Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lost Lives

Is it that we're hearing more about them now, or are miscarriages more common than they used to be?

Just in the past year, Cousin Hannah's daughter, Friend Sharon's daughter, and Friend Pixie have lost their babies. Friend Catherine had a tragic stillbirth. The number of similar accounts these last two evoked from RWA members was amazing.

Fio's first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, and, at the time, she thought she was the only one in the world. No one talked about it back then. Now everyone does.

And Fio thinks it's good. She still mourns the baby lost, and sometimes dreams about finding a forgotten baby dead in a crib (sorry to begin your morning with that picture). Now she can share her sorrow. We all can.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Fio spent most of Sunday morning writing, then dressed herself up to drive into Austin with Husband and celebrate a belated Thanksgiving and Brother's belated birthday.They had such a great time with Family that it was almost evening before Fio opened up her laptop again.

Suddenly that last chapter, which had looked like a breeze in the morning, now looked like a monster, a Frankenstein's monster. Fio quailed, then gutted up and dived right into the mess.

When she closed her computer up for the night, she had four good pages. Four good pages and her confidence back. Out of the groove and back in again.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nose to the Grindstone

Thank you, Emily.

Fiorella was impressed when you told the RWA meeting how quickly you write under pressure.

Then came her own moment of truth. She wanted to enter Princess of Bosque Bend, the first thirty pages of which had just won single-title in New Jersey's "Put Your Heart in a Book," in the big National RWA contest for unpublished novelists. The entry fee was due the next day, but the deadline for submitting the entire manuscript wasn't due till two weeks later. Should she risk it? Fio wrote Princess twenty years ago and has been slowly revising it over the past several months. There were still six chapters to go.

Gritting her teeth and channeling Emily, she threw her hat in the ring. Focus, Fio, focus. She intensified her schedule, putting the newspaper aside for later and cracking open the laptop right after she got up in the morning. She let piano practice slide to the evening, preferably after eight, when she knew her brain was too shot for writing any more. When she had to go out for an appointment, she ran off the chapter she was working on and edited it while she was waiting. And when she got stuck, she didn't put the manuscript aside, but forced herself through the problem, no matter how much printing, editing, printing, editing it took.

Husband understood Fio's mission and supported her, staying quiet while she was concentrating and taking on extra responsibilities around the house.

And Fio, like Emily, has triumphed. The entry is due in on Thursday, which means Fio has to get it to FedEx it on Wednesday. Today, Sunday, she has nineteen chapters complete, with just one to go. She'll write four thousand words by nightfall and stand in awe of herself. That leaves her Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday till 7:00 PM, Fed Ex's witching hour, to review the entire manuscript.

Thank you, Emily.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ups and Downs

It's hard living in this world. Sometimes it seems like there's nothing but sorrow and hard times. Not just in Fio's life, but also in the lives of people around her.

Fio used to think she was the only one having it bad, that other people's lives were halcyon. In fact, their lives gave her hope--maybe one day, things would look up for her too. Then her friends' lives started going down.

But sometimes, like today, she awakens to a beautiful dawn.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Reality of Writing

Fiorella studies successful romance authors for style. Beside her, as she sits on the leather couch in the den and writes, are favorites by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Linda Howard, and Jane Ann Krentz.

From grade school on, Fio's been a good writer. In fact, she's published in poetry, short stories, and journalism--massively in journalism. But every genre is different, and Fio's working on mastering the romance novel. It's a matter of story-telling combined with presentation. Fio's always had the stories, but trends in presentation are tricky.

So is getting an agent.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mirabella Speaks

Fio's older sister, Mirabella, says that no matter how young her hairdresser swears she looks, the cashiers at Long John Silver's give her a Senior Discount without even asking.
Mirabella said that when she first started reading the comic strip Cathy, she and Cathy were the same age. When the comic strip ended, Cathy hadn't aged a day, but Mirabella was the age of Cathy's mother.
One more thing. When Mirabella was young, you could tell how close you were to Christmas by the number of cards in the mail box. Now Mirabella counts her catalogs.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fly Away with Me

Fio has a wonderful idea for a political cartoon, and she will donate it to anyone who wants to draw it.

