Thursday, June 24, 2010

Designing Dog

This is Gater, the four-legged mutt.

He thinks he's being helpful. Look at that face as he surveys the work-in-progress sun room. I can almost see his little mutt brain thinking, "Yup. Looking good. Keep working, though. You all ain't done yet." I'm tempted to call him Suzanne Sugerbaker, but I doubt he'd get the reference.

Side note: What's with all the 'designer' dog names that merely make the age old breed of 'mutt' somehow sound 'expensive'? I saw an ad for "Shweenies" in the paper the other day--part wiener dog, part shiz tsu. Shweeines. For $125. When I was a kid, you could find dogs like that in the classified, usually under the header 'FREE TO A GOOD HOME.'

Which got me thinking--what would you 'market' Gater as? He's part beagle, part terrier--although we're not sure what kind of terrier. The Boston terrier people make a good argument, but the rat terrier people have their points too. Berrier? Gater the Berrier? Or Teagle? Gater the Teagle? Thoughts?

Anyway, back to the main point, which, if you recall (or, more likely, have already put far from your mind), was that Gater thinks he's 'helping.'

I have to say that, in fact, this particular brand of paint really sucked. But Gater didn't help.

As you can see by the paint on his hindquarters there, he was 'helping,' all right. He was 'texturizing' the wall for us, adding visual interest and contrast in the form of what the professionals call 'dog hair.'

It's okay, though. That part of the wall is going to be behind window boxes. Yes, that's right. We painted a wall that will be permanently covered up. We're weird like that. We never would have made it in the Great Depression.

What's that? You want to know where Jake is? Jake--my old man, my three-legged wonder wiener, my boy--is sound asleep in his chair. You know what I say to that?

Good dog.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bad Guy Song!!

Only the parents of small children have a shot in heck of guessing where the title of today's blog comes from.*

Nevertheless, I have a couple of bad guys in the WIP, and these slime balls need names. HELP!

I have names, of course. Bad guy names usually come from people I've known and, frankly, didn't care for all that much. Sometimes, it's just a name that conjures up awfulness for me. This isn't to say that there aren't nice people with bad-guy names, but for me, these are not hero names.

Bad Guy Names:

1. Frank (Franklin is fine, Nanner!)
2. Burt
3. Red
4. Darryl (Just the first one. His other brother, Darryl, is just fine.)
5. Mort
6. Beau (I know, I know--Beau is a 'typical' romance hero name. I don't care. I don't like it.)
7. Cecil
8. Arnold
9. Lester
10. Victoria (whenever I think bad girl, Victoria is always the first name that pops into my mind. Vicky isn't a huge improvement, but I have several nice neighbors named Vicky, so I'll let it slide.)

But honestly, I don't know that many bad guys. So I need your help. What names invoke irritation, awfulness, or panic for you?

*Disney's The Three Musketeers - the narrating turtle sings "The Bad Guy Song" and we can't get enough of it. Did you guess?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Remodel in Progress


 That wide, flat spot where the shovel is resting? Leak central. The contractors found four measurable holes in the metal. The best option was to eliminate the need for two-foot wide gutters.

Yes, I took this through the screen. Sorry. Trust me, it's new rafters being fastened over the old ones.

During, part II:

Notice the lack of gutters prone to holes and leaks? Pretty snazzy!

Nice, smooth walls in everyone's favorite shade, primer!

Look! A ceiling color! Believe it or not, that's "Pineapple Sorbet." Who comes up with these names?

I'd like to take a moment to offer a public service announcement: Do not stand on a ladder and hand your Kid a camera, unless, of course, you want twenty photos where your bottom is the prime focal point of the composition and you enjoy what few shots he did get of your head to include four or more chins. And no, you won't be seeing any of those pictures.

The remodel is going as swimmingly as these things can. We'll finish painting this week and the husband will install a ceiling fan, then the contractors will come back out to refinish the floor and refurbish the exterior windows. At some point, window seats with nifty storage will appear, and then all The Kid's toys will migrate en masse to the sun room and I will shut the door.

Ah. I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Do you know what Alphas are? They are heroes in romance novels. Alphas are your take-charge men, strong, sure, and confident in their decisions, style, and--above all else--capabilities in the bedroom. Alphas have manly jobs, like firefighter, police officer, lumberjack, CEO, and deer hunter. They don't worry about their hair; they worry about saving the world, their company, or the woman they love from evil-doers (often at the same time). There's no room for doubt in their world. They are red-blooded American men, although we will make exceptions for nobility from just about any country in the world. They are leaders. We can't help but follow them because they're just so damn manly.

Personally, I can't stand them. Alphas--in real life--are all too often obnoxious, overbearing, unwilling to compromise know-it-all bosses of the world. They grate on my nerves and drive me bonkers--and never, ever, in the romance-novel kind of way.

