Sunday, July 31, 2005
The Top Ten Things Elizabeth Learned about Reno
9. Kitty Kuttlestone is even more abrasive in real life than she is on the blog--until you give her a whiskey sour and an Indianhead nickel and send her to the slots.
8. Surprisingly, it's NOT a good idea to start drinking four hours before the Rita ceremony.
7. Stan the bartender at the escalator bar is the greatest !@#$%ing bartender on the planet.
6. Pear martinis suck. (Oh, yes, they do, too.)
5. There's this cool thing where, when you order a drink, the bartender says, "Hey, I can make that a double for a dollar more," wherein you have no choice but to say, "Well then, Stan, supersize me."
4. Stan the bartender at the escalator bar is the most stupendous !@#$%ing bartender on the planet.
3. Life is fabulous when you're up two dollars and seventy-five cents at the nickel slots, but then--BOOM--with one pull of the arm, you're right back on skid row where you started.
2. It's best to avoid men who start conversations, "You know, I've been watching you from the nickel slots all night..."
1. Stan the bartender at the escalator bar is the most phenomenal !@#$%ing bartender on the planet.
Dateline Reno, Nevada July 31,2005.
BROCKWAY DENIED. STOP. (what a whiner)
LAW TRIUMPHS. STOP. (what a smile!)
MEDEIROS PUTS IT ALL OUT THERE. STOP (please!)
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Did you all miss Christina Dodd and my never-ending travails of moving which some less-than-kind Squawkers have labeled “whining?”
Random bits of info from the moving front:
The beds arrived yesterday so my sister-in-law got to sleep on a real mattress — and so did we! In fact, we bought a whole new bed. Isn’t it gorgeous!?
The laundry chute is the best thing ever invented.
The concrete guys poured the bottom part of our driveway yesterday. With their shirts off. One of them looks like Mel Gibson. AND I CAN’T FIND MY BINOCULARS!
The arrival of the front door, formerly June 1, formerly last Tuesday, formerly Friday, has been moved to Monday. Any bets it’s going to appear? Any bets it’ll be the RIGHT front door?
You may remember that we lit the propane fireplace in the great room and discovered the fireplace people forgot to install the fan. They came yesterday and installed the fan … and now the fire won't light.
List of things to do today: unpack more boxes. Visit with in-laws. Clean old house. Clean new house. Write.
I got my copy edit for my February book, THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS, just in case I don’t have anything else to do. I also have the painting for the cover. This is the kind of art a writer prays for.
KITTY COLLAPSES MID-WAY THRU SQUAWKER DINNER
Kitty would love to post but she's been laid out on the casino floor since Thursday. The last time she was actually semi-upright was at the squawker dinner where we discovered PEAR MARTINIS!
She promises to post later but for now some pictures frojm RENO!
top is Susan Kay Law, Susan Anderson and barb Freethyat breakfast (yes, they were up at dawn)
Next is another breakfast picture--this time me and Chrsitie Ridgeway , my favorite author in the whole world after taking all those nasty pictures of me at the Harlequin party . Why would someone who takews incriminating photos be a favorite? Because I know she would NEVER post them anywhere!
Finally, the squawkers at dinner where we discovered PEAR MARTINIS!
more later... I'M TIRED!!!
Friday, July 29, 2005
So today the three of us gave a workshop at the RWA conference. We were supposed to talk about romance cliches, like the amnesia plot: a good, solid workshop that would appeal to beginners and others. But then this morning Terri and I got the idea of acting out a critique group. So we turned ourselves into...
Ellie, Terri and CB from Pocahontas, Ohio!
Poor Ellie, Terri and CB...We've been writing for about a year, but we haven't quite started putting pen to paper because we want to make sure that we don't make any mistakes first. So we meet every Wednesday night in the bowling alley, and discuss all the things we shouldn't do once we start writing.
Tonight was CB's turn to talk about what she thought she'd put into that book, once she started writing it.
"My hero is a missionary!" CB said enthusiastically.
"That will never sell!" snapped Ellie (Eloisa). "The only spiritual thing your hero should be thinking about is the missionary position."
"Oh girls," Terri said, "Let's all try and get along. I think missionaries are really sexy, CB!"
There were moments of great hilarity... I don't know why it is, but when the squawkers insult each other with a ruthless lack of hesitation, it seems to cause a near level of hysterical laughter in the room.
Wish you all were here! More on the conference later...we've got some great pictures and right now we're all off to a fancy dinner being given by our publisher in a Wedding Chapel!
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Christina Dodd unpacks ... and unpacks ... unpacks
My father-in-law and sister-in-law have arrived. They looked around at the incredible mess — the boxes of books, the overflowing kitchen table, the lack of beds (which are being delivered tomorrow because, remember, I expected the family on Friday) and they laughed. See, this is why I like my in-laws. They pretty much roll with the punches. Now they’re sitting on the deck, having a drink and enjoying said view.
I managed to get to the doctor at the right time for my “well-woman check-up.” It felt good to lie down and rest — and is that sad or what?
The Mythical Masons who mysteriously disappeared for two weeks have returned. The dust from the stonework covers everything, I can’t leave anything on the kitchen counter and I’ve got a fine grit between my teeth.
Comcast can't put in the cable because it overextends the line so they have to put in an amplifier on the main line before we can get TV or (drum roll) internet service, and they won't even TALK about that until next week when they'll let us know how long it'll be. I'm at a restaurant downtown sneaking onto their wifi.
Despite all my whining, I have to say — this is one seriously great house. Look at the view from my office!
Lisa on "The Beauty Product I Can't Live Without"
I don't care if it looks like I'm hawking cosmetics online . . . I have to share this.
As I reflect on my fellow Squawkers who are at the RWA conference looking chic and beautiful, attending cocktail parties and fabulous dinners . . . and I sit here in my tee shirt and jeans preparing to take the kids out shopping for school supplies . . . and Xtina Dodd is surrounded by hunky construction workers . . . it occurs to me that even in my de-glammed condition, I rarely go out without a swipe of lip gloss and a dusting of my One Essential Beauty Product . . . Nars blush in the peachy-pinky-gold shade of "Orgasm". You can get it at Sephora, and it works for everyone. It looks natural, it's subtle, and it gives you that fresh glow that looks like you've just . . . .well, you know. It goes with everything . . . I can wear red, pink, black, chartreuse, neon green . . . and this blush looks great no matter what. And it has a little bit of shimmer that makes the top of your cheekbones gleam like Kim Basinger's.
So I was wondering . . . what is the beauty product you can't live without? Is there a particular lipstick you stockpile in the fear that it might someday be discontinued? A moisturizer that you keep returning to because nothing else works as well? The best hairspray in the world?
Please share anything you think the rest of us need to know!
I'm going to be travelling today, on my way to Reno and the conference, so I thought I'd leave you something fun to look at. This last January I "came out" and told my colleagues in the English Department (I teach Shakespeare at a university) that I was a writer. After they got over the shock, one of them sent me to a wonderful website for old romance comics.
