Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Quotable Quotes

I like to read quotes. Sometimes I check my massive Bartlett's Book of Quotations. Other times I peruse one of the many little inspirational quotation books people have given me. I write them out, print them out or cut them out and put them up next to my computer. I don't know why, but reading profound words just makes me feel good. Because I like others to feel good too, I thought I'd share my current favorites with you :)

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated. -- Maya Angelou

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. -- Winston Churchill

Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. -- Arnold H. Glasow

Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on. -- Samuel Butler

I searched high and low for an epigraph for my book, The Remains of the Dead. I found that nobody's words of wisdom fit better than these by Andy Warhol:

Dying is the most embarrassing thing that can ever happen to you, because someone’s got to take care of all your details.

How about you, do you have any favorite quotes?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Graduation Day

My "baby" graduated from high school last Saturday. This is my fourth son to go through this school, so I've been connected to the institution for 11 years. People expected me to boohoohoo big time--and it was touch and go there when the mom next to me was sobbing. But I didn't shed much more than half a tear.

Why didn't I blubber all over my husband? Well, I am--I hope--getting over pneumonia, so part of my focus was on not passing out. But I also tried to think more about the future than the past. My son was ready to leave. (And ok, after 11 years, maybe I was, too.) And kids have to grow up, right? (I wish parents didn't have to grow older at the same time, but that's a subject for a different blog.)

When I graduated from my various schools, I tried to focus on the future, too. It was time for a new challenge, as scary as that often was. The rhythm of my life changed, but I wasn't giving up my friends. I might not see them regularly, but I could stay in touch via phone and letters--and these days via the Internet.

So how about you all? Do you pull out the tissues at graduations, do you grin and party on--or do you find some middle ground?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Television Season Finales

This is the time of TV season finales--so far, the ones I've seen have NOT disappointed me!

First up--The Office. was terrific! As usual, the writers managed to surprise me, while having the characters (well, Jim and Pam, at least)act in a way that seemed very real, very natural. Can I just say, once more for the record, that I LOVE Jim and Pam?!?!?!?!?! I really think they are the best TV couple ever. I have no idea how I'm going to wait till next fall to find out what happens next! Still my all-time favorite TV show.

Second--Dancing With the Stars. I've been hooked since the second season (I missed the first season--except for the 'dance off' between John O'Hurley and Kelly Monaco)--everyone in my house loves this show, even the kids! I thought this season was probably the best so far, as least so far as talent goes. By the time it was down to the final four--Ian, Laila, Apolo, and Joey--I was having a hard time picking a winner. Laila was probably my least favorite, but I adore her partner Maksim (he's not only fabulously good looking, but also an amazing dancer!). Apolo was so good, he almost looked like a professional dancer, and Joey was a great dancer AND a great showman. Ultimately, I think the fans chose the correct winner--though in some ways, I enjoyed Joey's performances more than Apolo's, I think Apolo probably had a more difficult challenge, as I assume Joey already had a fair amount of dance experience in N'Sync. All in all, a great season!

Lastly--LOST. Was anyone else as stunned as I was by the revelation at the very end?! And...the character who died (don't want to include spoilers, in case you haven't seen it yet), do you think he's really dead?! I hope not--I loved him! I think it's been a jaw-dropping season of LOST, and the finale was no exception. So, do you think Ben is really a good guy?! I'm starting to think maybe he is. Maybe he wasn't lying (regarding what he told Jack about getting rescued). And GO, SAWYER! I think we need t-shirts that say, "That's for taking the kid off the raft!". Sawyer is such a terrific anti-hero--how can you not love him? Anyway, I can't wait till next season!

Anyone else enjoying the finales? Any favorites so far? Any disappointments? Any theories about the above shows you'd like to share?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Existential musings

Things aren't working so well in the MacKenzie household. If you read the Blue Screen of Death post, you know the MacKenzie machines are on the fritz. Well, I found out yesterday I have walking pneumonia. (Why do I want to hum "Waltzing Matilda"?) Actually, I'm happy. I've got drugs. But it got me thinking about life and art. Hmm. Well, it got me thinking about stuff.

