are the contents of my very first Blogging episode.
Hope you enjoy!
I was born in England, emigrated to Canada and married a Canadian, Arthur Henley in 1956, so next year we will have been married fifty years. We were high school sweethearts and went steady for five years, and then were engaged for a year and a half before we married, so we've been together a looong time. When we married, we were the same age, Now, of course, I'm much younger. My husband is long-suffering. When we would take our two young sons out to dinner the waitresses often thought it was a man out with his three children. In the 80's when we lived in Toronto, the IN place to be on Friday or Saturday evening was Yorkville. It was filled with posh boutiques, hippies, coffee houses, theaters, and people paraded up and down to "see" and "be seen." On one visit I wore my new navy-blue cape with red epaulettes and brass buttons. An innocent youth about 12 or 13 (there were such things in those days) came up to me with an awed look on his face and asked, "Excuse me, Miss, are you royalty?" Arthur and I had a good laugh and decided to go to the theater. In the lobby, the young usher looked me up and down, then looked at my husband and said, "Boy, did you get lucky!" From Princess to Prostitute in 3 blocks! I have two sons, Sean and Adam, who are different as chalk from cheese. Sean, the elder is dark and short like me. He is my Celt. Adam is fair, 6ft. tall, long boned. He's my Norman. My younger son never said a curse word in his life, while the other one never said anything that wasn't irreverent. I was a dedicated stay at home mother and waited until they were in their late teens before I began my writing career. By the time my first grandson was born, my career as an author had begun to pick up. So I put it to Sean this way: I can be a typical grandmother and babysit and bake cookies OR I can put my time into writing and try to have a successful career--you decide. Sean said, "Mom, fill them coffers!" The life of a romance author is glamorous, but only occasionally. I sit in a room alone for an entire year, dressed in comfortable rags while I write a book. Then I have to metamorphosize like a butterfly, spread my wings and get as much attention as I possibly can for myself and my book. Then, as soon as I start to enjoy it, they shove me back in the room and say, WRITE ANOTHER BOOK. I have had some glamorous trips, however. Most of them with Kathryn Falk, the owner of Romantic Times. We were both born on December 5th--two eccentric Sagittarians! We went to the opening of the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, did wild dances in full highland dress and ate haggis on our birthday. We went shopping at Harrod's in London, prowled the stalls of the silver market at dawn and admired the Elgin marbles at the British Museum. In Tuscany, we went to the vineyards for wine tasting, in Rome we visited the Colosseum where the atmosphere gives you chills, and then threw coins into the Trevi Fountain. We gazed at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and toured the Vatican. Then on to Venice--a city of my heart. The shops, the masques, the costumes, the palazzos--oh my! The people on the tour had a private, romantic midnight gondola ride around the narrow back canals and each gondola had a musician who serenaded us with romantic Italian ballads. I even took a speedboat out into the Adriatic Sea to visit the Island of Murato, where the fine Venetian crystal is made. I bought some bling that day! Another glamorous excursion with Kathryn was the cruise: Tampa, New Orleans, Cozumel, Playa del (Somewhere or other). So the first night out I'm seated at the Captain's table with Heather Graham, Linda Lael Miller, and Violet Windspar, the lady who had written about a hundred books for Mills & Boon. Kathryn points to me, Heather & Linda and says to Violet, "These ladies earn a million dollars a book!" I didn't want to make Kathryn a liar, but I didn't want Violet to have cardiac arrest (which seemed quite possible) so I said, "Well, I have a million dollar contract, but that's for more than one book, I'm afraid." The others kept their mouths shut. LOL! The cruise had a Canadian Film Crew aboard who were doing a documentary. I agreed to do an interview and when they found out I was the only Canadian aboard, they followed me around that cruise every bloody nautical mile. I tried my best to avoid them, but they stalked me like they were the paparazzi. Each time I left my stateroom, I had my roommate Debbie Mainger go out to reconnoiter to make sure the coast was clear. They found me anyway. The end result turned out not too badly. I can watch parts of the film without cringing! Another great part of my life is where I am able to live. I got my green card (which is pink) and moved from the frozen north to tropical Florida. I live on the Gulf of Mexico in a nice but unpretentious house with a dock, a boat and a caged swimming pool. But even Paradise has its downside. A couple of years ago, I remember it was November 13, the weather was glorious and I had all the sliding glass doors open to the pool and I even had the cage door open so my dog (Lili the Schnauzer) could go in and out. She began barking like hell and I thought it was the mailman at the front door. She wasn't barking at the front door however. A snake, a three foot black racer had come into the house. Instead of going back out, it slithered into my old office. I have a desk, an old computer that I only use for email, bookcases and a pulldown sleeper couch. Across one wall I have two large closets packed with fancy clothes, I only ever get to wear at conferences. So I closed the door that led back into the house and opened the sliding door of that room that led back out to the pool. I went to my new office on the other side of the house and carried on with my writing. Every once in awhile I would look to see if I could see the snake leave. Never saw that. When Arthur came home that night he went in and searched. Told me the snake had gone. Just to be certain I didn't get a nasty surprise I emptied the closet floors of about fifty pairs of shoes. Kept them out for a couple of weeks before I put them back. Three weeks later, it was December 5th, my birthday and we were going out to dinner. I changed clothes, got shoes from the closet and sat down on the couch to put on my shoes. I stood up and looked down and saw something strange on the carpet. It looked like a melted chocolate with a soft creamy-yellow center. I wondered who the hell had dropped a chocolate on the carpet! I bent down, stuck my finger in it, brought it to my nose and sniffed. It was shit! And not just any shit! I knew immediately that it was too exotic to be anything but snake shit! I called Arthur into the room and said, "That snake is still in here and it's under this couch that I've been sitting on for three weeks." He told me I was nuts. I opened up the sleeper couch, and there it was coiled up and ready to strike at us. We chased it out even though it didn't want to leave. Poor old snake; I guess it was looking for a warm place to hibernate before the cold Florida winter set in. I see him regularly in the garden now. He's grown quite a bit and I've gotten used to him. When Art cuts the grass he moves from the backyard to the front yard. I'm glad he lives here because I know he'd chosen anyone else's garden he'd be dead by now. So that's it, my squawky little chicks. It's been a slice of heaven. Virginia
And now, here are the responses I got back.
