Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Family Way

Just finished re-reading some of Louis L'Amour's Sackett series. One thing I really admire about L'Amour: he can give you the flavor of down home speech without resorting to phonetic nightmare Hicksville. You'll find no character saying, "Wal, Ah figgered yew wuz out thar, cuz Ah smelt yer purty toilet water."

For those who aren't familiar with the Sacketts, they are a family of noble character, if not noble birth, in Tennessee. L'Amour has written about the first Sackett, in England in the 1700's (I think, don't have the book with me) coming to America, and most of the successive generations to the late 1800's. The main family traits are not backing away from any fight, following their honor code, and family loyalty. In the extreme. Any Sackett can call on another Sackett for help, even if the twice-removed cousins have never met. If you're family, you're taken care of.

I like family sagas; watching the generational ebb and flow. Romance is filled with them because families are guaranteed sequels. Any unattached siblings or cousins are automatic sequel fodder, especially if they proclaim they'll never marry. But they are also one area where romance tends to fall flat- when the couple who has been featured in a previous book appears, all is sunshine and light. I'm supposing no one wants to mess with the HEA, but I think an exploration of the happy couple after the wedding or the baby is interesting. I want to see how they're doing. I may want to be sure they'll make up after the fight, but I wouldn't mind witnessing the marital spat.

Lori Wick, a Christian inspirational writer, did a Western historical story where the heroine and hero married young and were separated. When they got back together, he was a Christian and she wasn't. But by the end of the book, the heroine hadn't changed her mind. I was sure we were going to get a salvation scene, but it never came and I was floored. The couple was referenced in another book, 20 years later. They were still happy together, but she was still unsaved. Very brave choice, and one I didn't see coming. I loved meeting the couple again; it certainly didn't ruin my enjoyment of the original tale.

What about you? Do you like reading about dynasties, royal or common?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Oh Good God

In the middle of Get In Shape Summer, and I was idiotic enough to do Billy Blanks' Tae Bo workout yesterday.

Am sore. Can't move.

Have church picnic tomorrow with a jillion screaming children going down an inflatable water slide.

Pray for me. Or hold a pillow over my face, either one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Carbon Footprint Is An Eight And A Half Wide

I think the Green movement is much like the Health movement; a lot of people talk about it but no one wants to do it. My family grew up recycling, using old things in new ways, composting, etc. My kids have been taught to save water when they brush their teeth and we are considering buying a hybrid car. But when I hear the current crop of zealots dissing me if I throw away a 3x5 card I have to fight the urge to tie the refrigerator door open and cackle maniacally.

Going Green is the hot new thing, but I’ve noticed I haven’t seen it in romances. Thank God. The minutiae of life is often glossed over in these stories- she did the dishes, he mowed the lawn- which is fine with me. I don’t think I could take a Mother Earth lecture while waiting for the first kiss.

Emma pushed away thoughts of Paul as she did her recycling, making sure that her paper, plastic, and aluminum were properly sorted. His handsome face had intruded on her mind so much that she forgot to turn off the water as she was washing her hands! Thank goodness her water heater was permanently set to 100 degrees, or she might even have taken more than a ten-minute shower!

A mention of Green, as long as it fit in the story, wouldn’t bother me. And if the hero is a carbon-emitting, SUV-driving, electricity waster and the heroine is a total Green guru who is horrified at her attraction to him, that would be okay too. I don’t normally mind if current sensibilities are adhered to; you rarely see any character in any book smoke, for example. You know I can’t stand reading about ripping open shiny foil packets in the middle of the action, but I would find it hysterical if the heroine woke up the morning after, noticed the three or four ripped shiny foil packets on the dresser, and smiled.

It isn’t the sentiment, it’s the PSA I can’t stand. I imagine the Green Mother will make her way into stories. If she wants to give me a gentle nudge, fine. But if she starts preaching, her book is getting hurled into the next landfill I can find.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Please Tell Me I Didn’t Just Hear That

I’m not sure daytime television really needs Emmy awards. An Emmy is supposed to reward excellence in television. Daytime is, by many definitions, junk food. It’s like giving a James Beard award to Hostess for the Ding Dong.

