Monday, April 30, 2007

New Cozy Chicks blog site!

I am SO happy... the Cozy Chicks blog has a new site! And not only is it beautiful, but I will be able to post on it!

You can find it here.


Oh -- and I had yet another photo session today, this time with a very nice photographer from the Killeen Daily Herald. They'll be featuring me in this Wednesday's Taste section. I hope it went well; Ian kept barreling into me at inopportune moments and removed the clip from my not-particularly-well-styled hair, so we'll see.

Why can't I just get an authorial stand-in for my photos? :)

And I have a few pics from RT to post, but I have to upload them to the other computer and then e-mail them to myself, and I haven't done it yet. Note to self: drop laptop off at MacTronics to get iPhoto reinstalled on my laptop. I am sorry to say that I was too shy to get a shot of the two portly merpeople lounging on a couch, but you can use your imaginations.

Workwise, I spent two hours editing (that's all I had left after making another coffee cake for the photo shoot) and am embarrassed to tell you how far I didn't get. This editing stuff is slow going! Speaking of coffee cake production, this morning, I put a stick of butter in the mixing bowl, stuck it in the microwave, took a phone call, and then proceeded to spend twenty minutes looking for the mixing bowl. And I mean looking: the garage, the back yard, the bathroom, under the beds (I have two imaginative kids, so you never know). I even called Eric and semi-yelled at him for misfiling it.

Then I remembered I'd put butter in the microwave and went to get it. And lo and behold, it was in the mixing bowl.

Okay, off to cook dinner. How's your world?

Friday, April 27, 2007


So I know I've been a bit lax on the posting. But most of the week so far has been taken up scrambling to get ready for the RT conference in Houston. I'm here now, and did my panel this morning (which was fun), and Michele Scott and I just came back from buying 24 bottles of less-than-premium champagne and a big bottle of Aleve at a Fiesta grocery store.

The people behind us in line were intensely curious. As you may be too, come to think of it. But no, it's not that we're raging alcoholics. We're hosting a morning mixer tomorrow morning, and had to get drinks for more than 200 people.

Of course, we didn't tell the folks behind us that. We just left them to wonder...

At any rate, I must say that the world of romance is rather different from the world of mystery, at least as far as conferences go. At Malice, it's all about tea and fancy hats. Here, I have seen dozens of fairy wings, men wearing purple velour stretch leggings, and more than a few folks wearing not much more than their tattoos. And some wonderful titles: my favorites so far include Puss in Boots (the cover did not have cats on it), Merlicious Seven, and -- no I am not making this up -- Heaving Bosoms.

Heavens to Betsy.

And yesterday I put together a big raffle basket for my Howling at the Moon series, with lots of fun little stuff. I went and checked on it today; someone stole the truffles and a pedicure brush from it.

If they were that desperate for chocolate, they're welcome to it; but what were they doing with the pedicure brush AND the truffles? I shudder to think...

In a few hours, I'll be at Murder by the Book. I know I'll see at least a few folks there... if you're in Houston and have the time, do drop by!

Signing off in Romance-Land...


(a half hour later)

I almost forgot my favorite author name.

Aphrodite Porne.

Okay, off to Murder by the Book now...

Monday, April 23, 2007

People who sew

amaze me.

I had to make a pilgrimage to Hancock Fabrics today, in search of a piece of cloth I could turn into an impromptu Abigail Adams hat. (The oral presentation for which I was creating said hat was scheduled for today, not tomorrow, which I discovered when I got home from the store, but oh, well. They rescheduled it.)

So I bought a piece of eyelet (that white stuff with lots of little holes in it), and although I was disappointed not to find a fabric with holes big enough that I could string a piece of ribbon through it without cutting additional holes (like I said, I'm a minimalist crafter), I walked up to the cash register satisfied with my burst of maternal creativity.

And then I noticed that the person behind me in line had six gigunda-spools of blue thread.

"For my serger," she said when I inquired why she needed forty miles of thread. A serger, she then explained (which was very kind), is essentially a sewing machine on steroids.

