Monday, January 17, 2011

On a personal note

Then . . .

I haven't updated my blog for quite some time. Between one thing and another, I haven't been able to find the time. But something astonishing happened to me a few months ago, and I wanted to share it.

I've always had trouble losing weight. Well, losing it wasn't a problem; keeping it lost was. In fact, by the middle of 2005, I was 190 pounds overweight. No, I didn't weigh 190, I was 190 pounds OVER what my weight should have been. I felt huge and ugly and slow and stupid. I also felt I would probably die younger than I should, and came to accept all those negatives about myself. It was a battle I would never win, so why even try?

At one point in 2005, I knuckled down and lost about 35 lbs. I thought I'd finally solved my problem, but I hit the wall and no matter what I did (dieting, WW, exercise, meditation, NutriSystems, etc.) my weight didn't budge.

Fast forward to 2010. By then, I'd remarried (a wonderful man), a doctor who had seen many patients in my situation develop diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and worse (worse?!) - yes, Death. He urged me to do something to save my own life. Yes, he was being selfish. He wanted me around for another 20 years or so. I can't say I disagreed with his bias.

I'd read about various bariatric surgeries over the years, but the mortality and complication rates were high. Not for me. Then I saw an ad in a magazine about the lap-band. It looked very simple and something I could deal with, so my husband and I attended a seminar. When the meeting was over, I'd decided NOT to have the lap-band, or a gastric bypass, or duodenal switch. The complication rates were too high, the post-op diets too restrictive, and I didn't think I could live with any of them for the rest of my life.

BUT, there was a 4th option: a gastric sleeve. I did more research and decided THAT was the way to go.

On December 7th, 2010, I underwent the surgery. I was in the hospital only overnight and came home the next day. The surgery is conducted via laparoscopy, so there's not one giant incision (just 4-6 little small ones). I healed very quickly.

Long story short, as of this week, I've lost 60 pounds. REAL pounds, on the doctor's scale - not my home scale where if I stood just right, naked, with short hair and an empty bladder, I MIGHT see a 1 pound loss.

No, I'm not done losing weight; I still have another 75 lbs. to go, but now I KNOW I will make it. For the first time in my life (I'm 62 and have been overweight to one degree or another since I was 12), I KNOW I will finally be thin. I wish this surgery had been available years and years ago. I'm sure my life would have been entirely different had I not had to struggle with my weight every minute of every day for 50 years.

I hesitated to tell anyone I was having this surgery as many people view bariatric surgery as "the easy way out." I'm here to tell you, sister, it is NOT the easy way out. There is a lot of pre-op work to be done to even become "eligible" for this kind of surgery. The pre-op and post-op dietary regimens are strict - but very do-able for someone who is truly committed to changing her life F-O-R-E-V-E-R. I haven't been hungry and when I eat, I'm full after 6-8 bites. I eat between 5-7 meals a day (every two hours or so), and I am THRILLED with the results.

There is much more to this type of surgery, so if you are considering it, DO check out all your options. Find the very best bariatric surgeon your area has to offer, do what he/she tells you, use the surgery as the tool it is (it's only part of your weight loss process; you still have to avoid foods that make you fat, or you'll regain the weight you lose). And if you decide this is the solution for you, hold your head up high and go for it. It's YOUR life; take control of it! It may be the best thing you have ever done or will ever do for yourself.

Life is short. It can go on for decades or end in a heartbeat one single second from now. You just don't know. All you can do is what you can do, and I decided that I was sick and tired of being victimized by my genes or age or emotions, and it was time to take matters into my own hands.

Since October (a mere 3 months ago), I've had to give away ALL my clothes. They grew too large weeks ago and I didn't want to wear them anyway because they reminded me of when I was bigger (aka, really, really fat). I've bought a few new things to tide me over until I reach my ultimate goal, but I FEEL so good, waking up every day is exciting, and looking in the mirror now makes me smile instead of feel guilt and remorse, dread and self-loathing.

So there you have it. I expect to reach my goal weight in the late summer or fall of this year, and I can hardly wait! Finally, I'll get to be who I really am; look on the outside how I feel on the inside - healthy, energetic, happy, content - and not like a middle-aged woman dragging her hefty body around in pain and sorrow. And I'll be able to wear pretty clothes again! I am so looking forward to buying a size that doesn't have an X (or 3) in it!

If you have questions, please feel free to email me. This surgery is not for everyone, and asking questions can help you decide one way or the other whether it might work for you.

