Friday, August 29, 2008

Tanya Writes About McCain's Shocking Choice as VP

I know, I know Cowboy Church is up well as reactions to my "lemon-jello" nearly-better-than-sex spa treatments AND my fantasty football team Wild Thang...but this can't wait.

If you know me well or have read much of this blog, you know I adore animals. In fact, my daughter sponsored a gray wolf for me through Defenders of Wildlife for my Mother's Day gift this year. I took the little gray stuffed replica wolf along on my travels the next week to Lake Tahoe. And I named it NanTanLupan for Gene Hackman's character, Gray Wolf Chief, in the great Western, Geronimo.

Also if you know me or read this blog, you know I am not political. But I just can't stay silent on John McCain's choice. Now, I truly think women deserve a place in high office. But I'm posting this blog about thirty seconds after I heard from the Defenders of Wildlife. Ms. Palin supports wolf slaughter.

At least read this before you make any decisions:

Shocking Choice by John McCain

WASHINGTON-- Senator John McCain just announced his choice for running mate: Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. To follow is a statement by Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

“Senator McCain’s choice for a running mate is beyond belief. By choosing Sarah Palin, McCain has clearly made a decision to continue the Bush legacy of destructive environmental policies.

“Sarah Palin, whose husband works for BP (formerly British Petroleum), has repeatedly put special interests first when it comes to the environment. In her scant two years as governor, she has lobbied aggressively to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, pushed for more drilling off of Alaska’s coasts, and put special interests above science. Ms. Palin has made it clear through her actions that she is unwilling to do even as much as the Bush administration to address the impacts of global warming. Her most recent effort has been to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the polar bear from the endangered species list, putting Big Oil before sound science. As unbelievable as this may sound, this actually puts her to the right of the Bush administration.

“This is Senator McCain’s first significant choice in building his executive team and it’s a bad one. It has to raise serious doubts in the minds of voters about John McCain’s commitment to conservation, to addressing the impacts of global warming and to ensuring our country ends its dependency on oil.”


The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund ( provides a powerful voice in Washington to Americans who value our conservation heritage. Through grassroots lobbying, issue advocacy and political campaigns, the Action Fund champions those laws and lawmakers that protect wildlife and wild places while working against those that do them harm.

Thanks for lenting me vent. That spa-relaxation aura sure didn't get to last long. Arrrrrrrgh.

(As tiresome as this election is getting, at least it isn't boring!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tanya Writes About Her New Book Cover!

I know I promised an upcoming blog on Cowboy Church, but oh, my. As if being on vacation with my hero isn't enough, I just now got my book cover for Marrying Minda. Isn't it pretty? Sigh.

The book, recently acquired by The Wild Rose Press for the Cactus Rose line, should be out in e-book in early winter, and in print next summer. In the meantime, read the opening chapter below.

I'm honored and humbled both that Marrying Minda won first place in the Merritt "Magic Moment" Contest sponsored by the San Antonio Romance Authors, and placed first with perfect stores in the "Ignite the Flame" Contest held by the Central Ohio Fiction Writers.

Here are the opening scenes. Enjoy!

Paradise, Nebraska

July 1878

Where was Norman Dale? Her heart thumped. The noon stage had run late, so he had plenty of time to get here. Unless he had backed out.

She swallowed hard. Nowhere on the empty street did she see a bridegroom bearing a bouquet of her favorite white roses. The gulp turned into a sob. But they had signed a legal contract fair and square, and the dry official document hadn’t stopped them from falling a little bit in love with each other. His letters had been full of compliments and promises and excitement, too, about meeting face-to-face.

And today was the day.

Even in the stuffy interior of the stagecoach, she shivered with a chill of unease. After tossing her valises on the boardinghouse steps, the driver lifted her down and removed the long linen duster passengers wore to protect their clothes from the grime of travel. Underneath she wore her wedding gown. Norman Dale’s last letter had sweetly insisted they wed the minute she arrived.

Trying to impart a radiant smile, she paid no heed to the reactions of her fellow travelers. The woman wearing an old-style coal-scuttle bonnet of green gingham had chatted pleasantly for the last five miles, but upon seeing Minda’s silk and lace, her mouth turned wide and silent as a full moon. And a grubby codger leered while showing off his two brown teeth.

Well, she ignored them same as she’d ignored her younger sisters when they’d claimed a spinster didn’t need a lovely white wedding gown. Well, Minda Becker might be a spinster and a mail-order bride on top of it. But she was a bride, and she was going to do it right.

In the hot dust of the departing stage, she drooped in complete disillusion at the hard-luck little town ahead of her. Norman Dale’s letters sure had contained some glorified words describing Paradise. Truth to tell, her new hometown was just one brick building and a dozen false-front wooden structures with miles of cornfields and prairie grass billowing around the edges. Her bridegroom’s own farm and fine wooden house must lay quite a ways outside of town.

She caught sight of a trim white church down the street and the slew horses and wagons hitched to rough-hewn posts along its side. Relief covered her as sweet as her silk dress. Of course. Norman Dale must be busy greeting wedding guests who waited on a bride delayed by a stage running late. Of course he’d be along in a minute to fetch her. They’d already agreed to march up the aisle together. A widower had no reason to wait at the altar for a mail-order bride who had no one to give her away.

Past the church, tables piled with platters and baskets sat in the shade of big cottonwoods along the riverbank. Her wedding dinner. Her mouth all but watered and doubt left her mood. Goodness, she was about to become Mrs. Norman Dale Haynes. With a quiver of delight, she shook dust and wrinkles from her skirts and walked up the boardinghouse steps to seek a mirror and a bowl of cool water for freshening.

But a sign reading “closed” hung on the lopsided door. Minda smiled at her reflection in the grimy window anyway. Likely the innkeeper was a wedding guest already at church. After digging reverently through one valise, she brought out the veil she’d fashioned from odds and ends at the millinery back home. Just touching the beautiful thing set a new flock of butterflies aflutter inside her belly. The froth of netting cascaded from a wreathe of roses she’d crafted from scraps of ivory velvet.

