Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Catawriters Blog About Goals!

Last month, I did a goal-setting workshop on the catawriters loop. We thought through our lives, considered what we really want and set some goals.

I set two writing goals and a goal to lose 20 pounds (I really need to lose 30) and each of us is posting our progress on our own blogs so we can keep up with each other.

My big news is that after weeks of getting myself accustomed to the treadmill, I finally added the diet portion of my goal!

So one day down...probably 89 more to go!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Home for Christmas

Anybody who's read my bio knows I'm one of eleven children and that there are 63 people in my "immediate" family. My mother's house is so crowded at Christmas that you cannot get a seat. There is literally wrapping paper a foot deep in the living room from all the presents. Food is served buffet style. No one serves anyone. LOL. If you want it, you get it.

You can't hear yourself think let alone hear the person next to you talking. There's always a poker game, but the seats are reserved and somebody has to get sick or go home early for a seat to open up. And there's always a baby. This year we had four kids turn one. Not exactly baby-babies, but still criers. They certain add to the noise level.

New boyfriends are intimidated. The noise alone is enough to scare away many a nervous suitor. We all dress in layers, knowing we'll need to take off at least one shirt when the body heat causes the temperature to rise. And many a person has lost his or her shoes in the pile by the door.

Yet, every year it's standing room only. Nobody says I'm not going to that crazy house this Christmas! Nope. We're all there. Some of us with bells on.

Why? Because my mother bakes homemade rolls so delicious that some people eat them ithout ham. But I'm a ham girl myself. If my butt's going to be big, I'm going to enjoy the road to Weight Watchers. Everybody brings a salad or dessert. And some of my sisters and nieces can really cook. There's a dart game for the men in the garage. We exchange gifts, and rather than wait the seventy-two hours it would take for everybody to open his or her gift individually, we have the most hilarious free-for-all and everybody opens his or her gift at the same time.

We make punch, talk about the year that's passed, talk about the gifts we got, catch up with the college bound nieces and nephews, and those who have jobs.

But most of all we just enjoy the fact that we're family. We know that not everybody has family. I have a friend who literally has nowhere to go on holidays. If she lived closer I'd make her an honorary member of our family, just because I genuinely believe nobody would notice her until 2013.

I love being in touch with the younger generation through relatives who will be painfully honest with me. I love being involved with babies and little kids in T-ball and Little League. I love hearing about mean teachers and crazy parents at soccer. To me this is life at its purest.

But most of all, I love being home, where I don't have to put on airs or worry if my crazy hair refused to behave that day. Where I can eat to my heart's delight, serve brownies from a box (since I wasn't one of the ones born with the cooking gene) and still get praise from a little kid who doesn't know a boxed brownie from scratch.

That's family. That's home. The crazy combination of comfort and joy.

May your days be merry and bright and may your home be the place of joy and laughter for those you love.

Merry Christmas

susan meier

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Real Meaning of Christmas

There are 11 children in my family. Seven girls. Four boys. All of my sisters are married, three of my brothers are married, and several of my nieces and nephews are married and have children. There are 63 people in my "immediate" family.

We have a Christmas tradition in our family of a cookie exchange. The deal is that you state your intention to be part of the exchange then Tammy (my youngest sister) sends us an email letting us know how many people are participating. This year there are 12. That means each of us will pick a type of cookie and make 12 dozen of that one kind. (I'm the peanut butter blossom girl.) Then December 20, we bring all our cookies to my mom's and 'exchange' them for one dozen of everybody else's.

Everybody involved ends up with 12 dozen different kinds of cookies for company but everybody also only has to bake one kind.

It's probably my favorite family tradition. And we've got some whoppers.

With 63 people in the immediate family, we have enough people (especially kids) to have our own personal Easter egg hunt. We have a sort of unofficial competition to see who can get my mother the best gift for her birthday. Every Wednesday morning in the summer, one of us hosts "breakfast" for the family members lucky enough not to have a real job -- or who have summers off because of working for a school district. My sister Laura is usually the winner for favorite breakfast. She makes waffles with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

In October the kids dress up and take part in a Halloween parade. This year they were the Flintstones, complete with PVC pipe Flintmobile. In a way, they were their own little float.

Every Friday after Thanksgiving, rather than battle shoppers, my mother hosts the cookie painting party for her grandkids. She bakes sugar cookies and makes colorful icing and the kids paint the cookies with the icing. They go on a Christmas tree in the family room with bubble gum and candy canes.

There are enough of us that if every 'family' within the family chips in $50 we can buy my mother a major appliance for Christmas.

In a lot of ways we sound like a small town, but really we're just family. We like to be entertained -- maybe too much -- and we enjoy each other's company. We were taught to share, to be generous, to include everybody in every baseball game, football game and/or card game we played and those lessons carried over into adulthood.

I sometimes look at my family and our traditions and wonder. . . Are we a tad crazy? A little too in love with entertainment and stimulation. . .Or is this what life's really all about? Sharing your toys, including everybody in the game, and baking enough cookies that everybody gets a dozen.

Merry Christmas. This year, share your toys, include everybody in the game and bake an extra dozen cookie to give to someone in your town, your church, or at your office, who might not get a cookie this year.

Susan meier

susan meier
MAID IN MONTANA, Harlequin Romance, 6/08
THE SWEETEST CHRISTMAS WISH, Harlequin Romance 12/08

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12 Days of Christmas (Originally Posted at Donna Alward's Blog)

When Donna put out a call for authors to join her in celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, I answered quickly. I love Christmas! Not because of the presents. . .well, maybe a little. . .LOL. . .but because I love the spirit of the season.

For me "Christmas" began a little before Thanksgiving. I was tired. I'd worked since early morning, while my son slept in. It was, after all, his day off. I've noticed that writers don't get days off. . .but that's a blog for another day.

Anyway, Michael has a seizure disorder and doesn't drive. When he awakened, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to go to the bank, do a little shopping and buy lunch, let's just say I wasn't in as festive of a mood as he was.

