Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


♥♥♥ Here’s Jazzy ♥♥♥

Jazzy here. I know, I know. Susan’s been trying to follow the rules and keep me quiet.

Susan: Jazzy, you’re a character. Characters from books aren’t real. They don’t have a life. They can’t impose their will on the author.

Me: Snort! If I’m not real, who’s been talking inside your head all this time? Besides, when have I ever  been quiet? You can ask Bella, my minutes older twin. I came out kicking and screaming and haven’t stopped since.

Susan: You’re right. I give.

Jazzy: So, let’s talk heat. Yes, you heard me right. HEAT. Being a member of the animal kingdom (a werewolf) it’s something I have to deal with once a year. But to be honest, it isn’t pretty. Listen, you think PMS is bad? Ha! Being in heat is killer! (Sometimes, literally.) You can check with Bella on that one, too.

Usually she tries to take me away from my natural habitat when “my time” comes. It might only happen once annually, but even one time can be horrifyingly memorable. And if there’s one thing sister-dearest doesn’t want, it’s for anyone in our everyday life to remember me like that.

This particular time, she dragged me off to Colorado. And she didn’t tell a soul.

* * *

I waited in the car when Bella got back patting my foot in annoyance by the time she started it. “Did they have our reservation?”

“Yes.” When I shifted into blasting-words-mode,why did she speak in slo-mo?

“Full living room? Two bedrooms? Shower or tub?” Rat-a-tat tat.

“Full living room, big screen TV, shower and Jacuzzi tub. But I asked for a one bedroom, two queens.” I could have climbed Mount Everest in the time it took her to finish.

“One? One bedroom?” I screeched. “That’s ridiculous! Why would you ask for one bedroom? You knew I’d want time alone.”

Not only were her words slow, so was her smile and the light that shifted to brighten her eyes. “Of course I knew you’d want privacy, and that’s exactly why I got one bedroom. To protect you from…that.”

Anger exploded in my chest, leaving a prickle of something on my skin. Sweat or bristle, I wasn’t sure. “Who do you think you are? My keeper? My trainer? Did you bring a leash and a muzzle, too?”

Somewhere in a detached part of my mind, I noticed the sun drifting toward the western horizon, turning the snow a delicate shade of apricot while the sky darkened from blue to purple. In just minutes, the apricot would become a dramatic shade of peach, then flame to burnt orange while the sky would shift to indigo.

Bella put the car in park.

“Let’s get unloaded. Fast.” I shoved open the door and rushed to the back to grab our bags. Not bothering to wait for her, I snatched the suitcases, slammed the door with a hipshot and headed for the entrance.

Bella hurried to catch up. “Let me take something.”

“Just get the doors.” I marched on, trying to expend a bit of my scorching energy.

“This one. Room 111.”

I gave a growl of acceptance, low and deep. One, one, one. The only one. I was alone. Oh, there’d been others. My maternal grandmother, for instance. And probably her grandmother. But for now, I was the only. Lost in a world of snow.

And growing very, very hungry.

By the time we were in the room, the fur was shoving its way through my skin. Knowing how horrified Bella became during my transformations, I excused myself as if I were going to the bathroom, which was off the bedroom. As I walked into the room, I saw my salvation. A door to the outside world.

Hoping Bella wouldn’t enter anytime soon, I luxuriated in my change. Strength turned my muscles to steel. No longer did the energy surging through me hurt as if I were an overfilled beach ball. Now it belonged inside me. It made me powerful.

Before I had no choice but to drop to all fours, I opened that door then let the effect of the rising moon take me.

Exhilarated, I raised my face in adulation. With a long howl for Bella, I bounded into the night.

So you can see, being born with the werewolf gene isn’t exactly easy, but at least things don’t get boring for me or my sister. Or you either, I can practically guarantee.

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One of My Favorites

Ever meet anyone and feel as if you already know them? And you nearly hugged them on sight? It happened to me!

Maggie Osborne, historical romance writer, reminds me of Aunt Virginia.

First I have a question–are you a reader?

Strange question, isn’t it? I can’t imagine anyone NOT being a reader, but that’s not the point of this blog. Today, I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite authors. The woman as I know her.

And I want to know how you choose the books you read.

Here’s how I do it–

  1. Author. If I enjoy an author, I don’t want to miss any of her books.
  2. Recommendation. If a person I trust (book-wise) says I’ll enjoy a book, I’ll give it a shot.
  3. Online flap. If everyone is talking about a book, I MIGHT give it a try. (The truth is, I wonder if a lot of the people doing the online flapping even know how to read. But, I digress.)
  4. By the cover.

