Sharon Schulze

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Location: New England, United States

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Thank You, Mrs. Dannis!

I very well might be in the minority, but I loved school! From kindergarten straight through to grad school, no matter the teacher or subject, there was always something to interest me every day. I’m fortunate to have had a number of excellent teachers who made learning fun and interesting, and who (for the most part) hadn’t become jaded or tired of being in the classroom.

Recently I was talking to someone about my school years, and one teacher in particular came to mind–Mrs. Dannis, a high school teacher who I had for three years of Spanish and one year of English. When asked why she stood out, I became a bit emotional, which surprised my companion almost as much as it surprised me. I couldn’t explain my reaction, but as I drove home later the reason became clear to me.

Mrs. Dannis was different from most of the other teachers in our small New Hampshire high school. She spoke several languages, had gone to college for a time in Mexico . . . her world, and her view of the world beyond our little town, was broad and varied. She didn’t like our Spanish textbook, so on the first day of Spanish 1 she told us we were going to write our own–and that we couldn’t speak English in class unless it was to ask for an English word in Spanish. By Spanish 3 we were skilled enough to read novels in Spanish; after reading, enjoying and discussing Juan Salvador Gaviota in Spanish, I’ve never bothered to check it out in English (that’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, by the way). In English class we studied Utopian novels, Greek philosophers and did a ton of creative writing (her idea of creative was far more creative than any I’ve encountered before or since!). She encouraged us to push ourselves, to not settle for doing a good job when she knew we were capable of more. She didn’t accept that a student who was really good at math and science couldn’t be good with words as well. She’s the person who first told me about Worcester Polytechnic Institute, because she thought the school with its free-form “Plan” would be a good fit for me–and it was.

Mrs. Dannis showed me a world outside the cloistered one I knew, and helped me believe there was a place for me in it. Although I didn’t realize it at the time (how could I ever have imagined then that I’d be an author someday? I was going to be an engineer) she also taught me a lot about being a writer, about giving my imagination free rein, then figuring out how to translate that into a story (or a book). She had a huge influence on me and the person I became, and I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t thought about her in far too long.

Thank you, Mrs. Dannis!

I’m willing to bet each of us has a Mrs. Dannis in our pasts, a teacher or person (or several of them) who had an important influence us. Do you? Who was your Mrs. Dannis, and how did she/he/they affect you?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blame it on Robin Hood

I like movies--a lot! When I was putting myself through engineering school I worked in a cinema, which had the wonderful perk that we could check out whatever was showing for free (in my not-so-copious free time, lol). In recent years my husband and I don't get out to the cinema too often, but we do manage to watch a fair number of movies once they come out on dvd.

A movie I'm determined to see on the big screen, however, is the upcoming Robin Hood. It's not that I haven't seen any Robin Hood movies or TV shows before--I've probably seen pretty much every (fairly) well-known English-language version, both good (Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood, anyone? Campy but fun) and the nearly-so (fortunately Alan Rickman et. al. saved Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves from the Kevin Costner surfer-dude Robin--and the sound track is great writing music); animated (Disney's Robin Hood) and TV-movie (Robin Hood with Patrick Bergin as Robin--cool!; Uma Thurman as Marion--not so much) . . . to name a few.

But the show that got me hooked on Robin Hood, and that set me on the path of writing 12th/13th century medieval romances, was the 1950's TV show The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene. I didn't see it when it was on originally, since it first aired before I was born, but back when I was in elementary school it was on every Monday - Friday before the evening news on WMUR-TV (the only New Hampshire TV station back in the day--and one of the few channels we could get on a TV with rabbit ears!).

I loved that show! My brother and I watched it every night; when we got together with my younger cousins at my grandfather's on Sunday afternoons we'd head off into the woods and play Robin Hood. We'd gather around a big, flat granite stone we called the Robin Hood rock, where we'd determine (by a process of elimination I don't recall) who got to be Robin, the Sheriff, Little John, etc. We were very progressive; gender had no bearing upon what part you got to play. I do remember that whoever lost--boy or girl--had to be Maid Marion (even though Marion was known to fight alongside the Merry Men and was pretty good with a bow!).

We were still playing Robin Hood long after they'd stopped showing The Adventures of Robin Hood on TV. By then my fate had been set--I'd developed an abiding love for the time period; for savvy, sword-wielding, honorable men who fought for the women and ideals they held dear; for women who, like Marion with her bow, didn't sit back and wait for men to rescue them. As I got older I studied the history, read anything--nonfiction and fiction--set in that era I could get my hands on. Although I didn't bring the Robin Hood legend into my books until Bride of the Tower, its influence on my writing is clear to me no matter what story--or time period--I write.

