Thelma Zirklebach looks like a sweet little lady who would pinch your cheek and ask you about your older brother. She's a speech pathologist who works a lot with children, is a member of Mensa and is all around a nice lady to talk to. You'd never know she writes smut novels. She's written Harlequin Temptations, Harlequin super-romances with titles like The Reluctant Hunk, and she just sold her 11th novel to Silhouette Intimate Moments. Her pen name comes from her children's first names. "They've always said they were going to change their names," she says. "But so far they haven't." Most of her novels take place in Houston or elsewhere in Texas. A decade ago, she wrote Harlequin's first Jewish heroine in Season of Light, a story about a woman on a business trip to her hometown who reunites with her family and the man she once loved. She also resolves a bunch of issues about the baby she gave up for adoption. "It's a Hanukkah story," Thelma says. "I just love happy endings. Things don't always turn out perfectly in real life. So it's nice to be involved in fantasy, where everything does turn out and everyone does live happily ever after."
Thelma Zirklebach looks like a sweet little lady who would pinch your cheek and ask you about your older brother. She's a speech pathologist who works a lot with children, is a member of Mensa and is all around a nice lady to talk to. You'd never know she writes smut novels. She's written Harlequin Temptations, Harlequin super-romances with titles like The Reluctant Hunk, and she just sold her 11th novel to Silhouette Intimate Moments. Her pen name comes from her children's first names. "They've always said they were going to change their names," she says. "But so far they haven't." Most of her novels take place in Houston or elsewhere in Texas. A decade ago, she wrote Harlequin's first Jewish heroine in Season of Light, a story about a woman on a business trip to her hometown who reunites with her family and the man she once loved. She also resolves a bunch of issues about the baby she gave up for adoption. "It's a Hanukkah story," Thelma says. "I just love happy endings. Things don't always turn out perfectly in real life. So it's nice to be involved in fantasy, where everything does turn out and everyone does live happily ever after."
The Friends of Conroe have hit on something: good music in a good setting. For the past two years, the group has booked a combination of musicians who don't usually play together -- for example, Terry Allen and Guy Clark -- and put them into the beautifully restored old theater just off the main square in downtown Conroe. The result has been some magical moments in an intimate setting. The series finale this year featured Willis Allen Ramsey, Tom Russell and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Look for the next season's lineup to be announced soon. The music begins again in January. Sure, it's an hour's drive, but it's worth it.

The Friends of Conroe have hit on something: good music in a good setting. For the past two years, the group has booked a combination of musicians who don't usually play together -- for example, Terry Allen and Guy Clark -- and put them into the beautifully restored old theater just off the main square in downtown Conroe. The result has been some magical moments in an intimate setting. The series finale this year featured Willis Allen Ramsey, Tom Russell and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Look for the next season's lineup to be announced soon. The music begins again in January. Sure, it's an hour's drive, but it's worth it.

In the heat of August, they came to the Westin Galleria -- well over a thousand people enduring the heat in order to get a shot at being on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Once inside, they were given a 35-question multiple-choice test and 12 minutes to finish it. Maybe a quarter of the people in the room passed; little did those savvy Houstonians know the existentialist abyss they were soon to face. Hustled off to another room, they were given a personal questionnaire: hobbies, job, etc. -- the usual. And then, staring up at them like a .44 Magnum between the eyes, the killer question of all. The question that could invoke only helplessness and inadequacy. The question that laid bare just how empty your life was. All this from one seemingly innocent query: "What would Regis find fascinating about you?" Sure, some confident, if deluded, folks easily whipped out an answer. The rest were left to stare blankly at the page, frozen by the sudden realization that their lives -- such as they were -- had not been lived up to Philbinesque standards.

In the heat of August, they came to the Westin Galleria -- well over a thousand people enduring the heat in order to get a shot at being on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Once inside, they were given a 35-question multiple-choice test and 12 minutes to finish it. Maybe a quarter of the people in the room passed; little did those savvy Houstonians know the existentialist abyss they were soon to face. Hustled off to another room, they were given a personal questionnaire: hobbies, job, etc. -- the usual. And then, staring up at them like a .44 Magnum between the eyes, the killer question of all. The question that could invoke only helplessness and inadequacy. The question that laid bare just how empty your life was. All this from one seemingly innocent query: "What would Regis find fascinating about you?" Sure, some confident, if deluded, folks easily whipped out an answer. The rest were left to stare blankly at the page, frozen by the sudden realization that their lives -- such as they were -- had not been lived up to Philbinesque standards.

