Sunday, August 31, 2008

Reviews and Unreasonable Fear

He who fears something gives it power over him. ~Moorish Proverb

Yay me! Another great review for "Kitchen Matches" -- this one is a five angel one from Fallen Angels Reviews, which says in part:

From the first few paragraphs I knew I would love this story from Marianne Arkins. She weaves humor and sexual tension with ease and had Cori and Micah heating up even after the (real) flames were doused.

And this reviewer isn't the first person to say this:

I’m hoping Ms. Arkins has plans for some of Cori’s brothers; I’d really love to visit this great family again.

So... hmmm.... better put on my thinking cap. But, it's a quandary. Do I write the sequel to "One Love For Liv" (Geoff's story), or a sequel to "Kitchen Matches" (probably Zach's story... he's just begging to be brought to his knees)?

And... let the nice words being said about this story be a lesson. "Kitchen Matches" was rejected more than once before I finally sold it. Persevere!


I think there are few things as sad as kids who are terrified of dogs. Cautious is okay... that's not a bad thing, because not all dogs are sweet (like my loopy but harmless one). But terror? We have a neighbor whose daughter is absolutely so fearful she can't function. Worse, her fear isn't just dogs... it's pretty much anything that moves. And it was passed on by her mother (also afraid of dogs) who got it from her mother (incapacitated with fear of dogs).

It's not justified... none of them were ever attacked or bitten. It just is. And it affects their ability to live. My neighbor would like to walk on a daily basis, but we (unfortunately) have some folks who are irresponsible dog owners and let their dogs roam around footloose and fancy free. These dogs aren't going to bite you, however. Annoying, yes. Vicious? Not in the least. But, unless I can walk with her, or her husband can, she stays locked in the house. As do her children.

I've seen this more than once when taking my dog to the park. I took Dakota once when was still a little fluffy puppy and there were a couple of kids who all but climbed their mothers when they saw her -- and it wasn't as though she was close.

Sad. Sad. Sad.

You don't have to love dogs, but that kind of fear is just sad. Although, fear of anything that is that incapacitating is probably not particularly healthy.

But that's a post for another day.


I rec'd a thank you note from an author for one of my reviewers the other day. And, perhaps I'm naive but I was surprised when her compliment included words to the effect of: it's clear that your reviewer actually read the entire book, and not just the first and last chapters like so many other reviewers do.

Really? Wow. After all, the reason we can't release as many reviews as I'd like is just the sheer amount of reading time involved. All of my reviewers read the stories from cover to virtual cover.

I'm still just ... shocked (?), flabbergasted (?), surprised (?) to even think that any other reviewers would do something like that. Do they? Really? I hope not.

On a side note, I've seen on more than one author loop that authors don't know if it's appropriate to send a thank you for a review. IMHO, it's absolutely appropriate -- with one little mention of a no-no: DON'T defend your story or attempt to explain something that the reviewer didn't like.

We don't mind when you tell us we've misspelled your heroine's name or your name... but if the reviewer didn't like something, she didn't like it. Remember, reviews are just one person's opinion.


You Are Pasta Puttanesca

Compared to most people, you have a sexy and wild personality.

So it fits that you're like a pasta popularized by street walkers!

You like food with interesting, contrasting, and spicy flavors.

You live an exciting life - and you wouldn't ever go for anything bland.

Did they just say I'm a hooker?? LOL....


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday Stuff

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

I'm sitting here, waiting for oil to arrive. We are plumb out. Poor DH got home from playing hockey last night, jumped in the shower and ... no hot water. Stinky man had to go to bed w/o getting clean. Oh. Joy.


I took the funniest video of Dakota yesterday, but can't figure out how to upload it here. Even YouTube is giving me fits. When I figure it out, I'll share.


I've broken down my week to allow for specific focus on particular days -- and I think it's going to work (except for the days DH stays home and decides to strip the floor). I'm excited. It makes me feel a little more in control.

Found this game at the Menagerie Authors blog and thought I'd share -- and, due to popular demand, I'm merely posting the link because of the music the game plays -- but it's seriously fun:

Don't Jump on the Couch

Hosted by Daily Free Games

It's a wonderful time suck... lol

I'm feeling random and dopey today, so you'll have to forgive me. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. Any plans?


Friday, August 29, 2008

Chores and Pix and a New Review

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint. ~Erma Bombeck

DH was home yesterday. DH had no projects to do... so made some up. DH decided my truck needed tires (it did), but wanted to get them at a warehouse club. He doesn't have a membership there. I do.

So, I piled DD in the car and met him two towns over. It took 90 mins to get them done. DH found a TV he wanted (it's his only Christmas request now...) and found out his fave seafood restaurant opened up nearby.

So, I was gone all morning, until about 1 pm. Came home, let the dog out, ran to the library (they had a pile of stuff for me), got home and DH announced that he was going to strip and polish the linoleum, but we didn't have enough stripper. Got back in the car, and drove to the hardware store. Got stripper, a bucket and a huge sponge. Came home and helped.

It took us until my bedtime to even get the first coat of polish on the floor.

So. That was my day.

How was yours?


Today, DH and DD are out on the boat. I'd like to say I have lots of relaxing planned, but really, I have to play catch up on the stuff I didn't do yesterday. Worse, he's home Sat, Sun, Mon -- and will mostly likely dream up lots more chores and projects for us to do. Some days I wish I married a couch potato.


Amy, your comment yesterday about the spider made me LOL. Thanks.


DD with our last butterfly:

More artsy pix from DD -- she always chooses things I wouldn't, and somehow they look really cool:


Got a decent review for "Kitchen Matches" at Literary Nymphs (four nymphs) which says, in part:

This is sweet, funny, and enjoyable.

Guess that pretty much sums the story up! LOL...


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Science, Sales and School

The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. ~Robert Maynard Hutchins

We did an inadvertent science experiment the other day. My DH had picked a bunch of wild blueberries at his uncle's, and brought them home in a sealed, plastic container which I popped into my fridge.

Three days later, I realized I needed to wash and freeze them or they were going to rot away into a massive blob of purple goo. So, I dumped them into my colander and began the sorting process: berries vs. sticks and stems and leaves and... ACK! A spidey. A very much alive and active spidey, despite being deprived of air and left in a fridge for three days!

I put his happy little self outside and went back to work sorting: berries vs. sticks and stems and leaves and... ACK! A Japanese beetle! A sluggish, all but dead Japanese beetle. His little legs moved VERY weakly as I grabbed him (ick,ick,ick -- they have pokey little legs and they crunch and EWWWW... I do NOT like them). His not-so happy self got thrown into my potty and sent to the septic. Blech.

Still... it was amazing at the difference between the two. Happy, healthy, active spidey vs. all but dead Japanese beetle.

Okay, so maybe y'all aren't as fascinated by it as I was... lol...


I've been contemplating online promotion -- what works and what doesn't. I had an author approach me regarding advertising on LASR and she asked what I would suggest.

Now, I love the LASR site and we get quite a bit of traffic (yay!), but I am also an author on limited funds, and so try to balance the two and be honest.

So... truth is, a good many people who visit our site are looking to enter the contests. BUT, they are all voracious readers (I've gotten to know a good many of them and they're incredibly sweet) and probably buy more than they try to win.

Of the LASR advertising, what works best? Most likely the author spotlight -- the potential readers get to know you AS A PERSON, and I think that can make a significant difference in whether they eventually buy your stuff.

Same goes for the author interview and the Q&A session in the Yahoo group the following day IF (and this is the kicker) --IF you handle the Q&A the right way. We have several hundred members in our group, but most are lurkers. This is probably true of most promotional Yahoo groups. You need to entice them to come forward and gab. You need to keep the conversation moving. It is up to the AUTHOR to make sure it is a successful day, not the group members. And, again, this enables your potential readers to get to know you. People support folks they know and like.

What about the book cover/banner ads and the author pages? We're working hard to direct traffic to both of those places by asking contest questions pertaining to them. As a reader, I find that if I keep seeing an author's name or book cover eventually I'll get curious enough to look into what it's all about. So, although you may not get zillions of click-throughs or sales immediately following or during your ad run, each time your cover or banner is viewed it adds to the exposure.

