Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Curious Case of Benjamin Bug (Contest!)

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Bug"

It seems that Benjamin Bug has gone missing. Rumor has it that he was last seen in the backyard of mystery writer, Paige Shelton. Investigators have scoured the area, but to no avail. All in the bug community suspect that Benjamin met with foul play, but without a body nothing can be proved.

The picture below should help investigators figure out what happened to poor Benjamin, but they need a little help. It is suspected that he was brutally smushed between the pages of a manuscript that Shelton was proofreading on her back patio, but exactly where within the pages to find him is the rub.

Help the investigators by finding the correct page number. You’ll be doing good work for all bug-kind. And you could win prizes!

Contest details:

Find the page number in IF FRIED CHICKEN COULD FLY (publish date: January 3) where Benjamin’s body was last seen – the page he's on in the picture below. (Hint: the location is pretty close to the beginning of the book. You could look at the book itself or at the online ‘sample' You shouldn’t have to buy the book to find the right spot.)

How to Enter:

Between January 2 and January 9, email your name and the page number to:

Your email should say something like this:
It’s page ## in the paperback version (or whatever version you look at)and then your name. The online chapter is tricky because there aren't page numbers so how about this for an extra clue: It's a page number in between 12 and 14, and is, in this case, lucky.

I’ll send you a confirmation email that you’ve been entered into the drawings.

Two $20 bookstore gift certificates (I'll draw for these first)
NEWLY ADDED prizes: Two copies of CROPS AND ROBBERS (or bookstore gift certificates, since some who enter will have already read CROPS)

Grand Prize: Laptop: HP model 2000-239DX

I got it at Best Buy. It’s still in the box. I’ll pack it in another box with lots of padding to ship it to the winner, and I’ll include the receipt. I think there are Best Buys everywhere, but I’m not sure.

Here's the picture of poor Benjamin:

Entries will be accepted until January 9. Drawing on January 10.

Good luck!

Friday, December 16, 2011

On the Twelfth Day of Bookmas . . .

my agent gave to me:

12 flimsy ladies


Good luck!

And, happy holidays to you and yours!

All my best,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On the Tenth Day of Bookmas . . .

my agent gave to me:

Ten I'm not afraid's.



"The Curious Case of Benjamin Bug"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On the Ninth Day of Bookmas . . .

my agent gave to me:

Three part answer -

Nine noisy rocks.

Nine not so plain ones.

Nine too many silly words (well, according to many teenagers, at least)

Good luck!


IF FRIED CHICKEN COULD FLY contest details Thursday, December 15.

Monday, December 12, 2011

On the Eighth Day of Bookmas . . .

my agent gave to me -

Three part answer again:

Eight foodie NC's.

Eight impossible quests.

Eight fruit cellars.


On Thursday - contest details for . . .

IF FRIED CHICKEN COULD FLY - publishing January 3, 2012

Grand Prize - HP laptop
(hint - it'll be REALLY easy to enter)

Friday, December 9, 2011


Bookmas resumes Monday.


Next week I'll announce the contest to kick off the publication of the first book in the Country Cooking School Mystery Series, IF FRIED CHICKEN COULD FLY.

On the Seventh Day of Bookmas . . .

my agent gave to me:

THREE part answer today -

Seven eternal conspiracies.

Seven dark surprises.

Seven scary Novembers.

Good luck!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

On the Sixth Day of Bookmas . . .

my agent gave to me:

Two part answer -

Six unknown (and unseen) narrators.
Six lusty winters.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On the Fifth Day of Bookmas . . .

My agent gave to me:

Two Part Answer -

Five murky colors.


Five successful searches.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On the Fourth Day of Bookmas . . .

my agent gave to me:

Two part answer again -

Four children's games.


Four tome stoppers.


Also -

CROPS AND ROBBERS is on bookstore shelves today! Thank you!

Monday, December 5, 2011

On the Third Day of Bookmas . . .

Two part answer today.

my agent gave to me:

Three silly poems.


Three winters burning.


CROPS AND ROBBERS on bookstore shelves tomorrow.

Bookmas Day Three Clue . . .

will be here about noon EST.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bookmas Resumes Monday

And . . .

CROPS AND ROBBERS hits bookstore shelves Tuesday, December 6.

On the Second Day of Bookmas . . .

My agent gave to me:

"Two balanced coins."

Bookends' Bookmas Blog

Bookmas Day Two

Clue will be posted at about noon EST.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On the first day of Bookmas . . .

My agent gave to me:

"A dude in a fa-a-ac-tory."

Here's the Bookends' Bookmas site:




Bookmas begins tomorrow, December 1, at around noon EST.

See you tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I've got everything turned in that was due to be turned in. It's a great feeling.

I'm excited for both December and January. CROPS AND ROBBERS publishes December 6, and IF FRIED CHICKEN COULD FLY publishes January 3. It'll be a crazy and fun two months.

I'll announce my contest/drawing prize for the kick-off of the Country Cooking School series around December 15. Details will be here on my blog.

Also, via this blog I'll be participating in my agent's Bookmas contest again. Check back toward the end of November for clues and details. She and her cohort will be giving away lots of great prizes.

Hope you're having a wonderful holiday season.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Still Not Done

So, I'm still working on a manuscript that is past due. Fortunately, the book doesn't publish until next December so my editor is being wonderfully patient.

I'm not having trouble with the story. In fact, the opposite happened.

I am incapable of writing and then working from an outline. I literally go blank when I attempt to create an outline of a story that hasn't been written yet. As a result, I spend a good amount of writing time figuring out where to put everything. At some point, something clicks and it all becomes clear in my head. That point usually happens at about page 150 or so, which is what happened with this manuscript, and I was good to go. I went back and layered in what needed layered in. But then something clicked again at about page 240 (the manuscript was almost done at this point). I could have ignored it - but not really. I couldn't ignore something I thought would make the book better. I wouldn't have ever slept again. Of course, this new development calls for lots more layering which takes more time than I ever think it will.

So, other than son's football game this afternoon and fitting in the movie "Anonymous," I'll be working all weekend, but I'm really enjoying where this story's taking me. Have a great week!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Friday!

I didn't realize it was Friday. There was no school yesterday and none today and the football game was Wednesday. I'm totally messed up. Anyway, it is Friday and though I'm working all weekend, it is a beautiful day in Salt Lake City. I drove to the grocery store this morning and saw so many people outside that I wondered if I'd missed an event. But I realized it's the weather. I think we're all feeling like we're hitting the end of the comfortable temperatures and we want to enjoy the out-of-doors as much as possible.

Hope you're having a great day wherever you are.

Something strange is going on with either my computer or my pictures, and I can't seem to get pictures to post on my blog right now. I'm working on it, and I'm still taking pictures of the tree which is dropping so many leaves right now that you can hear a bunch of snaps as the stems let go, but I can't get them to post and I don't have a lot of time to devote to the problem.

I'll be finishing Farmers' Market 4 over the next week. I took the characters out of their hometown for this one and it's been fun to create a whole new world.

Have a great weekend!


Monday, October 17, 2011


Still taking pictures of the tree, but my computer won't let me upload. Hmm. Working on it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

One Tree

It's a perfect day in SLC. Everyone should get to be outside today.

Friday, October 14, 2011

One Tree

More yellow.

She's Still Here

I hesitated to write this post. I don't want to jinx anything. But ultimately I realized that it's good to be grateful no matter what happens next.

Back in March our dog, Gizmo, was diagnosed with cancer. The vet told us she probably had about seven more months to live - that seven months is up. And, she's still here, doing very well. We treated her with a new drug, Palladia, for a couple months. We decided, though, that if the drug made her sick or miserable we would stop the treatment. We wanted whatever she had left to be as happy and comfortable as possible. After those first couple months she did start to feel poorly, so we stopped the Palladia. She's seemed to feel pretty darn good ever since. We took her in for blood work last week and she's still in the normal range. She still weighs the same, and she's still very playful.

Tomorrow, the 15th, is her birthday. She'll be five. I keep telling her that she needs to give us at least five more years. I hope she's listening.