Former Houston Oiler Bo Eason workshopped his one-man play, Runt of the Litter, in New York and L.A., but when it came time to premiere the piece, he came back to Houston. The production at Stages Repertory Theatre drew large crowds to watch as Eason's fictional alter ego laid bare the conflicts and abuses that had led him to become a maniacal, dirty (but effective) professional football player. Eason and his wife, Dawn, talked at the time of possible movie deals, but even admirers of the play warned that such Hollywood hopes often are pipe dreams. Shortly after the production closed, however, Variety magazine reported that Eason had signed a $400,000 deal with Castle Rock Entertainment to make a movie of Runt, and to work with respected director Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile fame. That was the combination Eason was most hoping for as he pitched the project around Hollywood. There are, of course, many hurdles to be cleared before the movie gets made, but Runt -- partly through the help of Houston support -- has allowed him to get his foot in Hollywood's door.
Former Houston Oiler Bo Eason workshopped his one-man play, Runt of the Litter, in New York and L.A., but when it came time to premiere the piece, he came back to Houston. The production at Stages Repertory Theatre drew large crowds to watch as Eason's fictional alter ego laid bare the conflicts and abuses that had led him to become a maniacal, dirty (but effective) professional football player. Eason and his wife, Dawn, talked at the time of possible movie deals, but even admirers of the play warned that such Hollywood hopes often are pipe dreams. Shortly after the production closed, however, Variety magazine reported that Eason had signed a $400,000 deal with Castle Rock Entertainment to make a movie of Runt, and to work with respected director Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile fame. That was the combination Eason was most hoping for as he pitched the project around Hollywood. There are, of course, many hurdles to be cleared before the movie gets made, but Runt -- partly through the help of Houston support -- has allowed him to get his foot in Hollywood's door.
Despite a marital breakup and a long-running battle with multiple sclerosis, this daughter of a preacher man remains one of the pillars of stability at Channel 13. As an anchor and reporter, Melanie Cerise Lawson conveys empathy, poise and intelligence. The last is not surprising, given her Princeton undergraduate credentials with advanced journalism and law degrees from Columbia. Licensed to practice law in Texas and New York, she served a stint as a Wall Street attorney before returning home to establish herself as one of the first high-ranking African-American television news figures in Houston. In the empathy department, Lawson also had a good teacher. Her father is Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church pastor Bill Lawson, a man credited with helping to broker the way for expanded civil rights and political opportunities for black Houstonians. Separated from high-tech-company owner Geary Broadnax, the 46-year-old Lawson now flies solo from an aerie at the Bayou Bend Condominiums off Memorial Drive. So far her MS has required occasional use of a cane, but is not noticeable to viewers and didn't keep her from traveling to South Africa with former president Bill Clinton for Nelson Mandela's election. Like longtime Channel 13 favorites Dave Ward and Marvin Zindler, Lawson is a prime reason the station continues to stay competitive in the Houston TV news market.

Despite a marital breakup and a long-running battle with multiple sclerosis, this daughter of a preacher man remains one of the pillars of stability at Channel 13. As an anchor and reporter, Melanie Cerise Lawson conveys empathy, poise and intelligence. The last is not surprising, given her Princeton undergraduate credentials with advanced journalism and law degrees from Columbia. Licensed to practice law in Texas and New York, she served a stint as a Wall Street attorney before returning home to establish herself as one of the first high-ranking African-American television news figures in Houston. In the empathy department, Lawson also had a good teacher. Her father is Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church pastor Bill Lawson, a man credited with helping to broker the way for expanded civil rights and political opportunities for black Houstonians. Separated from high-tech-company owner Geary Broadnax, the 46-year-old Lawson now flies solo from an aerie at the Bayou Bend Condominiums off Memorial Drive. So far her MS has required occasional use of a cane, but is not noticeable to viewers and didn't keep her from traveling to South Africa with former president Bill Clinton for Nelson Mandela's election. Like longtime Channel 13 favorites Dave Ward and Marvin Zindler, Lawson is a prime reason the station continues to stay competitive in the Houston TV news market.

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