Sunday, December 9, 2007

Back from the Ranch, fa la la la & Yummy Christmas Recipes!

Once again we spent the weekend up to our eyelashes in cattle, deer and sausage making activities. And for those of you who've asked, here's Butterscotch, or as we like to call her, "The Calf Who Lived."

Got some really good writing done *stay tuned on that one,* and of course, cooking like a maniac. This week is party central, and the train doesn't stop until New Year's Eve, which has me thinking about Year End (Year Beginning?) resolutions.
Right now I can only resolve to try to slow down a little and smell the cactus roses. And cook for my friends. So, in the interest of full public disclosure, I'm posting my favorite holiday recipes in the order that I'm cooking them (except for Emily McKay's World's Most Delicious Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies, which I bake all season long).

For the ARWA Christmas Party tomorrow, I'm bringing that dangerous southern favorite, Sausage Cheese Balls, made with venison right off the ranch.

Kit's Magic Disappearing Cheese Balls
1-pound ground venison breakfast sausage
3 cups Bisquick
4 cups grated sharp Cheddar
1/8 tablespoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper over a baking sheet.

Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl. Mix well with your fingers. The mixture will be very crumbly. Form into 1 inch balls, squeezing the mixture so it holds together, then rolling it between the palms of your hands to form balls. *Make sure you have clean hands!* Tip: Keep a bowl of ice water near by, as it makes it easier to form the balls if your hands are cold.

Place the balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. This recipe makes about 4 dozen cheese balls, but remember:
Save out a few for yourself, because there won't be any left.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lots to be thankful for . . .

Hope your Thanksgiving was full of family, food and lots of fun! We had an unusual Thanksgiving. R's kids went to their mom's house, so we went to the ranch--lots to do. The cattle trampled down the hay barn and destroyed the hay they didn't eat, and we had sausage to stuff so it's ready by Christmas, along with all the other tasks associated with cattle country.

R cooked the Thanksgiving turkey at home (don't trust the jurassic oven at the cabin), we fed the home livestock (Tahoe, Sam and the fishies) and headed for the hills of Fredericksburg to get some work done, and of course, check on the newest addition to our family, baby Butterscotch. Now I just ask you, how much cuteness is that?

Of course, R hunted while I slept in, then we went to town to get hay and find some sort of gate (on Thanksgiving day--good luck!) to keep the bovine brats from destroying the rest of their winter store.

I distracted the heifers as R stacked hay, and I "helped" fix the gate, which is to say, R did most of it and I tried to hold things, push things and stay out of the way :)

R caught two bucks *I know, I know, he didn't "catch" anything, but that's the way I like to think of it*
and we made sausage. Again, R did the heavy lifting, I helped, lent moral support and tried not to chop off my fingers in the grinder *g*. It is true what they say . . . that everyone loves sausage, but no one wants to know how it's made. I'd like to amend that. Everyone loves sausage, but no one wants to help make it . . . and there's a good reason why. I've discovered writing is a lot like making sausage. You have to hunt down the meat, grind it with things that make it more than just meat, risk life and limb to stuff it into something that looks edible, let it smoke for just the right amount of time, cross your fingers, and hope the ends justify the means. As Tom Hanks once said, "If it was easy, everyone would do it!"

Here's hoping your Thanksgiving was full of wonder,

Friday, November 16, 2007

NYT meet ARWA!

Our own Austin RWA member and all around swell gal Julia London made the New York Times Best Seller list this week, not once but twice!
On sale now – THE DANGERS OF DECEIVING A VISCOUNT! Go here to see the cover, read and excerpt, see a movie, and learn why this book is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. And if that weren't enough, check out Guiding Light: Jonathan's Story, JL's other NYT super seller! During our monthly meeting we sent up cheers, toasts, a tiara and a boa for the Girl of the Hour, oh heck, let's just pronounce her Girl of the Year! Big congrats, Julia!

In other news, watch for a very special Cauley MacKinnon Christmas story coming soon . . .

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New addition to the family . . .

Wow, what a weekend, and it's just now over! Not only did I finish my Novel in 90 Days class, it was my little sister's birthday *hooray Sher Bear!* and *drum roll* we had a new family member! Okay, so I know we have other calves, but this little *snort--she weighs almost 70 pounds* came to us the hard way. R was out hunting outside of Fredericksburg, and was washing up after working on one of the fencelines when the neighbor rancher knocked on the cabin door to inform him that one of our cows was having trouble. R went out to check on her, and sure enough, she was having a terrible time--like the calf was too big for her. She'd heave and push and she looked so exhausted--no telling how long she'd been at it, and each time she'd push, R could see the hooves and long, oddly pale legs of a calf.

Odd, because we have black Angus. Black Angus are not born blond. Not knowing how long Marian Anderson (named for a kick-butt, trail blazing opera singer) had been in labor, R stood ready to assist, trying to let nature take it's sometimes brutal course.

But after pulling, pushing, petting, coaxing and reassuring Marian for two hours, the cow simply sat down with the calf partially emerged. She was just plain tired. So, being the good guy R is, he rolled up his sleeves, put on his leather gloves and set out to help her, all the while knowing that both cow and calf were in mortal danger. At one point, he could see the calf's nose, but the contraction would stop and the nose would slide back in. Finally, R reached in around those long forelegs and worked with the head until the head popped out . . . almost white. But Marian couldn't push any more, and calf's tongue began to swell, her eyes never moved, and he worried that she was dead and that Mama cow was next.

So, he pulled harder on the long forelegs, and a half an hour later, he had half her body out, and miracle of miracles, the calf blinked at him, and beneath his hands, her little heart began to beat. Worried he was pulling too hard on her forelegs, he finally reached in, trying to get ahold of
the calf's hind end to push her out. But that sent Mama into more contractions, and, the calf was too long to reach her behind.

