Posted in Uncategorized, writing

An empty truck bed

Local schools start today, and the stores have been busy with shoppers filling their carts with pencils, lined paper, crayons and tissues. Back to school shopping was always a favorite task for me because I absolutely love an aisle full of brand-new notebooks, binders, pens and markers. I still enjoy picking out an occasional pretty notebook for myself for notes I still make by hand during the process of a book, but it’s not quite the same thrill as filling a new backpack with new school supplies for my children.

Our son, who started his second year of medical school last week, had dinner with us last night. As I packed zippered plastic bags with the peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies I’d made for him (I sometimes wonder if he makes regular visits just to refill the cookie jar in his apartment), it occurred to me that this is the first August in some fourteen years that my husband and I haven’t loaded hubby’s trusty pickup truck with plastic bins and furniture and moved one of our three kids into a dorm or apartment. The girls have been settled into their current residences for four and three years, respectively, and last year our son moved into the apartment where he plans to reside through the next three years of med school, so this year there’s no one to move. As I’ve read Facebook posts from friends who’ve spent recent days hauling boxes and hanging posters on dorm walls, I thought of how much fun those moves were — though some of them took place in the rain, others on stiflingly hot August days — and I’m glad I had those experiences. Even the experience of moving daughter number one into an un-air-conditioned seventh floor dorm room on a hundred-degree day when the elevator was unavailable. Now that was an interesting day – but we tackled it together, so I still treasure the memory. But maybe I’m a little relieved that I got to take it a little easier this hot summer.

Here’s hoping for a happy, safe and productive new school year for all.

And a note to my girls on their separate coasts … whenever you finish your current career training and are ready to move back closer to home, the truck is ready and waiting!

♥♥♥

HIS BEST FRIEND’S WIFE, my latest Harlequin Special Edition, is still available in stores!

Check out all my titles available for ereaders by clicking the “Books” tab above.

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

A truckload of trivia

Before I had access to the internet, the research I did for my writing was at the library or through phone calls or in travel books and encyclopedias from my own shelves. Even then it was difficult for me to stay on task when I started researching a question. I’ve always been intrigued by trivia, and learning one new fact often raised more questions I felt compelled to answer even when they had nothing to do with my story. Now that most of the information in the world is literally at my fingertips, I can spend hours lost in the web if I’m not careful. One question leads to another, one link leads to another I simply can’t resist clicking. Somehow I start a geographical search and end up reading recipes for homemade sausages I have no intention of making. Before I know it, a couple hours have passed and I’ve written half the words I set for my daily goal.

This is an example of one of those sessions yesterday:

I’m working on the second book set in a fictional vacation resort on Lake Livingston in Texas. It’s been years since I visited that area in person, so I’ve had to refresh my memory a few times with internet searches and photos. I mentioned that the heroine’s family had lived on the lake since the early 1950s. And then I remembered that the lake is a man-made reservoir and realized I wasn’t sure exactly when it had been created. Simple, right? Search the history of the lake. Two minutes later, I had my answer. The reservoir was created in 1969. Whew, glad I checked. Though I’ve made a few mistakes in my more than 100 books, I try very hard to be accurate. A simple change in the story, which meant I could get straight back to work.

But, while I’m here, maybe I could look at a few more photos from vacation resorts similar to the one I’m creating just to make sure I have the general atmosphere of the area. Oh, here’s a cute photo of a little boy holding up a fish. He’s adorable. Look at those freckles. A little freckle-faced boy. Freckle-faced Benny Haynes. Why did that name pop into my head? Oh, right. My favorite holiday tradition is watching the movie “White Christmas” with my daughters. Freckle-faced Benny Haynes was the brother of Betty and Judy Haynes. I remember they showed a photograph of him – seems like I read somewhere whose picture they showed. Search. Oh, yes, it was the actor who’d played Alfalfa in the Our Gang shows. Carl Switzer. Whatever happened to him? Search. Oh, how sad. He was shot in a drunken brawl at the young age of 31. I love the movie “White Christmas.” It’s over a hundred degrees outside again (more than twenty days so far this summer of one-hundred-plus temps in Arkansas), and dreaming of Christmastime is certainly tempting. Remember that song, Snow, Snow, Snow from the movie? I’d love to see snow now. I remember that Vera Ellen’s voice was dubbed in the movie, but what was the name of the singer again? Oh, yes, Trudy Stevens. And — wow, here’s something I never knew! Rosemary Clooney sang both parts in the song, “Sisters!” I knew Vera Ellen died of anorexia (so sad and so obvious in the movie), but when was that again? Hmm, I didn’t know Fred Astaire turned down the role of Phil Davis (Danny Kaye’s part) after reading the script. Or that Donald O’Connor was then signed for the role but had to drop out for health reasons. I can’t imagine anyone other than Danny Kaye in that role! Did you know Danny Kaye was an accomplished chef and actually made his own sausages?

