Saturday, December 31, 2005

More books

My reading has slowed to a crawl lately, mostly because I tend to go all narcoleptic instead of reading whenever a free moment presents itself, thanks to the newborn who likes to party at midnight, and 1 am, and 3 am, and 3:30 am....

But I have managed to read a little bit. I was so impressed with Karen Rose's HAVE YOU SEEN HER? that I picked up another one--her Rita-winning I'M WATCHING YOU. I am over the moon about this book--loved the characters, and I especially loved the villain, a vigilante killer who targets remorseless rapists and child moleste rs who somehow beat the justice system. You couldn't help but feel some sympathy for what he was doing, even if it was illegal and intrinsically wrong. This book was an original, first-rate thriller that I highly recommend to anyone.

I still haven't started Diana Gabaldon's A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, because I'm gravitating toward lightweight paperbacks I can read with one hand while feeding the baby. You know, I would really love it if someone would give me a book stand with a robotic page-turning arm so I can multitask without aggravating my carpal tunnel. Why don't they sell these in stores?

So given my regrettable lack of a bookstand with a robotic page-turning arm, the latest lightweight paperback I've started Meg Cabot's SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT, a chick lit mystery centering on a has-been 80s rock star who works in a college dorm and apparently tries to solve the murder of one of her students. I say apparently because I haven't gotten very far. I love Cabot's sense of humor and her writing, but I think I prefer her straight chick lit or young adult books. Probably because I have no sense of humor when it comes to mysteries/thrillers and not through any fault of Meg Cabot's.

I've also started Joan Didion's A YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. I tend to get quite morbid after having a baby and can worry myself into a complete frenzy considering my own mortality, my husband's, and the precious little lives of my daughters. So why not read a memoir about a woman trying to cope with the sudden death of her husband and her daughter's long-term hospitalization to cheer myself up? Sometimes, even I don't understand myself. Maybe I'm indulging in my own kind of magical thinking, and figuring that if I read Didion's painful journey through what to me is unimaginable grief, it will somehow grant me immunity from going through anything like that in my own life. Or maybe I'm just weird. But difficult as the subject matter is, Didion's writing and her observations of what we go through when coping with the unimaginable are amazing, beautiful, and very, very sad....

Abruptly shifting gears, because I'm too tired to think of a proper segue, I also still have Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's book on deck (it being a large hardcover that can't be read with one hand), as well as a chick lit/women's fiction paperback featuring Indian characters by Anjali Banerjee called IMAGINARY MEN. I met Anjali a few years ago--she's incredibly nice, so it's great to see her succeed. Her book was in Target's "handpicked recommendation" section as of yesterday. And, because I have a book-buying disease that causes me to purchase books to read at at least four times the rate at which I can read them, I also have Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES, which is reputed to be amazing. The reviews pretty much say that it blows other suspense novels out of the water with its original premise and beautiful prose, so I'm looking forward to getting to it in the next decade.

At the speed I'm going, this will probably be the last books blog for awhile. Which is probably fine, given my nearly legendary inability to write a decent book blurb, even if someone were dangling millions of dollars in front of me, or a box of really high-quality chocolate, for that matter....

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I am Jean Grey.

You scored as Jean Grey. Jean Grey is likely the most powerful X-Man. She loves Cyclops very much but she has a soft spot for Wolverine. She's psychic so she can sense how others are feeling and tries to help them. She also has to control her amazing powers or the malevolent Phoenix entity could take control of her and wreak havok. Powers: Telekinetic, Telepathic
Most Comprehensive X-Men Personality Quiz 2.0
created with

Friday, December 23, 2005

Things I'd Like to Forget from 2005

Ariana Huffington just did a list of things she'd like to forget from 2005 on her blog, , and I thought it was such a spiffy idea, I thought I'd do my own version (though with less political content, out of respect for the fact that I have no clue what the political bents are of the three or four people out there who actually read this blog).