I know. I subscribe to the old, “You CAN’T tell a book by its cover,” saying, too. But sometimes you can. I have, at least once.

That once was Maggie Osborne’s SILVER LINING.

The cover doesn’t show up here very well, but it was beautiful. Although I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s a very expensive cover, called a stepback.

Slick white with shining silver lettering, the oval in the middle is a picture frame. The front cover “steps back” to the inside cover so you see and learn more about the book. I read the back cover blurb and snatched it before someone could grab it from my hand.

It was one of those books you start and can hardly put down once you start reading. But you try to read it slowly because you don’t want the book to be over. You want to move in and live there.

(Does that happen to anyone else?)

SILVER LINING is the story of a mining camp that has a horrible disease break out. Everyone who isn’t sick gets out as fast as they can except one young man who, it turned out was really a woman, who was so unkempt and ugly, no one looked close enough to notice she wasn’t a man. She stays and nurses the sickies all back to health.

To reward her, they offer her anything she wants. (They think she’ll choose money or a farm or something like that.)

She chooses to have a baby. Of course, the men are shocked and demand she has to marry the baby giver–at least temporarily.

So all the unmarried men draw straws. The hero of the story, who is only there to get enough money to pay for his farm so he can get married to his beautiful fiancée back home, is horrified when he get the short straw.

Great story! (If you like historicals, you can probably still find it on Amazon.)

I liked it so much, I bought another of her books called, Brides of Prairie Gold. Another hit out of the park! It’s the story of 12 women who travel west in a wagon train to be mail order brides at a gold camp. Again, Maggie does a fantastic job.

Twelve women, and she does a fantastic job of telling all their stories without confusing me. And what grabbed me hard was that at the end of the book, kind of like a PS, she told how each bride lived, who they married, how many kids they had, and finally, how and when they died.

That blew me away. I couldn’t stand it, so I emailed Maggie and asked her if it was a true story. After all, most romance end right after the HEA. She’d not only given me a super satisfactory ending, she told me what happened at the true end.

I needed to know!

Surprise, surprise! I heard back from her. (Not all big name authors answer emails or letters. Only the nice ones.) And no, it wasn’t a true story, but Maggie was a truly nice woman.

We emailed back and forth a couple of times. I ordered what tapes I could find from when she’d spoken at RWA’s National Conference and listened to them over and over.

She lived in Colorado, so her accent was like the one Virginia had acquired in her years of living there, and she was a smoker, so even her laugh was like my aunt’s. And when I saw her picture, I knew she was a long-lost family member. Her height, her curves, even her coloring and the shape of her nose looked like the Reeves clan.

Naturally, I invited her to my writers’ group’s first conference and (woohoo!) she came. Turns out, she was just as nice as she seemed in our emails. Her books were wonderful, right down to the last one.

Since that time, she has retired from writing. When she announced her retirement, I emailed again. “Can an author with your talent really stop writing?”

Her answer? “Yes.”

And she did.

I’m telling you, the woman has Reeves genes in her. They might be very diluted (can you dilute a gene?) but they’re there. Somewhere. 🙂

1- How do you choose the books you read?

2- Have you ever written a letter to an author, and did he/she answer?



I’ve always loved books. One of my earliest memories from moving to C-Town is sitting in my little green rocking chair, surrounded by my books, and wishing Mom would stop what she was doing (unpacking) and read to me.

She did. 🙂

Most children think the world started when they were born, but I was a little different. I thought a love for the written word started with me. After all, about the only time I saw one of my parents read, it was them reading a book to me or one of my sibs. Why would I believe otherwise?

As soon as my brother or sisters learned to read, I loved to take them downtown to get their first library card.

So this weekend, while cleaning out a file cabinet in my office, I rediscovered something I found when I lived in Grandmother’s house. First, I found this.

I took it to Dad and asked who it had belonged to, and he said it had been his. I don’t know if you can read in the picture, but it says, BOOK TWO, (The First Reader). BTW: The copyright is 1925.

Dad’s first grade book! And probably a school book, not from church.

It has stories with names such as, “Jesus Growing Up,” and “God Speaking to a Little Boy.” Try putting that in a public school reader today!

Not long later, I found two more books.



 NATIONAL VELVET’S copyright page.

Written in 1935 by Enid Bagnold

This edition was published in 1942, when Dad was 12 years old. I have to think he read it when he was in 6th grade. How do I know they’re his?

Because he wasn’t shy about writing his name in his books. I don’t know if he bought and read them because he just like reading or if they were class assignments. I’ll try to remember to ask him.

WEE WILLIE WINKIE, by Rudyard Kipling, has some interesting story titles.