Cara said... Oh my! The laughter and tears can't stop! I've lived around alot of snakes but that story takes the cake.... Thank you so much for Squawking...nothing like having the Virgin Queen telling her stories! 10:36 AM
Anonymous said... I'm so glad you visited Squawk this week, Ms. Henley! I admit it, I've never read one of your books but your column here made me wonder what I've been missing out on and I'm slapping myself in the head. I've already ordered Unmasked from Amazon. You totally rock. Wendy 10:59 AM
Mary Stella said... *waves at Virginia!* I'm glad that I was on that same Kathryn Falk tour of Tuscany with the trips to Florence, Venice and Rome! I have so many terrific memories of the wine tastings, the sights, that magical gondola ride. The man who owned the mask shop will never forget you. 11:00 AM
Anonymous said... ROTFLMAO on being stalked for being a Canadian! Did it ever occur to you that they might have been stalking you because you are VIRGINIA HENLEY?! 11:01 AM
Anonymous said... Mary Stella, tell ALL! 11:02 AM
kate-O said... Virginia, you're making me miss home!!! I am orginally from Plant City, but now I hang my hat in IOWA, and right now it is 31 degrees and everything is frozen from head to toes(thank goodness for my HOT husband, and I do mean body temperature as well as physique, he is my personal heater ::wink wink::). I am soooo looking forward to my trip down in December to see a very very very good friend of mine-who went back to school after having 3 kids- finally graduate from college in St Pete. Your story of the black racer reminds me of so many stories from my childhood, from the alligator in the retention pond to the water mocassin that crawled up into the AC unit (My dad thought he could shoot the snake and not hit the AC-but we ended up in a hotel until the unit could be replaced- he missed ::Kate rolls her eyes and giggles:: As if I didn't already feel such a great connection through your novels...your blog will now cause me to spend all day today in a nostalgia coma and smiling instead of actually working ( and frowning) :) Thanks Virginia!! 11:06 AM
Connie Brockway said... Okay, Virginia, you started talking shopping so tell me, in your opinion what was the best shopping city and for what goods? Connie, lover of deals 11:11 AM
J Perry Stone said... Maybe that snake it your totem, Virginia--dark, sleek, fast, and a lover of luxury (because a fold-up couch is luxurious for a snake). I've so enjoyed your visit and thank you for letting us into your interesting life. Hope to see you in Atlanta this summer. And I do think it's important to dress on the outside to reflect your inner Queen. I dress like some foreign peasant, so what does that tell you?--other than I might not have taste... J 11:37 AM
Margaret Evans Porter said... Oh, Virginia, thanks for an entertaining glimpse into your wonderful life! MEP 11:39 AM Santa said... It's been a pleasure! Thanks for Squawking with us! 11:43 AM
Christina Dodd said... Snake shit! Thank you for the story. I can't wait to tell my husband. He was in the Idaho Nat'l Guard and spent a lot of time in the desert with rattlesnakes, and he hates snakes. As in -- Indiana Jones has nothing on him. When I tell him you stuck you finger in snake shit, he's going to scream like a little girl. I can't wait! ;> I loved the stories, Virginia! Your books are wonderful, but nothing is as wonderful as you! 11:57 AM
Me said... This time with you has been a wonder...Ladies please invite her to come back again. NOW! Which one of you was it that got me hooked on"Dance Me to the End of Love"????? it is now on my list of favorites and I listen to it repeatedly as I answer email...I do not know if I should thank you or just sit here and cry...So I guess I will say THANKS... 2:54 PM
Christina Dodd said... Dance Me to the End of Love by Madeline Peyroux? That was me! Eloisa likes another version sung by the guy who wrote it, but Madeline has my heart. It really is a great song. 3:11 PM
Steph said... Oh Holy Crap! I was shuddering as I read that! I would have taken a shovel to that snake and it wouldn't have had a happy ending.... 3:49 PM
