Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm in Trouble Now!

I'm so delighted to join this group. As I told Barb, how can I pass up the chance to chat about knitting and ogle pictures of gorgeous men? My name is Cindi Myers and I write romance and women's fiction. I'm also a craft-a-holic -- I quilt, play with beaded jewelry -- and knit.

Which is where the trouble comes in. I logged on to this blog day before yesterday and started reading through posts and was immediately seized with a desire to knit everything! I want to make spiral socks. And dish rags. I have patterns for both. So much yarn -- so little time.

I live in the mountains southwest of Denver and we're making a trip into the big city this weekend. I've already warned my hubby this will include a trip to my favorite yarn shop. I can hardly wait!

As to my current project, I'm knitting the second sock of a pair started last spring. The weather has turned cool enough to inspire me to want to handle wool yarn again. I love socks. I felt so accomplished when I finally mastered working with double pointed needles. Please tell me I am not the only person who buys shoes specifically to show off my socks. I just bought a lovely pair of leather clogs for winter, to wear with my large collection of colorful wool socks.

I end this first post with a request. Has anyone ever knitted a doggie sweater? Do you know where I can find a good pattern? I have a little beagle mix who actually loves wearing sweaters in the winter. The one he has now was a gift from my mother-in-law and it's pink. A little girlie for a masculine dog like him. So help me out here and point me toward a good pattern.

And thanks for letting me join the party!

Needles on a plane

One of life’s little ironies: I’m a sucker for really cool aircraft. Stealth bombers race my jets. (Okay, that was a terrible pun but who could resist? Not me!) My favorite vacation was at a resort in Phoenix that was so near Luke Air Force base I could spend my time by the pool watching the trainee pilots flying wingtip to wingtip in their F-16s before they peeled off to land.

But I’m terrified of flying in a big old commercial airliner. I’ve tried everything to overcome this irrational phobia: drugs, alcohol, hypnosis, deep breathing, reading a really gripping book. Nothing works. As soon as the plane hits the smallest pocket of turbulence or makes one strange noise, total panic sets in.

In my quest for airborne relaxation, I thought of taking my latest knitting project with me because we all know nothing’s more relaxing than the gentle click of bamboo needles.

However, in these post-9/11 days, it occurred to me that knitting needles are long sharp implements which might be construed as dangerous to a pilot’s health if put in the hands of evildoers. The last thing I wanted was to have my half-finished shawl made of very, very expensive yarn tossed in the security garbage bin at the airport. So I left my soothing pastime at home.

My question for this well-traveled group is: has anyone here taken their knitting on a commercial aircraft? Did you have any problem doing so?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Yes, that's a young Sean Connery over there. Clearly I'll stop at nothing to keep your attention.

Although you owe me big time for not posting the beefcake (don't you love that word?) photo of (hold onto your double points) Fred MacMurray that I found on the increasingly frightening internet. (I may not sleep tonight.)

I also found a . . . powerful photo of Sir Sean that I'm holding in abeyance for when a little discipline is in order.

Okay. Let's get down to business. The contest ends in 24 hours and 26 minutes. I intend to post the names of the winners here by noon my time (EDT) on Friday September 1st, after notifying the six luckiest knitters on the planet by email.

Did you welcome Gloria Alvarez -- Glo -- to the Romancing The Yarn? Her first post is right beneath this one. Read it and drool at the thought of the wonderful original pot she's donating to the lucky Grand Prize winner, along with one of her terrific books.

And, while I'm asking rhetorical questions, did you notice the slight change in our sub-title? We've added two terrific knitting authors/writing knitters to our crew. Watch for Linda Wisdom's first post and Cindi Myers's debut. I'd tell you all about them but I'd rather they tell you themselves. They're both great writers and I know you'll love them.

Good night, Liam. You're still my Knitting Muse.

Oh, what is all this chatter about socks! If I ever threaten to make another pair of socks, just stake me out with my #19s and leave me to burn in the Texas sun! (Not to say that Sandra’s spiral socks aren’t magnificent, mind you—they are quite shaply and I bet they’re cozy in winter, but who can think of winter when it’s 95 degrees in the shade?)

Not me.

And who AM I? I’m Gloria Alvarez, AWOL member of this bloggy bunch. I’m really a poseur, since I haven’t published a romance since 2002 (it’s the sad but all-too-common story of the publisher cancelling the line. But you can occasionally still find my work at places like Half-Price Books). But I really like to knit, so here I am . . .

I do a lot of freelance writing, and I work with the Houston office of Writers in the Schools. We writers teach in public classrooms (and juvenile centers, hospitals, community centers and the like) once a week. We try to teach kids how to think and work the way writers work (yeah, yeah, with all the messiness that entails!) We read student work, comment on it, help them revise and refine it, and eventually publish an entire volume of the class’s best material. Best of all, we never assign grades! So the kids generally love us, and usually by the end of the year, they’ve written 3-6 really creative pieces.

I’ve been known to bring fiber in to spark the darlings’ creativity. I have a small stash of angora, wool and cotton fibers, and the kids get a charge out of trying to figure out what it is and writing about it before I tell them. Try it some time if you have smallish humans running around your house . . .

As for knitting, I’m working on a darling little t-shirt (of which I will post photos if and when my tech support hubby stays awake long enough to help me . . ). I adapted the pattern so I could knit it the round, simultaneously avoiding the torture of purling and seams! (Did I mention I’m lazy?)

And heaven help me, I’m about a third of the way done and I am out-of-my-mind bored! I still like the pattern. I still like the yarn: a Blue Sky Alpaca organic cotton—soft and springy—very neutral Willow so it’ll go with all my little khaki skirts, shorts and pants! But the actual knitting is turning me starkers. Even hours of Law and Order reruns as I knit doesn’t break the tedium.

(I'm a real newbie at this blogging thing, and I haven't quite mastered the live link concept, so here's the URL you can paste to your browser if you want to see this yarn:

So being bored with knitting, I’ll talk instead about pottery, my other expensive hobby. Today at the studio, I did a raku firing—short intense heat to vitrify the glaze (turn it to liquid glass). Then you pull the piece out of the kiln and plunge it into a newspaper-filled metal trash can. The newspaper catches fire (so you know the piece is at least 451 degrees!). You slap on the lid, the oxygen gets consumed, and your piece—if you’re lucky and the pottery gods are smiling—turns out perfect. Which mine did.

Why can’t I use that same energy to just knit the blasted shirt? Don’t know. It just doesn’t work that way. Instead I want to back to my garage and make more pots.

So that’ll be part of my contribution to the contest—a copy of one of my old books in an original bowl (and probably some yarn-y stash, too!)

And th-that’s all for now. Must go try to knit two rounds before starting supper.

So glad I’m finally here. I’ll be more regular now.

xoglo, who promises pictures soon . . .

Playing "Telephone" - or The Downside of the Internet & Rumor-Mongering

Sorry, gang, today's post is a little off-topic and a tad reflective and philosophical. It's also personal, as it announces a change in my status in the world of independent publishing. I promise to get back to the business at hand instantly in my next post if you'll indulge me briefly -- and my sincerest thanks!

I come from a big family - 8 kids (I'm the oldest), 36 first cousins on my mother's side, a dozen more on my dad's, multitudes of second cousins in my age group, an extended family of friends who all seemed to live and dine at our house on a regular basis, and parents who never missed an opportunity to try to teach us "lessons". To say that our dinner table was a crowded place every evening would be an understatement. To tell you it was noisy, boistrous, silly - and sometimes that my father, who worked all day preferred it quiet - would no doubt be an understatement.

To achieve this end (and the end of teaching all of us lessons ;-)), he'd often start a couple of games with us. The first one was "skunk." To play it, we'd all have to shut up, and the first one who talk was...LOL, well, "smelly."

I'm not sure how quiet a game that really was, since it resulted in a fair amount of giggles and laughter since with a minimum of 8 young children at the table trying not to talk...*chuckle* But at least it stopped the arguing I'm sure we did prior to the game.

The other game was Telephone.

I don't know how many of you played this as kids, but my dad liked to get us through supper to dessert, then before letting the bunch of us excuse ourselves, he'd lean over to the right or left and whisper some sentence or phrase into the ear of whichever kid sat there and tell them to pass it on. The idea was to see if the message came back to him in the same shape it started out in.

You guessed it; by accident or design, by the time the message made its way through the 10-15 people (most of them kids) seated at that dinner table it was never in the same wording as it started out.

My father's intent was to teach us how easily people misconstrue, misunderstand or flat out mis-speak whispers, even if that whisper is as small as a single word.

Whispers on the Internet are even more prone to misunderstanding than whispers around the dinner table. Why? Because there are so many more people with such a huge variety of backgrounds, histories, cultures, emotional constitutions, languages, understandings, etc., that to expect everyone to interpret every single word in exactly the same way is dangerous. Politically we see that every day; in the written word it's easy to leave out a word accidentally, misspell something crucial, use slang inappropriately even in the multitudes of countries that claim English as a native language.

As a writer, a communicator, it is always my hope to present my work - whatever that work is - clearly.

