Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dazzling Sunrise

I saw it this morning--the sky ablaze with the beginnings of a fresh, new day--but not to worry. I had a good night's sleep, and I'm over the jet lag. As many of you know, getting up very early is normal behavior for me. Journal time. Quiet time with the dogs. And coffee! Lots and LOTS of coffee.

Yesterday I did what I call a line-by-line rewrite on the new book, "Dylan". Covered the first half, anyway. Today, I will do the other half. This just means I read through the story, watching for typos, inconsistencies, etc., and changing them. It's not hard work--in fact, it's fun. The story had a chance to 'settle' while I was in London with Sally, and as I read it, I'm more certain than ever that you're going to LOVE it, just as I do. You'll be able to meet the Creeds early next year--"Logan" in February, "Dylan" in March, and "Tyler" in April. I can hardly wait! I'm told the covers are going to be fabulous--I haven't seen them yet, but maybe I will at BEA this weekend.

Next on the writing docket is "Tyler", followed by a new historical romance tentatively titled "Stone Creek Bride". For those of you who read "A Wanted Man", this is Gideon's book. In between, this October, will come "The Rustler", which is Rowdy's brother Wyatt's story. All this sounds complex, I suppose, to people who haven't read any of the Stone Creek books. Not to worry. Each one is a complete, stand-alone story, and you can jump in anywhere. :) After THAT, I'll be doing another Silhouette Special Edition, a sequel to this December's "A Stone Creek Christmas" ("Ashley's Christmas") AND another Christmas story, to be published as a gift hardcover, like "A McKettrick Christmas", scheduled for this fall. People often ask me where I get my ideas--and the answer is, I don't really know. As you can see, though, I have no lack of them--it's all I can do to catch up with the ones I already have!

I concentrate on creating good characters, ones I can really identify with, on a lot of different levels. As I get to know them, the story seems to unfold. I begin to understand what they'd do in given situations because of who they are--and I put them in those situations. :)

"Stone Creek Bride" is a good example. Until yesterday, when I wrote a brief outline because my publishers are already planning the cover, all I knew about this book was that it would be about Gideon, and a certain young lady who appears with him in an earlier story. That was it, although that's a LOT, really, because I know all about Stone Creek and the people who live there, after "The Man from Stone Creek", "A Wanted Man", and "The Rustler". A certain amount of the structure was already there, which is one of the beauties of writing a series. Beyond a very simple beginning, though, (Gideon receiving an important letter), I was clueless. But I still had to accomodate the art folks at Harlequin (who do their jobs brilliantly in my opinion) so I sat down at the computer and started. And the story was just THERE, flowing out of my imagination. Now, I'm very eager to write it.

Beyond all this, I'm planning "The Texas McKettricks", a new trilogy about the Lone Star State branch of the family. These hot cowboys are descended from one of Jeb McKettrick's younger sons--a rebel who left home to take over another family ranch, near San Antonio. And also, of course, the Civil War books...

Where do I get my ideas?

Heaven only knows. But I'm grateful as all get-out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Isle of Flags

Yesterday, I drove to Grand Coulee, Washington, to attend the annual Memorial Day flag ceremony at the local cemetery, along with a significant number of family members, including my stepmother, Edith Lael, aunts Donna and Wanna, brother Jerry and wife Anna, and their children, Jerome, Chyanne and Sydney, my sister Sally (she of the London/Paris jaunt) and her husband, Jim. Other friends and family members were there, too.

Arriving at the cemetery, we were greeted with the stirring sight of hundreds of flags, waving brilliantly against a deep blue sky. Each one represents a veteran, and there were a few Canadian flags, too. A military color guard presented the flag, and Boy Scouts demonstrated the proper folding of Old Glory, while a narrator gave the meaning of each fold.

Dad's flag was being dedicated, so we all gathered when our turn came, standing under it and remembering our own dear soldier. Dad served in World War 2, in the Pacific. He was a Marine, among the landing forces at Iwo Jima, riding ashore on an amphibious tractor. Quite a feat, considering he couldn't swim and people were being shot all around him.

He always said, "Freedom isn't free." His generation paid a high price for our way of life, as have soldiers before and after--and right now.

If you see a soldier, tell him or her 'thank you', if only in the quiet of your heart. We owe them so much.

Friday, May 23, 2008

It's All Good

It seems my mind has finally crossed all those time zones to catch up with my body. :) Whoop-de-do, I'm back in the saddle again. All systems GO!