Since my single previous sewing-at-home experience cost an estimated $350 (sewing machine, lessons, fabric, pins, etc.) and resulted one crooked check jumper that kept falling off my daughter's left shoulder, I long ago decided sewing is something best left to the professionals. And I have never made it through an entire SPOOL of thread, much less one of those fishing-reel-sized wads of cotton this woman was buying.

So I asked her what she did with all that thread.

"I make clothes," she said. "I usually find a pattern and make it in a cheap material, just to see if it works. Then I redo it using the expensive stuff."

That's right. She sews it once -- kind of a trial run -- and then RESEWS it when she's sure she got it right.

I cannot IMAGINE doing something like that. In fact, I can't think of a less pleasant way to spend six months. (Because that's how long it would take me. For the first run.)

I guess I'm not a seamstress. As tempting as those colorful fabrics are, I long ago decided it was much cheaper to buy my clothes already made.

And today, instead of writing, I dug around in the dirt, mulched, and hung up two balls of Praying Mantis eggs. Apparently mantises can catch mosquitoes. We'll see. Dinner was sauteed tilapia with chimichurri sauce, a Mediterranean cut salad, and a nice glass of Pinot Noir. The quality and quantity of my cooking is inversely proportional to the quality and quantity of my writing, I've found.

And I still haven't figured out what to do about my coffee house...

Friday, April 20, 2007

The chair problem

So even though I declared this week a writing sabbatical, my coffee house reopened today, and I had to go check it out.

And I am still reeling from what I found.

In the place of my four brown cushy chairs -- in which I have comfortably written several books -- are three extremely straight-backed, red-velour monstrosities (the tops of the arms are wood -- wood!) and... a chaise longue.

Yes, that's right. A chaise longue.

Which means that unless I am willing to bring a lumbar support cushion (and perhaps a pair of sunglasses -- that fabric is bright), I am going to have to find another coffeehouse.

Maybe this is God's way of telling me it's time to shake things up a bit.

What do you think the odds are that I could convince the owner of Cafe Uno (the place I was raving about yesterday) to put in a few big comfy chairs?


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Double whoops... and missing what's under your nose

Well, I just realized it's Thursday and I once again forgot to post to Cozy Chicks.

Of course, the fact that Blogger still won't let me in to Cozy Chicks makes it a bit tough to post anyway, but what the hey. Fortunately, that should be fixed soon, as we have a new design in the works that I love.

But I didn't come here to post about Cozy Chicks.

Instead, I wanted to talk about my little Italian fantasy.

As I mentioned yesterday, my traditional writing haunt is closed for renovations (although word is it will be open again tomorrow). So a friend of mine e-mailed me and suggested I go a bit further afield and try Cafe Uno, which is owned by a bona fide Italian and serves a great cup of coffee.

Well, I had no idea what I was in for. It was perfect, down to the foamy caffe latte served with little wrapped chocolates and tubes of sugar like you get in Europe. The atmosphere was magical, with the added bonus that everyone was speaking a language I understood. And the pastries are flown in from Milan every three days. Direct!

As I sat there swigging my cappuccino and unwrapping my chocolate, I got to thinking. I live in a great city with lots of wonderful little spots like this one to choose from. I mean, they even have those cute little cafe tables with the metal legs!

But what do I do?

I go to my local you-know-what-bucks, drink my ordinary coffee, and (when I'm not writing) read travel essays that make me dream about cafes EXACTLY like the one just five miles up the road.

How dumb is that?

I used to work in a cubicle and imagine all the wonderful things I would do were I not forced to sit in a cubicle all day. I had many, many, fantasies, including lounging around coffee shops writing deep and pithy novels, going to exotic foreign countries and teaching English, and doing field work in some remote, jungle-esque territory. (All of which were infinitely preferable to trying to write gripping copy about telecommunications widgets from the confines of an oatmeal-colored cube.)

Okay, so maybe I do the writing in coffee shops bit. So far I haven't created the literary equivalent of Great Expectations, but at least I'm doing something I thought about.