On this day 23 years ago at 1:20am, I gave birth to my second son. I'm glad I didn't have pneumonia then. And last year I was in the hospital also, but this time waiting for my mom to die. (She died a year ago tomorrow.) Again, I'm glad I didn't have pneumonia, though I did end up getting sick with something respiratory after the funeral. Last year on this coming weekend--Memorial Day weekend in the States--we had my mom's funeral. This year we have my fourth son's high school graduation.

Some people believe life just happens and others believe that Someone is overseeing things in some way. At the moment I'm just thinking it looks like things are going to work out for us for graduation at least. I hope. Knock on wood. (Graduation boy is off on a senior retreat, so we don't know for sure how he's doing. And we do have a few days left for a disaster or two.)

That's one of the nice things about writing books. As author, you're in control of the story. You can make bad things happen--or not. And in most romances--in my books, at least--the reader knows there will be a happy ending.

Here's to happy endings! (And Azithromycin Pak.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Urban Legends

Chain Emails. Sometimes they're sent by well-meaning, albeit misinformed friends. My inbox has seen a LOT of these.

The Glade Plug-in Scam: Unplug your air fresheners or your house will burn down!

The Perfume Robbers: Careful shoppers! Women are being approached in parking lots and knocked out by sniffing perfume samples.

Yesterday I received one telling me not to pick up calls coming into my cell phone from certain numbers.

"If the calls comes up from these numbers, its with very high wave length, and frequency. If a call is received on mobile from these numbers, it creates a very high frequency and it causes brain hamorage. It's not a joke rather, its TRUE. 27 persons died just on receiving calls from these numbers. Watch Aaj Tak (NEWS), DD News and IBN 7."

OMG! There is no way I want to have my brain suffer ham or rage (or hemmorhage for that matter) by a phone number! Of course, I checked it out at Snopes before tossing out my phone. It's pretty pathetic that Snopes needs to exist to save us from ourselves and all our well-meaning friends LOL.

So do you have a favorite email hoax or urban legend you'd like to share?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Blue Screen of Death

Do I need to say more?

My not-very-old laptop quit on me Thursday. I'd been working on the first chapter of The Naked Baron, trying to get into the characters. I was on my umpty-umpth (yes, that word is in the dictionary) revision and had gotten something to work. It was brilliant! I went off on a reward break to check email on another computer. When I came back....

The Blue Screen of Death.

I had to go out to buy a new dishwasher--obviously, this is a bad time for MacKenzie machines--so I turned the laptop off, said a prayer over it, and hoped it would be all better by the time I got back.

It wasn't. I didn't even get the Blue Screen of Death. Just this ominous message: "Read failure on internal hard drive. No bootable devices...."

The Geek Squad guessed that it was a bad hard drive and the chances of recovering my brilliant prose were only 50-50. About the chances of recovering it from my onboard computer, my poor head.

It could have been a lot worse. I think everything on that computer was backed up. (I always back up now before I turn the machine off for the day and often email the work to myself so I can get it if something bad happens to my backup disk.) So I only lost the day's work which wasn't that extensive. Brilliant, yes (at least it seems brilliant, probably because I can't recall it) but not really that much of a disaster.

I did have a moment of nostalgia for my old electric typewriter--no blue screen of death there. It was only a moment. Well, more a nanosecond. I never want to go back to the land of liquid paper fumes, where "cut and paste" meant getting out the scissors.

So I'll continue to back up at the end of the day and hope the new laptop has a long life and doesn't go belly up at a really bad time. But first I have to register all the darn software, hope I can manage to get my OED to load on, and figure out Vista.


Anyone want to share a computer disaster story? Misery loves company!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dirty Dancing, Anyone?

DIRTY DANCING, one of the fun-est (is that a word?) movies of all time, is twenty years old.