I care about you, dear reader, and finally, for the first time in memory, I also care about me.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Good-bye, sweet Dorothy

I am sad. My Dorothy died suddenly Thursday afternoon. She cried out, yelping in pain, making a sound I'd never heard her make before. It could not have taken me more than thirty seconds to run down the stairs to where she had been napping. "Dorothy? What's wrong? Dorothy!" I cried, as though she could answer.

I lay by her side, tears running down my face. I put my arms around her. She had gone quiet. She looked up at me, but her eyes were glazing over.

And then she was gone. She was simply . . . gone.

For fifteen minutes, my husband tried to revive her. "No, oh, no," he kept repeating. "Dorothy, don't do this. Dorothy stay with us . . ."

He pounded on her chest, breathed into her nose, but . . . it was no use. She had gone. We held her, then we held each other . . . and cried.

Her thick fur was warm, and stayed warm a long long time, all the way to the vet's. There, I hugged her and I cried, knowing we would part there, and my husband and I would go home alone. Something had ruptured inside her healthy body and it had taken her away in a matter of heartbeats.

She had been fine all day. Just fine. No hint of what was to come. At least I was at home. At least I was by her side. At least I got to stroke her silky soft ears and murmur to her how much I loved her, and what a great dog she was. I hope she heard me; I fear she did not.

Dorothy was a German Shepherd/Black Lab mix, and an independent soul. She was not terribly old, somewhere between nine and ten. She'd been a rescue dog eight years earlier when we brought home, so very thin and wary. But in time, she came to accept us as her pack.

Dorothy loved rides in the car, trips to the neighborhood park, and chicken. Boy, did she love chicken. I'm happy that her last meal was a few bites of the chicken I had at lunch that day.

Dorothy was special in so many ways. After my ex-husband moved out and my older daughter was off to college, the house was empty - except for my younger daughter and me . . . and Dorothy. Her fur was thick, and I would hug her and listen to her heartbeat and she would sleep on the bed next to me, and I didn't feel so alone. She was a bit matronly, sweet-natured, a canine confidant.

When I remarried four years later, she bonded with my new husband and they became inseparable. She became not just my dog, but "our" dog.

We are going to sprinkle Dorothy's ashes at her very favorite place -the park where she loved to run, roll in the grass, and smell each and every bush. When nobody was around, we would let her off the leash, and I'd yell, "Go, Dorothy, go!" and she'd take off running along the path, her ears flopping, her tongue lolling, her tail sweeping. So happy. So very very happy. Dogs require very few things to be happy, and running up the pathway at the park was one of Dorothy's greatest delights. We knew because of the smile on her face.

I'll have another dog, but there will never be another Dorothy. I will forever picture her curled up sleeping at the bottom of the stairs - where she died. I will forever feel her weight on my feet as I read a book in bed in the evening before bedtime. I will forever sense her presence in my heart.

And when we go to the dog park and walk up along the path where she used to run, and when the autumn breezes rustle the leaves on the trees and bushes she used to pass, I'll envision her there, and whisper softly, "Go, Dorothy, go . . ." and try real hard to smile through my tears.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just a few things . . .

Thanks to my friend Nancy Scorupa at Renaissance Yarns ( for reminding me to update my blog!

QUITE A YARN: I just completed an afghan today made with the softest wool-yarn I bought from Nancy a few weeks ago. I'm going to include the afghan in a gift basket I'm taking to the Portland Rose City Reader's Luncheon this weekend. The basket will also include a few autographed copies of my books and some excellent chocolates.

A cuddly afghan, a (fabulous) romance novel, and chocolate. Life just doesn't get any better than that!

BOOK HOOK: I'm still waiting to hear from my (hopefully) new editor and I thank those of you who've sent me e-mails of support and encouragement. I appreciate it so very much! As for the premise of the first book in the proposed 3-5 book series, it's tentatively titled TRUST ME and involves a secret letter, a cold case murder, a heroine who grew up in the WITSEC program, and a hero who is not at all who the heroine thinks he is.

MOVIE REVIEW: We saw DATE NIGHT last Friday. Very funny; definitely two thumbs up. Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are a great pair. There's a scene with two cars stuck together that's a riot, but the essence of the movie is that it's okay to love, and be in love with, your spouse. So many movies and books these days portray marriage as a battleground, and while marriage and raising a family is often, um, challenging, if you marry the right person for just who he or she is, love not only endures, it matures over time into something rare and precious. I like that message (thanks, Steve and Tina).

That's all for today! And hey, it's spring . . . take time to smell the flowers . . .


Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Why the Aloha? Well, my family and I just returned from Hawaii. Yes, we flew back Saturday the 27th (and boy, are our arms tired (okay, a reeeeally old joke)).

Here I am on Oahu, with the North Shore behind me. It was my first trip to Hawaii, and now that I've been, I think I'll miss it forever. I'm not sure I'd like to live there for any length of time, but for sun, sand, and relaxation, I've never been anywhere better. We saw all the sights, the weather was perfection and the food fabulous. I got to see my older daughter and her husband who are both stationed there (Marines at K-Bay and Navy at Pearl Harbor, respectively). I sure do miss them, and will be so happy when they're back on the mainland!!!

Book News: Please keep your fingers crossed for me. I submitted a proposal to a Major Publisher just before I left for vacation and am keeping hope in my heart for good news very soon! My last book (KILLER CHARMS) was released in August of 2008, so I am READY to see book #7 on the shelves. I hope you are, too! In my next blog, I'll give you an idea of the plot. TRUST ME, it's a good one!

Other News: My Achilles tendon repair has gone well, and I'm walking now without a limp. Yay. My foot is still a little swollen, and my shoe fits awkwardly, but I'm walking without a crutch or cane. One other good thing is that while I was healing, I had to sit a lot, and in sitting, I decided to use up my yarn stash, and began making afghans. I learned I can crochet really really fast, and in the last few months have cranked out something like 25 afghans. 100% wool or alpaca, natural fibers that are BEAUTIFUL. If you're in the Seattle area and are looking for a yarn shop that offers natural fibers, please see my friend Nancy at Renaissance Yarns ( at Kent Station. I can't tell you how gorgeous knitting or crochet projects turn out with these lovely yarns. Here's an example . . .

Right now, I'm crocheting an afghan to donate to the October writer's conference (the ECWC) in Bellevue, WA. I plan to attend and give a workshop on writing, and am providing a beautiful afghan as a raffle item, all proceeds to go to DAWN, a local shelter for abused women and their children. There'll be a book sale, too, so hope to see you there. More on this as October approaches.

I'll post more photos of afghans in the future so you can see how pretty they are. But you really have to touch the yarn or see the afghan in person. They are so SOFT and warm and photos really don't do them justice.

That's all for now; talk to you again real soon.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

October update


October is my favorite month - cool weather, cool breeze, colorful leaves, pumpkins, apple pie. Sigh. Too bad I'm stuck in bed.

I had major surgery two weeks ago after a major injury - I tore the Achilles tendon away from my heel. Ouch is right. While the operation doesn't take long, the recovery does - 8-12 weeks without putting ANY weight on the foot. I have crutches and a wheelchair, but even so, this is a major hassle because since I live up stairs. It's so hard getting down the stairs, and even more challenging getting back up them, that I'm "in" for the next 3 months (except for doctor's appointments). My husband has to do almost everything now - cook, clean up, wait on me (I try not to ask for much) - when I'm finally back on my feet (so to speak), I'm going to have to find The Perfect gift to repay him for everything he's doing. Believe me, I could not have gotten through this without him.

I'd never had general anesthetic before, nor any kind of major surgery, so it's taken nearly two weeks to feel like my old self again. One's body can't tell the difference between a surgeon's knife and a wolf attack, so a wound is a wound, and healing takes its old sweet time.

The good news is, I can crochet to my heart's content, I can read and watch old movies with my hubby (he's retired), and I can write. I can't sit in front of the computer for too long because I have to keep the leg elevated, but little by little, I'm cranking out my next book proposal.

What happened to my last proposals? Well, it seems neither curse stories, or WWII stories, or archaeologist stories are in favor with editors, so those manuscripts went nowhere. How-some-ever, I talked to my agent a couple of days ago and proposed another idea, and the bottom line is, she and I both feel this will be The One. As it was before I got published, getting published (again) is all about the right story hitting the right editor's desk at the right time.

Note to aspiring authors: Please keep this in mind as you face rejection after rejection. Even published authors get rejected, and sometimes by their own editors! With each new book you write, whether you have an editor or not, it's all about the Right story hitting the Right editor's desk at the Right time. It doesn't mean you're a bad writer or lack talent - it only means that particular story isn't what they're looking for at the moment. So hang in there and keep trying; never give up!

That's it for today. I've got to finish crocheting my cast-cozy (kidding!) . . .


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Buttons and Bones

Hiya . . .