When she was first diagnosed I put out a plea for prayers and positive thoughts. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am certain of this: she wouldn't be doing as well as she is if not for those good vibrations. Today, I'm sending good wishes out to everyone. May something absolutely wonderful happen to you today.

Thank you.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Tree

October 13. Temperature in the 70's today. Perfect.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One Tree

Taken about 10:30 AM. A little more yellow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One Tree

Picture taken earlier in the day today, about 10:30 AM. The light's different, but not much else.

Monday, October 10, 2011

One Tree

I've always wanted to do something. I thought about starting another blog, but I like having just one. So starting today I'm going to document a year in the life of one tree, a huge tree that's on the border of my and my neighbor's backyards. I love this tree. It brings me enormous enjoyment in the summer as it becomes the home to many birds, hummingbirds included. I love watching it change through the seasons. It's also an old tree, and I wonder how much longer it will be around.

Here's the first picture, taken today, October 10, 2011, at noon. It's a beautiful day in Salt Lake City. Sunny, 55 degrees.

There're only a few small patches of yellow leaves but they're beginning to fall off quickly. Normally, by the time they fall they are all yellow. I hope they make it this year.

Friday, September 30, 2011


I've spent this week finishing up the second book of the Country Cooking School Series, IF MASHED POTATOES COULD DANCE. I'll put a final spit shine on it today and send it away.

Manuscripts travel back and forth between me and my editor a few times, but it's always this first time I send it in that feels funny; I'm excited that it's done, but anxious that maybe I've written something atrocious and I'll have to rewrite the entire thing, and I'm also a little sad. I spend so much time with the characters that when they leave, I miss them a little.

The recipes in this one are:
Mashed Potatoes (the way my grandmother made them, which is now called whipped)
Twice Baked Potatoes
Funeral Potatoes
Skillet Potatoes
Sweet Potato Pie (with an egg and marshmallow meringue)

It's always fun to taste-test the recipes.

Hope you have a great week.


Friday, September 23, 2011


Though it's my favorite time of year, I'm surprised at how I'm not ready for fall. Summer in Salt Lake City just wasn't hot or miserable enough for me to welcome the cooler temperatures. However, I expect we'll have a grand leaf season. We drove up to a restaurant in the mountains on Sunday and there were already splotches of red and yellow everywhere. A couple weeks and we'll take our annual leaf drive. I'll probably force my son to go along. He'll complain but then want to take pictures of his own once we're up there.

As I'm sure it has been for everyone, we've been pretty darn busy. School, my deadlines, and this is the busiest time of year for my husband. But, by chance, we did one thing this year that has made all the craziness a little easier. My son's a junior in high school and he was able to finish lots of credits during freshman and sophomore years, summers included. Every other day this semester he doesn't have a first period. He's on a block schedule so that means he doesn't have to get to school a full hour and half into the day. I can't believe the difference it has made. Since he plays football, he gets pretty beat up, and even though he has one fewer class, the rest of his classes are pretty intense so he has plenty of homework. That extra hour and a half has allowed him to get some extra recuperative sleep, or get to bed at a reasonable hour and do his homework in the morning. We got lucky, but if I had to do it again, I would do all I could to make sure he got that open period.

Oh, and - when he sleeps in, so do I. Yay!

Hope your summer was wonderful and I hope your fall is spectacular.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Day in the Life

Stop by Dru's Book Musings for a look at a day in the life of Becca Robins, the farmers' market mysteries protagonist. Thanks for the post, Dru!

A Day in the Life

Friday, September 9, 2011


March 10-11, 2012 -- I'll be attending the Tucson Festival of Books. I'm thrilled that I'll get to be a part of a cozy mystery panel with fellow authors Rebecca Hale, Jenn McKinlay, Avery Aames and Kate Carlisle. And, I get to do a cooking thing with Avery Aames who writes a great (I should have said 'grate' huh?) cheese shop mystery series. I'm really looking forward to the weekend. If you're in the area, stop by and introduce yourself.

I love Arizona - mostly. I think cactus are fabulous and I'm fascinated by all the amazing colors you can find in the desert. But the July and/or August heat can be pretty brutal. I can't imagine how difficult it is to work outside during those months.

A few years ago, my husband, my son and I took a trip to Tombstone, Arizona. Even though it was brutally hot, I had a great time. As much as I love Arizona, I really really loved that trip. In fact, though the setting for my Country Cooking School series is in the fictional town of Broken Rope, Missouri, it's a lot like Tombstone -an Old West tourist town. I doubt I'll have time in March, but I hope to get back to Tombstone again soon. Even though much of it is about "fun," there's something really wonderful about the sense of history you feel as you meander down the boardwalk and watch a gunfight or two. Loved it.

Hope you have a great week and read some amazing books!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Muddy Day

Happy Friday!

School started Wednesday and I'm still recovering. Time changes are always an adjustment for me. I don't mind getting up earlier during the school year, but I do have to get used to it. During the summer I stay up late, usually working an hour or two around midnight. But during the school year I can't stay up that late and still function well the next day, so I get most of my work done in the mornings. Daylight savings stuff messes me up as well. Hopefully I'll be on track by the middle of next week.

My son is a junior in high school this year. He's got a good schedule (if the school can get a physics teacher in place, but that's another post) and he's playing football. He loves football and I'm a big fan of the sport, but I do worry (obsessively, sometimes) about him getting hurt. He got pretty beat up last night but since they won, he had a great time. These boys turn into one big bruise only a couple weeks into the season. Keep your fingers crossed that he stays healthy.

Last night was JV, tonight is varsity. He got up today, got ready, excitedly put his jersey on - varsity players get to wear their jersey the day of the games, and this is his first year playing varsity so he was pumped. Anyway, he left but then returned home only a few minutes later. And he was covered in mud. It was one of the strangest moments I can remember. Apparently, he had his window down and a bus drove past him and through a puddle. He was covered and the inside of his car was covered. Crazy. We got him and the car cleaned up and he headed back to school, but that will be one of those weird things we'll remember forever, I suppose.

If you have one, I hope your back-to-school transition is going well and I hope your kids have a great year. I'm sure before we know it we'll be talking about winter break.

I've only been reading my stuff lately. I seem to be in the middle of a bunch of deadlines - some for final manuscripts, some for first drafts, etc. I think I'll be able to start reading other books some time in October. Hope you're reading some great books.

Friday, August 12, 2011

More Ice Cream, Please

This is both my facebook status and blog update for the day:

I did a little short distance traveling this week and these are the things I learned: It seems that cell phones work *everywhere* now, even in the middle of nowhere; I LOVE Tillamook Oregon Strawberry Ice Cream - so much so that I dreamt about it two nights in a row; and, I'm afraid to see THE HELP movie because I think it will ruin the book, which I happen to LOVE, but not as much as Tillamook Oregon Strawberry Ice Cream. Have a great weekend!

The only addition I'd like to make is this - I read a paperback this week. It wasn't a very good book, just something I picked up on the road because I forgot my Nook. It was fun to hold and read. I do enjoy the Nook, but there really is nothing like holding a book. Sigh. I'm already becoming nostalgic for the "old days" and they're not even old yet.

Have a great week!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Home Sweet HGTV Dream Home

My husband is one of those people who can build things and fix things (unless the problem has something to do with the washing machine belt, apparently). He loves DIY and HGTV. I enjoy them too but for different reasons. I have no desire to build my own gazebo or fashion a table from an old castle door - hmm, actually that sounds kind of interesting. I do like to watch others doing such things, however. Anyway, for a few years he's made sure to faithfully enter the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway contest. Last year's home was in Stowe, Vermont. Before that I think they were in Colorado and New Mexico. If we'd won, I doubt I could have been convinced to move to Vermont (nothing against Vermont, I just don't want to move some place that has more winter than Utah), but I'd have gone to Colorado and New Mexico. Of course, we didn't win.

Well, this year the Dream Home is being built in Utah - about thirty minutes and a world away from Salt Lake City.

Midway, Utah is east of Salt Lake City, a drive up a canyon and into the mountains. You take I-80 to the exit past the Park City exit and drive toward Heber, Utah. Heber is actually the town that Midway is next to and more of a town than Midway - it's small but it has its share of fast food and other cafe-type restaurants, banks, convenience stores, and grocery stores (we even found one open on Sunday which is rare in smaller Utah towns). It's a beautiful area, still wide open with some farmland and lots of horses. There's even a small airport/landing strip on the edge of Heber. We saw a tiny plane land the day we were there and I wondered who in the world would need to fly into Heber, Utah on Sunday.

