entered one ms, Hot Shot, and it had made it. My head was buzzing. I would be published. I was on my way. I joined the 2003 loop, found wonderful friends, but still went to NY with no pink ribbon.

In 2004, I entered Hot Shot and another ms that had done really well in contests, Where There’s Smoke. The day before the calls, I told the secretary at school that I MIGHT get a call, and if I did, please call me to the phone.

She forgot.

I was music teacher in those days, and (I hope no one from my district is reading this) in between the classes that day I would run over to check eHarlequin, which had a GH board. I couldn’t check email, so this was the next best thing. The first person that morning to get a call was Stef Feagan, with her first Pink book. I got an email from Trish Milburn, and another from Emily McKay, and the secretary came over the intercom to say I’d gotten a phone call and the person would call back at 11.

It was 9:00.

I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but who else would call me at work? I had put some applications out for a new job (this was the horrible school) but surely fate wouldn’t be so cruel as to have them call me on the same day the GH calls were going out.

I continued checking the eHQ boards, cheering for the others, holding hope in my heart.

At 10:58 I was in the office, waiting for my phone call. It came ten agonizing minutes later. Hot Shot had finalled again. My primary emotion was relief. I wasn’t a one-hit wonder. I got through the rest of the day somehow and came home too party online with my friends.

In 2005, I didn’t enter Hot Shot. I entered two other books, Smoke again, and Beneath the Surface. I had mixed feelings the day the calls went out. It would be nice to final, but I really didn’t want all my family vacations to be about RWA conferences, so I told myself if I didn’t final, it was a sign.

I didn’t final. And that was okay. Everyone told me I was such a good sport and they couldn’t believe I could be so happy for them when I didn’t make it, but really, I was okay. (Until I saw the scores for Surface, which would have finalled if not for that SIX!) Seriously, not bitter.

This year is different.

I want this so bad. Both the books I entered had wonderful contest success (but so had Smoke, and it was always middling in the GH). I’m going to Atlanta anyway. And damn it, I was supposed to have my pink ribbon three years ago. If I can’t have a pink ribbon, I at least want another Golden Heart.

If I final, I know it won’t be the thrill it was the first time. I know the feeling will be more of relief. I know that finalling will mean more work – one of the books is halfway through revisions from my agent and she hasn’t even read the other one yet.

Okay, now that I’ve laid this all out here, I don’t want you feeling sorry for me if I don’t final. I know what the competition is like, I know the vagaries of contests. But I’m still going to be waiting for that call.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Connections by Diane Perkins

I love my life. One of the wonderful reasons I love my life--I mention once more--is the friends I have made. Case in point - the Wet Noodle Posse! But the friendships are starting to circle and connect in so many beautiful and unexpected ways!

I’ve also blogged about my new Gerald Butler obsession and the new friends I’ve made there. This past week a friend of my friend Mary Blayney (Poppy’s Coin in the JD Robb Anthology, Bump In The Night, April 2006) got in touch with me. Mary’s friend, too, had just “discovered” The Phantom of the Opera and wanted to correspond with a like-minded obsessed person--me! So we’ve been having wonderful emails back and forth, like I could not have had with anyone but a new GB fan, and even greater discussions about the phenomenon of this obsession of ours. I love to do that! I love to have fun with something, then also look at a more serious or intellectual side of the same experience. This is a great connection I’ve made! Thank you, OGA!

Also last week, I got together with another Noodler, Janet Mullany (Dedication, 2005) and my friend Julie to hear another Noodler speak at Maryland Romance Writers - Anna deStefano (The Runaway Daughter, 2006). Janet and Anna had joked online about getting to see in person my Phantom of the Opera watch, given to me by my friend Patty, who did the wonderful Novel Exploration tours (www.novelexplorations.com) to England that Julie and I went on, and who was the first person I introduced myself to at my first Washington Romance Writers meeting eleven years ago. Patty is the one who insisted I watch Phantom of the Opera but I didn’t until it came on cable. Now she says, “I told you so,” but she also rewarded me with this wonderful Phantom of the Opera watch, for...um...watching.