My newest heroine is an archaeologist. I have always loved archaeology and hoped to write a story along these lines for a long time, so since I'm trying everything but the kitchen sink these days (in terms of marketable plot ideas), I figured now might be the time do follow my heart, so to speak, and really dig in to this idea. Pun intended.

My working title is REMAINS TO BE SEEN and it's a romantic suspense. After trying a variety of story approaches over the last 18 months (from paranormal to straight contemporary to WWII), I'm going back to my roots - a mystery, a love story, snappy dialogue, and humor based on what's funny to me (and hopefully you).

My heroine is Dr. Hannah Linley, Ph.D. (aka, Hard Hearted Hannah to the men she's ignored) and her hero will be Mackenzie Trent - a man who finds Hannah distant, cold, arrogant, focused, and ultimately fascinating. I've written much of Chapter 1, and the Mac and Hannah are about to meet. Oh boy.

I'm studying several books on archaeology and current archaeological theory. Even non-technical stories need a lot of research, but in manuscripts like this, you've got to have the details right to make the world you're building real. History, jargon, dialogues, facts all have to be correct (you can't make stuff up) or you risk losing readers. If you can't create a world for your characters to live in - a realistic world for those characters - it throws readers out of the story, a huge no-no.

As I go along, I'll keep you up-to-date on Hannah and Mac's story; I hope you'll like it as much as I'll enjoy writing it!

*** BTW - Autumn's coming - I can feel it in the air! Love Autumn!!!

Take care,

Sunday, August 02, 2009

My Bad

Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned. It's been two years since my last blog.

Why? Well, a lot has happened in the intervening years. My older daughter, a USMC officer, was stationed in Afghanistan (she has since returned home safely!), my younger daughter graduated from high school and begins college (out of town!) in the fall, I met a very nice man two years ago, and married him (or he married me, which is even better). I still have the day job, and was promoted to Project Manager, then the company began a massive downsize, so I'm no longer a Project Manager. The good news is, I'm still employed, which is very humbling given the state of the economy.

Oh, and one more thing - my former publisher dropped my contract. While it's true, I did cry and I was depressed for a few days (okay, months), life does go on, and so will I. I'm very luck in that I have a very supportive agent and wonderful readers and a writing circle that's like a family to me, so I continue to come up with ideas and write proposals, knowing in my heart that eventually the right manuscript will cross the right editor's desk at the right time. Because in the end, that's all getting published is (pardon my dangling participle; I meant to have that removed).

I sold my first book in 2002 and it's been a learning experience ever since, and how! The up side is, I've met some of the loveliest ladies on the planet, devoted fans who write to me and share their experiences, and keep me going by telling me how much they enjoy my stories. When I do find a new publisher, it will be in part thanks to readers who've offered me so much encouragement. Saying Thank You is hardly enough, but it's all I have, so Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

Speaking of proposals, I have two that I'm working on. The first is a WWII story that takes place in 1945 San Francisco. It's more women's fiction or commercial mainstream than my other books, but I love the time period and the drama, and hope this proposal sells so I can share it with you.

The second thing I'm working on is a series of books about 5 friends who first met when they were 10 years old and formed The Forget-Me-Not Club (their favorite flower and symbolic of how they always wanted to keep in touch, no matter where life took them). The first book in what is tentatively called The Willow Bay series, deals with a woman archaeologist in search of the father who disappeared on a dig when she was only 7. I've always loved archaeology, and am having fun with this storyline. Again, I hope it sells so I can share it with you!

Well, that's all for today. I'm going to try try try to post something every few days, but life being busy as it is, I'm not sure how that will work out quite yet. Yet since I have much more to say, I'll probably find a way to hit the laptop and crank out at least a few meaningful paragraphs a week.

I hope you're having a lovely summer and keeping cool wherever you are!


Sunday, April 08, 2007

SIGHS apparently MATTERs after all!

A couple of days ago, I received a phone call from a very nice woman who informed me my 2006 release, SIGHS MATTER, was one of the five finalists in the Romantic Suspense category of the (prestigious) Virginia RWA HOLT Medallion contest. I was both surprised and very pleased! I don't normally enter contests, but many months ago, when I received an email with information on entering the HOLT, I decided to give it a try. In checking out the names of the other four finalists, I am flattered and honored beyond belief to be included in such exemplary company:

Cherry Adair for Edge of Fear
Brenda Novak for Dead Silence
Christina Skye for Code Name: Blondie
Gayle Wilson for The Inquisitor

To final with this particular book is very sweet for me, since I wrote it while going through a divorce. I was stressed and sad, and had so much trouble getting this book done, at one point I feared I never would. When I finished, I thought it was the worst book in the world. I never wanted to see it again since it held such unhappy memories for me. But now, two years later, I can look at the book much more objectively, and in re-reading it have discovered it isn't as awful as I'd feared ;)

For the book to receive recognition from others makes me feel wonderful - not only did I finish the book on deadline, I was still able to do my job and please readers.