  • This whole "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" thing. (Can't we all just get along?)
  • "You're glib, Matt. You're glib."
  • My husband going to Baghdad for six months. And VOLUNTEERING to go on convoys. Freaking men....
  • Harajuku girls, as interpreted by Gwen Stefani. (Any harajuku girls who are just out doing their thing and NOT posing or dancing around Gwen Stefani and allowing her to "dress them wicked and give them names," I salute you.)
  • Gwen Stefani. (Except for the "Hollaback Girl" video, which my daughter Maggie loves and has created an intricate and exceptionally rhythmic dance to, thereby showing the world once again how dizzyingly gifted she is. )
  • Gas prices.
  • The lack of urgency in the US about reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Britney and Kevin: Chaotic. (And thanks once again for making me watch the sleazy, drunken train wreck that was the premiere, Troy.)
  • Jean Schmidt calling Jack Murtha a coward. I don't care where you fall on the political spectrum--that was just creepy and out of line.
  • The state lab losing or jacking up my daughter Marin's newborn screening test samples twice, thereby delaying these critical tests that need to be done immediately by six weeks. As Napoleon Dynamite would say, "Idiots!"
  • My going postal on the very nice nurse who called to tell me I'd have to bring Marin in a third time to get her heel gouged for said newborn screening tests. It really wasn't her fault.
  • My first post-pregnancy attempt to get into my old jeans.
  • That whole mess surrounding Jack Abramoff, The Lobbyist Without a Soul.
  • That my one-year-old iPod is now considered "bulky" and "obsolete."
  • Denise Austin. Girl, you are way too perky. Especially while exercising.
  • Brilliant actor and ubercad Russell Crowe throwing a phone at a hotel employee and then JOKING about it a few months later. Note to Russell: Assault and battery is never funny.
  • That Ron Howard's lovely (if a little schmaltzy) film Cinderella Man suffered at the box office because its star was unable to contain himself.
  • Taradise. How can one little girl be so drunk and gross? Who is paying her for this? Where are her parents? (Oh, God, did I really just type that? I'm SO turning into my mother.)
  • Michael "Brownie" Brown and his figurative fiddling while New Orleans burned. (OK, drowned, but that didn't go with the metaphor.) CBS News Brown: 'Can I Go Home?' November 3, 2005 21:30:06
  • Dancing with the Stars, the Rematch. John O'Hurley, you are a sore loser.
  • The preview for Saw II. Who is the twisted wingnut who dreams UP these things? BLEH!
  • The ending to Million Dollar Baby. I was expecting a triumph of the human spirit, people.
  • People who question the patriotism of those who dare to ask questions.
  • The interview I read in Entertainment Weekly where George Lucas admitted that he has outlines for Star Wars episodes VII, VIII, and IX locked away somewhere and is Never. Going. To Release. Them. George, you are a creepy little man.
  • Mariah Carey telling People magazine that Glitter was "ahead of it's time."
  • My sad addiction to People magazine.
  • That the "right" to torture our POWs was ever the subject of a debate.
  • That there was no new Lord of the Rings movie this year. (I'm also still working on forgetting that from last year.)
  • Keira Knightley, especially her snotty dismissal in an interview of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the five-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries. The five-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries rocks the free world; Colin Firth seems like a nice guy who certainly never blasted Keira Knightley in public; and no whinyass, snaggletoothed stick insect who talks out of her nose is ever going to be a respectable Elizabeth Bennett.
    (I think I need to go lie down now....)
  • Angelina Jolie. You're a black widow, Jolie....
  • That little girl I read about who told a newspaper that Angelina Jolie is her hero. ARGH! Where is her mother!? (Oh, God, I did it again....)
  • The fact that thousands of soldiers who've done their tour of duty in Iraq have had their assignments there involuntarily extended. Again, I don't care where you fall on the political spectrum--I can't help but feel frustrated and sad for them and their families.
  • That excerpt the media released from Scooter Libby's novel. :::shudder:::
  • The Pussycat Dolls. It's 14:59, girlfriends. Get over yourselves.
  • The Runaway Bride. Those eyes! They're watching me!
  • The phrase "bodice-ripper." Or anything that puts down an entire genre of fiction created primarily by women. Intelligent women write romance, and--judging by the friends I have and the letters I get--intelligent women read it. (And certain Hollywood scriptwriters should take notice of how its done, because the romantic comedies I've seen on film this year have been appalling. Do it for Kate Hudson, people!)
  • And finally, the thing I'd most like to forget at the moment was that horrible, melodramatic "Nooooooooo!" in what SHOULD have been a powerful, moving scene at the end of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. That's no way to end the greatest film series ever, George, you wanker.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I'm Giving a Class!