Still, though. There are all these wonderful experiences out there, within mere minutes of my house. I know they're out there. And I'm sure I'd enjoy them -- just like I enjoyed the delightful Italian creme-brulee-esque thingamajig my friend bought for me today.

But I never think to.

Why is that?

(I am vowing to make some changes, though. For starters, I'm going to get a lesson -- yes, an actual lesson -- on hairdryer operation tomorrow. Which is sort of embarrassing, but there it is. I'll let you know how that goes.)

Oh, and writing? I did 501 words today. All of which you just read.

Make that 510. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

No, I haven't died.

But I did go home on Monday morning after dropping my son off just so I could lie on the couch in a semi-coma for a few hours.

Which wasn't nearly enough time, in retrospect.

It's one of those pesky little writing troughs, I think; one of those times when edits come in on one book just as you're at the "What the heck am I doing?" stage with another.

The solution to such situations is, of course, large quantities of chocolate, baths, good books and rest.

All of which I've done. Of course, I've also attended an out-of-town signing (which went great), taught a class, attended a critique group, and given a talk at my local library. Which was wonderful, incidentally, because not only did lots of people I like show up, but I met lots of new, interesting people. And signed several books as birthday presents for people. Which was lovely.

But now I'm sitting in my kitchen listening to the classical station, waiting for dinner to finish (baked Greek chicken with couscous and a spinach salad) and sniffing the orange candle I splurged on at Whole Foods this week. And drinking a nice glass of Riesling (NOT a Sam's 'special offer', I'm happy to say).

I haven't written a word this week. Not entirely because my favorite writing spot is closed for a remodel. I choose to view it as synchronicity.

And I may not do any writing, actually. Giving myself a break.

Oops! Timer's going off. Dinner awaits...

How are you?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Magic 101

My five-year-old just walked into the kitchen with a magic wand, pointed it at me, and hollered, "Expecto Patrono!"

I put down the glass I was unloading from the dishwasher and let out a mock scream.

"No," my budding magician said, impatiently. "You're a pimento. You're supposed to walk away now."

(Incidentally, my daughter calls dementors "Dementions." Kind of like detention for the insane.)

I'm off to Remember the Alibi, but will have more time later today (yesterday was the gymnastics drive-a-thon followed by a wine-and-Chinese-food-get-together, so it was less than blog-tastic).

And I just realized I forgot to do my Cozy Chicks thing on Thursday.


Will be back to read, react, and perhaps post again later...

Ciao for now!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

In brief

Long day, just got home... but my web site update should be done by the end of the week, and I have about a gazillion new events listed. There will also be a PDF of the fabulous Longhorn Living insert (it was in yesterday's Daily Texan). I mentioned that I was interviewed by reporter and writer Ashley Moreno last week; she did a great article and put me on the front page, and I'm thrilled.

But now I'm off to take a bath.

Oh, but before I go, we broke the news to Abby today that there's more mole-excision work to be done (she's relieved they're doing it with a general anesthetic, but I'm not so relieved. I like the doctor tremendously, though, and he didn't seem to think I should worry, so I'm not. Not too much, anyway...)

More tomorrow. Oh, and I didn't write today; instead, I got myself a skin check, and am happy to report that I'm free of suspicious moles. In case you were wondering, the Skin Cancer Journal is not the ideal light reading material for when you're sitting in the examining room waiting for a dermatologist to come in and tell you whether you need to have large chunks of skin removed and biopsied.

Have to go before the bath cools too much. (And your comments are great; I'll be back to answer them later tonight or tomorrow. Thanks as always! I love reading them...)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Stupid mortality

I don't often think about it, but the last few weeks, this whole "ashes to ashes" thing just keeps popping up.

And not just because that's all they talked about at the 2-plus hour pre-Easter service last Saturday night. (I think I've done my churchly duties for a year, incidentally.)

I learned today that the lovely and talented writer Elaine Viets (she writes the wonderful Dead-End-Job mysteries) had a stroke two days ago. Initially, the prognosis was dire, but she has since undergone surgery, and things are looking up. The word is that Elaine will be able to write again, but evidently her recovery will be long and difficult.