It was wonderful to have this mini-Noodler reunion with Anna and Janet, but also present at the MRW meeting and the dinner beforehand was new author, Diana Peterfreund (Secret Society Girl: An Ivy League Novel, due out July 2006), whom I’d met at Washington Romance Writers, connecting on the similarity of our names. Right before Anna’s talk began, Diana reached over and asked to see my Phantom of the Opera watch, which she had heard about from Colleen Gleason (The Rest Falls Away, Fall 2006), another Noodler who happens to be right now traveling to Paris to research her alternative Phantom story, her next project.

So about this time I am feeling like I’m caught in this lovely web, with silken strings connecting all of us, stretching out to make new exciting connections that I am to discover in the future. At the moment my connections seem tied to Phantom of the Opera and the Wet Noodle Posse, but all of them fundamentally originate in my decision to write Romance.

I love my life!

I know you are all dying to see this watch. Here it is!


And here (L to R) me, Anna, Janet at MRW


Quote of the day: "Remember, Frankie, We are all connected." The Stranger (Gerard Butler)in Dear Frankie.

Cheers!
Diane

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Cuteness, Crud, and Casts of Characters, by Kiki Clark

(And now, a word from our cuteness sponsor.)

My husband and I were returning from the veterinarian's the other day, and I was holding our cat kind of upright in my lap. She has to look out the window in the car, but she also needs to be held so she doesn't fall about the place. Anyway, as we turned the corner onto Iris, we passed a guy advertising Jazzy's Crab Shack. He was wearing a lobster suit and waving to the cars. I was in the perfect position to grab Tilly's little paw and wave back to him, which left him laughing.
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Okay. Cuteness over. I could blog about being sick. I have this stupid crud that lingers on and on. I am so freakin' tired of coughing and blowing my nose, I can't begin to...but you don't want to hear about that.
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I can always talk about writing, as my family and friends can vouch. Here's the news: I've started a mystery series. Alone among those talented Noodlers, I can't seem to write an alpha male, and alpha males are what sell romances. So after three books with beta males, I wrote a chick-lit book. It's getting some good feedback right now, but when it came time to write a second one, I just couldn't face the prospect of creating another flawed gal seeking to fix her life. I was tired of internal conflict. "To heck with that!" I said. (People who know me are laughing. They know I actually said a very profane, two-word phrase.) I wanted to write something funny, with a honkin' external plot. While I was at it, why not resurrect some of my favorite characters? Rummaging around in my bag of unpublished books, I felt little hands grab onto a couple of my fingers. It was Angus MacGregor, from my Scottish hedgehog farce, "Touch Not the Hog," and Suki Oota, the nympho repairer of androids from my very first book, "Bargain"! They were both secondary characters I looooooved. (Why are writers so enamored of their secondary characters? Because protagonists are usually avatars for the author, and relatively normal. When it comes to the supporting cast, we ladle on the flaws and humor.) I added two more characters and came up with four people who travel around the U.S., looking into oddities. I'd tell you what job they have that allows them to do this...but then I'd have to kill you. It's basically Scooby Doo for adults, without a dog. (The Noodlers tell me this phrase is a great tag line, although I'd been using it in an apologetic way. Shows what I know.) If I'm lucky, it'll sell, become hugely popular, then be turned into a TV show, making me a brazillian dollars.

These are the dreams that keep writers going.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The wedding planner

My daughter is getting married in May, and she came to visit this weekend so she could have a fitting for her wedding gown. She loves her dress, and I do, too. It is simple but elegant.

Since she lives in Pittsburgh and the wedding is going to be here, I get to be the wedding planner. Thankfully she is having a small wedding. Just the immediate family and a few close friends.

So far I've found a photogragher and I've rented a tent, tables and chairs for the reception we plan to have in our yard and around the pool. We are praying that it doesn't rain because they plan to get married on the beach. We're having a beach theme with shells everywhere. On the tables and on the cake. Today we ordered the wedding cake and the groom's cake. The groom had never heard of a groom's cake. When I saw the chocolate cake covered in chocolate covered strawberries, I knew we would have that cake no matter what the groom said. I can taste it now. Tomorrow we meet with the caterer to finalize the menu for the buffet. We have to make sure we have enough choices for the vegetarians in the crowd.