Just FYI, I'll be giving an online class on "Plotting the Romantic Suspense" this January for the Romance Writers of America's Kiss of Death Chapter's College of Felony and Intrigue. If you're interested in signing up, you can do so at

The course description is as follows:

You've got talent when it comes to writing, but you can't seem to make your story impossible for an editor to put down. How do you turn your story from an enjoyable tale to a truly edge-of-your-seat suspenseful read?

You'll find out in this course, which is designed to help you pick up the pace of your novel and craft a compelling plot with gripping suspense and emotional romance. We'll cover: 1) Creating a winning beginning that will keep an editor turning pages. 2) Striking the right balance between suspense and romance. 3) Why defining your characters' goals and motivations will help you flesh out your characters and solidify your story line. 4) How to spice up your conflict. 5) And more!

Bring your work-in-progress, because you'll need it in this hands-on course with plenty of instructor and class feedback. The cost is $15 for Kiss of Death chapter members, $30 for non-members. And they do take PayPal.

And, just for fun, here's the bio that comes with it:

Tracy Montoya writes for Harlequin Intrigue and is also Editor of a nonprofit magazine on environmental and social justice issues. Her 2004 debut release from Harlequin Intrigue, MAXIMUM SECURITY, won the Daphne du Maurier award for Best Category Romantic Suspense, as well as the Beacon Award and the Golden Quill award for Best Romantic Suspense. This winter saw the release of her three-book "Mission: Family" miniseries from Intrigue: HOUSE OF SECRETS (Oct. 2005), NEXT OF KIN (Nov. 2005), and SHADOW GUARDIAN (Dec. 2005).

Tracy holds a Master’s degree in English literature from Boston College and a B.A. in the same from St. Mary’s University. When she’s not writing, she likes to scuba dive, forget to go to kickboxing class, wallow in bed with a good book, or get out her guitar with a group of friends and pretend she’s Suzanne Vega. Visit her online at

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What Cracked Me Up Today

Just had to share what has to be the best Christmas decoration ever. This year, Urban Outfitters came out with the "Charlie Brown Pathetic Tree," a plastic and wire replica of the infamous tree from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," complete with splintered wooden cross base and the one ornament that Charlie Brown put on it (after which he declares, "I've killed it."). I nearly died laughing when I first saw it online. Here's a photo:

Although Urban Outfitters is no longer selling it on its Web site, you can still find them in UO stores across the US. Also, some usurious Christmas jerks on eBay are selling them for double or triple the price....

The box (also shown above) is also a trip. Underneath the declaration that "THIS TREE NEEDS YOU," it says "One tree for you to love." Ingenious! I wonder why no one ever thought of this before?

Anyway, my brother Tom (yesterday's guest blogger) found several Pathetic Trees at a local UO store in Minneapolis and is sending me one as a Christmas present. I, in turn, bought one for my brother Troy, whom our mother often refers to as "my little Charlie Brown." Long story (or series of stories) as to why (most having to do with bouts of chronic bad luck, horrifying clumsiness, or his ability to look more pathetic than a baby seal), but suffice to say, this tree was made for him.

As you're busy buying gifts for families in need and planning your year-end charitable giving, you might want to give a Pathetic Tree a home while you're at it. Because we all need somebody (or something) to love....

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My brother, the guest blogger....

My brother Tom will be guest blogging today, filling in the gaps of my best Christmas carol list, and quoting random movies and celebrity sound bites while he's at it. Take it away, Tom!

TOM SAYS: Hanukkah, O Hanukkah - Barenaked Ladies - They put a Holiday album out last year. It is awesome! I highly recommend buying it. It is so choice.