The first romance comic published was called Young Romance. The first issue was a huge success. Here's a great little detail about it: apparently Martin Goodman, the publisher of Timely Comics (which later became Marvel Comics), attacked Young Romance as "virtual pornography." He ate his words, because a couple of years later Timely Comics started their own romance line. This is not the first one (obviously), but the agony on the cover, and the terrific 60's outfits, was just too wonderful! (In case you can't read it, it says: "My Mother! My RIVAL!"
Did anyone read romance comics as a kid? I was only allowed to have cartoons for long road trips (a bad mistake on my mother's part that inevitably led to green-faced children). I was addicted to Veronica and...and darn! I can't remember all their names. Jughead. Archie. Those were sort of romantic, although it was mostly thwarted, as I recall.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Christina Dodd moves into her new house with one husband, two dogs, and ten of her most intimate construction-based friends
The boxes are packed. The movers are here. Up at the World’s Tallest Tar Paper Shack, the carpet layer is at this moment laying the carpet in the great room and in the master bedroom so we can place the furniture. And my father-in-law and sister-in-law are arriving a day early(before you guys squawk that they're rude, the visit was arranged months ago when we thought we'd be in the house by June 1 hahahahahahhaha). Yes, instead of coming on Friday, as my husband told me, which would give us twenty-four hours to frantically unpack and prepare, they’re coming tomorrow. In fact, they were always coming tomorrow, but Scott is … hm, how to say this kindly? Scott is scheduling impaired.
Later at the new house as I watch the movers wrestle my piano off the truck and cringe:
—The new house has three and a half stories and five sets of stairs (up one from garage to walk-out basement, up one to great room and deck, up one to main level, up two to top level.) I wonder if the movers are going to drop that piano. I wonder how long it’ll take them to empty the truck. I wonder if I’ll get any sleep tonight.
—It hasn't topped 80 degrees all summer. I'm freezing my sissy Texas fanny off. I look longingly at Houston where it's 99, and that's a sad thing. As I packed, I caressed my shorts and thought — but I have great legs! No one gets to see them! My tanning lotion is spoiling! My toes have mildew!
—I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. You know, for a “well-woman check-up.” I hope I can find my calendar because I know the date but not the time.
— I have a port-o-pottie and a dumpster in my back yard.
—The glass guys came to install the glass doors in our shower. The doors were cut wrong. So I’ll have to get up at the buttcrack of dawn and trek upstairs to the bathroom with a shower curtain to avoid the ten construction guys who will appear everyday at seven am to finish the plumbing, the electrical, the trim, the lighting … But we have no window coverings anywhere and I’d have to do that anyway.
—The guy who's doing our stairs and railings is an artist. They're hickory, vertical grain fir, and gorgeous, and he's been working on them for three months with no end in sight.
— The driveway concrete's not poured so we can't get our cars into the garage, which we couldn't do anyway because it's full of boxes from storage and they're behind the saw/sander set-up for the stair guy.
—And finally, the good news. The carpet layer is also an artist, and I had him design my carpet for my office. This isn’t a great photo, but it will give you the idea of what he did — cutting swirls of two carpet colors (black and rust) into the main carpet (chocolate) and beveling the edges. It’s gorgeous!
Updates tomorrow! Whether you want them or not!
Lisa on "Is Romance Bad For You?"
I read a post today on a reader message board, and I found it heartbreaking. According to the poster (I am paraphrasing), she is giving up reading romance novels because they cause women to have unrealistic expectations about their relationships with men. Her feeling is that romance novels "fuel fantasies" that more or less lead to disappointment with real life, and that "romance and passion are the exception not the rule" after you've been together for a while.
I understand what she was expressing, but my experience with romance reading has been so radically different that I feel compelled to mention it here. I started reading romance novels long before I ever had a serious relationship with a man, and they did indeed fuel fantasies . . . I imagined what it would have been like to live in the historical period, and what my own real-life romance would someday be like. But I never expected the men I dated to be exactly like the ones in the books. And I can assure you I had very realistic expectations. I never thought that these exciting romantic stories with dashing alpha males were a blueprint for how life should be lived.
My mother reads lots of serial killer novels. This has not led to expectations of being attacked in alleys by murderous strangers. My brother loves sci-fi, but to my knowledge he doesn't expect to have an alien encounter soon.
I think most women, even young ones, have the capability of separating fantasy from reality, and enjoying both parts of their lives for different reasons. My husband does not usually ride up on horseback and carry me off to his castle, but there are times I think he is the sexiest man in the world. After eleven years of marriage, we have a passionate and fulfilling life together, and part of it is because of my love of romance novels.
Years of romance reading have reinforced the belief that I, as a woman, am entitled to sexual pleasure . . . that women should be treated with respect and tenderness . . . that what we think and desire is important . . . and that sometimes, in spite of life's difficulties, we triumph over adversity.
Has reading romance been bad for me?
Never. Not for one second.
But I feel tremendous compassion for anyone who has to give it up because of disillusionment and disappointment in her real life.
We should enjoy our fantasies, our imaginations, our escapes from reality. We deserve them, don't we?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Packing with Christina Dodd who is not at all surly
The movers are coming tomorrow. Scott’s not helping me because he’s up at the new house with the water purification guy learning how to get the flocculent out of our well water. (Stop giggling! Flocculent is a real word. Look it up!) There are boxes all over the place. And every time I open a cupboard, it’s full of more stuff to be packed! How did we squeeze all this junk in here?
The small dark hovel is the dustiest house I've ever lived in. I'm packing stuff that hasn’t moved in over a year and certainly was never dusted — i.e. the plug-ins for the phones — and they’re gross. Just gross. The new house has air cleaners. but it also has construction workers sawing things all over the place. Luckily for us, the masons disappeared two weeks ago (to Tahiti where they’re sitting around on beach in their grubby overalls sipping mai-tais, I guess), so we don't have to worry about rock dust.
Worst of all, soon my internet will go out and I’ll have to drive downtown to use the free wifi at the juice shop. But I will persevere! I will drag you all through each and every excruciating moment of my move, because by golly, if I have to suffer, you have to suffer!
Finally, your photo for the day. My custom front door which was supposed to be delivered six weeks ago isn’t here yet, but that’s okay because the outside front steps won’t be poured until next week. Note the plywood — very attractive! And the ladder adds a nice touch, don’t you think?
Lisa on "There's Just Something About Him"
Moi, unlike Teresa, will not take the easy way out by posting a photo of some easy-to-love hero with pecs, abs, and well-developed muscle groups even beneath his arms and on the soles of his feet.
Be honest . . . isn't there some guy who may not be your conventionally handsome type but makes you think . . . "Hmm . . . he could be really interesting in the sack."
For me, it's Bill Murray. Oh, poke fun at his complexion, his thinning hair . . . but just watch him in Groundhog Day or Lost In Translation, and you'll see moments of transcendent sexiness. The way he wakes up next to Andi MacDowell and murmurs "What can I do for you today?"--and you know that whatever she says, no matter how silly, outrageous, perverted or romantic, he'll do it. The way he whispers in Scarlett Johansen's ear at the end of "Lost", during that heartbreaking-but-somehow-uplifting goodbye . . . and you have no doubt those secret words will live in her soul for a lifetime. Bill has a remarkable spectrum of moods and emotions--he can be hilarious, mean, petty, even vicious--but looking into his world-weary eyes reminds you of the elusive tenderness that can appear in the moments you least expect it. He's a man who loves women.
