Friday, November 30, 2012

This I know for sure...

A completely unexpected, but definitely appreciated, gift from your employer as a way to show his appreciation is always a nice surprise.  I don't know about you, but any time my employer takes the time to show me or say he appreciates what I do every day is a great thing.




Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday


Now that I've taken a hiatus from writing during the holiday season, I went to the library yesterday to look for something to read.  Now mind you, I have a pile of books I purchased from Barnes and Noble and at least 10 books on my Kindle that I haven't read yet but still found it necessary to take that trip to the library.

I came home with 16 books.  Sixteen!  How did I think I was going to be able to read 16 books in 3 weeks during the crazy time before Christmas?  The problem was I found so many of the books on my TBR list that I couldn't leave them there. I've decided to read the newer ones first and hope I'll be able to renew the older ones.  I may not get them all read, but I'm sure going to try.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Writing During The Holidays

Every year I try to maintain my writing schedule during the holidays and every year I end up feeling defeated because I rarely am able to meet my weekly page goal do I've decided to try something new this year.

Instead of trying to fit writing time around holiday shopping, attending family gatherings, wrapping gifts, baking, preparing for the onslaught of relatives, decorating the Christmas tree and the house, I've decided that I'm going to take a break from writing from now until after the new year. I'm hoping I'll be less stressed out and be able to enjoy the holiday stuff instead of worrying that I'm now X number of pages behind schedule.

I'm still going to continue researching my next novel, write down those scenes and snippets of dialogue as they pop into my head, but for the next six weeks, I won't have the added pressure of trying to meet a weekly page goal while dealing with the frenetic pace of the holiday season.  I'm even hoping to read a few books on my ever expanding To Be Read list. I feel more relaxed already.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving


May you and your families have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Please Welcome My Guest...

Please welcome back Vonnie Davis.  Vonnie is an award winning romance author whose books will make you laugh, cry, and feel every emotion in between.


Thanks for having me today, Katherine. I’ve come to talk about one of my favorite institutions—Parisian cafés—and to spark some interest in my recently released book, MONA LISA’S ROOM.





Café life in Paris is alive and well. They’re everywhere, nearly two thousand of them. As Calvin and I walked the streets of the City of Light, I couldn’t get over the number of cafés. Every other building had a café, or so it seemed.



Some were large, their seating areas flanked with potted greenery. Umbrellas shaded customers from the sun.

 Others seemed perched on the edge of sidewalks in places I’d never think to put one.

Cafés have a long and rich tradition. The first one opened in 1686 where gentlemen of fashion drank coffee, the exotic beverage vogue in France at that time. The mild Parisian weather allowed for outdoor enjoyment of this drink and both friendly and fierce conversation. Soon, wine and stronger spirits were added to the fare, as were sandwiches and frites (fries). Add the fact that many apartments were too small in which to entertain, and the popularity of cafés grew. Artists, writers, philosophers and students discussed and argued the state of the art world and the human condition and politics at Parisian cafés.

While there I never drank coffee or soda from a paper cup. Never. Also, sodas in Paris are served warm. When you ask for ice, the waiter’s nose wrinkles as if he smells something sour. “Ah, American.” Then, he’ll plunk one cube into your glass.

One of our favorite cafés was at the entrance to the Metro nearest our hotel. It was here, I observed French showmanship at its best. I’d ordered a Coke. The waiter came back with an old-style Coke bottle on his tray, along with a glass, a bottle opener and a clean white bar towel. Setting the tray on the table, he laid the towel across his shoulder. Then he placed the unopened Coke bottle on his shoulder, holding it in place by tilting his head onto the bottle. With a snap of his wrist, he used the opener to remove the cap. He held my glass in one hand and leaned over, the bottle still safely secured between his shoulder and neck, to slowly pour the soda into my glass. Ah, the French, they have a way about them.

