Friday, January 30, 2009

China Syndrome

I hit Wal*Mart the day after Christmas 2008, looking for presents for Christmas 2009. I found a cute Santa mug, a Santa plate, some scented candles and ornaments, and a bamboo tray loaded with bath and body products reduced to $7.50. The tray itself was worth that, I reasoned, and I needed a body polisher bad, not to mention bath crystals and a rubber massage thingy. Yes, I bought it for myself, but when I got home and opened it, there was a curious sticker on all the potions and lotions: Do not apply around eyes or lips. Keep out of reach of children. Hmm. So now I'm freaked out, wondering if I'll go blind or kissless...or if the poison will go directly into my bloodstream when I nick myself shaving.

There's been so much talk of dangerous products coming out of China, yet so many items are made there. My Wet n Wild lipstick? Fabrique` en Chine. The wide-mouth thermos my husband got for his lunch? Made in China. My black velour sweater? You guessed it. I read an amusing article about one family who tried to go without buying Chinese products for a year, how difficult it was not only because of prevalence but pocketbook. Things cost a whole lot more when they don't have those three magic words on the label.

And even if what you buy is made/assembled in the U.S., there's this: almost 80 percent of the world’s wheat gluten (found in most breads, cakes and cookies) comes from China, and 80 percent of all sorbic acid (a preservative in almost everything) is made there too. I'll never look at a Twinkie quite the same way again.

In these tough economic times, many people want to buy American, shop locally, shop green, concepts which should be easy but aren't. Most of us are being conservative with our money. As someone who used to easily spend $25 a week on books, I spend much less than that a month now. I haven't been to the movies in ages, or out to dinner anywhere fancier than our local Chinese restaurant, LOL. Yum to chicken lo mein and crab rangoon.

Has the economic downturn affected your entertainment choices? Are you buying fewer books/reading less? Got any tips for stretching my allowance? I'm working on a display for the library and looking for ideas teens can use to consume less and conserve more.

And just because I'm hungry, what do you order when you go out to eat?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seeing Red

Those of you who've been my cyberfriends for a while know that Third-Rate Romance, that late lamented novel that spent a year (almost to the day) on an editor's desk (only to be regretfully rejected*), featured a total of five red-headed heroines. (Hmm..perhaps a few heroines too many. But I digress.) My latest project, Mistress by Marriage, mercifully has just one red-headed heroine. As the last in a trilogy featuring a blonde and a brunette, a redhead was obligatory---not to mention reflective of my own three daughters, who look very little alike except for their beautiful smiles.

Redheads are hugely prevalent in romances (hence my choice in the spoof TRR), but did you know they make up only about 2% of Americans? Scotland has the most at 13%. (yay, Jamie Fraser) According to National Geographic, redheads are headed for extinction. Thank goodness for L'Oreal.

I've had two forays into the world of coloring my blonde hair red. The first time, right before I got married, it just looked weird. The second time, about fifteen years ago, I had a strong resemblance to Ronald McDonald. The hairdresser who colored my hair on Saturday called me up that night at home and opened up her shop for me on Sunday morning to fix it. I was so stunned when she was done Saturday, I was speechless, but she didn't miss the look of shock and possibly tears welling in my eyes. So I've learned my lesson to admire redheads from afar and in fiction.

Good thing that I have this lovely site to look at them in nineteenth century art. Enjoy!

Do you have any hair disasters to report? Written about a redhead? Any rejections (see below) to share?

*Sorry you had to wait so long and sorry to say no. Third Rate Romance was very clever and often quite funny---I just can't see how to market it to romance readers, who, as a rule, do not like their beloved genre mocked, except maybe on websites like Smart Bitches Trashy Books or Rip My Bodice. Satire, even one as affectionate and witty as this, has always been a tough sell and it's tougher than ever these days.

But please keep us in mind for other projects. I like your originality and I like your style. Best of luck.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Scent Sense

We all know that the five senses are important to writing. I never feel I incorporate them enough. While I'm primarily a visual person in RL, I'm pretty sensitive to scents, and love to wear perfume. Unfortunately the woman I work with is allergic, so I've abandoned my Chanel No. 5 in the interest of keeping my job. The most aromatic I get on weekdays is from applying Gold Bond Skin Therapy Lotion, which works wonders on my dry elbows and feet. It has a very pleasant smell that so far has not made my boss sneeze. But I miss eau de cologne.