But I watched some of the Daytime Emmys to make fun of the fashions, the only true reason for watching award shows, when the Emmy for Best Talk Show-Informative came up. They had to split talk shows into categories this year, Informative and Entertainment. I was remarking that TV was really bankrupt if they had so many shows they to make up more categories, when The Tyra Banks Show was nominated for Informative Talk Show. Tyra, informative? That officially marks the beginning of the apocalypse, right?

Now, I love Miss Tyra. I’ve got to love a woman who is not ashamed to be photographed eating a Twinkie during New York Fashion Week. My daughter and I are addicted to America’s Next Top Model, mostly because we know that after all the catfights, none of these women will ever be seen again. Tyra has accomplished one good thing, though- she champions the curvy girl every chance she gets.

Some magazine or other last year called her fat. Yeah, right. She’s fat. She may love her BBQ ribs, but that girl ain’t fat. I know what fat is. It’s in my mirror every time I can’t avoid a glance. But an angry Tyra yelled on her informative talk show, “Every woman who is built like me needs to tell those kind of people to KISS MY FAT *SS!” Number one, Tyra, please don’t lump yourself in with real fat people, but number two, I appreciate the sentiment. It’s about time that different body types are celebrated, especially in modeling and television and film.

She won an Emmy for that episode. That may be a tad unreal, but no one ever believes awards mean what they’re supposed to. What got me was her acceptance speech. She went on about how no one thought her show would last two weeks, but now it’s on the fourth season, and if you have a dream that no one else believes in you should tell them to, “Kiss your big, juicy, bootylicious,” and I changed the channel. Surely Tyra, who scolds the Top Model girls on their comportment, did not just accept her Emmy by telling people to kiss her big bouncy.

Hey, I said I liked her. I never said she was classy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Teacher, Teacher

Where did you learn about writing? We all learned the basics from school, of course, but I bet most of us couldn’t diagram a sentence today if our lives depended on it. Schoolhouse Rock was great for learning about subjects and predicates and fueling the romantic heart at a young age. “Mr. Morton was lonely…Mr. Morton was…”

I think I learned the most from reading. How wordsmiths put thoughts together; when I understood it, when I felt it, and when I didn’t. I always wrote stories, even if I kept them in my head, but I started seriously putting them on paper because I wasn’t finding exactly the kind of story I wanted to read.

When I decided to write romance, I hung around the Harlequin site. E-Harl was doing a number of community boards, frequented by newbies, unpublished, published, you name it. The boards were very dedicated to helping writers learn the basics. Along with the lessons, there were contests and flash fiction exercises and round robins and stories. Lots and lots of stories, written by people who just loved to tell them, knowing that these were probably never going to be in any actual book. In fact, they are all the property of Harlequin. We knew it was highly unlikely that HQN editors would look at them and scream, “Eureka! We’ve found the next Nora Roberts!” But we learned. And kept writing. It was a wonderful, supportive environment; once you made the initial plunge it was not at all intimidating to post there. I kind of miss those days.

Today I am blessed to listen in as blog buddies like Bernita and December talk about the craft. Opinions about the ‘rules’ are as different and varied as snowflakes, but what binds us all together is the need to share a story, and share it well. I’ve been thinking about starting a romance board where friends can get together and talk about stuff; give lessons we’ve learned and post stories and ideas that we know won’t darken an agent’s desk but we still love; celebrate after the victories and console after the rejections; anyone can post and give honest feedback but you have to be constructive. Snarking would be fine, but crushing would be out of the question. How it would differ from the 1,245,987 other boards out there I haven’t figured out yet. I’ll have to think on it some more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

You Just Don’t Appreciate My Genius

With the opening of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, I’ve seen buzz around Blogsylvania about what a total tool M. Night is. So, a big Hollywood director is a diva and a brat. What a surprise! Surely, that’s never happened before!

