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My Ultimate Hero

February 11, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Sandy Brown

My husband, Bob, is my ultimate hero. When I tell him this he acts embarrassed, but I can see the slight puffing up of his chest. Whenever I’m writing and need to figure out how my hero should react to a given situation, all I have to do is think of Bob. For thirty-three years he’s been by my side supporting me when I’m down, laughing with me when I’m up.

Bob will be the first to admit that he was not blessed with a silver tongue, but there are occasions when he manages, seemingly without his knowledge, to say something that simply melts me. Looking back over the years I can think of many incidents when he’s shown his love for me through word or deed. One time sticks out in my mind, though, because of its poignancy and timing.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with three aneurysms on the carotid arteries in my head. Any surgery is frightening, but knowing they are going to drill through your skull and move your brain around to reach the aneurysms is completely terrifying.

There’s something about having three brain surgeries within five months that defines your life afterwards. Everything is divided into pre-aneurysms and post-aneurysms.

I have to tell you by the end of that five month time span I was pretty well worn out. The length of the recovery period and the exhaustion factor is unbelievable. Plus—put this image in your mind—my hair was shaved in a two-inch swath on both sides of my head from the center of my forehead down to the tops of my ears. I certainly did not look like our typical heroine. Unless, of course, you’re writing Goth! The half-shaved look might fit into that frame.

Bob sat by my bed in the hospital everyday, all day. Each time I opened my eyes there he was letting me know by the strength of his presence that everything was okay.

One day after I came home I must have been feeling blue, because I remember Bob looking at me with that expression of tender love men can get when they don’t realize it. He said, “You know, honey, I thought I was losing you. But, every time you opened your eyes in the hospital and saw me, you always smiled. That was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.”

Wow! It gives me goose bumps just retelling my story! Is it any wonder that I love to write Romance when I live every day of my life with Bob, my ultimate hero?

Sandy Brown
Ways & Means Director, 2006

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Everything I Know About Love…

February 10, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Louise Knott Ahern

Everything I know about love, I learned from a letter my grandpa wrote to my grandma during World War II.

Well, today is VE Day. I am glad that much is over… There is no celebrating here. We had a parade and several speeches today, but no shouting. Everyone is restricted to the post until things quiet down. I think everyone should wait and celebrate when the whole thing is done…

Henry “Hank” Shellenbarger was a big John Wayne of a man. A bomber pilot, the Army recruited him to teach others how to fly. Helen Mary Shellenbarger was a teacher – a college-educated woman far ahead of her time.

As I knew them, they were always old, always wise. Grandpa could take one look at the sky and tell you if it was going to snow that night. He could build or fix anything, including our first house. Grandma kept a stash of every grandchild’s favorite treat in her pantry. She had a saying for every situation, a collection of old colloquialisms she picked up in her youth. Most of the time, I had no idea what they meant, like when something got lost, it “went the way of the rug.”

When I got old enough to understand, I would beg Grandpa to tell me about the war. Was he a hero? Did he ever get hurt? Could I be a pilot, too? One day he answered with his silence. He got out of his well-worn rocking chair and went into his bedroom. A moment later, he came out, his hand closed tightly. He told me to hold out my hand, and I obeyed. In it, he placed a tarnished set of Army Air Corps wings.

“Now you can be a pilot,” he said.

It never occurred to me to ask Grandma about the war until college. I interviewed her for a history class term paper, and being a natural writer, I used her answers to craft a creative narrative of a woman struggling on the home front.

It wasn’t until after I discovered the letter in Grandma’s dresser drawer – neatly creased inside a yellowed envelope along with a single dog-tag – that I realized I had asked both of them all the wrong questions.

They are moving the whole engineering training school to some other field. We don’t know where for sure but it looks like Shepherd Field… Don’t worry. I will still be in the same program, just in a different place.

Grandpa died in June 1997. The day he passed, the entire family gathered at their home in the small farming town where I grew up. One by one, we filed into the bedroom, where he lay in a hospice bed, to say good-bye. And one by one, we all cried. But not Grandma. Not that day.

She didn’t cry in front of us until she viewed him for the first time in his casket. I hung back and watched as Grandma moved toward the front of the room. She stared for a moment and then reached out her hand. She placed hers over his. And then she began to cry.