As she arranged the veil, she heard her name. However, the angle of reflection didn’t let her see the speaker.

“Miz Becker? You are Minda Becker, right?”

She turned to see a man approaching, tall and lean in his Sunday best, awkwardly carrying her bridal bouquet.

Mr. Norman Dale Haynes. She couldn’t stop the outtake of breath. He was much younger and far more handsome than the daguerreotype he had sent her. Her face warmed. It wouldn’t take long at all to give her whole heart to this man.

Or her body.

Her heart hammered beneath her whalebone corset. Heat that had nothing to do with the weather poured over her like new milk. Merciful heavens, he must have wed young the first time around to have the teenage daughter he needed her to raise.

Heartbeats danced hard against her ribs. Truth to tell, this man didn’t appear to have any flaws at all. With a wedding night waiting for her, she tingled from top to toe. Along with many blushes, her three sisters, now all young wives, had explained the delights of the marriage bed. She wanted the same for herself.

Hair dark as midnight brushed atop shoulders wide as yardsticks on each side of Norman Dale’s neck. Her eye for style had designed quality hats in Gleesburg, so the poor fit of his dark coat stumped her. She’d expected better attire from a well-off farmer on his wedding day. More important, his grim countenance and the black moustache over his unsmiling lip started the blood in her veins to run cold. But a second later she warmed a little. Perhaps he had some jitters himself. His masculine handsomeness made her proud. She’d chosen well.

Although she was almost twenty-five, she quivered like a flighty schoolgirl. Gathering up her dignity, she walked toward him, eager for a welcoming embrace. In truth, his letters had allowed he’d fallen for her as well.

“Yes, yes, of course, I’m Minda Becker.” She smiled big and bright to keep her words from shaking. “Is there another bride arriving this afternoon?”

“Nope. Just you. Let’s get you married up.” He still didn’t smile or offer a hand or an introduction. Or even remove his hat. Heart sinking, she shut her lids tight to hold back tears.

Had she come a thousand miles to get her heart broken?

A wisp of the veil fluttered across her face in the hot wind and she grabbed the edge to have something to do. Had that interminable trek from Pennsylvania been a powerful mistake?

Folks in Gleesburg considered her a spinster after she gave up her girlhood to raise her three little sisters when Mama died. But at least her hometown had cobbled streets and brick houses, decent businesses including the hat shop where she’d made her living. Neighbors close by, too. Every homestead she’d seen around here seemed miles away from the next one.

She still had time to change her mind. But no, she’d signed that contract. She’d given her word. More than anything, she wanted a husband and a home of her own. As she forced herself to return her bridegroom’s unyielding gaze, her skin prickled a little at his dark eyes that didn’t blink.

“I regret the late start to our wedding, Norman Dale. My train arrived in Columbus on time, but I truly had no control over the stagecoach getting me to Paradise.” She tried to laugh lightly. No thinking person could hold her responsible.

Unless. Her face burned. Unless he thought she’d delayed the stage’s departure by taking time to change into her wedding dress. His correspondence had complimented her plenty on her common sense. She couldn’t bear him thinking her frivolous and vain.

“A late stage isn’t your fault. But hurry up now. Folks are waiting.”

Minda’s spirits plummeted once again at his abrupt tone. Was this the man she’d spend the rest of her life with? Worry and doubt once again turned her cold in spite of July. But as he handed her the flowers, he took her hand.

At his touch, she barely found enough air. Her bosoms shivered beneath the lace and silk of her gown and the bones of her corset seemed strangely tight. Silent, he led her toward the church. Stepping away from some horse dung, she leaned hard against him. He pulled away.

Her heart sank. Maybe Norman Dale hadn’t written those wonderful letters himself. Maybe he wasn’t eager to meet her like he’d claimed. Maybe all he wanted was a new mother for his teenaged girl.

Or maybe. Maybe he was dissatisfied with her looks. She bowed her head in a sudden petition. The daguerreotype she’d sent him had showed her flaws as well as her graces. Although her sisters had declared her lovely enough to steal any man’s heart, Minda gulped disappointment along with the hot summer air.

Fully intending to honor her promises and her vows, she tightened her fingers in determination. She wanted a family all her own. There was nothing left for her back home where bachelors sought younger belles and the sisters she’d raised were busy newlyweds. No matter what, she’d take on Norman Dale Haynes and his child and his household, make it all her own. And get him to love her like he’d hinted.

At the church steps, he at least found enough manners to hold her skirts and help her inside. A pump organ belched the wedding march.

Unwavering, Minda walked into her future. The wide-eyed interest of the wedding guests didn’t surprise her much. After all, she’d traveled a very long way to marry a man she’d never actually met. For a half-second, she recalled the amused and dubious eyes of the folks back home when she left. No, she’d never go back. Ever. Resolute, she gripped Norman Dale’s arm.

Right now a few female voices cooed as her bridegroom first tossed away his hat with his free hand, then straightened the veil that the wind had rustled. Pride burst inside her.

For a delicious moment, Minda enjoyed the view of his shoulder muscles moving underneath his tight black coat. Of course she’d expected a hard working man of the land to be strong and hale, but this man seemed like he could lift her with just one arm. And she wanted his touch, pure and simple. No, it wouldn’t be hard at all to be his loving wife.

Unwavering, she walked beside her bridegroom on steady feet up an aisle that seemed a mile long. The organ faded as the reverend started the vows without delay.

“Miss Becker, do you take this man to be your lawful husband?”

She stared at the reverend. He hadn’t used her full christened name, Melinda Susanna, and his nervousness was plain for all to see. She peeked at her husband but he didn’t catch her eye either. This must be the young minister’s first time officiating at a wedding and he’d forgotten her name.

Norman Dale’s hand tightened around hers as if expecting her to say no.

“Yes, I do,” she announced in a confident voice, eager for her new future. Then the preacher asked “Mr. Haynes” the same. He growled his response and slid a ring on her finger. Minda quivered at the sound and the touch.

The ring fit perfectly.

“Now if there be any one present to objects to this union, let him speak now, or ever after hold his peace,” the reverend intoned.

