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Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Five


Surprises. Whew – for a day or so there I thought maybe I wasn’t going to be able to find five things to blog about this week! Then it came to me. Surprises. I’ve had some nice surprises this week. Not the Benjamin-Bratt-jumping-out-of-my-birthday-cake-naked kind of surprises (but one can dream. Besides my birthday is still six months away!) but anyway, just some nice, unexpected yet lovely surprises, those little things that come along and blow a pleasant breath into what was otherwise an ordinary day. This time I think I’d like to count down.

5. Gilbert’s ear is getting better. Yes, I know I haven’t blogged about this before. But, long story short, when I took my kitty to be neutered two weeks ago I asked the doctor to check a spot on his ear. Turns out to be a mast cell tumor. Gilby is only eight months old, so he’s quite young to have something so potentially serious. The doctor put him on high-dose steroids to shrink the tumor, and if that doesn’t work, she’ll have to remove a good portion of his ear. Well I noticed yesterday – the spot on his ear is shrinking. But keep him in your prayers and good thoughts anyway. That's him, above, btw. I figured Tanner has been on here twice now, Gilbert deserves a shot at "fame."

4. My pants are getting looser! So maybe those walks with Tanner and the overall healthier eating habits I adopted at the beginning of this year are starting to work. I was able to slide into a favorite pair of jeans the other morning without the usual grunting and groaning and wriggling around to get them buttoned. This came as a bit of a surprise.

3. Writing. Yep. It makes the list again. Now that the crankies have gone, things are clearer in my head and the writing is coming along much better than it was a week ago. And I’m much happier for that, and quite pleasantly surprised.

2. A “love note” from my oldest son. We were having one of “those” mornings. Stressed. Rushed. Me holding onto my temper by a mere thread as the daily race to get out the door in time for school heated up. I yelled when my seven year old son picked up a crayon and pencil and took time out to draw a picture – we didn’t have time for pictures! Then he finished what he was scribbling and handed it to me. A folded-over piece of paper with a hastily drawn flower on the front. Inside, two stick figures, one labeled mommy, the other Wyatt. And a message. I love you. Sometimes. (LOL. Apparently I’m not always lovable, go figure!) But in the midst of chaos, it was a true God breeze.

And my #1 favorite surprise this week (and she knows by now it’s gonna be her!) was …a phone call from a friend. Not just any friend, but one I’ve never talked to before. Darah has been my CP for a good four years now, the friend I rush to tell everything to – and I do mean everything (don’t tell the DH I admitted to that!) I start most days IMing with her and end quite a few that way, too. But we’ve always been too shy to actually call each other. So imagine my surprise the other day when I picked up the phone –ironically, the caller ID didn’t work!—and heard a laugh and a “Guess who?” She beat me to it! I was going to call her for her birthday next month. I think maybe I’ll call her anyway. And while I’m at it maybe I’ll call that other CP I IM every day whose birthday is coming up next month – I’ve never talked to her either!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Raz-a-licious

My CP's and I have a little game we like to play. We argue over who would play Raz Colt, the hero in my historical western WIP, if it were a movie.

I always come back to Johnny Depp -- hey, what woman doesn't?-- but truthfully, Johnny is a bit long in the tooth to play Raz. Not that he couldn't do it...

But last night someone said "Adam Beach!"

Who?

So I googled him... and you know? This guy has potential. What do you think?

I like the outfit here, Raz dresses all in black...

And then there's this one... ooh, I'm a sucker for a hero with long dark hair...


This one I'm posting not just because Raz is part Indian, but just because.... well, just... because!

Now that's what I call Razalicious!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Cowboy Mystique


Since I haven't come up with any new ideas so far this week, I thought I'd post a "repeat" of sorts. I did this blog for the Scandalous Victorians, the group I blog with, last year. But since I've started research on the next part of that series, the gamblers, I thought I'd post this one here. My apologies to any who have read it before.