This is sort of a problem, because I write romance novels, where Alphas rule and all others need not apply for hero status. I was recently informed that a hero of mine--who I considered to be quite the Alpha--was, in fact, emasculated to the point that he was anything but an Alpha. He didn't sleep with enough women, start enough bar fights, and pursue the heroine with a single-minded focus. Instead, he was conflicted, unsure of himself (at least until the heroine restored all his confidence), and only punched one person.

Not only that, my heroine was actually the true Alpha in the book. She took no crap, didn't let anyone get in her way, and rode bulls, for God's sake. (In all honesty, that heroine has NOTHING on the current one in terms of being the top dog in the book.)

This did not work, I was told.

So now I find myself having to think a lot more about a male personality type that actually turns me off. I'm already reworking the WIP (you remember that means "Work in Progress," right?) to make my hero more irritating--I mean hunky--and my heroine weaker--I mean more gentle.

Have you ever noticed the subheader on this blog" are a tremendous writer. I have no idea how you're going to pull it all together..." Yeah. There's a reason it's up there.

I may be a tremendous writer, but days like these remind me that I have no idea what I'm really doing and even less of an idea how I'm going to pull it all together. 

But I'm going to keep trying until I get it right.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Okay. I'm having a bad week. So I interrupt this home-demolition-and-remodel in progress with some therapy, Authorial Mom style.

Be honest. Does my nose need 'work'?

This *is* my good side, Mommy.

Soulful. Deep. It's . . . Magnum! (name that movie!)

Ack! Too close! TOO CLOSE!!

And not to be outdone:


No, I haven't had anything artificially lifted. Why do you ask?

Really. They do this all by themselves.

Now that's just gratuitous.

There. I feel better. Tune in next week for our regularly scheduled programming.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Am Not An Indian

It's true. I'm not. I'm about as white as they come. My mom's side is strictly German heritage (although, if you press my Gram, she will admit to the fact that part of her branch came from--brace yourselves--Lichtenstein); my dad is all sorts of European mutt, including whatever branch of the Welsh settled in the Missouri Ozarks a century and a half ago.

The family folklore is that, just like everyone else in this great nation, we're part Cherokee. And, sure, you can look at pictures of my Pop and various uncles, tilt your head to one side, squint lightly, and say, "Yes, I think I see the Cherokee."

Or they were just 'swarthy.' Hard to tell.

But the fact of the matter is that, for all practical purposes, I am as white as your everyday loaf of Wonder bread.

So what the hell am I doing writing about Lakota Indians?

Well, I was fascinated as a kid. Something about Indians and horses grabbed a hold of my imagination and never really let go. I don't know a whole heck of a lot about any individual tribe, but I do know more than most middle class white women.

But here's the trick. I know enough about various Native American Indian cultures to know that there are a lot of ways to screw up representing them, a lot of ways to feed into offensive stereotypes, and a whole hell of a lot of ways to piss off a group of people that really don't need me adding insult to injury.

But I'm a big fan. So what to do? Some people might say, well, it's not that different than J.K. Rowling--she's not a boy wizard, after all. Which is true--but (depending on what you believe) wizards aren't real. She got to make her world up. Lakota Indians are real people.

What can you do if you are writing for a different race?

First, do your best to keep it real. This involves research--you've got to put in your due diligence. Make contacts in your area of interest, and ask questions early and often. The first woman who replied to my oh-so-clueless questions, Stephanie Schwartz, was wonderful. She killed two ideas I had because they used two sacred topics. But she also made suggestions for revising my ideas to be more general.

Second, write what you know. And what I know is 'clueless white woman.' That's why one of my characters is always a clueless white person. Technically, that makes my work 'interracial.' I don't think I could write a really good novel between two American Indians who had always lived on a rez. That's not what I know. But I can do 'outsider trying to understand' real well.

Third, know where the line is, and (this is important) do not cross it. I don't write stories about the deeply religious rites the Lakota hold sacred. I don't want to write a book about a white woman who is spiritually bereft and made whole only by undergoing a Ghostdance, because that crosses the line between 'respectful' and 'exploitive.' If I do that, I will get those things wrong; I will insult the Lakota tribe. Why would I want to piss off the people I respect and admire? Stephanie helped me see what that line was. Instead of specific rites, I focus on things common to everyone's experience--falling in love, caring for children, and good-looking men on horseback. You can't go wrong with good-looking men on horseback.

Fourth, be a part of the community. Tony Hillerman wasn't a Navajo; however, he treated the tribe with dignity and respect and contributed to the community; for this, they made him a Special Friend of the Dineh. Contribute to the schools; give to the charities that help the most, like Pathways to Spirit, who use contributions to help keep tribal elders from freezing to death every winter.

Fifth, and finally, realize that Abe Lincoln was right. You can't please all the people all the time. No matter what you write, someone's going to find fault with it. If you're a woman writing male characters, someone's going to complain. If you're an adult writing kids, someone will find fault. I'm a white woman who writes Lakota Indians. I'm sure that there are going to be people inside and outside the tribe who are not going to be happy with me.