He'd been coaxing and coaching for more than four hours at that point and the calf was having real trouble, so more drastic measures were needed. That's right. A little tough love. And like at least one personal trainer I've had, R gave Mama a shove, trying to get her to her feet, all the while gripping Baby Cow around the rib cage, holding tight against the 2,000-pound pull of Mama as she struggled to her feet. And just like that, five hours into the adventure, we had a brand new, caramel colored calf.

We went to go get R's dad to come admire *and wonder* over this pale new stranger among our herd. She's just beautiful, with curly blond hair and a regal pointed nose. I cuddled her and scratched beneath her chin, and just like Tahoe *HRH The First Dog* she leaned into the scritching and moaned.

She's as big as her cousin, a two-month old black Angus. She's still wobbly and very skinny, but she's alive and that's enough. And btw, her name is Butterscotch because of her beautiful creamy color. And, because of that beautiful creamy color, we are fairly certain we've had a visitor in the pea patch as my grandpa use to say when it was obvious we'd had a mutt in with the hunting dogs.

We think she's half Charolais, a huge, huge cream colored kind of bovine that came to the states from France. This particular Charolais, however, came from the neighboring ranch. We have four more cow about to drop calves, so it should be interesting to see what color they turn out to be :)

And so, we're going out to check on her this weekend. Hopefully, the rest of the heifers were loyal to their Angus bull. But if not, I'd settle for more butterscotch. After all, I'm told they're cheaper by the dozen . . .

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Five Faves

Okay, so writer pals Michelle and Heather posted their Fives, and wow, did I learn a lot! And, I got inspired to do my own Fives, so . . . here they are!

Five Jobs I’ve Had

  1. Mystery Writer *hooray*
  2. Magazine Editor
  3. Tiger Handler *not kidding*
  4. Strawberry Picker
  5. Catfish Feeder

Five Places I Have Lived

  1. Lake Travis, Texas
  2. Augusta, Georgia
  3. Land of Lakes, Florida
  4. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  5. St. Joseph, Missouri

Five TV Shows I Like

  1. West Wing
  2. Law & Order SVU
  3. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
  4. The Colbert Report
  5. Book TV

Five Places I Have Been On Vacation

  1. Lake Tahoe, CA
  2. Kisseme, FL
  3. Port Aransas, TX
  4. Atlanta, GA
  5. Washington DC

Five Of My Favorite Foods

  1. Watermelon
  2. Tomatoes
  3. New Orleans French Bread with good butter
  4. Catfish
  5. Chili

Five Places I Would Rather Be Right Now

  1. On the NY Times Bestseller List
  2. In my home office, on the phone with my agent discussing the bidding war for movie rights to my latest novel *okay, I stole this from Michelle, but still, it's a pretty great place to be*
  3. At the park with my dog reading my third book under a big live oak
  4. Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
  5. Assateague Island, Maryland
So, there they are. My Five Faves. What are your Five Faves? Post 'em and let me know!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Whew! Novel in 90 Days winds down

So, today was the last day of Novel in 90 Days--the class I'm teaching via Writers' League of Texas.

We talked about revisions, marketing for pre-published authors (yes, it helps to do this) and Agent Quest, which I'll chat more about here in the coming months.

The real hit of the was the super sensational talk that ARWA pals Michelle McGinnis and Heather Foeh about Web Presence for Writers talk.

The dynamic cyber duo discussed three tiers of web presence based on the stages of an author's career:
pre-published (brand new authors), PRO (author's who've finished at least one manuscript and are actively seeking publication) and PAN, the few, the proud, the pubbed.

If you haven't heard this talk and you see they're going to give it, I have one word: GO. There's tons of cyber info for those of us who have no inner geek, and lots of good advice on how much time, money and resources you should be spending based on where you are in your career.

Here's a hint: Lot's of stuff you can do for free or for very little money and still strike a professional web presence. They talked about the difference between blogs and sites, how web "spiders" work and how they affect your Google ranking. Very cool and important stuff if you want to build a fan base.

We talked about sites they love (Eloisa James, Julia Quinn) and blogs they love (Love is an exploding cigar) and ARWA's very own Lexi Connor.

A lot of what the Dynamic Duo discussed was building a connection with readers, something that reiterated what a lot of editors said during the PAN discussions at RWA.

I think connecting with readers is important for lots of reasons, but mainly because the world is so spread out these days that we're all looking for connection. Book signings aren't what they used to be (or so I've heard) because people are busy, and getting the kiddos to soccer practice trumps running to Barnes & Noble to meet an author buy a book at a certain time.

And so, I'm making a commitment to spend more time connecting and less time watching Law & Order SVU (my apologies to Christopher Meloni--who I am fairly sure hung the moon).

So, I'm going to blog my writing process, along with a lot of the lessons from Novel in 90 Days. My thanks to Michelle and Heather for the kick in the pants :)

See You Soon,

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back from the Brink

Okay, so it's not so much the brink as the wilds of Llano County--no internet, no television, no phone *not even cell*. So, I got a lot done. This week we're going to talk about Mono-myth story structure and other things that go bump in the night, but for now, let's chat about the ranch :)

So, it was a week of writing and animals and fish and all kinds of critters and lots of hard work but big, big fun. My muscles are so sore I feel as though I've been stricken with Polio, but in a good way.
So, we went to fill the deer feeders, feed the cattle and check out the new calf, which is too cute for words. I asked Opa if I can keep "my" cow, Dulce, who is so sweet. She loves it when I pet her and brush her, and she pulls the burrs out of my tennis shoes.
She licks my hands and arms, which is kind of gross, but sweet, except when she tries to lick my face. When I got back in the truck to leave, she licked the window, which I now have to clean off, because despite the kind gesture, it's still cow slobber. I'm trying not to name the calf, because I intend to reimburse Opa for Dulce, and cattle can get expensive if you're only planning to keep them and play with them. R fed the cattle and did most of the heavy lifting, but I did carry a bunch of stuff and played with the cows, so I consider that a weekend well spent.