Her bridegroom’s hand tightened again during the long silent moment. When no one said anything, Minda heard sighs of relief from a hundred throats.

“Then I now pronounce you man and wife.”

There. It was done. It was finished. She was married. And her husband bent down and touched her lips with his own. She trembled at the deliciousness of it and reached her arms up to hold him close.

Yes indeed. He tasted like peppermint with a hint of cherry. Tobacco maybe. Oh, it wouldn’t take long at all to fall in love the whole rest of the way.

# # #

He stepped back from his bride, hating himself for liking the kiss.

But damn, she was a pretty thing. Likely untouched, too. Those lips sweet but tight let him think no man had kissed her before. His poor brother had missed out on one hell of a wedding night.

So had he, he admitted grimly.

Something had stirred his heart deep inside during that kiss, and he didn’t much like the feeling. Not at all. Hadn’t felt it since the rancher’s daughter in West Texas had stomped on his love so hard he still felt the pain.

Brixton Haynes knew how dark a woman’s heart could be. This one was no different. Something she’d written in her damn letters had made his brother work himself to death for her. Why had she allowed Norman Dale to think the man he was, and what he had to give her, wasn’t good enough?

Anger snarled his gut. Yes, indeed. He’d duped her, but he had no choice. He promised Norman Dale. With his last breath, his brother had made Brixton swear to take his place, marry Minda and make the kids his own. Keep everybody together, one family. Already folks hereabouts had started laying claim to the kids, one at a time. Like puppies needing homes.

Right then, old Klara Borchers started to warble a love song, and his bride pulled away in a maidenly manner. He felt that tug on his heart again that spread down to the notch of his trousers. Damn indeed, she was the prettiest thing he’d seen in a month of Mondays.

Her big pansy eyes twinkled and her cheeks still bloomed bright red from the kiss. And hidden beneath that veil was hair the colors of every precious metal he’d ever seen. Hell, the daguerreotype she’d sent his brother was a miserable likeness. She was far younger and daintier than that little brown portrait his brother had loved to show off.

Jaw tight, he looked away from her, out the little window next to the organ. Shutting his eyes to hold off a tear, he saw the fresh mound of dirt that made Norman Dale’s last bed and fingered a new blister on his right hand. He’d helped fill up that grave just an hour ago, and his heart hardened against Minda Becker. Minda Haynes.

His back teeth ground together. Damn it. Norman Dale had pulled wheat from the ground for fifteen summers and never died before. It was the whitewashing, the trimming, the gussying to impress this, this outsider after harvesting twelve hours a day that had done him in two days ago. Resentment built like a thunderhead and pounded behind Brixton’s eyes.

Before turning back to his bride, he rubbed his hand over his eyebrow. Past the graveyard, the prairie rolled like a golden ocean, running into sandy hills on its way to the Shining Mountains. He’d been there, seen Pike’s Peak. Right now Brixton Haynes wished he was sitting right on top of it. Instead, he was pa to a passel of kids and married to boot, something he’d sworn never to do.

Married to a woman he didn’t want.

# # #

The kiss had shaken her and made her wonder more than ever about the night to come. When she pulled him close, for that single proper instant, his chest had felt rock-hard against the softness underneath her corset. And for a most improper moment, church or not, she imagined how they’d feel skin to skin, without all the layers of clothes.

“Let’s get that register signed,” her husband ordered during the song, harsh and low, and tightened his grip on her hand.

At his touch, every inch of her shivered. He led her to the big official book where she wrote the name Melinda Susanna Becker for the last time. Her shaky fingers could hardly manage the inkwell. Then he grabbed the pen from her, scribbled something, and led her from the sanctuary, all the way down the aisle. Once in a while he reached out to clasp the outstretched hands of wedding guests.

Minda found herself smiling joyfully at her new friends and neighbors, glad they couldn’t see her trembles or read her fiery thoughts. While her husband’s behavior seemed a bit gruff, she relaxed somewhat at his firm grip on her fingers. Surely it was a sign that he never wanted to let her go.

Outside, she started up some polite conversation as he headed toward the wedding dinner. The tables set up under the trees, she realized, were old barn doors on sawhorses, scattered once in a while with bed sheets.

“I’d hoped Priscilla might stand up for me,” she mentioned, holding back the disappointment at the absence of the stepdaughter she longed to love.


“Priscilla? Your daughter?” Minda could hardly contain her puzzlement. She had spoken clearly enough. “I’d suggested her as my bridal attendant in my last letter.”

“Ah. You mean little Silly.” Her husband grinned. “She doesn’t have the faculty to do any such thing. All she cares about is a full belly and clean britches.”

“Silly? Little Silly?” Minda blurted as she stumbled in shock, but he forced her onward toward the tables.

“Be still and hush now,” he warned. “Don’t make a scene.”

As she passed folks full of congratulations, Minda decided not to embarrass herself by pulling away from her husband, but she tossed him a quick mutter. “What’s this about Silly?”

“I said not now.”

Fuming, Minda plastered a fake smile on her face. But she would speak her mind later in private. How could her husband have failed to mention that his daughter was feeble-minded?

And how could anybody, much less a father, ridicule a backward young girl with such an offensive nickname? His own blood? By now, he’d hauled her over to a table under a trio of box elder trees. A young yellow-headed woman was draping a garland of meadow flowers along two slatback chairs.

Minda wanted to appreciate the thoughtfulness, but she pondered more and more on a wedding that might be a mistake. Norman Dale was simply not the charming father he’d presented in his letters. What other surprises did he have in store for her? Did he imagine her so besotted she wouldn’t mind?

No matter. She’d signed that register pure and simple. He’d made her his wife, and she’d willingly taken him on as her husband. For better or worse.

“Set yourself down. I’ll go get Silly and the rest of the kids,” he announced with slitted lips. He raised his brows at the blonde woman and she nodded, leaving them in private.

“The rest of what kids?” Minda’s skin prickled nervously. Deciding to obey him for the first and only time, she sat down.

“Our kids. Yours and mine.”