Can you read that very last story title? “In an Opium Factory”! Kind of eye opening, isn’t it. At least it got my attention. I’ll have to read it (carefully, so I don’t rip any of the brittle pages) and see what it’s all about. I’ll let you know. 🙂

Not long ago, Sister Cindy boxed up Dad’s books and sent them to the office. I knew they were coming and figured they’d be about geology. Some were. Some were religious books, and some were books he just enjoyed reading.

The boxes, stacked full of books, lined the hallway for about twenty feet.

Where are they now? Going into my office, of course!.

I love having things my dad has enjoyed.

I love knowing a book I read (and cried over) when I was a kid is one he read, too.

And I love knowing I come by my love for reading from my dad as well as my mom.


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Zola’s Books

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

Yesterday, the 2nd Saturday of the month, was my Romance Writers Ink meeting day. I look forward to it all month, and I’m never disappointed.

We had two fantastic speakers, both RWI members, both multi-published authors and both women who had lots of knowledge to share with us–which they did. (The best thing about RWI is its members are all women who love helping other writers on the road to publication.)

Jackie King gave our short talk, called Ten Minutes to Shine, about how to sell digital books. How to get them formatted (her advice–pay someone so it looks right) and how to sell them on Amazon. (She’s getting fantastic numbers!)

This morning as I thought about this blog, Zola Bellis Sample came to mind.

I never got to meet Zola, but she was a ‘Ford author, born the same year as my Grandad Ray in the same area as Grandad. 

Zola, knowing the rich history of the Basin could (and probably would) be lost, wrote two books about the early days in the area–“Cherokee Strip Fever,” published in 1956, and “House with a Jillion Memories,” 1957.

Zola was self-published, but today would be called an Indie. That’s a term I heard several times yesterday that means pretty much the same thing but lets people know just how savvy she was. 🙂 She did the work and made all the profit. One smart woman!

I bought “Cherokee Strip Fever” on Amazon a few weeks ago and it cost probably three times what Zola charged for the book. And “House with a Jillion Memories” is for sale for $75! Oh, and don’t forget the shipping charges.

I have no doubt both books are worth what’s being charged for them, but unless Zola’s family is selling them on Amazon (could be, but I doubt it) they aren’t getting a dime from those sales.

And when those books have sold and gone into private collections, anyone who wants to read them will have to check them out of the ‘Ford library. (If the books that were there have survived this long.)

So–back to my two seemingly unrelated subjects. I don’t know who inherited Zola’s rights to her books, but for relatively little (about $30 and a 70/30 split with Amazon) they could be digitized and sold for an affordable price.

The proceeds for those sales could go to the people who actually deserve them, and more importantly (in my mind, anyway) the rich history of the area wouldn’t be in danger of disappearing.

So . . . now what? Anyone know who owns the rights to those book? I’d love to hear it’s the ‘Ford Library or Historical Society, but it’s probably Zola’s family, and I don’t know who/where they are. Still, I’m wondering if they’d be interested in this new technology?


It’s a Popcorn and Snitting Day

There were warnings we’d have a bliz (2nd in 2 years) but we hoped it would miss. The stores were all crowded, eggs gone by noon, Wallyworld, Ace Hardware, everyone busy, busy, busy.

And it was a hit. Looking like 11.9 inches in the backyard right now 😉 and it’s still coming down. I’ll be staying in today.

Which makes it a popcorn and snitting day. Snow makes me hungry for popcorn–and not the healthy, dry, air popped variety. I want it popped in oil with salt and (sometimes) butter drizzled over it. To make matters worse, I eat either chocolate or redhots as part of my “snack”. To level things out, though, I drink Diet Dr. Pepper with it. Ü

After I write a little while, I’ll get out my knitting and work on a scarf I started a while back. Or I might get the short-sleeved sweater I started last fall and work on it some more. (I like having a choice.)

All this snow brings to mind Laura Ingalls Wilders’ Little House series. In one of her books she talks about a blizzard winter they lived through. I wish I had that book now–if I knew which one it was in.

I might have to get my Kindle and see if Laura is available there. Then I’ll have to figure out which book it’s in. Little House on Silver Lake? Anybody know?

(BTW: After looking on the Internet, I think it could be THE LONG WINTER. LOL.)

Of course, I might have to download the entire line. I’ve always loved those books.

They hold a special LIW-sized place in my heart. They warm me and make me feel as if I’ve come home and settled into a chair where we can talk over old times. I have no idea what Laura really looked like, but I think I’d know her if she rang my doorbell. LOL. 

Did you read Laura’s books as a kid? Were there other books that did for you what Little House did for me? If you have a minute, why not share? You might open the pages to a book that someone else would never have found.

And they’ll thank you for it!