Thursday, March 31, 2011

The News from My Kitchen Table

Today we have cloudy skies and the promise of wind, wind and more wind. I was up early this morning for a radio interview, and I've been watching the big trees sway back and forth to their own kind of music. My niece, Kelly Lael, is coming to town, and I'll get to see her, so I'm tickled pink about that. I don't see enough of Kelly, as she lives on the other side of the country and has a responsible government job that makes us all proud. As usual, the better part of today will be dedicated to writing--so near to the finish line!--and I'll probably play around with art supplies at some point, too. I'm a little bummed that I can't make it to Artfest after all, but that's life. There are just too many other things that have to get done. Maybe next year. I want to get a solid start on the new series, set in Parable, Montana. "A Creed in Stone Creek" is still enjoying a great run--5th week on the New York Times bestseller list. Conner's book, "Creed's Honor", will be out the last Tuesday in May, and Brody's, "The Creed Legacy", a month later, in June. I'm sure anxious for you to meet the rest of this rough-and-tumble outfit. :) Mom emailed, after reading yesterday's blog (Hi, Mom) and said Dad traded a load of firewood for the radio I mentioned. Times were tough back then, and the folks did without a lot of things we take for granted today, but I can't help wondering if I'll remember my first iPod or any other fancy electronic gadget the way I remember that radio. Time to make coffee and get on with the day. We're burnin' daylight, after all.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


For some reason, this infernal machine doesn't want to indent for separate paragraphs. Hence today's solid block of a post. :)

No News is Good News

That's the way it's working out around here, anyway. It would seem that I've broken the morning-news habit, at least as far as TV goes. I do enjoy listening to certain radio stations over my beloved iPad--maybe because it reminds me of my childhood. Our family had TV, in the latter part of the fifties, anyway, but it wasn't so in-your-face as it is now. There were only three channels to choose from, after all, and a fourth that was always too snowy to watch. In the early morning, folks switched on the tabletop radio, made of luxurious post-War plastic (I remember being fascinated by the design of the dial, which had diamond-shaped indents), and took in the 'farm report', the weather forecast, and other useful information. How the world has changed, between livingroom radios the size of cabinets, and the iPod nano,which is no larger than a watch face. Makes a person wonder what's next, doesn't it? The dreary weather continues, but I'm feeling pretty good, and eager to write. Today's recommended book is "The Paris Wife", by Paula McLain. It's a novel about Hemingway's first marriage, the wild years in Europe, etc. It is so beautifully written, and so compelling, that I'm tempted to listen to it all over again. In short, I loved it. I made chicken soup yesterday, instead of split pea. It's good for what ails you, that stuff. That's the news, my friends. Tune in tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

Come again some never day. Just kidding. Of course I know how much we need the rain, but I'm sure looking forward to growing, thriving things, and sunshine. Bring on the summer magic. It's a split pea soup kind of day. Maybe I'll throw together a batch of that. And I'll write. That's even better than the pea soup. :) And that, such as it is, is the news.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hitch in My Get-Along

I pulled a muscle in my lower back on Saturday morning, either setting down or picking up the dogs' water dish, I can't remember which. Not bad enough to go to the ER, thank heaven, but it sure did cramp my style. Since I don't have much to say today that doesn't constitute whining and complaining (oh, woe is me), I posted a close-up shot of the sunflower I've been noodling with. Almost time to bite the bullet, put it up on eBay, and let the chips fall where they may. Yikes. Since my office chair is cushy and supports my back, I plan to plunk myself down in it and write my way through this rainy Monday. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful. There is much more in my life that's going right, and we all have our challenges. That's the news.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday. Again.

I promise not to complain about the rapid passage of time--I know most people are thrilled when Friday rolls around, but I always think, Already??????

My most recent book, "A Creed in Stone Creek", has sure been enjoying a wonderful run. My heartfelt thanks to all of you for helping to make this happen. First two weeks, #1 on the New York Times bestseller list (I'm framing those and Mom, your copies are in the mail), second two weeks, holding steady at #8. WOW.

I'll be in Blue River, Texas today, where Clay McKettrick, son of Chloe and Jeb from "Secondhand Bride", one of the original 3 books, is laying the groundwork for the future dynasty you read about in the McKettricks of Texas series, "Tate", "Garrett", and "Austin." Like most McKettricks, Clay is a stubborn cowboy, and he's left the Triple M behind to start up his own outfit.

Picked up a large roll of drawing paper yesterday, along with a dry-erase board. It's time to lay out the streets of Parable, Montana, where I'll be hanging out for the next six books. It's important not to have buildings moving around during the series, trucks changing color, etc. There's a lot to remember.

