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A few random Qs from my publisher… What's your fave?

What is your favorite flower?

Magenta cyclamen. In the dead of winter, I can always find a few secretly blooming in my garden.

What are you reading now?
Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein. It’s a memoir by twins who were separated at birth and adopted by strangers, and never found out until they met for the first time as adults.
Who is your favorite Harlequin author?
That is SO not fair, because my favorites change along with my moods. When I have a rotten cold in the middle of winter, it’s tea and toast and Betty Neels. For a feel-good girlfriend book, I love Debbie Macomber, but when I need a sexy cowboy, it’s Linda Lael Miller all the way. If I’m in the mood for an alpha male, Nora Roberts or Linda Howard fills the bill. Jennifer Greene for a good cry. If I have a hankering for military guys, it’s Merline Lovelace and Suzanne Brockmann…see what I mean? I could go on like this all day. 
How many books have you written?
30-ish. I stopped counting after thirty because it was making me feel old.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
Right here, right now. It’s a boring answer, but I’m really lucky to live where I do. There’s a pristine beach about ten yards from my window, a dead-on view of Mount Rainier, sailboats, kayaks and motorboats on the premises, a pool and deck, a big garden twined with pathways, a primeval rain forest 1/2 mile down the road, a cafe in the neighborhood with great lattes and pizza, a vintage movie house within walking distance and all the fishing, birding and beachcombing, sitting and reading and dreaming you could want. Provided I’m doing a good job with my deadlines, every day feels like a vacation.
Before becoming a writer, what did you do?
Wrote and illustrated long, angsty unrhymed poems, skied in the Matterhorn, rode the Orient Express, played center on my field hockey team, spoke French, played the cello, drank pastis in a cafe in Trieste with dangerous people, sneaked into a Rolling Stones concert, flirted with my master’s thesis advisor, taught Euclidean geometry, Calculus and long division, stole my sister’s boyfriend and married him, became a vegetarian, learned to dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe, made the first cut of the Teacher in Space program, taught myself Fair Isle knitting and counted cross stitch, faux finished every wall of the house, campaigned for John Anderson, ignored my mother’s advice, gave birth without anaesthesia, read Georgette Heyer’s complete oeuvre, gave my hair to Locks of Love, rode a bicycle down the volcano Haleakala, sang in a church choir, told my sister sorry about the guy and had a laugh, became an adult literacy volunteer, lived in a tract home in the ”burbs and read romance novels aloud while nursing an infant, because I was trying to teach myself the craft while bonding with the infant. Then I sold my first book, and everything changed…
Do you have a new book coming out?
Always. My latest is Fireside. I’ll have several historical reissues this year, and then Lakeshore Christmas in October.
What is your favorite food?
Pizza with melanzane (eggplant), served in a tiny cafe in Amalfi with a view of the sea and a glass of San Pelligrino, shared with the abovementioned laughing husband.
Do you have any pets?
Barkis the Wonderdog, a young Doberman with floppy ears and a stubby tail and a desperate need to be petted at all times.
What is your favorite romantic movie?
It’s a tie– “Harold and Maude” and “Last of the Mohicans” (the Daniel Day-Lewis version). Runners up: “Terminator” and “Speed.” Really.
This year is Harlequin’s 60th Anniversary. Do you have any special message you’d like to pass on?
Girl, you are lookin’ hot for a sixty-year-old! Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working well for you.
Your turn! How would you answer? Click “comments” and post there!
What’s your fave?
Illustration by Sally Mara Sturman,

Illustration by Sally Mara Sturman,

It’s Thanksgiving Day, so I thought it a good time to conclude my little Gratitude Project. I have to say, I am so impressed by you people! It’s been a pleasure every day to turn on the computer and see what people are thankful for. I’ve learned so much and I’ve been so inspired by everything I’ve seen here.

Two things strike me as I go down the list of comments for each day–we are amazingly diverse. And we are remarkably consistent. We love our families, first and foremost. Our pets and our friends rank high. Mothers and husbands seem to be in a class by themselves. We’re thankful when somebody has a good opinion of us. We’re filled with hope, even when times are tough. Some of us even found the bright side of being laid off or surviving lousy economic times. We love books like there’s no tomorrow. We love comforting things to eat and drink. We adore the beauty and drama of nature–sunshine, starlight, a blustery wind, a storm. We’re thankful for our health, and even on days when it’s not so good, we’ve been able to find something to be grateful for anyway.

We meet people who strive every day to make the world better in whatever way they can, and we value them. We’re grateful for people who make the grand gestures–like fostering children–to the mundane–driving a friend to an appointment or covering for someone at work.

I loved hearing from the young hip ones telling us about Scrivener and Fuze. And the wise women of all ages reminding us of the things that really matter, everything from hugging a child to Dulce de Leche coffee creamer. I loved the intriguing, even cryptic comments, and the creative acrosstics. I loved the comments that made me smile or even laugh out loud.

What a great group! We are writers, dreamers, lovers of beauty. We are thankful for families, friends, beauty, health, meaning.