Her father is making an arbor that we will carry to the beach the day of the wedding. After the wedding we plan to use it in our yard. Her uncle is going to perform the ceremony. Her sister will be the maid of honor. I still have to order the flowers and find someone to play a guitar or violin for the ceremony. We have music to download onto our computer for the reception. I even have my dress for the wedding. My daugher found the invitations on the internet. She has most of them addressed and ready to send.

As I type this, I keep wondering what last minute details I'll be fretting over in the next few weeks. Even though I'm doing the planning and the wedding is small, it will still cost more than I really want to pay. I can't imagine the weddings that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We have one more daughter. I hope she wants a small wedding, too, because now I can say I'm an experienced wedding planner.

Merrillee, who just hopes she knows what she's doing and that the day will be perfect without rain

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Trish Morey Is An Excellent Bargain

The Mancini Marriage Bargain by Trish Morey
Book 2 in The Arranged Brides Duo Harlequin Presents March 2006

Mancini


The Blurb

'It's a bit late to start desiring a woman ten minutes before you divorce her...'

He had married her to save her from a forced marriage. Now, twelve years on, Paolo Mancini's back - to tell his wife, beautiful Helene Grainger, they can divorce at last.

Paolo is still the passionate, gorgeous Italian Helene married, but he's now a different man - highly successful and utterly ruthless. When they are reunited for one last night, Paolo realises he's lost too much to lose any more - and he has no intention of letting his wife go!

The Reviews

Cata Award

A Cataromance Reviewers' Choice Award Winner!

"... alternates between turbulent emotions and sensual love scenes that grab a reader and won't let go."

"...had me sniffing in parts and the story line (particularly the end!) hits the reader hard. I cannot recommend this book enough; it was a moving, fantastic read that you will not be disappointed with." ~ Cataromance Reviews

"The Mancini Marriage Bargain warms the heart. Morey weaves a very touching
story. She nicely develops her characters and captures the mood with steamy scenes..." Romantic Times

Visit Trish on the web at http://www.trishmorey.com

Springtime in Texas

There's nothing quite like Spring in Texas. By the first of March, my yard was in bloom. I have an acre of red clover that looks gorgeous--but is going to be hell to mow once the flowers die off. It's already a foot tall. I've seen pairs of bluebirds, robins, and cardinals fighting for nesting places. My pear and plum trees are in full bloom. And we have two new calves.

Okay, one is already three months old. But the newest one was born last Thursday morning. Like her mama, she (I think it's a she, dh says it's a he) has a white heart in the middle of her forehead. She's gorgeous, kind of a fawn color, with long ears and beautiful eyes. All seemed fine the day she was born. She was up walking around, checking out her new surroundings.

We had to work that day and the next. Dh noticed that she didn't come up to the house when her mama came up to be fed Friday morning, but that's not too unusual. Sometimes the mamas will leave their babies hidden in the brush or the barn while they eat. We went on to work, and when we came home we saw the mama standing in the field, the baby at her feet. All seemed fine.

Saturday morning, baby didn't come up again, so dh went looking for her. He found her in the pasture, so weak she couldn't stand and nothing but skin and bones. Evidently she hadn't nursed since that first day. He brought her up to the pen near the house and I took off for the vet's office. From there I went to the feed store to buy penicillin and to the local dairy for some colostrum and fresh cow's milk.

We managed to get one bottle down her Saturday and a half a bottle on Sunday. I got her next to her mama and got as far as showing her where her food was located, but she was still too weak to catch on. She wouldn't take a bottle that night, or the next day. I was pretty sure she was a goner. She was coughing and her nose was running. We had to pick her up to get her on her feet. But she was still alive, and I noticed she didn't look quite so much like death warmed over.

It was funny how her mama knew we were trying to help her baby. She'd hover close, but didn't interfere when we gave the shots and tried to get some milk down the calf. She wouldn't let the dh milk her, but she'd let me try. (I raised that cow on a bottle, too.) The mama would lick my hand as I tried to feed her baby.

