Thursday, December 27, 2007


Here's the write-up from Romantic Times:

Empath Iris Browning was supposed to join her friend on the island of Mariposa for a psychic seminar. But when the woman goes missing, and not even the police take it seriously, Iris starts investigating the island's psychic institute. Expatriate former marine Maddox Heller doesn't want to get involved, especially after he realizes Iris can feel the soul-deep pain he's been running from, but he's forced to step in when both the CIA and terrorists start circling the gentle woman who fascinates him. Paula Graves captures readers with Forbidden Touch (4) thanks to an unusual psychic twist and a tarnished hero.

—Pat Cooper

Remember, it's available for pre-order in several, barnesandnoble, and, on January 1st, you can order it from eHarlequin and receive it before it's available in book stores or online.

Also, don't forget my contest, still going on until New Year's Eve, on this thread. Check it out and leave a comment--it's your chance to win!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I'm giving away a copy of my first two books plus a $20 gift certificate to some lovely random person who comments on this thread. Here's all you have to do:

I'm working on an idea for my next book. I need a name for my heroine. Here's a loose description of her:

Age - 28-30
Sandy brown hair, gray eyes
Cynical, distant, emotionally closed-off, she is a brilliant theoretician in the use of occupational therapy for mentally ill patients. Her master's thesis on game therapy for schizophrenics caught the attention of a mental health think tank that put her in charge of a halfway house for transitioning mentally ill patients into society. The halfway house is connected to a mental hospital.

The hero's name, if it helps to know that, is Riley Patterson. He's a Wyoming policeman, a cowboy at heart, and a widower whose wife worked at the mental hospital in question until she was murdered. The murder has never been solved. Until this book, that is.

So--between now and New Year's Eve, I'm taking name suggestions in the comments. First and/or last. The drawing for the winner will be random, but if any of you come up with the name I eventually decide to use for the heroine, I'll also put your name in the same book as a secondary character. Sound like fun?

So--let's get to the suggestions!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

My niece got an animatronic FurReal™ Butterscotch pony. It's twitching its tail and winking at me. And it nickers.

I. Am. In. Hell.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Message

My friend Emily is the rector at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City. I asked her if she would share a message about Christmas with me to share with you here on my blog.

She posted this on her blog, Hazelnut Reflections. I think it's a timely, inspiring message for this time of year, and I hope it speaks to you as it spoke to me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Weirdness

Dogs singing Christmas carols!

Scary Santa!

Weird Al!

I have no words!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

O Christmas Tree

My late father used to pinch a penny until it screamed, and then pinch it some more. So when it came to Christmas trees, there was no fun little trip to the Christmas tree lot or farm to be had. And back when I was younger, artificial trees weren't so much in vogue as they are now.

So one Christmas, when I was about 15, my father and my younger brother went out looking for a Christmas tree. What they came back with is the stuff of family legend.

I really have no idea what kind of tree it was. It wasn't a Douglas fir or anything like that. It also wasn't a typical southern long leaf pine sapling, if the needles were anything to go by. And speaking of its foliage, it was, to be generous, sparse.

The tree was about six feet tall, and very, very skinny. There was no gently sloping line from a narrow tip to a full bottom. It was the Olive Oyl of Christmas trees, one thin silhouette from bottom to top, with a handful of sharp, jutting branches like a dozen skinny arms.

It managed to stay upright until we hung the first ball. Clearly, the tree was incapable of standing by itself. So my mother, ever practical and ingenious--and well aware that my father would under no circumstances admit that the tree he brought home was anything less that what it should be--decided that we could temporarily sew the top of the tree to the top of the draperies standing right behind it. The thread would keep the tree upright as we applied the decorations.

With the tree fortified, we finished decorating it. Of course, we used about half the decorations we would usually use, and no combination of decorations--more garland than balls, more balls than garland--made it look any less anorexic. But it was a Christmas tree, and there were presents under it on Christmas. And we had something to talk about for years.

Which we did on a regular basis, for the pitiful little Christmas tree had one particular feature that added to the longevity of its memory, long after the pitiful sapling was hauled away in the January garbage. It was quite a shedder, dropping needles at an alarming rate. And the needles were as sharp as sewing needles, stabbing into bare toes and feet like heat-seeking missiles. We vacuumed, hand picked needles out, vaccuumed some more, and yet for YEARS afterwards, some unsuspecting bare foot would happen upon a needle in the carpet and the owner would cry out, "Damned Christmas Tree!"

Friday, December 21, 2007

Harry Potter Christmas

So, okay, I haven't blogged yet today, despite my resolution to post daily, and preferably before nightfall. I blame it on Harry Potter. Specifically, the 5-movie set that came in the mail a couple of days ago. Off from work, with my nieces to entertain, I opened up the box set and we've worked our way through three of the five movies so far.