Oh, and for anyone who's wondering...I have indeed resigned from Triskelion Publishing and am no longer affiliated with them. Why? After 3 years, it is very simply time to pursue and forward my own career interests elsewhere. And before you ask, yes, I'm wonderful with this decision. *big smile* It's a very free feeling not to have to try to figure out what needs to be taken care of first and what I didn't accomplish that was important during a day. Now...if anyone who'd like to make a rumor out of this would just cut it out and let us all get on with our previously scheduled programs...

Thanks!!! *big grin*

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sox But Were Afraid to Ask

Now and forever, my ideal Irishman: Peter O'Toole. At any age. I don't even care if he can't knit and is allergic to wool. He is PETER O'TOOLE. (And was there ever a more romantic and glorious scene than this one from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA: golden glorious Peter O'Toole racing across the vast desert with gorgeous smoldering (be still my heart) Omar Sharif. Both of them on screen at the same time. It simply doesn't get any better.

That, of course, was just a cheap and shameless ploy to get your attention. Somehow I didn't think that this would have the same effect. That peculiar striped thing to your right is in personal Hall of Knitting Fame because it represents my first successful attempt at mastering the mystery of double points.

I had myself tied up in nasty little knots over double points. I was convinced my hands wouldn't be able to manipulate four (or five) needles. I worried about ladders. I wasn't even at all convinced I understood exactly why going round and round produced stockinette but hey, I didn't have to understand it in order to do it, right?

The double points were sitting on the table in the family room. I had a skein of something ugly next to me. (I always keep a skein of something ugly next to me. It's my knitting version of the "it's okay to write crap nobody's gonna see the first draft" way of thinking. If I try something with crap yarn it's clear to even my fevered brain that THIS ISN'T THE REAL THING. You can make all the mistakes you want. You're not committed to continuing.)

So I cast on. (I broke into a sweat. I really did.) I made sure the stitches weren't twisted. (I wasn't quite sure what a twisted stitch would look like but I gave it my best shot.) And then I started to knit. Leaping between needles was a bit of a Cirque du Soleil triumph but I did it. Yes, I had laddering. (Yes, I learned how to avoid that later on.) Yes, I dropped a needle here and there. (Yes, I had a few hot flashes.) But suddenly a miracle happened and I saw a tube forming. I was knitting in a circle. There were no seams! I almost leaped off the couch in my excitement. I made my husband admire the Whatever It Was.

After a couple of inches I started to wonder, "So what's all this talk about turning a heel? Why don't I just turn an imaginary heel right here and see how it feels?" So I did. I ignored proportion and the proper # of stitches and just plopped that heel in the middle of nowhere and son of a gun if a 3D heel didn't appear!

Clearly I was invincible. So I knitted some more after the heel (didn't know about gussets or flaps at that point) and decided I would try decreasing for a toe. Lo and behold a toe began to take shape. Now I wasn't quite ready to try Kitchener so I 3-needled it and voila! A really hideous looking ugly yarn protosock was born!

That sock is a triumph, knitters! I was convinced I couldn't do it, positive I would fail. I threw roadblocks in front of my progress every step of the way. (I mean, look at that yarn? That could have stopped Elizabeth Zimmerman in her tracks.) But I did it! I had to trick myself in order to manage that, but I did it just the same.

Which is my way of saying, maybe we should start a sock project here at RTY. The sock bug seems to have bitten a few of us so maybe we could decide on either a pattern we'll all use (I'm thinking Spiral) or we'll each choose our own and start together, help each other, and see what we end up with. Socks for toddlers are easy and small and there are many hospitals out there who would welcome them.

And I'm not limiting it to just the RTY bloggers. Readers, we want you too! Tell me what you think, PLEASE! After publishing that awful sock photo I need some reassurance. (I finished my book and have too much time on my hands. Beware!)

Besides, Liam thinks it's a great idea.


Ugly Black Fixation Bulky Socks - FO

Listen, I never promised you a visual rose garden, did I? Sometimes a girl's gotta knit what a girl's gotta knit.

Those charming blobs of black stretchiness over there are the black Fixation Bulky Socks I made for my beloved Goldisox of the fussy feet. That, my friends, is love. Only someone who loves you would ever endure endless rounds of black black black ropey stockinette. (A trophy wife would never knit black socks. Just sayin' . . . )

I think I posted the particulars one other time but a quick rundown: basic sock architecture w/heel flap and gusset. K2P2 ribbing. Plain stockinette leg and foot. Round toe. 44 stitches on #4US Addi Turbos. Magic Loop technique.

Want to know the definition of crazy in love after all these years? I cast on for a second pair.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shameless Book Promo and Very Little Knitting

Here is one of the hazards of being a writer: Deadlines. They make blogging particularly hard when you are trying to finish a book so I've been pretty non-existent so far. The book is nearly done, but in the meantime I would invite you to try my fresh on the shelves book, HIS MISTRESS BY MORNING, (it comes out today!) I'm really excited about this story because it was like knitting with some Debbie Bliss Cashmere--the writing was great fun and I loved the final story. I hope you have a chance to give it a try. Here is a little synopsis and of course, the beautiful cover. Seeing your book out in the bookstore is like having someone ask you were you got your lovely sweater and you have to modestly tell them you made it.

by Elizabeth Boyle
ISBN 0-06-078402-7

Be careful what you wish for . . .
When a promised inheritance turns out to be a fraud, shy spinster, Charlotte Wilmont, makes an impetuous wish that despite her lack of charm and fortune, she could capture the heart of the one man whom she's forever adored-Sebastian, Viscount Trent. With that utterance, Charlotte awakens shocked to find herself entwined with her beloved Sebastian but the respectable man she knew is now a most rakish devil and she is . . . . well, by some inexplicable magic, London's most infamous mistress.

Being the scandalous Lottie Townsend affords Charlotte unimaginable freedom -passionate nights with Sebastian, endless days of shopping and adoring fans. But all too soon, Charlotte finds that being one man's mistress isn't the same as being his wife. Yet if she returns to her old, respectable life, can Charlotte trust there will be enough magic left to recapture Sebastian's heart . . . and reawaken his rakish desires?

To read an excerpt of His Mistress By Morning, take an look behind the story in Footnotes and enter Elizabeth's latest contest (to win a handknit purse!) please visit

Sandra's Spiral Socks: just the facts, ma'am

I'm surprised knitting teachers don't start novice socknitters off with spiral socks. They are, to my mind (and hands), the easiest thing on the planet. No complicated heel turns. No worries about sizing. And you can drift down into a round toe and avoid Kitchenering altogether if that is your desire. (I never had a problem with Kitchener. Okay, so maybe I have to lock myself away when I do it but I do that anyway when I'm working so what's the big deal?)

That's one of the Magic Looped spiral socks I made for Sandra's birthday. The scan has a slightly greenish hue that's inaccurate but you get the idea. I only wish I could find the photo of the two completed socks but it's lost in the bowels of my scary laptop.

I'm a simple soul and since this was my first spiral sock I was entranced as the spiral began to slant its way around the growing body of the sock. I loved watching the striping unfold. I thoroughly adored the springiness of the wool, the stretchiness of the pattern. Let's face it, self-striping, self-patterning yarns were made for people like me who practically stand up and cheer when they see the brown coming to an end and a nice blue patch looming on the horizon.

So here are some details: the pattern is After Bertha from Socks Socks Socks and I am dimwitted enough to have found the process to be absolutely fascinating. The fact that I lucked into exactly the right yarn for it didn't hurt matters either: Regia 4 Fadig in Cacao, a beautiful blend of medium cocoa and that pure slightly earthy blue that works so surprisingly well with cocoas and pure browns.Stats: 66 stitches; Addi Turbos #1US; worked 3K3P pattern that takes a step over every fourth row. Couldn't be simpler. I did a round toe (embarrassingly simple but very pleasing aesthetically), wove in the ends, and I was done.

Here comes the mushy part: as I said, they were a birthday present for Sandra and once again I'm reminded of how deep the connection is whenever I make something for someone I love. I'm probably the least Zen-like woman you'll ever meet but there is a mindfulness to the process when you're knitting something for someone you love, a focus of concentration that eludes me far too often in real (read: non-knitting) life. The recipient is on my mind with every stitch along the way and the process turns into something much more than knit 3 purl 3.

End mushy part.


Monday, August 28, 2006


He's starting to look a tad annoyed, isn't he? Must've dropped a stitch or two.

Be that as it may, September 1st is right around the corner which means if you haven't taken a moment to enter our Spectacular Blog Launch Contest, you're running out of time.

In case you've forgotten, here's the rundown on all the goodies awaiting the Grand Prize Winner and 5 other lucky runners-up:

The extremely lucky Grand Prize winner will take home those two gorgeous skeins of Noro Kureyon in wonderful #40 and a signed copy of MERCY by our Jean Brashear. Our GP winner will also receive (courtesy of yours truly) signed copies of SOMEONE LIKE YOU and GIRLS OF SUMMER, a copy of the incredible WENDY KNITS; a skein of Lion Brand Fun Fur because sometimes a girl has to play; a breathtaking skein of Lisa Souza's Earth Birth superwash sock yarn; #0US 47 inch Addi Turbos so you can try to Magic Loop; and Clover blocking pins, the best blocking pins on the planet. (In my estimation, at least.)