We came home last night to find baby Patty (her name until I see proof she's a boy ) kicking up her heels in the pen, trying to run. She hasn't quite figured out how to make her back legs work independently, but she was giving it her best shot. When I stepped into the pen, mama gave me a thank you I'll never forget--she licked me, every place she could reach. I had to take a bath as soon as I left the pen because I was covered in cow spit. But I didn't mind. Just seeing that calf up and playing was worth a thousand cow-tongue lashings.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

March madness

Even though I have agreed to blog on March 18th, I decided to blog today as well. It's March and time for the NCAA college basketball tournament. I'm getting ready to do my picks for the men's basketball tournament. Every year I fill out the brackets to make my picks for the winners in each bracket. My husband and I compete for bragging rights when the tournament is over. I've always said I love sports because I grew up with three brothers who all played several sports. When I was growing up girls didn't have as many opportunities to participate in sports as they do now. I've always wondered whether I might have been involved in some competitive sport if I had grown up in later years. Now I play tennis in competitive leagues. I want to be like my friend Joanna, who is in her seventies and still plays competitive tennis. I want to be Joanna when I grow up.

The other day I had the opportunity to shoot some baskets. I hadn't done that in a long time. I was bad. I hit only two shots out of twenty. My complete lack of skill reminded me that in order to be good at a sport a person has to practice. I really couldn't expect to hit a lot of baskets when I hadn't picked up a basketball in years. The need for practice goes with anything we choose to do. A writer writes. A basketball players shoots a lot of hoops. A tennis player hit a lot of balls. Golfers spend time at the driving range. Pianist spend a lot of hours playing the piano. I have a flute that I haven't played in years. If I get it out, I can still play a scale, but I certainly couldn't expect to join the symphony.

Someday I want to write a book about a basketball coach, who takes his team to the Big Dance. So every year I watch and listen carefully and collect information that I hope to use in that book. I like to think about the saying from the old ABC Wide World of Sports. "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."

As I close I just have to say, since my favorite team the Wake Forest Demon Deacons aren't in the Big Dance this year, GO ZAGS.
Merrillee

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sun, Sand, Surf, and Snow

March 11th will be one for the history books in San Diego County. At 11:30 a.m. it hailed and hailed and hailed. This might not sound like an event to those of you who live in the Midwest or the East, but this is only the second time in 50 years that this has happened in sunny San Diego. I live on a hill two miles from the sandy beaches of Carlsbad, California, where the average temperature rarely dips below 60 degrees. A normal day, even in winter, averages between 70 to 80 degrees. Shorts and sandals are pretty much worn all year long. Our only concession to winter on an average day is a sweatshirt.

When Mother Nature got through with us, however, our neighborhood looked like a winter wonderland. Roof tops were covered with enough white stuff to make a convincing Christmas postcard. As I prepared to head off to the airport to pick up my college student, who was coming home for a dose of sunshine, I drove past streets lined with children holding dusty sleds hastily pulled from garages and posing for parents armed with video cameras. Neighbors stood on their front porches with cameras and shouted back at each other over the din of pelting ice.

It was a miraculous experience. For a brief moment in time, people paused to wonder at Mother Nature's gift and laugh with strangers. Girls in the gas station where I stopped for gas had a snowball fight. Everywhere, people scraped up precious handfuls of ice to save. Twenty-four hours later, there was still a patch of frozen hail in my yard to remind me it wasn't just a dream.

Lorelle

Miss March by Bridget Stuart

I'm pretty much the poster child for March-Depressive-Disorder (no, that's not a real syndrome, and you don't get Xanax for it). By this time of year, I'm peering at my smile lines, measuring how deep they're getting, like tire treads. I start to dig through my closet, bringing out spring clothes and hating them all, every tank top and every bias-cut pocket that makes my hips look mammoth and every pair of cropped jeans that hit my calves in exactly the wrong place.

Even worse, I say horrible things about myself, and try to get my husband, the Professor, to agree with me; then if he appears to do so in the slightest, I ruthlessly retaliate with tears. For example: "My hair looks like a wet English sheepdog's, doesn't it?" --"Oh, ha, ha," the Professor laughs lightly. "Your hair looks just fine." Fine. The word is anathema to any right-thinking person. It means the same as 'nice', which means nothing at all, really. You can guess what follows; poor Professor.

So anyway, one March day not too long ago the Professor and I were having dinner at a funky local place, and I was deep into a George Bailey monologue: "Nothing seems to work for me. Nothing I do makes any difference." The Professor was trying hard to perk me up, but I was in full March wallow mode.