Even now, I’m fighting the urge to search the name Danny Kaye, which would probably lead to more interesting trivia about the actor, which would lead to the history of UNICEF, and perhaps on to Audrey Hepburn …

No. I really need to work today. It’s going to be over a hundred yet again, so sitting in the AC writing with the Olympics playing quietly in the background actually sounds appealing. Wonder if Audrey Hepburn ever attended the Olympics. How many actors participated … Johnny Weissmuller was an Olympic athlete, right? Wonder how many medals he won. Speaking of Olympic records …

Wait. What was I doing?

Okay, back to writing. At some point today, I need to check on how many types of fish are caught in Lake Livingston. I’m afraid to look now, because I have a word count goal to meet before breaking for lunch. But maybe just a little peek … Hmm, fish recipes. I wonder if there’s such a thing as fish sausages?

♥♥♥

HIS BEST FRIEND’S WIFE is available in stores and on-line now from Gina Wilkins and Harlequin Special Edition. Click the Home tab above for more details.

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

A welcome breeze

Those who know me or have read this blog in the past know that I am not a hot weather fan. I love fall and winter, even spring until the temperature rises above 85 or so, but in all my mumblemumble years as a native Arkansan, I have never learned to like these hundred-plus degree summers. This summer has been particularly miserable, with Arkansas — like so much of the country — suffering a severe drought in addition to the heat. And it’s only mid-July. This week we were blessed with a little rain (though my area wasn’t as blessed as some others), and a break in the temperatures. Yesterday morning the temps were in the mid-80s and the sky just overcast enough to make for a pleasant morning. My husband John and I went out for breakfast at IHOP (he had a coupon for a free meal to celebrate his upcoming birthday, and we do love our coupons!), after which we decided it was just too nice to dive straight back into work. We spent the morning at Two Rivers Park in Little Rock.

Pinnacle Mountain from the Two Rivers Bridge

Two Rivers Park is a thousand-acre tract of land at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Maumelle Rivers, accessible by a new, 1,368-foot-long pedestrian-and-biker bridge over the Arkansas River. The bridge is a beautiful structure with the center section built to resemble a rusty old railroad bridge. From the center of the bridge, you can see Pinnacle Mountain rising on one horizon — a popular hiking, climbing and picnic destination in central Arkansas. Looking from the other side, you see the I-430 traffic bridge, and beyond that a 4,220-foot pedestrian bridge known as The Big Dam Bridge over Murray Lock and Dam. Two Rivers Park is shaded by tall trees through which easily accessible hiking paths lead to picnic tables, benches and river access points from which to admire the view. We saw two pretty deer during our stroll who let us get very close before they turned and disappeared into the trees, and a duck flew directly in front of my face when I walked up to take a close-up photo of a turtle in the water.

Because it was a weekday morning there weren’t a lot of people making use of the bridge, which is often crowded on nice weekends, but we saw several bikers, a few others enjoying a nature walk, as we were, and a couple of moms with children all taking advantage of the lower temperatures and the nice breeze over the river. We had a lovely morning and made a promise that on the next nice day, we’ll walk across the Big Dam Bridge and take a few photos of the lock and dam. I use central Arkansas as a setting in many of my books. There are many beautiful and interesting places to visit here, and in coming weeks I’ll be featuring other local photos I’ve taken to give those of you who’ve never stopped by an insider’s look at the state where I’ve spent my entire life. It’s all too easy at times to take your own home grounds for granted. I’m glad John and I took a couple of hours to appreciate this beautiful state — even during a hot, dry summer.

I plan to spend the rest of this day sitting beneath a ceiling fan with my computer and my next book-in-progress (which happens to be set in the neighboring state of Texas). Wherever you are now, I hope you find relief from the heat, if you’re one of the many affected this summer, and a chance to take a break just to appreciate your own local offerings.