The HGTV home is actually in a neighborhood in Midway - this surprised me; I thought it would be out in the middle of nowhere. The plots of land are large and the homes aren't close together, but there are other homes around, all of them beautiful.

Here's the HGTV home in its current state with a finished home in the background.

There were security cameras all around and a security guy in a truck who gave us dirty looks so we couldn't get too close, but here it is from a couple other angles.

Here's the house that was in the background.

Since we couldn't get any closer and probably wouldn't have trudged through the weeds anyway, we didn't get a good picture of the Provo River that runs behind the HGTV house. You might be able to see it in this shot that was taken from the road in between the two houses.

Here's a better shot of the river. If you travel around that bend about a hundred yards, you'll be behind the HGTV home.

Here's a real fisherman who looks like he should be in A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT.

As you can see, it's a beautiful area. It is a small town, though. No Barnes and Nobles. I don't think there are any movie theaters close by. Of course, there are good things about that too. The weather is also significantly different from Salt Lake City. The winters can last a long, long time up there. Here's a shot of the mountains to the west of Midway.

That picture was taken last Sunday and there is still snow in the mountains. It was stormy the day we drove up so the temperature difference was more significant than normal. It was 80-something in Salt Lake and 61 in Midway which might sound wonderful if you're in a heatwave but January's not so appealing, I promise.

I'm sure my husband will enter as frequently as allowed. I'd be okay winning this one even with the colder weather. I love Utah and would probably enjoy such a house even if I needed to wear my parka a little longer. If you enter and win, I'd love a tour. I'll bring cookies and hot chocolate and we could sit out on the back patio and watch the river go by. Hey, that doesn't sound all bad.

Good luck!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Time to Forget

There are two times I forget about what I'm writing. I do it on purpose, or at least I try to.

1. When I finish the first draft.

2. After I get the manuscript back from my editor, make corrections and then turn it in for the final time.

I do it the first time so I can have fresh eyes when I go back to revise. If at all possible I like to have the first draft completed at least two to three months before the actual due date. It doesn't always work out, but I try.

I forget the second time because it isn't possible for me to keep going on whatever else I'm working on if I dwell on what's been turned in and is for all practical purposes a done deal.

But until one of those things occurs, the story is constantly in my head, constantly being worked through and critiqued. I can't bring myself to let go of it even slightly.

For the past few months I've had four manuscripts at points that didn't allow me to forget anything. However, in the last week and a half I finished the first draft of the second book of the cooking school series and turned in all corrections on the third book of the farmers' market series. It's strange to go from four down to two in such a short period of time. I'll start revisions on the cooking school book next week; it'll come back into my head so I'll be back up to three. I have big yellow notebooks and a whiteboard (I call it the murder board) to help keep me organized. A friend asked me recently if thinking this way drives me crazy and I told her that it didn't, not in the least actually. In fact, it never occurred to me that it should.

I realized that this is how I've always done things. When I worked in advertising, I would put total thought into ads or campaigns until the completed "first drafts." Then I'd make myself forget about them while I worked on something else (or elses) so I could go back to the original project with fresh eyes. And when something was approved or turned in, I let go of it.

I guess I should clarify that "forget" in this instance means that I just don't think about it, obsess over it my family would say. Of course when you're writing series books or a number of ad campaigns you can't truly forget where you've been, but I guess I just take breaks from all-encompassing concentration.

Of course, this method comes with a price. There's only so much room in my noggin. I frequently forget (in this instance forget means forget) things at the grocery store, even when I've written a list. I was supposed to take my son's baseball uniform to him yesterday and I drove all the way to the field without it. I always forget what day it is. I truly have to look at my calendar every morning. I haven't forgotten a family member's birthday yet, but I totally spaced Father's Day this year. My husband ended up with the only card (it was lame) left at Rite Aid at ten the night before and my father only got a phone call.

And I totally missed last Friday's blog update. It's a good thing I update "almost" every Friday.

Hope you have a great week ahead and may you remember all your important stuff.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Laura and Harry Together Forever

During the summer of 2007, I was able to take a road-trip that fulfilled a life-long dream; I visited most of the homes of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Originally, I was going to take the trip alone since neither my husband nor son (he was twelve at the time) were interested. Because my husband had to take a last minute business trip, plans were changed and my son came with me. He won’t admit it but he had fun, too. Following is my journal from the trip. It is not edited at all, but mostly just fragmented thoughts and observations (and, frankly, way too gushy and full of the words 'amazing' and 'wonderful' but I still don't want to edit it). If you read it, you'll see why I can't ever again think of Harry Potter, particularly the last book, without remembering this amazing trip. Posting today to honor the last Harry Potter movie. Our tickets are for Sunday. Don't tell me what happens, 'k? :-)

Laura Journal
July 17, 2007 –
Plane travel is awful – nothing fun about it anymore, and layovers in Denver are worse. Finally made it to Minneapolis. Got a Dodge Charger and a GPS and hit the road. The Charger will make husband jealous.
The Midwest is green, hot and humid, though the temperature seems surprisingly pleasant. Music is very important for a road trip, so once in the car I pulled out the cd’s I’d made. The politically incorrect Kung Fu Fighting was the biggest hit.
Nobody believes me when I say that the clouds are closer to the ground in the Midwest than in Utah, but it’s true. And the skies go on much longer without the mountains to stop them. That was fun to show son. Long drive to DeSmet and the detours sent us in a crazy direction – to all darkness and corn, like a Stephen King novel. I had to swallow a scream.
Finally found a small town police officer who said we were on the right route, so we continued on and hit hwy 14, which is called the Laura Ingalls Wilder Hwy. Played Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde) for son – he said, “I don’t think I can handle much more of this guy.” I said, “He was the voice of a generation.” He said, “A very messed up generation.” I said, “You have a point.” But I was very proud that he knew which generation I was speaking about. And I’ll always love Bob.
Got to De Smet at 2:00 am. One of the cleanest hotels I’ve ever been to.

July 18 –
Finally got up at 9:00 and announced that we’ve got places to be and dead people to see.
Unbelievable rain/thunder/lightening storm to begin the day. It was wonderful and thrilling and worked in our favor. I wasn’t about to let the weather stop us, so we took off for the Surveyor’s house and gift shop.

Because so few of us were out and about, our tour group was very small. Saw the Surveyor’s house (where the Ingalls lived when they first moved to De Smet) and the house that Pa built in town.
The most amazing part of the house in town was the picture that Carrie took of Ma sitting in the front room. They’ve done a great job of making the home look like it looked when Ma lived there. We toured around and saw sites of former places – homes and stores, but none of the originals were still standing.
Then we went to the grave sites. Lovely, small graveyard. I felt spirits – Pa’s was the strongest. Then to the homestead. This was phenomenal! They have replicated things very well, including the house that Pa built for Ma. And everything is totally hands-on. Son had a blast and so did I. And I get it – what a wonderful way to live and grow up, if you were a child. Adulthood was enormously hard and lots of work. But as a child, the prairie would have been amazing.
We got lucky -- the storm stopped early but the clouds remained so the cloud cover kept things cool and a breeze (just like the ones Laura talked about) blew through the prairie the entire time. They had animals on the homestead, too, and son made a friend of a five-day-old colt. It was an amazing experience for us both. A perfect day.
I thought about The Long Winter and how the family survived. Silver Lake is drained, but I saw where the slough was (kind of is), and I continually thought about the distances they all had to travel just to go to school or to town.
Almanzo and Laura were the first book romance I was exposed to – my heart still flutters when I think about him traveling each weekend over the cold winter snow and ice to pick her up from her teaching job.
Rose was born here, and Almanzo was crippled after he and Laura were sick with diphtheria. As a child I never thought of this, but as an adult I wonder at how devastating that must have been. Almanzo was strong and had to work very hard every day. How did he manage after being so ill? How did the family manage?
I’d never thought about the dates of death for the family but Pa actually died 22 years before Ma. She and Mary were very close, but Pa’s spirit is so strong in the books (and, frankly, at the cemetery) that I can only imagine the void that was left behind when he died. Very sad that Ma didn’t have him with her for her last twenty-two years.
My favorite of all the books is Little Town on the Prairie – so much happens in Laura’s life. I remember how the entire family worked hard to get Mary to a blind college. Laura taught and sewed.

