Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Great Expectations, the Contest

Several weeks ago, Irisheyes made a comment that got me thinking. Are romance novels good for real romance? Are we all looking for that tall, dark and handsome duke/firefighter with a blazingly bright smile and tight buns…and instead find a shortish nerd with beer breath and belly flab? Can our husbands/lovers perform on par with Duke St. Flame and get it right every time all night? Do we get disappointed if they can’t?

Lots of women say reading romance has helped their sex lives, whether they’re involved in a joint or solo venture. What do you think? And how many books a week do you read trying to find out? Comment by midnight Saturday, June 2 and you may win a copy of Julie Garwood’s Slow Burn and other hot stuff. I’ll post the randomly-selected winner and a new blog Sunday, June 3.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Running With Scissors

Collage: an assemblage or occurrence of diverse elements or fragments in unlikely or unexpected juxtaposition

I’ve been making collages since my grandmother let me cut up old Sears catalogs and paste the bits into my own wishbook. For our twenty-fifth anniversary, I assembled a jumble of family pictures and every weird thing my husband has ever said.

Well, not every. The collage is only 3’ X 4.’

There’s a collage-y bulletin board over my desk that’s supposed to inspire me. On it right now, pictures of the following: my four kids, adorable Ioan Gruffudd, buttons, lilacs, hollyhocks, a blue door, and beach rocks. There's also a postcard from Graceland with Elvis’ favorite sweet potato pie recipe sent by daughter #2, a mini-collage made by daughter #3 and motivational quotes, some from fortune cookies. Inspired yet? I thought not.

My writing is a little like my Sears art and my bulletin board. There are unlikely juxtapositions everywhere. I love to do research and weave the findings in someplace. I’d like to find a use for Thomas Fletcher Waghorn’s overland route from England to India. It cut the journey from 16,000 miles to 6,000 miles, from three months to 35- 45 days. I imagined a disgruntled British army officer assigned to guard the return of a teenage heiress and her governess who would teach him a lesson or two. I even wrote the first eighteen pages. But I think even reduced, 6,000 miles might be too much for me to cover. I bet Loretta Chase could do it in her sleep, though.

What's your favorite motivational quote or inspirational object? What interesting fact have you learned researching your books? What would you like to know more about?

On my bulletin board: ancient Chinese secrets from fresh Chinese fortune cookies

As soon as you feel too old to do a thing, do it.

Your dream must be bigger than your fear.

Instead of worrying and agonizing, move ahead constructively.

Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice.

Do you know the fortune cookie trick? Add the words “in bed” to the end of every saying. That works pretty well for the examples above!

And Lenora, do the Chinese even have fortune cookies?

Friday, May 18, 2007

I Do vs. Why Do

Time Magazine recently published an article by John Cloud entitled “Americans Love Marriage. But Why?” Citing and debunking a bunch of statistics, the author’s conclusion was “we feel worse, mentally and physically, when we can’t find a mate or when we are trapped by a bad one. There is good evidence that it is freedom that makes us healthy and happy, not the bonds of marriage.”

Uh. Okay. Try telling that to romance writers when their every book ends with the promise of marriage, if not the actual ceremony. And I’m a sucker for those epilogues that let us peek at the blissfully happy future and bouncing babies, too.

But Cloud has a point. 51 percent of American women are now living without a spouse, including widows and those whose jobs necessitate residing in a different city, state, or continent. I can’t believe more than half of my sisters are miserable, stroking their cats and watching Mary Tyler Moore re-runs for pointers.

Before America was really America, marriage was considered a desirable, even necessary state. Women were lured to Virginia by this advertisement:

If any Maid or single Woman have a desire to go over, they will think themselves in the Golden Age, when Men paid a Dowry for their Wives; for if they be but civil, and under 50 years of age, some honest Man or other will purchase them for their Wives.

So even then guys were looking for grateful young things who weren’t mouthy.

90 percent of American women marry at least once in their lifetime. But we all know there is no guarantee of happily ever after. The trend to test drive before buying---living together---is, I think, a wise decision for many couples. Though I bet they, like Brad and Angelina, get sick of hearing, “So, when are you kids gonna get married?”

Romance novels don’t portray real life accurately ---that’s why we love them. I believe marriage is the required outcome for historical romances in order to stay true to the mores of the time, but what about contemporary romantic fiction? Lots of people don’t get married now, but just “live in sin.” How would you feel about a book not ending in the obligatory marriage? Can you think of any you’ve read that reflect Kurt and Goldie’s choice? Is that gold band the gold standard for writing THE END?