BTW, both Jean and I hold monthly contests at our websites. The links are on the vertical nav bar or you can click here for Jean or here for me.

Believe it or not, that's not all. It's not even close to all.

Sandra Marton offers to the grand prize winner signed copies of THE KNIGHT BROTHERS, her Waldenbooks Best-Selling trilogy that came out in March, May and July. Sandra also holds monthly contests at her website.

I'll let Nancy Herkness tell you about her current monthly website contest herself:

While vacationing in Colorado, my family and I went shopping in Manitou Springs, a quirky town near the Garden of the Gods. We found this great boutique (where my daughter went on a regular shopping spree) and I spotted this gorgeous cascade of beads. It can be worn tied as a necklace, draped like a scarf, or, if you’re slim, wrapped as a belt. The colors are lovely and reminded me of the natural shades we saw in Colorado: mossy green, deep lavender blue and rosy pink. My husband says it’s so fabulous that I should keep it for myself but I bought it for my readers so here it is as my latest contest prize. Good luck!

And then there are the goodies for our Grand Prize winner: signed copies of Nancy's SHOWER OF STARS and WELCOME TO WISTERIA LANE: ON AMERICA'S FAVORITE DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. Nancy says, "Welcome to Wisteria Lane is an anthology of essays about the television show; all sorts of writers contributed." She's also donating a great magnet for your car that reads K2TOG so everyone knows you're dedicated to your craft.

Fran Baker is donating a large print copy of THE WIDOW AND THE WILDCATTER and a surprise goodie.

Jamie Denton, who also holds monthly website contests, is contributing an autographed copy of HARD TO HANDLE, an autographed ARC of THE MATCHMAKER and a "grab bag of yarn"

Terese Ramin also blogs at The Lip Service Gang where they hold a monthly contest.

Elizabeth Boyle is donating a signed book and a skein of something gorgeous. BTW, she runs a monthly contest at her website too.

Laura Phillips is supplying the Grand Prize winner with an assortment of her back titles and something wonderfully knitterly.

Gloria Alvarez, where are you?

And last but definitely not least, we have sock surprises for the 5 runners-up:A wonderful skein of Austermann STEP in a gorgeous colourway whose number isn't in front of me right now; 2 skeins of Knit Picks PARADE; 2 skeins of Paton's KROY #54701; 2 skeins of Gedifra Fashion Trend Sportivo in #5793; 2 skeins of Fortissima Colori Socka in #4009. Who gets what will be determined at random. And there will be little extras included too.

Don't wait a second longer! ENTER THE CONTEST! You can click on the blue button marked CONTEST at the top of your screen or click right here. Just put CONTEST in the Subject line and click send. We'll do the rest.

Good luck!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dishcloths anyone?

Being relatively new to this empty nest stage of life, I tend to get sentimental about odd things. A few weeks ago I caught myself weeping over the demise of a dishrag. Of course, it wasn’t just any dishrag. That ragged, stained, cotton string dishcloth carried a hundred memories. I made it (and many more) while waiting in the minivan for my son to be released from his fifth grade after school ham radio class. He’s now 22 and has just returned from a two-year stint in South America. That damn dishcloth fell apart two days before his return flight.

So I fell apart, just a little, and had a good cathartic cry. My son’s flight arrived safely, and after a 24-hour whirlwind of errands, unpacking, repacking, and travel he reached the farm we now call home. By that time I’d quelled the urge to wrap that old dishcloth in tissue paper to store in the cedar chest where I keep my prom dress, a certain pair of ragged denim cut-offs, my great-grandmother’s quilt, and various other mementos valuable for the memories they evoke. The dishcloth, a most practical item, deserved a fitting last incarnation of usefulness. So I gave it to the cats. It’s loose weave, ragged edges, and dangling strings make it a most favored toy.

But I miss it. My sink looks wrong without it. So I made my husband pull down the attic door. I climbed the narrow ladder and dug through my stash for the white cotton skeins I knew were up there, then tossed them at my son when I found them. ‘What’s this?’ he asked. Knowing the limits of his sentimentality and also his powers of concentration, given how little sleep he’d had, I spared him the whole story. ‘This,’ I told him instead, ‘Is what I’ll be doing while your sister talks and you unpack.’

That’s exactly how it worked out, too. He and I drove the pickup 150 miles to the little house near campus where he and his sister will live this year. Once there, I settled into place on the loveseat and pulled out the cotton yarn and needles. He unpacked. His sister shared the latest news and her concerns about health issues she’s experiencing. Her boyfriend of two years joined us after a while, and we spent a peaceful afternoon watching the National Geographic channel and chatting casually about various things. Overall, it seemed an afternoon steeped in the mundane.

Despite my worries, and I have many, I felt at peace there in my comfortable seat in the shabby little house. That day I advanced a spoke in the wheel of my life. It was the end of The Terrible Separation wherein my firstborn resided a continent away, and perhaps even further away emotionally, for the circumstances of his leaving had not been at all to my liking.

Now begins a new stage. All three of my offspring are in college, building the framework on which their adult lives will be built. It seems fitting that I knit these thoughts into a simple square of string cotton that will take its place on my dish drying rack for the next ten years. And when it falls apart from wear and tear, I’ll reflect back on the day it was made and smile.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Moving Up

I have a confession to make: I haven’t touched a knitting needle in almost a month. Are those gasps of disbelief I hear? I don’t blame you.

However, I have all kinds of reasons—vacations, arm pains, houseguests—but now it’s a decorating project that’s eating into my needle time.

You see, my daughter’s moving up…to the attic. Painting her new room has become a family-and-friends project (except for my son who has four plus hours of soccer practice every day and therefore claims exhaustion). Many hands make light work and I’m learning the lyrics to all my Darling Daughter’s favorite songs because her iPod provides our working music. I discovered a deep dark secret today: she has a country western tune on her playlist! D.D. has always treated my West Virginia-bred taste for country music with scorn and loathing. Now I can blackmail her by threatening to reveal her lapse in taste to her friends.

Not surprisingly since I’m dealing with a teenager, the most stressful part of the project was choosing the colors for the room. D.D. wanted dark purple and electric blue. I exercised my veto power. Then she chose a deep teal and I persuaded her to complement it with a lighter shade in the same color family. You can see the complementary shade in the photo. D.D. says she feels like she’s inside a robin’s egg (not a bad place to be, all things considered).

So what do you do for fun and relaxation when you’re not knitting?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Knitaphobia: stop it before it stops you!

I sent off that comment to Sandra's post and then I started thinking: knitaphobe knitaphobe . . . Knitaphobia!

Can't you just see it? The Girl Who Was Afraid To Knit! See her run screaming through the woods at the sight of double points! Watch her cower in the bushes when the new Vogue Knitting arrives! See her secretly stroke handknit garments in the dark of night when she thinks no one is watching her . . .

Knitaphobia: it's real, it's here, and only SuperWash can save her now!

I was a knitaphobe once too, Sandra. There is a cure but it involves very sharp pointed objects, mass quantities of fiber, and a ritual so secret, so shrouded in mystery, that only The Great Elizabeth Zimmerman knew what it was and that great knitting goddess took the secret with her when she left us.

We have her interest, knitters, but we haven't closed the deal. Any ideas on how to woo the resident knitaphobe over to the Woolly Side?

Oh Now Wait...LIAM vs PIERCE?: puh-leeze!

It's all Pierce. Especially if you've seen the man in one of his more outstanding (and silly / wonderfully Kevin Kline-style off the wall) roles in The Matador. But there are other guys out there. Big guys. Very funny guys. Watchable, keep you in stitches, overlooked guys.

Let me just offer up two for your consideration: Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Serenity, Full Metal Jacket, Independence Day; among his best roles to date is Jayne Cobb in Firefly & Serenity) & The Rock. Seriously. These dudes make me laugh. They're intelligent, they play with their characters (always a good thing in my books ) and they don't take themselves seriously.

I would knit them sweaters. I've already put them in books...


KNITTING CATALOGS & CRAFT MAGAZINES: Love 'em or leave 'em? Addiction or fetish?

And how do they compare to the numerous story ideas that attack you with their stunning & timely attractiveness but No Time To Give To Them??? (Can you say STASH?)

The latest Ram Wools catalog came today and my heart immediately sank. Why? Because...I wanted to buy at least 5 things from it instantly - and that was just patterns. Once I added up the kit prices, which means (of course) Y-A-R-N in CAPS, I was heavy into the $$$ and headed toward the $$$$.

And would I get the kits made up in a timely manner, stick to the patterns, made up exactly as the patterns called for...AHAHAHAHAHAAAA!! Dream on. Especially when it comes to sticking to the patterns precisely (that's too much like following a recipe to the letter and where's the fun in that, I ask you? ;-)) But it's also dreaming to think that I'd finish up that many wonderful projects in a reasonable length of time, even starting this early in the season and giving myself the "excuse" that "It's okay to spend the money because it's all on Christmas presents anyway."