I was in college when I first saw it, and I clearly remember the rush of scandalized excitement from the great music, the dancing, and, most of all, the love story between Baby and Johnny Castle. BTW, I don’t know if the producers could have come up with any campier names, but that’s not the point. I ran right out and bought both soundtracks on tape and listened to them endlessly in my car.

Those were the days.

To celebrate this twenty-year milestone, I recently bought, and watched, the DD DVD. I gotta tell ya, the movie holds up. I still love Johnny and Baby, and I still cringe, but in a good way, when Johnny says that dumb line at the end, right before they dance the finale, “No one puts Baby in the corner.”

Here are some other great dance movies, in no particular order:

Saturday Night Fever (duh!);


Save the Last Dance; and

Dance With Me.

Anyone else love Dirty Dancing? What’s your favorite dance movie?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Weird or Wonderful?

What do you think of this ring?
Too simple?
Not flashy enough?

Okay, how about this bracelet? It's kind of pretty, right?

These are Memory Jewels. They are made from (get ready for it) . . . your loved one's remains.

If someone you loved died, would you consider using their ashes to make a piece of jewelry? It has some practical uses. After all, in an urn your loved ones don't get out much. This way you can have them with you, even on you, forever.

You could have a complete collection ... Dearly Departed Aunt Mary circling your finger, Grandpa Bob dangling from your earlobes and your cat Fluffy on a pendant around your neck.

Would you? Could you?

Unpaid Endorsement

I spend most of the winter in a desperate and usually futile effort to keep my hands from feeling like sandpaper. I think I’ve tried every lotion on the market at least once, and only one or two of them ever really did the trick.

Still, hope springs eternal, so the other day, when I was roaming the mall instead of *COUGH* writing, and wandered into Restoration Hardware (what a name!) I was interested to see the following: No-Crack Hand Cream.

Yeah, right. I’ve heard THAT before.

I tried a little from the tester jar and … fell in love. The stuff WORKS. And it smells good, too—wonderful scents like Sweet Orange, Cucumber Mint and Shore.

I LOVE it—so much so that I bought a jar, and then, when I needed more for the car and my nightstand, I went back and bought 2 more jars.

Whew. I just needed to share. Restoration Hardware's No-Crack Hand Cream. Love it.

So what about you? Discovered any new beauty essentials lately?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ADHD, anyone??

Recently, my oldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD--not a big surprise, as we've sort of thought she was ADHD all along. It was very hard to diagnose her, because she doesn't have any of the things that frequently accompnay it--learning disabilities, oppositional disorders, etc. In fact, she's an excellent student, very compliant, and very, very bright. She was one of those babies that was speaking in complete, sophisticated sentences by twelve months, reading by age know the type. But she was also constantly in motion, like a little wind-up toy that just never stops. She talks all the time, and loudly. Is distracted. Loses things. Has to be reminded several times to finish a simple task (even getting dressed!). She's also impulsive, blurting things out in school, touching everything, distracting those around her.

Each day is a struggle for her, and she feels badly about it--she really wants to please her teachers/parents, to 'be good.' But sometimes she just can't. And when she is able to keep herself together and focused, it's totally exhausting and draining. That's not fun, for a kid. To have to work that hard, just to keep your impulses under control. Her self esteem should be soaring--she's smart, funny, interesting, and a real leader. Instead, her self esteem suffers daily, because she feels 'different,' as if something 'isn't right' with her.

The past few weeks have been filled with evaluations, testing, interviews, and consultations. And the long and short of it, she does fit the profile for ADHD--quite strongly, actually--and the only proven treatment, they claim, is medication.

Which, frankly, frightens me. My husband, particularly, is anti-medication--the guy has to be almost completely incapacitated before he'll break down and take cold medicine or even simple pain relievers. He's researched several 'alternative' treatments, though, and while some seem interesting, like biofeedback, none have actually been proven effective. we walked out of the neuro-psychiatrist/pharmacologist's office with a prescription in hand, but I have to say, I'm still feeling totally freaked out about the whole idea. Granted, these meds have been around a long time and have been proven safe with no-long term affects. In theory, that sounds great. But this is MY kid we're talking about.

