Friday, August 21, 2009

Abilene Book Signing Goes to the Dogs

Left: Mardi and me, Wayna Polk, Tommy Wideman; Below: Janlyn Thaxton, me, Margaret Hoogstra When I moved from Abilene seven years ago, I never dreamed I'd be coming back for a book signing--my own.

But when Glenn and Carol Dromgoole, owners of Texas Star Trading Company, graciously invited me to sign at their store during Abilene's Dog Days of Summer ArtWalk, I jumped at the chance. (Below: Me with Glenn)
The best part was seeing several of my former Abilene High and Jim Ned High colleagues, former students, parents of former students, and old friends. I regret we didn't have more time to visit. And I'm also sorry I didn't get pictures of everyone, but my manservant was equally busy greeting old friends and taking care of Mardi, our little diabetic poodle.

Now that I've weathered three book signings, I should feel like a veteran. But I've discovered that signing books is more difficult than writing them--you actually have to think about what to say. On the spot!

Some people can't walk and chew gum. I discovered long ago I can't talk and think at the same time. No telling what I've written in people's books, but a few stand out in my mind.

One woman wanted me to sign only my name so she could read the book first, then give it to a friend as a gift.

At the Abilene signing, Alex, a small, brown dog, brought his human companion along. Alex checked me out by sniffing my hand, and I assume he approved because he bought a copy of Dog Nanny and wanted it personalized to him. I hope he enjoys reading about the antics of two standard poodles with Texas big hair. Not so sure what he'll think about the romance part.

So far my favorite signing was dictated to me by another former Abilenian who was purchasing a book for her elderly mother. The signature line went something like this: "Ann Whitaker, wife of Bill Whitaker, former front-page columnist of the Abilene Reporter-News." Guess that shows me how I rank.

Hope some of you will come back on September 26 when we return for the West Texas Book and Music Festival at the Abilene Civic Center.
And here's a link to the AR-N Web site if you like to look at pictures of dogs.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Great Dane! And I don't mean Hamlet


Though the headline is a tad confounding, if you keep reading, all will become clear. Yes, this is an old trick to entice you to keep reading. I'm a former English teacher. Enough said.

It was like old home week today at Waco's Animal Birth Control Clinic monthly shot clinic, where I signed copies of my romantic comedy Dog Nanny, released in June.

First of all, a former student I hadn't seen or heard from in 31 years showed up. Then my friend Patty, former colleague from Abilene High, appeared with her friend Sunny from nearby China Spring. (Photo above: Sunny, Patty, me)

In between, several local dog lovers dropped by:

Cyndi McDonald, my favorite dental hygienist (is that an oxymoron?), whose name I finally learned to spell--though I had to look up "hygienist" just now and probably will again

Shirley Whitaker, my mother-in-law, who wanted me to know she "supports me" (gotta love a MIL like that)

Bruce Kabat, my former editor at Waco Today magazine


Betty Hall from the local Romance Writers of America group (thanks, Betty)

Sandy Sanchez (an author herself), wife of Waco Tribune-Herald editor Carlos--of the same last name--and mother to Alec, Armand, Avi, and a couple of rescue dogs.

And my husband Bill, who, among other things

--took pictures
--ran over to Target and bought chocolate Hugs and Kisses (which promptly melted in the 100-degree-plus temps)
--didn't flinch when I referred to him as my "manservant"

Meanwhile, several wonderful volunteers for the ABC efficiently herded a hundred or more dogs and their humans through the parking lot, under the awnings, and into rooms of the much-too-small clinic. It's a precision performance you have to see to believe.

In case you haven't been keeping up, the ABC really needs money so they can give the go-ahead to start work on their new building. And they really need a building of their own so they can move from their present cramped quarters.

So BEST OF ALL (see why below**), I sold 25 copies of Dog Nanny, which is a phenomenal amount considering I'm not Janet Evanovich (though as I mentioned in my previous blog, I wouldn't mind being her, but only after I've first lived as Cher through one Las Vegas concert).

**Proceeds from sales of Dog Nanny are going to the ABC for its MUCH-NEEDED BUILDING FUND.

A final note of trivia from my four hours as a Janet Evanovich wannabe:

A woman I mentioned earlier (whose name I promise never to reveal) made this comment. "I can't believe they can spay and neuter all those dogs so quickly!"