July 19, 2007
Walnut Grove, MN
Or On the Banks of Plum Creek
Not as much to see here, but I wouldn’t have missed the site of the sod house dug-out. They have a museum, but it’s more about the time period than it is the Ingalls family.
The sod house site is on this elderly couple’s property and they were sitting on the front porch as we drove to the back of their land to see the spot. I have no idea how anyone managed to live there, in that small space, surrounded by nothing but sod walls. We saw the rock in the creek that Mary and Laura played on.
This is where Laura met “Nellie Olson” who was apparently a combination of a number of girls. We ate lunch at Nellie’s, right on the highway through town. Yummy greasy-spoon-type restaurant.
Laura and Mary went to school for the first time and Miss Beadle was their teacher. It was in this book that Ma gave Charlotte (Laura’s doll) away. I remember the immense relief when Laura got it back.
Anyway, we then drove to Mankato so we could have a pool and be closer for our drive to Pepin. Harry Potter 7 comes out tomorrow night at midnight, and I have no idea how we are going to find it in Pepin.
Good luck.
Ate dinner at Red Lobster. I’m not a big fan, but son is.
July 20, 2007
Pepin, Wisconsin. Little House in the Big Woods
Green, and just when I was beginning to really miss mountains, we got a few hills. Lake Pepin is at the widest part of the Mississippi River. It is a large lake and quite beautiful.
The town of Pepin is a small, small town. The museum is small and quaint. You have to drive about seven miles out of town to the site of the cabin where Laura was born.
They have replicated the cabin and I can’t begin to express how wonderful and magical it was to visit this replica. I am constantly amazed at how far away the Ingalls’ dwellings were – and still are -- from everything. As it seemed Pa desired, they did live away from civilization.

Pepin was the first town Laura ever saw. I remember the tree-stump bear and the molasses candy. I still remember the gist of the final lines of the book – Something about this is now, and now can never be a long time ago. That was pretty brilliant writing.
We are staying in a nice hotel with a lake view – I took a small rock from the Lake. We are picking up the final Harry Potter from a quaint and small book store in Pepin. I am in wonderment about all the green trees and hilly plains. Who would have the courage to make their way through this and take off to see what is in the rest of the world? And were they disappointed with the plains they traveled to or were they resigned to the changes?
We ate at a lakeside restaurant. Shrimp and raspberry cake. Yum.
The Laura museum was kind enough to direct us to a new book store in town. Harry Potter 7 was set to embark from its boxes at 12:01 and we had to have one, even if it meant driving all night to our next destination on the trip.
Thankfully, Wilder Trail Books, a new store in town was hosting a Harry Potter party. In the afternoon we stopped by the store to see if they had ordered enough books for us to purchase one. The proprietor, smiling with his own sense of wonder at the big day, said that he, indeed, did have enough. We caught him barefoot and in the middle of decorating the small space so we told him we’d see him later.
And we did. Ned (Dumbledore) and Diane (moaning Myrtle with a toilet seat around her neck) and their family hosted the midnight party. There was butter beer and cupcakes and approximately ten other people at the party.
Ned and Diane opened the bookstore in April and you could tell that they had found their passion. We were sorted (I got Gryffindor – though I often joke with son that I’m Slytherin, through and through -- Son got Ravenclaw) and the countdown began.
At the witching hour (he-he), the boxes were opened. Son got the first book, making him the local (his name was printed in the paper) celebrity – you know, traveling all the way from Salt Lake City just to get a book at the new bookstore. I’m so glad that there are no more Harry Potter books, because we could never have a better night than this one.
We drove away from Pepin, son with Harry and me with my thoughts of Laura and her time in the big woods. I guess there was magic all around. The book store ordered 30 books and apparently they sold out by the next afternoon. Everyone we met in Pepin was delightful. (Added later – website:

July 21, 2007
Iowa. (I lived in Des Moines for many years)
Well, I can’t believe I didn’t remember just how much corn there is. I saw so much of it today that at a point I felt true hostility toward the vegetable. A corn-I-can’t-COPE-ia, if you will. (oh, that’s bad)
However, Burr Oak was fascinating. The Master’s Hotel was in its original spot, reproduced to the best possible. They’ve even kept some of the original boards available to be seen. We saw the room (small) that the entire Ingalls family lived in while they worked there.
Apparently Grace was actually born in Burr Oak, but the baby boy, Freddie, died there. Laura didn’t talk about her Iowa time in her books, but they have her original pages from her typed diary that talk about her time there. Some interesting facts: she and her friends played in the cemetery because they could run and be left alone.
Laura and Mary (she was more proficient than Laura) learned how to play the organ in Burr Oak and one of their daily jobs was to empty the hotel guests’ bedpans. Yuck, but I often wonder, when I’m reading the books, how that outhouse thing really was – that and childbirth.
We didn’t go to Vinton to see the blind college. They don’t allow tours, but we might regret not driving by because a woman at Burr Oak thought that they were about to close down the college. Very sad.
Then there was Des Moines. I haven’t been back really for about twenty years – I was back for my friend’s wedding in 1990, but that was all wedding stuff.
I have to say, I was disappointed. Most of the familiar things I looked at needed some facelift work, including the house I lived in. I think that bothered me the most, but my high school seemed sunken and Drake looked a bit ragged, too – they’re doing some renovating, so I’m sure it will improve. Then after finding the things I recognized, it was all that I didn’t recognize that really bothered me. I couldn’t even immediately figure out which was my best friend’s house – once I finally did I realized how cute it is. Any part of this city that I once thought I might have claimed as a part of me, or rather me a part of it, is gone. Long gone. This is fine, but it was shocking because it was the first time I’ve felt such a surprising detachment.

July 22 – 23
The trip to Mansfield was fairly uneventful. Less corn. We stayed at the Wilder Inn in Mansfield and ate a late dinner at the only open restaurant – a Tastee Freeze. Hot dogs and ice cream.
Laura’s houses in Mansfield were perfect. When I was a child, I visited the main house, but now they have opened the rock house that Rose built for her parents.
The rock house is actually where Laura wrote the first four books. But then, after Rose moved away, Laura and Almanzo moved back to the main house. There is a question I thought of later that I neglected to ask – what did they do, other than some farming? Laura didn’t begin the books until she was 65, so how did they make their living?
Saw “the” fiddle. Saw so many things. The museum was wonderful. I loved every second of it, and I was tearful (I’m sure son wanted to fall into the earth when tears rolled down my cheeks) at a video they played when I heard her real voice. Son took some pictures of me on the front porch of the main house, just like the ones I have from when I was a child. Then I took some of him.
Saw Laura’s and Almanzo’s gravesites, too. Rose is buried there, too. I wasn’t so sad at the cemetery until I thought of the rest of the family buried in South Dakota. I don’t know why that bothered me, but it did.
I am so struck at how they built their houses – not just one room at a time, it was one tree at a time. They would cut down a tree (in Mansfield, Almanzo and Laura, each on one end of a saw), make the boards to build with and then create one room. Their first room in Mansfield was the kitchen. And then, when they decided they didn’t want the house right where the kitchen was and had enough time and materials to build a second room, they put the kitchen up on rollers and moved it. The patience, courage and strength with which they lived their lives stuns me.
It’s been said that Rose actually wrote the books. Of course, I have no idea, but I do notice a style difference in some of them – that could just be attributed to Laura changing and growing as a writer. However, I guess I don’t care much who put the finishing touches on the stories, I have no doubt that Laura lived them, and I am so grateful she shared them as well.
All the way around, the trip was beyond expectations. Son even had fun. I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

Books - Well, of course I need to gush a little more about both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Harry Potter. These books were a huge part of my childhood and my son's. I don't care if they sometimes aren't considered perfect, they are perfect to me.

Happy Reading - and enjoy the movie!