This thing called life can be pretty terrifying.

My prayers go to Elaine and her family.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Things I have Googled today

1) Home-waxing horror stories. (I love the last one on this page.)

2) Smell-retardant clothing and sprays. (Did you know they even sell odor-control boots? I had no idea.)

3) And finally, the names, habits, and predilections of fallen angels. Of which there are, surprisingly, quite a lot.

All this in the name of research. (Honest, I swear, these are all plot-relevant topics.) And in case you were wondering, no, I am not currently working on the third Gray Whale Inn mystery. That's scheduled to start at the end of June.

And when I was done Googling, I got to join a great group of authors (including fellow Best First nominees Hailey Lind and Sandra Parshall) on a radio show called Murder Must Air, hosted by L.C. Hayden. Who, incidentally, was nominated for an Agatha this year as well. Anyway, the show will be listenable (is that a word?) from the Mystery Writers of America page soon; I'll keep you posted!

P.S. Wrote about 3232 words over the last two days, bringing me up to 45,848. And I'm telling you, the last few days I've just been strapping myself to the laptop and going along for the ride.

Outline? What outline?

P.P.S. I got more good news today, and will share it as soon as I know it's official. And no, I didn't agree to write a fourth book in the next twelve months. I have some shreds of common sense left. Not many, but some.

Hope your days were great, and if you have home-waxing or odor-control-boot stories -- or, come to think of it, direct experience with fallen angels (ex-husbands, perhaps?) -- please do tell.

Ta for now!

Monday, April 09, 2007

I know why they have eggs at Easter!

It's because we're all egg-shaped the day afterwards.

I avoided chocolate (for the most part, anyway -- admittedly there were a couple of bad moments with the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups), but it was a double-ham-dinner day, and I ate so much of the pink stuff I'm afraid I'm going to start oinking soon. (I also drank about six gallons of water to compensate for the salt, and was tempted last night to resort to elastic waistbands.)

But I went for a walk and wrote my words and had a modest lunch today, so I'm feeling slightly more human.

However, I realized half an hour ago that I'm teaching a class tonight, and that I haven't yet come up with the writing exercises I want to assign. So I have to toddle off and do that now.

Before I go, though, reading-wise, I'm on a France kick right now; after working my way through Peter Mayle's latest, which was fun, I picked up Mireille Guiliano's book French Women for All Seasons (I'll post the link later; this browser won't let me do it). I have many, many things to say about that book, but little time at the moment. For now, though, I will say that thank God the French women I've met have little in common with "The French Woman" as described by Ms. Guiliano, or I would have been tempted to throttle them all with their fashionable scarves. (So attractive! So versatile! So potentially lethal!)

Oh -- and I wrote 1700 words today. In case you were counting. :) (I am, but then again, I'm the one with the deadline. Er, deadlines. Three of them, in fact. Gah! Need chocolate...)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Blog hoonage... who knew?

So all of a sudden half the planet is headed to Poisoned Pen Letters... and I couldn't figure out why.

But apparently my little post on car hygiene caught the eye of the folks over at Jalopnik, and they included it in yesterday's "Blog Hoonage" post -- which is, as they put it, an "...early afternoon daily feature highlighting the best and oftentimes unnoticed auto-related content in the blogosphere." Of course, if you'd told me two weeks ago that anything I ever wrote would be featured on a car-related blog, I would have thought you were certifiable.

But there you have it.

And thank you, Jalopnik. Gosh, I'm honored!

Back to the mini eggs now...

Electric Avenue?

Last night, after Susan Rogers Cooper's surprise 60th birthday party (her daughter set the whole thing up, and even ordered a cake that looked exactly like Susan's recently released book Vegas Nerve), I drove my friend and fabulous author Jan Grape home.