I just know he'd be great in bed.
So . . . do you have any unconventional crushes? A confession of a moment when a not-so-sexy guy suddenly has interesting possibilities? Because as we more discerning women know, sexiness is more than a pretty face.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Elizabeth Says Adieu
In short, I am ready for National in Reno.
My flight leaves at 7:00 a.m., which is roughly eight hours away. I am in no way sleepy, but will toddle off to bed soon for a bracing four hour nap. I will arrive in Reno before noon local time, with circles under my eyes and in no way coherent. Business as usual in other words. Man, I can't wait.
I apologize for falling down on the job and not posting a music blog yesterday. One word, people: Salsa. Try some Cubanismo or Ruben Blades or Celia Cruz. It's been too !@#$%ing hot here to listen to anything else. I've just spent the last three days running around crazed trying to find ensembles that match--and fit--and, in case I haven't mentioned it, shoes. And lots of 'em.
I know the blog's gonna be kinda quiet this week, but I promise if you guys tune in next week, you'll get more than your fair share of gossip and such. Between the four of us attending, we're sure to get good poop. Not to mention Kitty and poop go hand in hand, so that's worth something.
Be good while we're gone, folks! Squawk at you later!
Why is Christina Dodd moving into the tallest tar paper shack in history?
Because it’s my new home, of course! Yes, this is an actual photo of the house we’re moving into Wednesday. Sure, it’s not done, but we were supposed to move in June 1, Scott’s dad and sister are coming to visit on Friday (plans made eons ago when we really believed, naïve folks that we are, that we would move in on time) and I’ve had it with living in a tiny place with two large dogs.
But hey, everything’s going to work out great because — ta-da! We have a working toilet!
No, wait. That’s not the toilet I meant. Here’s one of my new toilets. Note the sleek lines which will be so easy to clean! And it flushes!
Further updates as they happen!
Lisa on "Let's Have A Virtual Feast"
This was me last night with my husband Greg, at my parents' house for his birthday. A great time was had by all. One of the things my mother (who is an amazing southern cook) always does is make the birthday boy/girl their favorite meal. So Greg chose beer pot roast, cheese biscuits, mashed potatoes, turnip greens cooked with bacon and topped with pepper sauce.
Every year, I choose fried chicken, black-eye peas cooked in onions and bacon, grilled asparagus, and peach cobbler topped with ice cream.
If I were a convicted criminal, this would be my last meal.
So tell me, because I'm dying to know and also because I'm starting my 3126th diet today, what is your favorite dinner including dessert? Since I can't eat anything decadent, I want to hear about it! Make it sound good. Make me drool!
What is your Best Meal Ever?
So there we were in the shady little walled garden of our hotel and I start reading Harry Potter to Luca. Two very cool English teenagers were each clutching their own copies. And one frustrated Italian was ploughing through the English version because Harry Potter e il Principe Mezzosangue won't be available until Christmas. He couldn't wait and had to take a stab at the English.
It was a rather lovely confirmation of the human love of reading and wonderful plots to glance around a gorgeous little garden, all shaded over with huge Italian oaks, and see on almost every chair a person with his or her head bent over the same book. We were all at different chapters, which made it exciting and lead to all kinds of shrieks at dinner ("I heard you say that! Don't say that!").
I cried in the end while my ruthless eleven-year-old laughed at me, and said "oh mom, cut it out!" But all in all, I thought it was the best book since number three. Anyone else finished and want to give an opinion?
WARNING: The comments are going to be SPOILER LAND! So don't read the comments unless you've read the book. Of course, it may be just me in there, but I'm dying to talk to someone about it..
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Teresa says, "Look Connie!!!"
I found a picture of Russell and Guy Pierce escorting me to the RITA Awards! Where are those handcuffs when you need them???
Lisa's new mountain to climb
I’ve sometimes been accused of being an uneven writer, and I guess that’s unavoidable when someone has been blessed with as long a career as mine. I’ve been a published historical romance writer for literally twenty years, which means I’ve written through every phase of my life, as a single woman, a newlywed, a mother, through a flood, a miscarriage, illness, loss, personal growth, learning experiences . . .
In other words, I’ve had a normal life.
Looking back, I can see a couple of books in which I wasn’t on top of my game, and an earnest experiment or two that didn’t quite work . . . but for the most part, I think you can see the joy and excitement and passion I’ve brought to my work. I’ve always been grateful that I’ve been paid for doing what I love most, and as a result I’ve tried to make each book worth the hard-earned money that someone pays for it. I respect my readers’ intelligence, and I’ve never written down to them. I’ve tried to write with as much honesty as I can. Sometimes that includes a certain degree of sexual frankness. But no matter how explicit, the sex is always in the context of two monogamous adults who love each other and always end up married.
I’ve never been able to stay with one kind of character or tone or theme for very long, although I do have some favorites that I revisit every now and then. Some of my stories, like my Bow Street Runner novels, have more physical action, given their law enforcement settings. Others feature more cerebral and internal conflict, such as Suddenly You, which is set in the world of Victorian publishing. Some of my heroes are illiterate. Some are highly educated. One of my heroes is a younger man, and one is an older one. One is an adult virgin at the beginning of the book, and one is a slut. I’ve written aristocrats, criminals and common men. And God forgive me, some of them have cried. (I'm not listening, Eloisa, lalalalaa . . . .!)
As far as heroines are concerned, I’ve been able to get away with a little bit less, partly because of the constraints of the historical setting, and partly because readers generally like the nice ones the best. But I’ve still had fun creating as great a variety as possible, and there is a little bit of me in all of them.
So now, after spending half my life writing historicals, I want to try something new. My next book is going to be a contemporary novel, set in my home state of Texas, and right now I’m not even certain how to characterize the story. There will be romance, and sex, but it will be written on a broader canvas than I’ve tried in the past. I feel in some ways just like I did at the beginning of my career . . . excited, ready to explore new horizons, hoping to challenge myself and do something that might bring enjoyment to other people.
Here are a few more important reasons to try a contemporary novel :
1. Characters get to drive cars
2. Less research
3. No clinch cover with bare-chested mullet-haired hero
4. Author can use slang
5. No peerage titles
6. No corsets to remove for love scenes
7. Author has always wanted to say y'all in a book.
In answer to a few readers’ concerns, I did want to say that I have no intention of giving up historicals. I love the beautiful language, the settings, the elegance and sexiness and . . . well, everything about them. And I have three completely finished novels with Avon, which will be coming in out in the next year or two. While I’m working on my new book, I look forward to sharing my thoughts and discoveries with you and the Squawkers!
Love to all.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
The Countdown to RWA Begins!
Thus begins the burning questions:
Can Connie lose 30 pounds and beat Liz’s Most Buff challenge in 5 days? Or, more likely, will Connie lose 30 grams and thus win a Personal Best challenge?
Has one of Liz’s multiple personalities secretly emerged to dab white-out over the “ones” on her size 16 tags?