When I explained that today's clinic was only for injections, tags, and microchipping, she clasped hands to her bosom and drew a deep sigh of relief.

So did the (intact male) Great Dane who'd been eavesdropping.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wild Ride With Romance Writers


Got back this week from my latest adventure in the nation’s capitol, where I attended the Romance Writers of America 29th Annual National Conference.

Suffice it to say, after listening to her speech, I now want to be Janet Evanovich and write mysteries, even if she is (slightly) older than I am and from New Jersey.

As with most trips, it had its ups and downs.
THE DOWNS:

—G
ot the same fever blister that’s appeared every three years since I was 45. I thought those things were for kids.

—Our flight home from D.C. to DFW was almost diverted to a site unbeknownst to us because of bad weather also unbeknownst to us. However, our pilot was kind enough to inform us we’d been circling for some time and that we were RUNNING OUT OF FUEL!!

—Upon arrival at DFW, we discovered our flight to Waco had been cancelled (because of the same non-existent bad weather), so we had to pay $160 to hitch a ride on the "Waco Streak." How could I have known the real excitement lay ahead?




Imagine riding inside an off-balance washing machine for two hours. Actually, a van with no shocks, hurtling through Dallas traffic at 90 mph with a Mario Andretti wannabe behind the wheel. Okay, maybe only 70 mph, but my mouth popped open several times when I wasn't talking.

—When we finally got home (see the UPS list), no one at the toll-free number for lost baggage knew where or when our bags would show up. When asked to describe the contents, all I could think of was "lots of dirty clothes."

Minor DOWN—my husband accidentally stepped on the goody bag of chocolate kisses I was bringing to my mother-in-law. So what if I’d already eaten all the peanut butter cups and my share of the kisses. She wouldn’t have to know that.

THE UPS:

—No more fever blisters for another three years

—Got home safely. Met the last flight of the evening in hopes we’d get our luggage off the conveyer belt before the dirty-underwear thieves materialized. Lucked out—bags were there. Hope they enjoyed the flight.
—Our dogs were healthy and happy, thanks to my mil's good care and to Penny, who stopped by to give Mardi his insulin injections twice a day. A big Texas "thank you" to you both!!!

—But the biggest UP of the conference itself, by far, was meeting so many of the women I’d known for the past few years only through my online writing group. Every one of them was even nicer than I'd anticipated. Helpful, friendly, fun, intelligent, creative.... Yes, I could go on, but all good things must end.

Now that I’ve caught up on the laundry and grocery shopping, I’m also reveling in being home.

As I like to say: “Home is where my stuff is.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

THE WINNER IS...

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in yesterday's "Stop and Smell the Roses Blog Bouquet" sponsored by The Wild Rose Press.



You all had such wonderful comments, I wish each one of you could have won.

The winner was determined by a scientific process we use in the Whitaker household for making decisions.

I placed all your names on slips of paper, folded them in half, and scattered them onto the floor. Then I called my oldest poodle, Jolie, to pick one. Her mouth was wet from drinking water and one of the pieces of paper stuck to her lips. Or what passes for lips in a dog.

The winner chosen by Jolie Blon is.......Gwen.

Gwen, if you'll send your e-mail address to me at Ann@AnnWhitaker.com, I'll send your $10 gift certificate via e-mail from Amazon.com.

Congratulations! And thanks again to all of you who participated and to those of you who just read the blog.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Stop and Smell the Roses Blog Bouquet


Dog Nanny Meets Cat Scratch Fever


When my mother-in-law found out I was writing a book called Dog Nanny, she suggested I write a story about the cat quarantined in my garage. (see actual cat at left)

It all started when my two ferocious miniature poodles began a barking tirade, causing the cat to climb me like a scratching post.


But that’s a whole other blog. Suffice it to say that after ten days--and several photos of the cat’s hindquarters (an attempt to have friends help me determine its sex)--the stray cat I’d been referring to as Ted Nugent was returned to his owner. (In case you’re wondering, the real Ted Nugent lives nearby. “The Nuge,” as he’s called around here, is best known for his song, “Cat Scratch Fever,” from the late ’70s.)

But as is my wont, I digress.