“Our kids? What in the world do you mean, Norman Dale? You wrote that you’ve got one daughter. Fourteen years old.” Minda’s voice rose and despite the heat, her shoulders tensed with a sudden chill as if a clump of snow had just fallen from the treetops. “What kids? What on earth are you saying, Norman Dale? Your letters didn’t say one single words about kids.”

He glared down at her. “You must’ve misread my brother.” The last two words slid from his tongue in slow deliberation.

His brother? For a moment, she sat helpless, hopeless, paralyzed against the back of the hard little chair. For a long moment, she had no air to speak.

“Your brother? Your brother? What do you mean?” she managed at last.

He leaned close to her again, like he had during their kiss, but at her ear he growled, low, “You promised to wed a Haynes today. Well, I’m the only one left. Your Norman Dale, my brother--” His fingers, calloused and hot, held her chin still so he could glare into her eyes, “--is dead.”

Minda gasped and grabbed the flower-covered chair so she didn’t fall out of it. Her Norman Dale, dead? The handsome widower of thirty-nine who had promised her a new life?

“Yep, Miz Haynes,” he went on, voice dry as August. “I come all the way back home to stand up for my brother at his wedding, and instead I get to lower him into the ground. And it’s all your fault.”

Eyes as black as Pennsylvania coal bore into her. “You killed him, sure enough.”

# # #

“What?” The word came from her in a soundless puff.

“You heard me.” Of course she’d deny it, but it was her fault. Here he stood before her, hemmed in with a wife and kids. Freedom forever gone, his brother dead and gone. Shaking his head at the turn of his life, he held back a long speech of chastisement. None of it would have happened if she hadn’t shown up.

Her face turned white as her veil, and he figured she was about to swoon. Cold water for her and a long hard swig for himself sounded mighty good about now.

She shut her eyes tight and he looked away from them, away from those eyelashes lying on her cheeks like moth wings. He almost wanted to touch that cheek. Even with the chitchat going on around them, they might as well be the only two people in the world.

Just as he thought the words, she stood up angrily and pulled off the veil. She must’ve loosened her pins, too. Hair that was copper, silver and gold all at once tumbled past the sash around her waist. His fingers twitched in their longing to touch the gleaming cascade.

Something more, something worse, tightened his manhood.

Her lips flapped same as a fish needing air, but still he longed to kiss them. He remembered their sweetness and warmth, like wild strawberries in spring sunshine. She took a deep breath, stared back at him and spoke at last. “My fault? What can you possibly mean?”

As he straightened up beside her, her hair blew across his cheeks in the hot afternoon gusts. It smelled like roses. He grabbed on to the calm control that had gotten him out of many a stampede. Sure as hell he could wrangle one small woman.

“He’s done nothing but work his fingers to the bone getting ready for your arrival, Miz Haynes. In this ruthless heat. Two days ago, his heart plumb gave out.”

“But…he claimed he was in the best of health.”

Brixton shrugged. “Doc Viessman said even a hale man can see his heart give up during overwork. He lingered half a day.”

But he looked away from her wide eyes as he said the words.

“Well, I am sorry for your loss. But I lost somebody, too.” Her voice rose in something like fear. “Didn’t you think to ask me? What on earth possessed you to imagine I’d want you?”

He shrugged again, not letting her words sting. It didn’t matter at all, her not wanting him. Even if he figured she did, deep down. Her kiss had been timid but real. But she did owe Norman Dale the honor of his last request. His brother had out and out planned for her future, a stranger in a strange town, in his dying moments.

“You ought to be grateful, Norman Dale picking somebody to take care of you.”

“But….it’s…” She struggled to find the proper complaint.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he finished for her, ushering her back down on the chair. “Calm down. Folks are watching. Now, you traipsed hundreds of miles to wed up with a stranger. Don’t matter which one of us now, does it?”

“This is unimaginable,” she muttered soft into the air, looking out across the wheat and cornfields like she wasn’t seeing a thing.

Brixton Haynes disliked her big uppity word, disliked her more and more. She was the reason for all his problems. He couldn’t very well resent his own brother, but he damn sure could resent Minda. “Don’t like it any better than you, but you owe it to my brother. It was his dying wish. You and I hitching together fixes everything.”

And it did. He liked Norman Dale’s brood just fine but had no idea what the hell to do with them. He knew all about calves, fillies, and johnny mules but not one damn thing about kids. His life in Texas gratified every inch of him, the open sky and endless miles. Hearth, home, and young’uns were the farthest things from his mind.

The rich rancher’s daughter who’d betrayed him had taught him that lesson and taught him well. He shot Minda a hot angry glance. She was worse. This one hadn’t just broken a man’s heart. She’d managed to stop it.

Yes, indeed. She owed Norman Dale. She owed him, too, as well as the kids. From the moment she stepped off that stage, she’d planned on taking on a husband and family. And the kids sure as hell expected a new ma. This marriage was the answer. If she was smart as Norman Dale had claimed, she’d have sense enough to see it.

With nothing to worry about now, he’d be back in Texas outside of a week’s time. His trail boss was an impatient man.

“This fixes nothing, Mr. Haynes,” she stormed. “You’ve tricked me.”

“Reverend Satterburg himself and all these fine folks heard you promise to be my wife today,” he reminded her calmly.

“I did no such thing. Not exactly, I mean. Not you. I thought you were Norman Dale.” Then she nodded slowly. “Oh, I see. Even the preacher was in on it. That’s why he didn’t say our Christian names. Because if he’d said –what is your name anyway?— I’d have refused on the spot. And what about---?” She waved her arms about the tables of people, most watching them from the corners of their eyes. “—all of these folks? They’re all tricksters too? This whole town?”

“Most thought it a fine change of plan. Better than you come all this way and not find a husband.” He wouldn’t mention the few that hadn’t agreed. Truth was, he had expected them to protest during the ceremony. The schoolmaster, and Norman Dale’s nearest neighbor, even the reverend’s wife had been against it. But obviously they’d changed their way of thinking.