Friday, July 8, 2011

One of 'Those' Weeks

It's been an interesting week - one of those I wish would have gone a little differently, wish I would have made a couple different decisions. It hasn't necessarily been bad, just didn't go as I hoped it would. We all have those.

Anyway, one of the good things this week was reading the keynote speech that Sherrilyn Kenyon gave at this year's Romance Writers of America convention. Not only is it inspirational, it's an interesting story.

It's long, but I highly recommend taking the time to read it. I don't know if you have to be on facebook to see it. Here's the link: Speech

Happy Reading!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Home Again . . .

On my way home from St. George, Utah and son's basketball tournament. I have bleacher butt and it was really, really hot, but it's always a fun week.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.


Friday, June 24, 2011

My Moral Dilemma: Woody Allen

I’m not someone who judges art by the personal behavior of the artist. We all mess up, we all make bad decisions. I'll still watch Charlie Sheen movies, and though I think Sandra Bullock’s ex is an idiot, I won’t disregard whatever it is that he does for a living just because he cheated on his wife. What does he do anyway?

But there’s one celebrity I haven’t been able to forgive enough to welcome his art back into my life.

When I was younger I saw a number of Woody Allen films and liked most of them. But that changed - about twenty years ago, in fact. When his affair with Soon-Yi (Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter and for all practical purposes his daughter, too) was exposed, I vowed I would never, ever, ever do anything in any way to contribute to his bank account. In fact, even if I came across one of his films on television, I’d switch channels. It hasn’t been a difficult vow to keep. Until this last weekend.

I’d seen a couple previews for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and they intrigued me. And then I heard good rumblings about it too. But I never once heard or noticed that it was a Woody Allen film. I might not have been paying attention or maybe the promoters haven’t been pushing the fact. I don’t know. I just know I had no idea.

On Sunday at about 4:00, I glanced at the film times on my phone and saw that it was playing in ten minutes. My husband was game so we hurried to the theater. By the time we made our way to a couple empty seats - this wasn’t easy, by the way - the movie had started, but nothing much had happened. The beginning is a montage of shots of the beautiful city of Paris. But while these pictures are on the screen, stars' and producers', etc. names are popping up. And the last one listed was, of course, Woody Allen.

I gasped. I told my husband we couldn’t stay. Charlie (husband) has absolutely no sense or interest in things celebrity. He knows who Woody Allen is but he wouldn’t pay the least bit of attention to his personal life. Here’s kind of how our conversation went:

Me: Gasp. Oh, we gotta go.
Him: What?
Me: It’s Woody Allen.
Him: So?
Me: He married his daughter.
Him, after a pause: That’s disgusting.
Me: I know.

At that point, we were shushed by the people we’d walked in front of, those behind us and those in front of us. Husband shot me a look that said: should we go?

And, much to both my disappointment in myself and my sheer glee, we didn’t go. We sat through the movie and here’s the thing - I loved every darn minute of it. It’s sort of like what I'd heard, but there’s much more to it. It’s a movie for dreamers, artists of all kinds and people who just love to be entertained with a good and interesting story. I am horrified to say that I loved it, loved it! I’ll do my best to never see another Woody Allen movie again because I haven’t forgiven him, but if I was going to slip off my vow, at least I ended up enjoying the experience. Plus, it was a matinee, so not full ticket price. Yeah, that’s what I'll keep telling myself.


STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett
Okay, it's kind of a strange story with strange, totally bizarre and unreal things happening. The writing is more long-winded than I usually enjoy, but the words are all useful. There was something about this book that made me want to hurry back to it. I think (though I'm not really sure) it had something to do with the author's characterizations. Or maybe it was just the whole mystery and beauty and horribleness of the Amazon? Many books I choose to read are about places I'd never be brave enough to go but would love to learn about. I can't seem to pinpoint it, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Can't Believe I'm Talking About This . . .

The other day my husband and I were having a sharing moment. We were comparing our aches and pains. Shoulder joints, hips, knees, feet - we were having a serious conversation about these things, until we paid attention to what we were saying and broke into laughter. We've become "those" people, I guess.

But despite being old fogies, we ultimately decided to do a few things differently that should help us both.

Last year I started getting twinges of pain shooting from my wrists into my elbows. At the time I researched the ergonomically best way to sit: straight back, lower back support, elbows supported, arm bent at a 90 degree angle, and keyboard straight out from your elbows (see picture). I was sitting with my elbows up, like wings kind of. I made some adjustments and it has helped a lot. Yesterday, I analyzed my husband's sitting form and we fixed a few things there too. So, sitting form should be better.

Also on the list is our mattress. We have one of those mattresses that has a foam pad on top. We thought it would be wonderful, but it isn't. In fact, the last couple of times I've slept on a plain hotel mattress, I've had fewer aches and pains. I don't know what we're going to do, but we're researching.

I've been treadmill walking for years. I started when I blew my knee out and have just kept going - well, 30 minutes a day. I've decided I need to do more stretching before and after my walks to keep things limber and moving better.


I once heard that it's harder on a body to sit in a chair all day than it is to play a professional sport. Writing is the first 'desk' job I've had; combine that with getting older and I'm realizing I've got to take better care. Again, sigh, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Sending well and ache-and-pain-free wishes to everyone!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Slow Down!

I know, I know, everyone tells you that your kids will grow up quickly. If you pay attention, you might hear someone say it at least once a day.

But, seriously, there is nothing anyone can say or share that can prepare you for the truth - "quickly" doesn't even begin to explain what happens. One day, a flood of memories will hit you at once: Feeding him at 2:00 in the morning and wondering when he'll be able to get his own Pop Tarts. Chasing him in the doctor's office and wondering why you really wanted him to start walking in the first place. Watching his kindergarten graduation and wondering if he really will be good at math like the young, new teacher said he would be. Watching him smile when the eye doctor says, "Not only do you not have to wear an eye patch any longer, you don't even need glasses." Wondering if he'll even remember not being invited to that boy's birthday party (he won't, by the way). Wondering when he'll finally be too big to run and jump into your arms. Thinking that it's impossible that he's going into Jr. High. One day, looking up to talk to him instead of looking down. Watching him shave. So many others . . . and these memories will hit you often, but my big moment this year was as I watched him drive down the street headed to school - on the first morning I didn't follow close behind.

My kid finished 10th grade this week, which, to me, just means that I've only got two more full good years with him in my house. That is, unless I can convince him that he and whoever he marries should live in my basement. Trust me, I'm going to try.

No new books this week. Hopefully, something next time. Happy Reading!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Woman at Work

I really don’t travel much and most of the places I do go are because of some sort of sports event or camp for my son. This last year has been surprisingly full of travel adventures that haven’t had anything at all to do with my kid. I’ve had fun, but boy did I pay for it this last week.

I’m not staring down the barrel of any imminent deadlines, but in the past couple of months I’ve missed a number of my self-imposed smaller deadlines; you know, the things you should stick to or your big deadlines get ugly and impossible. After returning home from D.C. I told myself that I had to get caught up, get back to my planned calendar. I’ve spent the last seven days attempting to do just that. I’m not there quite yet, but the edge of panic has worn off a little. However, it looks like I’ll be spending my summer either missing the nicer weather or hauling my laptop to the backyard. Hope your summer (I'm calling the end of the school year the official start of summer) is off to a wonderful all-deadlines-met start.

I did read a book on the planes to and from D.C. that I really enjoyed. FLAT-OUT LOVE by Jessica Park is a digital book only (uh, I don’t think I’m wrong about that, but there might be a paperback version in the future). I thought I would do some work on the plane rides but it just wasn’t happening. Instead, I chose to read, hoping to find something that would make the narrow seat and the elbow in my side from the neighboring passenger not so horrible. I got lucky.

FOL is a young adult novel; a genre which I’ve been reading a bunch of lately and have found they can either be really, really good or torturous. FOL is in the really, really good category.

The main character is a young adult but not as young as some. She’s a college freshman. I think this age isn’t written about enough - or I’ve missed these books, which is possible.