Silver and Gold - U2 - This song was written in a hotel room in New York city 'round about the time a friend or ours, Little Steven, was putting together a record of Artists against Apartheid! This is a song written about a man, in a shanty town outside of Johannesburg. A man who's sick of looking down the barrel of white South Africa. A man who is at the point where he is ready to take up arms against his oppressor. A man who has lost faith in the peacemakers of the West while they argue. And while they fail to support a man like Bishop Tutu and his request for economic sanctions against South Africa.
Am I buggin' you? I don't mean to bug ya...

Okay Edge, play the blues...

Baby It's Cold Outside - Dean Martin - Fun with the banter between a semi-conscious Dean and his female partner. Almost creepy if you listen to the words carefully. Ol' Deano could be toying with a kidnapping/false imprisonment charge.

Linus and Lucy - Vince Guaraldi Trio - Technically, not a Christmas one, but try not to picture all of the cool dance moves from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" while it is being played.

What about Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo from South Park? "He is sometimes nutty, sometimes corny...." [Tracy: We interrupt this guest blog to inject a bit of maturity and decorum back into it. Yuck. That's it, Tom. You're fired.]

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Christmastime is Here!

Christmas is coming, and due to a combination of sleep-deprivation, lack of snow, and the Florida holiday spiders, it just doesn't feel like the holiday season yet. So I'm loading a bunch of my favorite Christmas music onto my laptop and iPod and trying to saturate myself into the spirit of things.

Here's a list of my favorite Christmas carols, just for kicks:

* "Coventry Carol," Loreena McKennitt--McKennitt's style is a blend of traditional Celtic music, modern "New Age" instrumentation, and bits of world musical styles from Russian to Arabic. This carol, off her too-short holiday album, A Winter Garden, is just lovely.

* "O, Holy Night," Cartman and friends--Just to avoid being too stuffy, this rendition has South Park's Cartman singing the popular carol to his classmates, and being electrocuted by his cattle-prod-wielding teacher whenever he forgets the words. OK, it's juvenile, but it always cracks me up.

* "Riu Chiu," The Monkees--What's a Christmas carol list without the Monkees? I've always loved their version of this 16th century Spanish carol.

* "Christmastime is Here," Vince Guaraldi Trio--From the geniuses who brought you the Linus & Lucy theme, this classic is still as fun today as it was when I first heard it on "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

* "Welcome Christmas (Fahoo Foraze)," The MGM Studio Orchestra with Boris Karloff--You'd have to be a Grinch not to love this one.

* "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," Elmo N' Patsy--This song absolutely cracked my Grandma up when it first came out, and I think it still does every year. I always think of her and my Grandpa when I hear it, which is probably disturbing to some, but oh, well.

* "Oi'che Chi'un (Silent Night)," Enya--The Celtic version of Silent Night. Gorgeous. And probably spelled wrong.

* "Feliz Navidad," Jose Feliciano--Always reminds me of Christmas at home--my mom LOVES this song. I like it more and more the older I get. Which probably means I'm turning into my mother.

* And finally, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Band Aid--I'm REALLY embarrassed to admit to liking this song so much. It's pedestrian, politically incorrect, and factually incorrect as well (seeing as the freaking NILE flows through Ethiopia, thereby making the lyric "no rain nor river flows" wrong). Also, seeing as Christianity is one of the two main religions of the country, of course they knew it was Christmas. A more appropriate title might have been "Do They Give a Rat's Ass That It's Christmas, Because There's a FAMINE Going On?" And the whole manner of referring to the people of Ethiopia as "them" and "the other one" always felt weirdly condescending to me.

But somehow, some way, I manage to ignore all of this whenever that blasted song comes on the radio, and I start belting out "FEEEEEEEED THE WOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRLD!!" along with Duran Duran, Boy George, George Michael, Phil Collins, et al. There it is--I love this song. I. Love. This. Horrible. Song. It puts me in a Christmas-y mood every year.

I'm so ashamed.

* And, of course, there are the old standbys--Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Nat King Coles "The Christmas Song," Jimmy Durante's "Frosty the Snowman," etc. Love those. And even though I'm not Jewish, I do love Adam Sandler's Hannukah Song.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Shmi, aka Marin Grace

OK, I've been letting this blog go for awhile, so I thought I'd post some new photos of Marin Grace, our new baby! (Yeah, we decided Fernandina Shmi Skywalker might be a bit much.) She's exactly a week old today. Here's a photo of Jose with Marin.