The biggest thing though? Websites and blogs. And, PROFESSIONAL websites. Nowadays, as cheaply as you can buy hosting, there is NO reason to have your website on a freeweb (with all those stinky ads and unprofessional setups). The company who hosts both my personal site and the LASR site is only $4 a month. Four. Dollars. I know that as a reader, when I click through and see freeweb sites, I am completely turned off. If the author doesn't take themselves seriously enough to have a "real" site, then I can't take them seriously either.

And there you have all my sage wisdom for the day.



We're struggling with DD's curriculum. When I originally installed it, I had disabled her ability to access the internet (for obvious reasons). Now, her curriculum has links built in to the reading, but I figured they were just additional information and not absolutely necessary to the lesson. I figured wrong. Yesterday she took a quiz and could NOT answer one question. I looked in her reading and couldn't find the answer either, so I checked and discovered that the ONLY way she could get the answer was by clicking on an internet link.

Well... I'm not thrilled about that, but okay. I increased all the security to the maximum available and changed it in the admin part. But it didn't take. And when I tried to go back in... nothing happened. Click. Clickety-click. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.

Okay... rebooting. Dang... it decides to auto-install updates. Two hours later, it's finally done.

Okay. Open up the admin software, click on the link. Nothing. Like the link wasn't there.

By this time, it's 3:00, DD hasn't gotten much of her school done and I can't get the stupid teacher software to do anything.


Maybe computer based learning wasn't the best idea after all.


What Your Taste in Chocolate Says About You

You are sophisticated, modern, and high class.

Your taste is refined, but you are not picky.

You are often the first to try something new.

You are energetic and quick to act.

You are open minded, and you easily adopt new social causes.

While your heart is in the right place, you often can't follow through with your dreams.

You love being around people. Friendships are important to you.

You feel lost when you're by yourself... so you tend to avoid being alone.

Okay.. so TOTALLY not me.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Welcome Guest Blogger: Kelley Heckart

Writing Meaningful Sex Scenes in Romances

One thing I have struggled with as a romance writer is trying to write sex scenes that have some significance and are not just thrown in to spice up the story. I like to keep my romantic scenes sensual and not graphic, preferring to leave something to the imagination. After all, a reader wants to use their imagination, right? This has proven to be a challenge because I do not want to write purple prose, but I have managed to avoid this by keeping a balance between the two and avoiding terms deemed too flowery.

Sex scenes like any other scenes should reveal something about the character. Is she shy, bold or somewhere in between? Does he prefer to have control or does he like it when she takes control? Humor is something I like to add to these scenes sometimes to show how characters will react. I recently wrote a sex scene where the bed broke. I think readers can identify with the characters more if reality steps in to the love scenes. It is not all perfection as in life it is not all perfection. By writing scenes where the hero and heroine are most vulnerable, it reveals something about their personality.

The way men and women think in the bedroom are different too. Ladies, how many times do we want our man to stay awake after the coupling only to have him role over and start snoring? Or, what about the man feeling frustration because he still cannot figure out how to please his lady? The time period a story is set in also makes a difference in how characters will act, but I think the above scenarios have been happening in bedrooms for centuries.

It has taken me some practice, but when I write sex scenes between my hero and heroine, I think about each character and pull pieces of their personalities into the scenes. Well-written romantic scenes can reveal a lot about a character and add to the story.

Thanks for having me as a guest blogger today!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tomatoes, Gardens and Miscellaneous Rambling

Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest. ~Douglas William Jerrold, about Australia, A Land of Plenty

Another idea for using tomatoes -- A Tomato Sandwich! I've been eating them pretty much daily for the last week. It's actually more of a BLT (using Bacos), but oh-so yummy.

Two slices of whole wheat (or your fave) bread
Cream Cheese
One tomato sliced THICK
romaine (or your fave green stuff)
Bacos or bacon
I pretend that I use the cream cheese to keep the bacos on my bread -- I spread it on both sides, dump the Bacos and press the slices of bread together to smoosh the Bacos on. Then layer the other stuff. I prefer my tomato warm (and right from the garden when possible).

Oh. Yum.

Speaking of gardens, my other two squash plants have succumbed to the Squash Borer, so no more fresh squash this season. HOWEVER, let this serve as a warning to that pesky little critter: I KNOW WHO YOU ARE NOW!! There will be no escaping my wrath next year.

DD asked if she could dig up some potatoes yesterday. We have twelve plants, so I told her to dig up two. Do you know how many potatoes she got???? Five. Small ones.

What the heck??


Maybe I should stick to cucumbers.


Judy and I challenged each other to write yesterday. I gave her a random list of ten words (and then another ten when she used up the first set) and she wrote nearly 3000 words!!! I got just over 1000 on an existing short story. We did good.

Today, though, I need to do some work on the LASR site, so don't know how much writing time I'll get. Today, we're giving away a pre-release copy of Joy Nash's Immortals book. Tomorrow is the big day... the OFFICIAL one year anniversary of LASR and we are giving away a $50 GC. Have YOU entered yet? The link is here.


Read any good books lately? Feel free to share.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Shhh.... Writer At Work

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~Carl Sandberg

The dog woke me up very, very early this morning. I've managed to get all of my LASR work done, and still have nearly an hour before anyone else awakens.

So, I hope you'll forgive me when I ditch the blog writing for my fiction writing.

Just a quick meme:

1. What are you up to today? Be specific. We’ve talked about your morning routine before, now walk us through a typical Monday for you after breakfast is over. How do you feel about Mondays? A fresh start to your week? Or do you dread the drudge of getting back to the same old routine?

I love Monday's. DH goes back to work, DD goes to school (well, she's homeschooled, but... she "does" school) and I get my routine back. There isn't any such thing as a typical Monday, though. Today? I'll take the dog for a long walk first thing. I'll probably run to the middle school, because the recycle containers are there today and my recycle bins are full (No curb-side recycling here... it's a pain). DD will do school. We'll break for lunch and another walk. I'll work on the LASR site, and my writing, and probaby do some housework. ::shrugs::

2. Earworms - we all get them from time-to-time. What tune do you have stuck in your head at the moment? How important is music to your life? List some of your favorite songs - and I’m talking about songs that evoke a strong emotion in you; joy, anger, sadness, etc. Do you have one particular song that brings back a certain time period in your life? What is the song and what is the time period?

Didn't have anything in my head until I read this question. I have a couple of songs I CAN NOT stand because they run circles in my head when I hear them. One is "Feliz Navidad", probably because it's the same oh... twenty words... over and over and over.

Last week it was the title song from "Okalahoma". And for your listening enjoyment, here is Hugh Jackman and friends to sing it for you, so you can have an earworm:

3. Who have you needed to say thank you to lately? Who is this person and what did he/she do to prompt a thank you?

Judy, always. And Chris. And Michele. And, most recently, Allie. These are the ladies who help LASR stay on track.

My mom. Just cuz. My DD for her hugs and unconditional love.

I'm sure there are more, but it's early.

4. How many candles will be on your birthday cake this next birthday? What do you think about the age you are now? Are you comfortable with what you’ve accomplished in life so far? Or do you wish you could have achieved more? You’re being granted one birthday wish - what is it?

I'll be 42. It's hard to believe. I still feel 20 in my head. Of COURSE there is more I wish I had achieved. More success writing and earlier. I wish I'd finished college. I wish I'd pursued my acting. I wish I'd .... but the fact is -- wishing won't make it so. I'll just go forward from here instead.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Visits and Bad Bugs

Science, or para-science, tells us that geraniums bloom better if they are spoken to. But a kind word every now and then is really quite enough. Too much attention, like too much feeding, and weeding and hoeing, inhibits and embarrasses them. ~Victoria Glendinning

So, Michele and I had a wonderful (but too short) visit yesterday. It was incredible how quickly the time flew by. Yes, I took pix, but Michele doesn't like her picture online, so I can't share.

We didn't do much besides talk. We went to lunch and walked the dog and watched the birds on the feeders, and seldom shut our mouths. *G* It was good.