A dutiful mom, I put on boots and a coat and drove him to the bank and a sandwich shop and then to the discount department store to get his prescription and a few things. I sat in the car and watched him jog inside, waving to friends, yelling greetings and laughing.

I'm not really Scrooge, but I did look at him and think, it must be nice to have all that energy. Then I remembered he was going into the store to buy medication that stops his seizures but makes him tired. He fights it. He has a job that pays him a decent wage, but he still has to live with his parents. (That can't be easy.) But he rarely complains. He makes the best of what he has.

In a few minutes, he ran out again and by this time the Salvation Army bell ringer was in place. Without hesitation, Mikie dug into his pockets and pulled out a few bills which he tossed into the pot. The bell ringer thanked him. He shrugged off the thanks and ran to the car, ready to go home and eat lunch.

In that moment I wasn't sure if I was more proud of him or more in need of the V-8 head-thump myself. Sometimes we get so bogged down in what we perceive to be the necessities of life that we forget life's biggest joy is giving. Not merely money, but smiles, waves, little acts of kindness.

Mikie knows how to appreciate the holiday because he doesn't see what he's lacking; he appreciates what he has and he turns his appreciation into action. He starts early, gives generously, loves mightily.

On that day in November, I decided to take a page from his book. I started early. I'm giving. Not just money, but time and conversation.

And I'm loving mightily. I'm looking around, seeing who needs to be loved. Who needs a smile. Who needs a prayer. Who needs someone to show him or her a simple kindness. And I'm doing those things. Even if it means going out of my way, giving up my place in the checkout line to someone who looks more tired than I am, being patient in traffic.

Celebrate the season by giving yourself the best gift of all. . .the gift of giving. Watch the smiles of your week double, the sincere thanks warm your heart and the love you give come back in wonderful, unexpected ways.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Magic of Christmas (Originally posted on Liz Fielding's blog)

This time of year, I hear a lot of grumbling and complaining about the commercialism of Christmas. Truth be told, I categorize the complainers into two camps: Those who hate to shop and those who've never experienced the magic of Christmas.

When I was young, I spent a Christmas Eve in the back seat of the family car, with five or six of my brothers and sisters, waiting while my dad fixed our car, which had died halfway to the popular discount department store where my parents planned to buy our gifts. In the dark backseat, we whispered to each other that there'd be no Christmas that year. Not only had the money been spent for car parts, but also by the time the car was fixed the stores were closed.

But under the tree the next morning were gifts galore. Things my parents had purchased at a drugstore that stayed open later than the department store. I remember pop beads, a toy medical bag complete with candy pills, and, of course, a doll. Some of my all-time favorite presents. I don't remember what I got for Christmas most years, but that year sticks out - - because of the magic.

One year, my father worked away from home and because Christmas was on Monday, he had to leave on Christmas Eve. The mood at our dinner table that night was solemn, sad, until my sister went into the living room and under our tree were our presents. Santa, my parents told us, had visited us first since he knew Dad couldn't be around Christmas morning.

The "how" of all my Christmas magic is transparent when I look back as an adult, but it's magic all the same. The memories make me smile and also make me realize how far my parents would go, what they would sacrifice to make our Christmas special.

That's what Christmas magic is all about.

The magic of Christmas isn't something you can buy at a store or catch in a jar. It's an unexpected jolt of joy, a sense that anything's possible - - if you believe.

Sometimes you feel it from something as simple as having someone open a door with a smile, a merry conversation with a stranger in the checkout line, or a parking space that suddenly opens up when you're trying to shop on your lunch hour.

Sometimes your heart will be touched. Listening to the choir sing a familiar melody, you suddenly feel lifted. Dropping your coins into the Salvation Army container, you receive a smile of gratitude from a cold, probably hungry, bell ringer and you suddenly realize that lots of people do more than shell out money to make the holiday special for their friends and families, they give time and make sacrifices for needy strangers, people who depend on others for their Christmas magic. . . and you ask yourself. . .why haven't I?

Sometimes the scent of pine cones or fir trees or gingerbread will transport you to a happy time, when you were young and everything was magical and you realize how much your parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends loved you to make all your Christmases special, wonderful.

That's what we pass on. Our legacy to our kids isn't a philosophy of success as much as it is the ability to see real magic and to know we're all magicians.

All it takes is a smile, a helping hand, an open door, more time than money, more love that sacrifices.

That's the magic of Christmas.

And that's what my hero, Jared learns in HER BABY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS. Jared has a tragic past, the kind of past that would level most people. He survived by living in denial. But face-to-face with someone who's suffering in the here and now, longing for the type of family he's throwing away, Jared not only learns to count his blessings; he also realizes that Elise copes by seeing the magic in everything. But can he learn to see the magic before his time runs out and he must return home for Christmas?

HER BABY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS easily turned into one of the favorite books I've written, all because of the magic.

I'd love to hear other Christmas magic stories!

susan Meier

Monday, December 1, 2008


Jared Johnson drove his black SUV out of the basement parking garage of Clover Valley Luxury Apartments onto the street and saw Elise McDermott standing on the corner in the pouring rain. Suitcase, diaper bag and small boxlike container on the sidewalk beside her feet, she held her baby in a carrier, which she protectively sheltered with her umbrella.

But the storm was relentless and Jared suspected it wouldn't take more than a minute or two before Elise and her baby would be soaking wet. Angry with her for standing in the rain with a baby, when she could be in their building lobby, he stopped his SUV and hit the button that lowered the passenger side window.

Leaning across his seat, he yelled, "What the hell are you doing out in this storm with a baby!"

"I'm waiting for a taxi to take me to the bus station."

With the window down he could hear the heavy California rain as it pounded his windshield, roof and hood. Obviously thinking he'd yelled to be heard over the noise and not out of anger, she stepped closer. Her pretty green eyes were dull with worry. Her thick, curly red hair danced around her in the wind.