Love: a temporary insanity, curable by marriage. ~ Ambrose Bierce

Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. ~Oscar Wilde

Marriage is not a word; it is a sentence. ~ King Vidor

Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside equally desperate to get out. ~ Michel de Montaigne

My maternal grandparents Franziska and Stefan Maniero on their wedding day. Don’t you love his mustache?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Momory Lane

It’s Mother’s Day. I’m going to write about my favorite works-in-progress.

I’m fortunate. I’m a mother to four wonderful people. Don’t get me wrong; they’re not perfect. Somehow they feel obligated now to tell me stuff they did growing up I never knew then and wish I still didn’t. But I thought I’d share with you some of the things that stick out in my mind about raising the little devils.

When my son was two, he got up and escaped outside through a tear in the screened porch. I woke up, panicked when I couldn’t find him. I looked outside and my heart stopped. There he stood in the garden in his droopy diaper, covered in blood. No, wait. It was the juice of the cherry tomatoes he was eating for his breakfast. He also rode his Big Wheel into a swimming pool before he could swim. Is it any wonder I have to color my hair?

When my oldest daughter was almost three, she was quite bossy and cranky. I bought her an Oscar the Grouch costume for Halloween. She didn’t realize I was secretly making fun of her. Sorry, honey.

When my middle girl was about three, the exterior of our house was getting painted. She stood at the window and recognized one of the painters. “Harry, you little bastard,” she said. We think she meant rascal.

The baby of the family suffered terribly at the hands of her siblings. They cut her hair (Vidal Sassoon might say asymmetrical but I’d say crooked) and drew a mustache on her face with permanent marker while she took her nap. Daughter #2 carved Daughter #3’s initial into a piano stool before Daughter #3 could even write. My son recruited her for “The Cool Crew” and made her torment her sisters, whom he named “The Crusty Dorks.” But she turned out okay (see January 29th’s blog post).

Permanent markers were ever a problem. My son once wrote “Girls are stopid. So is Daughter #1” on a wall. I can’t recall whether I was more upset about the graffiti or the misspelling.

My son and his family live in Florida, but the girls are still handy. A few years ago they all came home, hid in the tiny downstairs bathroom shower stall and jumped out to surprise me for Mother’s Day. The surprise was that they could all fit in it (two of them are 5’9” and the other is 5’7”) and that I didn’t drop dead from the shock (all 5’4 ½” of me).

So, Happy Mother’s Day to me and the rest of you. May you treasure your children and your mothers and your memories as I treasure mine.

‘Fess up. How naughty were you when you were a kid?

Children in romance novels: charming or upchuckable?

"The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until the children are in bed."~~Author Unknown.~~

Daughter #2, Valedictorian Daughter #3, Son #1 and Only, Daughter # 1, June 2001

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Under the Influence

My friend Ginny in Connecticut called me a while back. We’ve known each other since we played fifth stand cello in the orchestra in our freshman year of high school (yes, there were eight cellists more proficient than we were). Ginny went on with the cello and wound up at first stand, but I stopped when I got tired of walking a mile to school with the big brown bag. Plus, it’s really hard to play the cello in a tight skirt.

We talked about a great many things for too long a time on Ginny’s dime, like how we once got drunk on Manischewitz wine at a sleepover. We discovered we had both been independently and recently thinking about our Senior English teacher, Ida Beth Newlon. Miss Newlon was quiet yet firm, and encouraged her students to read, write and think. She picked me to work on the literary magazine. She was the first teacher I had in four years of high school who I felt really, truly cared about me. She told me I had “spark” and I believed her.

It’s taken a while for the spark to ignite a fire, but I credit Miss Newlon for having confidence in me as a writer so many years ago. I expect by now Miss Newlon is somewhere in English Teacher Heaven, where all the red pencils are sharp, yet there are no mistakes to correct. So, thank you again, Miss Newlon. I’m glad I thanked you way back then, and Ginny and I have not forgotten you now that we are older than you were when you taught us.

And, Ginny? I told you you’d be in my blog. Thank you for being my friend and a great teacher. You, too, Claudia.

Do you have a mentor who’s meant a lot to you? A pal you’ve played with for ages? Feel free to acknowledge them here.

May 6-12 is Teacher Appreciation Week, so go appreciate somebody!

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. ~Henry Brooks Adams