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Oh, Scott Baio . . .

Where did we go wrong? I remember the first time I saw you. Across a crowded movie theater. I was young, so very young. The year was 1976, and you stepped onto the screen as Bugsy Malone. The mysterious, rakish sort of guy who could steal any romantically inclined girl’s heart. Mine especially. That was the year I gave up looking at blond haired guys. From then on, all my heroes had dark hair and a come hither smile. Still do.

For the most part, I stayed faithful to you (well, if you can excuse my Sting years then I’ll do my best to overlook those Charles in Charge years) and whenever I saw you on TV, I would smile indulgently remembering the first man who broke my heart from afar. Now I am afraid it is broken all over again.

You see, I recently watched your reality show, Scott Baio is 45 and Still Single. I shouldn’t have. Because at first I smiled to see you still looking good, healthy, and without a police blotter beneath your picture. Then I listened. Oh, how I wished I hadn’t.

Now, I’m not about to judge you for how you’ve lived your life, I can’t judge someone else for their choices, no more than I would want to be judged for mine. But quite honestly, I didn’t want to know all that about you. Sort of wish I could blot those 30 shocking minutes out of my mind and go back to more innocent memories of the young kid who made my heart beat wildly.

So after a few days of shuddering every time I thought of you, I knew there was only one solution. Only one way to get that sad, cringing bad taste out of my soul. I went out rented Bugsy Malone. Took the teasing from my husband about relieving my Scott Baio fantasies, and watched it with my kids. They loved it. And you know what, so did I. Perhaps we should just remember those good years and leave it at that. I know I will.

Okay, all you blog readers, now that I’ve bared my soul on my youthful crush gone bad, which guy did you have a crush on and then turned around broke your heart all over again years later?

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How to lose 105 pounds in just 2 days

Yes, you read that correctly and no, it isn’t spam. It’s the truth. I lost 105 pounds this week and let me tell you my weight loss secret:

Ship those kids back to school.

Now it took me two days because they go to 2 different schools, in two different systems. So Tuesday morning, in the blink of an eye, 55 pounds of “What’s for lunch today?” “When are we going to the pool?” “Can I have Patrick come to play?” “Why did Patrick’s parents go on vacation for two weeks?” “Why did they take Patrick?” “Why don’t we go on vacation for two weeks?” was out the door and on his way. 3rd graders, he informed me, DO NOT have their moms walk them to class on the first day. (No matter that he was going with his friend and his friend’s mom–he wasn’t going with HIS mom.) So that was the relatively painless phase of my 2 day weight loss program.

Then came Wednesday. New school. New teacher. Crappy awful temporary building. Mass confusion because of crappy, temporary building that is meant to house half the number of students they have shoehorned in. This is Matthew’s fourth school in four years–every time he gets used to the rules, boundaries and expectations, they move him. So here we are again, but this time faced with the mass confusion that comes when you move an entire school. I felt like saying to one of the other complaining parents, “Welcome to my world.” So into this melee, I drag Matthew and neither of us were amused. And while the weight fell off the day before in a barely noticeable fashion, these 50 pounds came off like ripping a large band aid off. And not quickly. So a meltdown, lots of tears, sobs and just plain old fashioned panic later, he was in the new class and I was sent packing. I’m not admitting to any of the above, at least not until I got to the car.

Then the miracle happened. The kids’ beloved Jessica, who has looked after them since Matthew was born, (really, truly, we’d adopt her if it was legal and not weird thing to do to a 20+ year old), well, she just graduated from college and is doing her student teaching. She was assigned to another school, but at the last minute was moved. So I get a text message as I get into the car, feeling like I’ve had the weight removed with a chainsaw and no anesthesia:

Been moved. To Matthew’s school. Will watch over him. Love, J

So I might have cried some more.

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Thank You!

All your kind comments and heartfelt stories about how autism (as well as other problems) have touched your lives, has left me speechless and feeling so blessed to be part of this community.  I was just going to leave a long comment, but thought it was better to write another blog.

I have this speech I do usually at librarian conferences or to reader’s luncheons, and the part that always chokes me up is when I talk about how personal romance novels can become to each of us.  These aren’t just stories, they are  our books.  Not because we’d prefer our lives if we were Lady Elizabeth with a hundred servants at our beck and call or Princess (insert your name here) being pursued by the ruthless and devilishly handsome  Duke of Dreamy, but because these stories become our refuge from the challenges and mountains we all face in our daily lives.  I wouldn’t trade away or wish away my life for anything, but romance novels always make the darker days just a little bit brighter with their message of hope, resilience and hopefully that lucky bit of humor that makes you smile or laugh at loud.

