Archive for August, 2008

Another First

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , on 08/29/2008 by Susan Shay

So now we have another first. The first African American presidential candidate. 

This is NOT a blog that’ll tell you how to vote–because I rarely know who I’m voting for until I’m in the voting booth actually doing it.

This is a blog about a candidate’s wife, Michelle Obama. What do I know about her? Very little. But I heard her being interviewed on the news the other night and I’d love to know her.

Why, you ask? Because she’s such an upbeat woman. She found the good side to everything she was asked. She has two grade school aged children who insisted they had to have a sleepover during the Democratic convention, and she let them. Fifteen kids at a slumber party during a stressful time like that! And the next day she could still laugh.

I don’t know, but I’m guess Barack slept in another room. My dh would have! Hopefully they have a nanny so Michelle got some sleep, too. 

When asked about Hilary Clinton, she expressed nothing but admiration and appreciation for the woman and her daughter, Chelsea, because of the great advice they’d given her and her girls.

When asked about people who decide how to vote by the color of a person’s skin rather than what they are inside, she answered that she couldn’t worry about them. She went on to happily explain why a person’s heart is what’s important. Not something as superficial as skin color.

I think I know the real reason most presidents have held other offices before they become the head guy in charge of the country–and probably the  most cussed and discussed man around. 

It’s so their wives can be groomed for the job. 

How many women could listen to complaints about their spouse and not go on the attack?

How many could watch them change as they usually do (stories about President Jimmy Carter’s loss of his smile come to mine) and not go into mourning?

How many could learn everything (present, past and supposed future) the press eeks out about the man they love, and remain sane? I’m willing to bet every president’s wife since Roosevelt had an eye-popping revelation sprung on her, and often while she was in public. Wouldn’t we all just love that?

Uh, no.  

So we have a first, and another first. A first African American presidential candidate  and a first African American first lady candidate.

If elected, will they do a good job? Well, I don’t know about Barack, but if Michelle were running, she’d have my vote.

Firsts, revisited.

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , on 08/26/2008 by Susan Shay

I mentioned yesterday how hard first chapters are to write. The funny thing about that is, most contests for unpublished writers involve the first chapter. Either the first three pages, first twenty pages, whatever. A request from an editor or agent often involves the first three chapters–so that “fun” first chapter gets to go.

Of course, there are a few other contests. Some involve only the synopsis or the query letter for a manuscript. Those, too, are difficult to write. (You seldom read the word synopsis in an article about writing without reading “dreaded” before it.)

So . . . what do you do if you want to write? You bite the bullet and try. Give it your best shot. Sweat blood. Then send it to your most trusted friend(s) to critique, tear apart and put back together.

Enjoyable? Not for a minute. I have a friend whose first chapter I just critiqued and, of course, made some suggestions. She wrote me back that she really appreciated those suggestions when she got through throwing a fit, rolling on the floor and screaming to the heavens that she hated me. (Okay, I embellished, but I have the feeling she was being nice when she told me about it.)

Do I mind? Not a bit because I want to see her publish that first book. I want to have another friend who’s a famous romance writer. And the only way I know to do that is to write those damned firsts again and again until we make them the best they can be.

Will the firsts get easier? I hope so! I see other writers who toss them out without so much as a blink of the eye.

Jaci Burton wrote an entire 30,000 word novella last week.

I’ve seen Marilyn Pappano write an entire Silhouette in three weeks’ time.

So apparently, it can be done. I just don’t know how many books I’ll have to write to be able to do it.


Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , on 08/24/2008 by Susan Shay

When the word “first” comes to mind, what do you think of? First love? A first kiss? The birth of your first child? First place in a contest? The first robin in spring? The first bloom in the garden?

There are some wonderful firsts in the world. 

First chapters are not one of them. Oh, not reading first chapters. Writing first chapters is what’s hard.  Why? Because so many things need to be there. Time and place. POV character. Goal, motivation, conflict.

And the first line. Oh, my gosh! Some believe a less than wonderful first sentence means trouble for your book. While she doesn’t say a bad first line will destroy your book’s chances, Karin Tabke sponsors a contest for best first lines. She’s encouraging new writers to find the best one possible. 

Are first lines easy? No. But they’re a little easier than first chapters–because they’re shorter. 😉

When Debra Dixon (author of GOAL, MOTIVATION, CONFLICT) came to speak to Romance Writers Ink a few years ago she asked me what I was working on. I told her I was struggling through  a first chapter. And being the shy, shrinking violet that I am, I shrieked, “I HATE FIRST CHAPTERS.”

She answered very softly. “I don’t know a writer anywhere who likes writing the first chapter of a book.”

That was amazing for me. Here I was an unpublished nobody talking to an multipublished romance author, a much sought after speaker and publisher who not only felt the same way I did but knew many other writers who felt that way, too. We all hate first chapters.

