Archive for March, 2008


Posted in This and that, writing on 03/29/2008 by Susan Shay

My family has always had horses. Not that we rode them much, but we owned them. When I was little, we lived in a very small town, and the horses were a few miles away on the family farm.  

One day, Chi Chi, my dad’s mare, had a colt. My aunt, who lived on the farm with her family, called. She was so excited she could hardly speak. “Chi Chi had her colt.”

Talk about thrilling. Everyone talked nothing but the horses that day. That afternoon they brought the mare and her colt to stay in the pasture behind our house.

And the best part? The colt was mine!

My cousins all had their own horses, and they’d named them, too. Trouble was, they weren’t very original. Randal’s horse was named Randy. Rodney’s horse was Rod and Roger’s was–you guessed it. Rog.

I was about three years old when the colt was born so naturally, I thought I should name my horse Susan. Mom nipped that idea right in the bud. “You can think of a better name than that.”

So I waited for the perfect name to come to me. I’d go out, hang on the fence and watch the colt nurse. She stayed right by her mom’s side all the time. Followed her around the pasture, and just about every time the mare stopped, the baby nursed. Finally I had a great idea.

I ran into the house, letting the screen door slam behind me. “I know what I’m going to name my horse!” I shouted.

“Okay. What’s it going to be?”

“Susie-Q.” I was so proud of coming up with the perfect name. “And the Q stands for cute!”

I told Marilyn Pappano the story when she was writing her book, The Horseman’s Bride, and gave her permission to use it in the story. Which she did, I’m proud to say! If you haven’t read Marilyn’s books, you’re missing out on a real treat.

And I’ll tell you a secret . . . she also writes as Rachel Butler, so there are even more books by Miss M for your reading pleasure.   


Posted in writing on 03/26/2008 by Susan Shay

I’ve been reviewed! And I have to tell you, I’m thrilled to bits! Suzanne Francis (you’ll find the link to her blog at the right) is the reviewer, and did an excellent job.

To be honest, I’m most impressed with her synopsis of TO SCHOOL A COWBOY. She did an excellent job, which leads me to believe she’s a talented and entertaining synopsis writer. And that’s not an easy thing to be. Most of the poeple I know dread and hate writing synopses. (Me included!)

So here’s what that wonderful woman wrote:

This Work is Free to use, or link to via html or RSS.

All work © 2008, MD Johnson, all rights reserved

Modern Western / Romance
Multi-format E-Book, Traditional Print
To School a Cowboy is the first published novel by Oklahoman Susan Shay.  She has penned an excellent work of romantic fiction, set in the present day, following the relationship between a handsome cowboy and a schoolteacher with a shady past.  Ms. Shay’s novel also confronts the gritty issue of child sexual abuse in a realistic, yet poignant way—without being preachy or heavy-handed.


The author of To School a Cowboy, Susan Shay, uses her knowledge of ranch life to good effect in this book.  The settings, portrayed as slices of small town Oklahoman life, feel authentic and are never intrusive.  When she describes the rugged landscapes outside of Carson, or the drug store in town or Boone’s working ranch, the words come alive, creating pictures that draw the reader into the story—as the following quote illustrates:

“Together they walked across the dirt road toward a shack, which was exactly the color of the surrounding trees. Several white beehives stood to one side and, farther back, a hen house. On the other side was a garden filled with flowers. Everywhere she looked, profusely blooming roses climbed ramshackle fences.

As they stopped on the small front porch, the door opened. Through the torn and mended screen, she saw a woman so old it was hard to tell where one wrinkle stopped and another one started. Her hair, thin and white, looked like a bit of lint from a clothes dryer.

It is the characters themselves who provide the fine dramatic heart of this novel.  From handsome cowboy Boone Dalton to the lovely Granny Glee we soon feel as though we know the people who live in Carson.  They become our friends, our neighbors, our ex-wives and husbands, all described in loving detail by the author.  Even unlikeable characters, like Boone’s ex-wife Stacy, are given the chance to grow.  When Stacy discovers that Annie is in danger, she is capable of acting decisively to protect her daughter.