And here's one of Marin by herself.

And, so she doesn't feel left out, one of Maggie Rose, who hasn't had her photo posted since she was a newborn!

Back to my regularly scheduled sleep-deprived stupor. I'll blog again when things start getting back to normal.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Fly, Be Free!

A freelancer who occasionally writes articles for the newsletter I edit alerted me a few months ago to the magic of Freecycle, and, still riding the high from having just unloaded a pile of bedding that was lurking in our linen closets from my husband's bachelor days, I thought I'd share.

Freecycle is a network of listservs that have popped up in cities and towns across the US. How it works is this: You find your area's local Freecycle list at and sign up. You can only offer items that you want to give away for free--no selling or trading allowed--and you can also request something that you need (for free) from listmembers. Once you make an offer, you wait 12-24 hours, choose the most worthy (or least scary-sounding) respondant, and make arrangements for the person to come and take your unwanted items away. It's a quick, easy, and painless way to keep old items out of landfills and get them into the hands of people who can use them.

It's also sometimes astonishing to see the weird items that people are willing to snap up. I mean, so many times I'll read an offer thinking no one in her right mind would take the proffered item, only to see an update a day later saying, "TAKEN: my late Aunt Gertrude's false teeth! Thanks for all your replies! Wish I had teeth for everyone who responded!"

Old computers, old electronics, old clothes, old bedding, spare parts, and more have found new, happy owners through my local Freecycle list.

It's also sobering to receive responses to an offer for something you consider just this shy of garbage, only to discover that the person asking for your "garbage" has a true need and couldn't afford to buy the shiny new replacement that's already gracing your home. I gave some of the aforementioned bedding to a woman for her cousin, who had severe health problems that kept him from driving and earning a steady income. He used it to cover the bare mattress on one of his son's beds. I looked at the beautiful new "Shabby Chic" brand bedspreads on my daughters' beds with a whole new appreciation for what I'm lucky enough to have.

So far, I've unloaded a garage full of moving boxes and packing paper; an ugly-but-functional mosquito net; an ENORMOUSLY fuzzy bathrobe with Pooh bears all over it that my sweet husband, concerned that my own beloved terry bathrobe would still be in transit, bought for me when I arrived in Korea--which made me look like Veruca Salt post-blueberry-bubblegum incident when I put it on (but probably looks fun and even flattering on the tall, beautiful single mom who picked it up); and the bachelor bedding.

It feels good to give this stuff to people who can use it, and it feels even better to know that I didn't have to resort to throwing it away or allowing it to keep cluttering my closets. Try it--I highly recommend setting your unwanted stuff free.


It's been a banner month for books in my house. Tails by Matthew Van Fleet met its untimely demise at the hands of my toddler, who had been reading peacefully but suddenly had a Tasmanian Devil-like bout of frenetic destructiveness and shredded the book in about .72 seconds. (And, once that was accomplished, promptly picked up another book and continued reading peacefully.) But on the other end of the scale, I've been on a small streak of finding some really great reads.

First, I recently finished Marital Privilege, a Harlequin Intrigue by Ann Voss Peterson discussed in my initial blog post. Only Ann could take something as over-the-top as the Russian mafia and make it not only realistic, but genuinely scary.

So then I moved on to Poison Study, a new fantasy hardcover by Maria V. Snyder. Again, I can't blurb to save my life, so apologies to Maria, but it's basically about a woman who's about to be executed for murder, and she's given the choice of either dying a quick death from the hangman's noose, or becoming the current ruler's food taster and eventually suffering a slow, painful death by poison. When she chooses the latter, the ruler's right-hand man gives her a poison called Butterfly's Dust to keep her in line; each day, she must show up for work to receive a temporary antidote, or she'll die a REALLY painful, slow death. I couldn't resist the premise, so I picked up this hardcover by a brand new author, and I'm very glad I did. An innovative plot, engaging characters, and a story that never stops moving make this one of my favorite reads of the year.