Cowboy. Gambler. Gunslinger. Soiled Dove. Law man. Funny how the very names bring to mind a certain image, one largely created by Hollywood and popular fiction, both romantic and otherwise. These are the characters who live in my imagination, and around whom I like to create my stories. I’d like to speak about these colorful characters over a series of blogs, but no promises as to how often.

Let’s start with that honor-bound “knight of the plains”, the cowboy.

The earliest cowboys were a far cry from the image that probably jumped to your mind with the very mention of the word. For one thing, they spoke Spanish, and rather than the stereotypical chaps and Stetsons, they wore brightly colored costumes and did most of their riding, roping and branding in the Mexican provinces of Upper California and Texas. They called themselves Vaqueros (the pronunciation of the name is similar to that of the word “buckaroos” which is where the term originated) from vaca, the Spanish word for cow.

But these vaqueros created the legacy that lives on in the American cowboy as we think of him today. So where did that code of conduct come from that tells us – in one simple word – that this is a man of noble deeds and few words?

When defeated Texans returned to their run-down farms after the civil war ended in 1865, they found a land teeming with wild longhorns (a breed of wild bovine that resulted from the breeding of the American cow with Spanish cattle. These guys were lean, slab-sided—and ornery). A longhorn steer worth four dollars in Texas could fetch as much as $40 up north where there was an insatiable demand for beef. Cattle were also needed to feed army troops, railroad crews, as well as Indians newly confined to reservations. A new western industry was about to boom – and the cowboy would play a central role.

Most cowboys were young, from their late teens to early twenties. And they were a varied lot, made up of both former Union and Confederate soldiers (a large percentage were ex Confederates from Texas), Mexican-Americans and a small percentage of African Americans as well. Some were simply young men looking for excitement.

A cowboys’ past was a private matter – the origination, perhaps of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He was just as likely to be a preacher’s son, a dropout from an Eastern university or the youngest son of an English nobleman sent to the American West to make something of himself as he was to be a wanted man. But the way he threw a saddle over his horse was all his peers needed to know whether he understood his business or not. That was all that mattered.

The cowboy was no mere farm hand. He had to be a superb horseman, excellent ropester and tough enough to subdue a 1,000 pound steer. It goes without saying that such a man would carry himself with pride, knowing he was admired – even envied – by other men who hadn’t the wherewithal to withstand his nomadic lifestyle. Spring and fall would find him on roundups – collecting the cattle and driving them in so the calves could be branded and bulls castrated in the spring; cutting marketable steers from the herd in the fall (females were kept for breeding). And that wasn’t even the dangerous part.

On the trail, a cowboy faced a multitude of dangers ranging from violent weather to raging rivers, illness and disease, marauding guerilla gangs and even groups of angry farmers determined to keep the longhorns, which carried a virus fatal to other breed of cattle, away from their fields. Stampedes were also an ever-present threat. Two or three thousand longhorn steer could be controlled only when they wanted to be and were capable of erupting into mass hysteria any time of the night or day, particularly during bad weather. So no matter how cold, wet or sleep-deprived a cowboy might be, he had to be prepared to leap into the saddle at the first rumble of a herd on the run.

Spending months on a trail drive meant he would go long periods of time without seeing a woman, let alone touching or speaking with one. Since his lifestyle precluded him from forming romantic entanglements, (marriage and family was out of the question as long as he remained in that line of work) the only women he could hope to meet on equal terms were prostitutes, or the “soiled doves” awaiting his arrival at the end of the trail. Because of this, his attitude toward “respectable women” was primly Victorian, almost worshipful. And when the opportunity to be in the company of a decent woman arose, the cowboy would go to great lengths to make the most of it.

As one story goes, neighbors from a distant spread attended a dance at a Texas ranch one rainy evening, bringing their newly-hired governess with them. When leaving for home with her employers, the young governess forgot her overshoes. The following Sunday, an eager young cowboy showed up at their door and presented the young lady with one shoe. “But there were two,” she protested. “Yes,” answered the cowboy, “I’ll bring the other one next Sunday if you don’t mind. And ma’am? I sure do wish you was a centipede.”