Hmm. "Cat Nanny." Not sure. You see, I’m really a dog person at heart.

When I mentioned writing the cat sequel, my Maryland friend Lynn Reynolds (Thirty-Nine Again and blog #11 below), responded in her characteristically witty way.


“It could be a theme for you,” she said. “Your tagline could be ‘Animal Passion!’ I mean, if Janet Evanovich can milk Stephanie Plum for 14 books, what's to stop you???”

She even expanded on the idea for me:

Dog Nanny - young Texan chick must train feisty poodles and even feistier pilot


(OK, done that)

Cat Nanny - young Arizona chick must housesit for handsome and mysterious cat owner

Iguana Nanny - young New Mexico chick must care for her sick sister's Iguana, but what happens when she's trapped in a cabin with the Iguana's cold-blooded vet?

Coming soon - Ferret Nanny.

Also look for Elephant Nanny - when handsome vet Clint Hardiman travels to India as part of the new Vets Without Borders charity, his life is turned upside-down by a sacred cow and its beautiful owner.


"And I haven't even touched the Cruzan yet," she said, as I considered her offerings and pondered whether Bovine Nanny might be more appropriate for an Indian setting.

I’m not sure what Cruzan is, but it must be something alcoholic. As you can see, Lynn loves brainstorming and is into this fowl thing, though for some reason she didn't suggest I write a Chick Nanny.

Another Texas writer and member of my critique group, Sue L, had this suggestion: Rat Nanny—Bracing herself to play hostess to a feral predator, a young midwestern chick finds herself looking forward to spending time with her generous and compassionate charge.


This starts me thinking about Cowboy Nanny, since western and cowboy romances are hot right now. City chick tries to tame wild cowboy by offering him her custom-made saddle.

From California, my more practical friend, Sarah, weighed in with a different suggestion. “Couldn't Dog Nanny have a sequel—perhaps a younger sister who ends up with a near rabid cat that belongs to a handsome reporter who'd love to have a dog, but his weird hours prevent it?"

It’s great having such creative friends. But for now, I'm going to content myself with finishing my work-in-progress, in which Carl, a 190-pound mastiff, plays a minor character. If anything about a 190-pound dog can be considered minor.


**************************************
Don't stop now. One lucky person whose name will be drawn from those who leave a comment on my blog will receive a $10 gift certificate from Amazon.com. Be sure to check back tomorrow (June 23) to see if you've won.

And by all means, move to the next blog on the list below and comment to be eligible for more prizes.

http://annwhitaker.blogspot.com/
http://bethcaudill.blogspot.com/
http://blog.skhyemoncrief.com/
http://catemasters.blogspot.com/
http://christinecolumbus.blogspot.com/
http://donnamichaelsauthor.blogspot.com/
http://happyendingsblog.com/
http://kyannwaters.blogspot.com/
http://laurirobinson.blogspot.com/
http://lindabanche.blogspot.com/
http://lynnreynolds.blogspot.com/
http://marywritesromance.blogspot.com/
http://melanieatkins.wordpress.com/
http://missmaesite.blogspot.com/
http://nicolemccaffrey.blogspot.com/
http://plparker.blogspot.com/
http://romanticcravings.blogspot.com/
http://roniadams.blogspot.com/
http://sherilewiswohl.wordpress.com/
http://skypuringtonwrites.blogspot.com/

Monday, June 15, 2009

FREE MONEY


Tomorrow (Tuesday, June 16) I'm being interviewed (yes, again) at The Long and Short of It. Their reviewer just gave Dog Nanny 4 1/2 books.

http://www.longandshortreviews.com/LASR/interviews.htm

However, this one won't be a Q&A, so it should be interesting to see what they've done with answers I gave them to some rather unusual questions--like can I open a Starburst with my tongue. You may even learn about the time I was "really hot." Yes, moi.

Best of all, I'm also giving away ANOTHER $10 gift certificate from Amazon.com to someone LASR will choose at the end of the week. But you can't win unless you drop by and leave a comment on their contest page below.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

DOG NANNY unleashed in Waco

I'd originally been told to allow three weeks, but it had been barely one.

It was Wednesday in Waco, and my copies of Dog Nanny were out for delivery. Had I been tracking them? You bet.