Jan, as it happens, lives about 40 miles west of town, and I found myself enjoying the drive through the dark Texas countryside. The highway was flanked by barely glimpsed wildflowers, the flash of fence posts, and the occasional rustic barbecue joint (like Opie's, which Jan tells me is great). The emptiness of it all made me feel like I was far, far away from city life. And the street signs are great: fun, rustic names like "Bob Wire Road" (not barbed wire, mind you), "Haystack Road," and then... quite unexpectedly... "Electric Avenue."

"Electric Avenue?"

Who the heck named a street in the middle of rural Central Texas "Electric Avenue?"

And perhaps more importantly: why?

Was it because the road was the first in the area to have a functioning light bulb? Or is there a renegade early 80s fan lurking among Randy Travis and Patsy Cline lovers? Some lonely woman in love with Eddie Grant, maybe? You can't help but wonder.

One of these days, when it's not 11:00 at night and I'm not almost asleep at the wheel, I'll have to find out what lurks at the end of Electric Avenue.

If I do, I'll let you know.

Oh, and writing? Kids were home yesterday. No writing, but lots of clean laundry. Which is a good thing, b/c in-laws and parents are coming over for dinner, and now that I've done the wash, there are actually places to sit.

And, as I do on Easter Eve every year, I spent a good portion of the day trolling stores for Easter grass; I finally found some at Target, only to come home and discover I'd bought extra last year to avoid having to drive all over town this year.


Of course, I also left Target with three sets of little paper lanterns for the back porch, a new broom, a bathing suit for Abby, several shirts, and a few bags of Cadbury mini eggs. For the kids, of course. Not me.

I need a Target chaperone, I think.

Anyway, I'm off to defend the mini eggs now. I hope you all have a wonderful Easter, and that it involves lots of chocolate!

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I realized today (not incidentally because it was my turn to post) that I neglected to tell everyone about Inkspot, a new blog composed of Midnight Ink authors (and including fellow cozy chick JB Stanley, who may actually have more books to write than me in the next year).

So for today's post, simply click here.

Cheers, and hope your days went well. My word count, in case you were wondering, was nonexistent. But I needed a day off. After all, I get to do taxes this weekend! Can't wait...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Someone's car is worse than mine!

In case you didn't know, I am the proud driver of a minivan, the interior of which is... well, let's just say it's seen better days. This has not, unfortunately, escaped the notice of my extended family; the other day, when I told my son he needed to keep the cap ON the bubbles before getting into car, my charming father said, "But why? It's soap. It can only help."

Har, har, har.

At any rate, as you can imagine, car detailing has been rather low on the list the last several months, behind things like organizing my spice cabinet, doing tons of laundry, blogging, and writing, oh, say, three books in just over a year.

But I do try. Every Friday I lug out the collection of papers and shoes and clothes and as many intact goldfish as I can find. (The upside of all this is that if we were ever stranded somewhere, we'd have pretzels and raisins and goldfish to last us for weeks.)

Nevertheless, I am still a bit sensitive about it.

Which is why my discovery at the Westbank Library today was so marvelous.

It was an older Japanese car, probably from the late 80s, but it wasn't the exterior that caught my attention. It was the interior, the contents of which included (a) an antique magazine rack filled with sun-bleached papers, (b) a wooden arrow, complete with three scraggly feathers, and (c) a hubcap -- that's right, a hubcap, right there on the back seat -- that made it so delightful.

Of course, I didn't want to stare, so I just did a quick visual inventory. But on the way back out, I paused and looked again. There were also seashells, sand, several sunglasses cases, an assortment of books and magazines, a McDonald's bag, two umbrellas, and what might have once been an apple.

It was so satisfying.

How about you? Are you a car neatnik, or more like me?

P.S. I wrote 1600 words today. And am drinking (literarily, anyway) margaritas on the Riverwalk in San Antonio now.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Two Amazing Louises

So I went and had lunch at my daughter's school today, and as it turned out, I came away with more than just a ham sandwich. (Which was delicious, incidentally, with great chewy bread and lots of tomato slices. But that's beside the point.)

You see, the way it works in my daughter's class is that after the kids eat, they read for a while. And today, as I munched on my sandwich and the teachers oohed and aahed over a bunch of bead necklaces one of the other teachers had made, Abby shared two fascinating books with me.