It doesn’t make them any easier to write. <g>

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m starting another book. Right now I’m calling it BR2. (A Barrel Racer and a Bull Rider are the hero and heroine.) It’s set in Wayback, Texas, in the present day.  

In case you’re wondering, The Wild Rose Press publishes a series of books set in Wayback, Texas.

I haven’t finished the first chapter yet, but I have the first line. 

“Do they still hang horse thieves in Texas?”


A New Development

Posted in writing on 08/17/2008 by Susan Shay

Yesterday was Saturday. A day off from work when I get to (what else?) work. And work I did. In the garden, mowing and (my least favorite) push mowing.

Before I went out I stuck my cell phone in my pocket so I wouldn’t miss anything. Then I spent a few hours in the great outdoors.

My time in the garden was too brief. I picked cucumbers. (anybody need some? I’m a fantastic cuke grower.) I picked peppers and I pulled grass. (I’m even better at growing grass in my garden than I am cucumbers.)

Next I got out the riding mower. It’s a big yellow tractor looking thing that has a cup holder and arm rests that flip up out of the way when you get off or on. And it cuts a 50 inch swath. It doesn’t take too long to mow our yard, but it takes a while.

After that I got out the push mower to do the edges and corners. It’s o-l-d, so the wheels kind of wobble and the thing that’s supposed to self propel it doesn’t. At least not so you’d notice. Our yard gets kind of steep toward the street, so shoving the mower up and down the incline is a struggle.

I know, I know, I have three sons. Why not make one of them do it? Well, one is married and has two yards of his own to mow, the other is in another town and mows his yard and his girl friend’s over there, and the one who lives here was gone all day. First to a wedding and then to visit the dead rattle snake. <kidding>

It couldn’t have been considered hot yesterday–the temp was maybe in the mid 80’s–but let me tell you, I worked up a sweat that would have made a boxer proud.

Finally after dh came home from the salt mines in Big K’s pharmacy, I finished. (The yard wasn’t quite finished but I was!) So I came into the house, got a big glass of water and collapsed.

That’s when it started. The house phone rang. “Oh, let me get it,” I grouched as I dragged myself off the loveseat. But when I answered the phone, there was no one there.

“I hate that.” I wanted to say more but I didn’t have the strength. Instead, I checked the phone to see who’d called.


Huh? It was my phone number on the caller id. How could that be? I took my cell phone out of my pocket to prove to myself that I did, indeed, have my phone.

The house phone rang again. I looked at my phone and it was lit up with the house phone number on it as if I’d just dialed a call except my flip phone was closed.  

My cell phone called us 5 times between 7:47 and 8:00, when we turned it off completely. Before we killed it I checked the battery, which was fine and full.

So what happened? I have no idea. Had a ghost gotten hold of my phone?

Was I getting a sign from beyond that I need to upgrade to an I-phone?

Or had my sweat short circuited the little red beauty?

I have no idea–but I’d LOVE to know if this ever happened to anyone else. Ever.

A Funny from #4

Posted in writing on 08/11/2008 by Susan Shay

I have a joke for you that my sister (aka #4) sent me.

Here’s a truly heartwarming story about the bond formed between a 5 year old girl and some kindly construction workers that will make you believe that we all can make a difference when we give a child the gift of our time.

A young family moved into a house, next to a vacant lot. One day, a construction crew began to build a house on the empty lot. The young family’s 5-year-old daughter naturally took an interest in the goings-on and spent much of each day observing the workers.

Eventually the construction crew, all of them ‘gems-in-the-rough’, more or less, adopted her as a kind of project mascot. They chatted with her during coffee and lunch breaks and gave her little jobs to do here and there to make her feel important. At the end of the
first week, they even presented her with a pay envelope containing ten dollars.

The little girl took this home to her mother who suggested that she take her ten dollars ‘pay’ she’d received to the bank the next day to start a savings account.

When the girl and her Mom got to the bank, the teller was equally impressed and asked the little girl how she had come by her very own paycheck at such a young age. The little girl proudly replied, ‘I worked last week with a real construction crew building the new house next door to us.’
‘Oh my goodness gracious’, said the teller, ‘and will you be working on the house again this week, too?’

The little girl replied, “I will, if those a**holes at Home Depot ever deliver the f***in’ sheet rock.”

