What's one date that sure to please a guy? How about a trip to a car museum?
Actually, visiting the LeMay Car Museum in Spanaway, WA was not only fun for Gerhardt and his bro, it was fun for my sister-in-law and myself as well.
We actually had a guide through part of this collection of hundreds of cars. Thank you Dennis for sharing your expertise. (Wish I hadn't accidentally deleted the video we shot from my iPad. Sigh.)
So what did I learn from our guide? Well, originally, like in Britain, early car steering wheels were on the right of the car. Why was this? Well, two reasons. Cars started out as the horseless buggy and drivers were used to sitting on the right to handle the reins. Also sidewalks were to the right of the car and nobody wanted to step out onto the dusty, often muddy street. Early headlights were lit like a candle. Some early cars had tillers rather than steering wheels. Oh, and tires were all originally white. But not very sturdy, so manufacturers came up with some sort of process to coat them and the coating material turned black on the top, leaving the white exposed underneath. Hence, whitewall tires.
The other thing I learned is... I really like old-fashioned sports cars. I so fell in love with a jazzy red roadster from the thirties, and my sis-in-law and I both figured we could do a great girl road trip in it. Alas, once cars come into the museum they never leave. In summer, however, they do host a car auction. Oooh, how tempting! But, alas, again, now that we've downsized to a condo and only have two parking spots (one of which belongs to Gerhardt's beloved truck) I doubt there will be a red convertible in my future.
Anyway, thank you LeMays for providing a lot of fun and a tasty bit of history for car buffs to enjoy.
Unlike many authors, little Sheila is a ham. I enjoy doing booksigning parties, interviews and TV appearances. It probably has something to do with being the baby of the family and getting hooked on all that attention.
High on my list of favorite things to do is to visit A.M. Northwest, a local TV show out of Portland. Everyone involved with that show is wonderful, and I'm always excited when I can come up with an excuse to go on there.
And we writers do need an excuse. Once upon a time writers were celebrities, but not any more. It's not enough to call a TV show or radio station and say, "Hey, I want to come on and talk about my latest book and how I came up with the idea." At least that's the case if you write fiction. Non-fiction writers are a different story because they already have an interesting topic and an area of expertise.
So, if you're a fiction writer, you have to become an expert on something. For me, that's often tied to the holidays. I've done everything from easy Christmas goody recipes to craft ideas. (This latest appearance was my eighth.) This time we were talking about party ideas (three of which you can find on the Christmas Central page). If there's one thing I'm an expert on it's parties. I love to entertain - and I have my mom, who was the world's best hostess, to thank for that. She was so clever! I like to think I'm following in her footsteps.
How about you? Are you a holiday party animal? Want to do something special this holiday season? Try snowball caroling or having a swap party (yes, those ideas are on the Christmas Central page) or maybe throw a party for your teens and send them on a scavenger hunt to collect items for your local food bank. Or throw an old fashioned parlor game party. Oh, I could go on and on.
And I did on the show, for a whole six minutes, which is a nice long time for a guest segment. The time sure flew!
So, how does this TV thing work? Well, it helps to bring visual aids, so I had a ton to pack up - everything from cookies to decorations and a home made craft. The show shifts quickly from segment to segment, so we set up our little display table ahead of time. Then it was wheeled onto the set right before I went on. Minutes are carefully counted from behind the camera and the host is very aware of the ticking clock. A minute of chitchat and then it's, Put on your smile - the world is watching.
Helen Raptis, the show's host, is lovely to work with. Sadly, we never get much time to visit before the cameras start rolling. But that's the way it is in showbiz. You're on - quick! And then you're off - quick! And the show moves on to the next guest.
That famous fifteen minutes of fame? It's a lot less than fifteen minutes when you're a struggling writer. But hey, I still have hopes for DANCING WITH THE STARS.
We had a fabulous Thanksgiving and a fun weekend following - time with family partying with friends - my idea of a perfect weekend! In the midst of all that fun I realized I didn't take much time to think about being thankful. So on Sunday I sat down and made a list. Here are the things that came to mind. I'm thankful for:
Having enough to eat (More than enough, obviously, since I'm currently dieting!)
A nice house and a warm bed - and someone special to share it with, which brings me to
My man! He's a good guy and a loving husband. And he can even admit when he's wrong. How's that for impressive?
Immediate and extended family that I love and enjoying being around
That fact that God has brought me through some very difficult times in the past few years but I'm still here and can smile.
Forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven
Parents who instilled faith and godly principles in their kids
My mom's great example of hospitality
Hair! (I still remember - not fondly- when I didn't have any)
The gift of writing
The ability to earn a living doing what I love
Loyal (and fun!) friends
A beautiful view out my living room window
A paid off house
A husband who is a good money manager (hence the paid off house)
Being able to still see and hear (not as good as when I was twenty but oh, well)
Living in a democracy where I can vote and express my opinions freely (and hopefully always politely)
The ability to worship without getting put in jail or tortured
Dentists (If I'd lived in another time half my teeth would have fallen out by now!)
Chocolate (and all those chocolatey treats that keep the dentists in business)
Holidays and the special celebrations that come with them
A car that runs
The ability to travel
A good night's sleep (when I can get it)
I love book signing parties! We always have so much fun. This last Saturday was no exception. We had games, goodies and give-aways and a drawing for a fabulous gift basket. A big thank you to all the friends who came out to join my pal Marie Bostwick and me as we celebrated the release of our latest holiday tales.
After the signing some of us went out to eat and keep the fun going. All in all, my idea of a perfect day!
If you're wishing you could have been part of the fun, here is a copy of the game we played at the party. Take the quiz and see how many Christmas characters you know. I've got the answers posted below the questions, so no peeking ahead. Okay, you ready to tell me who's who? Go!
1. He started out as a stingy man
2. He sees you when you're sleeping (isn't that kind of an ick factor?)
3. His nose turned out to be a plus
4. He played a mean drum
5. He blessed us, everyone
6. She never sees her husband on Christmas Eve
7. He nips at your nose
8. An old silk hat brought him to life
9. He stole Christmas
10. A famous holiday dancer
11. A good king
12. He was the first ghost to haunt Scrooge
Okay, how many do you think you got correct? Let's see. Here are the answers.
4. The Little Drummer Boy
5. Tiny Tim
6. Mrs. Claus
7. Jack Frost
8. Frosty the Snowman
9. The Grinch
10. The Sugarplum Fairy
Gerhardt and I had so much fun visiting the real life Icicle Falls (Leavenworth, WA) last weekend. Whenever I have a new book out our friends at A BOOK FOR ALL SEASONS invite us to come up and hang out in the store. It's always a wonderful opportunity to see old friends and make some new ones.
This visit was no exception. I met new readers - and was so surprised when one of my old church buddies, Paula, showed up with some friends in tow. Neither of us knew the other was going to be in town for the weekend. It was also wonderful to catch up with my old high school BFF Susan, and we enjoyed a true Bavarian meal with her and her husband.
For those of you who've never had the chance to visit this charming Bavarian village, I encourage you to put it on your bucket list. The surrounding scenery is gorgeous, and if you enjoy hiking or winter sports you'll be glad you made the trip there. (One hike will take you to Indian petroglyphs.) As for shopping, it's chick heaven - the place is filled with tons of shops from the sublime to the ridiculous. You can purchase lace or elegant china, designer chocolates, handcrafted soap, or a silly hat or t-shirt. (I purchased a gorgeous wreath of metal leaves in one of the art shops that I love.) You can eat schnitzel that's almost as good as what you'd find in Germany and you can hear some lively German music. This trip I noticed that carriage rides have been added. Too fun!
The place is beautiful all year round but Christmas is still my favorite time of year, when the whole town is lit up and the mountains are draped with snow. I must say though, that fall runs a close second with all the vibrant fall colors and the lovely decorations.
I could have stayed another day easily, taking it all in, spending money. But alas, work called and we had to leave. Ah, well, spring and a new book are right around the corner, so "Icicle Falls," in the words of the Terminator, "I'll be back."
One woman's junk is another woman's treasure, and our little community of beach babes proves that every year with our annual swap party. Oh, the treasures! Purses, home decor, dishes (including a cute little fish-shaped serving platter), barbecue equipment, storage bins, candles, clothes. Something for everyone.
And for little Sheila? Two camp chairs, which will come in handy at the new place we're building. The lot already has a fire pit and I'm envisioning hot dog roasts a plenty. I also scored a brand new yoga mat which will come in handy when I try to do floor exercises on my concrete condo floor. I'm going to try some beginner yoga, too, and see if I can master downward dog. Or is it upward dog? Downward spiral? Anyway, I'm going to be working hard to stay fit this winter and that will help.
Of course, there was much nail biting in suspense as we waited to see who'd won what, and much shrieking and elation every time someone won a coveted item. And a little mock jealousy afterward (as you can see by the picture below), much of which was fueled by wine. But there was plenty of salmon dip and crackers, chocolate, and other goodies with which to console ourselves.
So, how does one run a swap party? Well, there are many different ways. My gang from the old neighborhood just brought things and we took turns picking what appealed to us. The beach babes have their own system. Everyone receives a certain number of poker chips with her name or initials on them. Then we go around and "shop" putting a chip on each item that appeals to us. If we really want an item we might blow all our chips that one thing. If only one person's chip is on an item then it's hers. If more than one woman has laid down a chip, they all go in a dish and our hostess has someone draw the winning chip from it.