"But I've been waiting a while. And the schedule I have has the bus leaving in a little over an hour. If I miss it I won't get to North Carolina in time to do everything I need to do before Christmas. Do you think my taxi forgot me?"

"Yes!" Guilt stabbed him. She wasn't standing in the rain like a ninny with no place to go. It sounded as if she was on her way home for the holiday. To her real home. Not a condo she was house-sitting as she'd been for the past six months for Michael Feeney while he was in Europe. And her taxi had forgotten her. She wasn't a scatterbrain. He had to stop jumping to the conclusion that everybody who did anything out of the realm of what he considered normal was somehow wrong.

Annoyed with himself, he sighed and glanced at his watch before he shoved his gearshift into Park. He was way too early for his flight anyway.

He jumped out of his SUV and rounded the hood. He knew from experience there was only one way to deal with his guilt. Penance.

"How about if I give you a ride to the bus station?"

Elise McDermott stared at dark-haired, gray-eyed, absolutely gorgeous Jared Johnson. He wore an expensive raincoat over a dark suit, white shirt and tie, and was currently getting drenched because he didn't have an umbrella. When she agreed to house-sit for Michael Feeney, Michael had told her Jared was the person to call if anything happened while he was away. He'd laughingly said Jared was grouchy but once he got over being disturbed, he would always come through, if only out of guilt. Jared had probably offered her a ride because he'd felt bad about yelling at her.

"I'd love a ride, but you're obviously on your way somewhere and I don't want to be any trouble."

He reached for her suitcase. "No trouble."

She put her hand over his on the handle. "I'm serious. You were going somewhere and I don't like to be a bother." He might want to make up for yelling at her, but he didn't have to. Being alone and pregnant she'd learned to stand on her own two feet. She didn't need to be coddled. "I'll call another cab."

"I'm on my way to the airport. But I'm early. Way too early. You'll be doing me a favor if you let me make the side trip to the bus station. I won't have to sit in the airport lounge for three hours."


Before she could argue any further, he pulled on the suitcase, easily wrestling it away from her. "Come on."

She opened her mouth to stop him, but the wind caught her umbrella and she couldn't hold it. The rush of air jerked the handle out of her grip and it took off like a kite.

He nodded at the baby seat. "You buckle her in," he said, shouting over the noise of the storm as he began walking to the rear of the SUV. "I'll put these in the back."

She shook her head. Lord, he was persistent--and she was getting drenched. Since he was offering to do what she'd have to pay a cab to do, she supposed she'd be foolish to argue.

By the time he had her gear stowed, she was almost done with the baby. She clicked the final strap, shut the back door and settled into the passenger seat of his SUV. He slid behind the steering wheel and closed the door. Suddenly it was blessedly dry and quiet.

He hit the buttons to activate the heater and she glanced at all bells and whistles in his obviously expensive vehicle. "Wow. It's so quiet in here."

"That's one of the car's selling points. It's quiet."

"Yeah, quiet and… wonderful. Holy cow. This must have cost a chunk of change."

"It's nothing compared to the things my clients drive."

"It might be nothing compared to your clients' rides--" According to the building rumor mill, the guy in the penthouse—as Jared was known to most of the residents—was the attorney for several recording artists, one recording studio and a few movie stars, so she didn't doubt his clients drove incredibly fancy cars. "But compared to the rest of us, you're sitting pretty."

Her praise seemed to make him uncomfortable and he shifted on his seat. His jaw tightened. "I wasn't always well-off."

Because she didn'tknow him, had only seen him a few times in the lobby waiting for the elevator to his penthouse, she had no idea why he'd be upset to have money. But since she'd never see him again, it didn't matter. He was who he was. Rich. She was who she was—a single mom without an extra cent to spare. Six years ago when her mother died she'd left North Carolina with her boyfriend Patrick with big dreams, but she'd ended up supporting him. When she'd gotten pregnant he'd left as if his feet were on fire. She and Jared Johnson had nothing in common and there was no sense pretending they did by making mindless small talk.

She settled into the bucket seat and closed her eyes.

Besides, she had a few things to think about. She was returning to North Carolina, but not the small town she grew up in. She'd inherited her grandmother's house in the town right beside it. She was going to the hometown of her father. The guy who had left her mom. The guy she didn't even know. And she wasn't sure whether the good people of Four Corners, North Carolina, would welcome her with open arms, or treat her like the plague. She only knew the grandmother she'd never met had left her a piece of property. A place she could sell, hopefully for enough money to buy a home to raise her baby.

The same grandmother who hadn't even wanted to meet her, hadn't acknowledged her as her kin, had given her her first break in life.

And she'd be a fool not to take it.

Suddenly the SUV was so quiet Jared could hear his own breathing. This was a bad idea. Elise was virtually a stranger and here they were, trapped in a car for at least twenty minutes, with nothing to talk about. He fixed his eyes on the road, occasionally glancing at the shops lining the street, then he saw the Christmas tree in front of Meg's Memory Mart, growing in a pot big enough to accommodate a four-foot fir, covered in blinking lights and tinsel. His heart caught. His breath shivered.


She's gone.

He shifted on the seat, struggling to rein in a flood of memories. He had to get a hold of himself now, before his plane landed in New York. If he didn't, his pain would be infinitely worse when he got to the city where every damned thing on every damned street would remind him of the absolutely perfect life he'd lost. He couldn't cancel his trip. After five years of his finding excuses not to come home, his parents had threatened to come to California with their friend "the shrink" if he backed out this year. They didn't think it was natural for him to stay away as long as he had. They thought he was just a little bit crazy. He had to show them he was okay.

Even if he wasn't a hundred percent sure he was.

Blocking that last thought, he fixed his mind on upcoming contract negotiations for one of his clients, and the rest of the drive to the bus station passed in silence. He pulled up to the curb and Elise eagerly jumped out when he stopped the car. He climbed out of his side of the vehicle and headed for the back of the SUV.

"Here," he said, grabbing her suitcase before she could. "I'll get these. You get the baby."