So to me is a huge responsibility when I sit down to write.  I want my stories to entertain, because I know there are so many other women out there like me, with children with autism or a myriad of other horrible and awful disabilities, with aging or dying parents, struggling to make ends meet, going through marital problems, the list goes on and on.  So find a story today, carve out a bit of time to read, and know that we are all  in this together.  Writers, readers, fans and the fortunate who get to be all three.

Now it is time for me to get back to what I love . . . writing.  Just after I finish another chapter of Lorraine Heath’s new book….

Here’s a question:  What story or book or movie has touched you when you needed it the most?

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Behind the Dedication

The one from Love Letters of a Duke is completely and utterly from my heart. And my daily life. Let me share it with you if you don’t have a copy handy (which, hint, hint, you should!):

To the families who live with autism.
May your day be blessed with the kindness of strangers,
the love of friends and families, and most of all, a cure.

And to FEAT of Washington and Autism Speaks,
my unwavering gratitude to you for your dedication and spirit of hope.
You help us believe.

 

And last, but far from least,
to Jamilla Kounellas and Rhoda Toulouse
for lending their names to this story
and their generosity to the charities near and dear to my heart.

So I did this and wondered if anyone would notice, if anyone would care as deeply and personally as I do. And imagine my shock and sheer joy when I got this email within eight hours of Love Letters from a Duke being released:

last night i was looking for a book to read. when i started to look
through boxes i found stealing the bride (i loved!!!! diana…temple,
too) and one night of passion (one of my top 5 romance novels). this
morning i went to the grocery store for a quick trip (i have two
little boys, it’s NOT easy) and saw a new Elizabeth Boyle book on the
stands…yay! it seemed like destiny, i had just found your older
books in my keeper box!

Okay, can I just say that at this point, I already like this lady. I mean, anyone who loves my books is obviously a reader of good taste and someone I want to know better. A kindred spirit in the making. So I read on:

and then i opened “love letters from a duke” and read your dedication.

So I have to interrupt again and say I don’t usually read dedications, unless its a friend’s book and I am secretly hoping they’ve dedicated it to me. (Which thank you very much Jane Porter for the honor! Now the rest of you, get cracking–I’m not getting any younger.) So as I am glibly reading this fan letter, enjoying her great breezy style, I discover we are indeed kindred spirits.

my 3.5 year-old son, Gabriel, was diagnosed with autism at 18 months.
our second son, Graydon, is a part of the university of michigan
sibling study (from birth) aimed at lowering the age of diagnosis
using the ADOS.

i haven’t read the book, but the dedication alone won me over…not
that i had to be won…boyle, quinn and brockmann are auto buys for
me! thank you, from the very tiniest tip of me heart, for your
dedication. that alone raised autism awareness exponentially!

Okay, now I am crying and sobbing and the DH comes rushing in my office, and I share the email with him. He’ll never admit it, but he got misty-eyed. You see it is so hard having a child with autism, so very isolating. And reading her words, brought hope and joy to my heart. Not because her son has autism, but because she’s helping where she can, just as I am doing. That feeling of loneliness or separation and outcastness that crowds into your life every day when you have child with autism seemed to lift, because I was no longer alone. And Joey’s words gave me hope because this problem that affects 1 out of every 150 children in this country it is like putting together a puzzle when you only have one piece–eventually enough people will add their pieces and the hope and dream and nightly prayer that every family with autism has–that there be a cure–is just that much closer to being solved.

So when you buy a copy of Love Letters from a Duke, a portion of my royalties will go to help kids like Gabriel and my dear Matthew. But if you want to do more, or do something very personal to help a mom, a fellow romance reader and now, my friend, Joey, consider helping her family raise money for the Autism Speaks Walk Now in Detroit by making a donation here. Then click on the Team Member Joey Begeman to make a donation. Any amount will help. And Joey, bless her heart, will feel the same joy I felt when I got her email.

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Is it finally August 28th? About darn time!

Yes, Love Letters from a Duke arrives today in stores. Yes, today. So a huge welcome to my newest book, and an even bigger welcome to everyone dropping by to check up on it, read the excerpt, or just curious about the new site. If you have the time, check out my expanded Bookshelf, the new Events page, and of course this blog. If you are a fan of Julia Quinn or Candice Hern, you might like a recent blog I wrote about them. It’s a bit of a tell-all, very gossipy, and was all-together too much fun to write. Or maybe that was Love Letters from a Duke. (BTW, the Footnotes for the book will be posting sometime this afternoon, so check back if you want the inside scoop about Felicity’s story.)

