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,

Barnes & Noble Round Rock Signing

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

Tahoe and a new friend at the signing