Yeah. Heard that one before. The yarn's still sitting in my stash, no doubt to be used on something that doesn't even resemble the original project it was purchased for.

My writing life is a lot like that, too. I have waaaay too many ideas for projects, and I write too slowly to accommodate them all. So I stash them, exactly the way I stash my yarn - only instead of nicely and neatly in bags and boxes in the closet where I can find the fibers and colors with relative ease (if I go back to them at all; these companies have GOT to stop inventing such incredible new colors and yarns every year, or I have GOT to stop looking at the magazines & catalogs to avoid all temptation) I stash my writing ideas

*on bits and pieces of paper,
*on 3.5 inch floppies that are no longer of much use,
*on flash drives
*on CDs
*on my laptop computer
*on my PC
*in the filing cabinet in the basement
*in notebooks on the bookshelf
*in the filing cabinets in my office

The ideas for new stories, articles, books & characters are literally everywhere, arranged as best I can. I'm addicted to them and they won't leave me alone - very much like my yarn stash. The newest ones are always my favorites, but the old ones are comforting, things I want to go back to, classics, part of plan I once had for a trilogy or a series or...just something completely different that I wasn't quite ready to tackle once upon the when.

At least the yarn catalogs and magazines have pictures already in them. The story ideas and books and research and...writing stuff accumulates more and more with each character, each thought, because every idea generates its own stash, its own file / pile of research, color, thoughts, ideas, characters, music, addictions - and oftentimes even knitting patterns. Because knitting helps me think, concentrate, mull over where the story goes next, the recipe changes, the pattern jogs...

Terese Ramin
Stuck in Think...

On A Cool and Wet Day

I woke up to a cold, wet, dark morning here in northern Connecticut. Cold, wet, dark and early... It was 5 A.M. and, trust me, that's not usually the time I start my day.

But we live in the country and, for some reason, there was lots of creature activity around our house and in our woods during the night. I'm attuned to wildlife and I hear almost every sound.

Last night, for instance, I awoke at 2 A.M to the hunting call of a fisher. Fishers sort of look like giant minks. They are very wild, fierce, magnificent animals which have only recently returned to our woods after many decades of being hunted mercilessly for their dense, silky fur.

At 3 something, I heard our pair of resident barred owls call to each other as they, too, hunted the small creatures of the night.

A little after 4, our local pack of coyotes decided to serenade us.

At five, somebody's dog started to bark. Not a wild creature but, what the heck, I gave up and climbed out of bed, grabbed my usual pre-shower, summer morning attire--shorts and a T-shirt--and tiptoed from the room while my husband slept on.

It wasn't until I had the coffee going that I realized I was FREEZING! So I went back upstairs, exchanged my shorts for jeans, my T-shirt for a sweatshirt and... here comes the best part, the knitting part, the dear friend part--I took from my sock drawer the most beautiful pair of socks anyone has ever had the joy of wearing.

Barbara made them for me for my birthday. They're gorgeous. She used the earth colors she knows I adore. They fit perfectly. And oh, they are warm! The best thing about them, though, is the love she put into every stitch.

Barbara? What's the name of this yarn? What's the pattern? Do you think someone as knit-phobic as I can ever hope to make a pair half as beautiful?

Almost forgot to mention... Last evening, just before dusk, my husband and I were driving home. Just as we reached our house in a wooded cul de sac, we noticed perhaps a dozen birds dipping and sailing right overhead. Neither of us had ever seen this kind of bird before but I'd seen photos and knew, right away, they were Nighthawks. Imagine! We watch birds in our yard, in our woods, all the time but we've never, ever seen a Nighthawk or heard any of our neighbors mention seeing one. And suddenly, there they were.

So, it's a cool and wet and dark day, but I don't care. The sun doesn't have to shine for a day to be perfect.

P.S. I even finished another chapter today and, big sigh of relief, I'm happy with it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Play It Forward

That's Goldisox (my husband) and our beloved Perky. It's December 1971 and he is six months out of the Air Force and determined to let his hair grow for the rest of his life. Perk is two years old and determined to do the same. We lived in the white house behind him in the tiny (and very hot) second floor apartment - Floral Park, Long Island, New York. Perky is modeling one in a series of wonderful cherry red and white sweaters my mother kept her supplied with for her whole long and very happy almost-16 years of life.

It's been a tough week. There are a few places I'd rather not go again, memories I'd like to relegate to some other-worldly dustbin but life doesn't work that way. Sometimes it seems that you're meant to learn certain things just so you can pass them on.

There isn’t much about cancer that’s good but in a strange way I have the disease to thank for one of my best friends in the world. We had known each other casually for a couple of years before she was diagnosed at the same age (29) and with a similar type and, in an instant, we were forever bonded. Everything I had gone through eight years earlier suddenly acquired new value and importance. My experiences with hospitals and doctors and fear became a lifeline for somebody else which, if you think about it, is about as good as it can get.

Yesterday I found out that a dear friend has terminal colon cancer and once again experience is turning into a lifeline for someone else. I spent much of the day opening old wounds, reading old journal entries, resurrecting my father's almost 6 year battle with the disease and trying to figure out how that Pandora's Box of fact and emotion will be able to help our friend.

People didn’t talk about cancer when I was dealing with it and so I kept it a secret from all but a few of my closest friends. I didn’t look sick. I didn’t feel sick. I was absolutely going to recover. So why shoot my mouth off when it could only come back to bite me in the butt? Back then you were written off as dead and gone if there was even a whisper that you were dealing with the disease. Happy endings were the exception and not the rule. (Ever wonder why I gravitated toward romance's requisite happy ending? Now you know.) I was hungry for the names of people who had faced the same odds and come out a winner but they were hard to come by. I was hungry for their experiences, their knowledge, and there was none to be had.

Right now knitting is all that’s holding my friend together. A box of yarn on the front doorstep can soothe your body and your soul when you feel you're about to break apart. The feel of the yarn beneath your fingers, the weight of the needles, watching the spun fiber turn into something real and tangible. If you screw up, all you have to do is rip it out and start over. The yarn will be as good as new. You'd never know anything happened.

We talk knitting in our phonecalls and emails. Endless discussions of WEBS and Elann and the pleasure of filling out humongous fantasy orders then hitting the delete button before we can get ourselves into trouble. (Nobody needs 30 skeins of super bulky acrylic the color of monkey vomit. Nobody!) We talk about Log Cabin blankets and cabling without needles and why she loves knitting lace while I’d rather put my head in the microwave.

Yesterday I needed a good dose of knitting therapy so I sent a question out to the Socknitters list about the provisional crochet cast on. I’d been playing with it for weeks now, trying every variation I could Google. Examining the stitches, knitting, unraveling, knitting again, muttering, cursing, scratching my head. I must be making some terrible mistake, I told Socknitters, because every time I unzip the waste yarn I end up with big loops and not "live" stitches at all. ("Live" stitches meaning, to me, easy-to-unravel stitches.) I can't tell you the hours I've spent trying and re-trying the provisional crochet cast on, trying to make it turn out the way I thought it should be.

Well, guess what? It was supposed to be exactly what I was getting. A large and lovely series of loops that are easily knit into. Simple as that. The wonderful members of Socknitters showered me with explanations and encouragement and for a little while there in the middle of a truly awful day, there was absolutely nothing on my mind but sticks and string.

I'm not saying knitting has magical properties. Knitting can’t make the bad stuff disappear. But sometimes it can soothe the soul on days when nothing else can.

You learn something and then you pass it on. Sometimes it's almost enough.


Dear Gussie!!!!

Dear Gussie, as my grandmother used to say, I don't get to check the blog for ONE measly day, and look what happens! A truly amazing display of both male pulchritude and junior high neener-neener!;)

And if you think I'm taking have just got a little more thinkin' to do, honey pies. I can straddle that fence until the cows come home. Because they are both pretty dadgum prime, and I would kick neither out of bed. (Smart Fran beat us all to the high ground with her magnanimous offer to sample both and report back--you sly wench.)

The only hard and fast (ooh!) choice I will make is to agree with THE Wendy (I knew I'd figure out a way to work that in--and oh, how I do love your blog and your cat) that Sean Connery is the One True 007.

But the pictures are a treat so, BB and Nancy--let the hunk wars continue!


Them's fightin' words!

You want Pierce with his shirt off? (Well, almost.)

You got him!

LIAM or PIERCE: you be the judge

There is absolutely no redeeming social value (or knitting content, for that matter) to be found in this post. The eye candy should make up for that.

Help save a friendship! Nancy and I are locked in a fierce battle. Yes, two grown married women are arguing over which married movie star is better. No, the two grown married writing knitting women will never in a million years meet either of the happily married movie stars (nor do they probably really want to because then they'd have to buy all new clothes, get their hair done, shave their legs, buy shoes, etc., etc.) but still the battle rages.