Kind of brings a tear to the eye – doesn’t it? 8)
True story:
When my folks had 5 of their 6 kids, they decided their 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 living area house was too small. They had to build on. So they hired the Smith Brothers, the same men who’d built the original part of the house as well as my grandparents’ home next door and my dad’s two brothers’ homes some twenty miles away. (At least they knew who they were dealing with before hand.)
They worked on the house every day, of course, and my brother was captivated by them. He spent much of the day following them around, grunting when they grunted and yelling when they yelled.
The guys brought their lunch to work, of course, and my brother paid attention to that, and what they had to eat, too.
One day when it was time for lunch, they opened up their tin lunch boxes and one of the men found his cherry pie missing–Thanks, kid!
Imagine how embarrassed my mom was. Here she was a stay at home mother with only(!) five kids and she couldn’t keep them out of the workmen’s lunch pails.
That night she baked an entire cherry pie and presented it to the carpenters with her apologies. And no, brother wasn’t punished. (How do you smack a kid for knowing what’s good? Besides, he’s the only boy. ‘Nuff said.)
I doubt the Smith Brothers remember the missing pie (if they’re still alive) but my family will never forget. And we don’t let brother forget, either.
In my family we try to never forget an embarrassing story, no matter how many decades–or days–old it is.
And yes, my dh and boys do the same thing. It’s awful when you’re the topic and side-splitting funny when you aren’t.    

Makes me wonder if all families are like that or if it’s just in my DNA.

MS, Dad and the Rattler

Posted in writing on 08/11/2008 by Susan Shay

Rattler, as in snake. Yeah, a real one.

My middle son works for the family business where I work and my dad is head honcho. Not long ago MS was assigned a new responsibility. Since he’d never done any of that kind of work before, my dad went out with him to teach him what he needed to know.

On their way they had to drive over some really rough road, which was just outside a small housing division, so they were moving very slowly when Dad yelled, “Look at that!” and jumped out of the moving truck.

MS looked and there was a snake crawling across the road. A rattle snake–the most poison snake in Oklahoma. So when Dad jumped out, MS jumped out, too.

He had to jump back into the truck to stop it and put it in park.

In the mean time, my dad grabbed a 2 x 4 piece of lumber from the back of the truck and smacked Mr. Rattler right on his arrowhead shaped head. Now before I hear from all the animal/viper lovers out there, remember they were right next to a housing division full of small children who play barefoot in their yards.

Back to my story–MS had his camera with him, so he took a few pictures of the snake. The critter was as long as the tire tracks in the road. Too big for my liking! (Any rattle snake is too big for my liking.) Dad had MS put a 12″ wrench next to him before he took one of the pics, and told him to tell everyone that it was a 48″ long wrench. 🙂 I believed him!!!

He also took a picture of the rattles on the snake, but he didn’t cut them off.

If he’ll let me, I’ll post one or two of MS’s snakey pics. They make me shiver!

There are people in this world who think that the only good snake is a dead snake. I’m not one of them. (Go back a few days and you’ll see the pretty green snake I wrote about.) Black snakes are great snakes, eating rats and mice and other vermin.

In Oklahoma , though, there are three kinds of venomous  snakes–rattlers, cottonmouth water moccasins and copper heads. A bite from any of them can be deadly, and we’re taught as kids to be careful and watch out!

Your Favorite Blog (And . . . Rachel’s Back!)

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , on 08/07/2008 by Susan Shay

Hey y’all! Rachel Butler is back for her first blog in two months. Marilyn Pappano’s blog, though, is lost in space. Too bad. This pair is a real riot when one or the other isn’t on some kind of soapbox–like the price of gasoline. 😦

 I read another blog today that kept me totally entertained. It’s .

I like to call her Dr. Cyn, but she doesn’t seem to enjoy that title a lot. She’s a soon to be pubbed writer with a dry sense of humor that I really enjoy. 

It’s easy to tell what blogs I read. Most of them are listed in the sidebar to the right. I have to catch up with Dr. Tom every day or two. He has a laid back style and tells stories about being a doc in a small southern town, growing up in a small southern town, playing golf and bluegrass in . . . well, you get it. He tells about life. In a small southern town. And while I’ve never seen a picture of him, he says he looks like Captain Kangaroo. 8)

 Jaci Burton has me reading her day after day to find out what’s going on in her exciting life, too. And she has a new author photo up. Gorgeous! And looks just like her. She keeps us updated on life in her part of the world, writing, writing, writing AND being a Harley rider. (Don’t you love it?!?) 

And Suzanne Francis keeps us up-to-date with her writing life as well as life in New Zealand, which is totally upside down and backwards from life in this hemisphere. She’s full of fun. 

And then there’s Riding With the Top Down. Talk about entertaining! My favorite thing about blogs is getting a little peek inside the life of the blogger, but this blog often has guest bloggers. They give us a sneak peek inside their books coming out.

Some of my favorites aren’t regular bloggers. Such as Jackie King. She’s a wonderful read, when she blogs. (hint! hint!) And Jackie Kramer. (Right now her blog is lost in space, too!)  These women are so entertaining. But their busy lives keep them from entertaining me often enough. Jackie Kramer is a pediatric nurse and stays way too busy taking care of those little buggers. Go figure!

So What’s your favorite blog and why do you read it? To get to “know” the blogger? To find out about their professional lives? The soapboxes they get on? Or because they make you laugh?

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