In 1886 a severe drought that left the herds in poor condition by summer’s end was followed by a series of blizzards. Livestock on the range was devastated, with some ranches losing up to ninety percent of their stock. This was the beginning of the end of the open-range cowboy.

So no matter what image his names brings to mind for you, the cowboy was, courageous, strong, dedicated, trail-wise, and respectful of women. A true American hero.

For more information on cowboys and the Wild West I recommend:

“The Wild West” by Warner Books

“Cowboys of the Old West” – by Time Life books

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Five

Each Friday, my friend and CP Paty Jager blogs about five things. Maybe five things she’s grateful for or happy about, or five things that happened that week. I like to check her blog each Friday and see what she comes up with. And starting today, I thought I’d steal her great idea, LOL. If nothing else, at least it gives me one blog a week I can come up with. Given my mood the past few days, I considered blogging about five things that annoyed me this week – but I had way more than five . So I decided to see if I couldn’t come up with five things that helped me shake the crankies.

  1. My dog. Knowing that a long, brisk walk each day is essential to his physical and mental well being really motivates me to get out there and move each day. (For some reason the fact that it’s also good for my physical and mental well being isn’t as much motivation.) But there’s something about the way his ears pop up when he sees me walk toward the closet where I keep his leash, the happy look in those chocolate-syrup brown eyes when we round the corner toward home at the end of our walk that makes it all worth it. And let’s face it; a walk in the sunshine doesn’t hurt me in the least, absorbing some vitamin D and natural light and maybe breaking a little sweat helps cure the blahs – and it’s great for the ol’ thighs besides! (BTW that’s a puppy picture of Tanner from last year. He’s about three times that size now.)

  1. Friends. The best kind – the ones that stand by you even when you’re crabby and cranky. And even when you tell them you’re so darn cranky you hate “everyone and everything” they know you don’t mean them. Your kids, your husband, your job -- life in general. But not your friends.

  1. SpongeBob Squarepants. Seriously! Not only is it one show my kids will still sit down and watch when I need a mental health break but, I defy you to listen to SB sing about the fool who ripped his pants, or my fave, “The Best Day Ever” and not feel your bad mood lighten just a tad. That little yellow guy always puts a smile on my face.

  1. FLY lady. Are you living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome)? Grumbling that you need a bigger house because your current one just doesn’t hold enough stuff? Are you buying still more stuff and wondering where you’ll ever put it? Ever got up to check on your kids at night and tore the tendons in your little toe because you tripped over something? (No? Ooookay, so that one’s just me… never mind). But then I found FLY lady. I’ve only been FLYing for about two and a half months but I’ve already seen the difference. And knowing that no matter how bad my house looks right now, if I just get off my “FRanny” and set my timer for 15 minutes – I can make a real difference. Swishing and swiping each morning. Getting dressed to the shoes. Shining my sink. Five minute room rescues, 15 minute declutters, hot spot fire drills and those 27 fling boogies have all changed my life. Best of all, FLY lady gave me the strength to admit that you can’t organize clutter, you can only get rid of it. (Now if only I could convince my husband of this!) Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit her at www.flylady.net. She’ll change your life, too.

  1. Writing. Even though I didn’t accomplish as much of it as I set out to this week, I’m still grateful that it’s what I do. Ever wonder what non-writing people think about when they’re driving? Or waiting to fall asleep? Or when they’re brushing their teeth? And gosh, what do they beat themselves up for not doing at the end of the day? How boring their lives must be! So yes, I’m grateful to be a writer – angst-ridden, soul sensitive, with a mind that’s always a million miles – and a couple hundred years—away. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Crankies


It’s my favorite time of year– Lilac time. My home town is known world wide for their lovely lilacs and annual festival to celebrate them that takes place the second week of May each year.

But despite the bright sunshine and the lingering sweet smell of lilacs in the air – I’m cranky.