But truly, where are my manners? My grandmother (bless her soul) would probably be chastizing me for not having a little something for all my guests. Unfortunately, I don’t think you can upload cake and champagne. So you will have to content yourself with cyber versions. What am I serving, you ask? Well, my absolutely most favorite cake, of course:

FRANGO MINT CHOCOLATE CAKE  

1 pkg. devil’s food cake mix
4 oz. pkg. chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 c. oil
3/4 c. water
1 c. sour cream
5 (1 1/4 oz.) Frango mint bars, chopped fine

In large mixing bowl beat all except candy until smooth. Fold in mint pieces. Bake in greased and floured tube pan at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. When cool sprinkle with powdered sugar.

(Courtesy of Cooks.com)

Please eat as much of the cake as you like, because I have it on good authority it goes perfectly with a romance novel. Hint. Hint. And I assure you, cyber cake never goes to your hips. Nor will Felicity and Thatcher’s story. Enjoy!

Psst…I’ve posted a new contest! Just for this week! Details are right there in the pink sidebar.

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What time is it?

For those of you answering that it is time for Love Letters from a Duke to be released, you are wrong. That happens tomorrow. No, it was time for me to get an alarm clock.

Mine had an unfortunate accident early in the summer. For those of you who thought it might have lost its life in an early morning completely accidental shove off the nightstand, you would be wrong. It died of ants. Yes, you read that correctly. Ants. We came home from vacation and ants had taken up residence in my alarm clock. Our neighborhood is like ant central, and generally they stay out of our house because I have this nice man come monthly and maintain a strong line of defense around our exterior to keep them OUT, but the little fellows found a crack in our defenses while we were on vacation, and they moved in and made themselves home. In my alarm clock.

So out the door went the ants and the now gross alarm clock, that my DIY husband claimed could be cleaned and saved, (which probably many of you are thinking he’s right.) Let me state this clearly: No, he isn’t. And no it couldn’t. Not after I emptied a can of Raid inside it. I really don’t like ants.

But I digress, for the real point of all this was to tell you about how difficult it is to buy an alarm clock. A simple, straightforward alarm clock. One that nudges you awake when you need to be, and goes away without having to really open your eyes by pressing some huge button. There isn’t such a thing. Not any more. I went to Target and couldn’t even find the alarm clock section. It took two clerks to help me find the tiny shelf that makes up alarm clocks. Apparently I am not the only one who has a less than enthusiastic ardor for these little boxes. Now I had two requirements:

1) It be simple to operate.

2) It be very simple to operate at 6:00 in the morning.

Well after looking at several monstrosities, I found this one tucked to the side. Okay, it’s a Timex, so it will keep on ticking even when its owner attacks it. Now I was a little skeptical about the “Dual Alarm” feature. I mean one alarm is bad enough, but two? Shudder. But what appealed to me was the idea of waking to “Nature Sounds.” Hey, I’m a nature loving gal. (Despite my aversion to ants and a penchant for using enough napalm around my house to deter a Godzilla sized ant.) So into the cart went the Timex and I brought it home.

Now remember, my first requirement was simple to operate. And this is what I pull out of the box first:

Yes, you are seeing this correctly. An entire sheet of paper dedicated to telling me that when I give up and can’t figure out my new Timex alarm clock, they have a 1-800 number that offers technical assistance. Technical assistance?! For an alarm clock?! In hindsight, I should have carefully closed the box and returned it. But give me credit–I am the one in the house who wires up the DVD/TV/Etc, and the one who programs remotes, I figured I could do this. At least so I thought. Until I pulled the rest of it out of the box and discovered it has more buttons on it than the Space Shuttle. So apparently the 1-800 Mission Control is necessary.

So here is my inner dialogue at this point:

“Return it.”

“But I can wake and sleep to the radio and nature sounds.”

“Open the window. You can listen to the raccoons climbing the fence and your hard of hearing neighbor’s television.”

Sometimes the inner dialogue isn’t helpful. And by now, with the DH is chiding me for buying something so complicated (if he only knew!) so I had to redeem myself by figuring the darn thing out. The real motivation behind all this angst is that I have a book coming out this week. Revisions on the next book on my desk. And 100 pages of the one after that completed. I’m on RomanceNovel.tv this week (at least I think I am.) Promised to blog . . . everywhere. So I need to get up and get this work done before the small helpers arise. And in another week, the kids start school. Someone responsible has to get them up, make them breakfast and send them on their way. God bless them, they are stuck with me to hold up these duties. I must have an alarm clock.

