Saturday, November 10, 2007

Working Vacation

Recently James and I went to Rockport, Texas. We went down to help my parents enjoy a week's vacation, but ended up staying for a month. We went to the Seafair the first weekend in October, where I plan on setting my fourth baking mystery. They have a wonderful dessert competition and we were able to sample the results. We managed to have a wonderful time and get a lot written. I don't know if the reason we were able to get more writing done than usual was because we felt so much better down there, or if it was because we weren't having to handle everyday stresses. I understand better now why writers rent out cabins far from home to get work done. Many days we'd have more work done by the middle of the day than our best days home. This was working on a small kitchen table with laptops, sitting on hard wooden chairs. Not the best for the back and rear, but you can't argue with the results. I finished the first draft of a book and James did that and half of another. Here are a few photos I took down there. Most of them are along the street we stayed which was next to the water. It was a great street to walk along and discuss writing, which we did every morning and evening.

This is the view we woke up to each morning.

The birds kept us entertained along Water Street.
Palm tree along the walk has weathered the constant winds for many years.

This was a bait stealing seagull where we fished many of the mornings.

This is the full moon that caused an astronomical high tide the first week.

Just posting the photos makes me want to go back and get more work done : )

Friday, September 28, 2007


When I told my youngest daughter Joanna that I was going to be writing a fourth baking mystery and I was thinking about setting it at the Texas coast, she just looked over at me and said, “So you’re going to cook flounder in Coke now.”

I do like Coke. I did not originate the two recipes in the first and third books. I did, however, make a few changes. The ham with cola in the third book THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE KILLER, which won’t be released until Oct. 2008, came from my brother Bruce. He lives down the street from us and I swear when he has his smoker going, the smells will drive you crazy. He cooked several briskets for my dad’s birthday party and it was some of the best brisket that I have ever had. You guessed it, he used Coke. The Coke roast in A PEACH OF A MURDER was a variation on my mother’s roast and I believe she discovered it from my father’s mother. Mama Kate was a wonderful woman and the best grandmother a person could have. She lived on a 200-300 acre farm in an old white farm house and of course there were no air conditioners. I don’t even remember any fans. What I do remember when we’d come up from a long hot day of either playing or working, she’d give us a cold frosty Coke. She would put the glass bottles in the freezer just long enough for them to get slushy. There was nothing better. To this day a good cold Coca-Cola will send me back to those childhood days and I swear I can hear her singing those gospel songs.

The only problem with Coca-Cola is James is allergic to it so we don’t have it very often in foods. If you want to see James drunk, don’t give him beer, just put Coca-Cola in his food.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sure, I Can Do That

Last week was an interesting week. My agent emailed that she was going to be out of the office for health reasons for a while. I promptly emailed back and said that we were fine and had plenty of work to keep us busy and wished her a speedy recovery.

The next day we hit the area libraries and bookstores for research books. While out we went into a Waldenbooks and discovered that the second Fresh-Baked novel, MURDER BY THE SLICE, was out. It’s always a special treat to see your book for the first time. It’s always a little amazing to see your name on a book, even after all these years. To see the finished product of baking mishaps, tons of dirty dishes coming up with just the right recipes, and a lot of hours at the computer. I explained to the man working the cash register that I was the author and asked if he would like me to sign them. He was pleased to have the signed books and was going to put them on an end shelf where they would be better displayed.

The answering machine was blinking as we walked into the house. The agent had called with the news that Signet wanted a fourth Fresh-Baked novel. She asked if I would have time to fit it into the schedule sooner rather than later. So of course I said, “Sure I can do that.” That’s been James’ and my mantra these days. Between family and work we have a very busy life, but we can always buckle down a little harder and do a little more.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

One Percent Of ????

I’ve spent the last week working mostly on copy-edited manuscript and page proofs. The copy-edited manuscript was easy. The editor and copy editor both asked for only a few changes. This is the kind of manuscript I don’t mind coming back. The page proofs were harder. By this time you’ve been back over the story enough times the eyes miss things because you know how the story should go, so you have to do a slow, close read. I’m not the greatest at catching typos, anyway. This particular book happened to have more typos than usual. For some reason someone along the way replaced “killer” with “packhorse”. I’m not sure how that happened, but I sure do hope I caught all of them. Yep, just imagine having a packhorse sneaking up behind you . . .

