“She was my first read…”

July 09, 2007 | 3 Comments

Ask almost any avid romance reader which book got her hooked on the genre, and she’ll likely name a title by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. For me, it was Shanna, which held me mesmerized behind my college math and poly sci textbooks and was a revelation to the budding writer in me.

Millions of readers were saddened by Kathleen’s passing. I was privileged to know her, having met her when she opened her amazing antebellum home to a group of writers who had come to Alexandria, Louisiana for a workshop. She was soft-spoken and gracious. You’d never know, to meet her, how vast her influence was on our industry. She was incredibly humble. To meet her, you’d never know she’d taken the publishing world by storm. My favorite room in her home? The Shanna master bath. It featured the original painting from the book cover and was done in the same lush color scheme.

I gave her a copy of one of my books, which she read and later told me she enjoyed it a lot. (I still have that letter in a special place, tucked into a signed copy of The Flame and the Flower.) Later, I’d get the occasional e-mail from her, letting me know she’d read my latest and giving me glimpses of her journey from Minnesota homemaker to blockbuster author, the likes of which publishing hadn’t seen since Grace Metalious or Jacqueline Susann. According to Kathleen, there were few expectations attached to her first book. She told me the initial print run target was about 30,000 but the actual number was a great deal higher–600,000. Although the book was not an immediate blockbuster, her next one, The Wolf and the Dove, hit #2 on the New York Times list, and a phenomenon was born.

Here’s a snippet of the opening of Shanna, the book that started it all for me and so many others. The writing speaks for itself. Even now, decades later, she takes me away, to another time and place. She was a true original.

Shanna“Surely, madam, you jest. To propose marriage to a man about to hang? Upon my word, I cannot see the logic in it.”

” ‘Tis a matter of some delicacy.” Shanna presented her back to him as if embarrassed and paused before continuing. She spoke demurely over her shoulder. “My father, Orlan Trahern, gave me one year to find a husband, and failure shall find me betrothed to whom he wills. He sees me a spinster and wants heirs for his fortunes. The man must be of a family privy to King George. I have not yet found the one I would choose as my own, though the year is almost gone. You are my one last hope to avoid a marriage arranged by my father.” Now came the hardest part. She had to plead with this filthy, ragged colonial. She kept her face averted to hide her distaste. “I have heard,’ she said carefully, “that a man may marry a woman to take her debts to the gallows in re turn for an easing of his final days. I can give you much, Ruark–food, wines, suitable clothing and warm blankets. And surely my cause–”

At his continued silence, Shanna turned toward him and tried to see his features in the gloom, but he had carefully maneuvered their positions until she now was presented full to the light when she faced him. The wily beggar had moved so stealthily that she had not been aware of it.

Ruark’s voice was somewhat strained as he finally said, “Milady, you test me sorely. A gentleman my mother tried to teach me to be, with good respect for womanhood.” Shanna’s breath caught as he stepped nearer. “But my father, a man of considerable wisdom, taught me early in my youth a rule I’ve long abided.”

He walked slowly around her, much as she had done with him a few moments before, then halted when he stood at her back. Scarcely breathing, Shanna waited, feeling his nearness yet not daring to move.

“Never–” Ruark’s whisper came close to her ear, stirring awake a tingling of fear in her. “Never buy a mare with a blanket on.”

Shanna could not suppress a flinch as his hands came over her shoulders and hovered above the fasteners of her cloak.

“May I?’ he asked and his voice, though soft, seemed to fill the very corners of the cell. Ruark accepted her silence as consent, and Shanna braced herself while his lean fingers undid the velvet frogs. He drew the cloak from her, and though lacking splendorous trimming and fancy laces, her deep red velvet gown enhanced her beauty divinely. She was the gem, the jewel of rare beauty which made the dress more than a garment but rather a work of art. Above the hooped panniers which expanded her skirt on the sides, the tightly laced bodice showed the narrowness of her waist while it cupped her bosom to a most daring display above the square decolletage. In the golden glow of the tallow lantern, her skin gleamed like rich, warm satin.

