Monthly Archives: January 2013

Know your limitations! Better yet, hire someone

My BFF—although when we met years ago in the church nursery, we didn’t call ourselves this—recently celebrated an important wedding anniversary. Her children planned a surprise for Betty and Chuck. All their friends were asked to make a quilt square and one of the wives would stitch them together. How much fun, I thought. How easy and cheap.

Ha! I spent nearly seventy dollars on creating that 10” X 10” piece of cotton, expended hours coming up with the design and putting the square together, and it ended up looking as if our cats found a box of crayons and some glue and made a mess.

For that reason and to save you the heartbreak, let me give you some tips if you are ever asked to do this.

1) PLAN I ended up with three different ideas and purchased the supplies for each. That’s what cost so much and took up so much time.

2) KEEP IT SIMPLE My final idea was a montage of events and groups she and I had shared, an homage to the past, nostalgic and heartwarming. However, I had too much detail. If I’d stuck with only a few ideas, there would not have been the big black smear or the messy iron-ons.

3) KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS I’m a writer not an artist. I probably should have written a reflection on all we did together and my memories of my friend and her husband and glued it on the square. I could have printed it off on colored paper. The whole project would have been cheaper and prettier and without the black smear.

4) And this is the one I really recommend: Hire someone to do this for you.

Fortunately, Betty loved the square. At least she said she did. That makes up for the time and money and makes me happy.  (PS, that is NOT Betty and Chuck’s  quilt but that is our cat.  I’m donating this quilt–made by my gandmother nearly a century ago–to Brenda Hiatt’s auction for a cure for diabetes.)

I Hate to Confess, But. . .

Several months ago, I confessed something:  I am not a flexible person.  This was a sad realization because I’d always considered myself to be open to new opportunities, unafraid of change.

Alas, this isn’t true.  Today, that problem I attempt to ignore was savagely reinforced.

At noon,  I reached into the cabinet to get a plate for George’s lunch.  When I looked at the one I’d brought down, I realized I’d grabbed the hamburger plate.  Yes, that’s right.  I have a hamburger plate.  Actually, two:  one for each of us.  His is gold—because he likes mustard—and mine is orange because I don’t.

I put the plate back on the shelf, right above my breakfast plate.  Yes, I have a breakfast plate.  In fact, I also have a breakfast fork, an old salad fork that has survived for thirty years, the only surviving part of that set.

What would happen if I didn’t use my breakfast fork or plate?  Or if I served a sandwich on the hamburger plate?  I don’t even want to consider that.  The thought makes me shiver.

How did this inflexibility begin?  When did I start having a breakfast plate and two back backup breakfast plates?

And, of course, there’s always that toilet paper thing.

What about you?  Do you have a certain way you have to do things?   Do any of your foibles this bother those you live with?  Can you laugh at yourself about these?  If you share, I’ll feel so much better.  Maybe even normal.



Readers often ask, “Where do your ideas come from?”   Today I’m guest blogging at Infinite Characters about how Adam Jordan came to live.  Hope you’ll drop by.

And you can sign up for a drawing for a free book! 

What happens to research when it doesn’t end up in a novel?

We used to live in Buchanan Dam, TX, a town of three hundred about ninety miles northwest of Austin in Llano County.  Twenty miles further west of our house on highway twenty-nine,  every fall a pair of bald eagles built a nest in a large tree about fifty yards from the highway.  This used to be the furthest west nest (sorry about that rhyme) in the United States.   The site became so popular, the county had to put in an off-road parking area.

What I learned both from that nest and reading is that eagles mate for life and that they return to the same nest every year to lay eggs.  The most interesting fact I read was that every year they add to the nest—branches, straw, anything they find.  After a few years, the nest may weight one-hundred pounds or more. 

I write this because I’m going to Buchanan Dam today to eat lunch with a former neighbor and her book club.  As I write this, I remember the sight of those adult eagles watching over those fuzzy headed little one that peeked over the edge of the nest from time to time, and I remember the sight of the adults against the horizon as they glided on the air currents. 

And I also write this because I researched the eagles’ nests for my novel Second Chance Bride.  In that romance, I was able to use the in to use the information about mating for life but that huge, heavy nest didn’t fit in.  Not a bit romantic for the hero to share that information.  However, I hate to let research got to waste so I’m using it here.   

What happens to research that didn’t make its way into a novel?  I blog about it. 

Cat Grass: a love story

I’ve mentioned what wonderful presents George comes up with.  For Christmas, he gave  the cats a Chia cat grass planter.   Please note:  this was not catNIP.  Scooter has what we in the family tactfully call a “catnip problem.” 

Once the grass had grown to three inches, we put it on the end table and took pictures.   First Scooter, then Maggie–because she is never allowed to do anything before her brother has checked it out–investigated the grass and sampled it.  They truly love cat grass. 

