Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bank Accounts & Shaving Kits

I have been reading Kathryn Forbes’s book of family stories, Mama’s Bank Account — my own mother’s favorite book and one given to me by my eldest sister thirteen years ago.

My mother was a story-teller in her own right, keeping me entertained for hours during my childhood and teenage years. In tribute to her, I asked her to write her stories about her experience during World War II. I published these in a small print run for her 90th birthday to share with my siblings and their families.

After her death, I published her stories in a digital edition, now available to the world.

Watching the funeral of Justice Antonin Scalia reminded me of how much my father influenced my life. My mother used to say “If you don’t want to do something you don’t think is right, tell the other girls that your mother won’t let you.” After my father’s death when I was thirteen, and for many years after, I found myself saying, “If my father was alive, he would not let me do this.” Thankfully, I was spared the most dire consequences of my stupidity.

Reading Forbes’s account of her early family life in San Francisco brought many personal memories to mind. One of the stories was titled “Mama and the Graduation Present” which reminded me of a Christmas present I received from my mom and dad when I was in my preteen years.

I had just started junior high school (now called middle school for some strange, unknown to me, reason) and my female peers had a great influence on my sense of what was expected of teenage girls. Besides the usual hair style and pegged jeans (my generation’s equivalent of skinny jeans), the gym-suit and short socks required smooth legs.

My crime became known to my mother when my father cut his chin while shaving with a dull razor. Since I had expressed a desire for a lady’s razor and that request was denied, the perpetrator was obvious to her. Without revealing her sources, she assured my dad that there were new blades in his shaving kit.

When his new blade was dull before its time, Mom had no choice but to point her finger.

Though I had an allowance based on my own estimation of my weekly expenses and a stipend for completing all my chores, there was not enough in the short time I had, to purchase the implement required. Complain, cajole and beg as I will, my mother was adamant that I did not need to have smooth legs at my age.

One of my sisters and her family invited us to spend Christmas with them. We drove to Arizona for the occasion and my younger sister and I were crammed into the backseat on either side of one three by three foot toy box for my nephew and its companion for my niece tied into the trunk of our two-tone Ford sedan.

Since the arrival of grandchildren, we seemed to have taken a backseat to this new generation although I was only six years older than my Arizona niece. I had little in the way of expectations for a Christmas spent away from home. There were a few presents from my parents for my little sister and me under the tree but the toy boxes were chock-a-block with toys.

My father always went out on Christmas Eve to buy stocking presents. These were his special project, a holdover from his own childhood as the youngest of nine children and the infrequent recipient of toys. On Christmas morning, the youngest members of the family were wildly excited. I—at the age of twelve—as the eldest of the children, approached the present-opening event with decorum and patience.

Decorum and patience flew out the patio doors along with my vast sense of maturity when I opened the little blue and white circular, click-closure box to discover this: 

I doubt my father had the where-with-all to make the choice without some input from his wife. This was the most exciting and best loved gift that year and for many thereafter. In fact, I have never forgotten the feeling. Not because I had wanted it or asked for it, but because my parents had heard me and were not opposed to the changes in young ladies’ grooming requirements.

Like Kathryn Forbes at the end of her story about her Graduation Present when her father offered his “grown-up daughter” her first cup of coffee,  I “felt very proud.” 

Monday, February 22, 2016

"I Know I Can"

by Fran McNabb


I realize this is the end of February and New Year’s resolutions for most people have long been forgotten. For me, I’m just getting started. Like most of the population of the United States, my goal was to get in shape. I had good intentions, but it took me until the last day of January before I signed up for the gym.

 Do I like gyms? No. In fact, I’m probably the most nonathletic person you’ll ever meet. Gyms are not my friend, but I really didn’t know what else to do. I’m sixty-eight and I figured if I didn’t do something soon, I would never do anything! I keep telling myself "I know I can do this. I know I can!"

 I signed up with two other ladies from our little street. We only have fifteen houses on our dead-end road, and when we went the first day, we were surprised to see six ladies from the neighborhood. I did feel better.

I’m in my fourth week, I’m thrilled that first I haven’t hurt myself, and second that I’m actually making time to go. Do I like it? Heavens no, but I’ve found a few things I can do that make the time more enjoyable. First, I started carrying my Kindle and I can read while on the bike and the treadmill so those minutes fly by.

Going to the gym has actually helped me with another resolution I made this year—to give my writing a shot in the arm. Since a friend and I signed up for a Christian conference on a lake retreat in April, I started reading in that genre and made the decision to try my hand at inspirational romance. Having written four books for Avalon, I know a good love story can be told without the physical part. I like growing the relationship and the growth of the character.

So, since starting the gym, I’ve read four inspirational romances while I pedal away on the bike or walk on the treadmill, and I’ve loved each one. I’ve even written the first chapter on one book and have done some research on two more.