“Oh my Hank, my Hank,” she sobbed.

Before my eyes, she was transformed. She wasn’t my grandma anymore, and he was no longer my grandpa. Instead, I saw them as they were fifty years earlier, a young couple passionately in love. A young couple about to be separated by war and distance.

I miss you and love you very much, sweetheart. I am glad we are going to have the baby. I guess I’ll read and go to sleep.
Forever Yours,

Today, I hang onto Grandpa’s wings and the letter. Grandma hangs on to his heart.

Louise Knott Ahern is a freelance journalist and public relations coach who writes contemporary romances. She’s the author of “Opting Out: A Career Woman’s Guide to Going Home Without Going Crazy,” a blog for mothers at She is also a contributor to The Writer’s Vibe (, a blog for professional writers.

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Romance Heroes, Always There When You Want Them

February 8, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Michelle Thorne

I love ROMANCE as a concept, although I haven’t really had much success in the real world. Don’t feel sorry for me. I have a store full of heroes who are romance personified. There’s Phillip from Tom and Sharon Curtis’ Lightning That Lingers. Was there ever a more caring, sweet or HOT guy than that? A stripper with a PhD. Sounds about right to me. How about Archie Goodwin from the Nero Wolfe series. I have loved him since I was twelve years old. Stylish dresser, snappy patter and a really good dancer. What’s not to like? Then there’s Nick Lightfoot from Jayne Ann Krentz’s The Golden Chance. What a guy!

Janet Evanovich has created quite a conundrum with Joe and Ranger in her Stephanie Plum series. I’m like Steph, I just can’t make up my mind. Then there are ANY of Linda Howard’s heroes. They all need the help of a good woman to save them from a life that is cold and without any soft place to land. I could be that woman, really. Consider Linda Lael Miller’s Vampires. Wonderful, very human and great looking, forever. Just a thought. Susan Elizabeth Phillips has all those Chicago Star football players and who could resist the guys in shoulder pads and tight ends. Not me. Don’t get me started on Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole. Great boyfriend material. Love him! And the “Bob” ain’t to shabby in the good lookng and funny area either. Yes, I am stalking him but in “a public place and he knows all about it, literary ” sort of way. Sue me.

There are many more fictional heroes who are very real to me but this is a blog not a book. Alas, I have to mention, The Man, The Guy, He who makes my heart stop on a regular basis.

For the last 11 years there has been one man who never fails to meet my expectations of a romantic hero. He is the whole package. He is suave, but has an edge. He is gorgeous, but isn’t afraid to get a little mussed. He has more money than God, but he made it himself and does good works with it. He is a great friend and a feared enemy. He’s funny and smart and he loves his woman with every fiber of his being and she’s not always that easy to love. Eve Dallas is one very lucky woman. Nora Roberts has created the PERFECT romantic hero in Roarke for the In Death series. OH, MY GOD. I want him. I don’t really know that I would have a clue of what to do with him once I got him, but it’s probably like a bicycle, you never forget. Roarke is the gold standard for me. Twenty five days of romance, ALL ROARKE, ALL THE TIME.

I’d love to hear about your fictional guys, I could always use another man to keep.

Reality, it’s overrated. Fiction ROCKS.

Michelle Thorne
Bearly Used Books…123

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What A Mess

February 7, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Tina Ralph

Strolling down the aisle, all dressed in black, as gorgeous as ever, was the one person in the world, April didn’t want to see. Still, the unexpected sight of him caused her to choke out his name. To her horror, he turned and looked at her.

Kirk’s face showed he wasn’t any happier to see her, but he quickly recovered.

She ignored the sudden butterflies in her stomach. “Hello, Kirk, it’s been awhile.”

He pushed his cart closer. “Not since Janet moved out. Almost a year.”

“Janet told me when your divorce was final. I wanted to call – but – well… I didn’t know what to say.” To cover her awkwardness, she rushed on. “I always consider you, my friend too. We had fun together, but…”

Embarrassed, she looked down. The divorce had been a hot item among friends. They wanted someone to blame. She’d been mentioned as a contributing factor.