"That's okay. I can handle it."

"I'm sure you can. But I've got plenty of time. Think of this as part of the way I'm wasting those three hours before my flight."

She rolled her eyes but strode to the side of his vehicle, letting him unload her things. He added her six-pack-size cooler and diaper bag to the suitcase he already had, and walked to the passenger's side of the SUV where she was getting her baby from the backseat.

She arranged the baby carrier in her right hand and motioned for him to slide the straps for the diaper bag and cooler to her shoulder. "I'll take those."

She wasn't going to let him help her into the bus station? That was ridiculous. She could barely carry all these things.

Still, rather than argue, he said, "Okay," and slid the bag and cooler in place before setting the suitcase at her feet for her to take. Then he surprised her by removing the baby carrier handle from her right hand. "I'll take the baby."

"We're fine."

"I'm sure you are, but I'm happy to hold her while you get your tickets."


"I know. Fine. But I have time and I can use it to save you the trouble of juggling the baby while you buy your bus tickets."

"You know, you wouldn't have to pay penance for the guilt you feel when you yell at people if you'd simply stop yelling at people."

It surprised him that she caught on to the guilt and penance thing he had going and that unexpectedly struck him as funny. Despite himself, he smiled. "Why do you think I usually just don't talk to people?"

"I thought you were a snob."

That made him out-and-out laugh. She gave him a strange look, but turned away and marched into the bus station. He followed, glancing down at the baby in the carrier. "Hey, Molly."

The chubby, curly-haired baby grinned at him, her toothless gums exposed, spit bubbles forming at the corner of her mouth. With her pale ...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Anyone Interested in Winning a Basket of Books?

Donna Alward, one of Harlequin Romances favorite authors is hosting a 12 Days of Christmas Giveway. Donna told me this morning there are now 17 books in the basket!

If you're interested in entering to win, the blog addy is www.donnaalward.blogspot.com.

There are books from most of the Harlequin lines, including a hardcover edition of one of my Harlequin Romances!


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Women Rule the World

Happy Thanksgiving! Like most of you, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. Meditating on that a few weeks ago as I prepared for the Goal Setting workshop in December on Catawriters, I made a lot of interesting observations about life and gratitude. I'll be posting these in January in a series of weekly posts under the theme Women Rule the World.

Because we do.

Not through positions of power, or with wealth, or even because we're bossy. I believe we rule the world through the power of empathy, kindness, vision and love.

So join me every Monday (or Tuesday) in January and February!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

December 11 at eHarlequin!

I'm one of the featured authors at a day-long chat at eHarlequin.com.

Here's the link.


There are prizes and giveaways and lots and lots of your favorite authors.

Come join the fun!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cinnamon Rolls for Company!

When it comes to the holidays, sometimes the best recipes are the ones we got from our mothers!

This one is my mother's creation and has wonderful references like fuzzy yeast, and add flour until it feels right! I think her descriptions are good enough though that most of us can easily follow them.

And these rolls are the hit of everyone's holiday breakfast table!

My Mother's Cinnamon Rolls
1 qt. milk
3 level tbsp. of yeast (or one 3-package strip)
4 egg yolks
1 lb. margarine
1 c. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
10 to 12 cups of flour This amount varies. You add flour until dough is very soft. (Remember dough loses stickiness when it rises.)
Cinnamon and sugar blended for shaking onto rolled dough. (This should be a ratio of cinnamon and sugar that suits your taste!)


Heat milk until it's hot to the touch, but not so hot you can't keep your finger in it (though I'm not sure why you would want to) and add yeast.
After yeast has grown "fuzzy" and milk is cool, add egg yolks, margarine, and sugar.
Begin to add flour until dough is very soft -- remember you must be able to roll it, but it should be very soft.
Knead well.
Set aside. Let rise until double in bulk. Knead again. Let rise.
Take about 1/3of the dough, roll out on flat surface (some people can do this with their fingers, others will need a rolling pin) then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Use your fingers to spread the sugar and cinnamon evenly. Remember: This is to your taste. If you like more cinnamon feel free to add!

Roll into a jelly roll.
Cut in 1 inch segments.
Place segments on greased cookie sheets, leaving at least one inch of space between rolls.
Continue until all dough is used.
Let rise on cookie sheet until a little more than double in size. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.

1 lb. powdered sugar
4 tbsp non-dairy creamer
1 stick margarine
1 tbsp. maple flavoring
Enough water to make spreading consistency you desire.

Blend powdered sugar and non-dairy creamer in mixing bowl. Blend in margarine with hand mixer. Once sugar and margarine are creamed, add maple flavoring. This may be spreadable as is. If not, add water to the icing in increments of one teaspoon until you have the spreading consistency you need.

Then spread this wonderful icing on your rolls! If you spread on when the rolls are warm, icing will melt between the layers. Some people (like me) love this. Others wait until the rolls are cool for a less sticky roll! Especially if you plan to serve them to company!


susan from her mom Helen Petrunak

Monday, November 24, 2008

12 Days of Christmas with Donna Alward

Starting December 1, I'm participating in Donna Alward's 12 Days of Christmas giveaway.

If you like free books (who doesn't?) go to http://www.donnaalward.blogspot.com


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Goals for 2009

In a little over a week, I'll be presenting my goal setting workshop on the catawriters loop. So, today, when I popped a tape in the VCR (yes, I still have one) and it was an episode of Oprah where she and several others discussed the book THE SECRET, I stopped cleaning, got a cup of coffee and sat down and paid attention.

The beginning of the goal setting workshop is all about figuring out what you really want. If you can match what you really want with a succinctly stated goal and a plan of action, you'll end up succeeding.

Why? Because the biggest reason most of us don't achieve our goals or follow through on New Years Resolutions is because we choose things we "think" we want...but we don't really want. LOL. Like being thin. Society has inflicted a thin mentality on us, so we feel honor bound to at least make a resolution that says I will lose twenty pounds. Personally, I don't want to lose 20 pounds. I like my cookies.

