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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Humbled by technology

Life was so simple when I was young. It was a basic, straightforward mechanical existence. Keys turned to open a car door, calls were made with a thunkety-thunk-thunk of a finger stuck in thick plastic disc, the caller's wanderings limited by the length of the cord stuck into the wall.
I only say this because I think growing up in the wires and gears era is why I’m so challenged when it comes to figuring out electronics, especially how to create a website. Tyler Moore and his YouTube tutorial on WordPress ( gave me the information I needed to put it together, but I was still perplexed.
I can sling words into a novel, wrangle a crochet hook around yarn to create a hat or scarf, and stitch together a coat from scraps of fabric, but that’s working with media I’m familiar with. Words, wool, and winter wear haven’t changed much over the years. Well, maybe words have, but I can Google those and figure out what a dongle is with an internet connection.

Friday, August 31, 2018

How a can of chili started a romance novel 

Writers tend to grab bits of life and use them as seeds for their literary gardens. I know I do. I took the true story about my husband and a can of chili and wove it into the opening scene of One Arctic Summer. Here’s the true story followed by the fictional tale of Alexandra Oppenheimer and the two guys she encountered at the Arctic village store.
My husband, Marty, is a mechanic. In Alaska, he’s what’s known as a bush mechanic, a guy who flies into remote areas in little puddle-jumper airplanes or by boat with a minimum of repair parts and tools, hired by local agencies or contractors to repair finnicky or broken generators or heavy equipment. In the late 90s, he was in Kotlik, a village of less than 600. His task was to repair the main power generator for the village.
There are no hotels or even bed and breakfasts in Alaska villages. Informed visitors (usually mechanics, contractors or government agents) know to bring their own food and a sleeping bag to lay out on the elementary school floor, the go-to inn.
Marty decided a can of chili sounded better than the granola bars he always packed, so he picked up a can at the little store. “Do you have a microwave?” he asked the clerk.
“Yup. Right over there.”
Marty paid the five dollars for the can of chili, popped the top on it, set it in the unit, and started pressing buttons. He checked the power cord (he is a mechanic, after all, and troubleshooting comes naturally), unplugged it and swapped it with the functional light cord but still no power.
“I thought you said you had a microwave?” he asked the clerk.
“We do. You didn’t ask if it worked or not, though,” the man replied.
I’m not sure if the clerk grinned or not, but I’m sure he was laughing deep down inside.
My husband, not to be deterred, took the can back to the powerhouse, set it on the shield above the exhaust manifold, and was able to eat hot chili less than a half hour later.
I love that guy. So adaptable!
Now, here’s the excerpt where I took a true life experience and incorporated it into my story. Oh, and just for the record, One Arctic Summer takes place in Barrow, Alaska in 1994. I really was there at the time of the story. When I find the pictures of me there, I’ll share. In the meantime, here’s your free fiction for the week:
Alexandra interrupted the two men, waving a can of chili in the air. “Are you kidding me? Five bucks for a can of chili? You have to be out of your ever-lovin’ mind!”
Q and Rocky looked at each other, their grins identical, their dark eyes dancing as they silently decided who was going to be the one to give this cheechako the lecture on the costs involved with bringing ‘Outside’ food into Barrow. Just as Q was ready to explain the economics behind his pricing, the base station radio crackled.
“Hey, Q. It’s me, Big Ben. We got another one. Over.”
“Roger that. Rocky’s here with me now. What’s your location and situation?”
“Half mile before you get to the polar bear sign. Make sure Rocky has lots of cat gut. Little Ben was showing off. The cut’s not deep, but it is long.”
Rocky reached beside the duct tape-patched kitchen chair he sat in and grabbed what looked like a plastic tackle box. He held it up for Q to see, then stood up and grabbed the hand-held radio from the charger.
“We’re on our way. Over and out,” Q said, then let his finger off the radio switch, following Rocky out the door before it shut.
Alexandra set the chili back on the shelf and raced outside, shouting after the pair, “So, does this mean I have to wait before I can buy anything?”
Q stuck his fist out the truck window and gave her a thumb’s up, then grabbed the steering wheel and shifted gears. Little Ben was big for an Inupiaq, but he was also diabetic. Even a minor wound could cause major problems. Rocky and Q didn’t have time for a prissy white woman and neither did Little Ben.
“Well, it’s about time!” X groused when the two men came in an hour and a half later. “What’d you do? Stop off for a beer?”
Q and Rocky shared that same brown-eyed twinkle of ‘should I tell her, or do you want to?’ This time, Rocky shrugged a shoulder to Q, accepting the task.