So I persevered and figured out how to set the radio alarm, and the nature sounds. On different days of the week. And went to bed Friday night smiling smugly at the husband. “See,” I said. “Come Monday morning, I’ll be up and going by 6 am.” He snorted and laughed and went to sleep. But he wasn’t laughing on Saturday morning when the radio came blaring to life at 6:04, and it took me 12 minutes to find my glasses, turn on the light and turn the darn thing off. Not Snooze. Off. I endured another few minutes of teasing and then started to drift back to sleep when the ocean roared to life, sending us both sitting bolt upright thinking we are about to be part of Seattle’s first tsunami. Remember that Dual Alarm thing? Those Nature Sounds? Yeah. It works. Out comes the book, and I nearly reached for the phone, but it is on his side of the bed, and I knew there would be a lifetime of teasing (at least as long as he lives) if I called a 1-800 number to figure out my *&%$@ alarm clock.

So with some more studying of the diagrams and instructions, I figured out how to unset the alarms, reset the ocean for something a little more soothing and set my alarm for this morning. And it went off as planned. Soothing and calm. Ah, ocean waves. Seagulls in the distance. So soothing in fact, that I drifted right back to sleep.

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What do you serve with salmon?

This is a typical question we lifelong Seattleites get. That, and how do you cook salmon? We’ll cook a salmon some other day. But my favorite quick side dish to serve with salmon (or any fish for that matter) is Lemon Rice. And here is how I make it.

If you have a rice cooker, that is the easiest way–and quite frankly the only way I make rice. Otherwise, I burn it. Can’t do the pot on the stove method to save my life. But a rice cooker? That I can do. So put the usual amount of rice and water in the cooker, along with a smashed up clove of garlic and cook it. Just before you serve the rice, dig out the garlic clove, and add into the cooker: a tablespoon of butter, a dash or so of dried dill, the zest of an entire lemon, a little bit of salt and pepper and stir it all together. Let it sit for another five minutes, and voila, Lemon Rice.

This is also good with Shrimp Kabobs. But with shrimp, I like a curried couscous. Which is just as easy as Lemon Rice, but I’ll save it for another day as well.

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Writing Wednesday

I keep hoping to find my rhythm in blogging. Sort of Mystery Mondays, as in you’ll never guess what I’ve come up with, Writing Wednesdays, with my thoughts and musings on writing and the writer’s life, and leave Fridays for Fun. I mean, you gotta have fun on a Friday, don’t ya?

But my plans for some semblance of a schedule keep getting interrupted. I see something I want to blog about and just can’t resist. So there is more or less a schedule around here, but like any schedule in my chaotic life, it is subject to change without notice.

One subject that I’ve had on the list of potential blogs is Prewriting. I tend to be a person who does a lot of prewriting before I actually sit down and type the words. I never really counted this time as writing before the DH put me on The Plan. I’ll talk more about The Plan at another time, but suffice it to say, as I wrote my last book, I tracked ALL my time–from researching on the internet, to jotting notes, to writing, and mostly, I discovered, prewriting. And all this time counts since it all contributes to the finished product.

So what is my Prewriting? With my trusty non-fat latte at hand, and a notebook and pencil before me, I start by jotting notes, lists, ideas, bits of dialogue. I diagram a chapter, dividing it up into scenes, looking for whose POV will best further the story, how I’ll set the scene, a scene question that needs answering. I ask myself how this scene will delve deeper into my character’s changing and evolving situation.

Suddenly, I’ll hear the characters nattering at me and I start taking crazy, fast paced notes like an overworked stenographer (thankfully, by the time this happens, I’m usually starting to feel my caffeine buzz kick in), and suddenly the pages fill with my own wild handwriting that I would pity anyone else trying to decipher. Those notes are the rough beginnings of a scene. Sometimes I have nearly an entire sequence written, mapped out, with great bits a dialogue and places where I want to emphasis some theme I’m pounding home. Other times it is merely a single line that I leave alone because I need to mull it over and ponder the possibilities it offers to my story.

I know there are the pantsers out there who love to write from the heat of the moment might feel strangled by my methods, but I find them very liberating. I experiment and explore with the freedom of pencil in hand. I highlight, I doodle, I brainstorm in seven different directions, and then when the story is ready, I write. And if I’ve done my prewriting, the writing, the really fun part of being an author, flows like water.

Rather than feel guilty about the time I spend jotting away like a madwoman in my notebook, like I used to do, I know that hour or so of goofing around is going to keep me from pulling my hair out later.

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I don't get to say this often,

but Julia Quinn copied me. Oh, yeah. She copied me. I don’t think I’ll probably ever be able to say that again, so I have to admit to a certain smug satisfaction in it. Not I’m not pointing any fingers or bitter about it, but she saw my most excellent idea and stole it without blinking. If you are wondering what I’m talking about, I direct you to Exhibit A.