Will Eloisa be even marginally coherent after flying in from Florence? Who cares?! Will she bring presents?!
Will Christina EVER get cable installed in her new home or, alternately, discover where the nearest Starbuck’s with wireless is?
Is Teresa going to appear at the awards ceremony dressed like Marie Osmond? Or Donny? Or Russell Crowe?
Will Lisa ever post another blog again? Because once Eloisa, Terri, Liz and I hit Reno it’s up to Lisa and Christina “Blackout” Dodd to entertain the troops?
And finally, will, as rumor has it, Kitty Kuttlestone be reporting in from the RWA frontlines?
Any burning questions you have for the squawkers?
Friday, July 22, 2005
Elizabeth Gets Ripped
Some of you may have heard me mention in the comments earlier this month that I’ve been seeing a personal trainer. His name is Joe. He’s twenty-eight years old, about six-foot-two, totally buff, extremely cute, and he has those wonderful Tom Selleck slash dimples. Lemme tell ya. Nothing inspires a woman to get to the gym faster than working out with a guy like Joe. (Unless it’s going to the gym to work out with her husband who reads her blog everyday. Love you, baby!)
I started working with Joe almost three weeks ago and have completed eight hour-long sessions. I have one more left tomorrow morning. Three weeks ago, I was straining at the seams of my size ten jeans. Now my eights are roomy. I can zip up my size sixes but can’t sit down in them, but three weeks ago, I could barely get them up over my butt. I’ve lost eight pounds solid, but I figure I’ve gained at least two pounds in muscle, making for a ten pound loss of fat. Not too shabby for three weeks worth of work.
I’ve done cardio in addition to the personal training, 50 minutes with Richard Simmons every morning (he told me to tell you he says hi, Terri!), then 300 abs of varying types as a cool-down. At night, I walk for 30 minutes through my neighborhood, which is quite, quite hilly and makes for another cardio workout. I’ve kept my calorie intake to 1200-1400 calories a day and can honestly say I haven’t felt hungry because I’ve focused on whole grains and fruit and veggies and yogurt. Calcium supplements because osteoporosis runs in the family bigtime.
Oh, sure, there have been some drawbacks. Pain. Exquisite pain. Like someone stuffed bricks into my thighs while I was sleeping. Red stripes on my shoulders that looked like someone took a broom handle to me and rather curbed my wearing of spaghetti straps. Days that ended with me needing a Scotch, double, straight up (lots of days like that, in fact) and having to settle for a peach Fruit2O instead. The fact that, through the course of the three weeks, I discovered that all of Joe’s clients seem to be chubby middle-aged women. Hmmm...
And I still have about 15 pounds worth of flab to lose before I’ll really be able to SEE the muscles I’m building. But I can already notice a bit of definition. I have two muscles in my arm that I never saw before. My thighs are solid rock beneath the flab. My calves are, all modesty aside, phenomenal. And my abs are coming along nicely.
Shouldn’t be too long before they can play a doctor on TV.
CAP THIS PIC24 comments
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Liz's desk blog made me take a look at the quotes I have scotch-taped over my desk so I thought I'd share. I'm not sure what they reveal about me and if you figure it out, I'd probably rather not know. (Or at least don't tell Connie!)
"Whatever anyone else thinks about me is none of my business."
"Take the action and let go of the results."
Michael J. Fox
"And granted, I am blond and I am talented and thus the world feels like they should pay me a lot. And I am damn thankful." (I thought this one was particularly hilarious.)
THIS IS A ROUGH DRAFT - Me
JUST SHUT UP AND TELL THE STORY - Me
"If I only write for myself and the girls in the basement, and never think about anybody else, it's as much fun as making my collages or painting my living room walls the color of a pumpkin--who cares? It's mine and I did it my way, and if you don't like it, there's the door."
"He had never before thought of trying to improve his playing, but now it seemed worthwhile to go at every tune as if all within earshot had been recently set afire."
Charles Frazier/COLD MOUNTAIN
"Success is nothing more than getting up one more time than you fall down."
"Often the creative life is slowed or stopped because something in the psyche has a very low opinion of us, and we are down there groveling at its feet instead of bopping it over the head and running for freedom."
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, that expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly."
Martha Graham, Dancer
"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
Henry David Thoreau
"Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."
Leonard Cohen, ANTHEM
"I don't have anything left."
"Just give 'em what you got."
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
And my personal favorite, sent to me by our very own Squawker Elizabeth Bevarly:
STOP WHINING AND PLOT REVENGE!
So do any of you have a favorite inspirational quote you'd like to share???
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
CONNIE FINISHES THE HISTORIAN AND LEARNS A VALUABLE WRITING LESSON
You might recall I blogged about this wonderful book about a week ago when I was nearing the end. I finished it at 1:30 last night. While I stand by everything glowing and wonderful I said about this book and will run out to get Kostovo's next hardcover, in the last 40 pages of THE HISTORIAN, I re-learned one of the most basic principles of good story telling because this element was completely lacking in the end of this otherwise fabulous story. And that principle is this:
There has to be an emotional payoff for the reader which makes the huge emotional and intellectual investment the author asks of her in the preceeding 500 pages worth the journey.
Without revealing any spoilers let's just say that the end was abrupt and anticlimatic. Imagine searching the world for your birth mother and finally, after a grueling and emotionally costly journey, danger and self-doubt, you arrive at her front door. You tremble. You skin prickles with unease and your palms are so sweaty you cannot grasp the door handle. Suddenly the door swings open and a perfectly normal-looking woman appears in front of you. Your heart pounds, you open your mouth to speak and she says, "Oh. Hi, Connie. I wondered if you'd ever show up. Could you help me with the vacuuming? I'm expecting guests at seven."
So, my question for you all is:
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST BASIC PRINCIPLES OF STORY TELLING THAT EITHER MAKE OR BREAK A BOOK?
WELL, KISS MY CLICHE!!!
Teresa and Eloisa Prepare for Their RWA Workshop
KISS MY CLICHE! is the title of the workshop Eloisa and I will be doing at RWA National next week. (It's on Friday July 29th from 3:15-4:15 in case any of you are going to be there.) We're going to talk about all of the "rules" given to beginning authors and how to successfully break those rules so you don't end up with a bland, homogenized manuscript indistinguishable from a thouand other bland, homogenized manuscripts.
Some of those rules (courtesy of Eloisa) include:
1) A hero should be a lord, a knight, a fireman or a banker but never--under any circumstances--an artist, a singer, a dancer or a SPORTS FIGURE
2) A heroine can be a banker, a lady, a firewoman or a florist, but never, under any circumstances, should she be clueless (or TSTL--too stupid to live) and a book should never be built around a BIG MIS (Big Misunderstanding)
3) It's best to avoid strippers, because your hero or heroine should really have more ambitious plans than that
4) Your hero needs to be manly. No crying, for heaven's sake! There's no crying in romance!!!
5) Stay away from evil stepmothers
6) Don't make your villain lecherous
7) NEVER switch point of view within a chapter because those POV sluts are wall-bangers.
8) Stay away from purple prose. Write like Hemingway if you must.
9) You should make your hero and heroines orphans. Too many characters only muddy the waters.
