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Today’s guest blog is by a wonderful author and friend, Wendy Roberts:

 

When people first hear I’m an author, the next question is almost always, “Do you write children’s books?” Since I have four children and I’m relatively “nice” they believe that is a logical assumption. Though when I describe whatever book I’m currently working on, usually there is an uncomfortable pause sometimes followed by them slowly backing away with fear in their eyes. To skip to the nitty gritty, my husband has taken to introducing me at business functions as, “My wife, Wendy, who kills people for a living.” At that, people will laugh politely before quickly excusing themselves or slowly back away.Wendy Roberts

I write murder mysteries and, yes, I’ve been known to kill someone off while sitting on the sidelines at a child’s baseball game. In a recent interview I talked about my newest book, The Remains of the Dead, and told the interviewer the story was about a woman who cleaned crime scenes for a living and spoke to the dead.  She joked sweetly, “And you look like such a nice person.”

It seems what people really want to know is when does the “nice” side drop away and the savage, murderous side kick in? For me, it’s usually about the time someone cuts me off in traffic. The truth is, I enjoy writing about seemingly ordinary characters and making their lives extraordinary. Although I enjoy adding a comedic element to my stories, I also love to torture my heroine with relationship problems, day-to-day anxieties and then up the ante with a murder or two.

I confess that, yes, I have been known to get my murderous thoughts from my day-to-day dealings in the real world. Who wouldn’t want to take that rude, cantankerous auto mechanic and brutally slaughter him? Ahem. On paper, of course. Now I know you’re a “nice” person because you read Susan’s blog. But, c’mon, who pushed your buttons enough this week that you wouldn’t mind seeing them suffer? Was it the butcher? The baker? That condescending banker?

A compulsive quiz-taker, I just had to find out what my dream home would really look like. Loved the “sulking corner for the scorned.” Barkis isn’t too sure about the cat named Vincent. Here’s my analysis, based on my replies to the quiz. Click the link at the bottom to custom-create your own dream home.

Your home is a

Daylight Athlete’s Mansion

Your kitchen is actually a GNC franchise, though all you really need are your Power Bars and Red Bulls. There’s a Chocolatessen, which is rapidly becoming your favorite room of the house. Having one is also becoming a trend among your wealthy neighbors. Your master bedroom has an on-call masseuse and sports therapist. Your study has current issues of Sports News & Sports Illustrated, marked with a highlighter for better preparing your fantasy sports league. One of your garages houses your Hummer, and others contain your H2, and H3… with room for an H4, if they ever invent one.Your home also includes a gallery of your favorite works — the originals, of course. Your guests enjoy your home theater with 37 different sports channels. Outside is your hedge maze and gardens, meticulously tended by a team of world-class botanists.And, you have a pet — a cat named “Vincent”.Below is a snippet of the blueprints:

Find YOUR Dream House!

Bid farewell to yet another victim of the storm–a huge old fig tree in the front yard.

the final fig

And here are some pics of a ferry in the storm. Drama!

Clairefontaine tablets are getting popular! We knew it was only a matter of time! new Clairefontaine user

But…um…what’s wrong with this picture?

seriously …

PositanoOkay, she knew this would make me blush but never mind that. Geri Krotow’s debut novel is wonderful, as I knew it would be. Here’s a very sweet post from one of my best friends. Here’s a contribution from Geri:

My dear friend Susan Wiggs has offered to let me blog for the sake of promoting my November release, A RENDEZVOUS TO REMEMBER, a Harlequin Everlasting Love novel. But I figure that if you’re reading this blog on a regular basis it’s because you know and love Susan and her work. Geri & me

So why blog about me? I’m going to blog about what you come here for—Susan. Of course I hope you go out and by my book, and more importantly, love it. This is my first published novel, and it’s quite the “full-circle” moment. And in my circle of life, especially my writing life, there have been key sister-friends along the way. Some things are meant to be. In spite of what seem to be long-to-impossible odds, people beat terminal diseases. Lovers reunite. A lost pet finds its owners after a long trek across state lines.

And so it is with friends. Some friends we feel an immediate bond with, regardless of any apparent (or unapparent) dissimilarities. One of my “miracle” friends is Susan Wiggs.

I met Susan in July 2000. I remember when because it was my very first Romance Writers of America National Conference, and it was in Washington, DC that year. As Patricia Potter once said at a Memphis RWA meeting, I felt like I’d “died and gone to heaven with all the other writers.” This was a place I belonged. It took a while to find it, but I did.

Very unpublished and somewhat naïve of professional boundaries, I went up to Susan at the book-signing and asked her which island she lived on in Puget Sound. At her hesitation (did her blue eyes see a psycho-rabid-fan?) I hurried to tell her that our Navy family had been stationed in Washington, and was due back, also to an island in Puget Sound. She smiled, told me where she lived, and encouraged me to contact her as soon as I relocated to the Seattle area.