We took a walkabout my yard, and I mentioned to her that my previously healthy squash had died and she suggested it might be the squash vine borer -- which fits the symptoms to a T! I've seen the moth around, but didn't know what it was. Now I do, and it goes on my "kill without regard" list (not many bugs go on that: mosquitoes and black flies, ticks, japanese beetles and red lily beetles are there) AND now I understand why I've been told to keep piling dirt up around the base of the squash plant as it grows -- that is an organic way to keep the plant from dying, even if the borer attacks (sounds like a bad B movie).


Brandy... I love tomatoes in all forms, so seldom have enough to can, freeze or make sauce. Making sauce can be a pain if you don't have the right equipment (I use a vittorio strainer so I don't have to scald and peel the tomatoes). I do like fresh salsa a LOT, and can eat it as a meal. I even use it as the "dressing" on my salad -- much healthier than regular dressing.

Try this:

3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup finely diced onion
5 serrano chiles, finely chopped (you can use a can of diced green chile from the store - for more heat, add a jalapeno pepper but DON'T use the seeds!)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
minced fresh garlic to taste (one or two cloves)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lime juice

You'll want it to set for a bit in the fridge before eating it to let all the flavors combine.


You Are the Innovator

You're the type of person who is always a step ahead of everyone else.

You thrive when you're experimenting with new designs, ideas, and attitudes.

You are a creative person with many talents. You have to have artistic outlets in your life.

You need to create - whether it's writing furiously or redecorating your home. If not, your life becomes chaotic.

You tire of doing the same thing every day. You change your job, friends, and personal style often.

You are at your best when you have a focus. If not, you develop a flaky artist's temperament.

Except for that last (because I LOVE routine and "sameness"), that's pretty close!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friends, Finished (!) and Far too many cucs

A good friend is cheaper than therapy. ~Author Unknown

Today, my friend Michele comes to visit! Woot! I'm excited.


Judy finished looking over "Return to Stiller Creek". She liked it (she really liked it! -- and, I have to wonder if Sally Field knew she'd go down in history for her stupid speech?), but found some inconsistencies... a clue that didn't get explained, and the such. So, I'm tidying up and then will write a synopsis.

I'm going to sub it to HQ American, though I'm not entirely certain it will fit -- IMHO, it's the line it best fits into. There is a definite sense of community, a decently strong secondary cast, etc. And the mystery is really second to the romance. There were times when I wrote and completely forgot there was even a mystery to be solved! LOL... I love to write romance. I kept getting caught up in that.

In any case, we'll see how it goes.


Picked fifteen more cucumbers yesterday. Four days ago, I made 20 pints of relish -- both sweet and dill. I made a HUGE cucumber and tomato salad (because we also have many, many tomatoes... though, I'm not complaining about those. I can eat those like apples four times a day and be happy as a pig in sh... um... a pig in sunshine!). I gave away half of the cucs to a neighbor yesterday. Still have four left and dozens maturing on the vine. **sigh** Why can't I have "too many" tomatoes or peas or beans or squash? I can freeze or can those and use them all winter.


You See The World Through Red Colored Glasses

You live your life with intensity. You have strong emotions and experience everything vividly.

You judge all interactions through the lens of power. You determine who has the most power and how to improve your position.

You face challenges with courage and strength. You can will your way through any problem.

You see love as the utmost expression of your passions and desires. Your romantic life is very passionate and overwhelming.

At your worst, you are easily angered and quick to fight. You will go to war with anyone.

You are happiest when you are expending a lot of energy. And you love the feeling of danger!

Um... no.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Write on Wednesday on Friday

"I want to escape the unrest, to shut out the voices around me and within me, and so I write." - Franz Kafka

Found this at Anno's place -- Write on Wednesday:

1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?

Fiction, absolutely. Unless you count my blog posts! LOL...

2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?

Nope. Unless you count my blog posts! (Wonder if every answer is going to end this way?)

3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?

I tend to do character interviews prior to writing -- BUT... the characters will typically reveal more of themselves as I write. This is one reason I also like to do random scenes that have nothing to do with the story (my character in the shower, or grocery shopping, or grooming the dog), because it can give you some insight into what they are like.

4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

That depends. I always want to write, but I don't always write. I tend to work best with a deadline and under pressure, which is why I love NaNoWriMo so very much. I wish they'd do it four times a year! I'd be very productive.

5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

I need long periods of time to write -- unless I'm doing timed writing with a friend. But, it takes me a bit to sink back into the story, so writing in five or ten minute blocks just doesn't work for me.

6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

Morning, for certain! I get wicked sleepy in the afternoon, and have to be physical then: weeding, cleaning house, etc., or I'll just drop off. And at night? Totally brain dead.

7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

Be vewy, vewy qwiet... we're hunting plotlines.

Seriously, I can't write with music, because I'll end up typing the lyrics. And if I have things going on around me? I'll pay attention to that. I need quiet and solitude to do my best work.

8. Computer or longhand?

Both. Longhand is for free writing, just vomiting out whatever is in my head. Computer work is the real deal.

9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write?

I nearly always know the ending. In fact, I typically write the ending either first, or when I'm only a few chapters in. It helps to know where you're going if you want to get there.

10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?

No. I wish I COULD write to the market. I have a story now that I can't figure out where it fits. It's not enough of some things, and too much of others to squeeze into a particular line. Frustrating.

11. Editing/Revision - love it or hate it?

Despise it. Loathe it. Dread it. Would do without it if I could. It is absolutely the thing I hate most about writing. Ugh.


What Your Bed Says About You

Outward appearances are very important to you. You do your best to look good and have an attractive home.

You try to be an organized person, but you often fall behind. Certain parts of your life tend to fall into chaos.

You are not very high maintenance in general, but you are high maintenance about a few things.

In relationships, you tend to kick back and let the other person be in charge.

You tend to be a down to earth, practical person. You think in terms of what is actual.

You are a bit of a homebody, but you can also make yourself at home anywhere.

This is surprisingly close... I'd say it's about 90% correct. Huh. Who knew?


Thursday, August 21, 2008

I've Been Giggled and Butterfly Surgery

Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today, I saw one. It got on at 42nd, and off at 59th, where, I assume it was going to Bloomingdales to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake - as almost all hats are. ~Nikolaus Laszlo, Nora Ephron, and Delia Ephron, You've Got Mail

I have always sort of hoped that I'd fly under Mrs. Giggles radar. "One Love for Liv" apparently did, but "Kitchen Matches" didn't manage the feat.

It got Giggled.

When the notification showed up in my inbox, I didn't want to click through... I was terrified. But, it's a little like a car accident, you just can't look away. So I clicked.


And it wasn't as bad as I imagined it could be. Keep in mind -- I love this story. I don't know what it was about it that etched itself in my heart, but I couldn't let it go away.

It got a 78.

Here's the entire review. But, I'll share a couple bits from it, just because I can:

The good:

I find that the author has an easy sense of humor that works on me.

The bad:

I definitely believe that Cori can do so much better than the boring Micah.

The (surprisingly not very) ugly:

I like Ms Arkins' style, but this short story is a pretty so-so read.



On a side note, I rec'd my print galleys yesterday for "Liv". It's a little surreal. The official release date from Samhain says December 30th -- which is a sucky date, IMHO. Wish it was December 15th. I think I can get my author copies a little in advance though...

Oddly enough, BN says the release date is December 1st : One Love for Liv -- available for preorder from Barnes and Noble!

Hope they are right.


We had much butterfly drama yesterday. Pete the pet pillar (who is now Petra) hatched and promptly fell off her chrysalis. She was one lucky pillar, tho, cuz DD happened to be staring at her when it happened and scooped her right up. Problem is, they have to hang upside down for their wings to form properly and Petra the PP wouldn't cling to our fingers! She fell off again and again. DD finally just held the bugger's legs while I went on the search for a stick with much texture.

That worked. She clung and hung and dripped red goo (someday I'll go see what that is). Finally she got squirmy, so I popped her back into the box and onto the netting until her wings appeared to be dry.