“Don’t worry about it, April.” Kirk continued. “I haven’t had much time to socialize anyway. I received the house in the divorce settlement. I spent my weekend on home improvement projects. You remember our fixer-upper. Don’t you?”

“Yes,” Amber was glad he’d changed the subject.

A lady with two small children broke up their conversation, as she tried to edge passed them.

“It looks like we are holding up traffic.” April pushed her cart forward, letting the woman pass. “Besides, my ice cream is melting.”

He hesitated a moment. “Maybe we can get together sometime…do something?”

Thrilled with the idea of pursuing a relationship with him, April tempered her enthusiasm with a wave of her hand. “Sure, give me a call.”

At the checkout counter, her pulsed danced at the possibilities of him calling. Kirk, with his incredible teddy bear brown eyes, made everyone feel special. He a wonderful man, except for the fact, that he was her best friend’s ex-husband.

Would Janet mind? She was dating other men.

Was it worth their friendship?

It could get complicated.

“It really doesn’t matter,” April said to herself. “He’s not going to call, anyway.”

* *

April stood in the middle of the video store with a movie in each hand, trying to make up her mind.

A rich baritone voice over her left shoulder caught her off guard. “I’d pick the comedy. Heavy drama is too depressing.”

Turning quickly, April brushed against Kirk’s shoulder as she looked up into his face. “Fancy meeting you here.”

His quick grin and the spark of interest in his eyes lightened her heart.

“I like to get my videos on Thursday. That way I beat the crowds.” He reached for the case in her hand. “Why don’t I rent this one? And you can come over Saturday and watch it with me.”

Letting him take it, she attempted to settle her racing heart. “I’m not sure you’ll like that one. It’s a chick flick.”

“It doesn’t matter.” He slid a friendly arm around her shoulders.

* *

Nervously, April took a deep breath and pushed the doorbell. Dressed in jeans and a tee shirt, she wanted to look friendly but not eager.

The door opened, Kirk stood before her holding a paint roller in his hand, paint splattered all over him.

Shock flashed across his face. “It can’t be six o’clock?”

Fascinated by the blue specks in his hair, April questioned. “Is it a bad time?”

He stepped back, ushering her into the house. “No, its just I–forgot the time.”

“I…” Seeing the living room in total disarray with furniture piled in the middle of the room, a plastic tarps lying next to a half-painted wall, April paused. “Maybe I should come back later?”

He blocked the door. “I can have it cleaned up in a minute. All I need to do is pour the paint back in the can, and clean out the roller. Then we can turn on the movie.” He hurried past her.

“But Kirk, you’re not finished. You don’t want to have to drag all this stuff back out tomorrow.” April argued.

“It’s no big deal. I can leave it like this.”

Her eyes roamed the room. “This type of chaos drove Janet wild. She likes things to be neat and tidy with no changes to upset her peaceful tranquility.”

Considering all work he had accomplished, April continued. “I could never understand why? I think it might be nice to change things up ever so often. It’s what makes a house a home.”

He studied her for a moment over the paint can before he replied. “It makes a mess.”

“Funny, I always enjoyed a little adventure in my life.”

He looked up again, their eyes met. In that moment, something passed between them. April wasn’t sure what it was, but she felt the spark of electricity.

With a wicked grin, Kirk asked. “Wanna get messy?”

Tina Ralph
OCC/RWA Membership Director

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This Gidget Finally Gets Her Moondoggie:

February 6, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

By Bobbie Cimo

I think every girl growing up wishes she was like someone she has seen in the movies. Well, I was no exception to the rule. The moment I saw the original Gidget, starring Sandra Dee, I fell in with the character and with of course, her leading man, Moondoggie. Moondoggies have come and gone, but to me, nothing compares to the original one, James Darren. Or as his friends call him, Jimmy. Me, I just call him Gorgeous.

So in love with the movie, I named my first car “Gidget”. Once, I had a puppy…well, you guessed it…I named her Gidget, too. But I think the most memorable thing I did, in honor of my idol, was when I asked my father to put my bicycle up on cement blocks, lifting the wheels off the ground, so I could balance my feet on the pedals and pretend I was on my very own surfboard, shooting the curls. By the way, did I mention I wasn’t a well-balanced child? .