So, there went the blogging.

However, here's a little something to keep you entertained. Post your favorite results in the comments!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Easy Holiday Party Foods and Drink

If you read my blog post over at the Intrigue Writers Blog, you know I'm no Emeril Lagasse. But I do have a few easy recipes for holiday parties that almost anyone should be able to make.

First up, my super easy Peanut Butter cookies.

1 cup sugar (or Splenda)
1 egg
1 cup peanut butter

Blend all three ingredients and spoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Cook at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the cookies start to brown on the bottom.

These are fast, yummy and very, very easy.

Next up - Parmesan Ranch Pita Chips

Slice pita bread into several small wedges. Coat with olive oil or olive oil cooking spray. Put them in a gallon-size zip-lock bag. Add a half packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix, salt and garlic powder to taste, and about a quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese. (Use the stuff that comes in the green can--nobody will quibble). Close the zip-lock bag and shake until the pita wedges are coated. Spray a flat cooking sheet with cooking spray and lay the pita wedges in one layer. Cook at 350 degrees until the chips start to brown. Don't be afraid to let them get nice and brown if you like them crispy, but they can burn quickly if you're not watchful.

Serve alone, with your favorite dip or with store-bought hummus. (I do have a hummus recipe, but it involves fresh garlic cloves, tahini paste and a food processor, and that's just too much work).

Finally, here's an easy non-alcoholic cocktail:

Sunrise Virgin Sangria

1 part orange juice
1 part Cherry Kool-Aid or Cherry Crystal Light
1 ripe strawberry, sliced
2-3 seedless grapes
1/4 banana, sliced
two table spoons of crushed ice

Take a large goblet (the bigger the better) and put crushed ice, strawberry, grapes and banana in the bottom. Pour the glass half full of the Cherry drink, then add the orange juice on the top. Don't stir before serving, because the orange juice will (if you're lucky) hang at the top of the glass while the Cherry drink remains at the bottom, giving you a sunrise effect in the glass. Very pretty. But don't sweat it if it gets all mixed up. It still tastes yummy.

My guess is that you could probably add liquor to that, but since I don't drink alcohol, I have no way of knowing if it'd taste good or be worth the trouble.

What are some of your easy recipes?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

Dream on, punkin'.

However, we've been known to have a very white March. Go figure.

So, how about y'all? What are your chances for the cold, white stuff on Christmas?

Ooops, almost forgot...The eHarlequin Community Open House is tomorrow, December 19th. I'll be in the chatroom on eHarlequin at 8 pm Central time (9 Eastern, 7 Mountain, 6 Pacific) along with several other suspense writers from Harlequin Intrigue and Silhouette Romantic Suspense. If you can drop by, please do!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'Tis Better to Give

Charity is an important part of the Christmas season, so I thought I'd share a list of charitable organizations that do good work all year long and would be worthy choices if you're in a giving mood this holiday season.

Salvation Army

American Red Cross

Habitat for Humanity

Jimmie Hale Mission/Jessie's Place

Big Oak Ranch

Catholic Relief Services

Episcopal Charities

Network for Good - a clearing house of charitable organizations

North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist)

International Mission Board (Southern Baptist)

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Of course, do your own research on these organizations, and others, before you give. I can personally vouch for some of them--Jimmie Hale Mission/Jessie's Place, North American and International Mission Boards, and Big Oak Ranch. I think most people also trust the Salvation Army, Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. But do your own research and find a worthy organization to share with this Christmas season if you can. Many times, there are local charities in your city, state or country that can use the extra money at Christmas and, really, all year 'round.

Also, be sure to check the previous post--I've added some new videos at the end that should not be missed. (Hat tip, lksa)

The Music of the Season

I've shared a couple of my favorite redneck-tinged holiday song. Now it's time for sharing some of my more serious favorites of the season.

First up: From Handel's Messiah, two of my favorites. And no, although I love it, neither is The Hallelujah Chorus:

"Every Valley Shall Be Exalted"

"Glory to God"

A more modern Christmas standard: "Mary, Did You Know?"

From Trisha Yearwood: "It Wasn't His Child"

Only a link on this one, but I really love this duet with Ricky Skaggs and James Taylor: "A New Star Shining"

And here's the same song with Skaggs and Steve Wariner:

And I like this a capella version of "Sweet Little Jesus Boy":

(I have to admit part of the appeal of that last one is watching white bread frat boy types pulling off that spiritual with a combination of awkward white boy non-rhythm but gorgeous harmony)

For a more traditional treatment of the same song, here's another version by Joseph Shore:

What about y'all? What are your favorite Christmas songs, traditional and non-traditional?

Edited to add: A commenter reminded me of this song that I really love: Clay Aiken singing "All is Well."