DD decided to release her outside, so out we went. Picked up the butterfly and she flapped and ... fell to the ground. All four wings were flapping separately ... I'd never seen that before.

I know that monarchs are pretty hardy so I had DD hold her by the legs and body while I looked. Turns out they were in the wrong order. The top wings are supposed to lay on top of the bottom ones. Maybe it happened when she fell the first time, when her wings were tiny, crumpled things?

There was nothing else but a little butterfly surgery to be done -- she had dislocated wings! With DD holding the critter by the legs, I tugged first one wing, and then the other, back into place. I don't think I've been so nervous in my life!

I am here to tell you: Monarchs have some TOUGH wings. I didn't even rub any feathers off. Still, I think she was traumatized. She didn't even want to try to fly, so she's back in the box, and will head out later today when it's warmer out.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Welcome Guest Blogger: Renee Knowles

What I learned from gratitude journals…
By Renee Knowles

I’ve always felt lucky. Not lucky in the sense that I could buy a lottery ticket and win a million dollars, or hit the jackpot on the slot machine in our local casino. No, I’ve always been lucky in the way people are when they get the dream job they have been wanting or land the contract they desire. And I’ve noticed luck in little ways as well. Maybe I have a run in my hose on the day of a big speech and no nail polish at hand—I will somehow make it through without incident. Or I might just happen to find a twenty dollar bill in my driveway.

Now, some may say these things come about by hard work or coincidence, not luck. But I still live knowing there is a little drop of fairy dust hanging over me.

I did anyway, until I started a gratitude journal early this year. I knew I had much to be grateful for and every day I counted my blessings. I mean I have a wonderful husband, an amazing baby boy, a nice home, supportive family and a writing career, which is really taking off. Yet, I was sure I was missing some things. I was sure I needed to be reminded how great life can be.

But until I began to put the words to paper, to really list every night all the things I was grateful for that day, it never sunk in just how much I had to be thankful for.

What about the great review I received, or the thoughtful gesture of my next door neighbor? Did I really ever stop and notice the beauty of the mountains outside my window, or was I becoming too complacent?

Once I began my journal, I wrote every night. I was trying to be consistent, but it was easy to do. It was easy to think of items to list, of reasons why I was happy. I realized all the things I thought were luck or chance, were perhaps more of a thread of good karma that was wound through the people I knew and opportunities I was presented. Yes, gratitude journals are very “Oprah,” but they are also very enlightening.

The Chinese have a theory: all people are connected by a “red thread.” I began to see this in a new light—all people have an affect on one another and their kindness and thoughtfulness will radiate to others. I started to see this all around me as I wrote my nighttime entry, and this made me begin to bring this karma to others. It made me want to extend thoughtfulness more than ever to my family and friends and even strangers in earnest.

Gratitude journaling has made me appreciate the small things as well as the big. Now I notice the cool breeze on a hot day and a perfectly made hot fudge sundae (cherry on top, please!). I realize in being grateful for the everyday things, I am also more thankful for the fabulous family I have and the fact I do what I enjoy every day—write.

And while I won’t knock a bit of luck now and then, I realize luck is not what I have to be grateful for. Precious moments are. And precious moments are what life is all about.



Renee Knowles
Sensual, Sassy and Slightly Sinful
Going Topless-"A must read."--5 Stars--Euro-Reviews Out Now! Siren
Courting Trouble--Regency Historical--A Wild Rose Press Bestseller!
Guilty Pleasures--A Siren-Bookstrand Bestseller! Siren

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Bit of This, and Some of That

"Desire is the key to motivation, but it's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek." — Mario Andretti

Okay... everyone's been gabbing about the Olympics, and I haven't joined in much because, to be honest, all the really good stuff is on late and I can't stay up, and I am far too busy to spend too much time watching ANY television.


I have been watching women's beach volleyball. It's on right as my DH gets home and DD goes to sleep and before I hit the hay. And WOW(!!) is our team amazing. I played volleyball (and basketball... but that's a different story) in school and I know how hard it is to keep an entire court covered with a full team. That TWO people can do it, and so efficiently, is truly amazing.

Fact is, they're willing to do just about anything to win. Dive face first into the sand, and then pop right back up to spike the ball, for instance. Last night I watched the best match yet. They really earned some of those points... running, falling, throwing themselves at the ball with a single-mindedness that I found truly amazing.

What a life lesson that is. If we all live-life with that kind of passion, wouldn't the world be a truly incredible place? Sometimes I find it difficult to wrap my brain around the dedication that is required for these athletes to succeed as they have. It's inspiring.


Speaking of single-mindedness... you should have seen Dakota trying to catch a chipmunk for the first time. It went to ground, as any smart chippie would when pursued by a loopy-looking dog, but Dakota was not deterred.

She circled.

She whined.

She stuck her nose in the hole (she does this to pretty much every hole she finds, and one of these days, something is going to give her a nip).

She wagged her tail.

It took her well over half an hour to even THINK about digging. Of course, that thought was nipped in the bud by the Chipmunk Exposure Party Pooper -- Me.

Still, it did keep her busy, and mostly out of trouble long enough for DD and I to week the mulch around her swingset (while avoiding a frantic mass egg move by the ants who live there and who were certain we were out to get them ... aren't ants fascinating? Another subject for another time).


One of my squash plants just up and died yesterday. For no apparent reason, and completely without warning. I am particularly sad because it was peppered with a whole bunch of baby squash.

I'm not sure when corn is ready to pick. I don't want to pick it too soon -- you don't get another chance with corn. What you see is what you get.

One of my potato plants lost all of its leaves. I'm thinking that's not a good thing. I'll let DD go in and dig up any potatoes it may have hiding under the ground. She loves doing that -- it's like digging for gold.


You Are a Pistachio

You are funky, freaky, and a total character.

You're very different than anyone you know.

There's no way you're changing the way you are...

Which is good, because no one wants you to change.

Hmmm.... I'm thinking, No.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekend Recap

Alice came to a fork in the road.
"Which road do I take?" she asked.
"Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat.
"I don't know," Alice answered.
"Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."
~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

We had a fairly quiet day yesterday. We had lunch out (where DH left his wallet... thankfully, the waitstaff found it immediately), and then shared a romantic shopping trip to WalMart where DH bought doe urine and fishing lures. *G*

We came home and took a nice, long walk with the dog all through the neighborhood. Then DH fertilized the lawn, and I weeded.

As silly as it sounds, it was a good day. I love my DD, I really do -- but I never realized the demands she makes on me all the time. I get "Mom!" every five minutes, and seldom am able to just do what I want, when I want for as long as I want.

And DH and I talked. A lot. Something else we can't do with little pitcher's ears.

So, year twelve is history, and year thirteen begins.


We released another butterfly yesterday, a male monarch (interestingly enough -- the first batch we had were all females, and this last batch were all males. I wonder if there's a reason for that?). I actually caught it hatching the moment it emerged. Fascinating... actually, if you're interested, here are pix from last year of a monarch emerging from its chrysalis:

We also lost our last pillar -- he started the vomiting/writing thing ... so our mortality rate this year was three pillars, and one butterfly (that one was the hardest to take).

We only have two more chrysalis to go and we're done with Pillar Place 2008.


I did some writing yesterday as well. I opened up my fantasy that I started for NaNoWriMo last year. I'd gotten about 16,000 words before I quit. I really, really like this story. The world-building is arduous, but worth it, I think. I wrote another 1,000 words yesterday and hope to keep up the momentum. It's going to need a close eye by someone when it's done. And, I sure wish I'd taken better notes on my IM brainstorming session with Jen. Oh well...


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Broken Boats and Anniversarys

I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. ~Rita Rudner

See... y'all are so smart! You're paying attention :-)

Yes, DD and DH went boating yesterday. Since the weekend the boat broke, DH took the boat engine apart and spent hours nearly every day scouring it for anything that could be wrong. He replaced a few parts, thought it was good and took it out on a nearby lake.

It died again.

So, he had his brother tow him in, and took the thing apart again right there on the dock. Found a couple more parts that looked like they might be a problem, brought them down to a local marina and got new ones. Replaced them, put it back together and then drove the boat like he'd stolen it.