“What a ridiculous notion. Well, Mr. Haynes, this is not at all why I came to Paradise. I had nothing to do with Norman Dale’s death, and I don’t owe him a thing. Dying wish, my foot. You and your preacher have committed serious sins of omission. I won’t stand for this. I…I…” She looked around, helpless-like, and turned from him.

“Where you going?”

“That’s his grave over there?” she asked, pointing to the fresh mound.

He nodded.

“I’m going to, how shall I put it? Pay my respects.” She stood up with her wedding bouquet, tossed him one last scowl.

Damn roses. That bouquet had cost his brother a small fortune.

“Hold up a minute,” he ordered his wife, who halted and stared. “You forgot your bridal veil.”

As he rose, he leaned toward her, almost wishing he could kiss her again. He placed the veil back on her head, fluffed the edges around that lovely face. He couldn’t help touching her cheek while he did so. His bride.

His fingers met her soft warm flesh and she let them remain for a second that was almost magical. Then both of them flinched at the same precise second.

Hope you like what you've read so far! Stay tuned for release dates...and Cowboy Church.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tanya Writes About Movie Endings That Suck...or Not

Well, I'm cozy in the vacation condo with a thunderstorm threatening it feels right to take time pontificate about--romantic movie endings. Each of the flicks I'm discussing has been described as some sort of romance...or love story, so I'm going at it full time.

There are three major movies (ahem, books) that end so sorrowfully I couldn't sleep for days. Couldn't the writer have made things a bit easier for those of us who totally believe in happy endings? I mean, everybody in the world knows that Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara are going to get back together. There is no doubt. So couldn't the author/director of Gone With The Wind have added an epilogue showing the meant-to-be couple in a month or two, or year or two, or decade or two, all happy and content? I mean, who else on earth could put up with them? Arrrrgh.

And The Last of the Mohicans? Of course Nathanial Poe (read: Natty Bumppo) will end up with the beautiful, heroic Cora Munro...but hey, couldn't lovely Alice have ended up with Uncas (read: Chingachook) and allow us to leave the theatre without feeling like throwing up? Jumping off a mountain side was pretty gnarly.

And Titanic? Now, come on, James Cameron. We all get the symbolism about the "heart of the ocean" over sized, uncomfy diamond. But couldn't Leo-Jack have climbed on that floating door somehow? Whew.

Then again, there are three sucky endings that totally work and couldn't exist otherwise. Like Romeo and Juliet. Oh, Will Shakespeare got that one right. As tragic as their doomed love is, no matter how many time you see/read the play, you hope things will work out....even though you've known since you were twelve that they don't. Such is the genius of the Bard.

And Dr.Zhivago...With my Russian heritage, I couldn't help loving that that cheatin' dude, but he didn't deserve either of the women who gave their heart to him. But oh, the ice-encrusted onion domes, the weeping sunflowers. The balalaika. Sigh.

And Armageddon, the perfect action movie for guys full of gooey love and a cool song for the girls. Sorry, it's a love story in my book. How could it be otherwise, Bruce Willis giving his life to save mankind...and his little girl for Ben Affleck. And yeah, Steven Tyler.

And here are three movies with perfect and IMO happy endings. Oh, Notting Hill. That wacky ensemble of friends pretty much figures things out and Hugh Grant ends up with the pretty albeit snotty Julia Roberts. It all totally works for me. Hoosiers? Now I know it's mostly a sports movie, but come on. Gene Hackman has the hots for Barbara Hershey from the start. After the big win, The Look he gives her across the crowded room is one of the hottest ever.

And last but not least, or maybe the most: Casablanca. Yeah, Humphrey Bogart doesn't get the girl. But he can live with himself forever after knowing he did the right thing.

Now...if I've left any out, please let me know!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tanya Writes About An Upcoming Hero

Oh goodness. I meant to get Back to The Blog before now, but life has intruded in so many lovely ways the past few days...racking my brain and sitting at a computer just didn't make the cut.

We're planning a vacation, leaving tomorrow afternoon.

My hero's sis, our wonderful Roberta came to visit...her train leaves tomorrow morning.

And best of all, our grandbaby came for two days. Oh, how wonderful it was to look at the world through the eyes of a toddler, still a baby but fast becoming a little boy. We paused on a freeway onramp just as a sprinkler went on: "Water!" he shouted rapturously. Later on, he watched a fly land on a lawn chair and examined it in wonder. When the fly flew away, it soon came back with a partner.

"Two!" he cried out.

When Olympic trampolining came on, he tried to keep up with the jumps. But the love of his life right now is our staircase. "Sairs, sairs!" he shouts, heading for them, the baby-gate notwithstanding. That little houdini can squeeze through the bottom-most banister.

Feeding the birds in the morning seemed like an adventure. Once the sparrows and doves flew to the feeder, he peered out the door in fascination. "Eating, eating," he told me. When he ventured out to investigate, not one of the two-dozen feathered friends flew away.

A long walk at the harbor evoked other emotions for the little guy. "Boat. Wow," he sighed. "Birdies, birdies," he pointed to the gulls. And when a harbor seal showed its shiny head, he burst out in delight.

Why is he an up and coming hero? Well, for one thing, the blood of my own personal hero runs in his veins. The gene pool is terrific. But more than that, that little boy has stolen my heart and my soul and everything in between. I'm a romance writer and I know what women want. When he grows up, he'll be the man of their dreams.

On a bit of a down-note. Roberta brought licorice shaped like little Scottie dogs. And one of those pups ran off with a crown from my molar. So it's off to the dentist first thing before heading out of town. And I still have packing to do in the a.m.

So bye for now. It's bedtime. Time for some dreams of my own.

Blogging may not get done while we're vacationing. But coming soon: Movie Endings that Suck and...Cowboy Church.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tanya Writes About the Quintessential Western Man

I like to think that my hero is a true man of the West --a man who respects nature but sometimes has to tame it (he's a firefighter)...Tall, stalwart, mustachioed. A man of few words who makes every syllable count. Kind to kids and animals but who knows when to put his foot down. Loyal to a fault--to those who deserve it. A man who can tease and be feisty but is always first to laugh at himself.

And for all that he's a die hard man's man, he sure knows how to treat his woman right.