But to those critics, I say this: I write fiction. I write romance. I do the best I can with what I've got, and I like what I'm doing.

Mostly because of the good-looking men on horseback.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Remodel In Progress

Yes, it's that time of the year again, the time when the stars line up at the same time the house seriously begins to fall apart; the time when my husband moves some money around at the same time 'our' contractor has an opening.


To recap: our house was built between 1892 and 1895. In layman's terms, it's older than dirt. And like all good dirt, parts of it continue to crumble.

We hire Dan the Floor Man for about one project a year. I love Dan. He's about 58 years old, and an old-school rural gentleman. Intelligent and soft-spoken, he's the kind of contractor who calls if he's going to be half an hour late from when he told you he'd be there. His true love is hardwood. We first hired him to do the hardwood floor in our kitchen, but he's also a general contractor. He does such good work that this is the fourth job we've hired him to do for us. You last saw his work in the Office Remodel. If I had the money, I'd put Dan on permanent retainer.

What's Dan doing for us this time around? Well, the sunroom.

It's been doing this for most of the 4 1/2 years we've been living here. We've ignored this slow-build water damage.

But this winter, things hit critical mass. It began to rain indoors--through the windows. One March day, I was forced to break out the recip saw in a vain attempt to divert the water away from the windows. The results weren't pretty.

The next day, I called Dan the Floor Man. We got on his schedule and then began the Home Remodeling Game of Chicken--would the whole sun room fall off the house before we could save it? We play this game a lot, and we usually win. This was by far the closest we've ever come to losing (that one time with the non-existent pipe notwithstanding).

So, Memorial Day weekend happened, and we decided to get a head start on Dan's work. I mean, I love Dan, but I don't want to pay him for ripping out a wall or a ceiling when I have a perfectly good five-year-old boy and husband who are just looking for something to destroy.

Tip: If you are looking for safety goggles for your young child to engage in some age-inappropriate home demolition, Home Depot had a pair that were 'close-fitting.' They weren't the perfect fit, but the only other thing that would stay on his face were the chemistry-class style with the rubber band around the back of the head, which slid off his nose. 'Close-fitting' was okay for light demo. It said that on the label.

The Kid was in charge of knocking out those lower panels. In the course of an hour and a half on Friday night, he and I made this kind of progress.

He did good work. And then he put himself in charge of clean up. The husband and I were ready to kick back, but no, The Kid wanted to sweep.

Notice that gray stuff behind the wall I spent an hour carefully ripping down?

That, my friends, is the original clapboard siding on our house. The whole sunroom was originally a porch. The siding is in good shape, mostly because it's been indoors for the last 80 years (we estimate the sunroom was 1920s), so we're going to keep it.

Perhaps you noticed the mold that went with the water damage? And the drywall dust? And the rock wool insulation that's covered in roof barf from the new roof we put on four years ago? You know what all that means?

Masks for everyone!

Home Remodeling: Not for the vain.

Mmm. Man with crowbar. And he knows how to use it! He got the rest of the ceiling down in less than half an hour. (What did you think I was talking about?)

This project is going to last us several more weeks. It'll be weeks of agonizing decisions (Copper gutters? Or new roof?), heartbreak (Oh, s&*^, it's raining!), and hope (Did we just agree on a paint color?), so stay tuned for the further misadventures of Remodeling, Anderson-Style!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Which is not the same as R.I.P. from last week's obituary (and thanks again for all your well wishes!). No, WIP means Work In Progress for all you non-author types out there. In my case, it usually means Works In Progress.

Case in point: I haven't even handed The Indian Princess off to my agent yet, and I've already got 15,000 words done on another book, tentatively titled The Wannabe Cowboy, and I've got 7,000 words done on the follow-up to The Mystic Cowboy (A reoccurring 'Cowboy' title theme? Know your target audience!), called The Man Called Nobody. (Yes, it's a shout out to one of my all time fav-rave cowboys, Clint, but my character's name actually is Nobody.)

Plus, (I can hear you saying out loud, plus??) I'm mentally churning through the follow-up to The Wannabe Cowboy, (really) tentatively called The Wannabe Indian. There may be a third Wannabe book out there, but it has not yet chosen to fully reveal itself to me as of yet. And I have another book waiting to be written, too--a complete reboot of an earlier book I wrote that is currently gathering dust on a shelf. Basically, the names and the characters' occupations would be the same. Just about everything else would be different.

Yes. I'm an anomaly. I'm comfortable with who I am. 

So that's two WIP, and two more in the chute. Toss in some freelance jobs and my grandmother Goldie's WIP, Eleanore Gray, and that should keep me off the streets until there's a lot of snow on the ground.

So, in advance, I'd like thank/apologize to my mother (Hi, Mom!), the Lovely Mary (Grammar Goddess), and Laurel Levy (beta reader extraordinaire) for all their hard work/tolerance of this onslaught of cowboy-based literature. 

Ladies, I'm going to make the next cowboy extra-hunky, just for you.