Anyway, I don’t know Jessica personally but we are Facebook friends and I think she’s hysterically funny. I bought this book fully expecting to like it, but I was surprised at how much I liked it. I knew she’d be good at the funny stuff, but she's also good with the serious and heart-wrenching stuff. It's got romance, mystery, laughs, family dysfunction. It’s all really well done, and it made my plane rides fly (grin) right on by.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mrs. Obama and Jacquelyn's Magic Pin

About ten years ago, one day when I was escorting my son into first grade, I noticed another mom who looked very familiar. It didn’t take long to recognize this mom as Jacquelyn Orton, who at the time was married to former Utah Congressman Bill Orton. Her son, Will, and my son are now about to finish tenth grade. We’ve all known each other a long time. We’ve known great teachers, not so great teachers, good things and sad things like the tragic death of Jacquelyn's husband Bill who was killed in an ATV accident two years ago.

Every year, Jacquelyn ventures back to Washington D.C. to attend the Congressional Club’s luncheon honoring the nation’s first lady. This year, I was fortunate to be invited to go with her, her friend Susan and her goddaughter, Victoria (who lives in D.C., but met us at the luncheon).

Now, I thought this would be a very fun and very cool experience, but I truly had no idea just how fun, cool and amazing it would be. I’ll start with how amazing it was to be in the same banquet room with Mrs. Obama. There were about 1600 attendees, but being in the same room and able to walk up to the main table and take her picture was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I was beyond honored. She spoke and I was struck at how down-to-earth she really is. She’s also beautiful, just like she seems to be on TV. And, she seems even taller in person than she does via media pictures. There were gift bags at the luncheon and one of the gift items was a pair of cute flip-flops. The story was that Mrs. Obama was looking around to find some that would fit her daughters. So, even though she’s the first lady of the nation, she’s first a mom. That’s pretty cool.

The entertainment was Gloria Estefan. Wow, that woman can still sing up a storm. She was also quite beautiful, and I got the biggest kick out of all of us (including Mrs. Obama), in our fancy clothes, up and dancing to the Latin beats of the Miami Sound Machine. Yeah, I’ll remember that for a long time.

I can’t even begin to share the names of all the people Jacquelyn introduced us to, but most of their last names were familiar and from the world of senators and congressmen. Everyone was so kind and gracious and the luncheon was extraordinary, a truly great time all around.

But the trip was even more than the luncheon. Jacquelyn knows D.C. probably better than she knows Salt Lake City, and she has this pin that by only a few minutes into our touring, I began to call magical. The security in Washington D.C. is like nothing you can imagine, but when security people noticed Jacquelyn’s spouse’s pin, it was as if they were suddenly tamed into respectful acquiescence. I loved the fact that it took us into places and down hallways that you just don’t normally get to see. I will forever think about D.C.’s secret tunnels and the Capitol’s back hallways as the only way to see the fun stuff.

Congress wasn’t in session but the senate was. We decided to watch the session from the gallery (oh my, I’m certain I don’t have all the right words for these places and things - forgive me) for a little while. I thought I would be C-Span bored to tears. Not even close!

The first thing I had to get past, though, was that Al Franken was sitting at the main desk when we first got there. It was hard for me not to think he’d break out into an SNL sketch at any moment. He didn’t and I was able to focus on the other goings-on.

We were able to see our political process doing something that actually meant something, something that was about something important. Senator Tom Harkin, who is from Iowa and was a senator even back when I was growing up in Iowa, was presenting facts about how many of the for-profit universities (I won’t name them, but they’re the ones that advertise on TV all the time) are cheating their students out of money, particularly the students who are able to take advantage of the GI Bill for tuition. I won’t go into detail, because I’d get the details wrong, but by the end I was fired up and ready to fight for the cause. It was another experience I’ll never forget. And, directly afterwards, Jacquelyn and her magic pin took us down a back stairway and directly to Senator Harkin. He’d been in Utah a number of years ago and involved in a children’s hospital fundraiser that Jacquelyn had also been involved in. She introduced us all and we had a great conversation. Senator Harkin’s pretty awesome, by the way.

And though the magic pin didn’t have much to do with it, we also visited the Library of Congress and signed up for reading room library cards. With these cards (don't need a magic pin to do this), we were able to go into the magnificent LOC reading room. I recommend it highly. As we left the reading room, Jacquelyn had a librarian look to see if they had my book, FARM FRESH MURDER. They do, and the librarian who helped us happened to be into mysteries. That was pretty cool, too.

But even better than all the above was the company. Jacquelyn, Susan, and Victoria were the best. We ate yummy food, talked about important things (well, we thought they were important) and laughed about things that I’ll laugh about for years. The Congressional Club put on an amazing luncheon and we had a magic pin, but bottom line it’s always the people you’re with that make things fun and memorable. And, this was the best kind of fun. Thank you, all, for one of the best adventures ever.

Friday, May 20, 2011

On My Way Home . . .

If all has gone according to plan, I'm on my way home from Washington D.C. today. See you next week!

Happy Reading!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Ghost Story That Wasn't Supposed to be a Ghost Story, Ghost Story

My Gram’s Cooking School Mystery Series was the result of a phone brainstorming session with my editor at Berkley Prime Crime, Michelle Vega. It was a great session. Understand, we’d never met in person and had mostly communicated through my agent. When she bought the farmers’ market series, I, of course, considered her amazing and wonderful and intelligent, but we really didn’t know each other all that well. I was excited about the brainstorming session, but I was also nervous about saying or doing something so stupid that Michelle would never buy anything I ever wrote again.

I didn’t need to worry. Michelle and I communicated smoothly and soon creative ideas were bouncing back and forth between us. She’s a natural - I’m grateful for this.

One of the ideas we came up with was Gram’s Country Cooking School. That was the one that sparked the most for me. I had visions of my own grandmother’s cooking and the stories I’d heard about my ancestors' recipes. It felt right, I guess. I wrote three chapters and a synopsis and sent the full proposal to my agent, who then sold it to Michelle. We got lucky and she bought the first three books! I was thrilled and I got back to work on the first one, IF FRIED CHICKEN COULD FLY.

But a big problem soon put a halt to my excitement. Shortly after the contracts were signed, I was working on the manuscript and I had a sense that someone was looking over my shoulder. The hair on the back of my neck literally stood on end. I turned, but no one was there. Once I shook off the wonky feeling, I turned back to the manuscript and started typing. Surprisingly, a ghost suddenly appeared - in the story, not in my office. I decided to go with it and figure out what character I could turn the ghost into. This series was sold without ghosts, without ANYTHING paranormal. Adding a ghost into something that was sold without one isn’t really the best of plans. But there was nothing I could do. The ghost wanted to stay, no matter how I tried to get rid of him.

I was distraught. I didn’t sleep for three nights as I mulled over what to do. Finally, I sent what I’d written to my agent with a cheery email that said something like - I can get rid of the ghost if we need to, but I thought you should take a look at what I’ve come up with.

Then I spent another sleepless night waiting to hear Jessica’s response. I’m not sure I can describe the relief I felt when she told me she liked it and I should send it to Michelle to see what she said. I did. And, not only did I feel relief when I heard good news back from Michelle, I felt pure glee. See, not only did the ghost not want to go, I didn’t want him to leave. I liked him, my other characters (well, the ones who can see him) liked him too. I got lucky again, and I’m having a great time with the books.

Additionally, I finally met Michelle in person at the Malice Convention. She is amazing, wonderful and intelligent, and kind of perfect.

Books -
Hate to jump the gun, but I’m in the middle of something that I’m really enjoying. I don’t think I’ll change my mind about it, so I thought I’d mention it: THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton. The pace is a little different than what I usually read, but I’m not finding it at all tedious. It was recommended to my via last week’s post by JBull. Thanks! Good rec.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


One of my favorite things to do is walk around a town I've never visited before. Because I wanted to make sure I made it to the Sunday afternoon Sue Grafton interview, I thought I might miss the opportunity last week when I ventured to Bethesda, Maryland for the Malice Domestic Convention. But, I got lucky; oddly, it turned out to be cheaper for me to stay another night in the hotel and catch an early flight Monday morning than to leave Sunday night. So, after the interview (which was amazing and perfect - I was on the front row), I put on my walking shoes and hit the sidewalk.