I did just that, and through her guidance found the Peninsula Romance Writers. Susan became one of my mentors. I’m not sure it was ever her choice to mentor me, as I immediately took advantage of any sage advice she shared. I soaked up any knowledge like Sponge Bob in the Sahara. Susan encouraged me to not only follow my dreams, but to do so with no-holds-barred. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a phrase that’s passed her lips more than once. And it reflects in Susan’s continuous series of richly written, highly acclaimed, and reader-beloved, novels.

Perhaps the greatest honor I’ve shared with anyone I shared with Susan and her husband Jay when they came to help celebrate my husband’s Navy Change of Command.  Susan went on to write THE OCEAN BETWEEN US which I watched, from our overseas tour in Italy, become a New York Times Bestseller. Then of course there was RWA National 2006, in Atlanta. Susan asked me to take her place at the RITA awards, and not only did I do that, I was honored to accept, on her behalf, Susan’s RITA for LAKESIDE COTTAGE.

NaplesOne thing I’ll always remember about Susan is her fearlessness. We once explored the streets of Naples, Italy together. She calmly sat in the passenger seat of my minivan as I whipped up an alley in the ancient, chaotic city. When I got too close to the lamp posts, and inadvertently smashed off the passenger side mirror, Susan barely screamed.

Where and when others would cower in complete terror, or give up, or fail to reach out a helping hand, Susan remains steadfast and true. She’s been there with me when I sold, when I’ve won a contest, and when I’ve received the umpteenth rejection for the same manuscript.

Susan didn’t wait for me to ask, but offered a quote for my novel to my editor. For those of you not in the publishing industry, this is beyond generous. It is downright remarkable.

capuccinoThe world needs more Susan Wiggses in it. Yet, there’s only one Susan, and I’m so grateful to call her my friend.

Who’s been an anchor in your life?

I could watch this all night. Crazy Indian Video…Buffalaxed! on FunnyOrDie.com

“The local public library is where I first discovered romance, in high school. I was such a geek that studying together passed for making out.”

–Author Erik Larson 

 

I bet he wishes I hadn’t heard him say that. 🙂

 

If you’re in the Seattle area on Thursday, November 15, please come to a reading and booksigning by noted author (and former geek) Erik Larson. He’ll be appearing at the Eagle Harbor Book Company at 7:30p.m. Erik Larson and Elizabeth George

 

I always learn something startling from Erik’s books, like the fact that John Philip Sousa fit an entire band into one car of the Ferris wheel at the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair, or that the original trade name for Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix was “Slave in a Box.” His latest, Thunderstruck, is an interwoven narrative of the notorious Dr. Hawley Crippen, who committed the ghastliest of murders, and the laying of the transatlantic cable.

 

Big historic events are Larson’s specialty, and his passion. Although New Orleans and other cities along the Gulf Coast are still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the storm of September 8, 1900 remains the deadliest on record in this country. Larson writes compellingly of the disaster in Isaac’s Storm, detailing the terrors to which Galveston, Texas, awakened to on that long-ago September morning, from the point of view of Isaac Cline, chief weatherman for Texas and the one individual who could have saved Galveston. At the time, Galveston was one of the most important port cities in the nation, a beehive of commerce, prosperity and confidence. After the storm slammed the city, leaving the landscape decimated and 8,000 dead, Galveston never regained its stature.

 

On the heels of the international bestseller, Erik Larson wrote THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, which was nominated for a National Book Award. He is a former features writer for The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and other publications. In addition to his association with Purple Amoeba, the author is also an experienced teacher, having taught non-fiction writing at San Francisco State, the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars and the University of Oregon.

 

In an interview on the Random House web site, Larson explains that he first came across the subject of The Devil in the White City, the killer Dr. H. H. Holmes, while researching Isaac’s Storm. “I found his story immediately compelling, but only when I began reading about the glories of the World’s Columbian Exposition did the story take on the larger resonance that I look for in a book. Taken together, the stories of how Daniel Burnham built the fair and how Dr. Holmes used it for murder formed an entirety that was far greater than the story of either man alone would have been. I found it extraordinary that during this period of nearly miraculous creativity there should also exist a serial killer of such appetite and industry. The juxtaposition of the architect and the murderer seemed to open a window on the forces shaping the American soul at the dawn of the 20th century. The fair drew so many of history’s brightest lights, from Buffalo Bill to Susan B. Anthony, that doing my research was like crashing a very classy Gilded Age party….I found it so marvelously strange that both these men should be operating at the same time in history, within blocks of each other, both creating powerful legacies, one of brilliance and energy, the other of sorrow and darkness. What better metaphor for the forces that would shape the 20th century into a time of monumental technical achievement and unfathomable evil?”