Thank you to the HOLT judges for granting me this very special honor and including me in such stellar company as the other ladies in this category. It means more to me than you can possibly imagine.


Monday, February 12, 2007

The Sweetest (and Busiest) Month

February has a lot going for it, and a lot going on in it. Even though it's a mini-month, it's got quite a bit on its frosty plate.

There was a full moon on the 1st. And when the clouds over the Northwest parted one magical night about three-thirty a.m., I inched one eye open briefly, made note of the miracle, then went back to sleep. One can only take so much excitement at three-thirty in the morning.

On the 2nd, we had Groundhog Day (which also happens to be one of my favorite movies). This year, Punxsutawney Phil, groundhog extrordinaire, favored us with a happy prediction: Spring is on the event horizon. After which, Mother Nature promptly dumped one bazillion inches of snow on New York. An ominous start to Spring, certainly, and not the brightest feather in Phil's soggy cap.

On the 10th, my younger daughter turned 16. Amazing to me, since it was only yesterday when she took her first step. It was yesterday, wasn't it? Can fifteen years have passed so quickly? Where did they go? Oh, there they are, reflected in my mirror. In the faded strands of hair on my head, the softer lines around my eyes. The years are there on both of us. On my daughter, they look like youthful beauty, insatiable curiosity, worlds to conquer. On me, those same elements have been tempered over time, they've mellowed, settled down into a quiet acceptance of some things, determined resistance of others.

Of course, the 14th is Valentine's Day, a happy day for some girls, not so much for others. Decades ago, Janis Ian wrote a song that pretty much summed it up for most of us:

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens . . .

The valentines I never knew,
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on ones more beautiful,
At seventeen I learned the truth.

To those of us who knew the pain
of valentines that never came . . .

It's a really depressing song, actually, but it became the mantra of girls for whom Valentine's Day brought more heartache than heart-shaped boxes. I still like Valentine's Day; and maybe, someday, the cutest boy in class (having aged into the most ambulatory old gent in the Home) will gift me with a box of See's, and a kiss or two.

On the 18th of the month, wedding bells will ring for my older daughter. In anticipation of this happy event, I've been crying like a baby all week. So ridiculous, but there you have it. I have a wonderful CD called Wonder Wheel by the Klezmatics. They are a band that blends the sounds of Yiddish culture with world music and American traditions. The music is wonderful, evocative, and can be enjoyed by everyone (I'm not Jewish, and I love this CD). The lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie, and set to music by this band. One of the songs is called Headdy Down; it's a lullaby. I can't get through it without bursting into tears. While the words are sweet, the melody is lovely, and the two combined make a Mommy's heart swell.

The chorus goes:
Headdy down, Headdy down,
Headdy headdy head down;
Baby lay your head down
Just like mine.

With my daughter getting married, the Empty Nest thing has been weighing heavily on me this week, and when I heard that tune this morning, oh my. Such a flood. My daughter, my first born, married. Oh, dear. Here I go again. Just yesterday she was a baby, her soft head on the pillow next to mine . . . oh, dear.

Sniff. Okay. Better now.

The 16th would have been my mother's 82nd birthday; I always have a cup of coffee on the morning of her birthday, tip the cup to her, and smile. When she lived with us, just before she died, we had a ritual of sitting at the kitchen table and having a cup of coffee. Oh, dear, there I go again. I warned you I've been crying for days!

February also contains Chinese New Year, Ash Wednesday, Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays, and probably some other celebrations I've never even heard of. What an action-packed little month!

And then, last, but not least, on the 27th, Arousing Suspicions will hit the shelves! I love Nate and Tabitha's story, and I hope you will, too. If you get a chance to read it, please drop me a line and let me know. I love hearing from you.

All in all, February is a sweet and sentimental month, and if I make it through to the end without shedding another tear, I'll be surprised!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It really is magic!

There was no child on earth who believed in Santa more than I. Despite glaring contradictions in terms of logic and logistics, the magic won. Every time. After all, there had to be a Santa. Just look at the evidence. Every December 25th, were there not brightly wrapped gifts under the tree? Were there not hundreds of poems and stories and movies and tales of Santa, his elves, his reindeer, even his wife? No one I encountered ever denied his existence, and everyone I encountered confirmed it.