We went out to check the river, and were dismayed to see the sludge has not gotten any better. I'm going to call LCRA tomorrow to find out what's up and if there's anything we can do about it. I would ask if it's hurting the fish and wildlife, but I've had enough biology to know it is. Asking and being told "no" will just piss me off. The neighbor is "clearing" three lots, and there's no barrier between the lake and his "land clearing" (read: Ripping out every stitch of grass and leaving a bunch of mud) so next rain will wash all that muck right into the water. I'm told he's a developer and is going to build three two-story houses. Here's what he's been up to . . .I'm sure it's going to be beautiful, but could he at least put a barrier between all that dirt and the lake?

But, on a happier note, on the way home (through Fredericksburg) we saw a beautiful axis deer, and he stood there, staring at us like he was thinking, "Now, do I come over and stare at you when you're trying to eat dinner?" He was beautiful, and his horns were about 3-ft. tall. So, we let him go eat in peace, and we went to go get our own dinner. After all that hard work, I wanted a hamburger. I know, I know, I have a pet cow and yet, I wanted a hamburger. I'm a terrible hypocrite, but I just won't tell Dulce, although I have to tell you, she did try to steal some beef jerky from me. So, back to the hamburger--where did we go? A Mexican place. And had the worst (okay One of the worst) hamburgers ever to sizzle a grill this side of the Rio Grande. Ack. The lesson here? One would assume it would be not to eat meat. But in this version of the truth, the lesson is that if you want a good burger in Fritz Town, go to Porky's....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dancin' Matt & the World Goes 'Round

Okay, so Dancing Matt was in Austin, and what a hoot! I love Dancing Matt, and discovered him while watching Ellen when I was supposed to be writing an article for a regional magazine. So why do I love Dancing Matt? Okay, first because he's hilarious and adorable and travels the world filming himself doing this ridiculous little dance and then posts it on YouTube so the rest of us who are home chained to our regular every day lives can blow some time watching him live his life. Here in Austin, a bunch of us joined Dancin' Matt at the Stevie Ray statue on LadyBird Lake for a boot-stomping (okay, sandal-stompin'--it is Austin after all) good time.
We love Dancing Matt so much we put his Internet jig on the cover of the Statesman Metro section. Take that Governor Perry. So, why does Austin love Matt, a former slacker from Connecticut? Despite the fact he's a yankee, we in Austin have a soft spot for slackers of all kinds *i.e., our own slacker in residence, Matthew McConaughey* Like our own naked-bongo-dancing Matt M, Yankee Dancing Matt ditched his day job and made a movie about a guy who didn't have a day job. Unlike our Matt M, Dancing Matt usually keeps his shirt on.

I love Dancing Matt's videos, but even more I love his outtakes, which show Matt dancing all over the world with all kinds of people. I say we should make Matt our Mobile Ambassador to the World. The world could do worse.
*who's off to dance with her dog*

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Southerner on the Jena Six

Growing up as an Airforce brat, I didn't think about race. The military has its own caste system that, in my lifetime, had nothing to do with race. Or so I thought.

I was shocked when the first news trickled out about the lynching "prank" in Jena Louisianna, where racial tensions exploded when a handful of white boys hung nooses from the branches of a "white only" tree on school property after black kids sat under it.

I shouldn't have been shocked. Louisianna is our neigbor to the east, and we in Texas have had more than our shameful share of "lynchings," and in typical Texas fashion, we did it bigger, badder, and more real. Jasper, Texas ring a bell?

After writing Dead Copy, my second book, my editor called to ask questions about Cauley (the main character who happens to look like Kate Hudson) and Mia (her best friend, who looks like a young Jennifer Lopez) and their racial tension. I said, "What racial tension?"

But what an eye-opening question. After speaking with a couple of my hispanic friends, I discovered a horrible secret. The tension's there, even when I--or we--don't see it. It silently seethes in the subtext of everyday life, in every job opportunity, every college application, every time a cop pulls over a driver.

Working with Search and Rescue has opened my eyes to all kinds of inequity--racial, economic and social, and it makes me physically ill. "Amber Alerts" are plastered on highway signs, flashed over the television and make the nightly news. But what about the "Aretha Alerts?"

I hate growing up. It means having to look at things like they are, not like you think they are. Or the way they should be. I don't know what the answer is. I wish I did. I think the best thing we can do is listen. Talk and listen. And take Anne Lamott's advice--that none of the other commandments matter as long as you follow the subtext...Thou Shalt Not Be An Asshole.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Signings, retreats and other bumps in the night

It's been an incredible week, with lots and lots of stuff to do. USA Today Bestselling Author *and Super Pal* Julie Ortolon had a fantastic signing at A Thirsty Mind, where Pam & Anita hosted a killer champagne party, and Barbara Calderaro sang her big ol' heart out! Big, big fun.

Saturday and Sunday was the 2nd Annual Austin Romance Writer's Retreat at McKinney Roughs--and can I just say,
"Wow!" This is THE most talented group of women on the planet, I'm sure. We critiqued, brainstormed, wrote and okay, had way too much fun with Skylar's Knock-You-Naked Lemon Drops.

Lexi Connor regaled us with a lilting rendition of Amazing Grace *probably also thanks to the Lemon Drops :)* but it was beautiful, and I got to know my writing pals on a whole new level.

Emily McKay and I went for a little brainstorming hike *okay, it was a walk, but it was hot, okay?* and sometimes I forget just how off-the-charts creative she is. She was The Key in our critiquing sessions, and I got a good, solid reminder in the most important plotting question--"What is at Stake?"

Skye, Robin and Jan Yonkin offered tarot readings, and toward the end of the day Sunday, I gunnied up the nerve to ask Jan to do my cards. I was afraid to sit for the reading because the last two years have been so emotionally sucky I wasn't sure I could stand anymore gloom and doom. But Jan is one of the most intuitive empaths I know--she's one of those people who emits calm spiritual strength, and it rubs off everyone around her. I needn't have been afraid. It turns out I am my own worst enemy, my guy loves me, and it's all blue skies ahead as soon as I get out of my own way. And, it seems there's a baby in my future... I'll keep you posted...