The first was about Louis Braille. I never knew this until this afternoon, but the creator of Braille wasn't born blind. His father was a saddlemaker, with lots of leatherworking tools around, including an awl, with which three-year-old Louis accidentally poked himself in the eye. Unfortunately, this being in the pre-antibiotic era, the eye became infected; then the infection moved to the other eye, and the poor kiddo went blind. And after last week's little melanoma scare, I found myself tearing up just reading about the poor kid and the awl. What an awful accident! How terrible his parents must have felt -- and how helpless! (Louis didn't lead a charmed life afterwards, either; not long after the blinding accident, his family's house was occupied for a couple of years by Russian soldiers. And he eventually died at 43 of tuberculosis.)

But if little Louis hadn't played with that awl and poked himself in the eye, we wouldn't have Braille. And he made a huge difference for hundreds of thousands -- probably millions, actually -- of people despite his obstacles. Heck -- it was because of his obstacles. I mean, what would have happened if his dad had been, say, a dog groomer? Not that they had dog groomers back then, but you get the idea. Then again, if he'd been running with scissors... Oh, never mind.

When we were done with that book, while I was surreptitiously blowing my nose and wiping my eyes (I'm still a little overwrought, it seems), Abby trotted over with another book, which I read over her shoulder. This one was about Louis Armstrong. According to the book, as a child, he found a gun in his house; when he and some friends took it out and fired some celebratory shots into the air, he was arrested, taken from his family, and sent to the Home for Colored Waifs. (Horrifying. Can you imagine?)

But while he was there, someone invited him to join a little band.

And then gave him a bugle.

And the rest, as they say, was history.

So I left the school with a lot of food for thought this afternoon. I'm not usually much of a biography reader, but maybe I should be; it's amazing what can come out of what seem like the worst of circumstances, isn't it? And what a poignant reminder of how fortunate we all are to live when and where we do.

Okay, enough of the heavy stuff. I'm off to take a bath and read Peter Mayle's Provence A to Z while I pretend I'm really living in a gite in Provence. All I need is a glass of marc to complete the illusion. Not that I've ever had marc, or even know what it is (I haven't made it past 'G' yet), but if I don't fall asleep, I should know in the next few hours.

Hope your days were all fabulous, and for those of you who are writing with me, I did manage to write a speedy 1600 words today, clocking in at somewhere over 41,000 words. And I'm excited about the next scene, which is lovely. How's it going with you?

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Romance of Artichokes

I'm just now getting around to posting, as the last few days have been chock-full of writing-related engagements, dinners and lunches with relatives, and (of course) more appointments with the pediatrician. (This time it's Ian, who has a nagging cough.)

Anyway, about a half hour ago I got back from teaching a mystery class on a semi-empty stomach. (I was forced to eat Doritos, which I love, but which are horrible for me.) When I came home, I was craving vegetables, so I rooted through my pantry and located a can of artichoke hearts. They're packaged by a Mexican outfit called Luna Rossi, with the intriguing tagline "Romance you can taste."

(Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen. We're talking ARTICHOKES. Granted, they're artichoke HEARTS, but still.)

Anyway, I ate the whole can, even though they were disappointingly spotty (despite the promise of being canned "eight hours or less after picking") and more than a bit choky (that wiry hairy stuff). So now my mouth feels like I've been chewing on acid-laced Brillo pads. And if that's what romance tastes like, I'll pass, thank you very much.

But enough about artichokes. I wrote 1400 words or so today, and plan to make up the 100 words I missed tomorrow. I long ago left the outline I made, and am hoping that the new road I'm forging will lead somewhere interesting and in some way related to the beginning of the book. We shall see. And in the meantime, things are moving ahead full-steam on the third Gray Whale Inn mystery, despite the fact that I haven't had a lot of time to think about it. I have decided that this whole two-series thing would be much easier if I had multiple-personality disorder.

At any rate, it's time to de-choke myself with a toothbrush and hit the sack. Sweet dreams everyone, and I'll be back tomorrow!