My first grown-up perfume was Arpege by Lanvin. My parents always bought it for me for Christmas, but I can't even remember what it smells like anymore. I was a Charlie girl in college (cheaper), tried Shalimar but it stuffed me up. Chanel No. 5 and 19 are old favorites, but I also loved something called Champagne, which had to change its name because of conflict with the wine trademark. I've worn Beautiful and Sunflowers and Green Tea. I like floral and citrussy things, but can't deal with musk. One whiff of something and I can be instantly transported to a different time and place. Who will ever forget the sharp tang of Clearasil at a high school dance or the soft scent of baby powder on a little bottom?

My interest in aroma must be genetic. Distant relations manufactured Murray and Lanman's (my maiden name) Florida Water, which has a pretty bottle. (That monkey above thinks so too. The illustrations here are from vintage advertising cards.) In doing research on the product, I've discovered some people use it in witchcraft rites. I don't think my dead relatives would approve. *g* I prefer something less spiritual on the men in my life---Old Spice will do just fine. My current hero Edward's signature scent is lime; his heroine Caroline wears jasmine.

Are you a perfume person? What do your characters smell like? What's your favorite scent? I love fresh-cut lemons and oranges. Peonies and lilacs. Raspberries and blackberries. Coconut sun lotion and ocean breezes. Fall leaves and summer rain.

Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume. ~Jean de Boufflers

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shakespeare in Like

I Brake for Culture

I was an English major. My college even tapped me for the English honorary society. I took a million English courses, but just one in Shakespeare in my sophomore year. I had a dreadful teacher who must have been in the middle of a bad divorce or something. He seemed to hate Shakespeare, students, and women in particular. I have absolutely no recollection of a damn thing except I got a B. It might even have been a B-, the bastard.

I've pretty much avoided reading Shakespeare since then, but I've been to numerous stage productions and movies, even the highly energetic and amusing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) in London. I recently spent a delightful Saturday afternoon watching some of the BBC's Shakespeare Retold mini-series, watching Much Ado About Nothing and Taming of the Shrew in nine nine-minute increments on YouTube at my computer instead of writing like I was supposed to. Set in modern-day England, the familiar plots got a distinctive twist. If you have the patience and frugality to follow my example, I highly recommend you do so, if only to enjoy luscious Rufus Sewall in high-heeled boots and eye makeup. Or you can order the whole four-part series on Netflix like a normal person.

Fess up. What classic English literature have you shunned?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Balancing Act

I'm not juggling quite so many balls as I used to. No kids at home, no elderly parents to take care of, no 4,000 square foot house to clean. No smelly basset hound, no volunteering. I only work 27 1/2 hours a week, although believe me, it feels like 40+. So why does it seem there aren't enough hours in the day to do things?
Since it's a new year, I'm supposed to make New Year's Resolutions. But when I make them, I always break them. I'm not good at setting limits and goals, and I hate the guilty feeling I get when I fall short of my own expectations. But there is one thing I was determined to do before 2009.
Clean my closet. My seasonal-appropriate clothes are all in the small bedroom I call the Writing Room. (Note the capital letters---it's where Important Issues are Addressed, as well as where I get dressed every morning.). My desk wasn't so bad, but the closet---let's just say I lost my favorite red handbag in there for a year and had to go out and buy another red handbag because every woman should have a red handbag. The initial impetus for the Pre-New Year's Resolution was to search for the black tank top and the black sweater that I knew was in there somewhere. I won't bore you with a list of the other stuff I found, but it was an educational experience. So now I'm ready to face the new year, a lot smarter and dressed in black.
What have you been putting off in your own life that you're determined to tackle in 2009? (My dresser is next, I promise.) How are your writing goals coming along? What's in your closet? Do you own a red handbag?
Many congratulations to Stephanie, who is the randomly selected winner of my MRMR Second Birthday/Anniversary contest! Please e-mail your mailing address to Many, many thanks to all of you who visit and comment. My year would not be the same without you.