Until then, keep writing.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Writing: Prep Work

Novel in 90 Days: Getting Ready

Taking the Writers' League Class? Get ready, 'cause we're writing a book!

  • Begin making space in your life for your novel. Get your house clean, streamline your desk. Enlist the help of family and friends that you are making a commitment to getting your novel written.
  • Really think about your novel. Figure out where and what time this story takes place, who the main characters are, what they want and how they’ll get it, or if they’ll get it. Write a two or three page “guide,” just as you would give someone directions. You should also know your GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) for your book. Why are you writing it? What is it you want to convey to the reader?
  • Collect things that will help you along the way. I collected photos of what my characters look like, made out a blueprint of my protagonist’s house and office and got a map of Galveston, which is where part of my book takes place.
  • Create a tagline for your novel. The tagline for SCOOP was Janet Evanovich meets the Ya Yas. Encapsulate your idea in one sentence. All of this is to get your wheels turning, to get inside your novel and work it from the inside out.
  • Be accountable. Log on to and subscribe to the Novel in 90 Days group. We’re going to post our word counts and progress there.
  • For more information on Novel in 90 Days, visit Kit’s blog at or email her at

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ready, set, write!

Okay, gang, get ready for Novel in 90 Days, complete with lessons I've learned, am still learning, and stuff I wish I'd learned a long time ago. If you're planning on coming to class (and even if you're not), have a favorite novel's First Page ready to go.

We're going to talk about getting started, setting attainable (but BIG) goals, how to dive in, where to dive in, and how to stay afloat once you're in up to your eyelashes.

We're going to talk about ideas and how to tell if they can carry the kind of book you want to write. We're also going prepare our left and right brain for the task at hand.

Left brain, listen up: We're going to make lists, we're going to practice timed writing, we're going to journal, we're going to talk about interviewing sources and research, and we're going to read in order to tighten up those fat, flabby frontal lobes.

Right brain, loosen up. Take a walk. Pet the dog. Make a list of things that make you happy. Describe the intricate details of the thing or circumstance that makes you happy. Splash in mud, take a hot bath, visit the library and soak in other writer's work through the happy osmosis that takes place in libraries.

Choose a soundtrack for your novel, choose a movie that puts you in the mood to write your novel.

And get ready. We're about to write a book . . .

Friday, August 31, 2007

Girls rock and Mean Jeannies

Okay, so I'm slogging, slogging, slogging through revisions *more research, please* and stopped to lunch with writer pals this week. Super talented, all, and Emily McKay with a birthday, and I got her a super cool Rosie the Riveter tool set--okay, so Rosie had nothing to do with it, but it was chock full of tools, including hammer, nails, measuring tape and an electric screwdriver *the kind that screws stuff into walls, not the OJ and Austin-made Tito's Vodka kind, although, that would have been a nice gift, too.* Fellow Writer Gals Cheryl Rae and Jan Yonkin rounded out the week with a yummy noodle bowl--just call us #36, 37 & 38 *not ages, that's our noodle numbers...* Thanks for the noodles, Cheryl! And Jan just got back from El Paso with some fresh Hatch Chilis...gracias, chica, guess what we're havin' for dinner?

And Lexi Connor, I saw you posted, but I've been away from the computer, so here's a shout out to you--Hollah!

I've forgotten how girl friends can be such a tempting treat for the Muse. And speaking of M
uses, I've discovered mine has an evil twin--like the slutty, green-clad Jeannie of "I Dream of" fame. She looks an awful lot like my Muse, but when I'm away from the work for awhile, she comes in and has a party on my desk, messes with my stuff and scatters ideas and characters around that have nothing to do with The Book. At least she hasn't tried to steal my guy--but she is mean to him sometimes and says it's me.

I've got to make peace with this girl, because I've just realized she's been around forever, and I don't think she's going anywhere. Anyone know of a Jeannie Trap, maybe by Acme?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bourbon, bananas and back to normal

The SAR chatter was right--Dean missed us, but is barreling in on Mexico. We dodged the proverbial bullet, but some of the guys are ready to head down to help sort things out after the storms. And, it was a pretty good drill, with a staging area in San Antonio, a good place south central to mobilize while missing the worst of the storms.

In the meantime, I'm finishing up revisions while enjoying some tasty Bourbon Banana Bread, which has been known to make the neighbors swoon. Baking is my default position when I get nervous. My grandmother used to wake us up in the middle of the night and say, "Who wants cake?"

Then we'd all tumble downstairs to clatter around with mixing bowls and big, wooden spoons while the scents of vanilla and bourbon floated along the stark, yellow light of the kitchen bulb. Our granddad (who slept in a seperate room) never emerged for the theatrics--either because he was *laying on his good ear* or because he was listening to baseball on the AM, drifting in and out of sleep.

And for those of you who asked...
Granny's Bourbon Banana Bread:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1 stick melted butter (cooled)
3 ripe, ripe, nearly rotten bananas
1 1/2 cup toasted pecans
3 shots and 1 tbl bourbon

Slug down the shot of bourbon and roll up your sleeves. Mix together butter, banana, eggs, and bourbon.

Mix together the dry ingredients (including the pecans) in a large bowl and fold the wet ingredients in, making sure you don't overmix. If you're tempted to keep mixing, go get another shot of bourbon and settle down.

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees and butter a loaf pan. Slug down your last shot and let the bread bake for about an hour.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Missing Texas

The buzz from several SAR buddies says we're not even close to being hit, but we remain ready, just in case. And, if Hurricane Gilbert that hit Mexico was any kind of example, we could have freak tornadoes. Hope not. Let you know.

Hurricane Readiness--Really?

So, this weekend, I was writing, cleaning house, getting ready for Novel in 90 Days and keeping a close eye on the weather, as Hurricane Dean is heading for the gulf, and may hit Brownsville in the near future. At least two Texas Search & Rescue teams responded to the devastating earthquake in Peru and now we're at the ready for a possible disaster closer to home. Sure enough, my phone beeped this morning with the readiness message--so while Brownsville battens down the hatches, we're gearing up the teams in case we're called.