On the other hand...

After a year of suffering with dibilitating silent migraines, I value health over cookies.

So when I set up my goals/New Years Resolutions for 2009, losing weight won't motivate me, but being well will. All I have to do is remember the panic that came over me when I would be hit by dizzy spells as I was driving and I don't worry that I'll eat anything on my migraine trigger list.

Which brings us to another intersting point about goals ... or maybe about actually achieving the goals we set. There's nothing like remembering negative consequences. If you set a goal to write a novel but there's no negative consequence if you fail, you don't really have the motivation to succeed.

I love good results, but they don't motivate me like bad ones do!

So join us at catawriters...there's sign up information in the Dear Reader letter on the home page of susanmeier.com...and spend two weeks thinking about your life, considering what you want and setting a few solid, achievable goals!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Good Morning, Jessica!

And everybody else who reads this blog!

Today we are experiencing our first "real" snowfall of the season. Schools have closed. Roads are a bit slippery (or as we say in Southwestern, PA...slippy). I even canceled my hair appointment.

Because I work six or seven days a week, I've had to invent holidays and reasons to take time off without guilt. Hair Dye Day is one of them. Once a month I know I will not write. Which means I scheduled myself off today and for a panicked ten minutes after I called to cancel I realized had nowhere to go...nothing to do.

So I'm reading a book I've been dying to read...Angela Knight's JANE'S WARLORD and I'm munching on Mallowmars. Which is why I'll also be on the treadmill later today. The TV is off, kids are still sleeping, cats are napping and I'm snuggled under a crocheted afghan reading.

Life doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Is It Almost Turkey Time Already?

I've run my website by a few professionals in the past few months and hands down, they love it. My webmistress is absolutely one of the best!

But they all come back with the same negative comment. You don't update your blog enough.

When I first added this blog, I had a lot of things to say. Lately, not so much.

I'm not one to complain about politics or to foist my views on others. In an election year, I was pretty much of a drag. I believe the world needs us all. Conservatives. Liberals. Geniuses. Laborers. After all, where would we be if everyone wanted to drive the trash truck and no one was willing to grab the cans from the curb?

I had a bout with silent migraines but a drastic change in my diet is changing that. No big news there. Except that in all the exams I went through to figure out why I always felt as if I were going to faint, we also discovered I had high cholesterol and now I'm on the treadmill four or five times a week. That's lifting my butt from the back of my knees, which is good news for everyone.

The editors only had a few comments on the book I turned in this summer and I think they're going to love the Christmas book that due in December. My husband is healthy. My oldest son, who suffers from a seizure disorder, has a job and has been seizure free for a few months. My daughter found work closer to home. My youngest is doing well, too.

So I have nothing to whine about or ponder. Except that this year has flown by. Another reason my blog doesn't get updated often. Of course, the good side to all of this is I love Thanksgiving and Christmas. I bake a mean pumpkin pie and a fabulous turkey pot pie with leftovers. I love shopping for presents and wrapping.

I'm about to enter the happiest time of my year. Even though the year shot by, it's sort of nice to find myself getting ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas again!


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Seton Hill Crowd

Just popping in to say thank you to the ladies in the Seton Hill College "module" I taught this morning. You were a wonderful class. I can easily predict good things for all of your futures!

My next workshop is the online version of Can This Manuscript Be Saved. Once in August and again from mid-September to mid-October for the Orange County California chapter. I'm pretty sure you can register from the OCC chapter website.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'm back!

My beach vacation is now a memory, but what a wonderful memory!

Before I talk about that, though, I'd like to say thanks to the Philadelphia Writer's Conference for inviting me and to say hello to all the great people I met there. We had three wonderful workshop hours and I had conversations with a few people whose names I'm sure we'll see on book covers this time next year!

So thanks Philly! And good luck to all the wonderful students!

Back to the beach...

My family is huge. I don't even say big anymore because with 11 kids in the original group, most married, most having had 2 or more kids -- some of whom are also married and now having great grandchildren for my mom -- we will soon need a football stadium for Thanksgiving dinner.

So when six of us get together, with kids, and rent an enormous beach house, with pool, nothing but chaos results. But what wonderful chaos! We watched Miss Lainie, the newest addition to the family, take her first dips into the pool with her mom. We witnessed a reluctant uncle make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a gaggle of kids who barely came up to his knee! We drank beer poolside (when the kids were napping) and fought over what decade had the better music...thanks to satellite radio!

Texas Hold 'em was the game of the evenings, and, sadly, I lost every time I played. I'm no match for the wit and poker wisdom of the Beyer clan. My husband and I were the last to leave. With only our oldest son in tow, we had the time and free hands to make a last minute sweep through the place to make sure it was clean, and I have to admit I cried. I wasn't sure if I'd miss the beach house or didn't want to go home to my house which always seemed to need to be cleaned. But big tears filled my eyes.

I love the beach, but I love it most of all when I'm with kids who play in the sand, ask a million silly questions and chatter about shells.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are we risking our lives for ice cream?

I have to admit I love ice cream. Pumpkin. Peach. Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. My mouth waters just typing the flavors.


I also have to admit I gained twenty pounds in the past year. First my bum knee kept me from walking, which was the way I kept my weight under control. Then the recovery month sealed the deal. Two weeks of sitting in a chair, getting minimal exercise and then only through rehab, made the twenty pounds official. :)

For the past week, now that recovery is over and summer is nearly here and I can't fit into any of my summer clothes, I've been pondering the fact that I face a choice...lose weight or buy a new wardrobe.

The new wardrobe is very tempting. It's the path of least resistance. And who doesn't salivate at the prospect of getting ALL NEW CLOTHES!

But keeping the twenty pounds has ramifications in terms of family pictures. I won't merely be taller than everybody in photos...I'll be the fat one. Ye Gawds.

Plus, last night something else struck me as my husband (who also needs to shed a pound or two and who has high cholesterol) pulled the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream from the freezer. I suddenly realized that extra weight translates to lots of "heart" things...and that reaching for that half gallon of bliss every night could be considered like scaling the side of a mountain.