That's when I saw a blonde boy, about six years old, sitting at the table next to us with a friend and the friend's mother. The boys looked at the menu, giggled, talked about school. I stared at that blonde boy, unable to believe what I was seeing. I recognized him. I'd been his therapist years before, when he had a diagnosis of autism. Back then, he didn't talk, he didn't make eye contact--typical of many autistic kids. Previous educators hadn't been able to do much with him, and I and the other new therapist on his case worked intensively at it, many hours a week. With our help, this boy made incredible progress, but he left our program at age three. I hadn't seen him since.

And here he was, chatting and laughing, a typical kid on a night out with friends. I'd helped to turn his life around completely. Wow. I started to cry, right there in the restaurant. (The Professor was beside himself until I explained.)

I figured this was God's way of telling me to shut up...so I did.

And whenever March hits hard, I think of that night, when I came face to face with the truth, and the truth was bright and shining. Every one of us is important in this life! Every one of us is like a light to someone else! Think about how you've made a difference, and go ahead. Shine on. And to hell with the month, anyway.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Back where you came from

by Charity Tahmaseb

A week ago yesterday, I finished--that should be finally finished--the novel I’ve been working on for nearly two years. Two years is long time to spend on anything, and this particular book took more blood, sweat, and tears than I ever imagined it could.

It grew out of frustration with the market at the time, all this emphasis on Chick Lit, on “women’s” stories, and I simply couldn’t relate. When I was twenty five, I was lugging around a rucksack, not a Prada or Kate Spade purse. I wore combat boots, not Manolo Blahniks.

Clearly, I knew nothing about being a woman in today’s world.

Which is why I wrote the book. Instead of making it contemporary, I used the timeframe of the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Black Hawk down incident in Somalia. Instead of three best girlfriends, I gave the heroine three best guy friends. And she spends a great deal of time muddy and appallingly un-bathed.

In other words, I went home. And when I wrote those final words last week, I felt an immense sense of satisfaction. Right before the panic hit.

I don’t have another project cued up. I got nothing. For the first time in a long time, I don’t have anything to work on. And that’s a very strange feeling.

Then I remembered. I needed to go home, back where I came from, and for I think all of us in the Wet Noodle Posse, that would be reading, movies--stories of all kinds. What enticed us to write in the first place was a love of stories.

So I’ve indulged in Firefly and Serenity. I have Sense and Sensibility on CD ready for my commute next week. I have a huge to-be-read pile I can’t wait to dive into. I need to fill myself with new places and ideas, new worlds and new points of view.

When the time is right, I’m sure the words will come. At least, I hope so. But at least the wait will be pleasant, back where I came from.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Country Critters

As I backed out of my parking spot and swung around on our gravel drive the other day, I noticed a tall black bird strolling along our covered, wrap-around porch. I slowed the car to get a better look. It was a turkey. Not our turkey, just visiting. Sooner or later, it seems, everyone in the neighborhood with feathers or fur drops by.

We're planning some landscaping improvements, but we know the lawn will soon be pocked with gopher mounds, and that unless we build deer fencing most of the things we plant will serve as a smorgasbord. We'd like to get another goat to keep the berry vines in check, but a bear killed the last one. Our neighbors' cows break through the fencing and trample our shrubs, bats fly into the house, and raccoons leave lovely parting gifts on our decking every morning.

On the other hand, I enjoy watching the quail bob and peck in the yard on sunny mornings, and I check for the fox that comes by nearly every afternoon. A particularly handsome hawk likes to hunt in the upper field, and several generations of swallows have tucked their nests beneath the gables.

Our house and yard may not have that spotless and manicured look, but most of the visitors don't seem to care.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Interpreting Chocolate

by Lee McKenzie

For the past year I’ve been studying American Sign Language. I’m currently enrolled in a Vista program and have just completed the third module of level one. The Deaf woman who instructs the class is a dedicated teacher and has taken several of us keeners under her wing. When she suggested we attend a chocolate festival last Sunday, we all jumped at the opportunity. I mean, who would pass up a chance to sample chocolate from some of the best chocolatiers AND practice signing, all at the same time?

As it turned out, my instructor looked to me to do a lot interpreting for her. I might have had second thoughts if I’d known that ahead of time, but now I’m so glad I went. And I think I did pretty well, except for a few slip-ups. Like when I signed to her that a chocolate filling was made of white chocolate and dentists instead of white chocolate and nuts.