Edited to add again---lksa in the comments links to this version of The Hallelujah Chorus that's just amazing:

And this one...well, there are really no words. But I'm about to head to the website to see if they still have their Christmas performance DVD available after this one. As lksa suggests, stay past the third day of Christmas. You won't regret it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Blogging on the Intrigue Authors' Blog

Today's my day to blog on the Intrigue writers' blog, and I could use some comments. (Plus, that blog is really pretty cool if you read Intrigues or want to write them---we have a lot of smart, cool authors who have a lot of interesting things to say, so check out more posts than just mine).

Anyway, if you're in the mood, check it out here.

And in keeping with the Redneck Christmas theme I seem to be working on the blog these days, here's Mr. Redneck himself, Jeff Foxworthy, sharing a little holiday cheer:

Friday, December 14, 2007

...You Might Be a Redneck.

Since I blogged so late, I'll give y'all an extra little treat. I may have mentioned once or twice that I'm from the South. And, well, not the County Club South, either.

Anyway, all the talk about Christmas and family reminded me of one of my favorite Christmas videos - "Merry Christmas from the Family" by Robert Earl Keene. (And you know it's authentic when the guy's name is Robert Earl). you go. Enjoy!

Late for Christmas

Here we are, the second day of 12 Blogs of Christmas, and I'm already running waaaaay late. I didn't have a chance to breathe at work today (deadline day for a big direct mail catalog one of my clients will be mailing out in February. Merry Christmas to me. ::sigh:: ), so I didn't get to blog earlier.

Anyway, I spent the evening wrapping gifts while my sister took my nieces out to see Christmas lights. I have to admit, wrapping presents is probably my favorite thing about the lead-up to Christmas. I'm the official family wrapper (although I'm really bad at it), and I do enjoy all the pretty paper and bows. It's been fun over the past few years having children in the house on Christmas morning; I'd forgotten how magical the holiday could be when you're little.

One of my earliest memories is waking one Christmas morning before everyone else was up (including the sun) and being completely unable to go back to sleep. I knew I wasn't supposed to get up unless my parents were up, but patience was never one of my virtues. I crept down the hallway to the living room in the dim pre-dawn light to see what Santa had put under the tree.

I don't really remember what my sister and brother and I got that Christmas, or what caught my eye, but I do remember the sensation of all that new stuff lying scattered about around the tree and thinking, "It's magic!" And it was. It was the magic of people who loved us enough to sacrifice to give us something nice for Christmas. When we were old enough to understand what Christmas was really about, they taught us that the real magic is in giving, not receiving.

As I sit here and look at the table piled high with gifts for my family and friends, that same feeling of magic comes over me. I can't wait to watch my loved ones open their gifts. I hope they love them as much as I enjoyed picking them out.

Maybe that's why wrapping gifts is one of my favorite things about Christmas.

What are some of your favorite things about Christmas?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!"

If forced to choose my favorite Christmas movie of all time, I think I'd really have to go with A CHRISTMAS STORY. .

One of the cable stations--TNT? TBS?--marathons it every Christmas, and I usually watch it at least twice over the course of the day. There's just so much to love about its insanity-Ralphie's bunny suit:

Flick's tongue on the flagpole:

Ralphie's visit with Santa:

The Leg Lamp:

And do not miss the Chinese restaurant carolers singing Deck the Halls.

Edited to add--I meant to ask, what about y'all? What are your favorite holiday movies? I know my nieces (ages 8 and 11) seem mighty excited about "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" coming on twice already this Christmas season...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12 Blogs of Christmas

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to be blogging twelve days straight, leading up to Christmas day. I'd love for the next twelve days to be fully participatory---we're going to talk Christmas memories, favorite gifts, worthy charities for holiday giving, favorite recipes, favorite Christmas movies and songs--if it's Christmasy, we'll probably talk about it.

Plus, there'll be PRIZES! At the end of the month, I'll draw from the list of commenters on the blog and the winner will get autographed copies of my first two books plus a gift certificate. I haven't yet settled on what kind of gift certificate--we can even discuss that in the comments if you want. :)

So please, join me over the next twelve days here on this blog and let's share a little holiday spirit among ourselves.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Are You Missing the Big Holiday Blitz?

At the Intrigue Author's blog, that is.

Some of your favorite Intrigue authors are blogging up a storm and giving away prizes as well!

I'll be blogging Saturday, if I can figure out a good topic. Maybe I'll go with something like "Christmas Out of a Can"--The Non-cook's Guide to Holiday Meals." That could be fun!

Friday, December 07, 2007

January Online class information

Feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be interested.

The Fiction Writer's Self-Editing Workshop
Instructor: Rhonda Stapleton
Dates: January 14 – 28, 2008
Cost: $20

Do you find yourself overwhelmed by confusing grammar, punctuation, and editing rules? Don't despair! The Fiction Writer's Self-Editing Workshop is the place for you. Whether you're a beginning writer or seasoned author, you can learn simple, straightforward tips for self-editing.