Normally, I don't have a destination in mind on these walks, but my agent had shared some information with me a couple days earlier that gave me a plan: Georgetown Cupcakes has a location in Bethesda. I love cake, I love cupcakes. Who doesn't? It's one of my 'dreams' to be a judge on Cupcake Wars. I love watching all those cake and cupcake decorating shows. I'll never be able to decorate the way they do, but I enjoy watching the 'art' of it all.

Georgetown Cupcakes was easy to find. It was just a short walk away. Keep in mind, it was late Sunday afternoon but there was a line out the door.

The line moved quickly and before long I was inside.

I'm convinced that a big part of the recent boom in cupcake popularity is how pretty they've become. Frosting is no longer just spread across the top and dotted with sprinkles or sugar. Frosting is piled high, fondant and gum paste are used in unique and creative ways, and cupcakes are the darlings of the brave new baking world. When it comes to pretty, the GT Cupcakes displays didn't disappoint.

The taste didn't disappoint either. I bought a dozen cupcakes and took them and a handful of forks and knifes back to the hotel. I found a few leftover convention attendees in the lobby and convinced them to help me with some taste tests.

Not surprisingly, they were a hit! They were all yummy, but my favorite flavors were strawberry and peanut butter fudge (chocolate cake and peanut butter frosting). The strawberry cupcakes had big chunks of real strawberries in the cake and the frosting on the peanut butter fudge was almost - yep, almost (smile) - as good as a peanut butter frosting I've been working on for the Gram's series.

Along with GT Cupcakes, I give a resounding thumbs-up to the whole weekend. I had a great time at the convention as well as walking around town. It was also interesting to be so close to D.C. the night the Bin Laden news broke. Late Sunday night, I thought about heading into D.C. just to observe the activities, but ultimately I was just too tired.

And even though I had a great time, it was good to get back home. It always is - the frosting on the cupcake, so to speak.

I didn't read one thing this entire week. I was just too busy. I have a stack for this week though. Hope I find something I love.

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 29, 2011


I'm at the Malice Domestic Convention in Bethesda, Maryland.

Hope you had a great week and your weekend is perfect. See you next week. Hopefully, I'll be able to tell you my ghost story that wasn't supposed to be a ghost story ghost story.

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 22, 2011

That Reminds Me

Lately, I've been having spontaneous memories of a family vacation we took in 2007. It was one of those "back east" trips, which is the way Utahns describe any place east of the Mississippi. We spent a couple days at Rehoboth Beach, we saw a Mets game and a Broadway show in NYC, and we saw the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. We were in NYC when a tornado hit Manhattan. I still have the TWISTER! headline I cut out of a local paper.

It was a really terrific vacation, don't get me wrong, but I think it's weird that these memories have been randomly popping into my mind. Earlier this week I realized that maybe they aren't so random.

You know how sometimes a scent can take you back to a moment in your life? To this day, a whiff of Chanel Coco perfume (I haven't smelled it in a long time) will take me back to my childhood and my grandmother's house. It was the only perfume she wore. I love that connection to the past.

Well, it seems that I do the same thing with books. The book I took with me on that vacation was WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. I read it on the beach and in hotel rooms. Chances are pretty good that I pulled it out when we rode the train out to the Mets game or traveled to Philadelphia. I probably didn't spend long stretches reading, but here and there and in between other things. That book was part of the entire trip. Yesterday, I realized that every time I see an advertisement (they're everywhere!) for the upcoming movie version of the book, a flash of that wonderful vacation pops into my mind.

I don't think my book-induced memories spring up with every book I've read. Something else had to have been happening - a vacation or some other "different than normal" situation. My son and I picked up the last Harry Potter book on a Laura Ingalls Wilder road trip I forced him to take with me. Now, the Little House books are tied in my mind to the Harry Potter books. Weird maybe, but appealing to me.

Really, what a great way to remember special moments - by tying memorable moments to books you've read.

And speaking of books - great books, in fact:

I read Laura Hillenbrand's UNBROKEN on the cruise my husband and I recently took. What an amazing story - heartbreaking, hopeful, shocking, sad, uplifting. Check it out if you haven't yet. I suppose that every time I see an advertisement for a cruise line, now UNBROKEN will come to my mind. I love that.

Happy Reading!


Friday, April 15, 2011

Man, Did I Suck

We have some really amazing independent bookstores in Salt Lake City, one of which is The King's English. I know that throughout the country independent bookstores are struggling, but my sense of it is that the SLC area stores are doing okay. I hope so. I'm an equal-opportunity book buyer. I buy books everywhere.

The King's English (TKE) is really terrific to local authors. I had my big FRUIT OF ALL EVIL kick-off event at TKE, and the booksellers were (still are) wonderful.

Here's the thing, though: *I* wasn't amazing. At all. In fact, I kind of sucked. As I looked out at the good-sized crowd who'd come to the signing, I got unbelieveably nervous. That has never happened to me before. I'm not shy. When I was younger, I was kind of a ham. I really don't have much difficulty talking to groups. I used to lead large meetings, and I was always able to make people laugh and relax. I've never been so overcome by nervousness than I was that night. I tried to tell myself to relax and slow down, but I know I didn't. As I read from the book, the only thing I could think about was the sheen of sweat that was building on my face - yes, on my face. How horrifying.

Anyway, I made it through and vowed to be better if I ever did anything like it again.

I've been to a few signings but really not many, and only one of the authors spoke before they signed. She was brief - spectacular, but brief. After my signing, I told myself I would go to every signing in town just so I could learn how to be better. At the time I made this deal with myself, I had no idea Rita Mae Brown would be visiting SLC, but I was thrilled when I found out. She was here Tuesday night.

Together, Ms. Brown and her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, write mysteries. Cats and mysteries go together like - well, it might be better to say that peanut butter and jelly go together like cats and mysteries. There's a big market for these types of books. I haven't read everything she's written, but I'm definitely a fan of Ms. Brown's. I went to her signing just to see and meet her. I didn't care if I learned anything.

And, I learned more from Rita Mae Brown than I have from any author. She was stunning - intelligent, funny, irreverent, confident, kind, and so happy to be there. She talked politics, history and animals for almost an hour. She is passionate (in a friendly, connecting way) about every word that comes out of her mouth, even if some of those words don't have anything to do with her books. I simply loved her. I'd like to be just like her when I grow up. Hopefully, I'll do a better job the next time around. If I do, most of the credit will go to Ms. Brown. Thank you.

After mentioning Casey Daniels last week, I dove into her newest, A HARD DAY'S FRIGHT. Loved it. She's "got" me, though. Somewhere along the way, she hooked me and I'm not letting go. The ending literally put me in a panic (yes, I take these things seriously) but it all worked out. Can't wait for the next one.

Also, after last week, I finally read a book I've had for a couple months. Heather Webber commented on the blog last week; this reminded me that I hadn't yet read her February release, ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY. I have no idea why it took so long for me to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books of the series. And, I loved this one too. Heather is really gifted at creating characters. She'll be debuting a new series in January. She'll be Heather Blake for that one. I have been fortunate to get to "know" Heather, but cross my heart, I wouldn't mention her books if I didn't think they were terrific.

Hope you have a great week.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Sprinter and a Forgotten Book

I have watched and read way too much news this week. Every time I do that I get depressed. I'm begging off everything serious for at least a couple weeks. I'll only be reading and watching things that make me smile or laugh or at least not want to hide under a rock until all the bad issues get resolved. I'd be there forever anyway, huh?

I've also spent the week in a state of "frozen." My son plays baseball and we're at the beginning part of the season that we call Sprinter. The worst thing about Sprinter is the wind. Of course, the cold isn't much fun either. I can't wait until it's so hot that chafing becomes a real possibility.

I got a surprise in Monday's mail. It was a check from iUniverse, the place I self-published a children's chapter book back in 2008. It wasn't a big check but enough to buy lunch for me and the Mr.

Honestly, I had totally forgotten about the book. Thank you to those who've purchased it. I was going to write a blog post about my experience with self-publishing, but it still hasn't happened. And self-publishing is nothing like it was when I took the plunge. I remember trying to find a company who could create an ebook for me. I had a hard time finding one, and when I did they wanted to charge me $1000. It didn't happen. Now, almost all self-published books are ebooks that didn't cost a dime to create. Even though I don't expect to sell many books, my next step with CHEWY MOON is to create an ebook and put it up on Amazon myself. I'm not sure when I'll get to that task, but it will happen. I'll get it pulled off iUniverse soon.