In class, my instructor would have corrected me but in public she smiled and nodded graciously. I’m sure she was having a good laugh to herself, though, and so she should. And I’m pretty sure that’s one mistake I won’t make again.

I also learned that carrying on two simultaneous conversations—one in ASL and one in English—is even more challenging than it looks. This was made abundantly clear when a woman at one of the booths gave me a puzzled look and said, “Um, I don’t understand sign language.” I repeated my question out loud, but not quickly enough to convince her that I knew what I was doing!

But I’m learning, and practice makes perfect, right? Practice with chocolate is even more perfect!

If you’d like to learn the signs for chocolate, nuts and other yummy stuff, visit
http://aslpro.com and click on Main Dictionary.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Baby!

My baby turns one year old today. Can you believe it? I've heard it said that when you have kids, the days are long, but the years are short. (I think John Leguizamo said it in In Style magazine.) Boy, is that true. It’s gone by so fast! Here are some pictures of Clara over the past year. (Yup, I’m mommyblogging today. So sue me.)



Here’s a picture of Clara at 3 days old, being comforted after the trauma of her first “baby tub” bath. (It was pretty traumatic for her parents, too.)




Ahh, the sweet sound of sleep, at three weeks old.




At Halloween, on the way to trick-or-treat /kids’ costume parade at Boo at the Zoo in the park. Clara was constantly pulling off her lamb ears and tossing the hat on the ground. Uh oh. Sartorial opinions at the age of seven months?




At eight months, baby, you’re a star!




With our 13-year-old cat, Lucy. Best buds forever!




Last month. Crawling, pulling up, soon to be walking, the world is your oyster! (And no kitchen drawer or cat bowl is safe!)




At her birthday party on Sunday. "Whoa, Mom, you mean this whole cake is MINE?"


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Testing Results

I had to stay late for Open House tonight and as I was heading to the office to get my report cards, another teacher told me the principal had the results from the reading TAKS test. GULP! My heart was pounding when I got to his office. Out of 88 kids in third grade, 57 passed. Most were very close. I figured the ones of mine who hadn't passed would be close. He asked if I had something to write on, he gave me a paper, and told me to read down my list of kids and he'd tell me if they passed or failed. So I made two columns, pass and fail, and started flipping through my report cards just to be sure I didn't forget anyone. I called out the first few students, but they weren't on the list he was looking at, so he found the right list and we started over.

First student, pass. I cheered, because this one has ADHD so bad and I was really worried.
Second student, pass. I cheered again, because this one can do it but doesn't have much self confidence. His mom had made him a cute little note cheering him on the day of the test.

Third student failed, but that was expected.

Fourth student, passed.

And so on.

Last student...I had the pen hovering above the failed column. She had worked SO HARD, but the test was really long and she was really getting fed up.

She passed. On the nose. She could not have missed one more question. I was ELATED. I wanted to call her at home, but I want to see her face. She worked so hard.

Out of my 17 kids that tested, 3 didn't pass. They'll get another chance in April and we'll be working hard.

I ran out to tell the kids who were in the after school program. Then I found the reading teacher and we cheered and hugged. The mom who wrote the note came to Open House and we cheered and hugged.

So I'm really happy for those 14 kids. Even better, SIX of them got commended performance, which means they missed three or less.

I'm so proud of my kids I could bust.

Bring on the RITAs and Golden Hearts!

RITA scoresheets are due back to RWA today. That means we are one step closer to celebrating a new year of excellence in romance. For anyone who isn't familiar with the RITAs, Golden Hearts or RWA, the RITA contest is the published national contest of the Romance Writers of America (RWA). The Golden Heart contest is the sister contest for unpublished writers that the Wet Noodle Posse was a part of in 2003. :) The RITA awards are like the Hugo awards (science fiction) or Edgar awards (mystery), but for the romance genre instead.

I read a lot of great books for the RITAs this year, and am really looking forward to seeing some of them final. If you are interested in a good read, try one of the finalists or winners from last year. Or even better, our own Sandy Blair was a finalist with A Man In A Kilt! If you haven't had a chance to read A Man In A Kilt, it's fabulous!





Anyone else find a good book/manuscript or three while judging this year? Judging can be so exciting when there are a lot of gems!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

And the wheel goes round and round....