I plan to write all weekend, because I'm very close to finishing this book, but I know I'll find some time to cook and make art, too.

It's raining. I hope March showers bring April flowers, otherwise, we're going to have to go through all of this again next month. Sigh.

Well, I guess that's the news from the kitchen table. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Peace and Quiet

I love it. Just the snores of the beagle snoozing on her bed here in the kitchen--not even the birds are awake yet, it seems. I could get used to this. :)

I do have a little guilt where this no-news diet is concerned: I don't want to hide my head in the sand, pretend the world isn't out there, stop caring. I just need a breather, and I need not to take every disaster right inside and experience it myself. This, I suppose, is a peril of being a writer--it's all too easy to imagine every cataclysm in full color, with casts of thousands and devastating sound effects. Nominated for six Oscars. You get the picture, no pun intended.

In my ordinary world, this is a writing day, and that always thrills me. I'm really into "A Lawman's Christmas" and laying the groundwork for the second book in this series, "A Gunslinger's Christmas", coming next year. Of course, the gunslinger is related to the lawman--they're both McKettricks. :)

I'm gearing up to make a batch of my infamous Bouef B, as I call it. It's not a job for the faint of heart, so it will have to wait until after I finished the book. It sure is tasty stuff, though.

We're all still here, with lives to live and things to be grateful for, no matter who we are. Celebrate.

And that's the news.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More Blessed Silence

I think I'm onto something here, gang. I loved yesterday's news-free policy so much that I decided to try it again today.

Okay, you can't avoid it entirely. I did see, when I logged on to this laptop, that Elizabeth Taylor had died. She was a beautiful woman, and certainly led an interesting life. As my grandfather would have said, she cut a wide swath. I admire people who get out there and live their lives, even if they make a lot of mistakes. After all, who doesn't? And maybe hiding out and playing safe is the biggest mistake of all. Go, Liz.

Back to yesterday--it was an excellent writing day, in spite of a mammogram scheduled for two o'clock--and the morning was absolutely gorgeous, if cold. I broke for the screening appointment--necessary evils, mammograms, but my lovely mom is a breast cancer survivor and I take them seriously--and wrote more pages when I got home. This is unusual, because I am a morning person and usually I'm not good for much of anything after two or so in the afternoon. The story has taken hold of me, though, and that's a good thing. Since it's about half the length of a regular book, I'll be done with it next week. Then, on to the new Parable series--after a detour to Artfest, that is.

The sunflower saga continues. The piece has left the "even uglier" stage for the "there might be hope after all" stage. It's starting to look good again. :) Still, putting it up on eBay--all profits go to Spokanimal--scares me a little. I've given away art, and I've donated a piece or two to charity auctions, but this will be the first time I've ever tried to sell a piece for actual money. I can think of a thousand reasons why I shouldn't take the risk, and two reasons why I should: even the smallest donation helps Spokanimal's cause, and I think I need (have?) to rise to the challenge, if only because it scares me.

And that's the news from my kitchen table.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blessed Silence

Sitting here at my kitchen table, all I hear is the chirping of birds, along with the entirely normal sound of Sadie-beagle snoring on her dog bed nearby. Most days, there would be voices--from the TV. I usually switch on the morning news as soon as the first cup of coffee is ready, but today is an exception. I've declared a moratorium on news--earthquakes, another war looming, the economy. What's next? A giant meteor headed for Omaha?!

I've had it. I can't take it anymore, I tell you. I need a break from the news just to process and assimilate all the bad stuff that's already happened.

Maybe I'll tune in again when it gets better. :) Sort of like, "beatings will continue until morale improves."

Thank goodness I have my story to get lost in. Things are tough in Blue River, Texas, December of 1914, too, of course, but there's a guaranteed happy ending.

Call me crazy. I love a happy ending.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Weekend at Home

I didn't spend the whole weekend at home--I went to KHQ-TV early Saturday morning to appear on a local program. As always, it was fun. All that getting ready (not to mention getting up early) for a minute and a half of air-time :) Because I have a horror of being late for anything, let alone a TV appearance, I was up at five o'clock. My ride didn't arrive til seven-fifteen, so that gives you an idea.

The rest of the time, I was right here. I didn't even go to the grocery store, as I usually do on Saturdays.

I'm working on the sunflower painting. It may be coming out of the ugly phase, though I'm not sure yet. :) Lots of layers in this one, and very bright colors. Hopefully, I can get a picture up on the blog soon, but I'm so close to finishing that I may wait for the final product.

Today, I'm writing. YES. I'm a little under the weather, but I'm well enough to time travel back to 1914, where a whole slew of new characters are waiting for me.