The hero in my romantic suspense, MONA LISA’S ROOM, has a way about him, too. Niko has taken Alyson to a shoe store so she can buy high heels. He insists her casual mode of dress labels her as American. He wants her to blend in with Parisian women, so she’s not so easily spotted by the terrorists. He’s told the store owner, he’ll try the shoes on his “friend.”

Niko perched on the stool at Alyson’s feet, opened the first box and deftly flicked back the tissue paper on a pair of black kidskin pumps with skinny gold looking heels. “It’s rumored Da Vinci invented the high heel.” He removed her Birckenstocks and placed her bare foot on his thigh. Warmth from his muscled leg flowed up hers, causing her foot to give an involuntary wiggle.
His gaze lifted to hers and locked. Slowly he slid his hand from her heel up her leg to cup her calf. Thank God she shaved her legs that morning. “Stop.” The rawness of her voice surprised her. His touch made her very aware of her body, and her body was very aware of him. She couldn’t count the years since she was touched in such a manner—if ever.
Still, it was nice to know she could respond to a man’s touch. Thanks to her ex-husband’s avoidance, she thought herself sexually dead, certainly sexually unappealing.
“High heels do wonders for a woman’s figure, Aly. They make the legs look long and shapely, lift the bottom and make the hips sway.” His hands moved in a descriptive manner while he talked. “They make a woman look sexy and confident. Men’s eyes naturally pivot to a woman in stilettos.” Niko shrugged. “We can’t help it. We are men, after all. Weakened by women.”
Alyson stared at him. Men made weak by women? She’d never heard such talk, especially from a male, a very virile male if looks meant anything. He was gorgeous, arrogant as all get out, but gorgeous just the same.
Niko slipped the shoes onto her feet, stood and extended his hand. “Stand. See how you like the feel.” His gaze focused on hers again and for a second or two, when she looked into his eyes, her world stopped.
She vetoed the four-inch stilettos Niko favored in five painful, toe-pinching steps. Good Lord, a girl could get nosebleeds in those things.
Ten minutes later, Alyson wobbled in front of the cashier ready to pay for the black kidskin three-inch Pradas she wore. As soon as she saw the bow at the back of the heel, she fell in love with the shoes. Gwen called her a “bow freak.” When Niko reached for his wallet, she elbowed him. “Look, as long as they take Visa, I’ll pay for my own shoes.”
“Please, allow me.”
“Absolutely not. I planned on having an expensive birthday meal at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant tomorrow. With all that’s happened today, that plan is ruined, too. So I’m rationalizing since I won’t be paying for my birthday meal, I can pay this ungodly amount for the shoes.”
Niko placed his hand over hers. “I don’t mind. Let me treat you since I goaded you into buying them.”
“Really, that’s not necessary. Even my husband…er…ex-husband never bought me things. I’ve always paid my own way.”
He leaned an elbow on the glass counter and looked at her. “You’re kidding me. He never bought you little surprises? Little treats? A woman like you should be spoiled, treasured—” his voice lowered as he slowly trailed a finger up her arm  “—loved often and well.” Merciful heavens, he was trying to seduce her in a shoe store. Gwen would squeal in delight when she told her about this.
“Down, buster. American women are different than French women. We’re not so easily seduced by glib words or smooth moves.”
His eyebrow arched and his demeanor turned insolent. “You think I’m trying to seduce you?”
Typical male. He touched her almost nonstop since they stepped into Minelli’s. Now that she called him on it, he wanted to deny everything. “I think you’re toying with me, seeing if you can make an old, lonely American woman quiver at your feet.”
“First of all, you’re not old. Second, if you’re lonely, that’s your fault. Third, if I wanted to make you quiver—” he leaned in, his lips against her ear  “—I damn well could.”

Blurb:
Gwen,

You won't believe this email. I'm sitting in a French safe house, eating caviar and drinking champagne with a handsome government agent, Niko Reynard. He's wearing nothing but silk pajama bottoms and mega doses of sex appeal. I'm in big trouble, little sister. He's kissed me several times and given me a foot massage that nearly caused spontaneous combustion. I'm feeling strangely virginal compared to the sexual prowess this thirty-year-old man exudes.