So I tried to think of movie men who fit this same bill of fare. I came up with a delicious bunch of cowboys, gold miners, mountain men and even some outlaws.

First up is that tall, wiry, gravel-voiced cowboy, Sam Elliott. Mustache all but hiding that closed-mouth tantalizing grin. Dark glare making you think he knows what you look like without your clothes. (Lucky Katherine Ross.) ..did you know he film debuted in Butch Cassidy, but didn't meet "Etta" until later on?

My favorite Elliot roles: Shadow Riders, The Sackets...Virgil Earp in Tombstone, and the heroic Captain Charles Erskine Scott Wood in I will Fight No More Forever.

Close behind is John Wayne, the all-American cowboy. Stern, grim, brave. Nonetheless, my favorite scenes for him are seen in the screamingly funny McClintock. "Shoot him, Daddy, shoot him," yells his daughter (Stefanie Powers) peeved at her beau Patrick Wayne. And Daddy does. And the gramophone jealousy scene in North to Alaska is one I recall whenever I need a good bellylaugh.

And I gotta respect Robert Duvall. Classic in Lonesome Dove, hard nosed but tender in Broken Trail and Open Range.

Oh, and I confess my occasional longing for the bad boy. Oooh lala, who could ever forget Robert Redford's Sundance Kid in the slow, scrumptious "teacher-lady" scene. And those four real-life sets of brothers managed to steal my heart in The Long Riders. The Keaches, Carradines, Quaids and Guests so perfectly impersonated Jesse and Frank James, their cohorts the Youngers and Millers...and those cowards Bob and Charlie Ford. They were all horrible, I know, but I did find their loyalty come hell or high water to their mama, their wives, and each other to be a good thing, albeit misdirected sometimes.

In Last of the Mohicans, Daniel Day-Lewis has immortalized himself with romance lovers forever with that waterfall scene, hair flowing, Longrifle firmly in hand.."I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far...I will find you." Sigh. I expect no less from my hero if circumstances had bad guys after me!

And Robert Redford makes my list twice, as the haunted and haunting mountain man, Jeremiah Johnson, the loner who seeks to escape civilization "down below." He begins to tenderly fall for his reluctantly-acquired family--the Flathead bride forced on him and the tragic mute little boy. Only to lose them as the sacrifice for his doing the right thing.

Well, I sure have enjoyed this ride down the cinematic trail. I hope you like my list. Please add to it!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tanya Writes About the Deer on the Side of the Road

He was lying at the side of the road, our beautiful coast highway, when we whizzed by last night.

But not that fast. I saw his head upright, forelegs in full support, antlers tall and proud. Big bright eyes that I swear looked straight at me.

"A deer," I yelled to my hero who was driving. "Hit, I think."

He nodded with a glance in his rear view window. Yes, a few cars had stopped, and a small group of people had gathered. He's getting help, my hero assured me. There are wildlife rescuers. He'll be all right.

But my heart hurt. I couldn't really bear another ailing creature, just a day after Marley. Marley's eyes were bright, too, at the end, her head tilted just right. Inside, though, a vortex of death whirled. Who knew just what inner injury this gorgeous-eyed deer faced?

Oh. how animals trust us in our humanness. Marley ate the deli turkey we bought to spoil her those last few days, never knowing we were comforting ourselves. I took pictures of her gobbling her last cheeseburgers --our heartrending bon voyage gift. But to her: yummo.

That precious deer, trotting through the scrub and yarrow of his native environment, comfortable in the night, doing what deers do in the moonlight...only to meet up with 200 horsepower. Or more, considering the endless stream of cars and their inexorable, breathless pursuit of something, somewhere.

I kept seeing those bright, beautiful eyes late into another night I didn't sleep well.

But I did feel Marley's wet goofy kisses in the dreams that finally came to me about four a.m.

Coming soon: My favorite cowboy --make that Western-- movies.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tanya Writes About Hottie Cowboys

Now, who doesn't like a cowboy? For guys, he's a man's man. For us girls, he's easy on the eye. For kids, a downright hero.

Recently, I "bashed" with fifty other romance authors at an all-day Internet party where we posted excerpts, contests, games, polls. And I came up with a poll for the topic "which cowboy would you like to find in your bed?"

(Agreed, it sounds a bit racy, but remember the context: romance readers and writers.)

Sam Elliott came up Number One. And can there be any doubt? That height and vigor, that gravel voice. Hmmmm-hmmmmm.

So I thought I'd reprise the topic today, with some minor revisions.

Which of these cowboys is the sexiest?

1. Trace Adkins (who currently enamors me...Oh my.)

2. Viggo Mortensen (oh, Hidalgo.)

3. John Wayne (no more need be said LOL.)

4. Michael Landon/Little Joe (a little sexier than Pa Ingalls...)

5. Thomas Haden Church (C'mon. Give him a chance. Broken Trail rocked!)

6. Robert Duvall (A classic! Lonesome Dove. Open Range. Broken Trail...)

7. Kevin Costner (all right, a little long in the tooth...but think Wyatt Earp...)

8. Jake Guyllenhall

9. Heath Ledger (Gotta remember, though, these last two were sheepherders, not cowboys.)

10. Kurt Russell (IMO A better Wyatt than that other one.)

11. Sam Elliott (last but not least, The Ultimate Cowboy.)

Get your thinking caps on and make your decision, and let me know!

(Thanks to AOL for the picture. Drool. Drool.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tanya Writes About Hot Rocks

How do you mend a broken heart?

Hmmmm. That's a lyric from a song in my favorite movie, Notting Hill, when poor Will Thacker broods over "the American." Well, he got the American back, but that was a movie. I just don't think you ever can, at least not once your loved one dies.

They take a piece of your heart with you. Maybe a piece of your soul, too. You can heal maybe; maybe happy memories lace up that fissure, maybe the pain will ease with time, but mend completely?

I don't think so.

This afternoon, I walked downstairs but Marl wasn't on her favorite rug, turning her sleepy face to see what I was up to. Yesterday after I called the veterinary hospital to arrange her last sleep, I broke into sobs.