Will I stick with the gym? I can’t say. I’ve done this before and paid my dues for a year and maybe went three weeks. I’m doing better already, and maybe with the help of my Kindle and my neighbors, I’ll endure! Yes, I know I can do this!
Did you make any resolutions for 2016? If so, I’d love to hear what they were and how you’re doing. with them.

Fran McNabb writes light romances, four of which were through Avalon and now with Montlake Publishing. Her other four romances are with The Wild Rose Press or Indies. In the future, she hopes to add Inspiration Romances to her publishing credits. She’d love for you to check her out at www.FranMcNabb.com or drop her a line at mcnabbf@bellsouth.net





Friday, February 12, 2016

Getting To Know Us with Leigh Verrill-Rhys

Yes, we all have bios on this website, but there is so much MORE to know about our Classic and Cozy bloggers.  So the 2nd Friday of each month is dedicated to getting to know us better.  This month I'd like to introduce you to Leigh Verrill-Rhys (also writing as: Lily Dewaruile).

Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is?
Not at all. Like so many of my colleagues and friends, I am compelled to write. At a very early age, I began to tell stories – some true, some imaginary. My first written story, at the age of ten, was about a giant. I still wonder what happened to that manuscript. 

I followed that with more story-telling and play-acting until I went to college, at first as an art student but discovered my visual ideas were best presented in words. 

At college, I had visions of great literary works but when I began writing again after many years of raising a family, my impulse to write returned full force. I was living in Wales by then, married with three sons. Because of my interest in writing, I helped to develop the first women’s publishing cooperative in Wales, Honno, which is still going strong. Becoming an editor of others’ writing triggered my creative nerve and I found time to write late at night. 

Wanting to be a great American writer plagued me. At one point, I considered burning all the manuscripts and giving up any idea of writing.

When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create your classic and cozy characters?
In 2005, I attended the 80th birthday of a friend and someone asked my husband what he did for a living. He answered this straightforward question and the inquirer turned to me. I began my answer with “I’ve always wanted to be a writer.”

I decided at that moment that would be the last time I ever said that. I re-read all the manuscripts (by now, stacked in boxes that stood four feet high!) and chose the one I wanted to complete. That led to my first completed novel, Traitor’s Daughter, and sending a query to an agent in London, who liked it well enough to request the full manuscript.

After that, I joined Romance Writers of America—though I was living in Britain at the time, the Romance Novelists Association was not open to new, unpublished members and had a low quota for new members they would accept. I was able to attend my first RWA conference as a PRO member, pitch a proposal to an editor and send the first 50 pages of a novel I had begun a few months before.
Within three months, the editor sent me an email saying “Avalon would like to acquire your novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, for publication in 2012.” I ran downstairs, into the kitchen and pulled out the best bottle of champagne I could find and held it out to my husband, asking “Is this the best we have?” He knew what I was talking about.

Do you have a set writing schedule?
I work a day job that takes up about 9 hours of my day but I set myself down at my laptop for at least 3 to 4 hours a day. I also write while traveling to work. I wrote the first draft of This Can’t Be Love on the streetcar—with some inspiration from my fellow commuters.

Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you?
About six months ago I had some time on my hands waiting for my husband to finish work and visited the Salvation Army store across the street. Mine eyes beheld … a roll-top desk. Not a moment’s hesitation prevented me from offering my credit card to the organization. I am at my beautiful desk every day

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I am a quilt-maker, a gardener, a photographer, a reader, a collector of information

I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.)  What was your favorite book as a child?
I adored Pippi Longstocking. Although Astrid Lindgren wrote eleven stories/chapter books beginning in 1945 with the final two stories written between 1979 and 2000, I have considered myself a Pippi-phile all my life

Do you re-read books?  If so, which one have you re-read the most?
I have a good memory for books, plots, characters but these are books I would choose to reread: Daniel Deronda, Middlemarch, Romola, The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede, Silas Marner — all by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Victorian writer and contemporary of Charles Dickens et al and my personal primary inspiration.

But there is more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life?
Selling everything I owned to finance a trip back to Wales, after my first visit, to take a Welsh language course and renew my acquaintance with the Welshman who had stolen my heart.

If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges? 
I have sung a few solos in front of audiences but my favorite is the mournful ode, Morfa Rhuddlan, in commemoration of the death of Caradog and all his warriors in a battle with Offa in 796AD

What book(s) to you have coming out or what are you working on?
I am working on two novels at the moment. One is an historical novel set in Maine five years after the end of the American Civil War. The other is the first book in a series set in Wales near the turn of the 9th Century, three years after the death of Rhodri the Great in 878AD.