10) Stay away from blatant cliches like amnesia and twins because those certainly don't sell.
11) Unless you're writing inspirationals, you really should keep any religious stuff out of there. Why on earth would a historical character have any faith?
As you can see, by using this list, we've just successfully eliminated some of the most successful romances ever written! Can you guys think of any of your favorite romances (or authors) that break these rules?
I'll start you off with sports heroes--how about Susan Elizabeth Phillip's sublime Chicago Stars series that started off with IT HAD TO BE YOU and is continuing this month with MATCH ME IF YOU CAN?
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Elizabeth Talks about the Tools of the Trade
It’s one of those tall ones, with a cubby-type thing on top of the desk, and a cabinet to the right of the keyboard. The very tippy top plays host to my warnings and celebrations (for lack of a better description). Probably because those two things are most important in my writerly experience.
The warnings consist of two framed, calligraphied edicts. The one on the left is a passage from the TAO TE CHING: “Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and secruity and your heart will never unclench. Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work and step back. The only path to serenity.” On the right hand side is my own writing philosophy: “Just Don’t Think About It.” The celebrations consist of my trophies from RT and the Colorado Romance Writers and a dump header for JUST LIKE A MAN. There’s also an empty bottle of Taittinger champagne that was emptied after signing my first big contract, and a red feather boa I won at a recent reader event winding through it all.
On the cubby shelves above my computer are four sections. The first houses my writer sources--dictionary, thesaurus, Random House WORD MENU (my absolute fave resource), name books, ELEMENTS OF STYLE, etc.--and my environmental CDs, to which I will sometimes listen when I work. (I especially love the thunderstorm and the sailboat one.)
Another section holds framed photos of my loved ones. Another section is my spiritual cache and has an ivory Buddha, a pewter Winnie-the-Pooh, a plastic rendition of the fairy from Bullwinkle’s “Fractured Fairy Tales” with her bent wand pointing toward my computer, a heart carved from rose quartz, a voodoo doll and Mr. Right When You Need Him, who, when you squeeze him, says encouraging things like, “Have you lost weight?” and “Why don’t I take you shoe shopping?” I love Mr. Right When You Need him.
The last section is also kind of spiritual, but in a more writer-specific way. It’s here that I keep all the mementos of special writer events. A piece of a sand-dollar broken four ways among four friends. A ring shaped like a tiara given to me by another Squawker. A little wooden frog prince my husband gave to me when I was a teenager who only had dreams of writing romance. A flower-shaped metal box holding two glass beads that represent two wishes--mine and someone else’s--only one of which came true. But I still need to protect them both.
The main part of the desk is less interesting, perhaps because that’s where the actual WORK occurs. There’s my iMac, of course, and the usual desk stuff--mug from the now-closed Hawley-Cooke Booksellers (my fave independent) filled with pencils, pens, rulers, scissors, etc. The chocolate calendar a Squawker sent me for Christmas (which I notice is running about a week behind), a plastic tray with Marlon Brando from “The Wild One” that acts as a catch-all (and BOY, does it catch ALL), a coaster from a Michigan conference that says “Romance, what a novel idea!” that plays host to hot tea in the winter, ice water in the summer. There’s a little basket that always seems to have some chocolate in it. There’s also the usual clutter of papers, business cards, cover flats, notes, books to be read, and stuff that needs to be filed.
So I figure I’ve got everything covered on my desk. (And it pretty much covers my desk.) My desk fills my spiritual needs, my intellectual needs, my professional needs, my nutritional needs, my recreational needs. Really, there’s no reason for me to ever have to get up. So why is it so hard to say seated here and get work done?
Monday, July 18, 2005
Teresa Hits the Tanning Bed
Naturally, it all started with the chickens. As a former registered nurse, I've always been vehemently anti-tanning bed. I prefer to get my cancer the old-fashioned way--from the sun! But when I used some make-up that gave me a temporary complexion problem with a national conference fast approaching, I decided UV light was the only solution.
I consulted a friend with a golden glow and a bad tanning bed habit and she informed me that they'd done reliable scientific studies with chickens by plucking them and putting them in the tanning bed over and over and making sure they didn't cook on the inside. Naturally, I was horrified on behalf of the poor birds. "Oh, but the chickens were already dead," she assured me. "And they made them wear protective eye goggles."
No wonder they have to sanitize those beds between use.
Although some of you have probably figured out that I shouldn't be allowed to leave the house without a keeper unless I'm going to Wal-Mart, I made my way to the tanning salon. It turns out the perky, blonde, uber-bronzed girl behind the desk was there to help me choose a "program." Although I point out that I only want to tan for two weeks, she insists that a "program" will still be cheaper than paying $3.50 for individual tanning sessions. I ask her to explain the options. She explains the $50 option and the other $50 option but she recommends the $50 option. I purchase the $50 option. She also tries to sell me large bottles of expensive tanning lotion, all containing hemp, which I thought was something you either made rope with or smoked with Woody Harrelson.
To sign in their clients, it turns out that they now use a fingerprint scanner. Convinced this is higher tech security than NASA uses, I realize that if my husband wants to tan with my minutes, he'll have to cut off my finger and take it with him like anti-terrorist agent Jack Bauer in an episode of "24".
She shows me to the private room and assures me I have 4 minutes to get my clothes off. As I do a rapid-fire striptease and prepare to climb into the forbidding sci-fi like tube, all I can think is, "Are they going to set it on Popcorn or Baked Potato?" Had it been a brain scan, I could have been no less petrified.
Leaving my undies on, I climb into the contraption and draw the coffin-like lid down on top of me. With eyes clenched tightly shut beneath my protective eyewear to ward off impending blindness, I remember all of those urban legends about the prom queen who tanned too long and all of her internal organs got liquified and began to pour out of various orifices. I start violently as a drop of something strikes my arm. Liquified internal organ? Nope, just sweat.
The machine jolts to life, bathing me in warm rays, cool fan air, and cheery country music. I try to relax but all I can think is, "What if the uber-bronzed girl set the machine for 60 minutes instead of 6? What if I show up at the national conference looking like the Cryptkeeper?"
As you've probably already surmised, I survived the ordeal. But when I got home, my cat Buffy started to obsessively lick my arm. I couldn't decide if she was trying to get high off the hemp or if I smelled like cooked meat.
She always has been partial to baked chicken.
Eloisa Returns from the Island of Napoleon!
I know you probably think that when a family of professors goes on vacation to places of great cultural weight and importance, we likely teach our children improving things, go to Napoleon's villa and teach them what an imperial bee looks like....right?
We swam, we caught jelly fish (beautiful little pink ones, bigger purple ones), let the jelly fish go, caught tiny fish, let them go, collected rocks, put them back, collected sea glass, lost it all...
Elba is a gloriously behind-the-times kind of place. The little resort where we stay hasn't changed since the 1960s, and it's got no plans to do so. There's nothing to do but swim, eat and drink wine. So that's what we did, when my children weren't devoting themselves to the ever-fascinating hunt for a better and bigger jellyfish. Our dog had a great time too. So, in line with all the other pets the Squawkers have blogged....
Here's MILO! The famous swimming long-haired chihuahua!