My good feeling about weighing in last night was right on--I lost 1.6 pounds, after two international flights, fish and chips in London, and whatever it was I ate in Paris. I was thrilled--even maintaining would have been great. Weight Watchers has two plans--Core, which means eating from a list of certain foods, not as restrictive as it sounds, and Flex, in which you get a certain number of points per day, based on your weight and height, etc. You get an extra 35 "flex points" per week, too, but I never use them--I always hit a plateau if I do. Anyhow, my knowledgeable WW leader pointed out that I had used a modified version of the Core plan, and that was probably why I lost. (That and walking for miles, despite copious uses of trains, the underground, and those lovely British cabs.) Useful information; now I will know to go for the Core plan on the road.

Speaking of the road, I'm off again soon, to L.A. I'll be seeing My Daughter the Screenwriter :) and hobnobbing with book sellers, wholesalers and my buddies from Harlequin. They always entertain lavishly, but I only have to keep one word in mind. CORE.

Make it a good weekend.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cleo and Me

Ok, I have jet lag, and what else could I do but go to the casino? You sit and drink coffee, mindlessly pushing a button, and watching the wheels spin. Imagine my surprise when the Queen of the Nile came through with a jackpot during the bonus round. :)

Actually, I wasn't that surprised. I win a lot of jackpots. I'm just a lucky ole cowgirl, I guess.

We have sunshine this morning, and the horses are out in the pasture, nibbling spring grass and happy as horses can be. They're all muddy--if you saw them, you'd wonder why I don't hose them down. Answer: they would immediately roll in the mud, and it's still a little too cold.

In about a week, I'll be heading out again, for BEA (Book Expo America) and taking assistant/niece Jenni with me. Daughter Wendy and her future husband, Jeremy, will join us there. They'll be prowling the expo while I sign books, looking for celebrities. :) Last year, as you may remember, I accidentally stumbled on Dog the Bounty Hunter and wife, Beth. (She has the most beautiful skin I've ever seen. Dog looked like--well-- DOG.)

Big things are going on in Wendy's screenwriting career, by the way. She was mentioned in yesterday's issue of "Variety". In a few years, I think most of my celebrity spotting will take place in her living room!

The lilacs are calling, but I don't think I can bear to cut any. So I'll just go down there and stick my nose into the bush. (Now there's a picture for you.)

Weight Watchers tonight. I'm expecting positive results. :) If you're struggling with a weight problem, as I have most of my adult life, I highly recommend you consider WW. It really ISN'T a diet, but a lifestyle.

I'm eager to get back to work, but still pretty worn out. I made it to 3:30 this morning, and went back to bed.

It's all good, here on the ranchette. Hope it's the same wherever you are.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2:30 AM AGAIN!

Yeesh. I can't wait for this jet lag to get over! On the other hand, I had lots of quiet time to drink coffee and journal and do a background for a new collage I'm planning. I'm just not getting any work done. (Sorry, Joan. Next week, I promise!)

Although the rain continues, I'm not complaining. The purple and white lilacs are blooming, and the peonies are getting ready to burst open. In London, I had peonies in the hotel room the whole time--lovely pink ones, fanning out to the size of bread plates. Not having a vase large enough to accommodate them, Sally hit on the idea of using the trash basket, and it worked like a charm.

Today is Sally's birthday. Happy birthday, Sally-girl! Hope you're not suffering from jet lag like your big sister. :)

Tomorrow is weigh-in night at Weight Watchers. I'm looking forward to it!

Now, I think I'll pick some lilacs. They look fabulous in a plain Mason jar.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hello, Wall

Well, I woke up at 2:30--AGAIN--and puttered with my art work for a while. Even the dogs were still asleep!

I'm a seasoned world-traveler, but I've been out of the loop for a while, and I'd forgotten about jet-lag. Therefore, I was unprepared when it hit me like the proverbial Mack truck.

It's raining today, so I don't think the barometric pressure is helping me, either. Alas. We need the water to make our lovely countryside green, and life goes on. A load of hay is arriving this morning for the horses. I will light the fireplace, make a cup of the wonderful English tea I brought home from London, and settle in to give "Dylan" one more pass through. Maybe later, when my work is done, I'll make more ATCs.

