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Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

bouquetHere’s a bouquet of roses for you.

Now, when someone asks if you got flowers, you can say, “Why, yes. Yes, I did.”


From the Heart

From the Heart

heartI have received some interesting Valentine’s Day gifts. They’re all memorable to me because of WHO gave them to me.

Jack gave me a volume of poetry, a copy of Afternoon Delight (despite the fact that the song was written about a sandwich that’s not why Jack gave it to me), and a silver bracelet he’d bought in Germany. I still wear the bracelet.

Doug gave me an artificial rose that squirted the most horrible perfume I’ve ever smelled from it. The closest approximation I can come up with was when I was 11 and at the El Matador Restaurant here in San Antonio. For a quarter, you could get squirted with perfume from a vending machine in the bathroom. I had a quarter in my pocket, so I chose one of the four “scents” and got squirted. When I came out and sat at the table with my parents and their guests, I was immediately whisked back to the bathroom to be washed as much as possible in a sink. Evidently the perfume was a cross between dead skunk and eau de decaying lizard. Same with the rose.

David gave me tickets to a show I wanted to see. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a babysitter, but it was the thought that counted. No, as broke as we were back then, it was the thought and the money.

Chuck gave me a watch. Unfortunately, I went on and on in a tirade the night before Valentine’s Day telling my friends that a guy gets a watch when he can’t think of anything else to get – and he heard, of course. I’ve since learned a lot: such as shutting up is appropriate, and being grateful for anything I receive.

Mike gave me the Gift of Mike, tied with a red bow. Or, as he liked to say, he was the gift who kept on giving.

I am so grateful to have known such great men in my life. Sometimes the gifts were goofy but they were always from the heart.

How about you? What gifts do you remember?

Why Scotland?

Why Scotland?

I think Scotland is shorthand, and that’s one of the reasons it’s often used as a backdrop for historical romance.

Shorthand for:

  • A country striving for freedom (built in conflict)
  • A country filled with independent, rugged, warrior-like people (a little stereotypical, but we’ll work with that for the moment).
  • A country with bitterly cold weather during eight months of the year (weather can be a character, too).

I have written 18th and 19th century Scottish romances, but I’m nowhere near an expert on Scotland. (I get a little annoyed by people who bill themselves as experts, actually.)

It is my impression, however, that after the last Jacobite rebellion (1745) that the majority of Scots were trying to make the best of a bad situation. The desire for independence seems to have been an underlying current, but the Scots were being educated in England and after Victoria decreed her love of Scotland, absorbing the English more and more into their country. It’s the same feeling I suspect the Confederates had after the Civil War.

I’ve often thought that Scots and Texans are very much alike. There’s a rugged individualism, pride of place, and determination that links them. I offer this map that I posted before but which still amazes me. It shows how big Texas is and how small the entire country of Scotland is in comparison.

scotlandvstexasI’m surprised that more books aren’t written with Texas as a backdrop, but maybe it’s because it’s too familiar, too close. Or maybe it’s that western thing vs the more European flavor of Scotland.

But unlike any other country, I think, even England, writing a book that takes place in Scotland allows an author to immediately transmit something to a reader: this book will feature strong characters, a beautiful backdrop, and fierce emotions.

What do you think?


A Conversation with Flash the Wonder Pooch

A Conversation with Flash the Wonder Pooch

FLASH SMILINGI sat at my desk for a heart-to-heart talk. Flash sat on my feet.

“You know, you don’t have it all that bad.”

Flash gave me a steady look from big brown eyes.

“There are some dogs who would undoubtedly say that you have a pretty good thing.”

Heavy sigh from the dog.

“I know, being a writer’s dog is boring,” I said.

Flash studied his toenails.

“I’m home all day. You’re rarely alone. Maybe once a month for a few hours. I leave a room, you follow me. I enter a room, you follow me. We’re together all day.”

He groomed his paws.

“It’s not as if you’re alone for more than five seconds. We’re attached by Velcro, fuzzy butt. Sorry about the bathroom door, but there are just some things I will not share.”

Brown eyes are now rolling. (Mine, not his.)

“Yes, I want you to be quiet in the morning, but I go and exercise with you twice a day. I play with you. I cuddle you. I give you puzzles to stimulate your mind. I care about if you’re cold. I take you to the vet. I spend a fortune on your food.”


“Yes, I know, the road crews have driven you nuts in the last month, not to mention what the jackhammer does to you. But they’re gone now.”

One more yawn (impressive display of sharp teeth).

“So, what’s with the attitude lately? You don’t bark at me, buddy. YOU don’t demand when we play, got it? And stop going to the window and whining, like you want the road crew to be back. Or you’re pining for the sight of a squirrel. I have to work.”

He turned and walked away.

I shrugged and considered the lecture well given.

However, I can’t help but remember my son and his teenage years. I love my son, but that was not a fun time. Same scenario of me being serious and wanting to connect, mind to mind. Same bored look. Same barely concealed impatience. Flash is five now. Maybe that’s what we’re going through, hmm?


Milestones and Goals – Which is More Important?

Milestones and Goals – Which is More Important?

I reached an important milestone the other day. I made #1 in Amazon’s ranking of authors for both ebooks and other books: (Click to enlarge.)


Now, I’ve only stayed there a couple of days and since Amazon changes the list hourly, I’m just happy to have made it at all. I’m very happy and it’s something for which I’ve never planned.

And that, to me, is the definition of a milestone: an important event that requires no planning, no goal setting, but which marks progress on your journey.

Goals? They’re things I do every day. I must write 5000 words a day, even if I delete all 5000 tomorrow (which has never happened, but it might). I must do my health things, like walking. Those are goals.

I once read something about goals. The writer was saying that you should plan for only those things you can control. Put the other stuff under “dreams”.

For example, “Write the best book you can” is a goal.

Make the New York Times Bestseller List is a dream.

Milestones, about which you also have no control, are important, too.