(My resposes to the Bloggers)... Cara: The pleasure has been all mine! Wendy: I hope you enjoy UNMASKED. If you don't, at least the cover is beautiful. Mary Stella: It's so good to have a friend like you! Anonymous: No, it never would occur to me. Heather's husgand Dennis always shakes his head at me and says, "You have no idea how popular you are, do you?" Kate: I know I would miss Florida if I had to leave. When I do go away, I kiss the ground when I get back. BUT our hurricanes have been nasty the last couple of years. Connie: The stuff I liked in Venice was very expensive. Same goes for London unless you're roaming Portabella Road, etc. Rome was great--fantastic designer stores and the street vendors will sell you knock-offs or stolen stuff for pennies. The exchange rate dollar/lira was fantastic the year we went. Florence was filled with gold shops. Heavenly. BarrowLady loves Hong Kong. j.perry:Oh yes, you have to dress like a star and act like a star. (Ask Jacquie D'Allessandro) I always say, "If you ain't lookin' at me, you're wasting your time!" I will see you in Atlanta. Run up and pat me on the head so I'll recognize you. (I'm oblivious) Margaret Evans Porter: I love your writing! Christina: He's a brave man to be in the National Guard. You gotta keep your distance from rattlesnakes. Virginia 4:13 PM
gannon said... Thanks for making me laugh! I grew up in Florida, so we had a few close encounters with snakes, including a water moccasin in our back yard. UGH! I can relate to your love of Italy. We just moved back to the States after living there for 2 years--my husband is a naval officer, so we get to "see the world". We lived in Naples, which is not the garden spot of Italy, but close to the beautiful Amalfi coast. We were fortunate to see quite a bit of Italy and Europe, too. Tuscany is my favorite, in any season. I love Venice, but we went in January and it snowed!! It was lovely, but I can't remember the last time I was that cold! It was a tremendous experience living in another country, but my 3 children don't always see it that way. They love being back in the good ol' US of A. Thanks for being here--you are a delight and I hope I can meet you in person someday. Ciao, bella! 4:34 PM
amelia said... I bought some wonderful Murano jewelry in Rome last year! Love it! I especially like the envy I see on my sister's face when I wear it. 4:43 PM
PJ said... Virginia, you've been a fantastic squawker! My week has been crazy busy so haven't had a chance to post but have read all of yours and enjoyed them so much. I lived in Florida many years and remember many encounters like the one you described. In Sarasota we lived near the water and you never knew what you'd encounter - snakes, gators, armadillos, palmetto bugs the size of armadillos... lol. Love your books and hope to meet you in Atlanta. Thanks for brightening our days. PJ 5:15 PM
PJ said... Amelia, I bought some Murano jewelry in Rome in Sept. and I love it. People always comment on it. Italy is my favorite place to visit. Can't wait to go back! 5:17 PM Anonymous said... Wow, what an adventure your life has been so far. Your story of Florida reminds me of my childhood on the Gulf. We lived on a canal, had a boat, had the pool all screened in, the sliding doors from the house to the pool area, and the doggie door from the screened pool area to the back yard. Never had a racer in the house, but we did have a rattler!!! Believe it or not, the fire department came out and killed it. I'm still in the south, just not Florida -- in the big city of Hot-lanta Buffie 6:45 PM
Anonymous said... Gannon: It was lovely talking with you. Someday, your kids will truly appreciate the years they spent in Italy. Ciao! PJ: I hope to meet you, too. Buffie: We've had beautiful rat snakes in the house, but they've never stayed 3 weeks. I know there are rattlers around, because my neighbor killed one on his front porch a couple of months ago. I'm always careful when I take the dog out at night. I like Atlanta, Georgia. (Most parts of it.) Virginia 7:16 PM
Haven Rich Haven Rich said... Ok first off can I say I'm totally bumbed!! I saw your book in the store and wanted to get it but couldn't because it was between paydays and then I went to buy it a few days ago and it was gone. Uggg the luck. I love the cover and wish I could add it to my collection. (Adds this to my growing x-mas list). Oh the snake story is too funny. My husband and I have two ball pythons. For the most part they enjoy their lazy lives in their tank but Spot(yes thats her name) got out once. We searched high and low for her. The husbands mother was frantic that we find this snake. No luck. Every once in awhile we would find the "proof" that she was still around but never found her. That is to say until one night we were watching tv and the husbands mother went to get a drink from the fridge in the laundry room. Well I can say it took a few days to recover my hearing from her scream. Well needless to say we found our missing snake and she is back to her lazy life in her tank. 12:56 AM
said... Virginia, thank you so much for being a guest blogger. I have read
all your books and then passed them on to my mother and then to my best friend.
We all love your books! Thanks for sharing yourself and a little bit of your
life with all of us. You just absolutely put a smile on my face! Thank you
:) 1:58 AM