So it's up to you. Which Irishman do you prefer? Are you all about Liam or does Pierce float your boat? Tell us in the Comments section because, quite frankly, I think Nancy is inflating Pierce's numbers. This is clearly Liam Territory. (Right, THE Wendy?)

Our future is in your hands.

And, for the record, when was the last time you saw Mr. 007 with his shirt off?

Who needs American Idol when you have Dueling Irishmen (who would probably love to knit if some kind woman from NJ whose initials are BB [no, not the other kind woman from NJ whose initials are NH] would take time from her busy schedule to teach them what was once and is on the way to become yet again a very manly art.

The polls are now open.

Writing and knitting: therapy or health hazards?

I’ve always considered both writing and knitting therapy and figure they've saved me from many expensive hours on a psychiatrist’s couch. Recently, however, I’ve discovered that there is a down side to both occupations and now I’m in a different kind of therapy: physical therapy.

About a month and a half ago, I started having a strange sort of electric shooting pain in my left arm. It got to the point where I couldn’t sit through a meal without hanging my arm awkwardly over the back of a chair or bending it up over my head and back behind my neck. I was pretty sure I wasn’t having a heart attack (thank goodness!) but eating out in public became problematic and it was quite unpleasant even between meal times.

My doctor sent me to a chiropractor/physical therapist who diagnosed it as an impingement in a couple of vertebrae in my upper neck. Since then I’ve had electricity zapped through me, ultrasound vibrated up and down my neck, massages and magnets and even traction. I also do exercises with an elastic band and weights and a large rubber ball.

The culprit? Bad posture when I’m working at the word processor and on the knitting needles. Slouching, even for brief periods of time, transfers all the weight of the head onto just a few vertebrae which aren’t really meant to support it alone. They squash something with a long technical name and it sends a warning signal down the arm.

The solution? Be aware of how you're sitting and get up regularly to do stretches and move around.

Fortunately, all these wonders of modern technology have banished the pain in my arm and now I just have some residual tightness in my neck.

So when your mother told you to “sit up straight!”, she knew what she was talking about.

Has anyone else encountered a similar problem? How have you conquered it?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dueling Irishmen

Take that, you Liam lovers!

What, you may ask, does Pierce Brosnan have to do with knitting and writing? Exactly what Liam Neeson does, only better!


Good morning. (It's four a.m. in my sleepless, struggling to finish the book world.) You know the drill. I'll knit a few rounds of my ubiquitous black Fixation Bulkys while you commune with Liam.

You gotta love a man in a kilt.

September 1st is right around the corner which means we'll be announcing the Grand Prize winner and the 5 other winners of our Launch contest . . . and which also means you might like a sneak peek at some of the goodies in store for you.

If you can tear youself away from Mr. Neeson, take a look at the other photo. Yes, that one. The extremely lucky Grand Prize winner will take home those two gorgeous skeins of Noro Kureyon in wonderful #40 and a signed copy of MERCY by our Jean Brashear. Our GP winner will also receive (courtesy of yours truly) signed copies of SOMEONE LIKE YOU and GIRLS OF SUMMER, a copy of the incredible WENDY KNITS; a skein of Lion Brand Fun Fur because sometimes a girl has to play; a breathtaking skein of Lisa Souza's Earth Birth superwash sock yarn; #0US 47 inch Addi Turbos so you can try to Magic Loop; and Clover blocking pins, the best blocking pins on the planet. (In my estimation, at least.)

BTW, both Jean and I hold monthly contests at our websites. The links are on the vertical nav bar or you can click here for Jean or here for me.

Believe it or not, that's not all. It's not even close to all.

Sandra Marton offers to the grand prize winner signed copies of THE KNIGHT BROTHERS, her Waldenbooks Best-Selling trilogy that came out in March, May and July. Sandra also holds monthly contests at her website.

I'll let Nancy Herkness tell you about her current monthly website contest herself:

While vacationing in Colorado, my family and I went shopping in Manitou Springs, a quirky town near the Garden of the Gods. We found this great boutique (where my daughter went on a regular shopping spree) and I spotted this gorgeous cascade of beads. It can be worn tied as a necklace, draped like a scarf, or, if you’re slim, wrapped as a belt. The colors are lovely and reminded me of the natural shades we saw in Colorado: mossy green, deep lavender blue and rosy pink. My husband says it’s so fabulous that I should keep it for myself but I bought it for my readers so here it is as my latest contest prize. Good luck!

And then there are the goodies for our Grand Prize winner: signed copies of Nancy's SHOWER OF STARS and WELCOME TO WISTERIA LANE: ON AMERICA'S FAVORITE DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. Nancy says, "Welcome to Wisteria Lane is an anthology of essays about the television show; all sorts of writers contributed." She's also donating a great magnet for your car that reads K2TOG so everyone knows you're dedicated to your craft.

Fran Baker is donating a large print copy of THE WIDOW AND THE WILDCATTER and a surprise goodie.

Jamie Denton, who also holds monthly website contests, is contributing an autographed copy of HARD TO HANDLE, an autographed ARC of THE MATCHMAKER and a "grab bag of yarn"

Terese Ramin also blogs at The Lip Service Gang where they hold a monthly contest.

Elizabeth Boyle is donating a signed book and a skein of something gorgeous.

Laura Phillips is supplying the Grand Prize winner with an assortment of her back titles and something wonderfully knitterly.

There's more to come. I'm sure there will be some changes, some additions, and I promise to take a picture of the fabulous sock yarns waiting for the 5 other winners.

Now I'm going back to work.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: ENTER THE CONTEST! You can click on the blue button marked CONTEST at the top of your screen or click right here. Just put CONTEST in the Subject line and click send. We'll do the rest.

Good luck!


A tale of the forest and the trees

A problem I’ve always had with my writing is missing the obvious while concentrating on certain details. This happens to me in real life, too. Last month I related in this blog how I came to be a passionate knitter (7/16/06 – A Knitter’s Ramble), but forgot to actually introduce myself.
So, here goes---

Hi, I’m Laura Phillips, writer, homemaker, small-time farmer, part-time software executive, and fiber addict. I write, knit, and dabble in various archaic arts and crafts from my rural Midwestern farm. I’ve published seven contemporary romance novels and at least a couple hundred non-fiction articles in my career as a writer. I’m also a daughter, wife, and the mother of three college students, and I am very fortunate to have a family that tolerates my eccentricities.

You caught that empty nest reference, didn’t you? All three of my offspring are away at college, which means I have a bit more time than I used to have. Theoretically speaking. Maybe a better way of stating it is to say I have more control over my time these days, and the distractions are of a different sort. I’m currently ‘between contracts.’ I put that inside quote marks because I took a few years off to help run a natural toiltries business and then a small software company. So it’s actually been a while since I made writing a top priority. I’m getting back to that now that the first blush of empty nesting has passed and finding that in my middle age I have much more courage as a writer. Just as I have more courage as a knitter, and a farmer, and a businesswoman.

So join me as I babble on about middle age, wordsmithing, awesome books, irresistible yarns, the occasional breathtaking sunset, and the weird, wooly creatures who donate their fiber to my craft. And don’t be afraid to say ‘enough already, let’s move on!’ After all, not everyone’s obsessively fascinated by the difference between the structure of sheep’s wool and llama, or even the wool differences between breeds of sheep, or within the breeds themselves. Most people don’t care what plants make good cordage or how to knit that cordage into a doormat – or that baling twine also knits into a sturdy bootscraper. Or how to create a quick bookmark from the hair your neighbor’s dog shed on your favorite black skirt. Or whether one can match the glory of a sunset in an afghan knit from yarn dyed from garden plants…or why someone would even try to accomplish that. Or…well, you get the point.

Happy knitting!


Monday, August 21, 2006

A Knitting P.S.

How you know your brain isn't firing on all cylinders during Deadline Psychosis:

You're knitting a cuff-down sock. You finish the ribbing. You finish the leg. You smile your way through the heel flap. (You just love heel flaps.) You pick up your gusset stitches, both sides, and continue on your merry Magic Loop-y way.

But something doesn't look right. You stare at the sock. You're not quite sure what it is but a human foot might be a tad uncomfortable in there.

And then it hits you. You forgot to turn the heel.

Embarrassing admission: this wasn't the first time.

Even more embarrassing admission: it probably won't be the last time either.

Barbara, who won't be getting behind the wheel of the car until this book is finito

And You Wonder Why We Call It Deadline Psychosis

Ever wonder how it feels to be a writer who has been up for over 24 hours and is less than 24 pages away from finishing the #@*@(# book?

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Barbara, over-caffeinated, over-tired, and soooooo close to The End

Calling all Southerners...Jean needs research help!

If any of you lovely readers would like to help me out, I've got a hero who owns a family business (I don't know what it is--question #1) in one of the Southern states (question #2--I've never written a book set in Miss., Ala. or Georgia, my top contenders) and I need the business to be one that employs a number of people, has been very successful but is now facing troubling challenges. (At least, this is my latest thinking...I never know where I'll wind up!)