On Friday they'd left Nashville. From there they'd gone to Memphis and on to Dallas. Now they were in Waco. On the truck.

So we waited. At 6:27 it was my husband, not the dogs, who heard something at the front door.

As we opened one of the boxes, my own two poodles crowded around, excited about the paper and our mood. Food maybe? Nope, just a book with a picture of two foo-foo poodles on the cover.


Can an Abilene vet tech train two wayward poodles, while harnessing her desire for a handsome Waco pilot?

Get your copy of Dog Nanny now and find out. A romantic comedy set in Waco by local author Ann Whitaker.

Print copies now available at the Waco's Animal Birth Control Clinic, 1531 Wooded Acres Drive, Waco, TX 76710, 254-776-7303; and online at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. Electronic download available June 12 at The Wild Rose Press.

A portion of proceeds from sales goes to Animal Birth Control Clinic.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

In Memory

In Memory of Angel Nikki,

"Miss 'Tude"


Beloved companion of Kim
and much loved by her online diabeticritter family



born November 16, 1996

made her journey to Rainbow Bridge, May 21, 2009

Tonight at 9 p.m. CST candles were lit across the U.S. and Canada in remembrance of her life and the joy she brought to all.

Rest in Peace, Nikki.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Can You Really Judge a Book by Its Cover?

Mothers-in-Law Say the Darndest Things

Recently, I inadvertently gave my mother-in-law a sort of Rorschach test of book covers.

First of all, take a good look at the cover for Thirty-Nine Again, by my friend Lynn Reynolds, coming out the same day as my novel Dog Nanny. (That’s June 12, 2009, from The Wild Rose Press.)

When I showed Lynn’s cover to my mother-in-law, she asked innocently (and gotta give her credit—non-judgmentally) if the book was about lesbians. Where did she get that idea? What else—the guy’s long hair.

Everything must look different when you’re almost 79.

Later, I sent her an e-mail with my cover attached. Actually it was embedded, because she doesn’t know how to open an attachment. For her an “attachment” is either a relationship, a part for a vacuum cleaner, or a hook-and-eye.

You see, like many older folks, computer lingo baffles her. “Why do they call it a download? What’s a monitor? You mean the screen?” Heaven forbid I tell her to look on the desktop for the start button or mouse or she’ll start rummaging around on her computer table looking for apparel buttons and vermin.

When I asked her what she thought of my cover, she said, “That was your cover? That picture of a girl with a naked belly?" Observe cover below.

If I scrunch up my eyes just right I can almost imagine those hands are a naked belly.

Here I was thinking AnnWorld (where I spend much of my time) was a freaky place. ShirleyWorld must really be confusing.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First Review for Dog Nanny--5 Cups





Here I was on a lazy Sunday afternoon, poking around on the Internet, when lo and behold I came across my first review for Dog Nanny at Coffee Time Romance & More!

Needless to say, I was thrilled almost speechless (ask my friends—that rarely happens) to find I’d received their highest rating of 5 Cups! Why, the rush from that much caffeine made my heart start thumping like a tennis shoe in a clothes dryer.

Sunday Shannon at Coffee Time Romance says:

A near perfect book. If ever there was a story that made me glad that I am a Texan, this is it. The images of Old Mexico are charming and the Texas portrayals are hilariously true. This book is written in a warm, familiar tone that drips with southern magnetism. I enjoyed each and every character no matter what their issues were. How refreshing it is to read a book that took me away from the present moment and transported me into a small town in Texas where Old World meets New World. This is a magnificent book that is witty in all the right places. There are some books that I wish would never end. Dog Nanny is one of them.

What a great start for Dog Nanny. If she’d said she was buying 10,000 copies for all her friends, I couldn’t be happier.

Click here for the entire review.

Friday, May 1, 2009

One Face of Diabetes

Mardi, diabetes survivor

Diabetes is a disease that touches not just people but often strikes our beloved animal companions. Mardi, our 11-year-old toy poodle, was diagnosed with diabetes in January 2008, but thanks to caring veterinarians and an online Yahoo group called "diabeticritters," he’s doing well.

Just like people, with a little practice, owners can test a pet’s blood sugar and regulate insulin dosages accordingly. Mardi is on a special high-fiber diet, receives two insulin injections a day, and has his blood sugar tested at least twice a day. He's a happy little guy who brings great joy to everyone he meets.