The opportunity to see that time period--the battles, the sword fights, the romance of it all (despite the dirt, blood, vermin, etc)--outside my imagination doesn't come along that often, so I need to get my fix when I can. Medieval romance on the big screen . . . guess where I'll be when Robin Hood hits the cinema?

What has influenced or continues to influence what you choose to read, or to write? Were your choices/interests set in your childhood, too?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy 16th Birthday, Samantha!

Today Samantha, my lovely assistant (aka my mini-dachshund buddy/four-legged daughter) turns 16! It's a venerable age for a pup, especially one who had several health issues in the last few years. Fortunately she's got a great vet who figured out what was causing a lot of the problems, and she's doing very well. She's gone a bit gray, put on a little weight and lost her left eye to glaucoma 1-1/2 years ago, but she wears her years well. She still romps around, galloping in slow motion and tossing her squeaky toys through the air, and enjoys chewing out the squirrels that haunt our bird feeders.

Tonight she'll open her gifts--assorted doggy treats--and have a great time tearing off the tissue paper wrappings.

She's a great companion and member of our family, and we're very fortunate to still have her in our lives. So happy birthday, Sammy--may you have many more.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This is for you, Susan :-)

After staying away far too long from my own blog, I'm jumping back into it. I've been blogging pretty regularly at
To Be Read, but I'll be blogging here as well.

Off to clear out the cobwebs!

From the PASIC Blog To Be Read

The Big Tease

As Carly Simon said, “Anticipation . . . is keepin’ me waiting.” So much in life is one big tease, thank goodness! Isn’t it wonderful to have things to look forward to?

We had some unseasonably warm and beautiful weather here in the Northeast last week, culminating in a gorgeous weekend (I think we hit 75 degrees F). I tried to enjoy it as much as possible, because I knew it wouldn’t last–way too spring-like for mid-March. This morning we were back to temps around freezing, much more normal weather for around here, if there is such a thing as normal weather in New England.

It was fantastic, but it was also a big tease! After working in my garden on Saturday in a sleeveless top and cropped pants, I’m back to jeans and a long-sleeved corduroy shirt today. My dog, who has been enjoying the toasty sunny spot in front of my slider, is once again recoiling back into the house when I open the door for her to go outside. Mother Nature dangled the carrot, whetting our appetites for warm spring weather.

It was great while it lasted, and it certainly ramped up our anticipation for the end of winter!

There are a lot of big teases in life. The excitement as the day approaches to leave on vacation, or for a birthday or holiday celebration, is definitely a big tease, one based on past enjoyment of the place or event. Savoring the anticipation is a huge part of the experience.

Writers are masters of the big tease, especially romance writers. How and when will the hero and heroine get together? Escalating sexual tension . . . will they or won’t they? Will they defeat the villian(s)? How will they do it? Will any of those intriguing secondary characters get their own books?

A couple of books I’ve read recently, books I really enjoyed, had teaser chapters in the back. Woo-hoo, secondary characters getting their own books! I should know better, but I always read the teasers–and then I’m antsy to read the next book. It’s a big tease, all right, and one that does exactly what it’s supposed to . . . it’s great PR, and a great gift for fans.

Fortunately for me, because I’m so behind in attacking Mount To-Be-Read, the teaser I read at the end of Alexis Morgan’s Dark Warrior Unbroken happened to be for Defeat the Darkness, her new book (which I had just bought). I didn’t have to wait! Of course, that didn’t work for the excerpt I read at the end of Defeat the Darkness, so I’ll just have to wait until Dark Warrior Untamed comes out. The big tease worked .

I’ve got a lot of great books in Mount To-Be-Read, and I’m planning to read every excerpt I run across. There are worse things in life than to have more great books to look forward to!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What's in a name?

As you can see, it's been ages since I posted. I seem to be making a habit of that--bad Sharon (slapping myself on the hand here :-)).

But somehow this seems a good time to write. I'm planning a trip, which I thought was all set, but when I called the hotel to confirm, it turns out that somebody spelled my name incorrectly on the reservation they sent the hotel--which meant that no one could find my reservation when I called. Eventually they found it, after much searching. I have to say, as many times as Schulze has been misspelled, no one ever spelled it SCHJULZE! So I'm currently on hold with a well-known online travel company (where I booked my trip), trying to get my name spelled right. It looked like everything was all set, until the woman at the travel agency informed me that, according to the woman at the hotel (I spoke with her first), my name was spelled Schulz, not Schulze (despite the fact that the travel agent has my trip itinerary right there in front of her, where it says Schulze at least five times). So I'm on hold again, while these two ladies (both of whom are nice, fine people just doing their jobs, I know) hash out how to spell Schulze.