I also need to figure out what the heroine grows in her gardens, both vegetable and flower. Since my hubby is an avid gardener, I think I've got a good idea about the vegetables, as we're likely in similar zones, but I'm not sure about the flowers (though I live in hot country, too) because we do mostly xeriscape, not the azalea/camellia sort of thing.

I want a Southern state for the deep sense of tradition in a wealthy family that can entrap you, the strong rules of conduct and dress (we're a little too casual here in Texas), etc.

Anybody want to play what may wind up being Twenty Questions (or more!) with me?

Happy Anniversary!

Today is a pretty special day in the Denton household. Today the husband and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. Not bad, huh? Of course, we won't be doing anything spectacular to celebrate this auspicious occasion today because, well, the truth is, I'm in the middle of deadline hell and just can't afford the time off. So we're tabling our celebration for a few weeks and have a trip planned for the Poconos during the height of Fall when the colors promise to be gloriously rich and picturesque.

Thirty years of marriage. Wow, that makes me sound old. Having six grandchildren makes me sound (and sometimes feel) even older, but the truth is, I'm only 46.

Yup, you did the math right: 30-46=16.

Yes, I really was a child bride, a mere sixteen when I married my own personal hero. I'm sure you can easily imagine the number of people who said it'd never last, too, huh? The odds were most assuredly against us by getting married so young, but not only have we proven them all wrong, we've thrived. When it comes to happily-ever-after, I'm a believer. Is it any wonder I write romances for a living?

Just like Jean mentioned the other day in her Knitting and Love post, I'm one of those who didn't always know I wanted to be writer when I grew up. The writing bug hit me sometime in my 20's, but I didn't become a serious writer until I turned thirty. In fact, it was on my 30th birthday that I admitted to my husband what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the time, I was a legal secretary, raising three boys, taking college courses at night and gearing up for law school. After my confession that night, however, law school became a thing of the past and I began to seriously study the craft of writing -- with the hubster's blessing and full support.

Four years later, I sold my first book to Harlequin Superromance. It took me another two years, ten months and eighteen days (not that I was counting or anything) of suffering through the most agonizing case of second book syndrome before the evil curse was broken and I made that all important second sale to Harlequin Temptation. I didn't stop there, and am thrilled that the release of my 21st novel, THE MATCHMAKER, a single title romantic suspense from Kensington Brava, is scheduled to hit bookstores in November. The release of this novel is extra special for me because of a few obstacles that had to be battled, which you can read about here.

On occasion, my passions extend beyond writing. In those rare moments away from the keyboard, I enjoy refilling the creative well with gardening projects, cross-stitch, crochet, needlepoint, and thanks to Barbara, I've rediscovered the joys of knitting. I've even completed several knitting projects of late (and promise photos at a later date when I figure out how to get them from my camera phone to my computer). In my opinion, stormy days, whether rainy or snowy, are best spent curled up with a needlework project or a good book (what else but a romance?), along a steaming cup of coffee and the company of our old yellow Labrador Retriever, Dauber, and my spoiled rotten purebred Somali cat, Cookie, snoozing nearby or on my lap demanding affection - uh...that's the cat, not the dog since he's a little too big for lap dog duty.

In addition to happily-ever-after, I'm a believer in passion and feel it's an important factor in life. So tell me, what are your passions?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Girls really do just wanna have fun. Even middle-aged girls with deadlines.

Okay, we really can't ignore the Black Fixation Bulky elephant in the room, can we? Yes, that's my current w-i-p for my beloved Goldisox, he of the big and fussyfeet. And yes indeed, that's a Crystal 7 quarter slot machine behind it.

Now I can hear you asking, "So how did a Magic Loop sock end up posing in front of a slot machine in Atlantic City?"

And well you might ask. (A tip of the hat to Yarn Harlot for reminding all of us that socks deserve to get out and about too.)

The thing is, you can only work so long before your brain shuts down. It happened to Goldisox this week and by midnight last night it was definitely happening to me. So he did what any good Alpha hero would do: he took matters into his own hands and decided we were going to drive down to A.C. (Atlantic City for the non-NJ among us) and enjoy the beach, the Boardwalk, the buffet, and the slots.

I tried to be virtuous. I really did. With demure and downcast eyes I told him to go and enjoy himself while I stayed home and worked my fingers to the bone at the keyboard. I won't tell you what he said to me (this blog is kinda G-rated) but it worked.

The creative brain is truly a mysterious critter. The second I knew my time this morning would be limited, all my brain wanted to do was write. So I was up at 6:30 and at the computer and the words flowed out. By the time we left at 10, I had five pages under my belt. (Which when things are going badly might constitute a week's output.) I grabbed my knitting, my sunglasses, and my SPF30 and we were on our way down the shore.

There is nothing I love better than a long car trip. Especially when I'm the passenger. I love the sense of being just the two of us in this little earthbound space capsule, hurtling along the highway. Our best times, our best conversations happen in the car. Also, strangely enough, some of my best book ideas have sprung to life in the car. (But usually when I'm driving. I wonder why that is.) We live one hundred ten miles away from A.C. and we didn't shut up the entire way. I pulled out my Fixation Bulky socks Part Deux and managed to knit the cuff and about two inches of the leg before we zipped into the parking lot at Caesar's and went off in search of paninis and iced tea. (You didn't really think he'd ever ask for a "panini," did you? He asked for "one of those grilled things." To my beloved, a sandwich is a sandwich is a sandwich. Case closed.)

Anyway, we ate, we wandered, we strolled the Boardwalk, we walked the beach (attention, my Curly Girl blog sisters: I was able to walk the humid beach with my hair flowing in the breeze unfettered, unscrunchied, unFRIZZY! For the first time in my life I didn't leave the beach looking like the love child of Bernadette Peters and Don King.)

Back to the casino we went. Goldisox wanted to blow off some steam at the slots which was fine by me. I wasn't in a gambling mood. I was in a knitting mood. "You're going to knit at the slot machines?" he asked. Why not, I said. As long as I'm not taking a machine away from anyone, I think it's fine.

Random comments from passersby as they saw this strange and subversive behavior: "What the [fill in the proper expletive; you know which one]?" (Heard more than once.)

"What's that? A hat?"

"You're sewing at the slot machine?"

"Are you allowed to bring knitting needles into a casino?" This from a woman who could knit a pair of socks on her acrylic fingernails.

I'm not an exhibitionist kind of knitter. I didn't flash my Addis all over the place or gather a crowd around me so I could demonstrate how to keep ladders from forming. But I did perform a nifty little repair job that I managed to semi-capture with my phone cam. I dropped a stitch on those boring black dull black unceasingly black socks and had a terrible time trying to find it in that canvas of black black black. However the second I held the sock up to the brightly lit come-and-gimme-all-your-money-you-fool Crystal 7 Slot Machine I was able to find the dropped stitch and use the end of a PDA stylus to work it back up into its proper place.

We headed back around six p.m., picked up Chinese food from our favorite local place, then made it home in time for the Jets kick-off.

If I'm lucky I'll manage another five pages before we turn out the lights.

A little writing, a little knitting, a lot of fun. Not a bad day at all.

My curly red-haired self at 4 on my Swedish grandmother's tenant farm in Maryland.


Curly-Haired Confessions

Jean, how lovely to find out you, too, have a headful of curls! Ah, Barbara, why did you desert us curly girls?

Loved the photo of your purse, Jean. I'm impressed!

As for socks... I have two, TWO, gorgeous pair. But I didn't knit them. They were wonderful, wonderful gifts from Barbara.

Finally, please, Barbara, do you think there's a way to convince Liam to be our contest prize? I mean, isn't knitting a really good cause???

Friday, August 18, 2006

Knitting and much better can it get?!??

Hi, gang! It's so much fun to have you all come play with us! Dear, wonderful Barbara (my fellow curly hair, only she's in the closet with those lovely straight locks and I'm dancing in the parade on Curly Pride Day;)) kindly invited me to join, even though I'm waaaaay behind her in knitting prowess (those socks! I stand in awe.) And she is one of my all-time favorite writers, with a whole section in my keeper shelves. (Just re-read AT LAST, BB, and I think I'm going to have to drag out A SOFT PLACE TO FALL soon...that Annie and Sam just really get to me.)

I'm a fifth-generation Texan, and I've done needlework forever, sort of all over the map, crochet, needlepoint, embroidery, knitting, cross-stitch...but having just about put my eyes out on CS beauties on 32-count linen and such (but oh, those Mirabilia patterns or Lavender and Lace!), I decided a year ago that I was not up for being a blind writer just yet. So I started knitting again after an absence of eons, and I'm loving it (okay, I backslid and am doing one last CS project, but no more! I swear it!)

If you read the early posts, you'll see that I just did my first felting project and am madly in love! Here's a picture I emailed from my cameraphone (LOVE that little dude!) of my current OTN: a little girl's purse in Cascade and Glowing Tribute, on 10.5 bamboo needles (yes, you Addi addicts, I know they're wonderful, but I just looooove bamboo!) I'm told that when I felt it, I'll be left with sparklies, which will fill my little cutie's heart with rapture.