It did NOT die.

Thusly deemed safe for use, he called the family and arranged a boating date. So, for a few hundred dollars, instead of several thousand, it seem we may have an operating boat again. I hope.

Funny thing -- three weeks ago, I would have been horrified at the thought of spending a few hundred on the boat, now it seems like a paltry sum. Amazing how perspective changes when faced with the idea of several thousand!

Fingers crossed that the problem has been fixed permanently. It's kind of nice having a handy husband.


Speaking of husbands, I've had mine for twelve years today. It's amazing how quickly the time has gone by... it doesn't seem like it's been that long.

Our plans? SIL is taking DD for a few hours and DH and I are going out on a date. *G* We don't do that very often, especially now that my mom isn't here to watch DD regularly. I imagine we'll have seafood (DH is a clam freak... I prefer scallops) and then see what happens next. If it's a nice day, maybe we'll go walk by the lake. If not, a movie? Who knows. DH isn't one for making plans.

Speaking of marriage, the best wedding scene ever:


From Melissa:

Your Hidden Talent

You have the natural talent of rocking the boat, thwarting the system.

And while this may not seem big, it can be.

It's people like you who serve as the catalysts to major cultural changes.

You're just a bit behind the scenes, so no one really notices.

I think they're saying I'm sneaky... hmmm...


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Monday Meme-ing on Saturday

I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying. ~Charles C. Finn

Stolen shamelessly from Anno:

What I'm reading: "One Night In Boston" by Allie Boniface -- now that I finally FOUND the blasted thing -- I couldn't find it when I met Allie, so couldn't get it autographed... took me a few days, but I did locate it in my massive piles of books and papers, and now must wait until the next time I see Allie. Unless I lose it again) and "You, On A Diet" (again... to remind myself how I should be eating).

What I'm eating: Nothing, yet ... I'm waiting until DD and DH leave to go boating so I can make some squash pancakes for breakfast. Yum.

What I'm drinking: Coffee with chocolate soy milk.

What I'm watching: The screen on my computer, and occasionally the blue jays chasing off all the other birds on my feeders, even though they are too big to eat from them.

What I'm listening to: DD sniffling on the couch -- seems she finally has allergies, the clack of my computer keys, and the birds outside (I think I would dislike the blue jays less if they had a prettier voice).

What I have scheduled in the week ahead of me: nothing much, thankfully: doggy class (we're doing our best to get Dd certified as a Canine Good Citizen... I'm having serious doubts), school for DD, and I want to get DD signed up for art lessons at a nearby gallery (they offer them for homeschoolers, so I can do the lesson during the day!). I imagine we'll probably go to the library at least once, and to the store.

What I'm feeling: Overwhelmed. I have far too much too do -- and it's to the point where I waste time trying to figure out what I should tackle first!

What I want: More time, and better focus. I miss writing... to the point where severe depression is beginning to seep in to my bones. I have some things completed, but not submitted, because they are waiting for at least a second set of eyeballs. Unfortunately, those eyeballs are as busy as mine. I also want to move. I don't want to stay here for another winter... but short of a miracle, I will be. I want my DD to be happy and make more friends -- friends who actually have time to play now and then (why do people schedule their kids so tightly that they have no down time at all?). I want a dog who behaves and a garden that produces more tomatoes than I can eat. I want to see my mom again, and my friends who live across country. Oh... and world peace.


Happy Weekend! Any plans?


Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Flitting

See, the human mind is kind of like... a piñata. When it breaks open, there's a lot of surprises inside. Once you get the piñata perspective, you see that losing your mind can be a peak experience. ~Jane Wagner

Lots of randomness bouncing around in my head. I mentioned to my librarian the other day that I have so much crammed into my brain that I can't keep stuff straight and frequently come across as dingy and forgetful. I hate that.

So, I'm going to let some of it leak out...

It occurred to me this morning that I haven't taken pictures of any for a really, really long time. That's so odd. But it's probably a good thing since I haven't scrapbooked in more than a year.

Jenny Crusie is considering stopping her blog. She has, occasionally, gotten a bit controversial (mostly in the defense of friends), and was subsequently attacked. That is one of the reasons I do things like brain-dumping here instead of talking about things I'm passionate about (politics being one... but you'd never know, would you?). I'm not up for attacks.

Brenda Coulter mentioned that the girlies who love the Twilight series are truly angry about the ending of Breaking Dawn. Since I didn't read anything except Twilight (I tried... I really HATED New Moon, and since I couldn't finish that, didn't see the point in continuing. I'll wait for the movies), I had no idea why -- until I heard they were mad about who Bella ended up with. Then I found out WHO Bella ended up with, and didn't understand why they were angry. Obviously, I missed something in the last three books, lol.

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. I love that I have home-grown, garden-ripe tomatoes. I hate that it signifies the end of summer. I had truly hoped to be relocated out west by now, but there are just not a lot of technical job openings in central Washington. Bother.

It's a sad, sad day when I'm excited that gas is "only" $3.67 a gallon. Way back when, in the 70s there was a spike in gas prices. They got as high as $.62 a gallon!! People were horrified. There was rationing based on your license plate number.

Why is local produce so much more expensive? I'm not talking about organic... I understand the why of that. But local, conventionally grown produce? I want to buy local... but when it's twice as much, and I can barely pay the bills, how do I justify it? I really do not like to decide between eating right and eating.

Wonder if I've leaked enough out to get through the day without forgetting to tie my shoes? Oh, wait... they're flip-flops.



No writing yesterday. Spent the morning doing LASR stuff (speaking of which, today's anniversary prize is a $15 gift certificate -- you might want to go play), then DD needed help with school, and we had a late doggy class that ended up taking 90 mins instead of an hour. Some days just don't go the way you hope.

DH is home for the next three days, too, so I don't have high hopes for accomplishing anything. Bother.

See, Amy -- Mondays are my friend!


Thursday, August 14, 2008


Eighty percent of success is showing up. ~Woody Allen

Okay, I think I've nearly recovered from the shock of finding myself on the MBaM bestsellers list. Nearly. I may even be able to talk coherently. I know I terrified Judy yesterday because I IM'd her this message:


::faints dead away::

And nothing else.

She's very patient with me.



I spent a good part of the day, yesterday, struggling with my DDs new curriculum. It's all computer based, and the info on how to do the teacher's stuff isn't very comprehensive unless you count the tutorial. Problem is, I can't PAUSE the tutorial so I either have to instantly memorize the information or keep starting it over.

I finally managed to figure out how to set the school calendar and how to assign and grade lessons and tests. I figure that's the big stuff. I'll worry about the rest later.

And, yes, we're already starting school.


I did get another 1000 words or so done on the wolf story. Unfortunately, that isn't enough to make it in time for the "Got Wolf" contest. I need to be doing at least 1500 words a day. ::shrugs:: Maybe I'll just submit it as a short story if I don't get it done in time. Still, the contest winners are going to be part of a print anthology, and I really wanted that.

Month's not over yet.



I picked the first tomato from our garden yesterday. There are four more that are about ripe. Unfortunately, I didn't get as many as I'd hoped for (I had big plans to can diced tomatoes this year -- I love tomatoes...mmmm). I planted about two dozen plants. Looks like I'll have to double that next year. Don't know WHERE I'll fit them, but I'll figure something out.

We still have an abundance of cucumbers, but that's okay -- my neighbors are enjoying the bounty.


You Are Comic Sans

You are a nothing but a big goofball. You're quite playful and fun!

You're widely known for your zany personality and your vivacious attitude.

To say that you stand out in a crowd would be a definite understatement.

Remember that you are overwhelming at times and that people appreciate you best in small doses.

Huh... okay... what do YOU think? Me? A goofball? Zany? Playful? Overwhelming?


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kitchen Matches is A BESTSELLER

Dear heavens. Imagine my shock when I opened my "Kitchen Matches" page at MBaM and saw this:

Can't see it? Let me show you a little closer:

I didn't expect to hit the bestsellers, because they are typically all erotic or very spicy romance (and all the other nine ARE) which my story is certainly NOT. But... holy moly... wow... thanks you guys.