In Susan Wigg's latest release a few secondary characters climb an icy mountain for the sheer joy of it and I gasped, thinking...I'd never risk my life like that. Then I dipped my scoop into the half gallon of delight and realized that maybe I would. LOL

Friday, May 16, 2008

Just returned...

Good morning, everybody!

I just returned from an intense one-day workshop I presented for the multi-genre writers group Pennwriters. What a great time! The hotel was wonderful...the lunch divine! Ayleen Stellhorn, who coordinated the event, deserves a round of applause!

But the students in this class were exceptional. Very talented. Very personable.

In the morning, we took apart the concept of "plotting" and I saw some ah-ha moments in the crowd. Making the distinction between the skills needed to come up with a story, decide what to write as a scene and then create those scenes with word mastery helped a lot of people. But the magic plotting formula of action/reaction and decision really brought down the house. LOL

In the afternoon we worked on characters and creating external conflict with goals and internal conflict because of an incorrect core belief. We even hit a bit on Michael Hauge's (screenplaymastery.com) identity and essence theories.

But the real lightbulb moments came when we distinguished between our book's theme and the "idea" that showcases the theme and learned how to write a one-paragraph pitch designed to easily relate your story to an editor or agent so you don't spent a whole pitch session saying...Um...Well..Ah...Instead, you easily get to the heart of your story and make yourself look super smart!

So it was a good day. We all had fun.

I think we also learned something!


Tuesday, April 1, 2008



Two years ago, some friends and I got together (online) and created a continuity series for Harlequin Romance, The Wedding Planners. We enjoyed creating the continuity so much that we hung out together online for almost two years! And in our conversations we came up with the idea of creating a Wedding Planners Blog.

Because each of our characters was involved in a different facet of wedding planning, every one of us learned something about planning a wedding when we researched our books.

The blog is informative, but it's also a lot of fun.

If you want to read some interesting information on planning a wedding and hear some great stories about the weddings of the ladies involved in the continuity, skip on over to the blog. I put the addy above.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Deeeeeeal or No Deal?

Winter got so boring this year I started watching more TV and now I find myself a huge fan of Deal or No Deal. I think Howie Mandel is adorable, and I love the models...but, frankly, I love watching ordinary people get the chance to change their lives by winning a sum of money they wouldn't otherwise ever see.

The show isn't about the game. It isn't about the banker. It isn't about the challenge of picking the right cases or even the guts to stay in the game when the odds shift against you. It's about the people.

All those other things, like luck, the banker, the odds...those bring out the best of the worst in a contestant. But they're window dressing. The truth is...I want to see each contestent get as much money as he or she can. I want to see them triumph...Win.

Watching last night's show I realized how much that feeling is like the feeling I get when I read a book that I really like. I want to see the contestants win the same way I want to see the hero and heroine resolve their conflicts in a romance. The way I want to see the protagonist save the world in a thriller.

It's all about the character...achieving a goal, finding love, saving the world.

All the other stuff is window dressing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Life as a Laundress

My Life As a Laundress

Have you ever noticed how much you can learn about your family from what you find in your laundry basket? When there are jeans in my son's things, I know the weather has dropped below zero, otherwise, he wears shorts. Seriously. He's hot blooded. When my daughter's dating someone there are lots of pretty blouses in her basket. When she's not, it's T-shirts.

I get a lot of change that immediately goes into my poker cup. If you leave two quarters in your pocket, kiss it goodbye. Once I find it, either in the laundry basket or in the washer tub, it becomes mine. House Rule. If you don't like House Rule you are invited to do your own wash. So far no one's taken me up on that.

Because I work at home, I almost exclusively wear pajamas. I have more pajamas than a fully stocked Victoria's Secret before Christmas or Valentine's Day. My husband realized a few years ago when I quit working and began writing for a living -- thus living in my PJ's -- that he can go to any department store and find pajamas from sexy lace to work-horse flannel and these make excellent gifts for any occasion. He doesn't have to know a specific size, just be in the ballpark, and if he's got money he can spend big bucks. If he's sort of broke, he can get me something as pretty at WalMart. Unfortunately, before he discovered pajamas, diamonds were his gift of choice. Though I love my PJ's, I'm not sure I made out in that deal.

We use heavy duty, extra strength detergent and we're not stingy about it. We like our clothes clean. Which is probably why each of us changes a few times a day. And why laundry is such a big deal in my life. I do a lot of it. Luckily, there is no water shortage in our city!

My son who now lives on his own is allergic to a certain kind of laundry soap, so we never bought it. Still don't. It's like a ban that's never been lifted, or an old law that's so antiquated it makes us laugh. It's still in force, even though it's no longer needed.

Every morning, I sort out two loads, wash them and put them in the dryer. When the dryer dings, I dump them on a chair and the clothing owners have 24 hours to get their things off the chair and into their rooms. If they don't, then I take the clothes into their rooms. If a drawer accidentally falls open as I walk by and ... well ... I see things then it's on them because I was only in their room to put away laundry that they should have put away.

You'd be surprised what THAT particular adventure has netted me in terms of news and information.

I grew up in an era when women began to fuss and fume about having to do all the housework. I'm not in their ranks. I sort of like housework. Don't get me wrong, if I could afford to pay someone to scrub toilets that person would be living with me right now. But I don't mind dishes. Washing them is very soothing. I love to scrub. Who doesn't love to toss water on a floor and watch a mop try to corral it? But laundry is my favorite. It's like keeping in touch with kids who are growing away from me.

I knew immediately when my daughter switched to thongs. Not because she told me or because I bought them (though in some way, shape or form I'm guessing I did) but because I washed them. I've watched their taste in clothes mature. (Even if their underwear declined.) I washed fatigues when Spunky was in the army. Blood stained shirts after Mikie's trips to the hospital.