I’ve been struggling to write, struggling to get any work done, struggling to manage a quick smile for the checkout girl at the grocery store. I’m not sad, just…irritable. And that isn’t me.

I can’t put my finger on any one specific thing that set me off, but I’ve been in this mood all week. I think it’s more a series of things – small annoyances, maybe a bit of PMS in there for good measure, crazy weather, too much stress in my personal life. Little things like that.

Can a whole bunch of little things add up to one big, bad mood? Apparently.

But the weekend is looming and looks to be sunny, so maybe some time spent outdoors pulling up weeds, walking my dog and playing with my kids will help. I hope so!

What do you do when a cranky mood takes hold and won’t let go? (Darah, don’t you dare say have sex!)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I've Been Tagged!


1) Each player starts with eight random facts or habits about themselves.

2) People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things with a copy of these rules.

3) At the end of your blog you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names (I don’t know eight so I’ll just choose one or two)

4) Don’t forget to leave them a note saying they’ve been tagged.

The only person I knew who hadn't already been tagged was Darah, so I only tagged her!

Gosh, I really hate these things and it took me hours to come up with eight simple facts about myself, but here goes:

1) I wrote my first story, “The Unloved Doll”, when I was six years old

2) I hate talking about myself.

3) I was never a “dog” person until I met Tanner, our family dog. Now he’s the love of my life. (That's him, above, btw, beckoning you to play)

4) I love the smell of rain.

5) My favorite colors are lavender and buttercup yellow.

6) I am painfully shy.

7) I’m terrified of butterflies.

8) I love cloudy, overcast summer days.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Being Held Accountable


In the past few weeks, I have struggled with finding time to write. No, that’s not true. I have struggled with making time to write. It’s not that I don’t want to. I’m desperate to. It’s that old Latin thing again, lifus interruptus. I keep telling myself “Okay, as soon as I finish doing (you fill in the blank), I’ll have time to write.” Yeah, snort. Tell that to my four year old. Or my seven year old. Or the dog. Or any of the other people, places or things that conspire to get in the way of some good solid writing time.

But now that the release date for The Model Man has pretty much been set for November 1, the pressure is on. I need to get back to working on it no later than July 1 – and doggone it, I’m going to finish Wild Texas Wind before then.

So I’ve decided I have to write every day. And be held accountable to my two best cp’s for the number of pages I produce each day. I’m not assigning a number, I get too caught up in the “I failed” attitude if I don’t reach that number, and my creativity goes haywire when I start trying to force a certain number of pages. So I started off with four yesterday. (I’ve done plenty more than that in a sitting, but when you consider that the day before that I couldn’t even cough up a sentence, that’s not bad.) And just about four again today, which was a miracle really since I had the kind of stressful morning that would have rather seen me dive into a bowl of ice cream the size of a swimming pool (I abstained-- had a second cup of coffee instead, figuring the caffeine would either worsen my mood or perk me up. It did both.)

But I learned an important lesson today. Being accountable to someone for the number of pages I write in a day works for me.

How do you inspire yourself to write?

Oh btw, that great Benjamin Bratt pic I put up there has nothing to do with today’s blog. Just some eye candy for your viewing enjoyment.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

One for the Roses


Those of you who know me know I tend to be chatty, so I’ll shock and surprise you all by keeping this brief.

Today is the first anniversary of The Wild Rose Press --they opened their doors for business on May 1, 2006. It’s been an incredible journey, and one I’m fortunate to have taken part in.

I was an unpublished writer a year ago today, and now because of The Wild Rose Press I’m published with a novella and a full “rose” length story due out this fall. It’s something I never would have dreamed possible last year at this time. My network of author and editor friends has bloomed and blossomed until I can hardly keep up with all of them. Definitely what “Martha” would call “a good thing.”

Happy birthday, TWRP!

Monday Morning Musing: A Shot of Adrenaline

I found the review below on Facebook last week when someone posted it about Northern Temptress, and it lifted my spirits considerably. Last ...