I couldn’t care less if he threw a fit in front of reporters, and thinks he deserves to have some poor flunky pick out all the red M&M’s in the green room before he’ll touch them. (No one reported the M&M thing. I’ve worked for some theatrical venues where the one-hit wonder coming to perform had that sort of thing in the contract.) As long as he loves his wife and kids, and does his job by giving me some good movies, he can pitch all the hissies he wants.

What annoys me is the bloggers writing about him. If they’re pro-Night, then everything he’s touched is absolute gold and he’s the bestest ever and if you didn’t like his film, you obviously just don’t Get It. You have a higher intuitive power if you do Get It, I guess. I’m sick enough to envision a group of Nightfans huddled in a cave somewhere, discussing the Greater Meaning of seeing dead people and waiting for the big computer generated bird to take them home.

The anti-Nights are worse. He’s pedestrian, predictable, and highly undeserving of his artistic reputation. Yeah. And how many billion-dollar movies have you made, again? “I figured out the plot twist to Sixth Sense in the first thirty minutes.” “It took you that long? Well, I figured out the twist to Signs in the first fifteen minutes.” “Idiot. I figured out The Village from the previews!”

I will admit it. I didn’t see any of that coming. I didn’t figure out the twist. Does that mean I’m some kind of stupid, knuckle-dragging regressive? I did catch the one in a non-Night movie, The Lake House. Even though I knew what was coming, I still enjoyed it.

Are we all saddled with such huge inferiority complexes that we have to beat up on movie watchers to feel better? I generally like M. Night’s movies. I don’t have to worship at his altar. If you don’t like his movies, fine. But don’t make insinuations about my intellect when I say I loved Lady in the Water. By the way, what does it say about yours when you say you hate him but you keep seeing the movies?

Why can’t we just say, “ I liked that,” and “Oh, really? I didn’t,” and go get a macchiato?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry

SciFi channel has been having a Hulk marathon this week, to hype the new Incredible Hulk movie. As interesting as the movie looks, I prefer the old TV series. Probably because I grew up with it; but it was a great story on a lot of levels.

“Dr. David Banner, physician, scientist, looking for a way to tap into the hidden strengths that all humans have…”

It’s quite obviously a reworking of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; the Stevenson allegory that says we all have a monster deep inside that could come out given the right circumstances. And the image from the end credits of the lonely Banner, forced into isolation, hitchhiking down the road while a haunting piano plays, is etched into my memory.
"The world believes David Banner to be dead. And he must let the world believe he is dead, until he finds a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him."
I cried all the time watching that show. My brothers, of course, just liked watching HULK SMASH!!! It was the perfect formula. Guys got to see cars tossed around and girls got to sigh over the hero.

My kids are enjoying the series, and enjoying watching me squee over it. Yes, the plastic rocks and easily bent metal and special effects- if you could call them that- are laughable by today’s standards, but I still get that feeling when his eyes turn white. He’s gonna Hulk out! He’s gonna Hulk out! The stories are standard 70’s TV fodder, but my attention-deficit Nintendo kids still liked it. I have to believe it’s because of one thing:

The talent and charm of the late Bill Bixby. Oh, my gravy, did I have a crush on him. I know, I know, who didn’t I have a crush on, but still. He was wonderful. And it goes to show that a great character can transcend some mediocre storylines.

And, yeah. They liked seeing Lou Ferrigno roar and toss around cars, too.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I’m So Glad I Didn’t Marry My Dad

Okay, that needs some explanation. I was reading this cool post by StarvingWriteNow about a childhood staple, car trips. It pushed my nostalgia button, and brought back these wonderful memories…

Like sitting on the hump in the middle of the back seat because I was the youngest and the smallest. The most uncomfortable seat in the car. I was really positioned there because my mom wanted a barrier between my brothers. They would smile at me, highly pleased with themselves, since they always won Animal Rummy or License Plate Tag or any game of that kind. I didn’t stand a chance since I wasn’t near a window. That was okay. When it came time to break into 99 Bottles of Coke on the Wall, I blasted them out of their smugness.