Anyone have any experience with a child/friend's child/relative with ADHD? If so, was the child put on medication? How did it work out? Any stories to help me feel better about this decision?

Friday, May 11, 2007


There are some parts of writing a book I love: the first scene between the hero and heroine, the first kiss, the moment one of them says the big three words "I love you"...but by far the best thing is writing THE END. Because you're done. DONE. Nothing comes next. Well, sure, there's proofreading and maybe some revising and editing, and you never know what the editor will say so there might be loads more work ahead of you. But for the that moment, that one shining, glorious moment, you are done.

Finishing a book is the last day of school, the last day of work, Friday afternoon in the summer when you have a beach house for the weekend, and Cinqo de Mayo, all wrapped into one. Why Cinqo de Mayo? Because there are extra-large margaritas. Fiesta time! It's also like crawling to the finish line of an extra, extra, EXTRA long marathon, through the snow, with no clothes on, dragging a fifty pound weight behind you, uphill all the way.

And I...just...finished...this...week!

Now I can do all the things I haven't done for six months while I was writing/thinking about writing/agonizing about NOT writing/deleting huge portions of writing because it stunk/fantasizing about writing a completely different, new, book/writing, writing, writing. Here's my To-Do list:

1) Lie in hammock and read book. Any book I have not written. Perhaps TO LOVE A SCOUNDREL, if only I could get my hands on a copy...

2) Fix myself an especially tasty lunch (finishing a book seems to require large amounts of junk food, but now I can go back to eating good food)

3) Clean house...cut grass...blah blah some point.

That's pretty much it!

What's on your list? How do you celebrate Something Big?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Prom Time

I'm trying to start a new book. Whine, groan, grumble. I am not an author who delights at an empty computer screen.

Rather than bore you all to tears with my whining, I'll introduce a new topic--it's also prom time at the MacKenzie house. Since the prom goer in this abode is male, there's not a whole heck of a lot of excitement here. No shopping for clothes--the kid has already gone to rent-a-tux. I remembered to order the corsage--yes, I suppose the kid should be doing this, but I'm thinking of the girl here. I've been trying to pry some bits of a plan out of him, and I've supplemented those efforts by calling the parents of his friends. Since he goes to an all male high school, this means I'm talking to mothers of boys--the blind leading the blind--but whatever. I'm happy to say the picture is beginning to come into focus. Nice, since prom is tomorrow.

Anyway, in honor of the event, I invite anyone who dares to share a detail or two of his or her prom experience. I'll start, shall I? I went to an all girls high school. One of my friends set me up for the senior prom. I spent the pre-prom dinner upstairs in my friend's bedroom, in agony with killer menstrual cramps (can we say that on this blog?). My date was an aspiring priest who worked after school at a funeral home. (No, I am not making that up.) He came up to hold my hand and practice being sympathetic. When we finally got to the prom, he promptly deserted me to go minister to a boy who was throwing up in the men's room.

As to the rest of the evening? Hmm. I can't say I remember--the noteworthy stuff really happened up front. And then he invited me to his prom a few weeks later, but it was just a normal prom. I don't remember a thing about it.

So, any amusing--or touching--prom stories out there in cyberland? Was it a dream come true? (That includes nightmares.) Or did you, like my husband and third son, just give it a pass?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Truths About Publishing...

A few people have asked me about publishing and how an author 'makes it big', so I thought I'd address it here. Readers--the first thing you should know is, you are a very powerful force! As far as commercial fiction goes, the market is driven by what you buy, not by what you enjoy.