In the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, I wouldn't sleep, couldn't. Not until I knew he'd come. After the house was quiet, I'd climb down from the top bunk, being careful not to wake my sister (if she ever made a clandestine trip to the Christmas tree in the dark, I never knew about it). Our house was very small . . . it wasn't a long journey out my bedroom door, onto the back porch, then in through the kitchen door and five steps later, into the living room. All was dark. Our rented house was set behind another house, so there were no streetlamps to illuminate the room. But I didn't need light.

In the vague and dull darkness, the tinsel on the tree glittered and sparkled just enough to draw me across the room. My mother was big on tinsel (back in the day when it was made of real metal), and she applied it with grace and beauty, one strand at time until the little tree shimmered. I'd pad toward the tree, slowly, so as not to trip over anything that might be in my way, like a huge package containing delights only my very young mind could conjure.

Crouching, I felt around until my fingers met the square edge of a present. He'd come! Santa had come! The jolt of excitement that shot though my system contained enough of a charge to light an entire city for a year. Though I couldn't see anything, I could feel, and in the chilly dark, my fingers let my imagination create the most wonderful gifts any child could want.

Even so, excited as I was, there was that tiny hint of disappointment that Santa obviously hadn't brought me the thing my heart desired more than anything in the world, but then, even I, with my wild imagination, couldn't conceive of how he'd get a sorrel horse with a white blaze down her nose and four white stockings into his sleigh, not to mention, through our front door (we didn’t have a chimney).

The years ticked by, and I never did get that much longed-for horse. Other than that, Santa never let me down. I received a copy of Black Beauty one year, though, and read it and read it and read it until the covers fell off and the pages disintegrated. A book isn't as good as a horse, but it's not a bad alternative.

My birthday is in December, just eleven days before Christmas, as a matter of fact. So I was nine all year long that fateful year, still a child, but beginning to take a hard look, to calculate. The magic had become fuzzy. I would lie in bed on that top bunk and try to figure just exactly how Santa pulled it off. Every child is the center of his or her own universe, so as long as Santa made it to my house, calculating how he made it to every other kid's house in the world in one night hadn't been an issue, until the Christmas I turned ten.

Christmas morning, my sister and I opened our presents, then we all went to Grandma and Grandpa's for the day. Stuffed with turkey, we came home, sleepy and happy. A few days later, my mother and I were in our tiny kitchen; I was sitting at the table, coloring. I was confused, and worried.

"Mom," I said. "Wasn't I a good girl last year?"

She stopped drying the bowl she had just washed. "Yes, you were very good. Why?"

"Well, Santa didn't bring me any presents."

Her brow furrowed. "Of course he did. You got a doll and that coloring book, and---"

"No," I interjected. "Those things were from you and Daddy. The tags were all signed from you and Daddy. Nothing from Santa."

Looking back on it now, I think that was the first time I was ever able to see behind a person's eyes and into their head. I saw the wheels turn. I heard the thoughts. "Oops. Shoot," except that it was my mom, and the word she thought definitely was not shoot.

She put the bowl and dish towel down on the sink, and came to sit across from me at the table. I watched her intently, watched those wheels going at a break neck pace.

"But you believe in Santa . . . don't you?"

I think I shrugged, but I'm not sure. "It doesn't make sense, you know?"

"Well-l-l-l, who do you think Santa is then?" Her brown eyes never left mine.

"You and Daddy."

She relaxed a little, nodded a little, let out a long breath. "Yes," she said. She smiled, but it wasn't a happy thing. "You're right. There is no Santa, Mianne. It's Daddy and me."

I nodded, very matter-of-factly, I think. Frowning, it occurred to me there was a whole cadre of mystical characters whose cover had just been blown. "So, there's no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, either?"

With a slow shake of her head, she whispered, "No."

I closed up my coloring book, tossed my Crayolas into their shoebox and left the table. I was pretty okay with it, I suppose, knowing the truth. It didn't bother me, but it bothered her. I saw it there, in her eyes, just before I left the kitchen. I gave her a hug and thanked her for all the Christmases, for all the magic. I tried to assure her she'd done a good job, but she didn't seem any happier about it.

Now I know why. I had just taken a giant step toward adulthood, and away from her. The magic would never come again, and even though I might miss it, she would miss it more. Having daughters of my own, I finally understand.