When I came to Paris for a bit of adventure, I never imagined I'd foil a bombing attempt, karate-kick two men, and run from terrorists while wearing a new pair of stilettos. I've met a German musician, a gay poet from Australia, and the most delightful older French woman.

Don't worry. I'm safe--the jury's still out on yummy Niko, though. The more champagne I drink, the less reserved I feel. What an unforgettable fortieth birthday!

Alyson

View the Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/MonaTrailer
BUY LINKS:
THE WILD ROSE PRESS (digital) -- http://bit.ly/MonaLisaDigital
THE WILD ROSE PRESS (paperback) -- http://bit.ly/MonaLisasRoom
AMAZON (paperback) -- http://amzn.to/QQZGyD
FIND ME ONLINE AT http://www.vonniedavis.com

Monday, November 19, 2012

Friends, Family, and Out of Town Relatives, Oh My

Have you ever looked forward to something and dreaded it happening at the same time?  That's my current dilemma.  I'm having friends, family, and out of town relatives for dinner on Thanksgiving.  Now, I'm not saying that's what I'm dreading.  That's the part I'm looking forward to.

The part I'm dreading is all the prep work for the meal. I have three days to get pies, sweet rolls, and bread rolls made and as many items as I can prepped beforehand for the holiday meal so that I'm not spending the entire day in the kitchen cooking, just a portion of it. 

Thankfully, my mother will help with the baking part.  While I'm slaving away at the day job Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, she'll be making the pie crusts (hers are so much better than mine) and taking care of the bread rolls which take an enormous amount of time between the inital rising, the shaping of the dough into clovers, and then the second rising before they can be baked.  She's also going to be making the bread we'll use to make the stuffing.  Another time consuming process. 

I suppose I could make the holiday less stressful by buying the pies, or the rolls, or making the potatoes and stuffing from a box or bag, but for every holiday that I can remember, my mother always made everything from scratch, nothing from a box, bag, can, or frozen item.  Actually, that's how she taught me to cook everything.  I didn't have a store bought cookie like Chips Ahoy until I was a teenager.  So the thought of opening a can and dumping it in a pan, buying the rolls or the pies just doesn't seem right. 

Thanksgiving is about tradition.  I guess one of the traditions in our house is stressing about getting all that cooking done well and on time.  And we always do, every year.

Friday, November 16, 2012

This I know for sure...

While I love the holiday season and all that it compasses -- seeing friends and family at various gatherings, the exchanging of gifts with loved ones, the foods that I only eat at this time of the year, and the many, many types of Christmas cookies my mom makes every year that I eat way too many of, I am not looking forward to fighting the crowds that seem to be everywhere from the day after Thanksgiving until after Christmas. Even the grocery store seems more crowded at this time of year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I'm Cooking Wednesday

I haven't had much time to read lately, but have been trying out old family recipes I found in my grandmother's cookbook.  My family really liked these so I thought I'd share.

Velvet Pistachio Squares

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup flaked coconut
6 tablespoons chopped pistachio nuts
1 container vanilla frosting (I used the Duncan Hines brand)

Cream together the butter (or margarine) and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Blend in the egg and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the egg butter mixture alternating with the milk.  Mix well once all of the flour mixture and milk has been added.  Stir in the coconut and 4 tablespoons of the chopped pistachios.  Pour into a greased 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. 

Allow to cool completely. Spread the vanilla frosting over the top and sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped nuts.  Cut into squares and serve.

Makes 12 squares (or if you cut them bigger 9 squares - my family liked the bigger size)


Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Veteran's Day


Please remember the sacrifices our Veterans have made so we can have freedoms we do to live the lives we want.  And if you see a Veteran today, be bold, step up and thank them for their service.

Friday, November 9, 2012

This I know for sure...