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Elizabeth Sees the Light
It’s another one that’s hard to classify. (But then, most of the best albums are.) Sorta folky, sorta rocky, it winds up having a sound all its own, punctuated by some twangy guitar and bandstand-in-the-park type horns, with the occasional mandolin and pipes thrown in. Richard’s vocals are cool and gravelly, and Linda’s voice is amazing, moving from plaintive wistfulness on some songs to brokenhearted weariness on others. The songs themselves run the gamut from playful (“Little Beggar Girl”) to deeply depressing (“The End of the Rainbow”). But most often, it is wise and wonderful.
When my son was a baby, I used to sing him several songs from this album at night before he went to bed, including the title track. Throughout his toddler and preschool years, whenever he was beset by fear of a thunderstorm or hurt by a fall, or something else that went wrong, he would always climb into my lap, ask me to sing “Bright Lights Tonight,” and then “Little Beggar Girl,” and soon everything would be all right.
I realize now that that’s one of the reasons I like this album so much, too. Even the sad songs give me comfort. There’s something encouraging in the music, and the vocals sound hopeful in spite of the sometimes gloomy--but always poetic--lyrics. And in a world--and a job--where hope is sometimes hard to find and even harder to hold onto, a few good songs can go a long way.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
The Kid Can Still Sing by Teresa
"So did you cry during PUPPY LOVE?"
"No, Daddy, I cried during TOO YOUNG and THE TWELFTH OF NEVER."
This was the conversation I had with my dad the morning after my husband took me to see Donny Osmond in concert. When I was eleven, my dad brought home my very first Donny Osmond album, a decision I've often wondered if he regretted--especially after he had to repaint my entire bedroom when we moved because my gazillion Donny posters had pulled all the paint off the wall!
Donny's enjoying a well-deserved resurgence in his career based on his latest CD, WHAT I MEANT TO SAY. The current single BREEZE ON BY is #18 with a bullet on the Smooth Jazz Billboard chart and the most telling review I've seen is the one that reads, "This is the best album George Michael never made." He's selling out 15,000 seat arenas in England and when the tickets recently went on sale for his fall tour in the U.K., they sold out a year in advance in a single day. In the U.S., the CD has been the #1 Pop seller at Wal-Mart and the #2 Pop seller at Amazon. If you like a smooth blend of jazz and pop a la George Michael in his LISTEN WITHOUT PREJUDICE phase, I HIGHLY recommend this CD. (You can find out more about it at http://www.donny.com/ or purchase it here.)
On the real-life hero front, Donny's been married to his wife Debbie for 27 years now (they married when he was 19). They have 5 boys between the ages of 7 and 25 and at 47, he's about to become a grandfather for the first time.
Even my husband was impressed with the two-hour show! Donny did several songs from the new CD and the adoring audience seemed to love them just as much as the old stuff. His voice was better than ever--strong, mellow, and mature. (Andrew Lloyd Webber recently invited him to do the Phantom role in London but he had to turn it down due to a scheduling conflict.) At the beginning of the second half, sitting all by himself at the piano, he did what we'd all been waiting for--several of his older songs reworked in lovely, slightly jazzy arrangements. He followed them with a version of THIS GUY'S IN LOVE WITH YOU (included on the new CD) that was absolutely sublime. (And yes, I did give in to the urge to scream, "We love you, Donny!!!" at least once. His response to such accolades: "I love you, too, babe!")
Whether he was talking, singing, or dancing, he claimed the stage with extraordinary confidence. After struggling for 20 years with the burden of being a genuinely talented individual who could never break free of the "teen idol" label, it was clear that this was a man who had finally embraced his past and felt comfortable in his own skin.
As he sang and danced, I kept catching fleeting glimpses of the boy I had loved superimposed over the man and for the first time in a very long time, I remembered what it had been like to be the girl who had loved him--a girl full of hope and yearning and dreams and possibilities. I went to that concert in search of Donny Osmond, but what I found was a little piece of myself that I hadn't even realized was missing.
And that, Donny, is why we still love you.
KITTY KUTTLESTONE'S LAST QUESTIONS FOR JULIA QUINN
Julie babes, I hear you been around alot. So have I, though I'm thinkin' not the same places (and a big shout out to the Motor City! YOU ROCK, DETROIT!) What's your favorite city?
Barcelona. But I've never been. I desperately want to go. Unfortunately,unlike SOME squawkers, I don't get to go to fun professorial conferences there.
Okay, say you could change places with any writer in the world, who would it be, and don't say "Kitty Kuttlestone," it will only embarrass us both.
Definitely not one who's dead, that's for sure.
What's your favorite TV show? and pleez, none of that Bill Moyer crap, we get enough of that from ole Eloisa "You're kidding! There's such a thing as colored TV?!" James.
Lemme see, on my season pass manager on Tivo I've got: Lost, House, ER, TheWest Wing, Will & Grace, Arrested Development, Nova (sorry, Kitty), Queer Eye, the Apprentice, Airline, The Simpsons, Scrubs, and probably a bunch of other stuff I've forgotten about because they're all off for the summer.
We also have Monster House, Monster Garage, Junkyard Wars, super-mega Junkyard Wars, andDirty Jobs, but those are mostly for Paul. ('Cept Dirty Jobs. I can'tquite resist it.)
Ever wanted to dance naked in the Trevi Fountain? Ask Brockaway about it.
Okay. I'm asking. (Connie Brockway here politely offers her opinion that when that story become public monkeys will fly out of a particular orifice of hers)
Was it a pas de deux with Eloisa?
I just got handed this piece of paper saying IT'S IN HIS KISS is number NINE on the New York Times best-seller list this week. Let's face it, kid, you have arrived! So what's next? What goals have you got for yourself?
Maybe that trip to Barcelona? I dunno. Keep writing, I guess. Keep doing it well. Don't let fear stop me from trying something new. Learn to enjoy the moment as much as the end. Maybe I'll finally learn how to turn a cartwheel. That would be pretty freaking awesome.
KITTY: Well, my goal is to polish off this bottle of Cherry Herring before lunch and as everyone knows, you shouldn't ever oughta put off a good goal. Keep writing those betsellers, Julie. You ain't too bad for a kid who went to Harvard. Ciao!
FOR BEING ONE OUTSTANDING AND UNDERSTANDING (cough: Kitty :cough) GUEST!
THANK YOU, JULIA AND...
IT'S IN HIS KISS,
NUMBER NINE ON THE
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST!
Lisa does Yoga
This is what I looked like today during my first yoga class.
In search of inner peace, physical flexibility and a good excuse to lie on the floor in the middle of the day, I went to yoga and discovered I can no longer touch my toes. Which is not a problem when decent pedicurists are so affordable nowadays. But it was a tiny bit disconcerting to see women twice my age twisting themselves into pretzels while I was straining to do the basic positions.
I walked into class with my perfectly coordinated yoga outfit and matching yoga mat, with my head held high and my shoulders back. After an hour and fifteen minutes, I lurched out of there like Quasimoto.