The one thing I didn’t get from the postings: stuff. Money. Sure, we’re grateful to have full bellies and a roof over our heads. But if there was a gratitude post about a THING, it was because the thing does what it’s meant to do–a car heater turns on, a hair product works, a pair of shoes feels comfortable, a sweater feels soft.

I’m not seeing anyone here who is grateful for a thing because it enhances her status or makes her seem superior in some way. In the hundreds of gratitude comments on this blog, we never once went there. Yay us!

We are so mentally and emotionally healthy here it’s driving me crazy.

So here is what I’m going to do, and I hope you’ll do something similar. I’ve bought a purse-size, skinny datebook for 2009. I’m not going to use this to record appointments or reminders or deadlines. This particular book is for one thing and one thing only–gratitude. On each date square, I will write down three things I’m grateful for each day of the year, starting now.

Many thanks and many blessings for your participation. And Happy Thanksgiving!

There are tributes to Randy Pausch all over the world, so it seems a little redundant to put them here, but bear with me. I loved his last lecture, which reminded me so much of what I loved about my years as a teacher. Randy was the finest sort of teacher. He could take the most obvious and mundane bit of wisdom or common sense and turn it into something profound. Something a listener could take as a life lesson. He managed to turn a one-man lecture into a moving tribute to life, learning, passion and love. My favorite Randy story is the May 18, 2008 entry on his blog. He gave the charge to the graduates of Carnegie Mellon. As usual, his brief remarks left an indelible impression on everyone who listened. Here’s a short video of the charge.

Publishing a novel is such a personally revealing, emotionally risky thing to do. I always worry when a book hits the stands–did I show too much? Go too far? Will readers see too much of my heart? From now on, I’m going to remember the remarks of Randy Pausch–when you get to the end of your life, you won’t regret the risks you took, the things that embarrassed you or made you look silly; you’ll be glad you followed your passion.

I prepare to leave the litter.YO! Barkis is one year old today! Happy birthday to my shiny boy! Here are a few highlights of the Year of the Dog:

Barkis discovers the beach

The beach is scary. Run away!Here he is a year ago …

…getting more handsome every day…

sun worshiper(sometimes I’m naughty)




…. I’m in Canine Good Citizen Class

I\'m on my kitchen rug, waiting for a treat..

 … I love the beach!

…and I climb trees so I can look out to sea…




“There is nothing–absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
–Ratty to Mole in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

Messing about, Mt Rainier in the background Around here, we go boating. A lot. It’s just so scenic. On the Sound, it’s also a way to avoid traffic. When I had jury duty in the summer, I went to the courthouse by boat–a 15-minute ride–thus saving myself a one-hour commute. It’s a way to try restaurants and visit friends on the mainland and to entertain people when they visit.

 Jay used to watch a TV show called “Sea Hunt” with the main character called Mike Nelson, played by Lloyd Bridges. Anyone else remember that show? I’m totally blanking, but I think Jay hears the theme song in his head when he’s out on the water.

A moment of silence, please. Madeleine L’Engle has died at the age of 88.

Madeleine L

A WRINKLE IN TIME was one of those books I read as a child and thought, wow. I am Meg. To this day, every protagonist I write in my own books seems to be a smart, awkward, vulnerable, strong-at-her-core female, which is the archetype Meg embodies. I didn’t know that when I was in 5th grade. I just know I related to her on every level.

Later in life I read WALKING ON WATER, one of the single best books on the art of writing ever published. It is “must” reading for every writer.

I have a signed copy of A WRINKLE IN TIME because I was privileged to meet Madeleine when she visited a school where I was teaching about 15 years ago. I loved meeting her. She was Meg, all grown up. Smart, awkward, vulnerable, strong-at-her-core. She will live to eternity in the hearts of readers.

So there I was, putting the finishing touches on my revisions, when the carrier John Stennis came steaming home.

Stennis going to Bremerton

Welcome home, Navy guys! This closeup gives you a perspective of its size. Note the 200-car Washington  State Ferry in the background:

carrier detail

In fact, seeing how tiny and vulnerable the people on deck look was the inspiration for the mishap in one of my books.

Barkis took it in stride…

Barkis & carrier

But the show wasn’t over. Along came a shiny new yacht, with a helocopter hovering overhead, apparently filming or photographing it.

helo & yacht

I put up a slide show of the whole business. And here I thought living on the water was supposed to impart a zen-like calm….

Last month, I lost one of my oldest and dearest writing friends. I found comfort in the words Alice herself wrote in Devoted, her first published novel. This is from the final page:

…Owen felt again a hint of the peace that had descended on him in the church when he committed himself to Christ and his people’s cause.

He still had no assurance of anything, not tomorrow or his springtime, but he had found his heart and his life. However long he lived, he would take that assurance with him.

Even if his road brought him soon into the shadow of death, he would carry that achievement , that peace with him into darkness and beyond. To whatever God waited there.

Devoted by Alice Borchardt (1995)  Here’s a detail of a memory collage I made to give to Alice’s husband:Alice

Wishing peace and love to all.

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