We're hearing lots of self-publishing success stories. I wish I had some words of wisdom to offer, but all I really know is (and my intent isn't to be a buzz kill) that no matter how you publish, success isn't easy. It's a combination of a compelling story, hard work, timing and good luck. I'm sending you the good luck right now.

I didn't read anything this week that I absolutely LOVED, so I thought I'd share two of my favorite mystery series. Disclaimer: I've gotten to "know" one of these authors and I look forward to meeting her in person at the Malice convention at the end of this month. But if I didn't love her books, I wouldn't even mention her or them. I don't know the other author at all. In fact, it didn't even occur to me to send her a Facebook friend request until I was writing this post. Hope she accepts.

The author I "know" is Wendy Lyn Watson. She has two books published: I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM and SCOOP TO KILL. Her third, A PARFAIT MURDER, publishes in June. There's something delightful and smart about Wendy's writing. I'm looking forward to June. Really, take a look at her books.

The author I don't know and hope to get a 'friend request accepted' from is Casey Daniels. Her Pepper Martin series is clever and I find the stories . . . satisfying. I know, that's not a very flashy word, but I do enjoy the books. I just got the most recent, A HARD DAY'S FRIGHT, and I can't wait to dig into it.

Hope you have a great week!


Friday, April 1, 2011

TMI, and Do I Have the Mettle?

Okay, so this cyst - seriously ridiculous seriousness. When I got to the outpatient clinic, they took me to the back, gave me a gown, and told me to strip down to my undies.

I said - "It's just a cyst on my wrist. I thought I was going to pull up my sleeve, get a shot of something numbing and get the thing cut out of there."

They said, "No, this is a surgery. There are procedures to follow."

I was not happy.

When my husband and I got married twenty years ago, he had one of these cysts removed from his wrist. My memories of his surgery are non-existent.

As I walked (at least they didn't roll me) to the surgical room, holding the back of the gown closed, my husband waved farewell and told me that they made him take off his undies too. I think he was trying to make me laugh or at least be less cranky about the whole thing.

Fortunately, I was only slightly sore one day later. There's been no other pain, but I have a nice bruise on my thumb. Once the stitches come out, I'm sure I'll be pleased that I got it removed - even with the splint, my thumb movement is much better.

Thanks for all the good wishes.

Mettle, Meddle

As of today, I have received fourteen emails about an editing error in FRUIT OF ALL EVIL.

Mettle was used when meddle should have been used.

Ack! How could that possibly have happened???

Here's the deal: a bunch of people look at these books, a number of different pairs of eyes. But no matter what, I certainly can't blame anyone else for any of the mistakes in my books. Ultimately, I take responsibility for every single word I write, including the incorrect ones.

I would love to say that this sort of mistake will never, ever happen again, but I can't make that promise because chances are I would have to break it at some point. Sometimes eyes don't see what's really there, but what the mind thinks the eyes should see. It's a crazy thing.

Thanks for reading my books, and thanks for the messages and emails even the ones that point out the mistakes. I'm truly grateful for you all.

Have you ever read a book that snuck up on you? You're reading something that you're enjoying, not really aware that it is getting under your skin and you suddenly find you're more than enjoying it, you've become attached to the characters? That happened to me this week.

THESE THINGS HIDDEN by Heather Gudenkauf got my attention immediately, but I didn't realize how much I liked it until about halfway through. It's a young adult, no dystopia, no vampires, just challenging life situations that were heartbreaking and disturbing. The book ended on a satisfying note, though not necessarily happy. I'm glad I read it.

I was thinking about young adult books the other day, and I realized how wonderful it would have been to have many of the books that are available now when I was a young adult. My younger life was pretty mellow on the drama scale, but I would have dug into some of these books, particularly those that tackled big issues. I think there used to be a pretty big gap in age-appropriate (however, that's a whole other discussion) YA reading. I love that that gap is being filled.

Have a great week!


Friday, March 25, 2011

The Good, The Sad, and The Kind of Disgusting

First, The Good:

When FARM FRESH MURDER published last year, I had no idea what I was doing. Of course, my friends and family knew about the book, but that was about it. In fact, when my agent sent me some of the ARCs she’d received with a note that said something like: You can probably use these, I thought - I can? How?

Once the book was released, I didn’t know what to expect. Nothing, it seems, is what you expect, though, so I tried to just go with the flow and learn how to be prepared the next time around. I’m not sure I did anything much better when FRUIT OF ALL EVIL published, but I know I had a little wider audience to talk to - and that’s because of one of those unexpected things. When FFM began to be read, I began to receive emails, and Facebook messages, and Facebook posts . . . I did get one particularly hateful email, but I’d rather talk about the good ones, the kind ones, the people who “got” my writing and wanted to let me know.

In preparing for the release of FRUIT, I sent out bookmarks and emails, I had a contest, I talked, talked, talked about it all the time. I’ve become friends with some readers (I’m not sure I can express how awesome this part is), so I got in touch with them. I guest-blogged. Anyway, I’m still not sure I know what I’m doing, but maybe I’m getting a little closer to understanding at least part of the process.

I also hope I have thanked everyone for their kindness and support. It’s been so crazy, particularly the first week of the release, that I feel like I might have let a “thank-you” or two slip through the cracks. I hope I haven’t. Thank you, all. Really, truly, thank you.

The Kind of Disgusting:
I’m going under the knife on Monday. I have a ganglion cyst on my left hand/wrist. It’s a pretty common thing. Here’s a picture:

Ick, huh? Internet pictures of these cysts being removed are really quite disgusting.

It’s kind of an elective surgery. They’re benign cysts, so they don’t have to be removed. I’ve been dealing with this one for a couple years, adamantly opposed to the surgery even though it’s about as minor a surgery as you can get. However, the cyst has recently become so large that it is affecting my movement, my work. It’s coming out. I’ll be in a splint for a week, but no big deal. My fingers will be numb the first day, but I should, hopefully, be able to get back to work on Tuesday. It’s an inconvenience. I hear carpal tunnel surgery is a lot worse.

Finally, The Sad

Okay, I haven’t talked about this at all. In fact, I haven’t even shared it with most of my family because it’s just so heartbreaking. I find it difficult to even write about. But I could use some good thoughts, though, so . . .

As the universe sometimes does, bad can come with the good. March 1 - FRUIT’s release day as well as the day I received some horrible news. My little dog and writing companion is sick, really sick. The prognosis is not good. We’re attempting some treatment, but we won’t put her through anything that makes her miserable. I do believe in the power of positive thought. Please, if you could, send some positive healing thoughts her direction. Her name is Gizmo. Miracles happen all the time. I’m hoping this is one of those times. Thank you.

Okay, let's not end on such a sad note.

Recently, people have been asking me for book recommendations. I read many, many books. I'm not a speed reader but sometimes I can fit in five books a week. Other times, though, only one or two. Rarely, does a week pass when I don't read at least one, but it happens. I know some of you read much more than I do - I'm blown away by some of the reading lists I've recently seen. I thought I'd post books I've recently enjoyed as part of my Friday updates. Let me know if you've read anything similar, and have your own recommendations.

NEVER TELL A LIE by Hallie Ephron. This was a fast-paced thriller/mystery. Ms. Ephron's writing style is clean and I found it compelling. I'd just finished a pretty "heavy" (lots of big words) book when I started this one. It was good timing.

SNEAKS by B. Button. This was my "buy an ebook week" ebook. It was $2.99 on Amazon. I think has it too. This is a young adult time-travel romance. It wasn't as dark as some YAs I've recently read. There's a little dystopia going on but not much -I like dystopia, don't get me wrong, but it was a nice break from all that. Diana Gabaldon hooked me on all things Scotland. This is much different than Gabaldon, but I'm pleased I read it.

I'm in the middle of one I'm loving. I'll post about it next week if it ends as well as it has begun.

On that note, may your week have more good stuff than bad stuff.