I'm am so very glad election season is over.  While I believe the democratic process is important and am grateful that I have the right to vote, after enduring weeks, months of campaigning and in some cases of local candidates, really ugly campaigning, I've very glad the process has come to an end.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Please Welcome My Guest...

Please welcome my guest, Vonnie Davis.  Vonnie is an award winning romance author and a fellow author in the Love Letters series published by The Wild Rose Press.

Katherine, thanks for having me here as a guest and allowing me to talk about my part in The Wild Rose Press’s Love Letters series—TUMBLEWEED LETTERS. Within the first three pages, a letter must arrive that changes one of the character’s life forever, bringing love and the happy-ever-ever ending we all love.

I’d read the first couple stories from the series and loved the history included in each one. To add to the appeal of writing and submitting something for the series were all the romantic possibilities. Where would one find a letter? If it arrived by normal mail delivery, who could it be from? Would the letter initially bring happiness or sadness? And, if I were to write something for this series, what era would I chose?

After a lot of research, my focus settled on Deadwood, Dakota Territory in 1879. Now my grown sons would smirk and tell you I chose this era because it’s when I grew up. How those two wisenheimers lived to adulthood, I’ll never know. I chose it because I love cowboys, plain and simple.

Slowly, facts coalesced into a storyline. The Molly McGuires. A smallpox epidemic. Whites encroaching onto Indian Reservations to build towns. Calamity Jane’s friendship with a brothel madam. All the while I was doing research, a little boy came to me at night to throw temper tantrums in my sleep. In telling Sophie and Cam’s story, I also gave Eli his. I hope you’ll give TUMBLEWEED LETTERS a try.

BLURB:
When rancher and single father Cam McBride finds a letter tucked in a strip of cloth tied to a tumbleweed, he is captivated by the mysterious author. Finding a second tumbleweed letter further pulls him under the lonely writer's spell. He needs a mother for his little boy and a wife to warm his bed. Could this mysterious woman fill his needs?
Sophie Flannigan is alone, scared, and on the run from a rogue Pinkerton agent. She spends her days as a scrub lady at Madame Dora's brothel and her nights writing notes to the four winds. Her life holds little hope until a small boy lays claim to her and his handsome father proposes an advantageous arrangement.
Can these three benefit from a marriage of convenience, or will a determined Pinkerton agent destroy their fragile, newly formed bond?