On the family front it’s been a relatively easy week other than I did get a frantic phone call from my father. I was there just the day before and it is very unusual for him to call. My father is hard of hearing and has always had my mother do all the calling. Now that my mother has Alzheimer’s, he has had to learn to do a lot of things. They had gotten a letter from Medicare about the prescription drug program my mother was signed up with. As it turns out she was signed in late and there is a penalty for this. He had it in his head they had done something wrong and that they were going to get in trouble, possibly even go to jail. A few phone calls and a couple of connections to the Internet cleared things up. Since she didn’t have prescription drug insurance before signing up late with Medicare, she has to pay 1% of the national average prescription insurance bill for the seven months she was late. The penalty came out to $20-$25, and no one is going to jail. Actually calling the number on the letter only came up with the information that she had to pay 1%. They didn’t know what that percent came off of. It took searching on the Internet to find the answers. I wonder how any of the typical non-computer-savvy elderly find out anything. I swear the government did their best to make the drug program as difficult as possible.

The actual writing is coming along. At this time I’m working on a new mystery series for Kensington set in Atlanta, Georgia. This book is in first person, which is a total change for me.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Past Year

I have been working more than usual for the past year, so even though I wanted to keep up a blog, it’s been very difficult. I’ve had to decide which to concentrate on, the writing or the blog. Needless to say the writing won. This doesn’t mean I want to give up on the blog. I thought I would try to jump back in by telling you about my year.

January started with James’s mother’s blood pressure shooting up. James took her to the doctor, who put her into the hospital for the night. She returned to her assisted living apartment the next day since it seemed her blood pressure was back under control. The next day came the call. She had a stroke during the night and had been taken to the hospital downtown. This mean it was more than they wanted to handle at the small local hospital. As it turned out, she had a major stroke. She lost the use of her left arm and leg and could not swallow. The doctor put a feeding tube in her stomach so she could continue to get nourishment. While all this was going on, she asked James to get her one of those realistic little stuffed dogs that are curled up in a basket. The dog looked like it was real and would even breathe (powered by batteries, of course). I think she just enjoyed freaking out the nurses. She also wanted her knitting. She was making a baby blanket and didn’t want to stop. She attempted to knit with her right hand while someone else held the left side. Unfortunately this didn’t work that well, but she was determined. She was moved to a nursing home where she was in a great deal of pain. It wasn’t until the whole side of her face swelled up that it was discovered she had an ear infection. After this was cleared up, she seemed to rally some other than her stomach was bothering her a great deal. She even started eating a little. Then she had to make another trip to the hospital to have her gall bladder removed. That was what was causing all the stomach pain. After this she never did get better. We lost her in June.

Now I need to go back to January again. In the middle of January my mother, who has been suffering from dementia, had to have foot surgery. The morning of the surgery there was a ice storm. My brother took her and my father to the clinic for the surgery. Everything went well and my brother managed to get them back home safely even though the roads were covered with ice. He got her inside the house and was fixing her a chair that would keep the foot elevated at the proper height when my dad said he wanted the newspaper. Well, it was at the end of a long icy driveway and my brother said to wait just a minute while he finished getting my mom settled. My dad doesn’t know the word "wait". He went out to get it himself, where he promptly fell and broke his ankle. Since he’s also diabetic and hard of hearing, it was a long road of healing that was very interesting. My brother and I took turns taking care of them. I would go over every weekday and he’d handle weekends. We discovered that my mother had Alzheimer’s and changed her doctor to one who would treat it better. Even though her foot had healed, she couldn’t take care of my father, so we had to handle things while his ankle slowly healed. He wasn’t able to put weight on the foot for months. My mother was confused and thought the therapist and nurses were my father’s girlfriends. So for most of the year the only writing I did was very early in the morning or on weekends.

During all this my writing career was getting very busy. I had the third Fresh-baked mystery novel to write for Signet, I sold a new mystery series to Kensington, and I sold my first vampire romance to Silhouette Nocturne with a proposal. My agent was able to get due dates far enough away for my dad to heal, but now I’m working like crazy to get caught up. This past weekend my brother and I also put on a birthday party/family reunion for my father, who turned 80. We had about sixty people in my parents' house, plus enough food to feed an army!