I just finished a book (again) that I’ve been working on for the past three years. I say "again" because this is this story’s third incarnation, and I’m ready for the experience to be over!

I remember presenting the concept of the amnesiac-cowboy’s-secret-babies at a plotting workshop with my critique group in January of 2003. I loved the ideas they shared with me about the story and the title suggested by one of the participants—Married in :08. Yep, eight seconds. The hero is a rodeo bull rider.

The hero and heroine of Married in :08 were high-school sweethearts, separated by cruel fate (aren’t they always?). They’re reunited (of course), live happily ever after (don’t they always?) and the secret babies turn out to be adorable 5-year olds (what else?).

I submitted "Married" as my option book after I sold "Daddy in Waiting." I’d written and targeted the ms to the Desire line. Then I found out about the no-kids-in-Desires rule (oops) and my editor suggested I re-write it for Special Edition. I was game, but worked for a time on a light paranormal for the Silhouette Romance line’s Soulmates promotion. Then Silhouette decided they didn’t want any more Soulmates and that one went on the back burner. I wrote another full and a partial for the Romance line, but neither of those made the cut. Always in the back of my mind were the star-crossed lovers of "Married in :08."

Last fall I decided enough was enough. I traveled to New Jersey to meet with the senior editor at Special Edition. She liked the idea of "Married" and asked to see the full. I had just added eighty pages to make it long enough to be a SE, so I knew it was ready. As I was preparing the manuscript and refining the synopsis I started having problems with my back and ended up in bed for most of the month of December. Then I received the email outlining the new page counts for the various Harlequin and Silhouette lines. As soon as I was on my feet I cut forty pages of my newly-minted brilliance to make it conform to the new manuscript length.

Hey, if you write category, you know what I’m talking about.

So…the good news is that I finished the synopsis this morning. I can’t get to the post office until Wednesday, but that will be soon enough to send my baby on to its great adventure in NYC.

If you have a vibe to spare, could you aim it toward New YorK?

Cowboys rule!!!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Pesky Characters by Janice Lynn

So, I wrote a new story earlier this year. It's one I absolutely love and have really BIG hopes for. I've finished it and my agent has sent it out. Yea! Okay, so what's the problem? The characters are still SOOOOOO in my head. The story is strong as is, doesn't need another chapter or epilogue, so now what? Do I just tell them to buzz off and let two new characters into my head or what? I have another book I want to write and love the premise, but Avery & Jude (my heroine & hero from the previous story) just won't leave me alone long enough for me to really get caught up in the new one. I'm thinking I just need to go ahead and write a sequel so I can visit Avery & Jude some more, but logically I know I need to move on to a fresh idea just in case Avery & Jude's story doesn't sell.

Have you ever written or read characters who just grab hold of you and won't let go? & if so, what do you do when they won't let go?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Spring into...

By Trish Milburn

While many of us make New Year’s resolutions, I’ve often found it easier to start new projects at the beginning of March. To me, it’s a turning point from the cold winter, when I want to hibernate and consume huge amounts of carbs, to spring, when new life is sprouting out of my flowerbeds and on the limbs of my trees. It just feels like a great time to start a new project, be it daily walks around the neighborhood, mulching those flowerbeds or beginning a new book. It’s also a great month to channel all that spring-inducing energy into seeing how much you can accomplish in one calendar month.

With that in mind, the Wet Noodle Posse is having our own challenge. Today, we’re starting our in-house Spring into Writing month-long challenge where we have to write at least two pages a day and check in with each other nightly to post our progress. Two pages a day isn’t much, but with 31 days in March, we can each end the month with 62 more manuscript pages than we started with. The hope is that once we sit down to write, we’ll go past those two pages and keep writing, producing more pages than that bare minimum. Even if we only wrote 3 pages a day, that’s 99 new pages by the time we turn the calendar to April. For those of us writing books in the 300-page range, that’s a third of a book! That’s my personal goal – 3 pages a day, hopefully more. That will get me through that “muddling middle” of my book that’s always the hardest part to write.

When April 1 rolls around and it’s my day to blog again, I’ll report how we did with our writing challenge. Until then, we challenge you to “spring” into a new goal for this month. Look at those 31 days on the newly-turned-over calendar. What can you accomplish during March? Good luck with whatever you choose to tackle!