I guess in a way, laundry is a history of sorts. Or a way to stay in their lives when they're struggling for independence. A chance to say a quick prayer when you see your kids are growing, growing away, growing into themselves.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday! One Day Before Book In A Week!

This is Friday, January 25, 2008. Right now, my cat is sitting on my desk, in front of my computer monitor. This is my life. A battle between me and a feline for my time. So far, I'm winning.

Sophie's really very sweet, though. Affectionate. And pretty. She's a tortoise shell with golden eyes. Usually, we're a great combination. But some days I know she thinks I work too hard. Either that or I don't pet her enough.

She's been upset since I began April Kilstrom's Book In a Week Class. I've spent hours here in this chair, researching Nevada. I've always wanted to write a historical, and I decided this class was the perfect place to get my feet wet. I chose a time period and a subject about which I knew very little. 1866 Nevada. I chose a sub-genre which isn't selling. (No expectation = no pressure LOL.) Because I really wanted to see if April's system worked and I also wanted a break of sorts from deadlines and expectations.

I wanted to step out of my typical routine. I didn't want to have my internal editor saying...No, Susan, you know readers don't want to read about sports heroes. So don't write that. Or no, Susan, you know heroines have to be a certain age. For one small space of time I wanted to write. Just to remember what it felt like to let my imagination run wild.

Well, it's been running. LOL We don't start writing until tomorrow. The goal is to write for 7 days trying to finish a rough (I'm guessing it will be really rough) draft of your book.

But up to this point, we've been creating characters, writing the descriptions of things like people and towns and houses and cars (or in my case carriages and critters) and reminding ourselves that the best way to write emotion is to remember what it felt like to feel those emotions. We've been thinking about motivations. We've been writing scene cards.

And you know what? Tomorrow when we start writing, I think I'll be ready.

Sophie's not happy. Her tail is swishing across my monitor as I type. She seems to know that next week will be the push. Writing every day, every spare minute of every day, trying to get a 100,000-word manuscript drafted in seven short days.

I know I'll fail. LOL. Even if I don't fail, I know no one wants this book. But, wow, it feels glorious just to write what I want to write, how I want to write it. No expectations.

By the way, I recommend this class to EVERYONE. April's lessons are short and concise and helped me to focus quickly on what was important about my story.

Her website is AprilKihlstrom.com. She has an email addy to contact her about upcoming presentations of this workshop.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's Wednesday, January 16 2008 schedule so far

It's my sister Tammy's Birthday. Happy Birthday, Tammy.

For those of you who visit my web page regularly, you've probably noticed I've been mysteriously absent. I had a terrible cold. Actually, it started out as the flu and morphed into a cold. All this went on in the last two weeks of a book deadline. LOL.

There's nothing like being sick as a dog when you HAVE TO work. It wasn't pretty and/or fun.

But I'm back now. Feeling pretty darned good. Very pleased with the last book I submitted to the UK editors for Harlequin Romance. It's a Christmas story about forgiveness. Proably one of the best things I've ever written. So, see. Being sick doens't have to hinder you. LOL!

I have also been looking at my calendar to see what I scheduled for myself last year when I felt I could do anything.

Here's what I have going on this year:

Right now I'm doing an online workshop for the Low Country RWA chapter on plot points. It's been a lot of fun and the group is fabulous. Some very smart, savy writers!

Sunday 2/10 I'm doing an online chat on Writerschatroom.com

In May I'm doing an all day workshop for Pennwriters. You have to go to Pennwriters.org for information on this. It's an intense one-day thing and we're only allowing 15 people to attend. It's pricy, but, seriously, it's absolutely going to be worth it.

In June I'm in Philly for the Philadelphia conference. When I finish up, I'm on my way to the beach with my family. Tons of fun!

June 29 9-12:00 I'm doing a special presentation for Seton Hill's Masters in Contemporary Fiction program.

In August, I'm doing an online workshop for WRWADC. The DC chapter of Romance Writers of America. The workshop I'm presenting is CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED. This is my most popular workshop. It's also the one I get the most feedback on from authors. So if you're a lover of online workshops, as I am (right now I'm doing April Kilstrom's Book in A Week and it's FABULOUS!) then CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED from WRWADC might be for you!

August 1, I'm doing a chat for Kim Watters on (I think) Cheaper than Therapy (catchy name).

That's all the farther I've scheduled. I'm not going to Nationals this year. But I will probably be adding conferences and workshops for the fall.

Most likely, New Jersey's chapter conference in October.

It's going to be a fun year. Not as busy as normal as far as travel, but that's partially because I'm writing an extra book or two this year.

Tune in later for details!


Goal Setting Workshop Lesson 8

Session Eight: Pulling it all together

By now you are probably aware that motivation inspires goals and good goals inspire you to manage your time more efficiently.

Probably you have also realized that the more important, or necessary the goal, the easier it is to motivate yourself to accomplish it. In the last two lessons, we talked specifically about time management.

Though I taught that you must find your peak performance time and gave you a few tools for working the most efficient ways possible, you probably also noticed that inherent in those lessons was the truth that there are some things that don't need scheduled, yet they always get done.

Come hell or high water we generally accomplish our "necessary" goals like feeding our children, going to our day job, or getting everyone where they are supposed to be every day (Ms. Carpool).

Because it's true. We will do the things we "must" do without hesitation, without question and generally without having to put them on a list.

But did you realize while we were walking through all these sessions that you could actually set a goal and artificially make it a must? Did you realize that you could turn almost any goal into something you do without hesitation, without question and generally without having to put it on a list. . .if you motivate yourself sufficiently?

You probably did, but just in case you haven't let's talk about the motivational technique I've found the most helpful in accomplishing my personal goals (things like regular exercise) and professional (writing) goals by shifting them from "wants" to "musts."

It's Tony Robbins’ Rocking Chair technique. (BTW, Tony/Anthony Robbins is the author of the runaway bestseller Awaken the Giant Within. His 30 Days to Personal Power tapes were phenomenal. He also does "change your life" type of seminars. He's very smart and very successful and his techniques have helped me tremendously! I don’t merely want him to get credit for this technique. If you're predisposed to read self-help stuff, his isn't just among the best. In a lot of ways, it is the best.)