Ruark stood close, his breath falling softly against her hair, his head filled with the delicious scent of woman.

A dangerous business

July 09, 2007 | Leave a comment

It’s a dangerous business going out your front door.
–JRR Tolkien

You never know what you’re going to wake up to around here: sub

It’s a submarine in tow, so close to my house I could hear people talking on board. More shots of this can be found here.

sub

Peace,

Susan

Kathleen Woodiwiss

July 08, 2007 | 9 Comments

She was not only my first read in the genre–she was my friend.



From Heath Woodiwiss, Kathleen’s son.

Kathleen has passed away 7/6/07.

“Hello. I am very sorry to inform you all of the death of my mother Kathleen. She took the death of my brother a bit harder than we thought and the cancer came back with a vengeance. She passed away Friday morning at 0630 in Princeton, MN. I just want to thank you all for all of your support and being such great fans. My Mom was amazed at all of the people that supported her. Her final book is done, but not finished. We will be trying to polish it up for her. Her editor at Harper Collins has been a great source of stress for my Mom and the rest of us as well, so I am not sure how that will work out, but we are trying to get the book published as fast as possible. We all want this to be her greatest book ever. Thank you again for all of your support.


Heath.”

There’s love…and then there’s love.

July 05, 2007 | 4 Comments

I didn’t know them, but their story has a kind of happy ending: 

 

Kathleen Florence Kane Rogers, age 94, and Bruce Harris Rogers, age 93, died peacefully in their home on Friday June 15. They were residents of Bainbridge Island since 2003.

Kathleen was born July 12, 1912, in Vancouver, B.C., the only child of Northern Irish parents Emily Kane and Daniel Long Hanna. She grew up in Victoria B.C. and moved to Tacoma, Washington as a teenager. She attended the University of Washington and then Cornish School as an art history major.

Bruce was born October 16, 1913 in Toronto, Kansas to Clarence and Minnie Rogers, both school teachers. The family moved to Seattle in 1927. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1930 and the University of Washington Law School in 1937.

They were married in 1937 in Seattle, moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and then to Portland Oregon. They returned to Seattle where they lived with their family for 40 years on the shores of Haller Lake. After retirement they moved to Edmonds where Kathleen became an active member of the Friends of the Edmonds Library and the Historical Society where she served as a docent for many years.

They leave two sons, Michael of Bainbridge and John of Silverdale, 6 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren. Kathleen and Bruce recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary surrounded by family and friends.

At their request there will be no services; a family memorial gathering will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to the Bainbridge Library or Helpline House.

I love the smell of fireworks in the morning.

July 04, 2007 | 2 Comments

fireworks on our beach

Everyone on our beach sets off fireworks for the 4th. See a slide show of the festivities here. Also by request, here’s the cake I made for the potluck. It’s semi-original, adapted from something I saw on the Food Network.

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

  • 3 eggs
    2 cups sugar
    1-1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil cake on the diving board
    1-1/2 cups milk
    1/4 cup triple sec, Cointreau or Grand Marnier
    1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
    3 teaspoons lemon zest
    2 cups flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup orange or lemon marmalade
    Rosemary sprigs and powdered sugar, for garnish
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and flour a bundt pan.
    Beat the eggs, sugar, olive oil, milk, liqueur, orange juice, and lemon zest. Add the dry ingredients, including 1-2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, and beat well. Pour  into bundt pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until it tests done. Place on a rack to cool. Run a knife around the edges and invert on a plate. Warm the marmalade in the microwave and drizzle over the cake. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

A party! A dog party!

July 03, 2007 | 3 Comments

Who doesn’t remember GO DOG GO, aka the best early-reading book in the history of the world?

My niece taught Barkis to climb the juniper bushes today and they spent hours up there:

kid & dog in tree

 Barkis is 10 weeks old today! Ruff!

Just fine

July 02, 2007 | Leave a comment

My favorite part of the blog is the comments. Take a gander at this super-romantic story from Terri Farrell, a long-distance friend and fellow writer. Scroll down to the bottom of this post. Terri, you are one lucky woman.