I would have taken those trips over the teen ones, though. By then my oldest brother was living with our father, and I sometimes had the backseat to myself. Good thing. My stepdad was a trip all by himself. I love the man dearly, but he drove like he was on a mission. He had to conquer the road. Gotta make time, gotta make time.

One of the ways he made up lost time? Not stopping for bathroom breaks. We kept a 10 lb. coffee can and a roll of toilet paper in the backseat floorboard. When my mom needed to use the facility, she and I would simultaneously climb over the seat, changing places. To tinkle, you had to put the can on the seat, take off the cover (yours and the can’s) and hover over the opening at 75 mph. You prayed that the road was smooth and no semi trucks passed.

This torture ended when Mom was emptying the can- which happened in motion as well, gotta make time, gotta make time- but she didn’t just pour it out the window. She gave it a heave, hoping the contents would fly out far enough to miss the side of the car. They blew back in her face.

Dad had a choice. Bathroom breaks, or divorce papers. He had a few manic ideas, but he’s no dummy.

When Gary and I were putting together our wedding vows, I nearly put in “I promise to love, honor, cherish, and stop at the first available porta-potty.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Venus And Mars Both Blow

As Tammy Wynette sang, “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.” And I don’t want to stand by my man, because he’s thinner than I am. It’s like those Slimquick commercials: a rotund couple sits on the sofa. The man has a bowl of chips on his lap. The woman tells us that her husband just started drinking diet soda, and lost 17 pounds. She’s been drinking nothing but water for a year, and…nothing.

Why, why, why can men just barely start doing exercise or eating more salad, and they can fit into their old pants; but when we skip breakfast and eat 1 little chocolate covered diet granola bar for lunch and splurge on exactly four raisins, and cannot get the sound of Billy Blanks out of our heads (“Go! Work it! Go! Work it!”) and feel guilty over having a skinny latte with Splenda and three weeks later, exhausted, we can proudly point to a two pound weight loss?

I don’t know if it’s hormones or metabolism or age, but I’m sick of it. And the weight is hard enough- I’m going through peri-menopause. Which means hot flashes and moodiness coupled with cramps and PMS, and could continue for the next seven years. Can’t my body just pick one or the other? Do I have to have both? Or could I at least get skinny while the hormones duke it out?

But talking to my son lately made me realize that men don’t have a bed of roses either. Recently a men’s group at our church decided to go coed. And that bummed him out big time. “Mom,” he said, “why is it that every time guys get to do something together, a girl decides to crowd in?” I had the typical response ready- that’s the price you pay to live in a patriarchal society, etc., etc., but then I thought about it. I wouldn’t want to tell my daughter that there was anything she couldn’t do, but should there be places or groups she shouldn’t try to join?

Does “For Men Only” automatically make it chauvinistic? I had more male friends than female growing up, and I’m very comfortable with the company of men. But I also know that the very air changes when a man walks into a group of women. It changes the dynamic. And there are times when I just like talking to women. Ain’t nobody gonna squawk if there’s a sign on the door that says For Women Only. Are men any less deserving?

My son said it wasn’t just being invaded. It was that he thought he’d get blasted for thinking it sucked. I’m going to suggest that he start a guy’s club, and hang up a big NO GIRLS sign. I think the females of the world can take it. Heck, I’ll even jeopardize my diet and make them snacks.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Winnah!

The winner of My Favorite Romantic Line contest is-


My hubby's fedora liked you best. Please email me at with your addy and I'll have your gift certificate winging its way to you with champagne wishes and caviar dreams!

Thanks to everybody who entered. A few of these great lines:

From Charles, our winner: Say I'm reading a book and a beautiful woman like Lana asks, "whatcha reading?" I say, "I'm reading a book on how to meet beautiful women but I had no idea it would work so fast."

From Precie: "And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire---I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you."

From Carrie: "You were the song all along, and before the song dies... I should tell you... I should tell you... I have always loved you -- "

And finally, from Becky: "OK Gerdie, brace yourself, here I come..."

Is it any wonder I love romance?