Saturday, October 31, 2009

Food for Thought—Pumpkin Ale

Happy Hallowe'en!

You might remmember that back in March, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I blogged with the Wet Noodle Posse about weird beer. I’ve recently discovered another "weird" one, made especially for Hallowe’en.

Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale, brewed by Phillips Brewery. This beer has a beautiful orange-amber color, an aroma that’s reminiscent of Grandma’s fresh-baked pumpkin loaf, and a smooth flavor that’s slightly sweet and subtly spicy. Perfect for a grownup Hallowe’en party.

Trick or treat, anyone?

Until next time,

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lee’s Office (part 3)

A million thanks to everyone who left comments and shared their wisdom via private email. Some of that advice is so good, I just had to share.

“I don't think you need a professional organizer--you need to bribe one or more of your friends to come over for a day and help you. You can set up zones and do a few in the morning, break for a luxurious lunch someplace you both love (at your expense) and then spend the afternoon tackling the rest. And you can have keep, toss, and donate baskets set up so that you can make a decision and go on to the next thing. The one thing that is an absolute must is that you remove ALL of the recyclables, trash and items to be donated that day! Otherwise those things have a tendency to either migrate back to your shelves or sit there for months.”

“After seeing these ‘pros’ on TV, I have a hard time seeing how they're worth the money. Promise yourself a gift to yourself with those hundreds of dollars IF you just do it yourself! Get organizing tips off the web and buckle down and organize on your own. I just think you need motivation.”
You are all brilliant!

I love the idea of the buddy system, especially since it involves lunch, and I also love the idea of rewarding myself with the money I save by doing this on my own! Stay tuned!

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lee’s Office (part 2)

Yesterday I called a couple of home organizers to get an idea of what they can do for me and how much they’ll charge to do it. On the plus side, if I hire someone for six hours, we’ll book an appointment and I won’t be able to procrastinate my way out of it. On the minus side, it’ll cost several hundred dollars. I haven’t decided if I’ll hire one or not, but it’s under consideration.

Meanwhile I received several private emails from people who either didn’t believe my office was as bad as I claimed it was, or who thought it was probably even worse. Honestly, it couldn’t get much worse, but we’ll start with a photo of one of my bookshelves, which is one of the least problematic areas in my office.

On the floor:
  • an empty toner cartridge that has to be recycled
  • a basket of junk I don’t use (I honestly have no idea what’s in it)
Bottom shelf:
  • UPS unit (uninterrupted power supply)
  • two storage boxes (in use)
  • modem and router
  • an anthology of women’s literature
  • four stacking trays filled with printer paper, labels, overhead transparencies, envelopes
Second shelf:
  • the pile on the left: scanner, two empty storage boxes, a box of stationary and an old teddy bear
  • a storage box filled with promo stuff (bookmarks, biz cards, etc.)
  • two binders (white) filled with stuff I wrote as a freelancer
  • a magazine file filled with research material used when I was a freelancer
  • binders (black) filled with photographic slides from when I was a sessional lecturer in earth sciences
Third shelf:
  • printer (in use)
  • all-in-one fax machine (no longer in use, although the tray makes a handy paper caddy) and it’s accompanying telephone, which works when the power goes out
Fourth shelf:
  • a stack of recycled printer paper
  • books
  • a pile of photos on top of some of the books
  • assorted cat toys
Fifth shelf:
  • more books
Top shelf:
  • books I can’t reach—genealogy, gardening, plus a dozen issues of academic guidebooks for which I was the project editor
How much of this stuff do I actually use/need? Maybe twenty percent. Why do I have all this stuff? For one thing, I have the shelfspace for it. A lot of it seemed important when I put it there five or ten years ago, but I haven’t needed it since. Meanwhile, many things I do need and use are piled on desktops and the floor because I have no shelfspace for them.

For the rest of this week, I will ponder whether or not to hire a home/office organizer. If you or someone you know has worked with one, I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday News—My Office Is a Disaster

How's that for a headline?