EXCERPT:
Cam McBride fought to keep his horse under control. “Steady, now. Steady, Samson.” He reined the chestnut to the left away from the rolling tumbleweed. “Just another wind witch.” Leaning forward, he patted his mount’s neck. Leather creaked, and Samson snorted. “I know those tumbleweeds spook you.”
Eli turned slightly in front of him, and Cam’s palm automatically went to the child’s waist for support. “Drink, Daddy.” His son pointed to the roaring creek beyond the golden, swaying Aspens.
“Okay. Drink.” He dismounted and lifted his two-year old from his perch behind the saddlehorn.  “Stay, now. Don’t go running off.”
“Stay,” Eli repeated with a nod, his wheat-colored hair fluttering in the breeze.
Cam led his horse to the creek. He removed his canteen and pulled a metal cup from his saddlebags.
“No, Daddy, drink.” Eli pointed to the creek and did his I-want-what-I-want jig, kicking up a little dust in the process. “Cold drink.” He crossed his little arms and stuck out his lower lip.
They’d been riding the range since sun-up, slowly herding his small drove of cattle to lower ground in preparation for winter. No doubt the cranky boy needed a nap. “Okay, you get your way. I’m too tired to argue.” He stepped into the high grass along the bank, squatted and leaned forward, extending the tin cup to catch fresh water gurgling over a mound of rocks in the stream. Cam leaned back on his hunkers. “Here’s your drink.”
Eli trotted over and grabbed the offered cup. “Dank-you,” he chirped in a sing-song voice.
“You’re welcome, Son.” He ruffled the boy’s curls and listened to the child’s gulping and breathing echo within the metal cup. His Amanda would be pleased he was teaching her son manners. She’d always set great store by them, growing up in the South the way she had. No doubt his beloved was smiling from heaven at his awkward attempts to raise their boy alone.
The offending tumbleweed that spooked Samson moments earlier snagged his attention. A sliver of color dangled within it. He took his son’s hand and walked him away from the stream toward the tumbleweed caught between a couple scrub pines.
He stooped to untangle a piece of blue calico. Maybe Eli would enjoy playing with it. As he untied the knotted material, paper crackled. What’s this?
Cam unfolded the remnant of calico. A piece of newspaper was tucked inside. Wasn’t that odd? As he turned the torn paper over, slanted writing along the margins caught his eye. Before he began reading, he gave Eli the scrap of calico.
“To the four winds, I hate it here. I miss Pennsylvania. I miss my home with my things about me. I miss my students and my husband, hooligan that he was. My friends told me nothing good would come from marrying him, but love only sees what it wants. Now I am alone, on the run and without funds. I barely earn my keep. I have no hope of happiness and no one to talk to, except you—the four winds.”
 “Mine.” Eli held out the blue strip of fabric so it fluttered in the breeze.
“That’s right, son.” Cam turned the scrap of newspaper over in hopes of reading more. Nothing, but an ad for winter coats at Munter and Lillanthal’s in Deadwood. The paper’s name, Black Hills Pioneer, was printed in the corner. No more handwriting and no signature. So a lonely, unhappy woman wrote a note to nobody and secreted it within the folds of fabric and tied it to a tumbleweed? He ran a hand across the back of his neck. If that wasn’t the strangest thing.

BUY LINKS:
THE WILD ROSE PRESS -- http://bit.ly/TumbleweedLetters
 You can find me online at http://www.vonniedavis.com
 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Annual Exams

Of all the annual medical examinations I have each year the one I dread the most is my annual eye exam.  I've been wearing glasses since I was 6 years old, contacts since I was 17.  I hated going to the eye doctor then and I still do. 

Back then I think it was because I hated having to pick out new glasses. I never found a pair I really liked or thought I looked good in, hence the start of wearing contacts once I had an after school job and could pay for them myself.  Heck I would be happy to find a pair I look okay in. Now whenever I have to purchase new glasses, I drag my mother along so she can help me pick them out.  I always make sure I have my contacts in so I can actually see what the frames look like when I'm trying them on and try to pick the pair that look at least semi-okay. 

One of the reasons I hate going to the eye doctor is that I have terrible, terrible eyesight. I can literally only see eight inches in front of me clearly without glasses or contacts and as one gets older, one's vision almost always gets worse.  Well, this afternoon I have the dreaded eye appointment.  I'm always worried they'll tell me my vision has gotten worse.  I don't need bifocals yet, but my two older sisters, one in her mid forties and the other in her early fifties wear them and their eyesight is much better than mine.

Do I seem petty to be worried about wearing bifocals?  Maybe, but once I start needing them, I won't be able to wear contacts any longer.  Everyone I know who's worn contacts and then started needing bifocals cannot adjust to the multi-focal contact lens that is available for contact lens wearers and end up wearing glasses full time.  Because my eyesight is so bad, the lenses in my glasses are really thick, even after I pay extra to have them shaved/thinned out which really limits what frames I can choose from.  I hate to admit it but I'm the tiniest bit conceited when it comes to wearing my contacts.  In them, I feel I look pretty decent, in my glasses, I've always felt I look a bit like Frankenstein's bride without the white striped hair.

Whenever I bemoan having to wear my "ugly" glasses, I always try to tell myself to be grateful for the eyesight I do have, but I am human, and have small minded thoughts and still complain about it (like now.)  

Friday, November 2, 2012

This I know for sure...

I'm so very grateful my family and relatives came through the super storm with little to no damage.  My thoughts are with everyone who is still dealing with the devastating after affects of Sandy.