We did the cow, the down dog, the cat, and many other variants that sent the other class members into deep states of relaxation while I struggled to suppress my screeches of pain and indignity. I am proud to report, however, that the instructor praised my rendition of the baby cobra. And I have no doubt that any chicken-related postures will be performed by moi with ease.
Should I continue my new venture? Will it improve my body, my outlook on life, or at least my inner thighs? Does anyone have any positive yoga stories to share?
Friday, July 15, 2005
CONNIE TELLS THE WORLD WHAT TURNS HER ON
Christina called me up about a week ago and insisted that I go out and lay down hard cold cash for a hardcover book (something I usually only do for my friends’ books and George R.R. Martin) called THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova..
Man, am I glad I did.
I am so taken with this book! It’s not the plot or the story, which is a hunt for the historical Dracula, it’s the writing style that has me staying up at night, allotting myself only 75 pages a shot so that it lasts a long time. Have any of you ever done this?
It’s clean, evocative, with a purity of language that has me frankly jealous. More importantly I have rarely read a book where the style of the writing so perfectly augments the story. So, without adding spoilers, here’s the deal.
The book is styled around a series of letters written by a variety of historians over the course of hundreds of years and bridged by a simple first person narrative as the protagonist seeks to uncover the mysteries surrounding the possibility that Dracula did and does exist. The protagonist is a motherless teenage girl, writing from the vantage of her middle years, who has been raised as a sort of literary nomad, following her diplomat/historian father around the world, finding various sources (some personal and some academic) that lead her toward discovering whether or not Dracula exists and how his story has impacted her own.
Halfway through the book I realized that even though there must be twenty purported authors represented in these various letters, journals, and notes, the voice of each was pretty much the same. At first I thought this was simply a weakness in the writing but now, when I am very near the end, I’ve decided it is purposeful, powerful and incredibly smart.
Because, you see, all the authors of all these letters have more or less the same sort of background—even though separated by culture, generations, and class. They are all avid (no make that obsessive) historians, academic scholars raised from an early age amongst books, more at home in a library than any other place. In which case it only makes sense that their vocabulary would be similar, their reference points would be the same (and there are NO pop culture reference at all, none, nothing looks like something that hasn’t existed for hundreds of years i.e. you would never find “The sky was the color of acid washed blue jeans.”) Nothing dates the story; thus the story takes on the aura of a fable, which is perfect when taken in the context. I mean, it is a story about Dracula.
So, wow. I’ll be plunking down the big bucks for Ms. Kostova’s next book, too. And happily (which is even more of a miracle!)
Teresa and the Squawkers Corral Beanies for Babies!
Despite the fact that Teresa is writhing around in a pile of Beanie Babies, this isn't some kind of strange Beanie Baby porn. (Although some of the Beanies are naked, please note that Teresa is fully clothed!) Earlier in the year with the help of the Young Adult group at her church, Teresa collected over 800 Beanie Babies to send to two orphanages in Kremenchuk in the Ukraine.
The children were so enamored of their new toys that with the Squawkers' help, she's decided to do it again! This time the Squawkers will be collecting Beanies to donate to Sanctuary House, the shelter in Teresa's town where battered women and their children can seek refuge while they put their lives back together. We'd love for each child who arrives at the shelter to receive their very own Beanie Baby to welcome them!
If you or your kids have any Beanies lying around that would like a loving new home, please e-mail Teresa at email@example.com and she'll supply you with an address where you can send your donations. Used Babies are fine as long as they're clean and in good condition. And if you want to buy a brand new one to send, that's great, too!
(And we promise not to steal a single Beanie Baby Chicken and keep it for ourselves! Right, Connie! Connie...Connie, bring that chicken back here this instant!!!)
You Are Here (or you could be!)
If you don't have any big plans for the end of September, why not join me at the Pink Palace at St. Pete's Beach in Florida? Yes, I have my own sweepstakes! Woo-hoo! You and a guest can win an all-expenses paid weekend for two to Florida--including breakfast with me! (I won't be insulted if my company pales next to the white sand, fabulous food, and luxury spa...)
Entry details are in the back of It's in His Kiss or on the web at:
Julie Q., wondering if now I have to purchase an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikini in honor of Connie Brockangelo, the legendary Artista di Squawk.
Julia Quinn on Writing First Person
The big difference between first and third person is, obviously, that with first person, the reader only gets into the head of one person. With third, it can be multiple people, although in romance it's generally only two. (Big exception is Eloisa James, who, IMO, is utterly brilliant with the omniscient narrator and multiple points-of-view.)
But there is an offshoot of this--in first person the reader generally gets deeper into the narrator's head/psyche than in third person. You get to know the character better. You're privy to the thoughts and feelings of that character as described by that character. With the third person, technically speaking you're privy to the thoughts and feelings of a character as described by the narrator (the author.)
These two factors mean that first and third person work better for different types of books. Romance isn't a great fit for first person because romance is, by definition, mainly about TWO characters. If you keep it in first person, you lose half the story (well, not really, but I can't think of a better way to describe it.) This isn't to say that it can't be done, and well (Joan Wolf wrote a few that I thought were great) but if you, as an author, are going to choose to do away with one of the protagonist's point of view, you should probably have a good reason for it.
This is why first person works well for gothic romances. Gothics have a great deal of mystery to them, a woman-in-jeopardy sort of theme. By keeping the reader as in the dark as the character about the hero's thoughts, the author can keep up the sense of drama and fear.
Young Adult fiction works very well in first person as well. There may be (and frequently is) romance in the story, but a lot of the time, the real theme is the growth and life of the main character. And first person allows the author to create that much of a deeper portrait of the character.
P.S. In case anyone is interested, second person is written with "You." As in: "You go to the car and open the door. You get in, but you see that your purse has been stolen." The only books I can think of written in second person are Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City and the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Does anyone know any others?
Thursday, July 14, 2005
We interrupt this blog for some shameless commerce
Be the first on your block to wear an unlimited edition Julia Quinn T-shirt! (many different styles available). You (yes you) can proclaim yourself Mrs. Bridgerton.
Or, if your honey objects, instead ask the eternal question: "What would Lady Whistledown say?" And don't forget your kids! Encourage them to "Just Keep Reading." Or keep them neat and tidy with a stylish bib.
Just point your browser to: http://www.cafepress.com/waxcreative
and shop to your heart's content.
We now return to your regularly scheduled blogcast.
Teresa Posts a Public Service Photo
Due to the recent reports of retinas being seared by Kitty's likeness and the heartbreaking cries of, "My eyes! My eyes!", I thought I'd post this antidotal photo of Mr. Hugh Jackman. A true renaissance man, he can be rugged and animalistic as Wolverine in X-MEN, charming and debonair as Leopold in KATE AND LEOPOLD and he can sing and dance his way into our hearts as Curly in OKLAHOMA (and the host of the Tony Awards).
Paws off, Kitty! He's all mine tonight!
KITTY KUTTLESTONE INTERVIEWS JULIA QUINN: PART TWO
Rumor has it that you do alot of your writing at Starbuck's, which I sorta understand as I do most of my best work under the table at Beef's Biker Bar, but hey! each to his own, right? Anyway, what's up with that? Do you have some Hunkadero whipping up the foam on your lattes? Is it located across the street from a men's kick-boxing club? Are there stacks of "Playgirl" in the magazine caddy? Come on, tell us, Julie Q, where do you get your ideas?