I was barely ten when Santa went away. In reality, my memory of him had begun when I'd been probably three, so for a mere six or seven years of my life, I believed there was a rosy cheeked man in a red suit who entered our house every Christmas Eve and left presents for us under the tree. Seven years. Not very long, but what an impact those years had on me, had on all of us who believed. We loved the magic, maybe even needed it. It's why we continue the myth and pass it along to our children, and it's why we get a little sad, a little nostalgic when it's tossed into that musty closet of things all children leave behind.

But there is hope for we who once believed . . . and its name is grandchildren!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a wonderful Winter Solstice to all!


Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Never judge a book by its cover."

When I began kindergarten, there was a girl in my class named Rebecca. Rebecca had flaming orange hair, always done in two long braids. She had freckles beyond number, and she wore glasses. Rebecca's clothes were mostly second hand prints or plaids, ill-fitting and cheap, her shoes were worn through, she had crooked teeth. I loved her. Rebecca was my first friend.

When my mother met Rebecca, she said to me, "Always remember, Marianne. Never judge a book by its cover." At the age of six, I wasn't sure what that meant, so I asked, and my mother explained how someone who is beautiful on the inside may not be beautiful on the outside. I didn't know what my mother was talking about, because I thought Rebecca was beautiful! It was only then that I realized not everyone thought so, that I was seeing the "real" Rebecca, and had, since the moment we met. When I close my eyes, I see her still. Still Becky; still beautiful to me.

During our first year of public education, Becky and I walked to and from school together. We lived only two blocks away from each other, so I often visited her house and she visited mine. A year or two later, her family moved away, and I lost track of Becky. Suffice to say, however, I have never forgotten her, or our friendship. In her honor, I named my first daughter Rebecca.

Becky's family was poor. Terribly poor. I remember her house - which sat a few yards away from the railroad tracks - always smelled bad. The same rumbling locomotives that woke her up at night, woke me as well. Her house smelled old, of fried meat and moldy wallpaper and damp wood and poverty. I didn't care because Becky was my friend, and the time I spent with her was always wonderful. As a child, as all children do, I saw everything through my heart and not my eyes.

Becky and I didn't have formal tea parties or dress our Barbies in fashion clothes. We didn't try on our mothers' make-up or scan toy catalogues with glee or furnish our fancy doll houses. Why? Because we didn't have tea sets or Barbies or make-up or toy catlogues or doll houses. In the narrow bedroom I shared with my sister, I had a small cardboard box, which sat in the corner. In it were all the toys I owned in the world. I can count on one hand the number of items in that box. I valued them, I cherished them, I was careful with them, because I knew that, if they broke, they would not be replaced.

To have fun, Becky and I made mud pies. Dirt and water mixed together, make a gloriously sticky messy glob of mud, which we fashioned with our grubby little hands into rounded shapes, then lined them up along the top of the fence to dry in the sun. We never ate them - hey, they were dirt! But it was the making of them that made us happy, fulfilled us. Dirt was free, and there was plenty of it! We would talk about what kinds of pies they were, and our eyes would grow big and we'd laugh, "Yum!" and in our view, those dried dirt pancakes would become cherry or apple or choclate cream delights.

That was a long, long time ago. I don't have Becky anymore; I don't make mud pies; I'm no longer poor. I hope Becky isn't, either. I'd like to think she grew up to become as beautiful on the outside as she was on the inside, and that her life has been filled with happiness and joy, and that all her pies are real.

I think of Becky every now and then, especially when I think of how complicated life has become. We have too much of everything nowadays, most of it disposable. And if it breaks, it's immediately replaced. I'm not so sure that's a good thing. There's something to be said for cherishing what you have, valuing it - things, thoughts, people. It's not that I long for the good old days of being literally dirt poor, but having lived that life certainly taught me lessons, instilled values, I wouldn't have gotten any other way. And I would never have met Becky.

No, I don't want to make mud pies again . . . but it's good to know I haven't forgotten how.


Monday, October 09, 2006

What my mother said was true, Part I

My mother had a saying: "You learn something new every day!" And yes, she always said it with an exclamation point at the end. She used this phrase all the time (she was big on phrases), and was one of the few adults I met as a child willing to admit she didn't know everything. Not only that, but that her mind could be changed by new information. I didn't realize until after her death what a truly fascinating person my mother was, but that's a topic for another day.

This weekend, I attended the (fabulous) Emerald City Writer's Conference in Bellevue, Washington. I learned a lot of things. At this point, I'm a multi-published author, however, like my mother, I understand there is still more out there to learn (how much more, is often too overwhelming to deal with).