Picture this: a busy airport terminal. A person in a security uniform is handing a belt and a pair of shoes back to a man who has obviously just been patted down. The man leans against a guard rail, his eyes half-closed, smoking a cigarette. The caption over his head reads, "Was it good for you?"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TV on the Fly

Caught a few minutes of SP's Alaska--didn't realize Sarah was so sappy. Think I'll vote for Tina Fey.
Couldn't help but dwell on Sister Wives for a bit while Mr. Macho was tossing his new bride around on the sands of Waikiki. Uh--how does he pay for a Hawaiian honeymoon and, at the same time, support four other women and a gazillion children?

Between the polygamists, the Duggars, and the many women who are childless by choice (Joy Behar's show) the variety in the world's DNA is diminishing.
Little People, Big World is one of the few shows Fio watches all the way through--irascible Matt, scrappy Amy, the kids: tall Jeremy, little Zach, the girl, and the forgotten fourth child. Jacob has long been relegated to the role of tag-along, and now they're wondering why he lacks self-confidence.

Not only that, but with the two older boys growing up and leaving home, Matt and Amy are closing down the show. Maybe to divorce? That's the speculation among Fio's friends. Friend Sharon pointed out they never seem to do stuff together anymore.

Of course, they don't. Remember when Matt set up his own team for the international dwarf games, then shoved the responsibility for everything all off on Amy?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rock Around the Clock

You already know that Fiorella is a rock hound and collects flint, but now she's taken it one step further. She's lining her newly-repaired driveway with rocks to prevent any future erosion. Where does she get the rocks, you ask--well, Fio lives in the hill country, or, more properly, the rock country, and they are all around her.

Yes, all Fio has to do is pick up her little rock hammer and trot a yard or two off the driveway to gather a wheelbarrow load. Well, not really a wheelbarrow load because Fio, a dainty creature, couldn't push that much weight--just enough to let her edge a yard or so of the drive at a time.

Time, though, may be a problem, because Fio's driveway is 180 linear yards long, and she wants to line both sides of it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Collision Course

Husband, something of a clothes horse, dressed stylishly for his presentation last Thursday--black jacket of Italian wool, monogrammed Land's End button-down, coordinating slacks. In fact, he looked so good that Wendy the Weimaraner decided to kiss him good-bye. Her paws hit his shoulder and her snout hit his lips. The kiss rapidly turned into a dance, then a stumble. As Wendy did a full body hug, Husband stepped into her water bowl.

Husband put Wendy outside and went upstairs to change. Black wool, water, and silvery Weimaraner hair are not a good mix.

Newly outfitted, he slid into the driver's seat of his Mercedes and backed out of the garage, totally unaware that it was raining and his sun roof was still open.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bristol, Kate, Joan

One thing Bristol has proved: Palin fans are blind, deaf, and--uh--dumb, but also stubbornly loyal. And they vote.
Fio heard that two of Kate G's sextuplets were expelled from their private school's first grade. So much for her having the most perfectly disciplined toddlers ever seen on TV. Can't wait to read the tell-all book twenty years from now.
Speaking of over-the-top blondes, Fio caught Joan Rivers on Fashion Police the other night. Apparently she and The Joker patronize the same plastic surgeon. But at least she's funny--I think. Like Chelsea Handler, another over-the-top blonde, she laughs so hard through her own punch lines that it's hard to tell.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Manna from Heaven

Yesterday morning Fiorella rushed to the front room to find out why Wendy was barking so furiously at the window, and, before her very eyes, two young deer ambled down the driveway and grazed on acorns as a squirrel, also eying the acorns, peeked at them from behind a tree.

How dare they! Those are Wendy Dog's acorns!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pat or Scan

About this airport pat down thing--it's unworkable. Male checking out male and female checking out female is not enough. There are also gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, transvestites, transsexuals, hermaphrodites, and Lord only knows what else out there. In order to receive a hands-on from an appropriate patter,travelers will have to declare their sexual orientation, and so will the patters. Think about it.