And now I'm reading a romantic suspense by Rita-award-winning author Karen Rose called Have You Seen Her? I haven't even gotten past page 100 yet (my cutoff page where I either keep reading or throw it at a wall), but I can already tell it's going to be good. The plot centers around a serial killer who targets young women, but Rose's creepy, creepy villain and all-too-human protagonists take this tried-and-true suspense device and make it new again.

On the nightstand waiting for me to finish Have You Seen Her? are bestseller Diana Gabaldon's newest giant historical/time-travel/epic thing, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, as well as Alisa Valdes Rodriguez's latina lit, Playing with Boys. I'm hoping to finish at least HYSH? and A Breath of Snow and Ashes before the new baby comes, but I keep having bouts of narcolepsy that have been keeping me from reading as much or as quickly as usual. Oh, well, maybe the books will be even better when I'm on percocet....

Thursday, October 13, 2005

My Plan for a Better Florida

So we recently moved to Florida from Korea, due to my husband's being an officer in the Navy, which likes to ping-pong us around the globe (never-mind-the-global-warming-emissions-caused-by-transporting-us-and-our-stuff-all-over-the-free-world) and I have to say, this place is not doing wonders for my deep, deep fear of spiders. I hate, hate, LOATHE spiders with the white-hot fiery passion of a thousand suns, and the mere sight of a daddy long-legs is enough to make my skin slough off and crawl into the next room. Florida, it seems is not only the place for those seeking tropical weather and year-round sunshine, but it must be Spider Valhalla as well. (ASIDE: Did you ever notice that just about everyone is deathly afraid of one of three things: spiders, snakes, or rats? I've always found that interesting.)

Our new house is built on a preserve lot with a patch of "woods" in the back, which, while lovely, must be somewhat akin to that patch of woods in the Harry Potter movies/books where the giant, people-eating, ten-eyed spider monsters live. Because I seem to have more than my share of bugs and arachnids, which those who've been here for awhile blame on the preserve lot we paid a premium price for. You'd think there'd be a disclosure law about that....

Anyway, concerned about just what kind of spider I most often spotted skittering around my house, I did a little research on the web and decided it was most likely a wolf spider. Hairy, six-eyed, and about the size of a fifty-cent piece. Wolf spiders, said my sources, are scary as all get out, but not poisonous. So. While I was still massively creeped out by the sight of one, I wasn't as worried as I'd have been had the nasty things been venomous.

Until yesterday, that is, when a woman on a writers' listserv I'm on mentions that she has hobo spiders in her house. Curious as to what exactly a hobo spider was, I looked it up ... and was horrified to discover that they bore an even greater resemblance to the creatures in my house than the photos I'd found of wolf spiders. In short, the scaryass but non-poisonous wolf spiders that have been lurking about are not, indeed, scaryass but non-poisonous wolf spiders, but scaryass AND poisonous hobo spiders. UGH!

Did you know that the bite of a hobo spider will necrotize like that of a brown recluse? And sometimes it takes 2-3 years for said bite to heal? And in some cases, said bite results in a systemic reaction that causes chronic headaches, nausea, lethargy, and even some kind of bone marrow issue that I can't completely remember due to the traumatic nature of this news that can lead to death?!?!?!

I'm currently dealing with this revelation the only way I know how -- I'm developing a plan to saw Florida off the continent and watch it float away. Who's with me?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Fernandina Shmi Skywalker Fernandez

As my friends and family, who have heard hours of endless complaining about my land-barge size and various aches and pains are all-too-aware, I'm currently pregnant with my second baby. Maybe it's hormones, maybe it's just boredom, but I feel compelled to go off on a rant here, because if I hear that eternal question, "Have you thought of names?" one more time, I think my head just might explode. And that can't be good for the baby.

Can I just say how many times someone has asked me that, and when I've answered truthfully, responded in a way that would only be excusable from someone raised by wolves? And can I just say how many times that someone was a member of my own family, who were not, to the best of my knowledge, raised by wolves? Or even wild dogs, for that matter? People, the proper response is: "Oh. That's a nice name." Family, repeat after me: "Oh. That's a nice name."

Seeing as this is daughter #2, we've circumvented the entire name question-answer dance--and the invariable ensuing pregnancy rage that accompanies it--by simply responding that we are naming our child Fernandina Shmi Skywalker Fernandez.