(oh, and did I mention my DH chose the precise moment when I wasn't on hold to chip ice out of the freezer, then pitched a couple of wet towels down the hall in the general direction of the laundry room, knocking a commemorative mug off the shelf and smashing it to bits on the tile floor? I was already having a difficult time understanding the travel agent without the extra noise)

According to the travel agent, everything should be all set now. I hope so! I'll be calling the hotel tomorrow, just to make sure . . .

All this is a minor bump in the road of life, but right now it's pretty aggravating! You'd think I'd be used to it by now; everyone always misspelled (and mispronounced) my maiden name, too. At least with Schulze, the mispronounciation is consistent--Shultz (like Sgt. Shultz on "Hogan's Heroes"). I swear, one of these days I'm going to get ID for every possible permutation of my last name. That ought to cover all the bases.

BTW, in case you're interested, Schulze rhymes with tools--but I'll answer to anything that's close.

I'm very glad we're going on vacation; we need it!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Living in a Horizontal World

All I want for Christmas is . . . to be able to sit up straight, turn my head, and move around without help.

I've been living in a horizontal world. No, I haven't suddenly joined the Flat Earth Society--that's simply been my frame of reference since last Thursday night.

It began after supper, when I felt a little wobbly when I got up off the couch. I figured I got up too quickly. I wasn't concerned; in fact, I barely noticed at that point. By the time my DH got home from his company Christmas party, however, I'd begun to think something was a bit off, and by the time I headed up the stairs for bed I was definitely weaving on my feet and feeling woozy.

It went downhill from there. Couldn't sit up, stand up or move without help. Stomach felt like a spin dryer. Felt like I'd been out on a booze-filled bender, but without any of the fun.

Turns out I have vertigo, probably brought on by a viral inner ear inflammation. Nothing the doctor can do but give me a prescription for anti-nausea meds and send me home to wait it out (try to keep horizontal, they suggested--not a problem when you can't lift your head without the world spinning out of control). By Saturday morning I couldn't even keep my eyes open, and the thought of 7 - 10 days of that--and at this time of year, no less, when there's so much to get done--was not an enticing prospect. Things have improved, so I can keep my eyes open most of the time, and I feel like I'm finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel (no, not the bright white light . . . ). My family have been wonderful; it's really too bad I haven't been in any condition to really enjoy being waited on hand and foot :-). At this point I'm just grateful there's someone to fill my water cup, bring me food and help me when I have to get off the couch.

The world looks very different from this perspective, a combination of what it's like to see everything from a shaky two feet off the floor (it's been a long time since I was that short!), coupled with feeling very helpless. I have a new appreciation for mobility and independence, since the times I've tried to do anything myself--like get off the couch--were big mistakes.

I'm sure I've learned valuable life lessons--or should that be Life Lessons, since they're important? Since it's difficult to do much of anything (even typing on a laptop), I've certainly had plenty of time to think.

Maybe it's a good thing; according to info in Thea O'Connor's blog, you can "lie down and get creative." If that's the case, I predict a huge upsurge in my creativity and productivity. Here's hoping she's right :-)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A-webbing we will go . . .

Is webbing a word? I guess it is--webbing on a chair, perhaps?--but probably not the way I used it in today's title. Somehow "webbing" doesn't conjure up the sort of image "googling" does (and yes, googling is officially a word; it's even in dictionaries); for some reason it makes me think of Elmer Fudd with his rifle and funny hat, out shooting "wabbits."

Unfortunately I'll now have that song running through my mind for the rest of the afternoon :-).

What I was doing while webbing was fiddling with my website ( if you're interested)-- updating it, and playing around with the various templates, palettes and layouts available with the particular website-building program I use. I came up with some interesting--and a few eye-popping--combinations before I settled for pretty much the same template, palette and layout I'd been using. There aren't too many choices for each. That's one of the limitations of this program that I can't overcome, although other than that, it's fairly user-friendly. I enjoy maintaining my own website, and since I'm not planning on teaching myself advanced html anytime soon (basic html is ok), this is the program for me.

I've seen an on-line discussion recently about branding; in book PR (i.e. websites), is it more important to brand your name as an author, or to simply promote the most recent book? I'm guessing the author's name is more important, since books come and go, but since it's difficult to quantify the impact of PR efforts anyway, who knows?

This is where having a marketing degree instead of an engineering one could come in handy. However, since I doubt Fluid Mechanics or Reinforced Concrete Design will do me much good in the PR wars, my best bet is to keep muddling along for now and keep an eye on what's happening in the book-selling biz.

The bottom line--before I head back to 1788 in the work-in-progress--is to remember that websites, PR and branding are all pretty worthless without a book to promote, so I'd better get cracking!