The full-body scan won't work either. Theoretically, it's anonymous, but we all know a copy of the scan would be whipping around the airport faster than mach 10 if there were a celebrity or a particularly interesting physiology involved.

What we need is a more sophisticated profiling protocol.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Feelin' Great!

Fiorella woke up slowly, feeling great. The sun was filtering through the shades just right, and she'd slept all night long. There wasn't a ache, pain, or bad dream to mar the morning.

Happy as a lark, she did her early morning chores, read the paper--at least the comics--aced the crossword, then worked four anagrams in less than a minute. And she's on schedule to finish re-editing her novel for submission to a big contest.

In fact, Fio's pervaded with a feeling of optimism and joy. And she's not going to spoil it with "what if's."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . .

There's always a skeeter lurking about
Who thinks it will be fun
To lance me with her venomous snout--
SWAT, SLAP! Got another one!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sheer Cussedness

In a way, Sarah Palin is an inspiration. For sheer gall, she takes the cake. What does it matter that she can't get out a coherent sentence, that she's ignorant of world affairs, that she resigned her governorship in mid-term? She's still in there plugging, insisting her way is the way, that everyone else is wrong or lying, that complicated problems have simplistic solutions.

You gotta hand it to her for her never-say-die attitude. Fio does admire focus and perseverance.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

First Fire of the Season

The weather's been getting colder, but Fio's urged Husband to hold off on making a fire because she didn't want to use any of the precious wood he's filled the wood rings with. How can one eat one's cake and have it too? But last night was THE night.

Husband brought in some light kindling which Fio had gathered and stacked in a metal set of shelves she fashioned from an old fireplace screen, then started the fire and went back outside for more substantial kindling. Wendy Dog tried to escape out the door as Husband handed the kindling to Fio, which caused Fio to accidentally snag him with a sharp stick. With the blood dripping off his hand, Husband pushed the dog back in the house and carried in a load of logs. The fire's blazing now and it's beautiful.

Oh, Fio forgot to tell you what Husband used to start the fire initially. You guessed it--some discarded pages from Fio's latest romance novel. Yep, Fio's love scenes are flammable.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Music to Its Ears

When Fiorella went outside yesterday to glory in the driveway repair and maybe pick up some flint in the bargain--the new dirt that had been brought in was rife with it--two deer peeked at her from out the wildwoods.

Fio froze still as a statue in the middle of the driveway, then started talking in a soft, singing voice, trying to assuring the deer she was friendly. One of them ran off, but the other one remained in place, as still as Fio, as she explained that she was a mother and would never hurt it. Only when she stopped talking did the deer dash off.

Ah, Fio's voice has soothed a savage beast.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sweet Susan

One of the nicest moments of my class reunion was when Susan Stringer told me she'd always thought I had such nice skin. "And you still do."

I wanted to tie her up, pack her into the trunk of my my car, and take her home with me.

Ah, Fio, your vanity knows no bounds.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Carry On!

Today Fiorella will be running late--
Must be out of the house by eight
So drink your coffee, please don't wait.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


You know those mornings when Fio leaps out of bed a-rarin' to go? Well, this isn't one of them. She presented the program at her monthly writers' meeting last night, talking about writing contests in general and her own experience in particular, and didn't get to bed till midnight.

The talk didn't take that long, but the self-evaluation afterwards did. Fio should have relied more on notes rather than text, should have arranged the material better, should have elicited more audience participation, should have described that nasty critic by saying her flying monkeys must have been giving her a hard time.

The good lines always come to you two hours later.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Acorns splatter the ground, we've hauled out the blanket for the bed, the shadows are long across the driveway, and all the wood rings are full.

Surely this is the very best time of year.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Fio Watches HGTV

Husband leaves the room when Fio tunes in HGTV.

Why does she watch it? Because it's an oasis from the world of TV drama. No one is killed or raped or maimed. There are no sudden booms, no gushes of blood, no eviscerated bodies. Everyone is asininely sweet to everyone else.

It's also an oasis from the real world.