Of course, no romance novel would be complete without a promise of a loving relationship.   Though they feel an immediate attraction to each other, both Julia and Boone, because of past experiences, have to learn to trust again.  As they get closer, we are cheering them on because we believe they are right for each other—almost before they know it themselves.  The author weaves the story skillfully, leaving us hoping and doubting right to the very end whether Boone and Julia will succeed in overcoming the odds.     

Ms. Shay unflinchingly portrays the menace of childhood sexual abuse, and its terrible aftermath.  We feel Julia’s fear—both for her own safety and the little girl she has grown to love.  The author gives us a compelling portrait of a courageous survivor who is determined not to let the same thing happen to anyone she cares about.

I give this novel, eight out of ten campfires.

RATING:  8 Campfires


Pretty cool, huh? And 8 campfires! Whoa!

Here’s where you can read the rest of the review:

Suzanne Francis was born in a hotel in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England and spent much of her early life traveling widely with her military family. In addition to writing, her passions include music, neo-paganism and tramping through the countryside. She now makes her home in Dunedin, New Zealand along with her husband and four children.

Heart of Hythea by Suzanne Francis is available now from
and the Kindle Bookstore.

Visit Suzanne at:
Suzanne Francis was born in a hotel in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England and spent much of her early life traveling widely with her military family. In addition to writing, her passions include music, neo-paganism and tramping through the countryside. She now makes her home in Dunedin, New Zealand along with her husband and four children.

Heart of Hythea by Suzanne Francis is available now from
and the Kindle Bookstore.

Visit Suzanne at:  www.suzannefrancis.comSuzanne Francis


It’s Magic!

Posted in writing on 03/25/2008 by Susan Shay

In case I haven’t mentioned it at least a thousand times recently, Romance Writers Ink is in the throes of our published author’s contest, More than Magic.

To enter, an author must send three copies of a book published in the last year. It only costs $25 to enter, and the top winner gets the price of Romance Writers of America’s national conference! That’s $425 this year. (That’s a $400 profit. Not bad!) Category winners get a beautiful gold pin that says, “Magic”.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It is–if you’re entering. But if you’re on the contest committee?


We were running low on entries, so we extended our deadline this year. Now we have a record number of entries! (You can always depend on romance writers to step up to the plate when they’re needed.)

That makes a record number of entries to coordinate. After all the books are in, it’s my job to group them with other books in that specific category. An author often enters several books in one category, which is fantastic, but we don’t want them in the same group. (If we can help it.) It’s just not fair for an author to have to compete against herself.   

I also assign judges (readers) for the contest, and that gets a little sticky, too.

All members of RWI must judge in our contests. (It’s a requirement.) And most RWI authors enter their books in our contest. (We’re a very supportive crew.)

However, a member of RWI can’t judge another member of RWI. (We like each other a lot, and that just wouldn’t be fair.)

A member of RWI can’t judge in a category she’s entered.

So we need a lot of outside judges. (Judges get to keep the books when the contest is over.) To get members to sign up judges, we have a little in-group contest to see who can get the most–and we award the winner $50! Member Margaret Golla, who worked at a local hospital, won for several years. But she stopped the hospital work to write full time, so last year, I won. (I donated the money back to the chapter for special projects.)

Now here’s the downside to winning that contest–Members who sign up judges are responsible for getting the books to them, and making sure they get their score sheets back to the scorekeeper. And believe me, that’s not an easy task!

One year a woman (teacher) didn’t get her scores to me, so I started sending her emails about them. Finally I called her. “I really need your scores.” I tried to be nice but firm.

“I guess you’ll just have to do without mine this year,” she answered in a superior teacherly manner.

My hair caught on fire, but I tried not to screech into the phone.  After all, she was a teacher and probably needed her hearing. “Are you kidding me? This is a contest where we get books from all over the world. I can’t just ‘do without’ your scores. If you can’t get them to me, give me those books back and I’ll score them myself.”

She did.

Another year we had a woman who accepted the books, then retired from her job and moved to New York. Even I wouldn’t go all the way to NY to get them.

What do we do when our books/judges disappear on us? We buy more books. Thank goodness there’s a good used book store nearby for books that are out of print. (Like Harlequin or Silhouette.)