So if you have a pet that’s been diagnosed with this disease, remember, in many cases, it's treatable.


Online Auction for Diabetes Research

Help Find a Cure

Since I’ve been blog-challenged of late, I thought I’d piggyback off my friend Lynn Reynolds’ blog today.

Lynn is showcasing author Brenda Novak’s 5th annual online auction to raise money for diabetes research, which runs throughout the month of May. All proceeds from this year’s auction will be donated to The Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami.

Brenda, whose son suffers from juvenile diabetes, has raised over $500,000 for diabetes research.

Items to be auctioned range from a personalized tour of Edgar Allen Poe’s house, celebrity autographed items, laptops, gift baskets, a high-definition TV, lunch with famous writers, vacation getaways, even a day of bridge with a famous player.

Lynn has put together a wonderful gift basket of spa items, containing bath salts, soaps, moisturizer, bath gel, a pink iPOD shuffle, and an iTunes gift card, among other items.
And if you've been drooling over the new Amazon Kindle, look no further. A group of writers from The Wild Rose Press are offering a Kindle and a $70 gift certificate. Bidding will continue throughout the month, so check out all the fabulous items and bid. There's something for everyone.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Bo-Day!


Happy Bo-Day!

Like most Americans I’ve been impatient to see what choices the new president will make now that he’s almost three months into his first term of office.

No, I don’t mean whom he’ll pick for under-under secretary of some department or other. I mean whom will he choose as First Dog!

Today, if the Washington Post report is accurate, I got my answer. And this is one pick who’s been “thoroughly vetted.”

As my family is poodle-whipped, I was leaning heavily toward the Labradoodle. Evidently there’s an entire Web site devoted to pleading with the president to “pick me.”

But when I saw the photo of 6-month old “Bo,” I once more fell in love with a bundle fur, this time a Portuguese Water Dog or Portie (PWD as fans of the breed call them). The writer compared Bo’s coat to a tuxedo, black with a white chest, white front paws, and white goatee.

And he’s already in training—sitting when the Obama girls sit, standing when they stand, and so far no "toileting errors."

Since they aren’t getting a rescue dog—as many people had hoped—I understand the Obamas are, instead, donating to the D.C. Humane Society. However, Bo is a “give-back,” a dog someone else couldn’t handle and returned to the breeder. Lucky dog.

As for me, I can rest easier, knowing that big white house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is finally a real home.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Talking Beds


Talking Beds

People often ask writers where they get their ideas. Ideas are ubiquitous. That’s a fancy way of saying ideas are everywhere.

For example, last weekend I attended an open house for our newly-built multi-million dollar hospital. Over $30 million in new technology alone. Part of this money was spent on washable (as in dunked in water) computer keyboards and talking beds.

Mainly, I went to see the talking beds. Imagine. Beds that speak 12 or more languages and provide music or soothing sounds, like the songs of humpback whales. At the push of a button, the bed will say things like “Hello. I’m your nurse for the day.” The patient can then respond to questions—like “Are you hurting anywhere?”—with yes or no answers.

Unfortunately, patients aren’t allowed access to the control panel at the end of the bed. Which means if you’re unlucky enough to be hospitalized, you’re at the mercy someone else. And, no, they don’t play AC/DC or Led Zeppelin (yes, I asked), though the beds can be programmed with more musical options.

“So, theoretically,” I asked a surgical nurse, “if you have a patient who’s giving you a hard time, you can get even by playing music they hate?”

“Theoretically,” she answered, without pause. “But then I’d have more problems. Like getting the patient back into bed.”

My mind had already slipped into writer mode. Dog Nanny Goes to the Hospital—young woman with pet therapy dog meets handsome doctor. Then someone steals a talking bed. Or a talking bed that won’t shut up. A talking bed that holds a clue to an unsolved murder.

At the end of two hours, all sorts of ideas for a setting had popped into my head. Now all I needed was to figure out how to tie in the washable keyboards.



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fast Woman





Fast Woman Stops Time

Two things about me.

1) Maybe it’s a writer thing, but I spend lot of time in AnnWorld.


2) When I have things to do, I move at warp speed.