There's something cozy about a rainy day. It makes me especially grateful for a snug home, a good roof, and English tea. :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Home Again and Up Early

I imagine yesterday's nine hour flight from London to Seattle, followed by picking up the (very heavy) bags after Customs and rechecking them for the flight home to Spokane, will catch up with me at some point! I literally FELL into bed last night, after a frenzied welcome home party thrown by the dogs. :) Sadie tried to get up a lively game of "frog"--I throw the frog AND fetch it, she has me well-trained--but I had no energy for that. Finally, she and Bernice and the kitties and I all snuggled down for a two-dog, two-cat night. Frankly, I fully expected to sleep until noon, but I woke at four-thirty and that was it. I was up, journaling. Drinking coffee. Transporting dogs from one floor to another.

The trip was a wonderful, restorative experience--a genuine HOLIDAY (that's for you, Sal), but the best part of it was all that one-on-one laughter and catch-up time with my sister, Sally. I expected to look out for her, since this was her first trip to Europe, but instead, she looked after me. She carried heavy bags and hoisted things in and out of the overhead (she's nearly ten years younger, after all) and made sure I didn't step in front of any cabs or buses. She's a very good traveling companion, and we're looking forward to more trips like this one.

Today, I probably won't do anything extremely ambitious. In fact--I see it in my crystal ball--there's a nap in my immediate future. Along with a trip to Walmart for lots of fresh vegetables and program-friendly food. A little art work, perhaps. And maybe even some slot machines. We visited a casino in London, for about 20 minutes. Just couldn't work up any real interest in slot machines, with that great city all around us.

I enjoyed our day in Paris, but London is still hands-down my favorite international city. I know my way around, since I lived there on and off for two years, but there's always room for a new adventure. They've changed the cabs--they still have that lovely roundish shape, but they're smaller and lighter and much more "green". The English are way ahead of us, when it comes to taking measures to protect the environment. They also have a lot of holistic remedies and vitamins you don't see in the States--I came home with a suitcase load of those, as well as tea from Harrods. I visited my old street address--19 Hans Place, right behind Harrods--and I must confess I felt a certain nostalgia for the lovely times I had there, and all the friends and family who visited. I even considered leasing another flat, but reason soon returned. My life is so full, and I couldn't put Sadie and Bernice through a trip like that, nor could I leave them for any significant amount of time. So the 19 Hans Place Days are a delicious memory, one I will always treasure.

Will I be making more international trips now that I've gotten my feet wet, so to speak? You betcha. A week or 10 days at the outside, since I can't go any longer than that without my critters, but there are still a lot of places I want to see. Some I've never been to, others would be a return journey.

Travel broadens the mind. It certainly happened for me. Fortunately, it did NOT broaden my butt as well. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Heading on Home

They say the best part of any trip is coming home again, and I'm sure that's true. I'm definitely looking forward to: the critter greeting (Sadie gets so excited she can't contain herself; runs madly around kitchen and then sticks her head in the dogbed to muffle her barks. Bernice just scrabbles at my legs until I pick her up so she can lick my face. Also, my own bathtub, and my own bed, and my own computer.

I think I've done pretty well from a Weight Watchers standpoint. We've walked miles, and though I didn't even TRY to count points, I made a point of never eating more than half of any meal. I'm not sure I'm actually skinnier--but I feel as if I am.

Of course, I'll be traveling again very soon--to BEA at the end of the month, and in the South, with cousin Doris, in mid-June. That's the first of two Civil War tours I have booked this year. In between, more books to write! I've finished Book 2 of the Montana Creeds series: DYLAN and will be starting Book 3, TYLER, as soon I can.

Will jump off now. Cheers!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Portobello Road

Sally and I were up and ready to go early this morning--destination: Portobello Road! The weather is a bit drizzly today; as in, very Londonish. We caught a cab to the famous street market and did we ever find treasures. Cigarette cards, which I intend to use as ATCs. Gifts for friends and family. Postage stamps galore! (Also for ATCs) I bought a beautiful journal, imported from India, and many other fabulous things.

I didn't get back to the business center yesterday to write the promised blog, so I'll catch you up a bit. We visited the London Eye first, soaring above the city on what I can only describe as a giant ferris wheel, very slow-moving. We took tons of pictures. After that, we visited Westminster Abbey, and then Buckingham Palace. From there, we walked down to St. James' and took each other's pictures with Beefeaters--the soldiers in the red suits and tall hats. (I didn't even know you could do this, after countless trips to London--my niece Sam had seen it on Passport to Europe, which I shall be TIVOing as soon as I get back home.

We've shopped until we very nearly dropped, and now we're trying to cram everything into suitcases.

We leave tomorrow, so I will blog sometime on Monday.