Welcome to a new week.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Zoom, zoom, zoom....

That's what time seems to do these days. :) Case in point? It's already Friday--again!

I did find a green shirt to wear yesterday, you'll all be glad to know, so nobody pinched me, and had a lovely time with my friend, Jean Barrington, whom I've known since forever. She was sporting an iPod nano in a watchband, and you know me and gadgets. Mine will arrive tomorrow. :)

More writing today, and maybe a run to Hobby Lobby or Spokane Art Supply, two of my favorite locations in town.

Tomorrow, I'll be up early to do a two-minute TV interview--I look a whole lot skinnier on radio--at KHQ. I'm quite a ham, so I know I'll enjoy the experience.

The sunflower I'm painting has left the ugly phase for the even uglier phase, but I will not despair. Worst case scenario, I slap on a couple of coats of gesso and start over. I tried to post a picture yesterday but, for various reasons, was not successful. If I can save the thing, I'll post an image of the finished project. If I can't, I'll spare you the blank white canvas.

Ah, yes, starting over. Isn't it wonderful to have that option?

That's the news, ladies and gentlemen. See you Monday.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Wearin' of the Green

Well, it's St. Patrick's Day, and I'm racking my brain. Surely there is something green in my wardrobe. And shouldn't I be planning an Irish dish for supper? Corned beef and cabbage, perhaps? Instead, I'm meeting a long-time friend at a Mexican restaurant I've been wanting to try out. :)

I've always been a rebel.

Mary Ann, the Trail Boss, is more into the celebration--she has a felt top hat, white and green, with lights around the band. It's a comical sight.

The sunflower painting went from ugly to uglier. Obviously, it still needs work. I'll post a picture later, with sincere apologies.

Green or no green, it's time to get to work. In the world of the new book, it's Christmas, not St. Patrick's Day. I'll dress warmly for the trip.

I'll be on KHQ TV Saturday morning, around eight a.m., so if you're in the Spokane viewing area, tune in.

That's the news.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ugly Phase :)

Posted by Picasa

WOW weather

It's gorgeous out this morning--the sun is shining and the sky is a heartbreaking shade of blue. Cha Cha kitty has been eating the pink tulips I received during my visit to Medical Lake's public library on Monday. It gives them a lovely, frilled look. :)

I got in a great stint of writing the new book yesterday, and plan to dive in again today. "A Lawman's Christmas" is historical, set in 1914, and I'm enjoying the old-time setting, since most of my books are modern these days.

They say every art work goes through an ugly phase. That's where my sunflower is today. :) It needs shading and maybe some crackling followed by a light application of antiquing gel. Being the persistent type, I'll keep plugging until I like it again.

I finished Joy Fieldings' new book, "Now You See Her", and it was great. Just started, "Once in a Blue Moon", by Eileen Goudge. It looks promising. When I get Robyn Carr's "Harvest Moon" back from Mary Ann, I'll read that, too.

Made the Lazy Woman's version of potato soup yesterday, in my handy-dandy slow cooker. Dump in two bags of those hash browns they sell in the egg section at most supermarkets, add water, finely chopped onions (I use dried ones), a little garlic, and some salt and pepper. Cook until the spuds are soft enough to suit you, add milk, reheat, and enjoy.

That's the news from my kitchen table, for now, anyway.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Typical Spring Weather

Here in Spokane, on this the Ides of March, we are blessed with rain. :) The flowers and all growing things need water to grow and thrive, and I'm painting a giant sunflower, in very bright colors, to remind myself of that. When this mixed media picture is finished, I'll probably post it on Etsy or eBay, with any profits going to Spokanimal, our local shelter. My art goal is, as many of you know, to donate pieces to various charities for silent auctions, etc.

I had a great day yesterday, visiting the Book Club at the Medical Lake Public Library, about 25 minutes from where I live. We chatted about our favorite subjects, book, animals and cowboys. :) Thanks to Mary Ann Longeway and everyone else who made the gathering so special.

Today I plan to write and, much later in the day, do some art work. Perhaps I'll add some color to the sunflower. At the moment, it's hanging on my kitchen wall so I can look at it and have a clearer idea of what it needs.

Sadie-beagle is snoozing away nearby, having a day off from her training, and I feel so grateful for the warmth, the light and the shelter of my snug home.

That's the news from my kitchen table.

Sunflower Day 2

Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunflower in Progress

Posted by Picasa

Wendy is Fine

But all those poor people in Japan. It's heartbreaking. Lots of prayers going up from here.

Friend Robyn Carr reports she was on Maui when the wave-alerts began. Everyone in her hotel was moved to an upper floor, but so far, so good.