As for writing (oh, yeah, that! What I get paid for!) I'm approaching 8 years of publication this fall, and I've had 15 books out from first Silhouette Special Edition, then Harlequin Superromance and Signature, with #16 (LOVE IS LOVELIER, part of the Hotel Marchand miniseries from Harlequin) coming up in Dec.

Unlike most of the writers I know, I didn't always know I wanted to be one. I was in the slow class on What I Want to Be When I Grow Up, so I didn't begin writing until my youngest was about to graduate from high school. I could kick myself around the block for not figuring this out sooner, but I guess I just wasn't ready, and I wouldn't trade anything for the time to focus on my family.

But I hope I die at the keyboard because I have a bazillion or so stories I still want to tell, and it's just the best thing in the world to hear from readers who've been touched by my books.

Knitting and writing about love, which I truly believe is the most powerful force on the is good. And I am one very lucky lady to be living it.


It's all about me

Sorry to break the chain of gorgeous Liam Neeson photos. (I wouldn’t kick him out of bed but I prefer Pierce Brosnan if we’re going across the Pond for our hunks.) However, a very observant visitor to our new blog asked two excellent questions:

1) Who the heck are all of you?
2) What are you doing on this blog together?

I’ll get to the who-the-heck part in a minute. This blog is the brainchild (perhaps slightly fevered brainchild) of Barbara Bretton, a fabulous writer and magnificent knitter. She brought us together because she knows we are all passionate about both of those occupations. I met Barbara at a writer’s conference several years ago when I was still extremely wet-behind-the-ears as an author. She’s an incredibly generous, warm person and she took me under her experienced wing (must be because she hangs out with parrots a lot) and has been the best of mentors and friends in this crazy writing business ever since. When she started this blog, I jumped at the chance to join such a great group of folks.

Now who the heck I am. I grew up in West Virginia but now live in the suburbs of New Jersey, very near New York City. While it might seem like a startling change, my current hometown is quite small and neighborly. However, whenever I need a ballet or Broadway fix, I can jump on the train and get a quick one.

I write romance novels, two of which have been published, so I’m still very new to the writing business (and feel awed by the multi-published company I’m in here). I’ve been writing all my life and even did a creative thesis (a volume of poetry!) for my college degree.

My other career is Household Management: I have a husband and two teen-aged children, as well as a golden retriever named Max. He contributes dog hairs to all my knitting; it makes the yarn go a little farther on every project.

As for my knitting biography, it’s already on this blog. Check out the archives for 2006-07-09 and you’ll find me under “The sporadic knitter”.

I’m looking forward to being part of a lively community of knitters and readers. Comments and questions are very welcome!

Writing, Knitting and World Peace

First the writing: I've written ten novels (okay, so I'm slow) and a couple hundred articles (but not that slow). I also own Delphi Books, a small press that mainly publishes large print books. Currently I'm writing two novels: one set in the 1930s (thanks again, Mom, for leaving those wonderfully detailed diaries from the '30s and '40s) and one set in contemporary Texas. Wish me luck on both, please.

Now for the knitting. I'm self-taught, have knitted galores of scarves, sweaters, hats, mittens, afghans and baby blankets for friends and family. Recently I've been knitting and felting purses and I just LOVE doing it. I haven't decided what my next project will be because I've been busy writing, but I've got three balls of black-and-white Squiggle from Crystal Palace that's calling to me. If anyone has any experience with the Squiggle or suggestions on what I should make of it, let's have it.

Finally ... when I looked at this picture that my husband took of our "lioness" (remember Squeaky, the feral cat?) laying down with our "lambs" (Emily the blind Shi-Tzu and Mac the sniffy Scottie), I decided it was a perfect metaphor for how peaceful the world would be if humans would only take their cue from these animals.

Fran Baker


Go ahead. Take your time. Enjoy Liam. I'll knit another couple of rounds on the #*@(! second pair of black (pure black dull black suck-the-joy-out-of-the-process black) Fixation Bulky socks destined for my husband's (too big) feet.

Liam and I were discussing The Contest last night (hey, I write romance novels for a living; my delusions are tax-deductible)--

Okay. I'll start again. Liam Neeson is off with his gorgeous wife Natasha Richardson and their beautiful children. He may be our Contest Muse but the last I heard he isn't contributing any prizes to the contest. (A Night With Liam! Would that bring in the readers or what?) The truth is we have so many entrants in our contest now that I can't bear the thought that there will be only one winner.

So here's the new deal:

Grand Prize Winner: a goodie package sent directly from each of the authors on this brand new blog. The prizes will include (but aren't limited to) autographed copies of the authors' books; a gorgeous new copy of Wendy Knits; Noro Kureyon; Addi Turbos; knitting tchotchkes; all sorts of goodies.

Five Other Lucky Winners will receive super-duper sock yarn and a surprise. The yarn will be lovely and fun to play with and probably self-patterning or self-striping or self-generating. (Wouldn't self-generating sock yarn be fabulous? As soon as you neared the end of the skein it miraculous regenerated itself into a big fat 100 gram ball of gorgeousness.) And probably something to read, too.

How to enter: see that blue box over there on the right hand side of the screen marked CONTEST? Click on it and follow directions. Really, all you have to do is send an email to the address given and you're in. We'll do the rest.

We're so happy you've found us and if it takes half-naked pictures of gorgeous Irishmen to keep you coming back for more, then who am I to argue? It's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Wendy Effect

The blog is down. This is a republishing test.

See that? I typed it around 4-ish today when the blog inexplicably went down. What gives? I asked myself and everyone within earshot. It wasn't Blogger. Everyone else's blog was in perfect working order.

Uh oh. I am (in)famous for trashing every electronic item and/or piece of software that crosses my path. Had my crazed electrons finally discovered our blog and gone on a search and destroy mission?

I ranted. I raved. I even tried logic. Nothing worked. And then I checked email and


We've been found! Suddenly scores of contest entries were pouring in. Our visitor count for the day quintupled. (No, I'm not exaggerating and it's only 7 p.m.) Did we win the Lottery? How did this happen? Was it the Liam Neeson picture?

No! It was (drum roll, please) The Wendy Effect. It happened the time Wendy raved about Lisa Souza's Mahogany colourway. I'll bet it happened with the Lucy Socks That Rock colourway. (I should know. I bought both yarns myself.) And now Wendy has waved her Magic Double Points in our direction.

Wendy, I loved you before. You are my Knitting Goddess. But now I'm gonna have to figure out what to substitute for a firstborn.

Maybe Walter (our 32 year old Double Yellow Head) can pass on his thanks to you and to Lucy for me:

I may not have a colourway named after me, but when it comes to breaking bamboo needles and poking holes in her knitting, nobody does it better!

Thanks, Wendy!


Clearly I have no shame and will do anything to get your attention. (The only thing better than that picture would be Liam knitting a pair of socks . . . )

There are only two weeks left until we pick the lucky winner of our Launch Contest so if you haven't clicked on the blue CONTEST button over there on the right hand side of your screen, there's still time.

Imagine ten packages arriving on your door step after September 1st, packages filled with autographed books, yummy yarns, great knitting gadgets, all because you took a second to enter.

I can tell you that Jean Brashear has graciously provided Noro Kureyon and a signed book. I'm providing a signed book or two, a copy of Wendy Knits, and great sock yarns. Sandra Marton is signing a book or two for the lucky winner. Nancy Herkness purchased a delightful knitting knick-knack that you'll love. And there's more. Lots more.

We'll keep you updated. I promise.

You're still here? What are you waiting for? Enter the contest now!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Accidental Romance Writer: an introduction

I can't remember a time when I didn't write. Or, at the very least, tell stories. Family legend has it that a two year old Barbara told stories about a mythical place called The Stadium Bar, a tavern up in the Bronx run by Mickey, my favorite stuffed dog, and beloved of the New York Yankees. Which is fairly unremarkable until you realize I grew up in a Brooklyn Dodgers family and could recite the batting lineup before I could walk. (Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Pee Wee Reese . . . )

Oh yeah. I'm a born and bred New Yorker but you probably already figured that out. From Queens, one of the outer boroughs, a genuine Bridge and Tunnel kind of girl, even though we weren't called that when I was growing up, who married a Yankee-loving boy from the Bronx and did the unthinkable: moved across the Hudson to New Jersey. (Once a Bridge and Tunnel girl, always a Bridge and Tunnel girl.)

The thing is, writing was as natural as breathing. Life wasn't real until I wrote about it. I began my first diary when I was six and it is a rollicking adventure: "Sister Grace Winifred let me erase the blackboard. What fun!" And no, I wasn't being either cynical or ironic. Sadly, I meant every word.

I wrote about my life. I wrote about make believe lives. I wrote the obligatory last-two-people-left-on-the-planet post-nuclear stories every Baby Boomer claimed as his or her own special territory. I published my first story in Katy Keene Comic Books when I was nine years old and that first taste of the writing life was addictive. I was definitely hooked. I wrote for comic books. I published Letters to the Editor in 'Teen Magazine and Ingenue. I won contests. I dreamed about a life where I'd see my name on the cover of a book but as I grew older I came to believe less and less in its probability. You needed to know somebody, I was told. The publishing world was a closed shop. You needed connections, a patron, or failing that a fascinating life.