Pip-pip and cheerio, old beans!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rainy Day in London

Paris was--Paris. We had beautiful weather, and saw all the important sites. We lunched at the requisite sidewalk cafe, rode buses and cabs all over the city, and bought souvenirs. We sent post cards--Sally hiked what seemed like miles to find a post office. (She's almost a decade younger--I make her do all the schlepping!)

On the train back to London, the couple in the seats across from ours progressed from a mild business relationship to heavy romance, all in 2 hours and 10 minutes. In the station, Sally spotted Minnie Driver, live in person. I was looking the other way and all I caught was a flash of a famous smile and a toss of lovely dark hair.

We had the most wonderful time, but we were really wiped out when we finally got back to the hotel. British Museum and Westminster Abbey today--more later.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Greetings from London Town

Amazing! With Sally's help, I have managed to get online to blog! It is nearly 5 pm here, and we had quite a full day shopping--we started at Warr's Harley Davidson, where my sister the biker chick stocked up on shirts, etc. After that, we shopped in the King's Road, Chelsea, and did we ever have a ball. We bought all sorts of cool stuff at Boot's--love the homeopathic remedies. We visited LUSH, the exquisitely decadent bath supply shop, and a Chinese herbal place. We're rising VERY early tomorrow for a day trip to Paris. Suffice it to say, the trip is a success. I visited the coolest art supply house ever.

More after PARIS.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Countdown to London!

Tomorrow! I can't believe it! I'm actually getting on a British Airways jet tomorrow and flying to one of my all-time favorite cities! And Sister Sal is going with. It doesn't get any better.

Today, I will finish drafting "Dylan", and what an adventure this book has been! I'm planning to do the revisions when I get home--just let the story cool off for a week. (Trust me, anything with Dylan Creed in it is HOT.) In fact, the pages sizzle when I touch them!

Good news at Weight Watchers last night--I've now "released" (you're not supposed to say "lost", because then you'll try to find it again :))--ta-da! 20 pounds. (That whinnying you hear in the background is my horses, looking forward to a lighter-Linda summer!) I've still got a ways to go, but truth to tell, I love eating WW style. I decide what I'm going to eat the night before, write it in my food journal, and forget it. That way, I'm not constantly obsessing about what I will eat. And I feel so good--more energy, etc.

If possible, I will send at least one blog from the hotel business center computer. Since I'm not exactly a techno-wiz, this is a crap shoot. :)

"A Wanted Man" is doing GREAT. Thank you, pardners.

Back the 18th, so if I don't manage to pipe you a message before then, look for the first episode in the travelogue on the 19th.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

My Pet Joys

"Pet" being the operative term, most of the time. :)

You hear so much these days about pet peeves. I'd rather list a few of my favorite things:

My dogs, with sunlight in their fur.
My cats, cuddling close to give me cat-Reiki when I'm under the weather.
The horses, running and kicking up their heels in the pasture.
Macaroni and tomatoes
Weight Watchers' Key Lime Pie
Making ATCs
Playing with polymer clay--especially making image transfers
Getting new art supplies via UPS
My Cricut machine--whiz bang, what a dandy tool!
Reading other peoples' books :)
Studying the Civil War
Visiting ANY book store
Ditto any craft store
Going to the movies on cloudy afternoons
Mini series like "John Adams"
Peonies in bloom (not yet, but coming soon to a garden near you!)
Laughing until I cry
Hot baths with bubbles
Red wine
Going back to London, after many years away
The Park Lane Hotel
High Tea
The British Museum
The flower shops on every corner--color spilling everywhere you look
Choosing and sending post cards
Finding that special memento for that special someone
Time with my Sister Sally
I could go on. (And on.)
But I have a book to finish.
Oh, yeah. Finishing a book!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I'm So Late...

(You: "How late are you???")

Me: So late, I almost didn't get here at all! This book, I'm telling you, is wearing me out. These Creed men are BEYOND wild. I expect to finish the story ("Dylan") tomorrow, and do some last minute polishing on Friday morning. Today, I'm getting a new crown put on one of my teeth (I'd rather have one that went on my head), and since I slept so late, I'll probably be pulling a swing shift this time.

It doesn't help that a lovely box of metal shrines, etc., arrived from Silvercrow Creations today. My head is just buzzing with ideas--but Dylan and Kristy must come first. And Kristy was in a very dangerous situation yesterday when I finished, so I can't just leave the poor girl in suspended animation. So the SC goodies will have to wait.

Rats. It's my Gemini nature. If ONLY I could be in two places at once. :)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Writing and Visual Arts

Yes, Virginia, there is a connection.