In the mean time, Governor Rick Perry says, we, as a state, are ready. Really?

Remember the DISASTER of Rita, the "Tex-Odus," the completely unorganized trainwreck of an evacuation of Houston where people actually died sitting in 109- degree heat for 18 hours or more on Sam Houston Beltway and the resulting RoadWarrior-like battle for non-existant gas after being ORDERED to evacuate? My mother, brother and three of his children, as well as a neighbor's child (the neighbor came to the house and couldn't leave, but begged my brother to please, please take his child to safety) were caught in that sweltering heat in that horrifying death trap.

USA Today said, "Rita forced what could be the largest evacuation in U.S. history. Three million people fled in two states. Only Hurricane Floyd, which struck near Cape Fear, N.C., in 1999, comes close with an estimated evacuation of about the same number of people." However, in order to have an "evacuation," you need to actually provide the leadership to get people the hell out. Today went on to say, "What Rita may be remembered for most is the evacuation. As it swelled to a Category 5 with a predicted path over Galveston and Houston more than 3 million people hit the roads almost simultaneously."

What most people don't realize is that many Rita-damaged areas, like those ravished by Katrina, remain economically, ecologically and psychologically damaged beyond recognition.
Mr. Perry. I'll believe you're ready when I see it. Until then, you can bet our local SAR teams will be watching and waiting. We'll be ready, Mr. Perry. Will you?

One of the disasters of the Rita mandatory evacuation is that both sides of the freeway should have led north to get out of town, with emergency gas, water and medical provisions in medians.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Liz Taylor time and other liabilities

Okay, I got to Julie Kenner and Julia London's signing/Q&A at 3:30 (fashionably late, ala Liz Taylor time, but apparently, Mizz Taylor is passe after the demise of Sex & the City) and I wound up on the tail end of their big To Do at Barnes & Noble La Frontera this Saturday. So . . . the pics I promised are not forthcoming, but I have to say, a good time was had by all.

Despite my tardiness, I heard it was a packed crowd in the Starbuck's area *got my fave--a venti black iced tea--NO ICKY SYRUP* and shared a toasty, cheesy pretzel with fellow ARWA writer Lexi Connor. Want to hear more about the signing, visit Lexi at her super blog, which she updates way better than mine, and actually got there in time. Saw fellow ARWA'r Marj Allen off before her big trip to London; bought Julie's latest, Demon's are Forever, but alas, Julia's American Diva was gone before I got there. Ordered it, will report later.

In other news, the class for Writers' League is going well--almost sold out, so if you're planning on attending, get in touch ASAP.

I'm slamming though revisions, and about to pay a visit on a real morgue. More on that later. Have fun, and hope your week is filled with the things that make you happy . . .

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Writers, Meetings, Revisions, and still have a life?

This week I've had my nose to the digital grindstone with revisions, attended ARWA's monthly meeting, and got to pal around with writer pals Marjorie Allen, Jan Yonkin, Evelyn Palfrey--all lovely and as much a kick in the proverbial writing pants as a mint julep for made for two.

Thursday did the Writers' League-thing where Joe O'Connell, author of the recently released Evacuation Plan: a novel from the hospice, gave a moving account of his days as writer in residence at Christopher House.

I met and re-met some lovely, lovely people. Of course, the super swell April Kihlstrom, Queen of Book in a Week was there--look for some exciting news from her soon *how's that for a tease* Laurie Cosbey, who I met years ago when I was *cough cough* married and therefore, somebody else, was a dear, and new pal Greta L. Hillin.

Today, I powered through five pages this morning, R went off to Fredericksburg and property to beat back the wilderness *wish I could have gone*, but stayed to clean house and empty garage *ick--but not near as ICK as beating back the wilderness, esp. since the lawn mower's self-propel petered* but will be using house-cleaning time to formulate a scene in a funeral home I've been struggling with. Then, it's off to Barnes & Noble to support Fabulous Fellow Writer Babes Julie Kenner and Julia London, as they chat about writing and sign new releases Demon's are Forever and American Diva, both getting great reviews. Demon, of course, is the third in a series that began with Carpe Demon, which Julie K sold the rights to Christopher Columbus's 1942 Pictures. Can't wait to see that movie!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Tonight I'm going to address the good people at Writers' League of Texas, at the Westlake Barnes & Noble. We'll be talking about the upcoming *sound of trumpets* Novel in 90 Days. I'm bringing a sample of the workbook, along with other fun stuff, including an intro on how to get started.

In the interest of fairness, I'm putting my rear in the hot seat, too. I will also be writing a Novel in 90 Days. Come and hold me to it! See you tonight!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Git 'r Done: Novel in 90 Days

You asked for it, you got it, now it's time to follow the sage advise of Larry the Cable Guy and Git 'r Done! Make the committment to your current (or next ) novel with Novel in 90 Days!
<-Proof You Can Do It!
Clear your calendar and roll up your sleeves to dig into this hands-on workshop to build your book, from brainstorming an irresistible opening hook to pounding out an ending that leaves readers breathless and wanting more.
Novel in 90 Days is a five-part workshop that gives you the tools you need to build your story and helps you find the time to get that novel done. Included in the course is the Novel in 90 Days Interactive Workbook that provides brainstorming tools, character-building worksheets, easy-to-use storyboards for plot planning, a revision checklist and Agent Quest and query tracking tools for your completed project. Attendees will have the opportunity to join an exclusive online writing community devoted to the 90-Day Novel.

Don’t spend one more minute wishing you were an author—make this the year you get that novel written!

Week One: There are only two things you need to write a novel. An idea and the time to write it. In Week One, we'll brainstorm ideas for books, discuss genre and market analysis to figure out where your novel belongs in the bookstore, and we'll look at the writing life to in a segment called, "How to find time to write when you don't have time to write." Next, we'll break down the first page--or hook--of a few bestselling authors to see what makes them tick, and then we'll brainstorm your novel beginning and set doable daily goals. We'll begin an online forum to track progress.