Topics discussed include punctuation use, point of view, trimming the fat, using concrete/vivid language, frequent errors, style tips, breaking the rules, and more! The course is highly interactive - students will get hands-on editing experience, as well as practice through assigned homework. Students will also receive a list of helpful editing/style books and websites for a reference guide.

Rhonda Stapleton obtained her Master's degree in English from Cleveland State University. She has a Bachelor's degree in English from CSU, as well. Rhonda is a Principal Editor at Thomson West, a legal publishing company, where she has worked for the last five years. In addition, she has freelance edited novels, theses, student papers, and a college writing textbook.

While attending Cleveland State, Rhonda worked in The Writing Center for two years as a writing tutor for undergraduate and graduate students. She also taught ENG 105 and ENG 106, college credit courses that give students hands-on tips for writing papers, from brainstorming topics to self-editing. The courses correlate with introductory composition courses ENG 101 and ENG 102.

Full details and registration at the Heart of Dixie website,

Questions? Contact the Coordinator at

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Trouble with Harry

Potter, that is.

Believe it or not, until just about four weeks ago, I hadn't read any of the Harry Potter books. I'd bought all of them for my niece, who loves them, but I'd always avoided reading them, despite rave reviews from friends whose tastes in reading usually match mine. Maybe I just thought a "kid's book" wouldn't really be of much interest. Also, I'm not normally a fan of fantasy books.

But a few weeks ago, I was in need of reading material and my niece's Harry Potter book (conveniently book #1) was sitting there. For about two weeks, I read a few pages at a time, just when I was in the room where the book was. Then, when I started nearing the finish line of COWBOY ALIBI, I started using the book as incentive to get my scheduled pages in. If I made my pages for the day, I could read a while.

I finished HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE that way. When I finished my first draft of COWBOY ALIBI early, I gave myself permission to binge read my way through the rest of the books. I started book 2 on Thursday and finished book Seven on my lunch hour at work the next Monday.

What can I say about the Harry Potter series that hasn't been said already? It was fun, exciting, thought-provoking, heartbreaking and thoroughly enjoyable. There were a lot of themes in the book that I think speak directly to who we are as humans and how hard it is to do what is right instead of what is easy. I like that the values of the books cross all political spectrums and speak more about decency than policy. The books were really well-crafted, too, with set-ups that paid off enjoyably, in a very satisfying way.

So, here are a few "favorites" from my Harry Potter experience (warning: spoilers for those who haven't read the books):

1. Favorite character: Snape. Although Ginny Weasley and Hermione Granger are also in the running. I loved that Snape was unlovely and unlovable, and yet he was probably the most courageous of all the characters in the entire series. Because what he was asked to do by Dumbledore, what he dedicated his life to, was not something that came natural or easy to him. If ever there was a character who symbolized the idea of doing what is right rather than what is easy, it was Snape.

I loved Hermione because she reminds me of myself at her age--serious yet sometimes silly, with grand ideas (free the house elves!) that are never as simple and universal as they seem when you're that age. And I loved Ginny because I got to see her grow and blossom over the course of the books into a woman worthy of Harry, his equal in so many ways and his perfect complement in others.

2. Favorite book: Either THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE or THE GOBLET OF FIRE. Although THE DEATHLY HALLOWS was an excellent end to the series, and it was the only one of the books that made me cry.

3. Favorite non-human: Oh, so hard to choose! I was heartbroken when Hedwig died, so that owl is certainly a contender. Loved Dobby, and by the end, I loved Kreacher as well, so both of the house elves deserve mention. And Pigwidgeon, Ron's little owl, was so cute!

4. Favorite surprise moment: Learning that the doe Patronus belonged to Snape. It helped explain the rest of his behavior long before the exposition was over. Because once you knew it was his, and a doe, you instinctively understood the rest.

5. Favorite Quidditch match: The one Harry couldn't go to because he had detention. He was so certain Gryffindor was going to lose, but when he entered the common room and the cheers went up--yay! And it doesn't hurt that he ended up snogging Ginny. And speaking of snogging...

6. Favorite mental image: Kreacher snogging a pair of old Mr. Black's trousers. Honorable mention: the image of Dobby wearing all those hats that Hermione knitted in hopes of freeing the house elves.

7. Favorite "I'm surprised I feel sorry for him, but I do" moment: Pretty much any scene involving Draco Malfoy in the last book.

Now that I've read the books, time to watch the movies. I pre-ordered the 5-movie DVD set that's coming out December 11th as a Christmas present to myself. I think my niece and I will be having a Harry Potter movie marathon before the holidays are over.