“Barrow is a damp town. There’s no place—bars or taverns—for us to drop in and have a beer. Besides, neither of us drink.” He looked around and saw the displays had been dusted and the cans and boxes straightened and brought forward so the shelves looked fuller than they actually were. “Thanks for sprucing up the place. Did you decide what you wanted?”
Alexandra huffed then slid the can of chili and a can of evaporated milk toward the vintage cash register. “Do you happen to have a can opener and a microwave here? I can use my pocketknife to punch a hole in the canned milk for my tea in the morning, but it won’t work for the chili.”
“Microwave’s right over there and the can opener is right next to it,” Rocky said.
“You pay me,” Q said. “I’m the owner. He just hangs out here.”
“Hmph,” she remarked with one eyebrow raised, then took a twenty-dollar bill out of her Gucci shoulder bag and handed it to him. “And make sure you count back the change; don’t just dump it in my hand.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Q said, fighting back a full-blown laugh at her rudeness.
“I’m a miss!” she said, flipping her hair back.
“Yes, miss!” Q replied, fighting back the urge to salute her. Instead, he stuck his hands in the till and took out the change. “Ten, fifteen, twenty dollars. Thank you for your business, miss. Have a nice day.”
Alexandra grabbed her high-priced cans and strutted to the microwave next to the hallway. Grabbing the can opener with an exaggerated flourish, she spread its jaws and clamped down on the lid, squeezing the handle and twisting the knob with a vengeance. Once the lid was canted up, she held it by the edges and neatly dropped it into the waste basket next to the counter. It was then that she realized she didn’t have a bowl to put it into or a spoon to remove the contents.
“You can buy some paper plates or bowls,” Q offered, “or dump it into a coffee cup. I usually don’t let folks have a cup without buying coffee, but since you’re new around here, you can use the cup for free.” He reached under the counter and brought out a single porcelain cup, coffee-stained brown, the handle chipped but usable.
“Thanks,” she said, scowling at the marginally sanitary vessel. “How about a spoon? Is there a charge for that?”
“Not unless you take it outside the store.” Q took the spoon from beside the coffee pot that held an inch of overcooked java and wiped it with the red handkerchief from his back pocket. “Don’t forget to give it back when you’re done.”
“Yeah, it’s part of a set,” Rocky added with a chuckle, then went back to rolling the rest of the herbal blend in his mis-matched plastic container.
Alexandra took the spoon hesitantly, her stomach growling to hurry up and get it done. With her back to the men, she reached in her purse and removed a tissue from its small packet and re-wiped the spoon. She turned back and dumped half the food into the cup, covering the contents with the tissue so the chili didn’t splatter all over the inside of the microwave. When she opened the oven door, she gasped. “Oh, my goodness! When was the last time someone cleaned this?”
“Was it my turn this year?” Rocky quipped. “Or maybe that was last year, and I forgot…”
“Ergh! I guess it’ll have to do. At least with the tissue on top, the old baked-on crud won’t fall into it!”
Alexandra pushed the set-time and start buttons, but nothing happened. She pushed the quick cook for popcorn and nothing happened with that, either. “How do you get this thing to work?”
“Oh,” Q said with as straight a face as he could manage. “I told you we have a microwave. You never asked if it worked or not.”
“Now how am I supposed to eat this?” she screeched, waving the spoon in the air.
“With the spoon would probably be the least messy way,” Rocky said, then licked the paper on the last herbal smoke, looking down at his project to keep from laughing out loud.
“But it’s cold!”
“Yeah, and once it’s in your belly, it’ll be warm,” Q said. “What’s the problem? At least it’s not frozen. If it was, it might break your teeth.”
“Ergh!” Alexandra growled again, this time adding a hiking boot foot stomp for emphasis.
“You know, if you’re not going to eat that, I’ll need my cup and spoon back,” Q said. “If you don’t want it, my dog will get rid of it for you. He’s more of a fish-eater, but he’s been known to chow down on Mexican beef and chilis. The folks over at Pepe’s save their scraps for us who have dogs.”
“What’s Pepe’s?” she asked as she inspected the reddish-brown blob on her spoon.
“The Mexican restaurant at Cape Smythe. You don’t have much choice for cheechako food up here. It’s pretty much either Mexican or pizza. Oh, and I wouldn’t expect much in the way of salad or fresh fruits and vegetables if that’s what you’re looking for.”
Alexandra’s stomach roared again. It knew that even if she went somewhere else to eat, it would be at least an hour before she actually got to consuming the food off the end of a fork. “When in Rome,” she grumbled, and stabbed the spoon in the cup. She pulled out a lump of brown gravy-covered meat and took a bite. Chewing slowly, she realized it wasn’t as bad as she had feared.
“Would you like some chips with your chili?” Q asked, waving a small snack-sized bag of corn chips. “Only two bucks a bag.”