Yesterday, as I waited in the grocery check-out line, I vowed I’d be faster than the two women in front of me. After the checker rang up my purchases, he asked if I needed help. Me? Did I look as if I needed help? He must be kidding.

I gave a little snort and laughed. “Thank you, but they (meaning the carry-out kids) aren’t as fast as I am.” With that, I tossed my purse into the child seat and took off.

It wasn’t until I reached my car and hoisted the case of water into the back that I realized the other $60 worth of groceries was nowhere to be seen. How could that be?


Here’s how. The weight of the water had deceived me. And, being in AnnWorld, I’d neglected to look inside the cart. I could have been pushing a dead body and not known it. But I’d proven my point—I was fast all right.

As I rolled my cart back to Aisle 13, I was met with several smiling faces. Not only was my checker grinning, so were other checkers, sackers, and customers.

Trying to maintain what little dignity I had left, I smiled at the girl holding my grocery bags and asked, “Couldn’t you catch me?”

“We didn’t know what happened to you!” she said.

By this time, everyone was laughing. Even me.

Then I saw the woman who’d stood behind me in line. Still there. Had time stopped? Or had she merely hung around to see if I’d re-materialize.

Later that evening, my husband suggested what I should have done—strolled nonchalantly back to Aisle 13 and asked, “Got ’em bagged yet?”

Saturday, February 28, 2009

February: National Spay/Neuter Month

Testimonial from Mardi Gras and Jolie Blon: "We both got neutraled many moons ago, and we highly recommend it!"


Spay 'Em All Y'all 2009

Since one of the underlying themes of Dog Nanny (June 12 The Wild Rose Press) is the importance of spaying and neutering one's pets, I thought I should mention that the last Tuesday in February (February 24th this year--okay, so I'm a little late) is the 15th annual Spay Day USA.

In fact, I just learned the entire month of February is set aside each year for events and activities geared toward a proactive solution to preventing hundreds of unwanted litters.

One of my favorite non-profits, Waco's Animal Birth Control Clinic, set a goal of performing 450 surgeries by the end of the month.* They even threw in a free Rabies vaccine ($10 value) and Pet Gift Bag ($25+ value) with any dog spay or dog neuter surgery (age 4-7 months). Cost--only
$30-$65.

(Results now in: spayed/neutered 481 in February!)

But you don't have to do it in February, and you don't have to come to Texas. Just call your local humane society to find out about services offered in your area, or make an appointment with your favorite vet. Then load up Fluffy and Fido and have this simple, safe procedure performed while they're still young.

Spay/neutering provides health benefits, such as reducing reproductive cancers. And it helps with unwanted behaviors, like territorial urine marking. Yep, that's one reason we writers call certain characters "alpha males."

Fluffy and Fido will thank you for it. Well, maybe not Fido, but he'll get over it. And if he doesn't, there are always Neuticles if he really needs an ego boost.

For those of you close enough, here's the local poop:

Animal Birth Control Clinic
1531 Wooded Acres Drive
Waco, TX 76710
(254) 776-7303

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Abilene, Texas: Valentine's Day 1999


illustration by Patty Rae Wellborn

Love on Parole:

Ten-Year Anniversary


In 1999 when features editor Carol Dromgoole tapped me to write “Chapter 4” of a romance novella for the Abilene Reporter-News, I found myself in illustrious company: Marty Gregory, Cole Thompson, Terry Pringle, and Patrick Bennett. I was the only one who didn’t have a published book under my belt.

There was no story outline. I picked up where the first three writers left off. So Happy Valentine's Day from 1999.


Chapter 4

Buffalo Gap. “Sin City” neighboring towns used to call the hamlet after it voted wet in 1965, back when Abilene and nearby towns were still dry. But its reputation was overrated. The worst thing Rain ever witnessed occurred in the pool room of the Bar-B-Que Barn when two good ol’ boys got in a shouting match over questions regarding John Wayne’s manliness—or lack thereof.

Rain had sworn she’d never go back. Not because of the fight, but because memories of Josh singing at the Bar-B-Que Barn flooded her with emotion. She missed him, and she missed those barbecue sandwiches. But he’d gone the way he would have wanted—choking on one of her very own, lovingly made leftover sausage-link sandwiches, refusing the Heimlich maneuver to the very end on the grounds it just wasn’t manly.