Last question…movie rights…who’ll play your current main characters when Hollywood comes knocking on your door? 
I have only considered the actor for one character and that is Angelo Gitano in my novel, Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls. He is the father of the hero of the book, David. The actor I can see playing the part of Angelo is Tony Plana.

Catch more of Leigh the 4th Tuesday of every month here on the Classic and Cozy Blog.   

For a complete list of Leigh’s books click on over to her website www.leighverrillrhys.com and www.lilydewaruile.com.

And be sure and check out her blog www.everwriting.wordpress.com or www.lilydewaruile.com.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The On-Going Creation of the She-She-Shed

The She-She-Shed... in the distance...
chichi: adjective,
showily or affectedly elegant or trendy; pretentious.

she: pronoun
the female person or animal being discussed or last mentioned; the woman; anything considered, as by personification, to be feminine; a female person or animal; an object of device considered as female or feminine.

Thus, my She-She-Shed, is that feminine space dedicated to all things chichi and absent of: mens’ socks on the floor, baskets of laundry that second as a dresser drawer, malodorous exhausts of any kind, disused wrappers on the floor that never quite made it into the trashcan, and beef jerky.

Things that are allowed in the She-She-Shed: light perfume, creams and pinks, (although I think I’m going for a slightly more vibrant color scheme), a comfy chair, a crafting table, and walls and walls of books. Add to that, one corner that will be a mini film studio, another corner that houses my writing desk, and a coffee station. (Never forget the coffee.) And just for good measure, although I’m not a particularly ruffly-flowery sort of woman, I do like creepy dolls. Yes, I am that woman.
The doll that goes by the simple moniker, "Creepy Baby"

The other things that are/will be allowed: kids, (occasionally), husbands, (occasionally), writing buddies, (but shhhh, because this is a quiet writing place), and the occasional guest in need of a quiet space to sit and read or write… or drink coffee.

There hasn't been a lot of activity on the She-She-Shed this month. Well, I did move most of the tools out and into the official "tool shed". And I did move in a large crafting table. There's still a lot of cleaning out to do, but it will have to wait for the snow to go away. We typically have at least three days of hellish winter here in Virginia. Okay, we've used up all three of those. We're done now, (please?) so it'll be back to work for me after another day or two of melt.

After my last post, I connected with my friend, Leah, who was willing to share pictures of her she-cave! And it had a lovely story. The room, originally intended as a "Man-Cave", was gifted to her as a sewing room. And since that time, she has turned that sewing space into a fabulous business, Tryon Quilts! See what can happen, given a lot of hard work, a dedicated space, and the support of people who love you?

If you would like to see more of the fruits of Leah's labor and Tryon Quilts, you can visit her at: www.TryonQuilts.net or at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at Tryon Quilts! I can think of several ways to thank her for sharing her space with us.

Tryon Quilts headquarters!
I love the pine green wall color.
She with the most fabric wins!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Vindication of a Messy Desk

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

I have been vindicated! In the Rodale Organic Life magazine, on 21 January, 2016, Chris Michel writes about The Surprising Health Benefits of Clutter, then goes on to say Before You Start Purging, Find Out Whether That Messy Desk Is Good For You.

Well, as one who has a desk piled so high it’s sometimes hard to see over, I had to read the article. Basically, it says that clutter is not automatically bad, that clutter can – but not always – act as a starting point for creativity. Michel’s theory uses the example of a plethora of post-it notes, many of which will not work in the current project. If they are thrown away, he postulates, the idea is gone. If they are left, though, it is possible that something there will jump out and enrich your current work-in-progress.

Michel also says that being excessively neat becomes a time-sink and contra-indicative to creative thought, which in itself is somewhat chaotic. He says that “…environmental disorder actually stimulates creativity.”

If you want to read the entire article, you should be able to find it here.


I think it comes down to time. Do you want to spend time cleaning and tidying and de-cluttering, or do you want to spend as much time as you can writing? I plump for writing – though perhaps too much. Our house is a disaster and perhaps needs excavating more than cleaning. In our defense, though, we are in the process of cleaning out our last storage room and getting rid of stuff, which in its own way actually creates more clutter for a while. See? I can justify anything, but that doesn’t affect my desk, however; I think the dog might be hiding somewhere in those piles of books, papers, notes and I’m-not-sure-what-that-is.

As an additional gift, Michel also says that a cluttered house can be the sign of a well-lived life.

Well, if all that’s true, I’m destined to be a mega-best-seller and the happiest creature on earth!

By the way, if you’re in the Bonham, Texas area on this coming Saturday, 6 February, thirteen wonderful romance authors and I will be featured at the Eighth Biennial “Romance in Bonham” panel discussion/reader event. It will be held from 11am to 1 pm at the Bonham Public Library, 305 E. 5th Street. Please come by if you can – it’s free, of course.