She swallowed the bite in her mouth before answering, her taste buds eager for a flavor other than straight red chili. “Are there any hidden costs?” she asked, setting the cup on the counter to get into her purse.
“Nope. I’ll even throw in a paper napkin since you’re a repeat customer.”
“Deal!” she said, handing him two one-dollar bills.
She pulled on the sides of the bag, trying to open in, then tugged harder, the bag exploding and scattering its contents all over the floor.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!”
Rocky set down his empty herb container and ran to her side, stopping short of touching her. “Don’t worry. Today’s your lucky day. It’s not often we have a money-back guarantee. Q, get me another bag.”
“It’s covered by the dinner you owe me,” Rocky said, and grabbed the chips from Q’s hand. He pulled the Leatherman tool out of his front pocket and slit the top open.
“Here,” he said and offered it to her. “Sometimes it’s safer to use a knife. Or at least, there’s less food wasted.”
“I’ll take care of the mess,” Q said. He walked to the back door. “Come on in, Fish Face,” he called to his dog. “I got another floor cleaning job for you.”
Alexandra looked around the store again. Other than the stool behind the cash register and the old kitchen chair her knife-toting new acquaintance had been in, there was no place to sit.
Rocky saw the search for a seat and took the lead. “Here, let me get my stuff out of the way. You can set your cup in the window while you eat your chips. You might want to buy a bottle of water or soda, too. There aren’t any drinking fountains around here.”
Her resolve to stay strong in the strange new land was wearing thin. Between delayed flights, lost luggage and the hotel reservation that the university had never made, Alexandra was spent—depleted and depressed and without a place to stay for the night. Her head shook back and forth slowly as she made her way to the duct-taped chair.
“Are you going to be all right?” Rocky asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, sniffing back the tears. “I thought it was because I was so hungry. I haven’t eaten anything for,” she looked at her watch. “What day is it?”
“Saturday,” Rocky said and crossed his arms across his chest, stuffing his hands under his armpits, making sure he didn’t reach out to comfort her.
Q and Rocky looked at her but didn’t say a word.
“Well, at least I didn’t say ‘shit.’”
Both men nodded minimally in agreement.
“You save that for spilled food, I guess,” Rocky said, and winked at her.
Alexandra’s mouth twitched as she tried to contain her smile. She had worked so hard for her degree, to get those letters after her name so she’d be respected, and now what happens? She melts down in front of a couple of locals who probably don’t own a spare shirt between the two of them.
“What’s the matter?” Rocky prompted, watching her waver between letting her human side out and continuing with the proper and uptight college snob facade. “Did you lose a day, your job, luggage, resolve…”
“Yes, I did. Or at least, most of the above. That idiot at the university didn’t make my hotel reservation, I guess. At least, they can’t find it. I thought today was Friday and I could call and get the name they reserved the room under, but that isn’t going to happen since today’s tomorrow and no one is in the offices on the weekend. Yes, on the luggage, too. The airlines told me to check back tomorrow. That is, if the plane comes in. They said something about scheduled maintenance or something. My job? I’m an intern. I don’t get paid. I’m slave labor, working for the experience. I need a certain number of hours in the field before they’ll even consider me for an appointment where I want to be. Resolve…”
Alexandra took a big bite of the chili, then shoved three chips in her mouth and chewed thoroughly, wishing she had something to wash it down with. Since she was scraping by on what was in her wallet, she worked up some spit and swallowed.  “I’m tougher than I look.”
“Well, I don’t know…” Q said. “You got mighty upset about spilled chips…”
“I think you look very tough,” Rocky said, turning his flirtatious wink into a blink hidden by a feigned cough. “You’re probably thousands of miles from home, no place to stay, limited funds, eating canned chili and chips in a convenience store at the northernmost city in America…”
Alexandra dropped the spoon before it got to her mouth, spilling its contents down the front of her raincoat. “Shit! Yes, right now my life sucks! Thanks for spelling it out for me!”
Rocky grabbed the handkerchief out of Q’s hip pocket and made a hasty clean-up of the chili on the front of her clothes, backing off on wiping up the smaller smears left behind. He stood back, shook out the contents on the floor, called, “Fish Face, food!” and stood back.
The three-legged black dog came running from the back of the store and quickly licked up all traces of the spill.
“I can fix you up with a place to stay for the night,” Rocky said. “No charge. As far as everything else, I’m sure it’ll work out.”
She looked up and saw he was serious—a genuinely concerned person. It didn’t matter whether he was male or female, young or old, all she saw was sincerity and willingness to help a fellow human being in distress. Try finding that at an east coast university!


Thursday, July 19, 2018

What is RWA and why should you care?

In case you didn’t know, RWA stands for Romance Writers of America. I’m a member and right now (July 19, 2018), we’re halfway through our annual conference. This year it’s being held in Denver, Colorado. Talk about a tremendous number of folks gathered with the same goal in mind!
Nearly two thousand women and a few men are here to find out how (or to share how) to make a writer’s HEA (happy ever after) story become a hit with readers, whether through fine-tuning the craft of writing or exploring the best ways to promote the works.
One of the nice things about this group is that there isn’t a lot of ego-fueled competition. Even at the Golden Hearts Award ceremony today, the women (all were women this year) were saying how they felt like sisters and honored to be nominated. It sure looked like they were truth-telling, too.

Snowflakes & Christmas Kisses
Sweet & Sassy Valentines
What’s your favorite flavor of romance? Are you into romantic suspense, sweet and/or sassy, how about a little rom com (romantic comedy)? Would you like to know what it feels like to fall in love with a prince or duke, either now or in the past? How about lovin’ on a vampire or a werewolf in a paranormal adventure?
Sweet & Sassy Brides
Unforgettable Suspense
They may all be considered ‘romance,’ but there are so many sub-categories, there’s never a reason to be bored. Loads of diversity here!
My author friends and I have put together a huge variety of box sets for you to enjoy, all available for only 99 cents each or free to read if you have a Kindle Unlimited account. (Search my name or some of the other authors to find more of these sets)

Click on some of the links and find out why I finally gave in and admitted that I am a romance writer — and proud of it.
Coming July 31!
Enchanted Romances

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Is a sense of humor hereditary?
I know a person’s general body shape and coloring is hereditary, but is the compulsion to bring levity to a conversation or situation caused by genetics or environment? After spending just a few minutes with the half-sister I had never met, I’m beginning to believe it’s genetic.
We were reared by different people, had different colors of eyes and body shapes because we had different mothers, but we both had a boisterous silliness that our mutual friend spotted right off the bat. My second daughter doesn’t look a thing like me, but the same situation occurred when we met new people who only knew me. “She has to be your daughter. You don’t look anything alike, but that sense of humor…”
I really don’t see any reason to suppress it. Even when I’m writing romance novellas, the urgency to give a situation a humorous spin is unstoppable. Here’s an excerpt from Three Are One, part of Sweet and Sassy Brides box set, released today. The mother of a deceased (and very dishonorable) soldier is in complete denial that her son has died.
Forsythe pulled the sheet back, exposing the head and shoulders of the corpse, the cloth bandage disguising the fact that the back of the soldier’s skull had been blasted away by his 9 mm service revolver.
Heath and the corporal were at her heels, ready to catch her when she passed out, but they weren’t needed. She did grasp the edge of the table, though, her knees buckling briefly.
“He did such a good job of finding a doppelganger. This man looks so much like my Butch.”
“Ma’am,” Forsythe said, “they matched the fingerprints, too. This is your son.”
“Hmph! If it was my son, he’d have six toes on his right foot. I seriously doubt any body double would be able to duplicate that!”
She stepped to the end of the table and grasped the end of the sheet.
Heath and the corporal rushed to either side of her.
She pulled the shroud off dramatically, took one look, then said, “Oh, shit!” and fainted.
“Some people just won’t believe what you say, no matter what,” the corporal said. “Now what’ll we do?”
“I have smelling salts right here,” Forsythe said, patting his chest pocket. “Do you want to give her a minute?”
Heath looked side to side, lips pursed in frustration, hoping for inspiration. “Yes, wait a minute. Cover him up again, then let’s get her out of here before we rouse her. I don’t want her fainting all over again.”
“Ma’am. Ma’am,” Forsythe said, wafting the ammonia-filled snifter under her nose. “You have to wake up now.”
Her eyes fluttered, then popped open and shut again, squeezed tight against reality.
“Mrs. Wadsworth,” Heath said, his voice stern and uncompromising. “You have to get up. We’ll have a driver take you to your hotel. I just talked to your husband. He’s expecting you.”
The woman was feigning unconsciousness, her eyes and lips wrinkled as she forced them closed.
“Well, then, I guess I’ll just have to take you to the post medical center. Or would you rather go to the hospital in Anchorage?”
Still no reply.
“All right, then,” Heath said. “Post medical center it is. They don’t have any private rooms, and you’ll probably have to wait in the lobby for a couple hours before the medic can see you. Still, it’s clean and better than spending the rest of the afternoon in a mortuary. Come on, Corporal—you grab her legs and I’ll get her shoulders.”
“Don’t you dare!” she screeched, sitting up like someone had poured ice water on her head.
“Sorry about that, ma’am,” Heath said. “I couldn’t let you stay lying out here. And I truly am sorry for your loss…”
“Oh, shut up.”

(Read more in the box set of nine stories in Sweet and Sassy Brides or as a single in Three Are One)

A good sense of humor will get you through tough times better than a bucket of beer. And there's no chance of a DUI with it, either! Dani Haviland

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Who's the mama?

I’m the mama because I create people for my books, color their bodies and their personalities, and decide where they work and live. Every mama wants her children to have friends. And readers are my babies’ best friends.

My first baby (Naked in the Winter Wind) came to me in 2008. I wondered what would it be like if I could interact with fictional characters, something like those in Outlander? The idea (okay, obsession) wouldn’t leave, so I started putting pen to paper so to speak, thinking that by typing it out, I would quiet the thoughts. Nope. What it did was give my thoughts fertile ground for germination, runners now able to spread to new genre territories, a forest of tales from Alaska to Australia, involving everyone from cops to kids, heat levels from sweet to saucy. I was hooked on writing. Being a fertile mama to dozens of babies.
The rest, as they say, is history and a rapidly expanding backlist.
I grew rather fond of the characters and some of their props so created a series, The Fairies Saga.
One of my next books out in that series, TIME IN A LITTLE BLUE BOTTLE, involves a few very colorful folks. I didn’t want this story to get stagnant, so I invited Elvis and a vampire, a pickpocket and Mark Twain to come by and liven up the party. It's a blast! Oh, in case location makes a difference to you, it starts out in London and winds up in Australia. Enjoy the ride and the companions!

While you’re waiting for Time in a Little Blue Bottle to be released (June 1), check out a sweet stand-alone romance based in Oregon. BE MY ANGEL is also part of UNFORGETTABLE WEDDINGS, a bundle of eight romances (all heat levels) available now for 99 cents or read for free with your Kindle Unlimited account.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Where did the term 420 come from (and what does it mean)?

Anyone who has ever been a teenager and attended public schools probably already knows that 420 refers to marijuana. It’s legal now, either medical or recreational or both, in over half the states in the nation, so I suppose it no longer needs a code name or to be spoken of in hushed whispers.
 In Oregon, there are green cross placarded dispensaries all over the place, advertising daily specials on placards out front. Or you can grow it at home in limited quantities. I never saw that one coming in the 70s!
Today, April 20, is also a 420 and the unofficial holiday, the date to ‘light up’ for partakers all over the world - legally, of course.
It all started with a date. Not a guy and gal going to the movies sort of date, but a ‘meet me after school’ date. Five guys in high school in 1971 had discovered a map to a supposed abandoned crop of cannabis near where they lived in California. The group, called the Waldos, set up a time to meet after football practice to obtain and take care of the precious weed. ‘420’ actually meant 4:20, the time to meet at their designated hookup spot in the center of campus.
Pretty soon, whenever the term ‘420’ was used, it meant either ‘are you stoned,’ ‘do you want to get stoned,’ or ‘do you have any weed,’ depending on how it was said.
There’s more to the story which involves The Grateful Dead, David Crosby, backstage passes, and housesitting, but bottom line is, the term 420 started as a meet up time for five high school guys.
Oh, and by the way, the abandoned marijuana crop turned out to be a ruse, a ‘fooled ya!’ joke by one of the Waldo five’s brother. Now, the California residents don’t have to go on an adventure for their party products. Of course, since they’re in their 60s, they’re just as likely to be seeking it out for pain relief as stress relief.

No matter where you live, a great way to distract yourself and ‘get high’ is by sharing the life and adventure of someone else by reading a great book. Or Eight. Check out Unforgettable Suspense, a box set of eight thrillers with a romantic edge, some edgier than others. Only 99 cents, or free to read with your Kindle Unlimited account. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Life Lesson from a Pitbull (Pit Bull)

Today my post is by my granddaughter, Kira. She wrote this two years ago when she was twelve. I think I have a legacy, an heir who feels that same compulsion to write on random subjects. Kira is passionate about her two pet pitbulls. I left this as she wrote it (it should be pit bull) but other than bulleting her points, this is all hers. Read on:
The Life of an Abused Pitbull
I am a survivor. I never lost my heart. They tried to take it and nearly ripped it apart, but I refused to break. I am not as weak as those men. They would beat me daily, but I never bit their hands. That’s what makes me different from the men who turned on me. They are the ruthless killers and that’s something I’d never be.
• There will be people who judge you just by how you look. They won’t give you a chance, but don’t be discouraged — just wag your tail and give all the love in your heart. Know that some are ignorant but love them anyway.
• It’s true that pitbulls grab and hold on, but what they grab and hold onto and not let go of is not your arm but your heart.
• If you think pitbulls heads are big, then why can’t you know how big their hearts are?
• I can’t count how many friends have betrayed me, lied to me, used me, but I can count the ones who will never do any of these things: my pitbulls.
• I am terribly afraid of pitbulls. They always give me face washes when they’re not needed and they will always steal your heart. They have a way of making you share your food and dessert, but I have never been afraid of being hurt by one.
• Keep calm and hug your pitbull!
P – rotective
I – ntuitive
T – ender
B – eautiful
U – nconditional
L – oyal and
L – oving
As far as her Nana goes, I have a new box set available today! Unforgettable Suspense - Danger and Trouble has EIGHT stories sure to keep you flipping the pages on your Kindle. Check out a quickie YouTube preview here: 

Full of fire and beauty, but this hot set won't bite, either!
(Disclaimer: I know some dogs are mean, but it's seldom the critter's fault. I'm so glad a twelve-year-old could see that there is potential good everywhere)