Husband reads his Nook, Fio watches HGTV.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Speaking of Wish Fishes

On Fio's wish list for Christmas is a vacuum tube transportation system between Georgetown and Austin. She's sick and tired of driving 35-55 minutes into town and back again.

But how would she get around once the tube delivered her to Austin? Hmmm.

On second thought, just give Fio a gift certificate for gasoline.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Political Tidbits

Fiorella is fascinated by criticism of Nancy Pelosi that centers on her appearance. Male politicians are usually judged by their politics.
Fio read somewhere that the Tea Party is secretly funded by Osama bin Laden in an effort to disrupt the American political scene. It's working.
In an effort to avoid the religious wars that plagued Europe for centuries, the founding fathers defined the United States as a secular entity. And various groups have been working to overturn that decision ever since.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Greek to Them

Fiorella has been brooding. A fellow attendee at her class reunion let it slip that "they" used to make fun of Fio for using big words that none of them had ever heard before. Embarrassed, Fiorella explained that she probably picked them up from reading, that she had no idea people didn't understand what she was saying.

Thanks goodness Fio met Husband, who also has a large vocabulary. Otherwise she might have pined away in maidenly seclusion, wondering if her deodorant had failed her.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Get Real

There's a rather tiresome thread on a national romance writers' loop right now about "the rules." Not the rules pertaining to the loop--that one was two months ago--but the supposed rules of writing, like not using adverbs or "be" verbs and never switching point of view.

What it all pertains to is people wanting absolutes, paving stones in the yellow brick road, Arthur Murray dance steps, a golden template.

But, in reality, the process is all relative. "Be" isn't a "weak" verb unless it's overused. Adverbs ending in -ly are just fine unless they're every other word. (A note here: many writers who jowl on about this topic don't seem to realize many adverbs, such as "now" and "ever," don't end in -ly.) And the only problem with POV switches occurs when they aren't done well.

For heaven's sake, people. The name of the game is seducing a reader, page by page, chapter by chapter, book by book. Skillful storytelling is more important than "writing right."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Generation Gaps

Almost forgot to tell you something funny that happened a couple of days before Halloween.

While Fio was a sitting in the doctor's office, an older woman signed in at the desk, eyed the receptionist's white fright wig and said, "Tell me about it."

"I'm Lady Gaga," the girl answered. "Uh--have you ever heard of her?"

Not an hour later Fio was standing in line at a Hobby Lobby register behind a young woman who spread several peacock feathers out on the counter, explaining to the clerk that these were for her Halloween costume.

"Who you going as?" the gray-haired clerk asked. "Sally Rand and her seven fans?"

The young woman looked at her blankly.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Fiorella is re-editing an older manuscript to get it ready for contests,and sometimes she needs inspiration. Usually she starts leafing through works by current authors, like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, to get herself into the swing, but yesterday she picked up one of her old favorites by Georgette Heyer.

Georgette Heyer was the woman who invented historical romances. Her plots were clever, her backgrounds meticulously researched, and her characters intriguing. Fio figured she could learn a lot from ol' Georgette's style and started skimming Venetia. And, forgetting that she had her own oeuvre to work on, didn't put the book down until two hours later.

Now, that's a style to learn from.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Milky Way Went That-a-way

Come Halloween, Fio and Husband had candy in the house, which they rarely do anymore. Too much candy, as it turned out. Fio ended up with so much chocolate in her that she couldn't get to sleep till 2:00 a.m.

She'd bought the candy a week before--four bags of small Milky Ways (Fio's favorite), four of Snickers (Husband's favorite)--and neither she nor Husband had a single piece of it until the appropriate day. Then they both scarfed down a bag each, leaving six bags total for trick-or-treaters, who only accounted for two. That left four bags hanging loose. Fio packed them up and sent them off with Husband for his staff to enjoy at work today.

Next year we cut down to six bags, maybe four. The whole situation was weird, anyway. Fio wasn't getting much out of the Milky Ways--somehow they didn't taste as good as they used to--but she still kept on eating them, sort of for old times sake. Egad--maybe all that healthy eating Fio has been doing lately is finally taking effect.