:::faints dead away:::

Welcome Guest Blogger: Liana Laverentz

Balancing Your Arguments—Or How to Fight Fair
by Liana Laverentz

Three things to decide before having a disagreement with someone:

1. Decide what you are angry about.

Sounds simple, I know. Most people probably think this is a given. Of course I know what I’m angry about! What do you think I am, some kind of idiot?

No, but most arguments, would you believe, are NOT about what the participants think they are arguing about.

For instance, your partner (date, lover, husband, wife, sibling, roommate, parent, significant other) puts you down, or makes a joke at your expense in front of others at a social gathering. At the time, you laugh right along with everybody else. But inside, whether you acknowledge it or not, you are hurt. It hurts when someone makes fun of you, whether you admit to it or not. But if you admit it, you fear you might sound like a crybaby, or be called weak, or ‘too sensitive.’ So you laugh along with everyone else, then seethe on the ride home.

You decide to have a little snack, do some emotional eating to soothe your hurt feelings. Some chocolate would be nice. Hmmmm… Maybe those leftover brownies, or a cookie or two—or sixteen. Some milk would go along with those cookies really well. You open the refrigerator. You’re out of milk. It was your partner’s/teenager’s/roommate’s turn to pick some up at the store. He forgot. Again.

You light into him about how there’s no milk and somehow it morphs into how he never brings home the milk when it’s his turn, and how, in fact, he never closes up the cereal boxes either, or puts the dishes in the dishwasher, and oh, yeah—he never puts the seat down.

You never once mention you got your feelings hurt at the party when he told everyone how you walked out of the Wal-Mart restroom with toilet paper trailing behind you.

Because to do that, would mean admitting your feelings had been hurt, and, depending on the type of relationship you are in, giving over that kind of information could guarantee more of the same. Or worse, indifference.

Fighting over the milk is a lot easier. But it’s not really what it’s about, is it?

2. Decide who you’re angry with.

This one seems like a no-brainer, too. But it’s trickier than you may think. In the previous example, you were definitely angry with your partner. Your partner/sibling said something that hurt you and you were angry, even if you fought about something else entirely. This time, however, you’re angry with someone else. Maybe someone you can’t get angry with, for some reason or another. A parent you’ve never been able to stand up to, your boss, a sick relative you are caring for and can’t possibly get angry with, because how would that make you look?

Let’s go with the clerk at the wedding dress store. You’re already frazzled with a million details to see to. You go to try on the dress, and—it’s the wrong dress! Holy moly, what are you going to do? The wedding is three weeks away, and it takes six to get a dress in, and if you get angry at the store clerk/manager and make a scene, somehow your order may get ‘lost’ altogether—at the very least, she won’t be going out of her way to get you the right dress in the right size on time—and there’s no place for you to vent your disappointment and fear that you won’t have a dress for the wedding.

So what do you do? You meet your fiancé for lunch. You’re fired up, with no one to shoot. He arrives ten minutes late, having been held over by a boss who is famous for tacking on last minute demands or requests. Now he has to figure out how to get the project he’s working on, plus another one, done by the weekend.

But he doesn’t want to let you down, so he meets you for lunch, if a bit late. You blast him for being late the minute he sits down. He gets defensive and says it’s not like he was as late as you were last week when you met at the stupid cake shop to pick out the cake. Oh, so now your cake is stupid, and by extension, you are, too.

You’re not mad at each other, so why are you fighting? The easiest thing to do is take frustrations with others out on the people closest to you—because they are supposed to ‘understand’ and love you. It’s part of the unspoken rules of being in a close relationship, and that includes relationships with parents and siblings and children.

But nobody understands being attacked for something totally unrelated to the real problem, especially if they aren’t part of the real problem. It leaves you both feeling hurt and sad and bewildered and unsatisfied, because you never discussed your anger with the person you were really upset with.

So, make sure the person you are arguing with is the person you are upset with.

3. Decide what’s more important: Being right or strengthening the relationship.

Contrary to popular belief, conflict is not something to be avoided at all costs. Conflict can bring people closer together, as they work together to resolve the conflict. Ever heard of couples who never fight? Those are couples who never grow or change. They’re stuck in fantasy land, and when something comes along to test the foundation of their relationship, and it will—Life has an absolute way of doing that—the relationship will dissolve like a sand castle when the tide comes in.

Hardship and conflict are what cement a relationship, not what tears it apart. This doesn’t mean you should seek out every opportunity you can to argue/disagree with your partner and make their and your life more difficult. It means when the tough times come, and they will—the loss of a parent or child, the loss of a job—or simply changing jobs/careers--a major illness to weather, a two-week vacation with the in-laws, a home remodeling project, someone absconds with your retirement savings—if you haven’t learned to fight fair and work through conflict properly—the relationship is doomed.

And it’s doomed whether you stay in it or split up. We all know tons of people in miserable marriages. You don’t have to be alone to be lonely.

So what’s more important? Being right, or figuring out how to resolve the problem and preserve the relationship? Love isn’t love if you have to keep score.

This is not the same as keeping quiet to preserve the peace. That is something else entirely—intimidation at the least, abuse at the worst. This is about making a commitment to put the relationship first and work together to find a compromise for all parties concerned whenever possible. Compromise isn’t part of an abusive relationship. Ever.

What I’m talking about today is making the commitment to see the argument through, for the sake of the relationship, to strengthen it, not destroy it.

To do that, you need to set aside a time when both parties are calm and willing to talk. Never argue in the heat of the moment. I know, I know, it is just so tempting to tell that sorry so-and-so just what you think about this, that or the other—but it’s never the right choice to make, believe me. Just the easiest.

And the least effective.

What you need to do when you are upset is walk away. Not walk out. I didn’t say walk out. I said take a time out. Go for a walk, go to your room, find something to do that soothes your soul. Then, when you’re feeling settled, come back and ask, “Can we talk?”

If it’s important to you, you will, and if it’s important to the other party, they will, too.

So, once you’ve agreed to talk, establish the ground rules that if either of you gets upset you’ll take a time out and try again later, because you want the relationship to work.

But before you meet for this little sit-down session, make sure you know 1) what you’re mad about and 2) who you’re mad at and why. This is something you can figure out during your walk away and take a time-out period.

Make sure the person you’re talking to is someone who can do something about the situation, or you’re both just wasting your time and breath. Venting is nice. Venting is fun. Venting feels good. But it never gets anything resolved.

And do you really want to have the same argument over and over and over again, just in a different disguise?

Not me. I’ve got more fun things to do with my time.

Liana Laverentz
Thin Ice (NJRW Golden Leaf and EPPIE Award Winner)
Jake's Return
Available in e-book, print, and on Kindle
Ashton's Secret (coming in 2009)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

IT'S UP!!!

Kitchen Matches is officially released!!!

Click the cover to check it out:

Today is the day... Kitchen Matches releases!

Patience: A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue. ~Ambrose Bierce

Yep, I'm told "Kitchen Matches" releases today. Unfortunately, it's not up yet. Why isn't everyone on Eastern time AND an early riser??


In any case, I'll let you know when I find it up for sale (or, if you check and it is, let ME know, lol).

To whet your appetite, here is a little taste of "Kitchen Matches":

“Leave your lights on?” She said this automatically. That question was the first thing to ask when a car wouldn’t start. Still, the guy was always pretty sharp in class so she couldn’t imagine him doing something that absent-minded.

“Not that I recall.”

“Did you check?”

“If they were burned out, how could I check?”

She stared at him for a moment to see if he was serious. The expression on his face was as innocent as a newborn baby’s, so he was serious as a heart attack. “First off, they wouldn’t burn out. Your battery would die first. Second, you could see if the switch was turned on.” She pulled in beside his van and revised her initial opinion of how sharp he was.

“Huh.” He shrugged. “Hadn’t thought of that.” He raked a hand through his dark hair, hair that was long enough to pull into a tiny ponytail in the back, something he occasionally did in class.