Posted in ebook reader, Uncategorized, writing

Ch – ch – changes

It’s been an exciting time in the Wilkins household lately. Our daughter Kerry and her husband Justin visited last week from Massachusetts, and gave us permission to announce that they’re expecting our first grandchild early in December! Justin just received his Master of Library and Information Science degree (we’re so proud of him!) and is now working for ancestry. com. Kerry has two more years of her psychiatry residency to complete (she has almost finished adult psych and is preparing for two years of child and adolescent psych training, which is where her true interest lies), and then we hope they’ll head back south for her to set up practice (hint, hint, kids). We’re all looking forward to welcoming this new addition to our family and to the equally-eager family of our son-in-law. I have to confess that it’s odd to think of myself as a grandmother — or to accept that our middle child who was surely just yesterday playing with her Barbies and My Little Ponies will soon be a parent, herself!

During the coming week, our daughter who’s working in Seattle will be home for a visit. Courtney is still struggling diligently to recover from the debilitating brainstem stroke she suffered in October, 2010. She’s come a long way. She can now walk unassisted indoors and with forearm crutches outdoors for short distances, using a power wheelchair only for longer distances or when her energy flags, and while she has not regained use of her right hand, she has more control over the arm than she did at first. She has become quite adept with her left hand – writing, drawing, even using chopsticks! Post-stroke fatigue is her greatest enemy at this point. For a young woman whose nature is to always be on the go, running, hiking, climbing, traveling, it’s very hard for her to concede that she now needs a great deal more rest than before the stroke. A lifelong overachiever, she’s been known to over-do to the point of exhaustion now, so she’s looking forward to resting here with us for a couple of weeks. She continues to pursue her career in medical research despite her challenges. She has blogged about her stroke experiences, but hasn’t been able to update recently because her limited energy has been used up in work, therapy and daily living activities. But for those who’ve sent me notes asking about her, she wants everyone to know she’s doing well and will update soon. We are grateful for your concern.

Maybe you’ve noticed a new tab above. Every Monday, I’m featuring another re-release of one of my books, including an anecdote about the story behind the story! I hope you’ll visit me each week to check out the latest update.

Don’t forget to click the Books tab above for links to purchase all my books in e-format, a few Kindle exclusives, others also available at Barnes and Noble and for other ereaders. Want to have a book always available on your smartphone? Download the free Kindle reader from amazon.com!

I hope to see you again next Monday!

Posted in writing

In honor of first responders

Today, May 4, is International Firefighters Day, a day marked around the world in honor of firefighters and first responders, especially those lost in the line of duty. The Arkansas community in which I have lived for many years is still mourning the recent loss of a thirty-plus-year firefighter, Captain Donald Jones, who was killed while responding to a vehicle accident. Tragically, his death was not an accident. Allegedly (the case has not yet come to trial), a man deliberately drove into a group of responders, killing Captain Jones and critically injuring another firefighter and a police officer.  Today we remember Captain Jones, and the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11, and those many others who died in the line of duty around the world, often with very little public acknowledgement. According to the latest figures I could find, 90 died in the U.S. alone in 2009 and 87 in 2011. Every day firefighters (and other first responders such as hazardous materials teams, EMTs and police officers) across the U.S. and the world put their own lives at risk to protect the lives and property of others.

Firefighters are a close community. One of my husband’s best friends since boyhood is a longtime local firefighter who worked with Captain Jones. When our friend’s son died in a car accident, we saw his firefighting family rally around him. They were the ones who broke the news to him, who stayed with him and his wife and daughter, who later established a scholarship in their son’s memory. We were deeply touched by that fellowship. My husband and I live outside the city limits, and our home is protected by a volunteer fire department. Nearly every day we see the truck and/or ambulance from the nearby station speed past with lights flashing and sirens sounding, and we know that they are rushing to the aid of someone in crisis. We have met several of our volunteer firefighters and EMTs and we know that we can depend on them to respond if we need them.

Several years ago, I wrote two connected books about two firefighter heroes (IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU and VALENTINE BABY), and of course I turned to my husband’s friend for research. He patiently answered questions, then gave me a resource to call for more information in the fire department of the northwest Arkansas city where I’d set the story. I still remember my call to that helpful and humorous firefighter — especially his laughter in response to my first question to him: “Um, what are you wearing?”

Between now and Labor Day, firefighters across the country will stand at intersections and shopping centers with boots to be filled with donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The International Association of Firefighters is the single largest sponsor of MDA, raising more than $450 million since 1954. If you see one of those firefighters spending time off to raise funds to fight muscular dystrophy, ALS and other related diseases, please stuff a dollar or two — or a few coins, whatever you can give — into the boot.

Today, and everyday, I thank the men and women who serve as first responders, and remember the ones who gave their lives for others.