She came running from another favorite napping place, in front of the fireplace, and immediately besieged me with loving whines and messy kisses to help me out.

I guess in the humane sense, I was truly helping her out...but it hurts so bad.

Whew. I'd scheduled a nice long massage today for just that reason, hoping to get some relief. I explained to the masseuse about my sweet dog, and she commiserated; when she spied my Lance Armstrong Livestrong bracelet, I explained my hero's journey and his 18th week of remission. Her reply: man, you guys have had one heck of a year.

We have, haven't we? But he's well now. Marl's running across the Rainbow Bridge with her big sister Tawny. And then the massage therapist placed hot rocks on the neediest parts of me. My knotty neck. My stiff back. Then soothed hot rocks over the rest of me. One even nestled in the palm of my left hand.

Oh, beautiful.

My hero rescued me as he always does. He took our sweet girl even in his own grief, just to spare me.

When she gently slept, he brought back her collar, still with her name tag and license. He'll hotglue it around her feeding bowl and make it a planter.

And I'll plant some forget-me-nots.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tanya Writes About X-rated Fortune Cookies (adult content here)

Well, the grandbaby was here all weekend. The photos have been taken. Marley has had her last meal...a double cheeseburger. And while she's perky and bendy and as adorable as always, tomorrow is the day she'll cross the Rainbow Bridge and find her "big sister" Tawny waiting to play. The ugly thing that came to live with us again is a time-bomb inside her, waiting to hemorrhage and end her life in a most unpleasant way. So this is humane, better for her.

Dreadful for me. This is one of the most agonizing decisions I've ever had to make.

Like a true hero, my hero is bearing the burden of taking her in tomorrow, walking the green mile with her. And I, well, I am getting a massage. I can't think of anything else that will unwind the knots in my neck. Just as I can't think of anything to mend my breaking heart.

But I digress. I promised a blog on X-rated Fortune Cookies!

In San Francisco for the RWA convention, my dear friend, roommate, and critique partner Charlene Sands and I took an afternoon away from the convening hordes to shop in Chinatown. We found adorable souvenirs for the fam...and came across traditional Chinese-food boxes claiming to contain a dozen X-rated fortune cookies. Now, what are two self-respecting romance authors supposed to do?

Buy them for their husbands, of course. (We debated on getting a box for our sons...mine is a young husband with a baby boy, hers in a nearly-engaged relationship, but we decided that might be WEIRD for our boys, getting something X-rated from their mommies...)

So the night I got home, after being apart from my hero for four days...I figured the magic cookie would be, well, X-rated, leading to, well. You know. Here's what I got:

"Men who sleep with canaries get twerpies"


(It didn't matter. We still got to the, you know.)

It gets better. And just so that you know, I got shorted one whole fortune. One cookie was totally empty. Hmmmm...maybe that was the truly X-rated one.

So I decided to open all the rest, keep the chips of broken cookie in a ZipLoc bag just in case I/we get a sweet tooth some time.

(Or not. They aren't that bad but might go out in next week's trash.)

1. Man who eat many beans can make own bubble bath.

(Hmmmmmmm. Never quite equated passing gas with sex...)

2. Sex drive begins with puberty and ends with marriage.
(Totally disagree here....although not about the puberty part.)

3. Man with ugly wife takes her everywhere so he doesn't have to kiss her good-bye.
(Dude, you picked her.)

4. Safe sex for politician is no reporters.
(Or: no interns for Bill Clinton, and no video makers for John Edwards. Although this fortune definitely fits L.A.'s Antonio Villaragosa.)

5. Sex is like jello --there is always room for more.

6. Three words guaranteed to destroy a man's ego: "IS IT IN?"
(Not a guy and never had to hear 'em, but I kinda have to agree, having never had to say 'em.)

7. Difference between "ooh" and "aah" is about three inches.
(That male ego!)

8. Bald man has hole in pocket so he can scratch his head now and then.
(Bald where? LOL)

9. Man who spend time in nudist colony find first day is hardest.
(Yeah, it took me a while with this one, too. Duh.)

10. A pecker is like payday: Neither one comes often enough.
(Okay, not one for crude slang, I'm blushing a little.)

So there you have it. One of my few experiences with X-rated materials. Now, help me out: what sage wisdom (or randy advice) do you think should have been in the empty cookie?

Keep it clean, dudes and dudettes. This is a family blog!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tanya Writes About Her "Marley and Me"

Our kids gave me the book Marley and Me for Christmas a while back, and I spent two nights in front of the living room fireplace, in the glimmer of the tree, laughing myself silly about the antics of that dog.

My hero would ask what was so funny, and I explained it would be better to read it for himself. Which he has since done and laughed himself silly as well.

Now, there are distinct differences betweeh that Marley, and mine. He's yellow and male and she's black and a girl. But both were named for Bob Marley (Marley's folks liked his music; I wanted to to name her after a cool black person but the family nixed Shabazz and Aretha...)

But get into tons of trouble, both did that very well. Even us leaving the house just to walk to the mailbox at the end of the driveway gave our Marl a chance to create some kind of chaos. As a puppy, she managed to get into things we didn't even know we had. Her first Christmas she survived eating so many red glass tree ornaments we equated her to a cat with nine lives. But she's such a cuddlemuffin, forgiveness was instantaneous. And she'd have made a great search dog. If she paws and whines, you know right away a ball or toy is closeby but not within her reach. She's never ever wrong.

Well, the time came, reading that Christmas present book, that my sobs could be heard throughout the whole house. "What's wrong?" my hero came in quick from watching TV. "You okay?"

I remember waving the book at him. "Marley died," I wept.

And so it goes. Our Marley's "big sister" Tawny, our own yellow Lab, crossed the rainbow bridge four years ago. I keep telling Marl she'll soon get to play with Tawny again. When she passed, Tawny took a piece of my soul with her. It was sudden, monstrous. But with Marley, I've had these few days to get myself ready. Although the cancer is inexorable, inoperable, she's still bright-eyed and "bendy"--our Friends-esque word for the acrobatic ways she manages to fall asleep. Still eating--we've decided to spoil her with deli turkey.