When a thick lock flopped back across his forehead, she fought the urge to brush the dark curl back into place. His mass of hair was far longer than her own, and that thought made her so self-conscious, she tugged her hat down tighter on her head.

“Let’s go take a look,” Cori said, determined not to think about how much she wished she looked like a girl right now. What was it about this guy that turned her normally strong spine into mush? Next thing you knew, she’d giggle and blush. Ick.

She opened her door and swung down to the ground. He slid the van door open for her and inserted the key into the ignition. When she turned the key and nothing happened, she popped the hood. “I’ll give the battery a jump. You get in and try it when I say when.”

“Try what?”

“Turning the key.” Dear heavens, the guy was utterly helpless. “You mean to tell me you’ve never jumped a battery before?”

“I imagine I’ve done that about as many times as you’ve made chicken cordon bleu.”

“Hey…I’ve made it.” She hated that her voice sounded petulant. But, she had made it before. In his class, the first week. Never mind that she’d caused a ruckus by flinging the chicken breast two stoves over when the hunk of meat had stuck to the stupid wooden hammer thingie she was using to pound it out. The other students hadn’t minded, not even the one who’d gotten the slimy bit of poultry right in the kisser.

He looked at her and one corner of his mouth twitched in what might have been amusement. “See, there’s a first time for everything. Just walk me through the procedure, step-by-step, would you? I may be untaught, but I’m far from unteachable.”

He looked so earnest and unoffended by her shock, Cori couldn’t help but agree to his request. She shoved up the van’s hood, standing on tip-toe and pushing it with her fingertips to get it all the way into place. At the sight of the battery, she cringed. “Geez. Yuck.”

“What?” He stood behind her, looking over her shoulder.

Surely she shivered at the cold, and not at his proximity. She shrugged off the feeling and pointed.

“Your battery is corroded. It’s a wonder your engine has started at all lately.” She stepped back and tromped on his toe with her boot. At his grunt, she said, “Sorry. But, back off a little. I need some space to think.” And to let her nerves settle down.

“Can’t you just jump it?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Yeah, maybe, but I’d rather not crud up my cables and jumping that mess of a battery really wouldn’t fix the real problem. It would be like treating cancer with aspirin. How about a free tow instead?”

He looked at her, suspicion in his blue eyes. “What’s the catch? I mean, you don’t even like me.”

“Not like you?” She snorted. “I’d say it’s the other way around, teach.”

He stared, blinking owl-like, but said nothing.

She shifted nervously from foot to foot. Finally, she couldn’t take the silence a minute longer. “Well? You want to stay here or can I take you and your van somewhere?”

“I’m fairly new in town and don’t know any good car repairmen.”

“I do.”

“Oh? Do you get a kickback for referring me?”

“See…I knew you didn’t like me.” She smirked. “And, no I don’t get a kickback, exactly.”

“What’s ‘exactly’ mean?”

“I mean that it’s me.” She stuffed her cold hands into her jacket pockets and rocked back on her heels.

“It’s you, what?”

“I’m a reputable car repairman.”

He stared at her again, and that little habit of his was really making her uncomfortable. That look cut through her tough outer skin, right to her soft and easily embarrassed center. His gaze scooted up to her face, down to her toes and back again. The look was as soft as a caress and she fisted her hands, annoyed at her body’s reaction to it.

“You’re no man,” he announced.

“What? Are you some kind of Neanderthal? You think because of my chromosomes I can’t fix a minivan?”

“I didn’t say that.” The corner of his mouth turned up in a smile, the first real one ever aimed in her direction. “You called yourself a repairman, and I only said that you aren’t a man. That’s a fact. Despite your dress and demeanor, you are very much a woman.”

A thrill of attraction shivered up her spine and left her unable to speak coherently. She fell back on a simple, “Oh.”


It's raining. Again. Or maybe that's "still". I'm fairly certain I have webbing growing between my toes and fingers. Ugh.

What's up with the Degree commercials (YouTube video here) and Eureka this past week? Is that just weird or what? I did find the reason why here.

Not sure I'm liking the idea though.

Am writing ... working on a short story for TWRP's "Got Wolf" contest. Don't know if I'm going to make it, though, as the deadline is August 31st. But, hey... I still have two whole weeks. And, I've always said I work better under pressure! Yesterday, Chris and I were gabbing via IM and mentioned that neither of us were finding time to write. I said: how about now? Let's both just stop doing what we're doing and write for thirty minutes (or until she is interrupted -- she has FOUR boys, and one is an infant) and see how it goes. We did, and we both got right around 1000 words. Not too shabby.

I'm about ready to give up on my Dd -- Dakota. I half wonder if she is just not trainable? I still can't get her leash trained, despite all sorts of advice (it took me half an hour to get 1/8 of a mile yesterday, what with all the turning around every time she pulled). She's also begun peeing in the house again, for no apparent reason, so we're doing what we did for her as a puppy -- outside after every meal, and out every hour or so. But, up until this week, she's always asked to go outside and now? .... Nope. She still eats the plants, and the couch, and the rugs, and boxes, and books, and .... even though she knows she isn't supposed to (she comes up to me and apologizes for it, even before I know she's done anything). Color me frustrated. It's a good thing she's cute.

I'm addicted to Bowling Buddies on Facebook. Just saying.


Monday, August 11, 2008

And the Winnah is....

"There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won't and that's a wife who can't cook and will." - Robert Frost

First prize of a free PDF copy of "Kitchen Matches" is: NUMBER TWO - Anita!

GRAND PRIZE of a free PDF copy of "Kitchen Matches" & a $5 gift certificate is: NUMBER SEVEN - Dru!

Email me (authormariannearkins AT gmail DOT com) from the email address you'd like to receive your prizes at, and I'll get them out to you.

Funny thing was, nearly every vote said something like -- I've done things like that... so, why didn't you SEND THEM IN?? You could be reading my story right now.

Remember, though, if you didn't win, "Kitchen Matches" is on sale tomorrow from Samhain Publishing.



1. What is the last thing you attempted to quit? How did you do it and were you successful?

I tried to quit being a lazy slug and overeating... I failed miserably. I'm still working on it...

2. Are you a roller coaster sort of person (impulsive, takes chances, likes to live in the fast lane), or a merry-go-round sort of person (slow, steady, predictable, peaceful)? This is an excellent excuse to do a little self-analysis!

Okay... this one is tough. I am NOT impulsive, I do NOT like to take chances (much)... but... I don't think I'm predictable and peaceful either. So, maybe I'm the Tilt-o-Whirl? Or the Scrambler?

3. Have you ever worn your slippers, or pajamas, in public? If so, when and why? If not, would you ever consider leaving your house looking less than your best? What do you think of people who do so? (Be honest, we all judge on some level).

When I was in high school, all of us drama students would meet at Dennys restaurant every few weeks, at night, and share cheese fries and coffee (because that was back before there were free refills on soda -- blame Dennys for my coffee habit). We always wore pajamas. In fact, when we went to Anaheim for the thespian festival, there was a Dennys next door to our hotel, and we all went in our jammies -- except the teacher (party pooper, lol).

And, I absolutely leave the house looking less than my best. OTOH, I try not to look like too much of a slob (except once, I was gardening, and I needed something -- and I didn't want to shower and change, go get it, come back and get filthy again... so I went to Agway looking a mess). I do think that today's society has gotten a little lackadaisical in their public appearance. Pajamas aren't a joke, they're regular daywear. Ironing? Never... who cares if your clothes look like they were wadded up wet and shoved in a corner.

It's a shame that folks don't seem to care AT ALL how they look anymore.

4. If you could go back and tell your 13-year-old self one thing about the future, what would you say?

Don't be stupid and move out of state. Stay in California. Forever.

Okay, there are other things I'd say, but if you think I'm confessing all on my public blog, you're nuts. Sorry.


In Pillar Place 2008:

We hatched two butterflies yesterday, but one of them was NOT right. He was behaving in very odd ways and eventually just flopped to the ground and stuck his behind up in the air and laid there. Guess who ended up in the freezer? Again. DD was distraught.