Any leftover items get donated to local charities. At the beach we have a committee happy to take our goods for their yearly garage sale which raises money for the Woof-a-thon - a benefit for the town's pets. And if that doesn't work out, there's the thrift store run by the food bank. All proceeds from that go toward helping people with financial needs. So this is truly a win-win-win party.
How about you? Got some decorations you've grown tired of? Have you outgrown that oh, so cool top? Maybe it's time to host a swap party of your own. Christmas is coming. You might get just what you've been wanting. And you won't even have to ask Santa for it!
Plenty! Lots of laughs, fun... and brainstorming. (I'm sure you can see by my friend
Susan Wiggs and I that brainstorming is, indeed, hard work!) Also pictured are other authors you probably have enjoyed reading. Here's the line-up, from left to right, Kate Breslin (then there's me, of course), Lois, Dyer, Susan Wiggs, Elsa Watson and A.J. Banner.
Earlier this week we all went to the charming Washington town of Port Townsend for a brainstorming getaway. While we did go out for lunch and dinner, our day was completely filled with helping each other pull our next projects together. When you get that many writers in one room the creative vibes bounce off the walls. I've got to say, I'm very excited, not only about my next Christmas book, but about the other novels we worked together to shape. Writing a book is a solitary job and ultimately it's the author who crafts the story, but sharing ideas really helps with the creativity. Sometimes you get a whole new vision for your project.
After talking business over dinner we did take time in the evening for chatting and playing a round of Taboo - a great game for wordsmiths!
It was a treat to do all this in charming surroundings. We hung out at The Palace Hotel, which, in the town's wilder times, was the house of ill repute. Each room, done up with wonderful antiques, is named after a different shady lady. This town offers beautiful views and lots of charming shops and wonderful restaurants. So if you're ever sight-seeing on the Kitsap Peninsula be sure to add it to your list of places to visit.
Check out Sheila's latest interview with the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.
Last week I was in San Diego for the annual Romance Writers of America conference where a couple thousand women converge to learn the craft of writing, make business connections and consume copious amounts of coffee and chocolate. (And the bar gets a fair bit of action, too.) Parties and power lunches abound and the diet gets thrown out the window.
It's a treat to see all my favorite people in the business - writing pals such as Nancy Naigle, Lisa Hendrix, Pam Binder, Brenda Novak, and Shirley Marks, and my buddy Susan Wiggs, to name a few, the great team at my publishing house, Harlequin, my wonderful publicist Nancy Berland, and my lifelong friend and agent Paige Wheeler. And I so enjoyed making new friends like the gorgeous Carla Neggers. Most of these people I only get to see in person once a year so this conference is always a treat. The frosting on the cake this year was getting to visit with readers and even a member of my street team at the Literacy for Life book signing event.
Lots of brainstorming goes on at these conferences, where authors come to learn new ways to grow their readership and improve their books. In between, we have some fun sight-seeing and partying. But in the end, the purpose of the conference is business, and as writers we take our business seriously.
We all want to write the best story we can, hopefully one that will encourage and entertain you, our readers. Because, after all, you're the most important part of this business. What would we do without you?!
... has the cops called on them. No, just kidding. Although Gerhardt's family reunion did get pretty wild and crazy with karaoke performances loud enough to scare the wildlife (oh, wait, that was us), crazy luau costumes, and strange nighttime prowlers. (Glad I was happily and ignorantly asleep when that one happened.)
These days it seems we're all busy and going a million directions. It can be hard to stay connected, especially from one generation to the next. A yearly getaway can be a good answer to that problem. All trapped together in a mountain cabin we were forced to spend time together. (Not that it was a hardship. I enjoy my husband's family.) This year we had a special treat with Gerhardt's half-sister from Australia joining us. Great fun. Of course we had to sing "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" for her. It was recorded by... somebody. Not us because by that time I'd used up all my iPad memory recording many other memorable performances. So I guess you'll just have to take my word for it that I was fabulous. :)
And so another family reunion is a memory and we're all looking forward to gathering at Christmas, when there will be much pandemonium again as we fight over gift gags and tacky presents.
I guess on that note I'll bring this blog to a close. Time for bed. Tomorrow I fly out to San Diego for the Romance Writers of America conference. Hoping to see many of my buddies there. And who knows, maybe a reader or two will join us at the Marriott Marquis hotel on Wednesday from 5:30 - 7:30 for the big book signing party. If you're in San Diego this Wed be sure and come by. Probably all your favorite romance authors will be there signing books!