Are you as shocked as I was? Oh, yeah, Julia’s calling it “Bridgerton Couture,” but you, me and any jury of our peers would agree that this is nothing more than a cheap knock off of Lottie’s Closet. Call it what you want, Julia Quinn, but it was my idea first.

Now I don’t know what is worse, Julia copying me or Candice Hern letting her! Oh, Candice, I thought I was your only Closet-holic, and now I find out . . . sniff . . . sniff . . . sob . . . sob . . . that you’re letting just anyone into those hallowed prints. Do you know how many of those Bridgertons there are? Well, if no one has told you, allow me. There are just tons of them. Can’t swing a dead cat in Mayfair without hitting one of them.

Let me put it very plainly: Candice, letting Julia Quinn into your print collection to dress her Bridgertons is like feeding that cute little squirrel in your yard. Oh, yeah, toss a couple of peanuts out and he scampers happily away. But mark my words, you’ll wake up tomorrow and find your entire front yard lousy with Bridgertons. Not to mention that Colin Bridgerton will most likely eat you out of house and home. I think it is Colin who is the hungry one. Believe me, it is easy to get confused with all of them lounging about in the altogether awaiting their turn to get dressed.

And has Julia told you she’s writing second epilogues for all those books? Count on all those characters coming back for more–“Oh, Candice, can I borrow that pelisse?” Or “Candice, do you have that lovely little opera dress I could borrow?” And eventually, “Wasn’t there a pair of blue slippers around here?”

Stop now, Candice, before it’s too late! Oh, you think you’ve thrown your closets open for a fun little adventure, but believe me, there is no going back once you’ve got Bridgertons in your TBR or your closets. You’ll find yourself sitting up late at night wondering if Anthony has the right polish to his boots, or what you’ll do when Francesca throws off her widow’s weeds and decides to go into half-mourning.

But really, I think the most worrisome thing about all this, is once those locust-like Bridgertons have decimated Candice’s Collections, whatever am I going to dress Hermione or Griffin in? And Candice, I don’t think your Merry Widows are going to be all that happy when they arrive to find a new ball gown for one of their charity events and discover your closets are as empty as Mother Hubbard’s. Believe me, now that you’ve got Grace messing around Rochdale, I doubt she’ll be the same milquetoast of old when she finds her red dress gone. I mean, the title of your book is Lady Be Bad. She opens that closet and finds it full of Bridgertons, you’ll have to change it to Lady Gone Wild.

Candice, just promise me one thing: that you won’t let Daphne Bridgerton into your purse collection. She strikes me as the sort that will be knocking them off and selling them on the corner before you can even get the URL changed. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Need a little help . . . Will write for an English Tudor . . . God Bless

Yes, that was me at the end of your local expressway off ramp this morning with the above hand lettered sign. Gathering spare change for the house of my dreams. Because one of my most favorite houses in Detroit is for sale. Here is what the real estate listing says:

The Oscar Webber Mansion. (Really, they had me at “mansion.”) Former Junior League Show House. ( I could do Junior League. Sure I could. Can I wear sweats?) Truly one of a kind, perhaps the most renown home of Grosse Pointe. (Grosse Point? Maybe John Cusack would come back to do Grosse Pointe Blank 2: The Search for Elizabeth, and there I would be!) Old World charm, character & beauty abounds this magnificent English Tudor. (Again, English and Tudor, in the same sentence–be still my foolish heart!) Third floor ballroom with full kitchen, elevator, all baths, multiple fireplaces, impeccably maintained. (Ballroom? Did I just die and go to heaven?)

Check out the wonderful walled garden, that I totally trespassed and risked arrest to take a picture of:

Don’t you think this is the perfect house for a romance author? I do. That is until I realized I would have to sell like 5 million books to even start looking at it.

And if these pics aren’t enough, take the virtual tour, right here. I especially like the part about the third floor ballroom. I SO need a ballroom. And if I sell, like several million books and realize my dream of owning this “renown house”, I would invite all of you over for a ball. Or a soiree. Or maybe a masquerade. Maybe I could drum up a duke or two to invite as well.

Now you may scoff, but not far from my little Tudor dream, is another house I like to call Pemberly. I’m of the opinion that it is very likely I might find a duke inside this one. Of course, my DH just popped his head in my office, read all this, and laughingly tells me this Michigan version of Pemberly is not owned by a duke, not even Motown royalty, but a man who made his fortune hauling garbage.

The search for the Duke of Detroit continues . . .

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