"A Creed in Stone Creek" continues to do well out there in the market place. It's fantastic.

I'm listening to a memoir on my iPod--I do love memoirs, as I've said before.

I did a smidge of art work over the weekend--prepared a mixed media background in shades of blue (my favorite). At the moment, I plan on painting a close-up of a sunflower, but like my writing, my art is largely organic. Parts of it seem to evolve on their own, which means the sunflower could morph into a house or a woman or any number of other creations. Since gesso (a primer) needs 24 hours to dry, I prepared more canvases for those fits of creativity that tend to come 3 at a time. :)

Much love to you and yours. Hug somebody. Smile at somebody. It's an uncertain world, but a beautiful one.

Back tomorrow.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mama in Panic Mode

That was me, when I turned on the news this morning and saw the dreadful images of the destruction in Japan. The loss of life there is absolutely staggering, and that was bad enough, but then the newscaster said there would be tsunamis hitting the West Coast--imminently. Since my daughter, Wendy, lives in Santa Monica, not terribly far from the beach, I pounced on the cell phone. Voice mail. I waited 10 minutes and called again--and this time I got a sleepy, "Hello?" We stayed on the line for over an hour, until I was sure she wouldn't wash away with the next tide. :)

I had to hear her voice.

And now, as soon as the adrenaline rush subsides, I'll be writing.

With one eye on CNN.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pinch Me....

I must be dreaming! "A Creed in Stone Creek" is number 1 for a second week.

How do I feel?


Somewhat numb.

And grateful as all get out.

Among many other reasons to be thankful, I have the best publishing team (Harlequin) and editor (Joan Marlow Golan) and agent (Irene Goodman) and personal publicist (Nancy Berland), in the business. I'm getting lots of kudos these days, but I didn't do this alone by any means. All of these people played a big part. Donna, Loriana, Tara, KO, Michele, you believed in me, all along. (The team is actually much larger, but I'm afraid I'll leave someone out if I try to name everybody!)

The Harlequin sales force is downright dynamic.

The marketing people come up with a new and amazing promotional idea every five minutes--and then follow through. :)

Margie Miller, the art director at Harlequin, along with her great team, is responsible for those wonderful McKettrick and Creed videos, as well as the covers. Margie has an eye for a cowboy, all right.

Here on the homefront, Mary Ann the Trail Boss keeps the herd rolling, with the help of her husband, Larry, aka the Canadian Wrangler. Jenni, my niece and assistant, does all sorts of things, including getting Sadie-beagle to her trainer three times a week. (Now to get ME to a trainer three times a week. Insert sigh here.) Debbie Korrell, down in Colorado Springs, balances the books, and Nicole Blint answers emails. Without my crew, I wouldn't get anywhere near as much writing done.

This is beginning to sound like an Oscar speech, a result I didn't intend, but there are so, so many people deserving of a shout out and a big thank you. My mother, Hazel Lael, gave me my love of books and writing, my dad, the late Skip Lael, taught us all solid western values, and then there are my sibs, my vast collection of cousins, and all my friends, old and new.

Everything went into the mix.

So my sincerest thanks to all.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

It's a Quiet Day

And that's good.

I'll be writing today. Taking it easy.

I hope to be more interesting tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Check out this cool new contest!

Sunshine and Snow

I swear, when I got up this morning, the sun was shining. Now, just a few hours later, it's snowing--hard. Oh, boy, will I be happy to see those first daffodils and crocuses breaking ground. :)

I wrote yesterday, played around with some ATC background techniques from the new issue of "Somerset Studio", and genuinely enjoyed all the peace and quiet. Also did some plotting for the new series--I'm getting really excited about starting the first Parable story.

Congratulations have been rolling in, since the big news about the Times list. I'm still in a daze over that.

I have a dental appointment this afternoon, and while I'm out, I plan on checking out the Dollar Store. Lots of mixed media artists shop there, and I want to see if there's anything I might want to use. :) If I make any great finds, I'll let you know.

And that's the news.

Monday, March 07, 2011

It's a Beautiful Morning

Think I'll go outside for a while...

:) We have sunshine, at least at the moment. And I'm loving it.

I spent a restful weekend, watching "Brothers & Sisters" on the iPad, via Netflix, reading a little, listening to Jodi Picoult's new book, "Sing You Home", and doing some artist trading cards. I also made a simple collage using a picture of my brother-in-law, Jim Lang, in all his biker gear, tenderly holding Sadie-beagle on his lap. After doctoring the image with Grungepix (I think that's what it's called), I printed it on matte photopaper, cut it out, and collaged it to a background I had already treated to look rusty. Much more interesting than just framing a picture--next project, a Wendy collage. :) The current piece needs something else, though I'm not sure what, and when it's finished, I'll post it here.