Although she usually didn’t speed, Rain roared 60 mph down Buffalo Gap Road, anxious to reach Patty’s, if only to see whether Gloria’s aunt had any rib-eyes stashed among her survivalist supplies. Deep down, though, Rain wasn’t so much interested in meat as she was in a certain hunk.

But if rib-eyes were to be had tonight, Patty’s would be the safest place to eat them. Last year, tough-talking, West-Texas-to-the-core Patty Wax had met a frightening adversary—the Y2K bug.

Though Patty knew her own computers were Y2K compliant, she was none too sure about those in the rest of the world. Just last weekend she’d spent $1,200 in Lubbock (“ground zero” for Y2K preparedness, if you believed what you read in the paper) on a 21st century survival kit. With that, plus her battery powered generator, her solar heating system, and enough bottled water to rid Abilene of its current drought, Patty planned to meet the new millennium fully prepared.

Rain stole a sideways glance at Jaxon. He winked boyishly, and her feet vibrated again, though he still stroked only her shoulder. She knew they were getting close to Patty’s when she saw the huge plastic bull that marked the entrance to the Perini Ranch.

As they approached the gate to Patty’s property, Rain suddenly quivered, noticing the northern sky turning an eerie reddish-brown. All at once, the heavens began to spit mudballs. If that weren’t bad enough, someone had taken down the lemon sign and replaced it with a computer-graphic heart shot through with a real arrow. Hearts weren’t exactly Patty Wax’s style, even if it was Valentine’s Day. It seemed a bad omen to Rain, who turned ever paler under her fake tan.

“I love a rainy night,” Jaxon sang, obviously oblivious to Rain’s changed mood. She had to admit his voice was huskier and sexier than Josh’s had ever been, but she was annoyed nonetheless.

“Bad pun,” she admonished, turning her head toward him so that a wave of her sun-streaked hair fell seductively over one eyebrow, as she raised the other for emphasis. She’d always hated anyone making fun of her name. She had to bite her tongue to keep from telling him “Jaxon” sounded like a name from a really bad romance novel.

Miffed, Rain downshifted and popped the clutch of her Volkswagen Beetle as they passed through the gate. Still sitting between them, though the space between the bucket seats must have been uncomfortable, Gloria pretended to awaken from her false slumber when the gear shift came too close to avoid notice.

Deliberately ignoring Rain, Gloria batted her short, mascara-beaded lashes and cooed to Jaxon, “Oh, great, sweetie, we’re here! This is going to be so cozy.” Then the tone of her voice changed. “That’s odd. There’s Patty’s Hummer,” she said, pointing to a camouflage-colored monster truck in front of what looked like a cellar door, “but I don’t recognize the Cadillac.” She was referring to a hoary-colored El Dorado parked at a jaunty angle under a lone mesquite. Just then Gloria’s cell phone rang shrilly. She answered.

After a series of enigmatic “uh huhs,” Gloria clicked off and said in a hushed tone, “That was Chief Rimer of the FBI. They just got word Joey ‘Knuckles’ Spugnoli was seen heading this way about an hour ago.”

The El Dorado before them suddenly seemed more ominous than the weather.

Rain checked to make sure that precious “Rosebud,” her beloved Smith & Wesson, was still strapped snugly at her slender waist, then gave her lipstick a quick nod in the rearview mirror.

“Stay here,” she ordered, cautiously opening a door and running in a Groucho-like crouch to the rear of the El Dorado. Fear shot through her heart like an arrow when she read the vanity license plate: “NUCKLES”—without the “K.”

Was Patty being held captive by Spugnoli? Was he lying in wait for the rest of them? With mudballs pelting her face and her white silk suit, Rain dashed back to her old VW to tell Gloria and Jaxon the terrifying news.

Rain was stunned when she opened the door and caught them both laughing. More suspicious was the way they suddenly quieted, the way people do when the person being talked about unexpectedly walks into the room. At that moment Rain knew in her heart her earlier eerie feeling was based on years of experience and not just a manifestation of PMS.

Something was definitely rotten in the state of Texas.