I could come up with a long list of reasons and excuses for why it’s a disaster, but why bother? I’ve heard them all before. You’ve heard them all before. Maybe you even have a list of your own reasons and excuses for why things are the way they are.

Here’s the strange thing. The rest of my house is pretty well organized and clutter free, but my office has become a dumping ground.

A dumping ground for what, you ask?

Books, paper, shopping bags that might be handy some day, mementos, gadgets that used to work but no longer do, family photos, more books, more paper, knick knacks...

Wait a minute. Did I say knick-knacks?

I don’t even like knick-knacks. I don’t have knick-knacks anywhere else in my home, so how did all these pesky things find their way into my office?

And then there are the organizers. Those handy in and out trays, file boxes, plastic boxes that hold hanging files, etc., that are supposed to help me get organized. I have at least thirty-six of these things, and half of them are empty.

This chaos wastes my time and interferes with my creativity, and I’ve decided it’s time to take action. I might even call one of those home organizers to come in and help. I have taken some photos of this mess, but I’m too embarrassed to post them right now. I’ll hang onto them until I can do some before-and-after shots. Wish me luck!

Until next time,

Monday, October 26, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

Can someone tell me where October went? The days are flying by! This is the Wet Noodle Posse’s last week of our “To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn” theme, and here’s what we have line up for you:

Monday: Maureen Hardegree on “Turning Gray”
Tuesday: Merrillee Whren—TBA
Wednesday: Delle Jacobs—“The World Turned Upside Down”
Thursday: Karen Potter Breast talks about “Cancer Screening: Early Detection and Biopsies”
Friday: Q&A Day—What are you giving trick-or-treaters this year?
Have a wonderful week!

Until next time,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Food for Thought

How do you make pancakes? From a mix or from scratch? That's the topic of my post today on the Harlequin American Romance Authors blog. Drop by if you can!

Until next time,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Firefighter Daddy—the setting

I'm currently working on revisions to my next book for Harlequin American Romance—Firefighter Daddy—and of course that leads to a little extra research. The story was inspired by William R. de Avila Elementary School on Haight Street, just a few blocks from the famous Haight-Ashbury intersection, in San Francisco. As far as I know, it's no longer an elementary school and has most recently served as a satellite campus for a community college.

When I first saw the school, my initial thought was, what would it have been like to to be a student (and the product of hippie parents) at that school back in the '60s and '70s?

The answer to that question became Rory and Mitch's story in Firefighter Daddy.

I loved a couple of things about the school, including the absolutely gorgeous tile mosaic on the front of the building facing Haight Street, and the hopscotch courts and other play areas painted on the paved schoolyard. Believe it or not, hopscotch plays a significant role in the storyline. The playground is visible from the sidewalk on Waller Street and can also be seen in this satellite image from Google.

View Larger Map

Although I don't live anywhere near San Francisco, it sure is fun to zoom in and check out the neighborhood where Firefighter Daddy is set.

Click on "View Larger Map" to see the entire schoolyard. Can you recognize any of the other painted game courts in this playground?

Until next time,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday News

On Saturday I attended the regular monthly meeting of one of my RWA chapters and took part in a fun and enlightening workshop based on the Writing the Breakout Novel workbook by Donald Maass. Plenty of food for thought as I forge ahead with my current project.

I’m also doing research for the new book. Now that the summer tourist season is over, I hope to have a chance to visit a winery or two and spend some time interviewing the proprietors.

Have you had a chance to check out the October releases from Harlequin American Romance?

Top Gun Dad by Ann DeFee
A Baby for Mommy by Cathy Gillen Thacker
Mistletoe Hero by Tanya Michaels
The Littlest Matchmaker by Dorien Kelly
You’ll find the covers and more posted on

Happy reading!

Until next time,

Monday, October 19, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

The Wet Noodle Posse’s theme—To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn—continues this week.

