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.

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.


—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


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, I'll send your $10 gift certificate via e-mail from

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 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.