And yes, there is one person out there, a member of one of our families, who thought we were serious. For all I know, she still thinks that, since all I could do was blink stupidly in the face of her earnest "Really? Are you sure?"

Just for fun, here are the top responses to a few of our potential names for our first daughter, Maggie Rose, shot down without mercy before we could even decide ourselves whether we loved them or not. As for the responsible parties (*cough* Tommy *cough*), you know who you are:

1) "Delaney? Sounds like a stripper."

2) "Delaney? Huh. I think you should name her Molly."

3) [Delivered in a slightly panicked Spanish accent, with a rolling R]: "HARRRRRRRper?! HAAAARRRRRRper??? What is a HARRRRper?"

4) "Rowan reminds me of Rowan Atkinson."

5) "Rowan? Like Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in?"

6) "Brooke Shields just named her kid Rowan, so now you can’t."

7) "HARRRRRRper?!"
(Me: "It’s like Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, Mom.")
"Well, I like Gregory Peck, but HARRRRRper?"

8) "Yeah, weird names are coming back in style now."

9) "Um. Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay. Do you have any other choices?"

10) "Why don't you just name the kid Nerd?"

The scary thing is, Shmi is starting to sound kind of cute....

Monday, September 19, 2005

Talk Like a Pirate Day

That's right, September 19 is officially International Talk Like a Pirate Day. And since I'm stuck at home behind my computer (unless I decide to get crazy and go get the oil changed on my car today), I figured I'd do my part to foster obnoxious behavior elsewhere in the world.

As my local newspaper points out, Sept. 19 is also the 41st anniversary of the TV debut of Flipper, as well as TV Batman Adam West's birthday.

Wannabe Jack Sparrows among us can visit, the holiday's official website, for celebration inspiration.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

As some people know, I'm a magazine editor for an environmental and social justice nonprofit in my other life. So, if you read my blog, you'll probably get more than your fair share of granola bits from time to time. (I'll refrain from polarizing political rants, though--promise!) Here's one: As you’ve undoubtedly heard, there are many well-known nonprofits working to aid Hurricane Katrina victims, from the Red Cross to Feed the Children to the Humane Society. While they're doing a truly wonderful job providing immediate aid, I have another recommendation for your hurriance-relief dollars. One worthy organization you may not have heard about in the news media is Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD), a nonprofit community development financial institution and sponsor of HOPE Community Credit Union.

Started in 1995 by an African-American church congregation, ECD and HOPE work
to strengthen communities and improve lives of people in economically distressed areas of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Basically, ECD and HOPE provide the low-income residents of these states with affordable loans, checking and savings accounts, technical assistance, and financial literacy workshops. These services--which traditional banks generally won't provide to low-income folks who are "poor credit risks"--make it possible for our country's poorest people to build homes, send their children to school, or get an education themselves, or start a small business -- and have more than a good shot at succeeding. (And yes, they have an amazing repayment rate. Most community development financial institutions report 95% loan repayment or greater.) In fact, ECD and HOPE have helped more than 10,000 people in these states lift themselves out of poverty. So if you're concerned about making life better for those low-income people who were hardest hit by Katrina, ECD and HOPE are providing you with a way to help those in need help themselves.

With so many communities they serve decimated by Katrina, ECD and HOPE are now using their close ties to the people to participate in immediate and long-term disaster aid. Initially, funds will go to local organizations providing displaced hurricane victims with food, shelter, and clothing. As these basic needs are met, ECD and HOPE “will build on 12 years of experience in strengthening distressed areas to help residents rebuild their lives, homes, businesses, and communities.”

As my friend Mary says, "Donating to rebuilding efforts isn't as sexy as immediate relief, but it's just as critical."

Consider donating to ECD’s Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, or opening a Hurricane Relief Certificate of Deposit (CD) account with HOPE at a lower-than-usual 0-2 percent interest rate (your choice), and channel funds where they’re most needed. Mail donations to ECD’s Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, P.O. Box 22886, Jackson, MS 39225-2886, or visit for wiring instructions. To open a Hurricane Relief CD with HOPE, call 601/944-1100, or visit

And no, I'm not affiliated with ECD or HOPE. I just think they're doing amazing work that's not making it into the mainstream media.