Monday: Diane Gaston—TBA

Tuesday: Theresa Ragan—TBA

Wednesday: Maureen Hardegree with ideas for “Easy No-Sew Costumes”

Thursday: MJ Fredrick on “Favorite Scary Movies”

Friday: Q&A Day—What can writers do to improve the turning points in their stories?
Until next time,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Writer Side of Life

The writer side of life has been keeping me busy.

Three weekends ago I gave a workshop on "The Hero’s Journey: Creating Characters Hollywood Style."

Two weekends ago the Vancouver Island Chapter of RWA had a booth at a trade show—The BC Women’s Show—and I was busy with that.

Last week I submitted a partial (the first three chapters) of my second San Francisco book (the sequel to Firefighter Daddy, July 2010) to my editor.

And this past weekend I attended the Emerald City Writers Conference in Bellevue, WA.

I’m especially thrilled to share the news that my friend Jodie Esch’s YA manuscript, Almost Perfect, placed second in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category of the Emerald City Opener contest. After the results were announced at the Saturday luncheon, we met for a celebratory glass of wine in the hotel bar. Here’s Jodie (right) with her critique partner, Sharron Gunn.

Now that this whirlwind of activity is over, I look forward to settling into a quieter and much-slower-paced routine of writing, blogging and preparing for Christmas, which is just a little over two months away. Okay, maybe not such a slow pace, but quieter. I hope.

Until next time,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday News

This weekend the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America took part in the BC Women’s Show, an annual trade show in Victoria. Hundreds of people stopped by to have a chocolate and chat about romance. It was heartwarming to meet so many enthusiastic readers, and to meet others who said they didn’t necessarily read many romance novels but would certainly pick up books by local authors.

Here are a couple of photos of the booth and a few of the writers who staffed it:

(l. to r.) Mimi Barbour, Daniela Hewson, Susan Lyons

(l. to r.) Mimi Barbour, Lee McKenzie, Susan Lyons

I gave away two “Afternoon Tea with Harlequin American Romance Authors” gift bags filled with a gorgeous mug, organic green tea from Silk Road, and books by Linda Warren, Cindi Meyers, Marin Thomas, Trish Milburn, Pamela Stone and, of course, me! Many thanks to my fellow Harlequin American Romance authors for generously donating copies of your books.

I wasn’t in the booth when one of the winners dropped by, but congratulations and happy reading to Valerie Wilson, winner of the second gift bag!

All in all a wonderful weekend for readers and writers alike!

Until next time,

Monday, October 5, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

This month the Noodler’s theme is To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn. We have lots of tasty and fun stuff lined up this week, as well as some chat about writing and RWA’s Golden Heart contest. Drop by the Wet Noodle Posse blog and join the fun!

Monday: Candy Corn Isn't What It Used to Be

Tuesday: Top Ten Tips for Turning a Pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern

Wednesday: Hot Buttered Cider

Thursday: Writing Turning Points

Friday: Q&A Day—What's the best reason why unpublished romance authors should enter the Golden Heart?

Until next time,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Food for Thought—Boeuf Bourguignonne

Last weekend I went to see Julie & Julia. What a wonderful film! Meryl Streep is so brilliant that there were times when it felt as though I was actually Julia Child on screen.

I loved that both Julie and Julia were making boeuf bourguignonne in the film. This is one of my favorites—so much so that I actually used it in my last book, With This Ring. In the scene when Brent goes to Leslie’s place to return her wedding dress, Hannah has made boeuf bourguignonne for dinner.

I have always used the recipe in The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rambauer Becker. This has been my go-to cookbook for years. I used my old edition so much, it fell apart. After numerous repairs with scotch tape and elastic bands, it finally had to be retired. Several years ago, my family gave me a new copy for Christmas.

I’m a little embarrassed to say I do not own a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and that must change. And when I do get a copy, the first thing I’ll try is Julia’s version of boeuf bourguignonne.

Bon app├ętit!

Until next time,