Week Two: We'll ask for volunteers to read their "hook" in class, and discuss strengths and weaknesses. Next, we'll look at plot and character development. Both of these segments include worksheets and tricks of the trade that will help you get to know your character and your story. Class will receive the tools to create an effective outline or storyboard for their book. We'll set manageable goals to meet before our next meeting.

Week Three: Volunteers will submit their outlines and discuss strengths and weaknesses and brainstorm "stuck" parts. Next, we'll discuss Goal, Motivation and Conflict, and different types of endings, including circular storytelling. We'll discuss the importance of chapter beginnings and endings, scene structure and the three most important pages of a book. We'll set manageable goals to accomplish before the next meeting.

Week Four: The call for volunteers continues, and we move on to Revision Took Kit, which includes a three part check list for revising a manuscript. We'll discuss how to crank up your conflict and punch up your prose for a non-puttable-down book. Again, we'll set goals for the next meeting.

Week Five: Agent Quest. Where do you find these elusive creatures, how to lure one from the mist and what to do with one once you've got one. You'll receive an Agent Quest Took Kit with information on questions to ask an agent, which agent is right for you and the quickest way to get your work in front of him or her. We'll also take a look at book contracts, marketing plans, print runs, distribution and the business end of publishing. And then we'll talk about the book we're writing next . . .

Friday, August 10, 2007

Get your wishes ready...

This is one of my very favorite times of year--the Perseid Meteor Showers. Just like the song says, "The stars at night shine big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas," but this time every August, they shoot across the sky en masse, and not just here, all over the United States. So get ready with your wishes!
I love these seasonal shooting stars so much that they figure prominently in my second novel, Dead Copy and will make appearances in upcoming novels. In fact, I've gotten a lot of email about the significance of the stars in the romantic scenes.

So, get yourself a bourbon and Diet Coke, snuggle up with your honey and make some wishes! What do you wish for? Wish for something wild and you could win a Cauley tee-shirt, fresh off the printer!

Photos from the University of Texas McDonald Observatory...check it out!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Big 'Doh!' moment ...and other writing breakthroughs

Okay, so I'm revising Book Three, trying to figure out what's wrong with it, and I was at the Magnolia Cafe, wracking my brain (never a pretty sight) when it came to me...I was having main character Cauley meet a confidential informant at an Austin area park. I wanted the park to be ultra-Austin, ie, wild, weird and completely unconventional, but, most of Austin's parks could be described that way. Originally, I set the scene in historically significant and slightly wacky Waterloo Park, but as I nibbled on Magnolia's extra yummy Voodoo Chicken, it hit me.

Hippie Hollow. What's more Austin than the only county-run nude beach in Texas?

Well, of course, this sparked a whole new level to the book, so, today I sat out in the back yard near the koi pond, listening to the falling water, dog at my feet, sangria at the ready, and I happily knocked out eight--count 'em-- eight pages today. Now, off to clean up and start dinner to cookin'. . .

Monday, August 6, 2007

Okay, for my pal Ed Morris . . .

Ed Morris at ForeWord Magazine wrote to tell me there were some Cauley-isms that gave him a grin or two in Dead Copy. Ever the curious gal, I asked which ones he liked most. Without further's Ed's faves, along with his comments...

*Thanks, Ed, you made my day :)*

"Apparently she'd skipped the silicone and gone straight to helium." (66)

"Same ho, different hoedown." (67)

". . . I believe if something was really worth doing it would have been done already." (83)

". . . like he'd been sucking glue sticks since the second grade." (94)

"Miss Preteen Tractor Pull" (100) (For all I know, that may be a common Texas honorific.)

"My heart did a little two-step around my rib cage." (121) (An arresting image.)

"Holding my breath, I waited for the other Ferragamo to drop." (135)

" . . . I could hear molecules bouncing around in my ears." (176)

" . . . sex with a man like that would probably be like Jet Skiing in a force five hurricane.' (209)

" . . . she smelled like fresh gin and the Old Testament. . . ." (248)

" . . . taking a corner so fast the G-force gave me Angelina Jolie lips." (253)

" . . . flashed him my second-best smile. . . ." (282)

" . . . a pair of black stilettos that have been known to make men beg for mercy." (293)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Amazon loves RWA

Okay, I promised more on National, so here's the scoop on the Amazon panel. The Amazon gods spoke about utilizing Amazon plogs, AmazonConnect and Amazon shorts.

The Shorts, first. They said two very successful Shorts authors are Michael Palmer and fellow ChickLit loopie Lauren Baratz-Logsted. These two authors have written side-stories to books they've written, generating interest in the author, the book, and endearing the secondary characters to readers.

Now this one seemed super cool. AmazonConnect is a targeted blog feature where authors can post messages directly to their customers' homepage and to their own product detail pages. Authors can communicate directly with known customers who have purchased their books from Amazon. How cool is that? I'm pursuing this one...

AmazonConnect lets you have prime placement by surfacing an author's posts on their customers' home page, showing the three most recent posts by an artist on each of their product pages, along with a featured link to the author's profile page.

AND: If you already have a blog, you can use RSS to surface your existing blog directly to your Amazon customers via AmazonConnect.

Friday, July 27, 2007

More on RWA National...My first year as a PAN!

Okay, taking a break to do what I promised to do--tell y'all about my fab first year as a real live published author. Along with doing my first Literacy Signing *yippee-and for a good cause, too!* I met fantastic booksellers and promised to come do signings, esp. at nearby Round Rock Hastings, which is doing a tie in with one of my favorite charities --pet adoption. Tahoe and I will be there raising cash for this charity--did I mention a portion of the proceeds of Dead Copy go toward pet adoption? I'll let you knmow when we set a time and date.
Sue Grimshaw from Borders Group
But, back to PAN: My first ever PAN Retreat, starring mega powerful (they are the buying power behind our books), Margaret Terwey, Romance Buyer, Books-A-Million, Tommy Dreiling, Romance Buyer, Barnes & Noble, Sue Grimshaw, Romance Buyer, Borders Group and Cathy Cadek, Paperback Romance Buyer, Levy Books.