People who do a poor judging job or who don’t get scores in on time aren’t asked to judge again. And after being harrassed for the scores, most are probably smart enough not accept if they were asked.

Did I enter TO SCHOOL A COWBOY in More than Magic this year? You bet! In two categories. Sensual contemporary (used to be called long contemporary) and first book.

That’s 6 people who probaby haven’t read my book–and 6 opportunities to connect with someone who just might love my stuff.

What do you think about contests? #4 just won one for her selling abilities. How about the rest of you? Why do you–or don’t you–enter?      

Weekend Reviewed

Posted in This and that, writing on 03/24/2008 by Susan Shay

So how was your Easter? Mine was great . . . and exhausting. 🙂

Because the kids were all going to be here, I cleaned. Oof! My downstairs (with the obvious exception of my office) now sparkles! But it took me two days to get it to shine stage. <g> Cleaning is not a favorite hobby of mine. (Big surprise. Right?)

But it feels so good when it’s over.

Oh! I can’t leave out More Than Magic–Romance Writer’s Ink’s published contest. I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow. Suffice it to say, I had to do the grouping/judge assignments over the weekend, which takes a few hours.

Happily, I got everything done.

Easter church was at the local school’s event center so there would be plenty of room for twice-a-year visitors. The music was fabulous! The fact that Sister Debbie was one of the praise and worship team singers doesn’t influence that observation at all.

When I sang on the worship team in Pryor, I called us the Doo-Wop singers. (I try to never take myself too seriously.)  But when I use that term for the current hometown crew, I’m sternly corrected by Sister Deb. Go figure!

No matter what you call them though, the service was wonderful. The woman who’s the praise/worship team leader also played the keyboard yesterday while she led the song service. Her four talented kids accompanied us on various guitars and drums. No mandolins, I’m sad to say. 😦          

I smoked a brisket for Easter supper. As usual, I asked DIL to make deviled eggs (she makes the best!) and Middle Son to make tabbouleh. I’m not sure how to spell it, but I’m a whiz at eating it. Yummers! And for some reason, MS gets just the right scald on it every time. (That’s family speak for he’s got the perfect touch.)

While everyone was here, we watched the first half of our traditional Easter movie, THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Only the first half because we started it too late to watch the whole thing before all the kids had to leave.

OS blames me for them liking the movie, since he says I forced them to watch it every year when they were small.

The really fun part about watching TSOM? My guys sang along! It was hilarious  to hear Oldest Son singing “I am sixteen, going on seventeen” –the female part of the duet–in a surprisingly on-key falsetto. (His wife has had such a good influence on him!) DIL and MS sang, too. I don’t often get to hear their beautiful voices.

BB, however, is much like his father and wouldn’t open his mouth except to laugh at his brothers. And his girlfriend is still a little shy around us, so she didn’t sing out. She is really nice, though. I like her a lot and have uber high hopes for that one!

After the kids left, I thought I was going to watch the rest of the movie, but the weekend caught up with me. I crashed! And didn’t get up this morning until after the alarm went off at 5:45. I’m usually up a couple of hours before that.

So what are your Easter traditions? (Please tell me I’m not the only mama in the world who doesn’t pass out baskets anymore.)      

Easter Fun

Posted in Funnies, writing with tags , , on 03/21/2008 by Susan Shay





This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I asked you to paint the walls “Eggshell.”


Adorable Easter babies.


A few Easter tips.


In case you can’t read them, here they are:


1- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

2- There’s no such thing as too much candy.

3- Some body parts should be floppy.

4- An Easter bonnet can tame even the wildest hare.

5- The grass is always greener in someone else’s basket.

6- Let happy thoughts multiply like bunnies.


Our Easter traditions seem to change as our kids get older, but I like to have everyone home for at least one meal (I’m smoking brisket for the feast this year) even if they can’t make the rest of the day.

In the best of all worlds, they’d all be home for church, too.

How about y’all? How do you celebrate?  