For example, say a book comes out about a tree frog's romance with a horned toad. Let's say the book is awful, just horrible, but people everywhere are talking about it. Suddenly, all over the 'net, you'll hear people saying, "Gee, my curiosity is piqued. I've GOT to buy this book, to see just how bad it really is." So the sales soar, even though the reviews suck. Next thing you know, publishers will be putting out tree frog/horned toad romances by the boatload. Forget the other romances out there--the ones with the excellent reviews. "Everyone wants tree frogs!" the publishers say. And that's what readers will get. "But I hated it!" a reader might protest. Truth is, that doesn't matter as much as the fact that they bought it.

It's all about NUMBERS--and by numbers, I mean sales. In 'ye olden times'--a.k.a. five to ten years ago--an author was allowed to build a career. Oftentimes, they'd put out ten, twelve books before 'making it'--hitting a bestseller list a decade after they'd begun their career. Nowadays, an author has two, maybe four books to break out, or they're in serious danger of 'game over'. Nowadays, there is no 'midlist.' There are bestselling authors, and there are new authors. Not a lot in between. If you don't make the cut, and quickly, you're in deep doggie doo-doo.

So, as a reader, what can you do to support your favorite authors? First off, buy new when you can. It's totally understandable that this isn't always an option--and yes, I firmly believe that libraries and used book stores can also help an authors' career (how many times have you checked out a book from the library--a new author to you--and enjoyed the book so much that you subsequently purchased the author's upcoming titles or backlist? I've done this!). But simply put, buying new is the only way to make your 'voice' heard by publishers and booksellers.

Also, buy a book during its official week of release (you can generally find out a book's release date by looking it up on, or by visiting the author's web site). Bestseller lists are generally computed by sales velocity, measured during the week of a book's release, rather than by actual sales totals. So, a book that sells 10,000 copies all total--all during its release week--will 'do better' than a book that sells 30,000 copies over the course of a month (meaning, that author is more likely to get offered a subsequent contract). Oftentimes, a book will trickle out one or two weeks before its actual release date, and those early sales actually hurt an author's chance of making any bestseller lists. So, best time to buy a book? The week it comes out!

What if you go into a bookstore and see that your favorite author's new title is sold out? Ask them to order more copies! They can, and they should--but if the demand isn't there, they won't.

Lastly, if you love an author's work, tell someone! Word of mouth is probably the best advertising there is. Tell your friends, your co-workers, your family. And don't loan them your copy--make them buy their own! Post a positive review on for a book you've loved. Talk about it on message boards and blogs. Write the author and ask if they have bookmarks they can send you. They probably do, and they'll be thrilled to send you a stack to hand out to your friends or to local booksellers. In fact, you'll probably make their day.

Spreading the word about a book you've enjoyed creates 'buzz' and buzz sells books--and selling books means that that author will have the chance to write more books for you to enjoy!

In fact, let's start here--now! I'd love to hear about a book you've read recently and really enjoyed. Doesn't have to be romance--it can be any genre!

I'll go first...I just read Tracy Anne Warren's THE HUSBAND TRAP, and loved it! Even though the plot set up is rather cliched (twins switching places), Ms. Warren managed to make it totally fresh. Both the heroine and hero were extremely likable. I actually don't read a lot of historicals these days, but I was hooked on this one from the very first chapter. I definitely plan on buying the other two books in the series--THE WIFE TRAP and THE MARRIAGE TRAP--to read on vacation next month!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Free Paris!

If you’ve been looking for a worthy cause to support, search no more.

Forget the tragedies in Darfur, the AIDs crisis in Africa, the tornado victims in Kansas, the families of the Virginia Tech massacre victims, and those citizens still struggling because of Katrina. No, friends, there is a worthier candidate for our collective energy these days.

I’m talking, of course, about Paris Hilton’s petition for a pardon from the Governator.

Yes, you, too, can go to Paris’s MySpace page, click the link, and sign your name to the petition. Maybe if enough of us sign, Governor Schwarzenneger will have mercy, and she will be spared that horrendous 45-day jail term to which she’s been sentenced.

Can a Paris Hilton legal defense fund be far behind?

What, still here? What’re you waiting for?

Anyone else besides me feeling a little nauseous about poor Paris’s travails?