The good news is that romance is on the rise, and there's no end in sight! And to sweeten the deal, the New York Times Bestseller List is changing--for the better! This autumn, the list will split the paperback into to two seperate categories--one for trade and for mass market. The list will also increase to 22 slots, giving more authors the opportunity to make the list in the first place. Wahoo!

Each of the panel said they are particularly interested in debut authors and helping rising stars make that list. Two authors they mentioned often were ChickLit bud Allison Brennan and RWA pal Sherrilyn Kenyon (who wore a giant black bird on her head during the signing--v. cool :). The panelists pointed to these two authors repeatedly on how to hit the list right.

Historical novels are alive and well and actually increasing in sales for the first time in a long time, according to this panel, with strong sales among established authors. The bookbuyers said they're watching this trend carefully, paying special attention to debut authors.

Traditional romances *the panelists pointed to Debbie Macomber as an example* are making a comeback, paranormal is leveling off, and erotica is hotter than ever.

Holiday books, especially anthologies are eagerly gobbled up by both booksellers and book readers. And not just Christmas get those ideas cooking and get them out there.

And have you seen this? is a new site that you should check out early and often!

I've got to get back to writing, but will glean more from my notes and get them up soon.

Happy writing,


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Letters in the wind . . .

I want to give a shout out to some sweeties who sent me missives via email this month... thanks, gang, I appreciate the connection!

To Jeannie Burgen, who admired my "There are three kinds of men in this world...the ones you play with, the ones you stay with and the ones who just need killin'"--Your tee shirt's in the mail!

To Karla Fulker, thanks for the kind words, and yes, I'd be happy to come to Houston for a signing! Check back for more details...

To Cris Carl, a fellow journalist, thanks for the kind words. Yes, I love Mia's clothing choices--and in my little brain, her closet looks like a bag of Skittles exploded :)

And a big holla to new pal Edward Morris, who writes for ForeWord Magazine who said I was dangerously funny and was kind enough to point out some of his faves . . . more on that later...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Romance Writing Babes

I just got back from RWA National in Dallas and I have to tell you, what a talented, supportive group of gals. I roomed with my super-talented pal Marian Stevens and had an absolute ball. She's like the Martha Stewart of Romance Writers, but with way better shoes. She was so organized. We sat up late making lists of things we wanted to accomplish during the conference *we both hit our goals!*

We told each other secrets, giggled like a carload of eighth graders, borrowed accessories, fixed each other's hair and had a slumber party, ARWA style. Watch for this woman...she's tearing up the contest circuit and she's going to hit the shelves before you know it. I'll fill you in on the panels I attended later, but for now, here's some of the action... *Marian and I on top of the world at the Hyatt!*

My pal Lexi Connor *God bless her all the way down to her little Scottish heart* helped me get the bookseller bags together in a frenzied fury--thanks, bud, I owe you! Lexi's another ARWA gal who's winning contests left and right--I'll be at one of her signings, too. We met with fellow pink pen users from the Chick Lit chapter and Lord help us, Heather decided we should do Lemon Drops...of course, we all did (except Lexi, who had the good sense to stick with her Guinness). Most of us were sorry later. Good thing the hotel wasn't having a wet tee-shirt contest, 'cause she probably would have talked us into that, too... *Marian, Me, Shot Girl *aka Heather,* Lexi and Golden Heart Finalist Cindy Procter-King...*
I met so many cool people at the Literacy Signing, and signed next to Pat Gaffney--was I in heaven or what? I sold out, and met some incredible women who'd read SCOOP and were ready for Cauley's next adventure. I met all kinds of new pals, including the fab Jeanie Burgen, Carol Johnson and two wonderful women from Florida. Although I loved all of the conference, stuffed my brains with important info and ate like a starving sailor, the book singing was the highlight of all the scheduled events. *Me signing for the Florida Gals*

The Chick Lit Chapter had a fab party complete with yummy chocolate things, drawings and of course, we got to meet each other in person. I'm always afraid people will meet me and think that old Laurie Notaro title, "We thought you'd be prettier..."
We had tons of fun, and got to root for Cindy Procter-King as she headed for the Golden Heart.

More pics and scads on the super panels and festivities later, including the Get My Friend a Baby Party, an adoption soiree which made me laugh, cry and eat entirely too much cake.

*Robyn DeHart, Me, Marian, Hattie, Emily McKay and Addie having way too much fun. Not pictured is Addie's Daddy *and Emily's husband*, Gregg, who patiently took our picture and put up with a lot of giggling, chattering and book talk...*

I think it's fair to say a blast was had by all, I was struck dumb with all the star power and the vibes off of all those talented, funny, super cool babes. I'm still exhausted, but missing it already, and am gearing up for next year.
Off to write...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Recovery in all it's forms

Search and Rescue is a tough life calling. The two most difficult areas of SAR are when a Search and Rescue mission turns into a Recovery mission, and just as bad, when we fail to find the person. The case of Bradley McMellon and Paul Slinkard is tragic on both counts.

The Burnet County Sheriff's Office recovered the body of 20-year-old Bradley McMellon on July 7 in the flood-swollen waters of Lake Travis. Paul Slinkard, also 20-years-old, is still missing.

Water rescues are especially difficult. Dive teams come in to search, and often, small boats manned by a driver, a paramedic, and a handler and a specially trained dogthat can locate the scent of human remains in the water. Sadly, the water recovery usually ends when a fisherman or swimmer discovers a floating body, or the body washes ashore.

It's been a whirlwind of a month, and while the families of the men try to pick up the pieces, it always surprises me that life goes on. The sun still comes up, the grocery stores still sell my favorite kind of bread, the big RWA National conference went as scheduled. The only thing that changed was the knowledge that two young men weren't around to see it.