Ah, Starbuck's. Land of the double-tall nonfat caramel macchiato (not too sweet, please). Scene of the never-ending struggle to gain access to one of the three tables located conveniently next to an electrical outlet. Home of my eternal internal struggle--do I dare to eat a peach torte?
Let us go then, you and I,
Where the caffeine is spread out oh-so high
Like a writer slumped upon a table;
Let us go, through certain frenetic streets,
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, 'What is it?'
Let us go and make our visit.
In the cafe writers come and look
Pretending they can write a book.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Afer the cups, the coffee, the tea,
Among the lattes, among some talk of Penelope,
Would it have been worth while,
To have attempted to write it with a smile,
To have squeezed the story onto my computer screen
To roll it towards some overwhelming climax,
To say: 'I am Writer, desperate and on deadline,
Come here to write this thing,
I shall write this thing'--
And then, realizing the words are wrong,
Should say: 'That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.'
I grow tired... I grow tired...
The deadline on my contract has expired.
Shall I sip my milky drink?
Do I dare to write a scene?
I shall ponytail my hair, and stare sightlessly at my screen.
I have heard the muses singing, lean and mean.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
We have lingered amongst the dark, heav'nly brew
By baristas wreathed with aprons and the night
Till words do find us, and we write.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
KITTY KUTTLESTONE ASKS JULIA QUINN THE TOUGH QUESTIONS and JU:IA ANSWERS
I would like to introduce everyone to Kitty Kuttlestone, our resident interviewer. Though Kitty might not look the part, I assure you that she comes with a long history of--- well, a long history. Since Kitty isn't always found in the same place on a day to day basis, she is submitting her interview questions via the administrator. I am sure you will find her insightful and probing questions well worth reading. Please extend a warm welcome to Kitty as she begins her interview of JULIA QUINN. Take it away, Kitty!
Hi. Okay, enough with the "make nice." Interview time.
So, Julie hon --I can call you "Julie," right?--Julie hon, my first question is a "what if." Ready? Here goes. What if suddenly tomorrow you could not write a regency novel. I don't mean bull crap like writer's block, I mean World Peace depends upon your NOT writing regency. I'm talking civilization as we know it ends should you even write the word "earl" in long hand on a legal tablet! Famine! Pestilence! Plagues! Wooly mammoths cohabitating with little French dogs! Okay, you get my drift. So here's the question: What would you be writing? (Personally, if I wrote regencies as good as Julie I would say to hell with civilization. But that's me.)
I don't really have any desire to write historicals in a different time period. I'm not sure why; I do enjoy reading non-regency historicals. I've toyed with the idea of contemporary romance, but I've never had a really good idea for one. Plus, if I did something modern, I think I'd want to write in the first person. So the answer is YA. I really enjoy Young Adult fiction, and I think I'dlike to try my hand at it someday.
My Man Paul (from Julia Quinn)
Rose asked in a comment about my husband Paul, to whom every single one of my books is half-dedicated. (I always dedicate my books to someone and then also to Paul). I actually get a fair bit of reader mail asking about the dedications, and ironically, today Paul received his first fan letter. Yes, one of my readers sent fanmail to Paul! It was pretty cute, actually. She worked all (or at least many) of the dedications into one long paragraph.
Anyway, Paul is an infectious disease physician. He works primarily in a lab these days, researching new medications for the prevention and treatment of malaria. He just received a grant to fund his research from the NIH--I'm so proud of him!
Malaria is a disease of poverty, so it can be difficult to get the large pharmaceutical companies to do the necessary research and development to treat it. The trick is to find a drug that is used in the developed world that will also work for malaria. If the drug companies can earn money treating, say, male-patterned baldness, then they will make the same drug at cost or for a very small profit for the developing world to use for malaria. Or they will allow a foreign company to break the patent and make the drug there for use only for malaria.
Paul and I have been together almost half of my life. I'm not kidding. I met him the second day of freshman week at college and we started dating in late October. So it just makes sense that all my books would be half-dedicated to him. Honestly, I just can't imagine life without him.
The dedications are always fun to write--with some self-imposed pressure, of course. I want them to be good! And meaningful, even if no one else gets it but us. (Although my family usually gets them, too). He really did want to throw my laptop off the balcony once (he occasionally lacks patience). And he did call coffee a foul, disgusting drug (he sometimes expresses strong opinions) although I must point out that HE made the pot this morning and indeed drank from it.
Here we are at his sister's wedding. Note my fab make-up! My sister-in-law worked at InStyle Magazine, and so she knows lots of stylists and make-up artists, and she got a guy from Sex and the City to do all the bridesmaids! (and the bride, of course.) You can tell from my photo with LisaK that I have no idea how to do eye make-up, Sigh. Someday I'll learn. Or maybe she'll show me!
Best, Julie Q.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Julia Quinn on Favorite Novels
I think it would be difficult to have one book everyone holds up as your masterpiece. I certainly hear feedback from readers who say things like, "The new book is nowhere near as good as this other one," but thankfully, this is balanced out by readers who say, "The best yet!"
Any author who values her sanity must eventually accept that with every book, someone will think it's a stinker. And hopefully, someone else will decide it's her favorite.
With that in mind, here are my favorite squawker books:
Elizabeth Bevarly: Her Man Friday
Connie Brockway: As You Desire
Christina Dodd: "The Bed is Unmade" in Once Upon a Pillow
Eloisa James: Much Ado About You
Lisa Kleypas: Dreaming of You
Teresa Medeiros: One Night of Scandal
Teresa Talks About When Good Men Say Bad Things
As I'm sure most of you can tell from my blogs, my husband is an absolute diamond of the first water. (I mean, this IS the man who recently surprised me with Donny Osmond tickets and is actually going to accompany me to the concert on Wednesday!) But even the most wonderful husband can occasionally blurt out something incredibly stupid. The last time he did this, it occurred to me that it might be helpful if we wives had a resource we could turn to. So I composed this letter from a Very Special Company and presented it to my husband:
Dear Mr. [INSERT OWN HUSBAND'S NAME HERE],
It has come to our attention that the button in your head labeled, "Don't say that dumbass thing" is in immediate need of repair. If you will remove the button and return it to our facility, we will initiate said repair before emergency conditions necessitate a full replacement of both the button and your head.
While your unit is being restored to full functioning, we will provide a temporary replacement fully equipped with such helpful warnings as, "Don't look at her breasts. Your wife is watching" and "Don't eat that. I think it's kitty kibble."
The temporary unit should keep you from blurting out such potentially fatal marital faux pas as "Darn right, that dress makes you look fat!", "Please don't stand in front of the TV. You're blocking the football game" and "I'm in the mood for some really big chicken wings. Let's go to Hooters!" While you're waiting for your replacement, we will also provide you with a shoehorn specially designed to remove your sneaker from your mouth and your wife's foot from your [INSERT EXPLETIVE HERE].
Thank you for trusting us with all of your Tact and Discretion needs. We've been in business for over a hundred years, even longer than it feels like you've been married!
President and CEO