Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pretty in Paint


My daughter went on a buying trip with her old boss a couple of months ago. She’s switched jobs, but he still trusts her taste for gifts for his store, and she found me the perfect gift. I now have a little ceramic sign on my bulletin board which says, “Put on a little lipstick. You’ll be fine.” This is a bit of a joke with the three Robinson girls. All their lives I’ve encouraged them to wear lipstick. They do not. Oh, they’ll slap on some chapstick once in a while. But it’s the rare occasion they wear lipstick, whereas I do not even put the trash out without some Revlon on my lips.

I grew up when you wore a lot of make-up to look “natural.” I’m down to blush, mascara and lipstick now, but there was a time when I was gluing on fake lashes and liquid-lining my eyes. Think Cleopatra, with an ass instead of an asp. Fashions change, and now even make-up is going “green,” with all natural ingredients and animal-free testing. While we’re not rubbing beet juice on our cheeks like they did in the 1800s, we’re not killing ourselves or the bunnies, either.

Three thousand years B.C., the Egyptians were wearing green eye-show and lining their eyes with kohl. Persian women put henna on their faces and bodies to “summon the majesty of the earth.” In the Middle Ages, women would bleed themselves so they could look fashionably pale. Lead, mercury and arsenic were common make-up ingredients, and I don’t even want to tell you what they did with cat dung and mouse skin. Rouge was all the rage in the Regency. Victorians put a stop to all that fun and frivolity, and it was the bare face that reigned until the 1920s, when mass-market make-up made it possible for everyone to be as glamorous as the new movie stars.
It is always a jolt to see Hollywood’s version of history. It takes a brave actress to go natural in front of the camera, but I’m pleased to see most period dramas today eschew the eye make-up and lipstick of the past.

How about you? Are you a sucker for the “free gift with purchase” at the Clinique counter? Are your heroines natural beauties or are they dusting their face with rice powder and rouging their nipples?


A woman without paint is like food without salt. ~Plautus (254-184 B.C.)


Come back soon for the MRMR August contest! And don't forget to check out Romance Novel TV's Start Your Book Month beginning August 1. Lots of authors will share their expertise and energy!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Word Bank



For a stretch in the 90s, my family was like Walton’s Mountain without the mountain. We had all our four kids at home, a Danish foreign exchange student who was addicted to Internet porn, my father, who was a double amputee, and my husband’s mother, who had senile dementia. We built a huge house with a wheelchair ramp and grab bars in the shower, went shopping at BJ’s Warehouse and stocked up on cases of adult diapers and Ensure. I used to love opening my pantry door to see rows and rows of canned goods and paper towels. I was pretty much prepared for any emergency---maybe even the Apocalypse---or at least prepared for dinner. We all pitched in and I’ll always be grateful to my children who gave their time so unselfishly to their grandparents. They tell me they’ll take care of me too when the time comes, but I’ve already told them to just set me off on the ice floe. Maybe with my laptop if I can get a wireless connection.

Now when I open my cupboards, I’m not sure we could survive till the weekend. I hate to grocery shop. The only things I want to stock up on are words. When I wake up in the middle of the night with a crazy idea, I jot it down. Sometimes I can even read what I wrote in the morning. I have many, many fragments of things that will never make it onto a bookshelf near you. I wish I’d started earlier, but as you’ve read above, I was kind of busy.

I started “sort of” writing a few summers ago, so happy anniversary to me! When I reread the novellas I wrote, I’m struck with both the grace and gross stupidity of them. I’d fix them, but I’ve moved on to a cuter boyfriend. But there are a few things I’ve plagiarized from myself, one of which is Mrs. Brown’s Pantheon of Pleasure, appearing originally in my very first unnamed novella (the one with the amnesiac bluestocking,* snort*) and now featured prominently in the full-length current WIP, Paradise. Yes, folks, it is a bawdy house. The best, most bootylicious bawdy house in London. Each of the girls bears the name of a Greek or Roman goddess.

As Iris Brown says right on page 121, “Did you not know? All my girls assume a new name and identity when they come to me. My benefactor considered himself to be a scholar of the classics. It was his fancy to install Greek and Roman goddesses right here in the heart of ton instead of Mt. Olympus or some looted temple. And drive his toplofty neighbors mad in the bargain.”

Just to let you all know I was into courtesans before reading Anna Campbell!

Do you have recurring themes in your writing? If you’re a reader, does a particular plot resonate with you? What are you storing in your bank?

Psyche Opening the Golden Box-Waterhouse

Saturday, July 14, 2007

St. Jane

I think we’d all agree that Jane Austen is the godmother of the modern romance novel. Her books have never gone out of print. Not everybody has been a fan, though---I thought I’d quote some heresy to raise your hackles and heat you up!

Joseph Conrad writing to H.G. Wells: "What is all this about Jane Austen? What is there in her? What is it all about?"

Charlotte Bronte: "Anything like warmth or enthusiasm, anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstrations the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré or extravagant. She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well. There is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy, in the painting. She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him with nothing profound. The passions are perfectly unknown to her: she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood ... What sees keenly, speaks aptly, moves flexibly, it suits her to study: but what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death--this Miss Austen ignores....Jane Austen was a complete and most sensible lady, but a very incomplete and rather insensible (not senseless woman), if this is heresy--I cannot help it."