Friday, May 04, 2007


We went to the ballgame last night, so you'll have to forgive me for being a) late in posting; and b) braindead. It was a very exciting game, lots of runs scored, first by the visiting team (Seattle Mariners) and then by the home team (Boston Red Sox), and a late inning game-winning home run. We stayed to the glorious end, which meant getting home pretty darn close to midnight.

I was all set to let my kids sleep late this morning and just go to school late--I can't do anything when I'm half asleep, so it seems hypocritical to require them to learn in that state--but to my shock they sprang up even earlier than usual, ready to go. All they could talk about was the game: "Remember when the Red Sox were down by five runs?" "Yeah, but then they scored 7! And Manny hit TWO home runs!" "I know, that was amazing!" "I'm so glad we got to stay until the end!" At least, I think that's what they were saying; I was dozing against the wall, using a dish towel as a pillow.

This is the way it is with Red Sox fans, though. It's not just a sport, it's an obsession. I wasn't born a Sox fan--converted when I got married--but we are surely raising two devoted little fans. I have learned to warn teachers at school after a particularly heartbreaking loss at Fenway; my son roots hard, and he carries a grudge. When the Sox won the World Series, it was a month-long high.

So what's your team? Do you stay up late to watch them or do you have a TiVo?


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Back in the saddle again....

Yesterday I went to ballet class. Not *just* to an hour-and-a-half ballet class, but I also stayed and took a half-hour pointe class afterward. Why is this a big deal, you ask?! Only because it has been SEVENTEEN MONTHS since my last ballet class. In fact, it's been seventeen months since I've done any sort of exercise whatsoever. Which wouldn't be such a big deal, except that I had been taking three or four ballet classes a week prior to that. I *was* in pretty good shape. And then my schedule got complicated, a slew of kids' birthday parties kept me from my weekend classes, and then the more classes I missed, the harder it was to go back. Time passed. My dance bag got stuck in the back of my closet. I put on 20 lbs., which is a lot on my small frame.

Finally, last week, I'd had enough. I saw pictures of me taken at a recent event, and I almost didn't recognize myself with that added weight. I'm tired all the time. I have no energy. My body aches. I just feel blah, uninspired. For months, I've thought about going back to ballet, but worried about surviving that first class; about having the stamina to get through it. About putting on a leotard and tights and having to watch myself in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors. I even worried about all my ballet class pals having moved on--what if I didn't know anyone?

But yesterday, I finally did it. I put on the leotard. I dug out my dance bag. I found my tattered old ten-class-card, with one remaining class. Drove myself to class, and, my knees knocking with nerves, walked into the studio. Lo' and behold, there were my old buddies at the barre, smiling and welcoming me back. The teacher went easy on me, knowing it had been way too long since my last class. I made it through class, only wimping out during the petit allegro--that would be the combination of small, fast, tricky jumps. I thought I was going to drop dead at the end of class from sheer exhaustion--but I did it! Not only that, I succumbed to peer pressure and dug out those pointe shoes and stayed for pointe class. No, it wasn't pretty, but it's a start. I pledged to my friends that I'd come to class every Monday and Wednesday morning--two classes a week is a good start. Maybe after that, I can add a third class. I bought a new ten-class card! I'm back in the saddle again, so to speak!

In the end, the class itself wasn't nearly as bad as the anticipation/anxiety leading up to it. Why did I take so long to get back to something that I love so much? That my body sorely needed?

Have you ever done this--quit exercise class, or yoga, or painting, or pottery...whatever your passion is? And then missed it terribly but found it difficult to go back to it? Did you finally find your way back? I'd love to hear your stories!

And for the record, yeah, I'm in AGONY today. Honestly, I can barely walk. But it's worth every ache and pain!

On a totally unrelated note, I wanted to tell you about a special contest I'm running on my web site from now till June 5th. The grand prize is this gorgeous ruby bracelet set in sterling silver, a $150 value, from Ross Simmons.

I hope you'll take a minute to check it out HERE.