Hey, I was a kid from Queens. I wouldn't have known fascinating if it bit me in the--well, you get the picture.

But the need to write, that burning hunger to be read by people who weren't related to me, wouldn't go away. By my late twenties, I was selling op ed pieces to newspapers like The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Denver Post and non-fiction articles to magazines like Seventeen and Woman's World. Fiction, however, remained an unobtainable goal.
It wasn't until a kindly editor pointed out to me that all of my fiction shared one thing in common that I finally saw myself clearly. "Your subtext is always men, women, and love," he pointed out. "Maybe that's the direction you should be heading in."

Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees.

This was around 1979. I began to poke around with writing a novel but a little roadblock called cancer brought me up short in January 1980. You want to know the truth? It might have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I learned one of those life lessons that usually take you forty or fifty years to fully understand: Life is short! Life is precious! Don't waste a second of it.

And I didn't. Two years later I sold my first book to Harlequin and my life changed forever. I sent in my manuscript on Thursday February 21, 1982 and four days later the telephone rang and I heard the amazing words, "We want to buy your book."

How I wish you could have seen me. I was standing by the kitchen door of our North Babylon house, the picture of cool sophistication, as I listened to Vivian Stephens explain the terms of the deal to me. You would have thought I'd sold a first book every single day of my life. Yes, I said. Sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for calling. I look forward to our association. That cool sophistication hung on until I hung up the phone, took a deep breath, then promptly threw up on my shoes.

I was thirty-one years old, unagented, unschooled, unfamiliar with anything to do with the business of publishing. To put it mildly, I was in shock. My husband was working in Manhattan at the time (and finishing up his degree at night) so it would be hours until I could break the news to him. This was too exciting to waste on a phone call. I wanted to see his face when I told him that my dream had finally come true -- and came with a $6000 advance!

He pulled into the driveway at midnight. I was waiting in the doorway, holding a bottle of champagne and two glasses. I didn't have to say a word. He knew right away and the look of joy and pride in his eyes warms me now, years later, long after the advance faded into memory.

A lot has happened to me in the years since that first sale. I've learned that this is a difficult and demanding business (it takes a tough writer to write a tender book) and that I am happiest when I am most ignorant. I've also learned that a good friend, a writer and pal who truly understands, is worth her weight in good reviews and royalty checks. I'm lucky enough to have three who know all there is to know and love me anyway.

I'm older now but strangely enough not any wiser. Writing is tougher than it used to be but the love I feel for the process (when it's going well, that is) is indescribable. I'm actually living my childhood dream. It simply doesn't get any better than that.

And that, as of 9 p.m. on August 16, 2006 is who I am.

Barbara Bretton

Hello, Dr. Freud

Why would a supposedly intelligent group of women start blogging without any explanation of who they are?

This intelligent group of women, I mean.

I don't think we need the good doctor to help us figure it out. I think the reason is painfully obvious. We're the kind of women who say, 'Let's do that' (whatever 'that' is) and just go ahead and do it. Ergo, this blog and, ergo, no introductions.

So, here's who I am.

I'm a woman. (I know, I know, but I figured I'd start at the beginning.) I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother to two gorgeous, brilliant, adorable babies who are leaving babyhood behind at a breathtaking pace. One is about to turn three. One's about to turn five and--gasp--starts kindergarden this September. I am an avid if not very good gardener, an amateur but dedicated bird watcher and, always, a student of wildlife. I cook when I must and sometimes even enjoy it, read all the time, hike a little, knit a little, travel as much as possible.

What I have always been is a writer.

I wrote fairy tales as a little girl, poetry as a teen-ager, short stories so deep and dark nobody could understand them when I was in college and then, via a long and circuitous route, I realized that I wanted to write romance fiction.

My only problem? I'd never read any. Well, yes. I'd read Wuthering Heights. Jane Eyre. Rebecca. I didn't know those book were romance fiction. I just thought of them as wonderful stories.

My determination to write romance fiction grew out of an article I read in a popular magazine. The more I read, the more I realized this genre suited me. So I began to write a romance novel. I wrote and wrote. Wrote and wrote some more. Tore up what I'd written and re-wrote it and, finally, sent it out into the world.

And Harlequin Presents bought it.

How I wish there were a way to add fireworks and sparklers here! Take my word for it. I was incredibly excited.

Fast-forward 20 years. I'm writing my 60-something Presents. I've written other things--novellas, short stories, what we call single title novels, but Presents is my true love, perhaps because I love writing stories about passionate, exciting men and women. I have readers literally all around the world. I've made writer friends who are as close to me as sisters. And hardly a day goes by that I don't pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming... except for those days (All writers have them, don't they? Please, please, we all have those days, right?) I sit at the computer and wait for Something To Happen.

As for knitting... I explained, in an earlier post, that I'm just returning to knitting after a long, long, very long hiatus. Well, the news on that front is that I've gone from furrowing my brow as I count stitches to loving the feel of the yarn under my fingers.

Now, that's progress.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Especially for Jean

Jean, here are photos of the Mason-Dixon felted boxes. I think they're very cool looking. In the interest of full disclosure, these are my own photos of the Mason-Dixon photos (which are by Steve Gross and Sue Daley). Am I violating any copyright laws here? One photo is the individual box. The other shows a nested set in bright colors.

You knit the box flat and then fold and join the corners with single crochet. It looks like even I could do it and I know nothing about crocheting. You can use a couple of different colors in each box to really jazz things up. If you're doing a nested set, it's recommended that you felt them all at the same time to make sure they actually fit inside each other.

According to the Mason-Dixon folks, knitting these boxes is downright addictive. And you can use them to hold your knitting supplies!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pages of knitting

I only own two knitting books right now. (Notice that I’ve left the door open for many more acquisitions.) One is Mason-Dixon Knitting which you all know about, I’m sure. The other is ScarfSTYLE by Pam Allen, editor of Interweave Knits. This was the first book I purchased when I took up knitting again early this year and I love it. My daughter’s huge gorgeous shawl came out of this volume.

What’s so great about it? The sumptuous color photos for one thing, which are so good that you can see the texture of the yarns used in the projects. The helpful illustrated glossary in the back for another: without it I would never have survived the shawl and I refer to it for projects not included in the book as well. In fact, if I had bothered to read the author’s general advice about knitting scarves I would not have had the edge-curling problem I ran into with my son’s soccer scarf.

Every time I page through it I drool over the stunning colors and patterns. There are 30 more styles calling to me to knit or crochet. The hardest part is making up my mind which one to take on next.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Cowardly Knitter

Maybe it was writing it down, seeing the words "I can't do it" glaring out at me from the screen. Whatever it was, something came over me around two o'clock this afternoon and I gathered up the Fixation sock, a crochet hook, some tiny #1 Crystal Palace dpns, and sat down on the sofa in the living room, in the bright natural light, and set about dismantling The Sock.

Have you ever tried unraveling Kitchenered stitches? It's a trip and a half. Dark stitches are a major pain to begin with but dark grafted stitches will have you pulling out your hair in short order. But I stuck with it and then began ripping back to just before I started the toe decreases.

And that's when the fun started. Stitches from #2 needles are tiny. Very tiny. And disobedient. They shifted, turned, practically somersaulted under the rows beneath them in order to escape me. I didn't worry about stitch orientation. That's easy enough to correct when you're knitting. (Bless Annie Modesitt for giving a name--Combination Knitting--to what I do.) The idea was to get the damned things on the needles and worry about the niceties later.

So first I gathered them up haphazardly on the dpns then whipped out the camera to capture this glorious moment in my knitting history.

Then it was time to get serious. I pulled out my Addi Turbo #2/40" and started slipping the stitches purlwise onto the needle. That, to my relief, was problem-free.

One hour and ten minutes after I began picking apart my lovingly grafted toe, I was back in business. I knitted a round, readjusting stitch orientation as I went, picking up the two dropped stitches I discovered along the way, and found myself back miraculously where I had left off last night when I began decreasing for the toe two inches sooner than I should have!

The photo on the right is after that first re-establishing row:

I think I'm now at the point where I should begin decreasing for the toe but I'm not going to do one single SSK or K2Tog until R tries The Sock on again.

So today I made my knitterly bones. I did something I believed was far beyond my capabilities and it actually worked. (Did I mention that in my past life as a knitter ripping back was against my religion?) Looking back I think I was your basic Knitting Coward. I lived in fear of dropped stitches or counting errors because either could mean the waste of weeks of hard work and effort. One dropped stitch and an entire sweater was ruined forever because I didn't have either the guts or the skills to step back, re-evaluate, and repair.

Yarn is forgiving. Knitting is forgiving. (Okay, maybe lace knitting isn't forgiving but that's something else again.) Why shouldn't the knitter be forgiving too? To paraphrase The Beatles, "There's nothing you can do that can't be undone." And redone better.

Now onto the toe decreases, Part Deux.


--originally posted to Wicked Splitty at 7/25/2005 10:33:00 PM