So, while the mission is labeled a Recovery because we're trying to recover the bodies of the two missing men, at some point, it's supposed to be a recovery for team members, too. But, like some missing persons are never recovered, many searchers never completely recover either.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Living with Search and Rescue

Search and Rescue can be tough, especially after a flood, hurricane or tornado. Rough terrain, debris, sink holes, tangles of barbed wire, heat and fire ants have taken their toll on the teams looking for the two men who went missing last Wednesday after the severe flooding here in Central Texas.

Tougher, though, is learning to structure your life in a way that the Search and Rescue doesn't take over your life. While the first few days are consumed by the rescue effort, the following days have to be balanced. The dogs need to be rested, and because the Searchers are primarily volunteers, we have the usual responsibilities to family, work and the other daily duties that must be attended. It's hard to keep your mind on your work, when the wheels keep churning around the missing person, the lay of the land, where you haven't searched, where you should search next.

For now, the search continues from Ranch Road 1431 and Lake Travis. The dogs have alerted to a large brush pile in an area near Hickory Creek, which flows into Lake Travis. Meanwhile, we're trying to preserve the lives we live every day while trying to preserve two lives that otherwise may be lost forever.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Burnet Boys Still Missing

Bradley Andrew McMellon and Paul Lee Slinkard. Those are the names of the young men missing after the flooding near Marble Falls. The rain is still coming, but the search resumed this morning with ground crews, dogs, horses and air missions, covering more than six square miles. The search is still considered a "rescue" although they brought in cadaver dogs--a sign that it may take a turn for the worse and become a "recovery" mission. We're all hoping that's not the case but it doesn't look good.

The Jeep they were driving was found last night, submerged downstream in the swollen but subsiding Hickory Creek in Burnet County. The car was flattened by the force of the floodwaters. Some clothing the boys were thought to be wearing were found nearby. We're still looking for the boys, hoping for the best ...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Search & Rescue

Quick note. Just got the call I dread. Two 20-year-old men have been reported missing in the floodwaters near Smithwick, TX, about 30 miles from here. The Jeep they were driving was just found, along with some clothing that the boys were allegedly wearing. This is quickly turning from a Search & Rescue Mission into a Recovery Mission, and the place where the boys went missing is a heavily wooded ranching area, which means lots of land, not many people. It's going to be a long night.

Rainy Days and Thursdays

So, Mother Nature's still pounding us with rain and we are "isolated by water" according to the newsfolk, which is just a fancy way of saying we're stuck here in the 'burbs and can't get out *photos below*

But, I got a very nice shout out from Heather Hinton who just read Scoop and is about to crack open Dead Copy. Heather, send me your address, and I'll send you some cool stuff...

Writer pal Jan Bold wrote to tell me her pal Pat Taylor and Pat Newman read Scoop and it is now in the library out in Lake Buchanan, and I'm pleased to say I'll be chatting with them on Oct. 24 at their Book Festival. Thanks, Jan! And I heard from writer pal Chris Keach, who said my blog was another good way to waste time. Glad to oblige.

Weather permitting, I'll be visiting Barnes & Noble CRMs and all around Good Guys Jo Virgil and Caren Creech (already spoke to CRM Frank Campbell) tomorrow to thank them for choosing moi as Author of the Month, and to extend invitations to a Booksellers Brunch sponsored by Austin Romance Writers. Saturday, I'm heading to Points Unknown to brainstorm *snort* with the ARWA Pro authors to get their pitches ready for the Dallas conference next weekend and for *trumpet sounds* the RWA National Conference in a couple of weeks. Ask me if I'm ready . . .

Photos: Above: Flood waters overflowing the San Gabriel, Below: Flood waters still coming; Car washed over bridge at Salado; Family loses home & belongings in Granite Shoals; Robert fixing the trafic signals in Marble Falls; Truck washed downstream in Marble Falls; Car tossed into the Colorado River

We're okay here at Frazier Central, but others have lost everything. Want to help? Find out how...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Evan Almighty, Where Are You Now?

Watch the video...

Well, gang, we're getting pounded. Apparently, Mother Nature is pissed and she's not going to take it anymore. The San Gabriel River is raging over its banks and Brushy Creek is following suit. The dams are taking a beating--the water's going over the spillway at Wirtz, and they're opening the gates as fast as they can without flooding our neighbors downriver. It rained more than 19 inches in Marble Falls in the course of five hours, and it's continuing to pour. Take a look...
The upper left is a pickup that was swept off the road and into floodwaters (by the Statesman's Deborah Cannon). Below right is the San Gabriel River raging over its banks. I've picnicked under the tree in the middle of the river... above center is Brushy Creek Drive coursing with rushing water. Below, last, the water gushes over County Road 174.

A tropical low pressure system has settled in and there's no end in sight. We're expecting rain for all of this week and well into next. So, Tahoe and I will be making sangria and hunkering down to "write" out the storm...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Miss Lili's Bourbon Pecan Pie

Okay, so I said I'd share the pecan pie recipe that's so good my ex-sister-in-law calls me every year to get the the words of Jill Conner Browne, "It's knock-you-naked good!"

Miss Lili’s Bourbon Pecan Pie
· 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
· 3 eggs
· 1 cup sugar
· 2/3 cup dark corn syrup (e.g., Karo syrup)
· 2 tablespoons butter, melted
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1/8 teaspoon salt
· 3 tablespoons bourbon
· 1-1/2 cups pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a glass mixing bowl beat the eggs, blending in the sugar, syrup, butter, vanilla, salt, bourbon and pecans. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake 10 minutes. Lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes or until a wooden skewer or knife inserted into the pie comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Barnes & Noble Author of the Month!

I was tickled ten shades of pink to be named Author of the Month by the Austin area Barnes & Noble store managers. Tahoe and I hit the trail in Westlake (thanks, Jo Virgil) for a swimmingly successful talk about Agent Quest, and a signing at Round Rock (thanks, Frank Campbell) at which I sold more copies than Dean Koontz *yippee!* Thanks to all of you who came out to the events!

Barnes & Noble Round Rock Signing

Barnes & Noble Round Rock Signing
My friend Pantera with Tahoe & Me

Tahoe and a new friend at the signing