Today, weather permitting, we will have another butterfly funeral. Our milkweed garden is going to look like Flanders Field at this rate.

Still, we did have one healthy one and will release him today -- it rained all yesterday afternoon, so he had to stay in the box. He was NOT a happy butterfly, but he would have been less happy going out in the pouring rain.

Only four or five more to go.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Time To Vote!

Cooking Rule: If at first you don't succeed... order pizza. - Anonymous

Okay... I have to admit that I had hopes for more entries. However, I think you'll find plenty to smile about with these. They are posted exactly as they came to me (with names omitted, if they were included). Send your votes (using the # at the beginning of each story) to: authormariannearkins (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

The person with the highest number of votes gets a copy of "Kitchen Matches" one day before it releases AND a $5 gift certificate. The person with the second highest number of votes gets a copy of "Kitchen Matches" one day before it releases. What a deal.

Now... don't you wish YOU had entered?

And... they're off!



I’m a terrible cook. Seriously, there have been so many accidents, it’s hard to pick just one. But, recently, I was preheating the oven and I noticed that the oven needed cleaning. So I grabbed the Windex and some paper towels. As soon as I wiped the inside of the oven, the paper towel caught on fire. Thank God for all those years of softball. I tossed the the fire ball into the sink before I dropped it.



Twas a lovely , but chilly early Maine spring day that found (mom) with a hankering for chicken pie. Step one: Skin a whole chicken and put it in a pot of water to simmer until tender. (mom) placed a carefully prepared plump bird in the pot and switched the burner on. She was washing her hands when (dad) came bouncing into the room.

"You got some time? There's a car for sale in the parking lot of the antique store in Skowhegan. It's a Camry wagon and it sounds perfect!"

Their beloved VW Jetta had just been recently totalled by a rear-end collision and they were in dire need of a suitable replacement.

"Just let me grab my sweater!" (mom) headed for the garage and (dad) told the kids, B. (aged 11) and M. (aged 9) that they'd be out for a bit. The kids were reasonably responsible and trustworthy. Surely they'd be fine for the hour or so this errand would take.

Fast-forward about an hour and a half.

In the midst of a long, leisurely test drive, (mom) suddenly developed a vague uneasy feeling. Had she forgotten something?

"Honey," she said anxiously. "I'm not sure, but I think I started some chicken cooking before we left. Yes, yes, I'm sure of it. Oh my word! That was almost an hour and a half ago!"

"Oh, it'll be alright. B. knows how to cook a bit. She would know to turn off the stove if the pot gets to boiling too vigorously."

Surely she would...but they hurried home anyway.

They pulled into the driveway to see BILLOWS of acrid white smoke pouring out of the open windows. (Dad) and (mom) looked swiftly at the field across the street where the family was supposed to meet if there was a house fire; no kids! They must be inside! PANIC!!!!!

They ripped the kitchen door open with no regard for their own personal safety. The enamel pot on the stove was glowing red and had flames shooting up 3 to 4 feet toward the ceiling. Thank God it was 100 year old house with 10 foot ceilings! (Dad) grabbed a wad of pot holders, seized the flaming metalware and threw it outside into an unmelted snow bank.

In the meantime, (mom) raced into the living room to find B. and M. squatting down low on the floor, coughing fitfully as they played Sorry.


M.'s watery eyes went wide and B. looked up sheepishly, "We thought it was we opened the windows to let it out."


The house was saved, the kids were safe (albeit a bit "burned" by their mother's wrath and fear), but dinner was Pizza Hut.



I have two cooking disasters:

1. My first meal as a bride. (Mind you, I was only 18.) I wanted my husband's
beer to remain cold, so I put it over ice. Unfortunately, this ruins the beer.
Also, we were young & broke & only had the 1.

2. I decided to try out a new recipe for a burgundy stew in my crock pot, which
calls for 1/2 bottle of good red wine. Unfortunately, a crockpot does not heat
up enough to cook the alcohol out of the wine, so we ended up with wine stew.
We both tried very hard to eat it, my husband is such a doll & didn't want to
hurt my feelings. Finally, we gave up, tossed it out & ordered pizza.



Mine is actually my sisters.

She was about 11 years old and she and her friend decided to make candles from scratch. However she forgot to have the water below. She burned half the kitchen. She had been told before this that she was suppose to do this with supervision. My Mom was out of town and for once my Dad actually came over to help with this disaster.



My worst cooking disaster was back in 1983, when I got my first microwave. I didn't really know much about them then. I was going to poach some eggs in it, but didn't know that you were suppose to puncture the yolks first. So my eggs exploded and blew open the microwave door. I spent the rest of the day not only cleaning egg out of the microwave, but off the floor, walls and ceiling. I've never made that mistake again, but I also lost my taste for poached eggs and haven't ate any since. Of course my husband will not let me forget it, and he keeps reminding me over and over though the years. But the most embarrassing thing is he has to tell the story to everyone he knows.



Here's my worst cooking disaster and hope you enjoy it:

I made a M & M cookie cake for my daughter’s birthday and unfortunately, I put too much cookie dough into one round pizza pan, forgetting it would expand. Also I think it was a smaller pan than I had usually used for this recipe. The dough oozed over the pan edges onto the bottom of the oven and caught on fire. I had to put out the fire and remove the burnt dough and try to get the smell out of the kitchen.

But you know what, that was the best tasting cookie cake ever! My kids said I should always have a fire underneath to bake future cookie cakes.



The scenario is I was preparing a family meal with all the works. The last thing I had to do was wash, season and then roast the chicken.

After I finished washing, seasoning, I put it on the oven and since I was so tired that I took a nap and when I woke up, I realized that I never turned the oven on and I had less than 90 minutes to get everything done.

So in my sleepiness, I reasoned that if it takes roughly 90 minutes to roast a chicken at 350 degrees, then it should take less time if I roast it at 500 degrees. Yes, that's exactly what I did.

In the meantime, I set the table - made it all pretty. Put all the dishes on the table for easy removal to their plates. I kept checking on the chicken and it was getting browned and it smelled great. Never once did I check the chicken with a fork or a food thermometer.

The time arrived when my family came and we chatted and it was time to eat our meal. Everyone commented on the delicious aroma of the chicken. How it looked good and they couldn't wait to eat it. I carried the roasted chicken to the center of the table where it was admired. My uncle had the privilege of cutting into the chicken.

Can you guess what happened? The knife wouldn't go all the way through. The. chicken. was. not. done. It. still. had. the. filmy. thing. It wasn't fair, everything looked good. Except that darn chicken.

This was the first and last time I prepared any big meal for my family and myself.



Failing to follow instruction might be the classic path to a kitchen disaster, but my worst kitchen disaster by far happened one cold late autumn evening when, intending to comfort a small group of friends with a spicy gumbo made with shrimp, andouille sausage, and chicken, I did exactly as my recipe indicated and added two TABLESPOONS of fresh cayenne to my simmering stew. The effect of that much red pepper hitting the steamy liquid -- like misting the room with pepper spray -- was immediate. We coughed, wheezed, and sneezed, choked and gasped. Our eyes watered. Our fingers sweat. We opened the windows, opened the doors, started all the exhaust fans. The neighbors complained. We heard people cough just coming up the stairs.

We ate the gumbo, tears streaming from our eyes. It was that good.
So that was my worst kitchen disaster. Unless it was the time I was making a roast chicken dinner for my boyfriend's boss & his wife, and the chicken caught fire in the oven. Who knew it was so important to keep the oven clean?
Or the time I invited friends over for an Indian meal after work. Just a little something, a spicy curry, a sweet curry, a lentil dish, a couple of chutneys, and homemade flatbreads. I started working on it at 5:30 and I think I finished chopping all the vegetables by 9:00. The gin was gone by 9:30. Someone went out for more & returned with both gin and some chips. People played music. Talked. Wandered into the kitchen, asked how dinner was coming. Went out into the living room and ate more chips. We finally ate around 11:00. I don't know if it was really a great meal, or if everyone was just in a great mood because of all the gin, but everyone seemed happy. The next time the urge struck for a complicated ethnic meal, though, I made sure to order out.