Okay, testimonial over, back to business. . .

I don't want to use writing as the example of Tony Robbins' Rocking Chair Technique because I don't want to influence you. I want you to see the technique for something other than writing, and then do it yourself for writing so your answers to the questions are real and personal, and therefore, have the power they are supposed to have.

So, since I'm beginning the new year as a little ball of butter, who will not be able to wear her own clothes and will have to spend money buying new things from Omar the Tentmaker if I don’t slim down, I'm going to use eating healthy as the example. Because that's one of the hardest goals in the Universe! (At least for me.)

Mr. Robbins basically tells us that manufacturing motivation (turning a "want" into a "must have" or "necessity") is easy. All we have to do is get ourselves to the place where we recognize how the results of our bad habit will hurt us. Once we get ourselves to realistically see the results of our bad habit, then we have to feel the pain that accompanies those results, so that when we leave that place, we will remember the pain and our behavior will change.

So, here's me. At around fifty years of age, with a full head of hair, no beer belly, nice legs and not too many wrinkles, no cough, no insomnia, and very little dementia, how do I get myself to feel the effects of my poor eating habits?

I sit in my rocking chair.

Tony Robbins tells you to sit down, close your eyes and in fast forward imagine keeping your present eating habits for the next five years. When five years pass, stop! See yourself five years from now. Are you heavier? (Hah!) Are you tired? (Hum...) Are you sloppy? (Ouch!) Is your husband going out without you to grocery shop because he has more energy? Worse, is he going to movies or the mall alone. . . Dear God!

That's scary stuff. But don't stop. Once again, eyes closed, deep breath, continue to picture yourself as you did when you zipped five years into the future - - kinda chubby and slow, maybe breathing a tad heavier, then fast forward again. Zip another five years into the future with no exercise and lots of fast food. Then, stop! Suddenly, catch yourself off-guard as you really would be.

Are you fatter? (Do fish swim?) Is your breathing labored? Is your hair washed? Are your clothes ugly? (Probably) Is your room dark? (This is a good one. Most people realize that after year ten of the continuation of a bad habit their room is suddenly dark. As if your life is bleak!) Is your husband home. . .or is he out, again, without you?

Ouch. But don't stop here. Get back in the chair. Eyes closed. Deep breath. Fast forward ten whole years this time. 20 years from today. Fast food, fast food, fast food, doughnuts, doughnuts, cappuccino, banana splits, M&M peanuts in the jumbo bag. Stop!

How big are you now? How tired are you now? Where's that darned husband of yours! Do you fight a lot? Do you spend lots of time alone. . . with your doughnuts? Probably. House dark? No question this time. You are alone, fat, tired, sitting in the dark and a failure. All because you couldn’t get yourself to eat a darned vegetable!

But don't stop here. Reverse the clock. See it all backward. Take it all back. Reverse all those food decisions. Go back and back and back until it's today again. Take a deep breath. You're not 100 pounds overweight. You're twenty. Would you like some fast food? I doubt it. Does walking on the treadmill seem like work or salvation? Probably salvation. Do you feel differently? Probably. Not because you don't want to gain weight, but because you don't want to be alone, sitting in the dark!

You have a second chance!

Plus, your choice is no longer the choice between a doughnut and a carrot. It's the choice between a dark, dingy room in a barren life and happiness, energy, fulfillment.


Interesting. Really think that through. If you truly felt the pain of your bad habit, your entire mindset should be different. And you should be motivated to do whatever it takes to NEVER to be the person you saw in your imaginings!

As I said, I used weight as the example and not writing for a very good reason. I didn't want to impose my "notions" about writing on you. So now that you have the concept down, we're going to repeat the exercise, but without me giving you examples or hints about how I would be feeling.

So, close your eyes and fast forward five years. In that five years, writing is not your priority. It's a hobby. You work "when you can." You write hit or miss, never committing, never thinking writing is your passion. . . Open your eyes . . .Where are you?

Get a clear picture of what your life would be like if you continue on as a writing hobbyist. Where will you be five years from now?

Then get back into the rocking chair and add another five years without commitment to your writing. Without commitment to storytelling excellence. Are you famous? (Without commitment to excellence? I doubt it. Sorry...but I couldn't resist.) Are you even published? Is your office getting dimmer and/or darker?

Back in the chair. . . fast forward another ten years. . .Twenty years into the future.

Take your time and really be honest about where you will be if you treat writing hit or miss, if you treat your passion as if it's a passing fancy. Really think it through. See the dust on your desk. See the half-finished manuscripts. See the unfulfilled promise. . .Feel the pain of knowing you will never be the writer you know you could be...

All right, so I am nebbing my nose in a tad here. . .

The real bottom line is . . .

Do you want to be the person you picture twenty years from now if you don't discipline yourself to write more than "when you can"? Do you want to be the person you picture twenty years from now if you never commit to becoming the best writer you can be?

Interesting question.

And the question with which I leave you. Success and failure are your choice. You may not have complete control, but you have a lot more than you think.

So think.

The next time you want to be lazy, the next time you blame someone else (like an editor, agent or critique partner when something is rejected) when you know deep down inside the work submitted wasn't your best effort, the next time you decide to write for a line or publisher without reading that line or publisher, the next time you think the rest of us are just lucky. . .


Think about everything I've told you this month and then realize the choices are yours.

Not mine.

Not an editor's.

Not an agent's.



susan meier



This workshop is my original material. I have given you examples of the work of others, but I've also given them credit for their ideas.

I would be pleased to learn that any of you quoted me, because I love to see my work help others, as long as I get the courtesy of actually being quoted by having my name appear with my text.

The Internet is such an easy source for information and a work like this can be so easily copied that we sometimes forget that copying the work of another without giving them credit is plagiarism.