And Mark Twain REALLY didn’t like her: "Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book."

"To me his prose is unreadable--like Jane Austin's [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane's. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death."

"I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

Yikes.

What’s your favorite Austen novel? Movie adaptation? Quote?

I’m partial to Emma (both book and movie with Gwyneth Paltrow, although the Kate Beckinsale version is good, too).And Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywood extravaganza, is a hoot. The movie Becoming Jane starring Anne Hathaway (!) is due out in August. Any casting comments?

Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort and to have done with all the rest. Words to live by!

How do you feel about modern authors “continuing” Pride and Prejudice with little Darcys, et al, or with Jane being a super-sleuth? I try to avoid most of those, although I recently read Austenland by Shannon Hale, which is a charming if slight novel about a Darcy-obsessed thirty-something who gets to live out her fantasy in a faux Austentonian resort, corset and all.

Or... do you think Twain is right to dis Jane?

Friday, July 13, 2007

RWA WAR


No, there are not tremors in the romance universe. Everything is probably hunky-dory in Dallas. It’s just me, warring with myself about finally filling out the application and writing the damn check to the Romance Writers of America. Why has it taken me so long (almost four years) to do what’s indubitably good for me? Why, when every published author states how useful RWA membership is, have I consistently ignored good advice and gone my own independent and doomed way? It’s definitely time for a change. I’m done with self-sabotage (and hope this blog doesn’t contribute to it further!).

I’m joining. Maybe not the local Maine chapter, which is a couple of hours away, but I should join that too. Looks like they have lunch and then workshops every third Saturday of the month. I mean, what do I usually do Saturdays? Oh, write. Right.

Now I can take courses, enter contests and get useful feedback. I have discovered I am a writer who (mostly) loves to write books but not query letters or synopses. That needs to change too, and will. I’ve got three and two-thirds books done, and a few novellas that are just waiting to be Restylaned into nice, plump novels. I had a hell of a lot of fun writing them. Maybe they’ll never get published. Time is not on my side. But…

I tend not to have regrets about mistakes, though, because I wouldn’t be me without them. One hundred dollars is little enough to fork out when RWA membership might help me figure out exactly what will work for me. And maybe I can even go to San Francisco next year. If nothing else, it will give me the impetus to lose twenty pounds, buy new shoes and meet some of my online friends.

Are you an RWA member? Any perks which have worked? Are you putting off taking your medicine on something you know you really should swallow? What should you be doing RIGHT NOW?

Friday the 13th Accomplishments:


Called pharmacy four days after prescription ran out
Scheduled doctor’s appointment I was supposed to make two months ago
Drove into town, mailed student book club books back that have been in my car a month
Sent two books and a monkey (stuffed) to Juliette that I bought in April
Mailed Stephanie's prizes three days after picking the little piece of paper with her name on it from the pile (Thanks, everybody---you are tea-riffic!) and returned overdue library book only three days late, checked out four new books, went to Wal*Mart and bought two more,drove home
Folded the laundry that’s been in the dryer for two days, did another load
Wrote and posted this blog

SENT CHECK TO RWA!!!

You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by. Mark Twain- Letter to Orion Clemens, 3/23/1878

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What's Cooking?


Despite the large number of cookbooks on my shelves, I’m not much inspired to cook these days. I’m just as happy to spend $2.19 on a Lean Cuisine. I’m lucky that my husband gets home before I do during the school year, so I usually walk in to a hug and a hot meal. It’s been a treat to have been on vacation the past week and have someone else labor in the kitchen. During the Avon contest, I was so obsessed I actually forgot to eat and I lost ten pounds. Bonus! When’s the next one?

Food and drink often play prominent roles in books and on screen. Say the words Tom Jones and I immediately remember the decadent eating scene. In books, couples are always hie-ing off on a picnic and coupling. Under the Tuscan Sun (the book by Frances Mayes, not the very pleasant movie) was a delicious tribute to Italy’s cuisine. Peter Mayle does an excellent job transplanting me to France, too. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them.

Writers are always encouraged to address the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and yum, taste. Here’s a great paragraph from Laura Lee Guhrke’s And Then He Kissed Her. The heroine is being kissed “in the half-light and shadows.”

She closed her eyes, and her other senses bloomed with a vivid clarity they had never possessed before. The masculine, earthy scent of him. The callus on his palm where his hand cupped her cheek. The taste of his mouth as he parted her lips with his. The sound of what could only be her own heart, beating like the rapid wings of a bird as it soared upward toward the heavens.

Wow.

What have you read lately that engaged all your senses? What’s your favorite cookbook? I rely on my stained standard Fanny Farmer, but do enjoy Paula Deen, too, y’all.

And speaking of food, Stephanie is going to be drooling as she reads her issues of Tea Time with her little Maine snack. E-mail me your address at maggierobinson8@yahoo.com and once I unpack, I'll be sending the prizes right out to you!