One of the more fascinating things I learned was about the ancient art of Chinese face reading. Since the book I'm working on now (Sex, Lies and Alibis) features a heroine who is into feng shui, I was thrilled to happen upon a workshop that deals directly with something I need to know right now. As a believer that all things happen for a reason, that there are no accidents, and that "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear," I wasn't too surprised to find myself sitting in a workshop that I thought was going to be on one topic that turned out to be on another one much more perfectly suited for my needs. The Universe is so funny that way.

I learned that Chinese face reading is over 3,000 years old and has proven time and again to be accurate. This is very helpful information for an author in creating physical features for a hero, heroine, and especially a villain. This morning, I googled Chinese face reading and got a bazillion hits, so apparently I'm the only person out there who'd never heard of it. Well, you learn something new every day! (Thanks, Mom)

As for the conference itself, I had a wonderful time. Met up with some old friends, and made some new ones. The bookfair was open to the public, and the turnout was incredible. I was able to introduce my books to new readers - always an exciting thing.

Authors write with the hopes people will read what they've written. It's only partly about making an income, it's much more important that all the time we spend laboring over a manuscript will be worth the effort when a reader closes our books, satisfied. Authors love hearing from readers that we've done our jobs; it helps us write that next book, and the next one. We keep in mind the whole time, the smile you're going to get on your face when you finish our books, and think, "Wow. I loved it. I can hardly wait for her next book to come out." I tell you, I get giddy just thinking about that.

So check out Chinese face reading. And if you're a writer and want to attend the best writer's conference in the West, plan to attend the Emerald City Writers Conference next October. You might just learn something new!


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This is just about, eh-hem, nuts

Hey, you live long enough, you think you've seen it all, right? Guess I haven't lived long enough because I can still be surprised, and not in a good way. Well, in a silly, funky, bizarre way, which is only close.

It seems a businessman from Missouri developed (and sold 100,000 of) a doggy prosthetic for the pooch who's been, uh, you know, altered.

Yes, Neuticles come (not anymore, snort) in three sizes and levels of firmness, and are designed to protect your dog's "appearance and self-esteem." These synthetic canine testicles have been available for ten years (who knew?) and are also available for (are you ready?) cats, horses, and bulls (if you're brave enough to strap them on, that is).

From the Neuticles website at

"With Neuticles- It's like nothing ever changed!"

"Neuticles are just plain neat!" -- Rush Limbaugh
(Which begs the question . . . but well, actually, I don't think I want to know.)

So there you have it. I did a search and found a ton of sites devoted to Neuticles, including diagrams of the product. I'm sorry, but they look like different sizes of Oscar Meyer weenies (

So talk it over with Fido. Two things may surprise you. 1. That he is indeed embarassed by what he lacks; and 2. That he can talk (hello!).

Here's woofing at you . . .


Friday, September 22, 2006

Surprising and happy news

Notícia grande! Sighs Matter foi escolhida acima por um publisher Brazilian e será imprimida no Português!

In other words, I found out yesterday that a Brazilian publisher has offered for Sighs Matter – which will be published in Portuguese. Totally blew me away. My books are already distributed in the U.K., France, Germany, Australia, and other countries as well, but this is the first time one will appear in a language other than English. I hope the publisher sends me a copy; I’d love to see it!

My understanding is, books like this are printed more like magazines, and are available on news stands. It’s going to be interesting to see how/if the title and the humor in the story translates. At any rate, Eu penso que este é surpreendente!


Monday, September 18, 2006

"Arousing Suspicions" cover pic

I received the .jpg today for the cover of book #4 - Arousing Suspicions. This is Detective Nate Darling and Tabitha March's story (she's a dream interpreter who's a little bit psychic). Nate, as you may recall, was a secondary character, and Detective Max Galloway's undercover partner, in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evie.

The astonishing thing about this cover, to me, is that the title is smaller and in white letters, while my name is larger and in red letters. I'm hoping that means my publisher thinks I've "arrived" or at least have enough name recognition to have readers say, "Oh, look! There's another book out by that fabulous Marianne Stillings! I don't even care what the title is, I'm buying that book!" Well, a girl can dream, right?

Anyway, it's a very romantic suspensy cover and I do like it. I'm glad to get away from the cartoon covers (everyone thought my books were chick lit), and this one isn't at overtly sexual as the one for Sighs Matter (which, truthfully, I never tire of looking at), but strikes a good balance between the two styles.

Within the next couple of months, I'll be posting a contest, and an excerpt from Arousing Suspicions; hope you'll give it a read.

Have a good one . . .

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