This afternoon, she laid under the front tree while I worked on my roses, on a perfect summer day with blue sky, bright sun, and a cool ocean breeze. It'll make a good memory...when I can bear to think about it.

I've still got my big boy black Lab, Seau. But it'll still be lonely around here. Marl's the one I talk to when I'm up late. She's the one who warms my toes when I'm reading in front of the fire. She's the one who slept in our bed, tucked between us, when she was five weeks old.

Tomorrow our little grandson comes for some last photos with her.

And then I know it will be time.

Next up: (when I've recovered enough to blog again) X-rated Fortune Cookies

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tanya Writes About the National RWA Conference

At my first Romance Writers of America national convention a few years ago, a friend told us of riding down the elevator and hearing two guys chat.

"There sure are a lot of women in this hotel right now," one mused to his buddy.

"Yeah," his friend replied. "I think it's a lesbian convention."

Needless to say, the remark still draws laughter. Truth is, romance writers come in all shapes and sizes, all classes, cultures, ages and genres. Yes, there is lesbian fiction. But there are a few guys who write romance, too.

We've all got one common goal: romance and happy endings for a couple in love.

I was excited to attend this years national in San Francisco. For one thing, its a to-die-for city although RWA's busy schedule doesn't allow for a great deal of touring. Most of all, I wanted to meet an editor and an agent I've had my eyes on.

Fortunately I met both, and each requested some projects. (Maybe it helped that a recent reviewer compared Midnight Bride, my current release at Cobblestone Press, to the writing of Diana Palmer LOL.) Whatever, that was a goal attained. (Next goal: getting them to buy/sell my stuff!)

I traveled with my wonderful friend, author Charlene Sands, and our friend Kathy Bennett who writes arresting cop suspense. Writing is a pretty solitary occupation, and I'm at best, worst? --a total homebody who likes hanging out with my hero best of all. So large groups are a tad overwhelming. Charlene, who won the Booksellers Best Award for her sizzling Desire, Fortune's Vengeful Groom, and I managed to spend half a day shopping in Chinatown. And we had dinner with two of our great friends who used to be our neighbors but now live in other states --Gail Ranstrom who writes wonderful Regencies. And Cynthia Cooke, whose dark edgy works have landed her contracts with Nocturne.

Over dinner at The Stinking Rose (read garlic-- I even asked for my salmon vampire-style) Cynthia and I discussed vampire sex. How does he, you know, get it up if he doesn't have a living heart to get blood flow? How does he get breathless if he's, like dead and doesn't need air?

Oh, it's a mystery.

I bought so many books at the literary signing of authors I know or long to read that my suitcase at the airport was one and a half pounds over. All I had to do was remove two of them! And I need to let Cynthia know that the research book I bought, The Science of Vampires has a whole chapter on vampire sex. Whatever, the proceeds of all books signed and sold goes to Adult Literacy, and almost $60,000 was raised that night alone!

Hearing keynote speaker Victoria Alexander was a howling success. What a great speech, full of anecdote, wit, wisdom, and humor. I learned that after her third book, when her hubby Chuck confessed he hadn't read her books, she decided that in every future book she wrote, somehow, somewhere, some character would have a dead husband named Charles.

Best of all was meeting staff from The Wild Rose Press, my new publishing home for Marrying Minda. And also at that "Meet and Greet" were members of SARA --San Antonio Romance Authors-- who recently awarded Minda first place in the historical division of the Merritt "Magic Moment" Contest. What a night.

But it is good to be home, though. However, while I was away, we did get bad news about Marley so that's the next emotional venue for this romance writer. But until I'm up to writing that blog, let me know what books you like to read.

Western romance? Vampires? Paranormal? Short contemps? Rich historical fiction like Phillippa Gregory? Oldies but goodies by Georgette Heyer? John Adams?

Let me know!

Next up: The Greatest American Dog

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tanya Writes About Romance Book Cover Heroes

See today's picture? You must agree that's a romance book cover waiting to happen. That hat. That confident pose. Can't you just hear the drawl? That's my friend Richard and yes, he just happens to be from Texas. I don't write contemporary romance, but if I did....

Or if we remove those shades and stick Richard on a horse....

Yowza. Any self-respecting romance reader will agree with me.
We've all got hearts, souls....and libidos.

Once again, I write about heroes. Those hunks who inhabit the books I like to read and write.

After all, women read romance novels for the guys, not the gals. Of course we don't want our heroines to be bimbos or weaklings. They should be liberated in every way, beautiful of course but not overwhelmingly so. Not too slutty and never stupid. But it's the hero that makes a book. The hero has got to be somebody we fantasize about.

He must make our hearts pitter. Our skin sizzle. Whew.

And how best to draw a female's attention? A smokin' hot book cover!

Scroll below to July 13 to see my friend Charlene Sands' latest cover. How's that for a hero? Smoldering gaze. Determined jaw. Stetson situated just right. A bit mouth-watering, right? Notice what's missing?

A girl! We females don't need any competition. Heck, we might not measure up to some artist's vision. And we gotta identify with that heroine.

Another writing pal landed book cover art that's sans the hero's head. It's a close-up his chest! Shirtless. We get to do our own imagining as to what he looks like. Other than those chiseled abs.

Now, my own personal hero, my husband, is always the standard for my fictional guys. Dark eyes, dark hair, a moustache. Forceful and strong but gentle and caring. A man of few words but who makes each syllable count.

However, you will notice that Midnight Bride's cover hero does not have that moustache. Well, in the book he started out with one, but the cover artwork was so gorgeous without that I excised facial hair in the edits. Whew. I think Jed Jones is dreamy. That's one face the artist didn't need to leave off.

But back to real life and real-life heroes, including my pal Richard. We've all got 'em in our lives. Those who triumph over adversity, who stand by our sides no matter what, who lend a hand when we fall. Most times they do it before we know we've tripped.

Dang, my hero has spared me plenty of skinned knees.

Here's to real-life heroes. May they all have story-book endings.

Tomorrow: My RWA Adventures in San Francisco