For the first time since Jaxon became such an integral part of her life, her mind was taking precedence over her heart. She’d been so star-struck, she’d overlooked the obvious. First of all, how had Gloria known so much about Jaxon and her conversation with the FBI back at the office? And why had Chief Investigator Rimer called Gloria instead of her? Did a Chief Investigator John Rimer even work for the FBI?

Rain’s face burned with anger and embarrassment. How could she have let herself be taken in by a cheap—OK, a rich—ex-con, even if he did have blue eyes, a cleft chin, broad shoulders, dark hair and a smoldering aura. She’d read enough to know that smoldering auras didn’t last past the honeymoon. She hadn’t kept her chaste treasure chaste until she was 36 years old by accident. OK, so she’d had her share of “improper relationships,” but she hadn’t had a sexual relationship with any man, even Randy Lewinsky. Not in the legal sense of the word, though she’d had a hard time convincing his wife of that fact. So what if the recent drought could also be applied to her love life? So what if she was love-starved and biologically at her sexual peak? She still couldn’t give herself to just any sweet-talking Lone Star Lothario. Besides, she had vowed to wait for marriage no matter how long it took. And if she wanted her feet to vibrate, she always had her new electric foot massager.

Humiliated she had let Jaxon take liberties with her shoulder, shame and self-loathing consumed her small, shapely frame. Granted, Jaxon qualified as a choice hunk of Texas beefcake, but any God-fearing Texas gal knew even the devil had the power to assume a pleasing shape.

Rain looked daggers at Jaxon, yet almost weakened her resolve when he returned her look with a questioning hurt expression. She would add “good actor” to his list of attributes, but he wasn’t going to fool her again. Then, before she knew what was happening, the dam broke and a flood of tears poured out of her bluebonnet-blue eyes and cascaded down her blusher-enhanced cheeks, not unlike the slide at Wet & Wild.

“Too much water hast thou, poor Rain,” said Jaxon in a convincingly sympathetic tone.

Now he was quoting Hamlet. What else would she discover they had in common before this Valentine’s Day from Hell was over?

“Suck it up,” her father used to say when she cried. She summoned all her strength and did just that, and as anger returned with West Texas tornadic force, her nostrils flared like those of the horse in The Horse Whisperer. Jaxon McCullouch might look like a young Brando, she thought, tossing her blond mane, but it would be cold, rainy day in Abilene before she’d play Stella to his Stanley.



Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blogging Rules

Ann's Rules of the Blog

As a former English teacher, I thought it appropriate to begin my first blog with some rules. Now pay attention.

Rule #1:

· Blogs should be readable to a normal young person over 40. Please, no fancy fonts like Old English or Windings. Also, use a LARGE font—not everyone can afford laser eye surgery, and reading glasses are never where you left them.

· Absolutely no dark backgrounds with yellow or pink type. Because I said so. I know it looks all cool and atmospheric and represents your writing personality, but if people can’t read it, they’ll never know how cool you really are. Many a time, I’ve had to move on to a less cool person whose text I could read.

· Please limit the use of flashing thingys and falling stars. They’re either so mesmerizing I fall asleep or so irritating they make my head bobble.

Rule #2: Keep your blog short and to the point. This is probably the first rule I’ll break, as I have a tendency to digress and ramble on about whatever enters my mind the moment my fingers touch the keyboard. My own personal stream-of-semi-consciousness. I call it "AnnWorld."

In the early days of computers, I read an article about how word processing programs wouldn’t mean better writing, they’d just make it easier for those who tend to be loquacious to loquate even more. I think I’ve proven that point on many occasions. And, yes, I know “loquate” isn’t a word, but if Shakespeare could make up words, so can I.

Rule #3: NO BUI. Blog naked if you like, or blog in your jammies, but blog sober. This isn’t so much a rule as advice. If you do get inspired after hefting a few, look it over the next morning to be sure you really want to say that about your ______________ (fill in the blank).

Rule #4: Proofread your blog, especially if you’re a writer blogging about writing. Be sure you didn’t any words out. The eye often sees what it thinks is there. Yes, that sentence was one of those tricks teachers sometimes throw in to see if you’re really paying attention.

Rule #5: To be announced. I’m sure once I get into the world of blogging I’ll come up with more rules. Until then, I hope I’ve helped not only the bloggers of the world but also the multitudes of blogees trying to figure out what the blog you’re trying to say.