This is why I don’t blog very often. I will try to write more entries in the future.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Coming in October 2007 - Murder by the Slice

Murder by the Slice
A Fresh-Baked Mystery
Livia J. Washburn


Retired schoolteacher Phyllis Newsom’s scrumptious baked creations are known throughout Weatherford, Texas, for many things. But being healthy isn’t one of them. So this year’s contest should be quite a challenge—because even though the entries must be low-cal and low-fat, Phyllis will never, ever scrimp on taste…

Everyone knows you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Unfortunately, nobody ever told Shannon Dunston, despotic president of Oliver Loving Elementary’s Parent Teacher Organization. And in planning a fundraising carnival, Phyllis Newsom and her friends wouldn’t mind if Shannon were to go to a much hotter place than Texas…

Even though the carnival fare is heart-healthy this year, it does Shannon’s heart no good—someone has stabbed her through the heart in a school hallway. Distraught, Phyllis learns that the knife that killed Shannon was hers—and that it left traces of incriminating frosting. Now, clearing her name will be no piece of applesauce-and-granola cake…

Praise for A Peach of a Murder:

“Delightful, [with a] realistic small town vibe [and a] vibrant narrative…A Peach of a Murder runs the full range of emotions, so be prepared to laugh and cry with this one!”—Romance Reader’s Connection

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter at the Farm

Easter always reminds me of the wonderful family get-togethers we had when I was a child. Both my parents came from large families, so there were always a lot of kids. Every Easter we would meet at Pawpaw Lawrence and Mama Kate’s farm. It was a great place where we could have amazing egg hunts, and adventures. There was a creek that ran through the farm with a water hole. We would track through the brush up and down that creek looking for the water hole. And of course, we had to keep an eye out for snakes, wild pigs, and bulls along the way. Pawpaw Lawrence passed away while I was still in high school, and while Mama Kate met my oldest daughter, she passed away while I was pregnant with my youngest. It was a difficult pregnancy and I was bedridden at the time, so I didn’t even get to attend the funeral. Needless to say, I miss those childhood days. I was always a little disappointed that my children didn’t get to have an Easter like we did. They had a couple cousins that were just a little older than them, so we did have a few small egg hunts in the yard. We still have a large family, but we hardly ever have time to get together anymore. All the kids are grown, many with grandkids and of course there is no great farm to have adventures on. The photo is of my first egg hunt. By the way, I'm the little girl holding the cat. The other little girl is my cousin Sabrina. Two guesses how this ended.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Friday, March 02, 2007

Smoking Dog

Since our dog Clifford passed away, his buddy Max has picked up a new bad habit. James has been taking Max with him on his walks and he’s gotten into the habit of picking up cigarette butts along the side of the road. Thankfully he doesn’t actually eat the cigarettes; he just puts them in his mouth like he needs a light. This is a big strong dog, so when he wants something he goes for it. Yesterday he picked up a new habit. He picked up a can of snuff.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Big Five O

Yesterday was my 50th birthday. It was nothing like I expected it to be.

My mother had surgery on her right foot on January 17th. It was a miserable day. James was going to take her, but when we got up at four that morning it was sleeting heavily and the roads were sheets of ice. Neither of us has gotten the knack of driving on icy roads down, so to be safe we woke up my brother Bruce to drive her to the surgery center. The roads were bad even for him, and he drives on ice fairly easily. My mother’s surgery went well and he brought her and my father back to their home later that day. As Bruce was getting my mother settled, my father insisted on getting the newspaper from the end of the driveway. Bruce told him to just wait a minute and he’d go get it. Minutes later he hears yelling and finds that my father had fallen on the ice. Of course my father insisted it was just a sprain. He refused to go to the doctor until a week later. This was when I got the call from the doctor’s office telling me that my father couldn’t understand them. He’s very hard of hearing. His ankle was broken and we needed to pick up his x-rays and take him to another doctor. At this point my father still thought it was a sprain and was walking on the foot. He ended up with a metal plate on the bone to keep it from shifting, which it had been doing, and he has to stay off it for six weeks. For the past two weeks I have been taking care of both of them during the weekdays, and Bruce takes care of them on the weekend. On February 8th, my birthday, my parents had three doctor's appointments. James took my dad to his and before they got back I took my mother to her first appointment. Of course both of those doctors had emergency surgery that morning and the appointments had backed up. I barely had time to get my mother home and both of them fed so she could get to her next appointment.

The day ended on a much more pleasant note. My oldest daughter, Shayna, brought my younger daughter, Joanna, home from college for the weekend. The four of us went for a nice Italian dinner and had a very pleasant evening. These days it's hard to find time for the four of us to sit at a table and relax, so as it turned out, I’d say it was a very nice birthday. One of my best.

This wasn’t the first birthday I’d spent with doctors. James and I were supposed to go out and celebrate my 18th birthday. This would have been our second date. I had to cancel the date for emergency surgery. At first James thought I was just brushing him off. Of course when you cancel the second date the first thing you think is that they don’t really want to go out with you. Thankfully, he understood that I was going to the hospital and we had the date after I had recovered. We’ve been together for the 32 years since. Lucky me.