As I was growing up, it saddened me when I grew past 5’2”— because we all know Gidget was pint-size. We won’t even discuss the weight issue. Once on vacation in Hawaii, I tossed myself across a surfboard and asked a total stranger to take my picture. I don’t know what was more dangerous, taking a chance that the stranger could run off with my camera, or me falling in the ocean and unable to swim! Luckily, they both turned out okay.

Years later in Vegas, with camera in hand—they didn’t call me the Kodak Kid, for nothing—I happened into Caesar’s Palace, which was a top hangout for celebrities in its day. That particular night was no different. Everyone appearing in town was out to celebrate Tom Jones’ birthday. For those of you too young to know, Tom Jones was a young sexy singer who sang on stage while women tossed their undies to him. And in case you’re wondering— No, I was not one of them.

I was standing in the marble corridor, in front of a bank of elevators that led to the penthouse suites, when I looked up and saw Tom Jones and my very own Moondoggie coming towards me. James Darren AKA Moondoggie, looking more gorgeous in person that I could have imagined, and he couldn’t have been nicer when I asked if I could have my picture taken with him. What I remembered most, was that he held me tightly against his chest, as we posed together. Oh, and that my father referred to him as Bobby Darin to his face—which didn’t go over all that well, since Bobby Darin had just died a few months before. But Moondoggie was quick to forgive. I wish I could say I remember all of our conversation, but because I have a tendency to zone-out whenever I become overwhelmed, I can’t tell you what we talked about. All I know for sure is that the picture turned out beautifully and it’s proudly displayed in my office at home to this day.

James Darren went on to star in several TV shows, and even became a successful television director. In the last few years he has revived his singing career— recorded a new CD and began making personal appearances tours.

A few years back, when I heard he’d be appearing in Orange County, I decided to venture out to one of his performances. Not only did I have an excellent seat, but I managed to hook up with an aspiring Kodak Kid named Kim. From a younger generation then mine, she was just as in love with Moondoggie as I had been at her age. Kim offered to take a picture of me and Moondoggie as he signed my CD. Posing for the photo with him, I told him of my pictures from that night in Vegas. He said he had just been talking to Tom the night before and then he asked me if wouldn’t mind sending copies of the photos to him. Me refuse Moondoggie? Never!

I dug up my old pictures and found the negatives. But when I had them develop, I found they were as yellow as Bucky Beaver’s teeth before he used Ipana toothpaste. (This might be too old for our younger readers) After I had new negatives made from the original photos, I ended up spending $50.00! But, after all, it was for my idol!

I happily mailed the photos, but not before writing and rewriting the perfect note to go inside the packet. Several months passed without a word or a thank-you note. I worried that perhaps they had never reached him. Not only was I out $50.00, but my Moondoggie would probably think I had flaked out on him.

The following year of—2003, I think it was—I learned James Darren would be appearing at an outdoor concert at the Santa Monica Park. I dragged my sister along, insisting she had to see him in concert. He had gotten older, but looked just a delicious as he did in his youth. Again, I got an excellent seat. And after the concert was over, I went over to where he was signing autographs. I waited until nearly everyone had left before asking if he had remembered the pictures I had promised, and if he had gotten them. My heart sank when I heard him say, in a matter fact tone, “Yeah, I did get them.” Is that all he could say to me? But then he said, “Don’t go away. Can you wait a moment?”

After he finished signing his last autograph, I went around the table to stand next to where he was seated. He turned and looked up at me. Then, in a most sincere voice, he said, “Thank you so much for sending those pictures to me.” I answered politely, “You’re welcome.” Just as I turned to walk away, Moondoggie got up from his chair and took hold of my hand and slowly pulled me near. In the fashion of a Gidget movie, he brushed his lips against mine…and sweetly kissed me on the mouth.

What could be more perfect but to be standing next to the Pacific Ocean, being kissed under the stars by Moondoggie? I’m almost certain if he had his fraternity pin, he would have asked me to wear it. Just like with Sandra Dee, I would have replied, “Oh-boy, would I!”

And that’s how this Gidget finally got her Moondoggie.

Bobbie Cimo
OCC/RWA Program’s Director

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