I’m Going to War

Posted in This and that on 03/20/2008 by Susan Shay

We live on the lake, so we fight creepy-crawlies all the time. From scorpions to slugs, in warm(ish) weather we constantly have something trying to slither, scamper or slide into our house. It’s an ugly side of a beautiful life. 😉

We we were first married, the house we lived in had lots of creeping ickies. Once I was home alone and looked up to see a scorpion, hanging on the wall between two pictures. The only other scorpion I’d ever seen was at my grandma’s house when I was a kid. I pointed it out to her, and she shrieked and jumped out of her rocking chair, then threw me out of harm’s way. (That scorpion was sick–I know because I’d touched the curve of his tail to see if it was alive before I showed  him to Grandma and it didn’t sting me.)

Grandma’s panic taught me just how afraid I should be of the monsters. So when I was grown and had a scorpion of my own to deal with, I wasn’t sure what to do. 

“Squash it,” I decided when I calmed down enough to think. But with what? Was a shoe big enough? Heavy enough? I didn’t know, and I sure didn’t want to deal with a furious scorpion if I toe smacked him and it wasn’t lethal.

Just to be safe, I decided I’d need something bigger and heavier than a shoe. I found the meanest book we owned– an Encyclopedia Britannica. I balanced it on my right hand, gathered all my strength and slam! I smashed it against the scorpion.

The wall shook. Both pictures fell to the floor.

Still afraid the thing would get me, I held that book there for about five minutes, then gingerly moved it. The scorpion was still on the wall. Or maybe I should say in the wall. The corpse was embedded in the Sheetrock.

The rest of the time we lived there, he remained entombed in that wall. I never did get him cleaned out.

But today my problem isn’t scorpions. (Thank heavens!)

It’s ants. Not big loner carpenter ants that wander around, then leave. It’s sugar ants (also known by another name that’s a four letter word and one my mama hated.)  And they aren’t marching 1-by-1 or even 10-by-10. They flooded in. The little buggers are coming in around the window, circling the sink and turning the counter top black. We put out ant baits,they suck them up like soda pop and come back for more.

And the weirdest thing about them, besides the fact that they carry off the dead bodies of their brothers in arms? They’re addicted to caffeine. No kidding! I moved my coffee maker after filling it with water, and there was a hoard of them under it. Under the grinder, where there’s usually a little coffee dust, there was another mob. And these guys are running around like they’re on speed!

So I used the ant spray, and could only hope I wouldn’t contaminate DH and me. (If I start growing ANTlers or want to run away to ANTarctica, I’ll let you know.)  

There’s background music to go along with this war. Remember the theme music from the Pink Panther? It’s constantly playing in my mind. Here are the words. DAMANT . . . DAMANT. . . DAMANT-DAMANT-DAMANT . . . DAMANT . . . DAMAAAAAANT!   

I just hope I don’t have to burn down the house to get rid of them.


Number Four?

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , on 03/19/2008 by Susan Shay

I thought you’d have a comment about the kids at Piper, Kansas and their problem. I know this happened a long time ago (2002 or older?) but I’m still shocked.

At the parents, not the kids.

I understand sophomores might not have had sufficient understand about what plagiarism is. When I was about that age, worked for the Cleveland American (newspaper). And I had to be the social editor once when the regular one was on vacation. Mostly it meant taking down socials on the phone. (Local “news” about who ate Sunday dinner with whom, and who came to town to visit.)

But in addition to that, I had to write one wedding story. The editor handed me the story from another paper and said, “You can’t copy it, but you can use it to get the information you need. You’ll have to change the wording.”

I was about as clueless as the kid who thought making one sentence into two kept him from being a plagiarist. (Is that a word?) BUT I had it explained to me in short order when I tried changing just a few words in the article.

I didn’t do a great job, but I learned a lot. And knowing what they paid me, that was the best anyone could hope for. 😉

After that I knew it was cheating to use someone else’s work.

Just since I’ve been writing romance, there have been at least two women who were caught plagiarizing. And one was so blatant, taking the work from a very famous author (Nora Roberts) in the same genre, it was hard to believe the woman hadn’t totally lost her mind.

So what do you think, Number Four–and anyone else out there. Should the parents have stepped up for the kids or let them take their punishment?     

%d bloggers like this: