Hello world!

December 16, 2007

Welcome to my new blog! I’ve been blogging on both my myspace sites. www.myspace.com/dianagroe and  www.myspace.com/emilybryanromance but I needed to find a way to be more accessible to readers who, for whatever reason, didn’t want to do the myspace thing. Plus, I’d like this blog to be a little more personal, so please feel free to share.

I’ll start.

Christmas time always makes us nostalgic. My childhood Christmases revolved around the last minute worry of whether or not my railroading father would be home or if he’d be stuck at the other end of the road. Amazingly enough, he always managed to make it. And then we’d pile into whatever car we happened to have (my mother always encouraged dad to trade cars, not women!) and we were off on the hundred mile trek to my grandma’s house.

100 miles used to be much farther than it is now. Or maybe it just seemed that way when winter weather was closing the roads behind us as we followed snow plows or crept along the narrow two lane highways, the chains on our tires singing a metalic snow song. But the trip was so worth it, for at the end was my grandmother’s house.

It was the perfect Christmas house, a drafty old two story kept warm by my grandma’s baking. She decorated with real pine boughs up the banister, wreaths with electric candles in all the windows and always had the biggest tree she could fit through the door. Of greatest interest to me and my sisters was the cardboard fireplace which I was assured was Santa’s entry point into the house. How he managed to accomplish this seemingly impossible feat was one of the deepest mysteries of my childhood, but since the old gent had always been very good to me, I was prepared to take a few things on faith.

The year my faith was shaken, when one of my classmates wised me up about the whole Santa Claus thing, I still wasn’t inclined to toss out my cherished belief. I had to see it with my own eyes. So I waited until all I could hear was the creak of the old house settling and the bitter wind soughing by my window. Then I padded to the top of the stairs to keep watch.

I didn’t have long to wait. My Grandma appeared with a bag of goodies and quietly filled the stockings at the cardboard fireplace. Aromatic orange in the toe, a handful of nuts I’d have fun cracking open later, a few candy canes and a small toy. I crept back to bed before she finished the whole row of stockings. I’d seen enough.

I knew for certain that there was no Santa Claus. But I had something better. I had a grandma who loved me.

Grandma passed away this year. I was blessed to have her for much longer than most, yet there’s never quite enough time with the ones you love. I have many wonderful memories of her, but my favorite remains that stolen moment when I caught her playing Santa.

OK, now it’s your turn. What is your favorite Christmas memory? Maybe it’s a recipe or a family tradition.  Or are you planning to build a memory this year with something entirely new? Please share.

Christmas blessings,



32 Responses to “Hello world!”

  1. Loved reading your Christmas ‘past’ memories, Diana. Curious, isn’t it, how no matter how wonderful our Christmas ‘presents’ are, they can’t match the magic of those we’ve experienced through the eyes of a child.

    Since I tend to look at things on the lighter side (I do write humor, after all!) one particular Christmas memory stands out. It was the year my dear cousin and I both asked for–and received–Chatty Cathy dolls from Santa. (I’m, no doubt, dating myself here, btw.) Anyway, I was stunned and delighted with my gift. Well, for all of about thirty minutes, that is. That’s all the time it took for Chatty Cathy to suffer a major speech malfunction. When I pulled her string, rather than some endearing, adorable comment like, ‘I love you, Mommy’ I heard a hideous, garbled, frightful collection of gravely jibberish that, conjured up visions of evil spirits and monsters under the bed rather than dancing sugar plums.

    I was only marginally comforted when later that same day I discovered my cousin’s Chatty Cathy had succumbed to a similar vocal malady.

    I know. Bad, bad Kathy. I probably deserved a demonically-possessed doll that year.

    Next year I’ll share the story of the toy piano I received that my sister took apart to see how it worked and—well, you can guess the rest.

    Warm wishes for a blessed Christmas!

    ~Kathy Bacus~

  2. Lovely memory, Diana. Thanks for sharing that.

    I’ll never forget some of the pains my parents took — on a tiny budget — to encourage my interests, though they were so very different from anything my mom or dad had dreamed of. I loved all-things-animal/animal science, so one year I got the Chick-U-Bator, and we made (and went through all kinds of elaborate preparations to raise) baby chickens. Another year it was a little microscope set, and we made slides together (my little brother being the courageous blood donor). When my interest turned to art, an easel was the big gift.

    I loved these gifts because they represented such a heartfelt effort to let me grow into whatever strange bird I preferred. Which didn’t turn out to be a James Audobon type, but still helped set me on my path.

  3. dianagroe4emilybryan said

    Kathleen, what a hoot! Your Chatty Cathy story is proof that comedy really is tragedy plus time. Thanks for sharing your unique brand of gentle humor. It’s what make your Calamity Jane stories so terrific! That and the string of blonde jokes! Love your “How does a blonde spell ‘farm’? E-I-E-I-O!”

    Colleen, your parents were very wise. Of course I only say that because those presents sound like the kind of things I always tried to give my own kids. Except instead of chickens, we raised an aquarium full of tadpoles. Only one of them made it to full frogdom. Another year, I gave my girls what I called discovery boxes. I filled a shoe box with magnets, magnifying glasses, binoculars, books to identify birds, a journal to record their discoveries, their own roll of scotch tape, colored pencils, scissors, a compass, tape measure, just a hodgepodge of things kids would enjoy noodling with. So many times, I think toys stifle creativity when the goal should be to set the kid’s imagination loose.

    BTW, I’m enjoying your current release THE SALT MAIDEN very much. A romantic suspense that lives up to the 4 1/2 stars Top Pick billing it received from Romantic Times.

  4. Your kiddos are lucky, Diana.

    And thanks so much for the kind words on The Salt Maiden! I’m working feverishly on her successor this week and need all the inspiration I can muster. 🙂

  5. dianagroe4emilybryan said

    Colleen, do you want to give me a hint about your new WIP? What’s it about?

  6. Thanks for the kind words, too, Diana. It amazes me how a few years after the Chatty Cathy Christmas you couldn’t have tempted me to ask for a doll–I’d discovered horses by then and I was well and truly hooked.

    And Colleen’s comment reminded me of some of the gifts I’ve given my own children–things like crystal-making kits, rock collections, telescopes, chemistry sets, rock polishers…

    Good times.


  7. dianagroe4emilybryan said

    Did you ever have a horse, Kathleen? We gave our kids riding lessons when they were 12-ish, but didn’t get horses till they were teenagers and more interested in boys than horses.

    We had two when we lived in Wyoming–a bay gelding and paint mare. I’d ridden a few times as a kid. My grandparents had some really ornery Shetland ponies, but those mean little things hardly counted. So I had some equestrian skills to learn.

    But I was shocked to learn that my husband of some 20 years then was a veritable centaur! Canter, gallop, even when the gelding took it into his head to have a mini-rodeo, Brian kept his seat. The man could ride! And boy, did he look good on horseback.

    It’s always such fun when your husband surprises you.

  8. Yup, starting from the age of ten on, we had ponies and horses. We actually bred American Saddlebred horses–beautiful, flashy sorrels. Once we kids entered college and moved on the horses were slowly sold off. However, optimistic soul that I am, I’ve retained my saddles and assorted tack…just in case.

    And yeah, there’s something about a man who knows how to sit a horse well, isn’t there?

  9. What fun to read everyone’s special Christmas memories – so much love in every one of them.

    When I was six or seven, I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse (I didn’t care which, but I was kind of leaning toward nursing because they got to give shots). My dad was a wonderful carpenter and he built me a miniature doctor’s office, complete with adjustable (doll size) examination table, medicine storage cabinet (red hots for pills) and an x-ray machine with a light inside that showed a real x-ray when you flipped the switch. He had one of the technicians at the hospital where he worked take an x-ray of his head, since the ‘machine’ was too small for a chest x-ray. The adults in the family chuckled about it for years – he didn’t take off his glasses before making the film, and you could clearly see the wire frames. I thought it was wonderful – I just altered the diagnosis for each of my doll patients from ‘pneumonia’ to ‘headache’. He must have spent hours on that project, and many more that he created for me and my brother over the years. I loved the toys back then, and didn’t give much thought to the time that went into them. Now I no longer have the toys, but I will always have the precious knowledge that my father cared enough about my interests and passions to devote hours of his time to make my dreams come true.

    Believe it or not, Diana, your ‘Discovery Boxes’ were what brought back this memory. Children need the opportunity to experiment and discover their own talents and passions – what better place than their own home, surrounded and supported by their loving families.

    Merry Christmas!

  10. dianagroe4emilybryan said

    I could talk about horses a long time. Beautiful, loving, silly creatures, but I should probably head back to the theme of this post.

    Kathleen, Colleen, or anybody else who wants to contribute, have you ever included a Christmas celebration in any of your books? Since my ERINSONG, MAIDENSONG and SILK DREAMS are peopled with pagan Northmen, I don’t have characters who might celebrate Christmas. In one of my ‘yet-to-be-published’ stories, they celebrate Jul, a bewildering kind of a cross between a frat house kegger and Halloween, but no Christmas.

    There are lots of Christmas stories to love, but my favorite is called THE OTHER WISE MAN. It’s about a magi who missed the caravan and arrived late to give homage to the Christ Child. But his entire lifetime of searching for the Child becomes his offering.

    Do you have a favorite Christmas book?

  11. Thank you for a cool topic, Emily/Diane.

    Since you are now writing Duchess stories… I think I’ll mention a UK Christmas memory. My family lives in Guernsey in the Channel Islands, were snow is an unusual, traffic-stopping event, because Guernsey is quite hilly, and most roads are one-lane wide.

    My mother would get up at five to start cooking the turkey for lunch at around noon. We’d light a real wood-and-coal fire in the living room (the only heat in the house), the cats would pounce on imaginary mice under the wrinkles in the imitation persian rug that kept hot coal fragments off the fitted carpet, or else they’d climb the Christmas tree, or play with the tree’s balls.

    We’d exchange presents, and the cats would dive and scoot in the wrapping paper, which they often liked better than their “proper” presents.

    I’d watch Top Of The Pops (the year’s best), and after “dinner” at lunch time, we’d all sit in front of the TV and watch “The Queen” deliver her Christmas day message to the nation.

    After that, we’d generally go for a cliff walk to exercise off our turkey, sausage, soggy vegetables, and cream-and-custard trifle feast. Guernsey has miles of cliffs, many covered in yellow-flowering gorse at Christmas, with magnificent views of the sea.

    This year, I’m doing extensive revisions to my next book, Knight’s Fork (Sept or Oct 2008)

    Happy Holidays to you.

    Rowena Cherry

  12. Oh, Christmas memories. So very many of them. We too loaded into the car in Christmas morning after the presents had been ravaged, headed the 100 miles (with my middle brother passing gas the entire way) to my grandmother’s house, a drafty ancient Civil War-era house that still had lead windows, a warped staircase (with a to-die for banister we grandkids always slid down), a saggy back porch, a root cellar, and a single bathroom whose sink had old fashioned handles–you had to twist it on for hot or cold and it only stayed on while your hand was on the handle. So you can imagine how hard it was to wash your hands with “warm” water–either scalding or ice cold.

    The kitchen was the place to be, and my grandmother always had pies in the oven or a turkey or ham cooling on the large counter smack in the middle of the room. My very large extensive family was usually gathered in there–it was close to the keg out back, and the bar was set up on that counter too. Plus everyone could pick at the food surfacing from the oven and stovetops (Grandma usually had spaghetti sauce simmering for the following day, and my Uncle Len had a pot of goulash simmering for Dec. 26 as well). My grandmother always had popcorn balls for the grandkids which we hoarded along with candy canes from the tree.

    We kids (there were over 20 grandkids at varying times) built forts in the piano room, banged out wobbly songs on the piano, and played dress-up with our 5 aunts’ many gorgeous tulle and beaded prom dresses from the 50’s. We tried to make chains with gum wrappers just like the long strands of them we’d find in our aunts’ old bedrooms, but they never came out quite the same. We spied on Grandma’s jewels (all junk) and make-up, snuck extra sodas when the grown-ups weren’t looking, opened a continual rush of gifts as more relatives arrived on the scene throughout the day, and ended the evening with a very large game of poker–even the kids played.

    So many people stayed at my grandmother’s house that those who traveled the farthest were graced with the beds. Since we came from nearby, we were always relegated to shivering in sleeping bags on the cold floor. My father invariably slept on my grandfather’s recliner and my mother on the couch. The next day dawned early as all the young children were up and ready to go. I think some of those parents regretted that early hour, what with the consumption of Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey the previous night.

    The party continued on for another day and then we returned home, tired, spent, and feeling a little blue that Christmas was so very far away.

  13. Oooh, I’ll have to pick THE OTHER WISE MAN up, Diana. It sounds wonderful! What I really enjoy about this time of year is the opportunity to pick up some of the seasonal-themed anthologies, sit down in the evening, and snuggle up with a cup of hot cider and read. Since the stories are shorter, I can usually finish one each night before bedtime and they really help jumpstart me into the spirit of the season.

    I’ve never written Christmas elements into any of my books to this point but one never knows.

    BTW, if anyone else has a favorite Christmas book to recommend, pass them along!

  14. Hi Diana!

    What great stories you and your friends are telling.

    My dad was a very big kid when it came to Christmas giving. He could never wait until Christmas morning for Santa to arrive. We always opened gifts on Christmas Eve. Naively, I still had that oh-so-excited anticipation that Santa was coming! He rationalized that the Jolly Elf had to start his delivers the day before to get to all the good little girls and boys homes by early the next morning. And, lucky me, our house was one of his first stops!

    I had long since quit believing in Santa when he came home late (he was always eightish getting home on Christmas Eve because he drove a truck in the days before freeways in LA County) and brought the cutest little black and tan terrier-mix. I called him Mickey. One lick on my chin and I loved him to death.

    My mother was one of ten siblings and my dad one of four. He bought gifts for every single one and their kids who lived in Southern California. Most of them appeared at our house on Christmas Eve. My mother tried for years to get him not to spend so much money on “revolving charge accounts” but he always did, then worked for months to pay them off. Daddy was not an openly affectionate person. Gift-giving was his way of showing his love.

    We still practiced the Christmas Eve gift-giving tradition at my folks house long after I married and lived in the area. But I reserved Christmas morning at our house for Santa’s exciting arrival for my three.

    Both my folks are gone now and our kids live on the other side of the States. We rarely get together at Christmastime, but my heart remembers all those Christmases we did have with them and my folks. A slower, gentler time.

    Merriest to one and all!
    Joyce Henderson

  15. Lovely new blog, Diana! Great Christmas memories. This is always my favorite time of year. Me – my best memories are Christmas shopping. I absolutely love seeing all the stores decked out for the holidays. I remember one year my brothers and I saved our lists for Christmas Eve, then hit the mall with a vengeance. It was so fun! The stores were almost empty, only a smattering of lat minute people like us scurrying around. My brothers and I spilt up, each trying to hide from each other as we made our secret purchases. Of course, the wrapping was a little slapped together after. 🙂 But it was a really fun way to shop.


  16. Lovely post, Diana!
    I have so many wonderful Christmas memories that it’s hard to choose which one to share. My father was in the Air Force, mom stayed at home with us four girls, so money was a challenge (although I never knew it when I was a kid) but they always managed to give us a magical Christmas. I can remember getting a baby doll and stroller–but out went the doll and in went our little dog Skoshi (we got her in Japan, her name means ‘little bit’). That dog let me put a bonnet on her head and allowed me to stroll her all over the neighborhood. Whether she actually loved being pushed around, or just loved me enough to do it, it’s a memory I will always cherish.
    Thanks for your post that reminded me of Christmas’ past.

  17. dianagroe4emilybryan said

    Thanks so much Ladies! I knew my Lollie sisters would come through with some great memories. Anybody have any good recipes (better make that good EASY recipes–Betty Crocker doesn’t show up at my house too often) for Christmas goodies?

  18. Katie O'Sullivan said

    Hi all- what wonderful Christmas memories you’ve all shared! Diana had invited me to post a soldier’s Christmas poem that my aunt had forwarded to me, but I think it may be too maudlin after all the warm fuzzy and funny memories I’ve read here.
    Instead, I’ll answer the call for recipes… because Christmas has always meant cookie baking in our house. Growing up, our neighbor’s German grandmother baked these wonderful butter cookies – much better than those in the blue tin, and easy to make if you have a battery-operated cookie press…
    Mrs. Witzman’s Butter Cookies
    Cream together 1 cup butter & 2/3 cup sugar
    Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla
    sift 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and pinch of salt
    Add dry to butter mixture
    Fill cookie press, press out onto sheet, add an M&M in the middle…
    bake at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes.
    Merry Christmas!

  19. What a great post, Diana! I just looooove Christmas. My favorite memory is putting up our huge Department 56 Christmas Village. Over the years, my mom amassed well over a hundred houses, and countless accessories. We started holding an open house where people from the community could come in and view the village, which spanned at least 50 square feet. We were even in the local paper!

    Happy Holidays!


  20. Recipes? My mom and grandma didn’t use recipes, which made it so hard to reproduce some of their better dishes.

    While it wasn’t a Christmas recipe, my grandma made to-die-for chicken and rolled dumplings. I tried, lordy did I try, to make them just like hers. When they’d gum up and feel like they swelled inside the stomach (verra uncomfortable! LOL) I asked her, “Grandma how do you make your dumplings so light?”

    “I make them a little shorter,” said she.

    Say what? What in tarnation does that mean? Hum, maybe a good cook in this group knows. I can’t remember whether she said add a little or use a little less shortening. And it was Crisco shortening in those days, not this low cal stuff of today.

    My mother was always charged with making the candied yams for Christmas dinner because she made the very best. Not sweet potatoes, yams. I’ve never been able to duplicate those either, and my dear hubby tells me so! LOL

    Her recipe was simple, so I can’t understand why mine never came out like hers.

    Boil 3 or 4 yams in their jackets until soft.
    Cool, then peel and cut into one inch pieces.
    Enough to cover a 9 X 13 pan.
    Sprinkle a one pound box of light brown sugar
    over the pieces.
    Cut up a quarter pound margarine stick and
    dot over the brown sugar.

    Bake in 350 degree oven until candied.

    Now, therein lies the trick I never mastered.
    When I asked Mother how long to bake them,
    she said, “I put them in there and usually forget
    about them. When I remember to take them out
    they are candied.”

    They certainly were. So thick one had to practically dig them out of the pan. Now, I don’t like candied yams, so you can imagine how often I
    even attempt to make them. Especially when my dh says, “Sorry, Joyce, they just aren’t like your Mom used to make.” Grrr LOL

  21. Diana Groe said

    I can so relate, Joyce! My mother, mother-in-law, and all my grandmothers were all terrific seat of the pants cooks! When I asked my mother how I’d know how much flour to knead into the pie crust dough (she wouldn’t dream of actually measuring it out!) she’d just say, “Oh, just keep adding till it feels right!”

    Well, how the dickens would I know when it feels right?

    My daughters got the biggest giggle when they unearthed my old highschool yearbooks and found out I’d received the Betty Crocker Award. I can follow a recipe, but I can’t cook by feel worth a darn. Besides, I’m about speed and simplicity in the kitchen now. Betty Crocker doesn’t live here any more if I can help it.

    However, my DH, who has suffered through more burnt offerings than a Sumerian idol, is always lavish in his praise of my culinary efforts. The man lives in hope.

  22. Joy Nash said

    Hi Diana!

    I think my favorite Christmas memory was from the year my first child was born. My husband, who up until that point had been somewhat of a Scrooge at Christmastime, came home from work one day with a HUGE stack of VCR tapes in his arms. He’d stopped off at the Disney Store on the way home and bought every single Disney animated movie the store had for sale, all for his little girl for Christmas.

    I just stared at him and said. “But…but…she’s only two months old!”

    It was a brilliant choice, though, since we’ve watched all those movies about a zillion times since.

    Joy Nash

  23. Meryl Libbey said

    Thanks for all these wonderful memories, Diana and friends!

    I think my favorite holiday memories revolve around Christmas (Figgy) pudding. First, we made the hard sauce (butter, plus confectioner’s sugar, plus brandy and rum to taste). Then, everyone had to weigh in on what more was needed. Usually, the consensus was that what was needed was more brandy or rum! But getting the proportions right was what the game was all about, so it took multiple tastings–in which everyone participated–to “get it right!”

    Then, the pudding was steamed, doused with brandy, and lit up as it was taken to the table, while the lights were turned down and we all sang the
    “pudding song”…”So bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding, Oh, bring us some figgy pudding, and bring it right here! We won’t go until we get some, we won’t go until we get some, we won’t go until we get some, so bring it right here!”

    Then, the best part of all. We each received a small piece of pudding, with a huge mound of hard sauce! Talk about delicious! That tradition carries on today both at Christmas and on New Year’s day.

    So, I wish you all a merry Christmas, with lots of figgy pudding, and enough hard sauce to drown in!

  24. dianagroe4emilybryan said

    Thanks so much to everyone who dropped by to share! So many Ladies of Leisure took time out to write a bit and I appreciate it so much.

    Just in case any of you who read these remembrances aren’t familiar with my friends, let me give you a run down on them:

    Kathleen Bacus writes the hysterically funny Calamity Jayne mysteries. Her most recent release is CALAMITY JAYNE HEADS WEST.

    Colleen Thompson is an enormously talented romantic suspense writer. THE SALT MAIDEN received a 4 1/2 stars Top Pick designation from RT BookReviews.

    Jean Rosenow is a friend of mine from when I lived in Missouri. Jean has had multiple articles published in magazines and is working on a novel.

    Rowena Cherry is an award winning author of “alien” romances. Her next release is coming next fall from Leisure. KNIGHT’S FORK (a chess move–Rowena is a master of the game!)

    Jenny Gardiner is our newest American Title winner. Her SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is about love revived and is an absolute delight.

    Joyce Henderson writes westerns that RT BookReviews calls “heartwarming yet gritty.” Look for her most recent release, TO THE EDGE OF THE STARS.

    Gemma Halliday writes the wacky, wildly sucessful Spying in High Heels mysteries. She’s a winner of the National Reader’s Choice Awards.

    Kathryne Kennedy is the author of the RELICS OF MERLIN series, magical stories in Victorian London. Read ENCHANTING THE LADY to get in on the first tale.

    Farrah Rochon debuted with a deliciously titled DELIVER ME about (what else?) an OB/GYN. Her second title RELEASE ME is due out next summer.

    Joy Nash is the USA Today Best Selling author of one of the IMMORTALS books and also writes her own series THE DRUIDS OF AVALON. Look for DEEP MAGIC in January. Visit http://www.emilybryan.com to read an interview with Joy.

    Meryl Libbey is the leader of my new critique group and write historicals.

    Thank you all for sharing your Christmas memories and recipes. Have a wonderful, blessed holiday and make all your Christmas dreams come true!

  25. Robbie Clark said

    Christmas memories…where does one begin. I have a picture of my younger sister and me fast asleep under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve when we were about 2 and 4 . Presents all around and my favorite cat fast asleep on my back.

    My favorite Christmas presents came when I was in the fifth grade. I too got a Chatty Kathy Doll with auburn hair up in pig tails. This was my second Chatty Kathy but always my favorite. And I still have her and she looks pretty good for 40. I also received a much cherish ukelele thus adding to my fascination with the Hawaiian culture.

    As much as I cherish childhood memories I also cherish the ways I tried to make Christmas special for my own children. Each year it has grown and I do it for the joy it brings for all of us. This year 6 trees of different sizes inside and three out….decorated with memories from the past. I now have visions of grandchildren dancing in my head. Merry Christmas too all. Thanks, Diana….

  26. My most unforgettable Christmas memory was at the tender age of ten. I sat on the floor of our small but quaint living room floor. My grandparents and other family members circled the room. The Christmas tree decorated stood at my back. Sparkling tatters of torn Christmas wrap and shimmering bows and ribbons littered about me. I didn’t notice at the time that my father had slipped away sometime while we all were opening presents. Yet, I clearly remembered the moment he came through the front door. In his arms, he carried the most precise gift…a show saddle for me. My blessed parents had taken the last of their saving to buy me a saddle for Christmas.

    Even now, at the age of forty-five, I still have the picture someone took of me, as my father walked through the door. My face held the look of pure astonishment, mouth hung open and my eye big and round. The look only someone could have when the unbelievable becomes believable.

    As I write this, once again, tears blur my vision at the unfailing sacrifice and love my parents showed me that wonderful and special day. Sadly my father has since passed away, but the memory will always be there…

    Skylar Sinclair.

  27. dianagroe4emilybryan said

    How precious! As much delight as that saddle gave you, I’m sure your father and mother enjoyed giving it even more.

    I still remember one Christmas when we gave our oldest daughter a “dirt bike.” We’d left it in her room so she’d wake to it first thing. She wheeled it into our bedroom with tears in her eyes.

    It’s wonderful when you know exactly what to give someone. I’m a horrible shopper, so it rarely happens. I treasure the times it did.

  28. Hi Diana — I’m a bit late responding to this (typical!); but I do want to share a special Christmas memory. Not long after my parents divorced, Dad had returned to his favorite north woods in Canada; Mom and I were struggling to make Santa’s gifts for my three younger siblings. She’d found a toy chest for the two little ones, but it was empty because she could not afford toys to fill it. I opened it up and said, “Balloons. Do you have any balloons?” Sure enough, she had a sack she’d purchased for my birthday party two weeks later. We blew them up and they filled the toy chest to the brim. Then we tackled the instructions for assembling my brother’s scooter. Many, many hours later, we gave up in exhaustion, the scooter parts still all over the floor and the clear-as-mud instructions in tatters. I penned a note to my brother explaining that Santa’s elves had been busier than usual that year, and he was sure our kind next door neighbor would be able to finish the scooter on Christmas morning. Then I cut all the buttons off my NEW winter coat — MY present from Santa — so it would be “unfinished”, too. We had more lavish Christmases later, but that was my favorite — perhaps because it gave me so much scope for my writer’s imagination!

  29. dianagroe4emilybryan said

    Thanks for sharing that hear-warming Christmas, Margaret! It kind of reminds me of the skinny year when my hubby and I sold our class rings so we could buy presents for our girls. I never enjoyed watching someone open their gifts so much as that year.

  30. Thanks so much for the kind words. I just noticed you asked for a hint about my current work in progress.

    TRIPLE EXPOSURE (Leisure, Aug. 2008) deals with a photographer who, after her acquittal of the self-defense killing of a deranged young stalker, is forced to return to her remote West Texas hometown. But soon, her photograph of a handsome and mysterious desert artist plunges both of them into grave danger. The book involves flying gliders, the blurred line between love and obsession, and the mysterious Marfa lights that hover over the eerie desert landscape. I’m having a ball with it.

    Thanks for asking!

  31. dianagroe4emilybryan said

    OOOH! Sounds wonderful. Have you gone flying in a glider? My hubby is a private pilot and we used to have a Cessna 182. We flew all over Utah, Montana, Wyo, Idaho and Washington state. Mountain flying is always an adventure. I’ve always wondered what a glider would be like, but I kind of like my airplanes WITH an engine.

    What is a Marfa light?

  32. Thanks!

    I’ve gone flying in gliders a couple of times to research Triple Exposure. It’s an amazing experience, silent save for the rush of wind, and it’s so cool being towed into the sky like a kite. I’d love to learn to fly one.

    The Marfa lights are mysterious balls of glowing something (gases, maybe) that hover over the desert in that region on many evenings. No one knows exactly what they are, but their inherent eeriness fit well into the book. I was fortunate enough to get to see them while in the area doing research. I have no idea what the things are; they seem to float up off the desert floor, change color, split, and merge. They are definitely *not* headlights.

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