:::stepping off of soapbox now::::


I figure I could use something to rev myself up in the morning when it comes to writing. Maybe this blog will help me get into my work-in-progress faster than usual. Because I'm way too easily distrac-- Hey, what's that sparkly thing over there? Anyway, welcome to my blog. I'm currently terrified that I'm going to sound like a complete idiot on a daily basis, but fear of public humiliation has never stopped me before....
I thought I'd start with a list of my five current favorite romantic suspense books, just for fun. (I'm terrible at blurbing books, so my apologies to the authors):
1) GARDEN OF BEASTS by Jeffrey Deaver. GoB is a stand-alone thriller by the author who writes the Lincoln Rhyme series. (The first book in that series, THE BONE COLLECTOR, was made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Black Widow Jolie.) It's set in the forties on the cusp of World War II, and centers around a professional assassin who, after being arrested, makes a deal with the government--he'll travel to Germany and take out a prominent Nazi official in exchange for a clean slate. Deaver's characterization in this book is terrific--you'll actually feel more than a bit of sympathy for the Nazi in question. And if you've ever wanted to learn how to deliver twists and turns that are genuinely surprising, this man is the master.

2) MARITAL PRIVILEGE by Ann Voss Peterson. I was inspired to write for Harlequin Intrigue after reading a chilling suspense by Ann called ACCESSORY TO MARRIAGE. MARITAL PRIVILEGE is her latest, and it's one of the most innovative series romantic suspense books I've read--and just as chilling as ACCESSORY. The story centers on Laura, a pregnant restaurant co-owner who thought she knew the man she married--until the Russian mob arrives on her doorstep looking for her husband Alec and ready to kill her and their unborn child. Now, with her employees dead, her restaurant decimated in an explosion, and her husband shocking her with his intimate knowledge of firearms and car-jacking techniques, Laura's on the run ... not to mention ready for a divorce. But Alec isn't going down without a fight--or letting her go without one.

3) MIDNIGHT ISLAND SANCTUARY by Susan Peterson. If you like gothics, you'll love Sue's 2004 Harlequin Intrigue. The heroine, Cora, barely escaped a vicious attack. On the run from a killer who may strike again, she takes a job as a chef with a wealthy family living in the requisite spooky house on a remote island. I haven't yet read it, but Sue's first-person sleuth book, HARD EVIDENCE, also got rave reviews when it was released last July.

4) THE MIDAS TRAP by Sharron McClellan. If you like a healthy dose of action-adventure with your romantic suspense, Sharron's books are the place to go. After publicly humiliating her years ago, archaeologist Simon Owens recruits fellow archeologist Veronica Bright to lsearch for the legendary Midas stone—which reputedly has the power to turn whatever it touches into gold. But others are looking for the stone as well, and they won't stop until they get it ... and until Simon and Veronica are dead.

5) MORTAL SIN by Laurie Breton. I love this book mainly for the rich characters. Sarah's troubled niece has run away from home, and Sarah is terrified she will end up in the wrong hands. She turns to Father Clancy Donovan, a Catholic priest who works with teenage runaways, for help, and is more than troubled by the chemistry between them. I have Breton's newest, LETHAL LIES, on my TBR pile as I write.

(OK, I couldn't stop at five. One more....)

6) THE EIGHT by Katherine Neville. I LOVE this book, which defies description other than to say it's a cross between Indiana Jones (but with a female protagonist) and THE DAVINCI CODE (although Neville made up her own esoteric legend, rather than basing it on existing research/theories a la Dan Brown). From "In the 20th century, Catherine Velis is a computer expert with a flair for music, painting, and chess who, on her way to Algeria at the behest of the accounting firm where she is employed, is invited to take a mysterious moonlighting assignment: recover the pieces of an old chess set missing for centuries. "In the midst of the French Revolution, a young novice discovers that her abbey is the hiding place of a chess set, once owned by the great Charlemagne, which allows those who play it to tap into incredible powers beyond the imagination. She eventually comes into contact with the major historical figures of the day, from Robespierre to Napoleon, each of whom has an agenda."
Word has it that she's working on a sequel, and I'll be first in line to get it.

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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