There are those who wonder why I mess around with glue and paper at all, when I can command significant money for spending the same amount of time writing. A logical question, I suppose, but painfully obvious to the terminally creative. :) Visual art stokes up the old idea machine in ways that often surprise me. I have come to believe, even a short distance into this particular journey, that my collage and polymer clay work ARE, in some difficult to define way, integral parts of the writing process.

I wax philosophical today because I'm nearing the end of yet another book--"Dylan", (Book 2 in the Montana Creeds series, to be published next spring.) While I'm always happy to be finished, so I can start a new story, there is some letting go involved, too. I've spent a lot of time with these characters, and learned to love them, and even though the book will be in print for a good many years, most likely, this is still a good-bye. I've compared it often to sending a beloved child off to college--you've worked hard to prepare them for progressive degrees of independence, but you still have to stand in the driveway or the airport and smile bravely as they leave. Sure, they come back for visits, and books do, too, given the pre-publication process, etc., but not to stay. And things are never quite the same as they were.

On the bright side, Tyler and his lovely Lily await, ready to tell their story. (Book 3--Book 1 is "Logan"). When I get home from London, I will rest for a few days, and then dive in.

In London and Paris, I will no doubt make magical discoveries--Portobello Road is a favorite source of collage elements--and these collages, in turn, will awaken new ideas, new insights.

Have I mentioned lately that I absolutely love my crazy, mixed-up, glue-sticky life???

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Gloriously Messy Weekend

Glue everywhere. Bits of colorful paper. Inkjet transparencies. Oh, I was in my ATC making element this weekend, all right. I don't get a cut from any of these people, but in case you're interested in my favorite suppliers for artistic reasons of your own, here they are: (these people have really unique things--nichos and shrines, etc., and some great rubber stamps.)

I'm so excited, because I'm finishing "Dylan" this week, and off to London on Saturday. Sally and I will be taking the chunnel over to Paris, too. I'm making an art journal to commemorate the trip--hence a makeup bag full of tiny watercolors, a glue stick, some scissors (in checked baggage, of course), a supply of blank ATCs. What fun this will be, chronicling the day-to-day journies and discoveries. I'm reading "Neuro-Linguistic Programing for Dummies" on the plane. (I know a little about NLP, but a little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing.) I've been honing my Silva skills, too. (If you're curious, it's called the Silva Method--run a search and you'll find it.) I've had some interesting successes with this meditation/visualization skill, and I will tell you more when I have some definitive results to report.

Alas, the gloriously messy weekend is over. :) Time to push up my sleeves and dive into the story.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Chatter from Spokane

It is DEFINITELY spring! It hasn't snowed in--oh--three days? :)

I went to lunch with my cousin, Kathy Bannon, yesterday. It's always good to see Kathy.

And I was down 5.2 pounds at Weight Watchers last night! Yeehaw! Of course that was two weeks' worth--I missed last week's meeting because I had just gotten home from the Levy shindig in Chicago.

I'm writing today, and will probably revise over the weekend and play with my many and varied art supplies. The casino is out. Too boring over there for this cowgirl and, anyhoo, the weather is way too beautiful to be shut up in some smokey place!

"A Wanted Man" is out there. I've got to confess, that surprised me. I thought it was coming out at the end of May, not the end of April! So far, that cover is my all time favorite. Since those Harlequin folks keep outdoing themselves, though, I'm expecting even better covers in the future! I surely hope "A Wanted Man" will whet your appetite for the next installment of the Stone Creek series, "The Rustler." That's coming in October. (I think. :)) Translation: last week in September. The hero is Wyatt Yarbro, Rowdy's older brother, a reformed outlaw with a heart of gold. His lady, Sarah, can hold her own with him for sure, and that's saying something, with these Yarbro men.

I am preparing to travel. London! I haven't been there since before September 11 and I'm eager to see the old favorite places again. Portobello Road, here I come! In June, I'm taking the Blue and Gray tour, based out of Manassas, Virginia, with my cousin Doris, who is an active member of the Daughters of the Confederacy and a positive fount of good information. (Before the June trip, though, is Book Expo America in L.A. Fun, fun, fun!).

Sometimes I think my office/bedroom is full of Civil War soldiers, on foot and horseback, I spend so much time on research! Don't think I'm complaining--the whole situation fascinates me. Just the other night, I'd swear Robert E. Lee rode through, on the legendary horse, Traveller, both of them so covered in mud that you couldn't tell where man and horse met.

I can hear you now. Cowgirl, you're probably saying, you NEED a vacation!

I definitely need a weekend, and I intend to have one. Hope it's the same for you.