Today's plans include: writing, a conference call, a brief walk, and some brainstorming for the new series, set in a fictional Montana town called Parable. Maybe I'll throw together a tamale casserole in the slow-cooker, too.

That's the news, friends.

Make it a good day.

Friday, March 04, 2011


Yesterday, my family surprised me with cupcakes, a huge greeting card, a tiara and a blue ribbon to tape to my shirt, all in celebration of my #1 placement on the New York Times bestseller list.

Irene Goodman and her husband, Alex, sent a single rose, dipped in 24 karat gold. I will treasure it forever. You see, reaching the top spot on the list has been more of a dream than an actual goal, for more years than I care to count. Irene and Alex always sent beautiful bouquets, for every milestone, and I came close a few times, but that one rose was elusive.

Now, here it is.

I'm enjoying the hoopala, no doubt about it, but I'm also getting worn out. :)

Time to get back to work.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Over the Moon!

The news came yesterday: "A Creed in Stone Creek" is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list! Since finding out, all I've been able to say is either, "Wow!" or "Yeehaw!" Since that doesn't make a blog, I'll make this short.

Thank you, my dear readers, for making this happen.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Shepherd's Pie & Other Random Stuff

Yesterday I made slow-cooker Shepherd's Pie, from my big cookbook, and it was de-lic-ious! I make notes in the margins when I try a new recipe, with the date and what I thought of the dish. Maybe someday one of my descendents will have the book and find my observations interesting.

Or maybe just weird.

And guess what I'm listening to on my iPod, as of last night--"A Creed in Stone Creek". I love hearing my own words read aloud by a professional--I get a real kick out of it. Yes, I know ahead of time what's going to happen in the story :), but what I enjoy is the fresh perspective a little time allows. When I'm working on a book, and then revising the manuscript, reading galleys, etc., I'm so involved that I literally can't see the forest for the trees.

Today's weather--I know you couldn't possibly start your day without knowing what's going on in Spokane, Washington :)--is murky. The sky is gray, the snow is melting, and the driveway looks slushy. Another great day to stay in and write, though I admit to downloading and clipping out a coupon from Hobby Lobby. Forty-percent off. Is it still a bargain if you don't actually need anything? My crafting stash is already ridiculous. Still, I love the looking and touching--the colors and the new ideas and the shapes and textures. There's a craft show here in Spokane this weekend--enticing. I probably won't get there unless the roads are bare, though.

I have a new book to read--Joy Fielding's "Now You See Her"--and new issues of both "Cloth, Paper, Scissors" and "Somerset Studio". (It may surprise you to know that when those magazines arrive, all bright and crisp and colorful, I usually yell "Yay!" and kiss the cover. The dogs barely react anymore.)

I'm downloading some movies, too--"Burlesque" and a documentary about the Beatles. (They won't be available on Netflix for a while.)

I'll be cooking "my" famous soy chicken today, for supper. I put "my" in quotations because I actually got the recipe from Debbie Macomber, years and years ago. Since I'm one of those cooks who slosh in some of this and dump in some of that, instead of measuring, I'm guessing here:

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tsps of poultry seasoning
1 small onion, chopped
garlic to taste (I like to lob in the pre-chopped stuff that comes in a jar)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste, but since soy sauce is salty, you probably won't want to add much sodium.

Place chicken in a casserole dish or slow cooker. Mix other ingredients and add. If using an oven, cook uncovered for about 45 minutes at 350. Check often--you're on your own with this one.

If it doesn't turn out, blame Debbie.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

It's the Lion!

March has decided to come in like a lion--let's hope it goes out like a lamb. Snow is coming down like crazy, and it's definitely beautiful. Should keep me in the mood for writing the new book, which is a Christmas story. :)

It's a cozy, stay at home and write day. Later, I'll do some artist trading cards--I'm trying to build up a stockpile so I'll have something to swap with the people I'll meet at Artfest, this coming April. I'm so excited about that--I can hardly wait. I've wanted to attend that event for years and years, and something else would always fill the time, so I decided to sign up and go. This will be a big art year for me, as I'm also taking the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain workshop in June. Again, this is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

I might whip out the slow-cooker today, too, and throw together a batch of Shepherd's Pie. Sounds like a good snowy-day dish, doesn't it?

Sadie is snoozing on her dog bed and Bernice is walking around looking like a tiny black sheep. The cats are off in other parts of the house, on mysterious cat business.

All's right, here in my world.

Hope it's the same in yours.