However, Scooter is not a neat eater.  In the last picture, here’s what the end table looked like once he’d pulled his share of the cat grass out.

No new year’s resolutions here

I don’t make new year’s resolutions for three reason.   I could probably dredge up more if I really wanted to explain away my lack of resolution about resolutions, but here are the ones I can think of.

1)  I don’t want to.

2)  I don’t remember to.

3)  No one keeps them.

Okay, the first two are self-explanatory so I will delved quickly into the third.  I once belonged to a work-out place for four years.   What long-time members hated was January because the gym was flooded with new members and became so crowded no one could get close to the machines or the weights or find a place in the exercise classes.   However, we knew that after the fifteenth, the number there would be cut in half.  We also knew that by February, for the most part it would be only us long-timers and a sprinkling of the dedicated resolvers. 

My belief is if I’m determined enough to do something, I SHOULD start immediately, not that I do.  If not, if it’s a gimmick like the new year, no resolution will last long.  Any one have a different opinion?  Did you make any resolutions you’d like to share with us?

The ugliest Christmas present ever

Before Christmas, I asked for your suggestion for a special present for George.  I told you what a great guy he is and what wonderful presents he gets me but I always fall short.  You came up with wonderful ideas.

For that reason, I’m so ashamed to tell you what I gave him.  Oh, there was salami, which he loves, and a bunch of soup mixes and chocolate.  And there were also. . . the sheets.

Do you know how hard it is to find an interesting set of sheets for a queen-sized bed?   I’m really tired of stripes and flowers and dots or plain.  A few years ago, I found a set of NASCAR sheets which were fairly macho.  Not that either of us watch NASCAR or cheer for Jeff Gordan but they had a different pattern and were cheap.

Just before Christmas, I found a great set of unique sheets.  They were very cheap, one of my prime reasons to buy because I really hate to spend money.  They were colorful–okay, pink and raspberry usually isn’t considered at masculine color–and had foxes in the colorful squares.  Foxes are macho, right?   Well, I thought they were foxes until I got home and put on my glasses.  Instantly and with a deep feeling of remorse, I discovered the creatures were not foxes,  They were skulls.  What I’d thought were little fox ears was a bow.  I have no clue why these skulls were wearing bows.  Oh, yes, and there were bones crossed under the skulls.  Macabre describes the pattern best but they only cost $12.00.  Hey, worth that, right?  For a set of sheets.

In the picture on the right, you see the true beauty of the gift:  the squares in raspberry and pink make nice and fairly straight lines.  However, you can’t see the skulls that I’d mistaken for foxes.

So, here a picture of the pattern up really close. 

Okay, is this the ugliest Christmas present ever?  Do you have an uglier one to share?  What’s you opinion.  Does George deserve an apology from me?  Do the skulls look at all like foxes to you?  And why are they wearing bows?  Does this make them girl skulls?

Everything I learned about writing I learned on TiVo: Hooks

My husband says I am probably the greatest TiVo-er who has ever lived.   If I want to skip a commercial when I replay my programs, I know exactly when to begin to fast forward  because, immediately before the commercial, there is a hook, something that will bring you back to the program even if you’re slurping down a huge dish of ice cream on have taken  a potty break.  Whatever gets you to keep watching, to stay with or come back to the television is the hook.  Try it yourself—if you are nearly as good a TiVo-er as I am, you recognize the hooks at the end of a section but you may not have realized that’s the hook.  Look for it and learn from it.

On NCIS, it’s easy.  The picture freeze, the color changes to black and white, and the view wonders, “Why does he have that look on his face?”.  If the action or line makes the watcher helped wonder, it’s a hook.   When the action or the line brings the viewer back, that’s a successful hook. 

In Psych,  the program always begins with something Sean’s father, a retired cop, taught Sean when he was a kid.  The hook is the viewer wonders how Sean uses that to catch the criminal.

The hook is often a question, this one from CSI New York. “How did the only man who was not in the fight end up dead?”

Here are a few end of the chapter hook bys some of my favorite writers and some I’ve written to illustrate the point.  You will notice those by my favorite authors are good.  In my opinion, these two nearly force me to keep reading.

Harley Jane Kozak A Date You Can’t Refuse   “It actually helped having a plan of sorts and two people who knew what I was up to. . .  The comfort didn’t last.  It may have been an ocean breeze wandering a few blocks inland, but I was cold suddenly, and I found myself looking around, feeling as if someone was watching me.”

Rhys Bowen Her Royal Spyness   “I picked something from my skirt.  It was a piece of strong black thread. . .It dawned on me that someone could have strung it across the top of those steps. . .My attacker was indeed in the house with me.”

I love romantic suspense.  Obviously the two examples above are from RS.  Hooks in RS are easier to write because there’s suspense in the book.

But I’m not going to stop with that.  Come back the first Tuesday in February for more on hooks–if, of course, I remember.