 

The author always works alone, eschewing a staff of researchers, assistants and support. “I need first-hand contact with my sources—for example, I found it infinitely valuable to be able to touch the original postcards on which Patrick Prendergast revealed his insane delusion, one that would bring the fair to such a tragic end.” Larson believes every book is a detective story, and his job is to reveal and report the details. One high point for the author was “coming across the actual death decree for Holmes in the files of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, complete with its ribbon and gold seal. Another occurred when I paid a visit to Holy Cross Cemetery outside Philadelphia and saw the original entry for Holmes’s plot in the cemetery’s death registry. As I stepped onto the grass in the vicinity of his unmarked grave, under dark clouds, a thunder-clap boomed through the sky. It was a little too spooky, actually, given the Holmes curse. I left soon afterward.”

 

The public library has long been a part of the author’s life, beginning with the fish reading club of his boyhood. “Every summer in my hometown of Freeport, Long Island, some good soul in the library would go to great lengths to cover one wall of the library with a blue sea of paper and fake seaweed and so forth, and we’d each be assigned a fish with our name on it, and our fish would ‘swim’ through the ocean in accordance with how many books we read each week. I was always very jealous of the kids, typically girls, whose books not only made it across the sea but did so even before the summer was half over.”

 

As a working writer, Larson is a dedicated library patron. “I love libraries for the sense of unfathomable knowledge stored in those banks of books–I always imagine that somewhere in the dustier books, typically in Dewey’s 900-level books, there are great stories yet to tell. Sometimes when I’m looking for my next book idea I’ll wander the 900 stacks at Suzallo and just pick out books at random and thumb through them, just to see what jumps out. Never very productive, but always very interesting.

 

“Books also are very real. Solid. I like them for the same reason I like stone. In a relativist world, the tactile power of both can help one find one’s bearings.

 

“And by the way, my dog loves old books too. Something about the glue in the bindings, I think–so whenever I take an old book from the library I have to be careful always to keep it up high whenever I’m out of the room. Otherwise, yes, my dog will eat the cover, as in fact occurred with a 19th-century text from the Suzallo library during the research for my next book. Happily, I found a replacement on ABEbooks.com.”

 

To Erik Larson, the best thing about the library is “the ‘serendipity effect,’ though it applies only to open-stack libraries. You go into the stacks looking for one particular book and when you find it, you discover–thanks to the magic of Melville Dewey (who, regrettably, was a rabid anti-semite)–you discover that it lives in a kind of diaspora of other books that touch on your subject or your era-of-interest in unexpected and compelling ways. It’s something the Internet, with its too-focussed search protocols, likely will never match. I always say that every day spent in a library is like a little Ross McDonald detective story, where you go to the library hunting for something in particular and end up finding much more than you anticipated.

 

“I also like the smell exhausted by old books that haven’t been opened in a long time. It’s the scent of adventure!”

  

Well, in the same week, anyway. The Winter Lodge was named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly. Then Amazon listed it at #1 on the Best of Romance list.

This is a particular honor because The Winter Lodge was a “monster” book–one that drove me nuts, writing it. (For those of you who’ve read it, I’m talking about Jenny’s romantic history.) The emotions were hard in that book, and the deadline was insane. But I’m not complaining. Garrison Keillor reminds us that writing, as a job, is the opposite of hard:

“The truth, young people, is that writing is no more difficult than building a house, and the only good reason to complain is to discourage younger and more talented writers from climbing on the gravy train and pushing you off.”

All’s well that ends well. Thanks to PW and Amazon!

Pop on over to Sheila Roberts’s website (www.sheilasplace.com) and  check out her ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS contest. Some lucky reader will  win Godiva chocolates.

Aaannnd….please meet both Sheila and me at a booksigning on Saturday in Port Orchard, WA:

Saturday, November 10, 2007 – Port Orchard, WA. Booklovers Day Booksigning 1-3pm.
PAPERBACKS PLUS 1618 Bay St., Port Orchard, WA 98366 Phone: (360) 876-7224
Booksigning featuring Susan Wiggs, several others, and marking the long-awaited debut of Sheila Roberts’s novel, On Strike For Christmas. Expect the merriment to come early this year.

Hooray for Jenny Majesky and the Sky River Bakery! The star of The Winter Lodge is celebrating today. The Winter Lodge (large print edition)This book just made the Publishers Weekly list of “Best Books of the Year.”

“Complicated, flesh-and-blood characters inhabit Wiggs’s idyllic but identifiable Lakeshore Chronicles, weaving a refreshingly honest smalltown tapestry of romance, domestic drama, mystery and generations-old Polish recipes.” (November 5, 2007)

In celebration, I think I’ll bake something. These cookies only use one pan, and you don’t even have to get out the mixer. I am raising my cup of tea in the direction of Manhattan today. Thanks, PW!

No Brainer Cookies:
2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
5 Tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
confectioners sugar

Melt butter in square baking pan over low heat. Beat eggs slightly. Combine sugar, flour, soda and nuts. Stir into beaten eggs and vanilla. Pour mixture over butter. Do not stir. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until center is set. Invert pan onto rack. Cut into squares and dust with confectioners sugar.

(optional – stir in things you like, such as chocolate, white chocolate or butterscotch chips, dried fruit, toffee chips or M&Ms)

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