Friday, September 30, 2005
Lisa on Gerbil RIP
I am violating one of my sacred blogging rules by blogging after a big glass of wine. Just as one should never DUI, one should never BUI. However, I am indeed blogging under the influence, and this is why:
One of our beloved family pets has passed on to his reward.
Jack the gerbil was a good and faithful pet for more than three years. He survived a move from one house to another, a great deal of unwanted attention from children and the family cat, and he even endured flash photography when I took his picture because Geralyn Dawson was running a match-the-author-with-her-pet contest on her website. Luckily I managed to get an even better shot of our cat, which I sent to Geralyn instead, because I was reluctant to be associated with a rodent in my readers' collective consciousness.
Jack had a long and interesting life. His tail was partly chopped off when my son accidently closed the gerbil-cage-door on it. I took Jack to the vet in a shoebox, and the vet performed a partial amputation that cost thirty-five dollars. We saved all our toilet paper tubes because Jack liked to chew them. On Christmas, Jack always received assorted chew sticks. One year Santa gave Jack a big clear plastic ball, which Jack was supposed to go inside as it rolled along the floor. We fancied Jack must have felt like a rodent astronaut, exploring new frontiers and meeting alien creatures.
One time Jack escaped his cage, and he was gone for a week before we found him in the playroom closet. We don't know what bacchanals and adventures he might have experienced, but he did look quite relieved when he was safely returned to his contemporary-styled plastic home.
Finally Jack began to slow down and sleep more than usual. And by virtue of our long acquaintance, and my childrens' affection for this miniature friend, I realized that I had come to care about him. We just held a funeral service outside, having wrapped Jack carefully in tissue paper and placed him in a shoe box, and we prayed for our little friend. And I cried.
Now what I am left with is a sense of amazement at how much a pet, even one so small, can mean to a family. And I am grateful that I have a husband who is willing to participate in a circle prayer for a gerbil.
Rest in peace, dear Jack. May you find yourself in the happy, sunny place where all beloved pets surely must go.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Connie expresses her doubts about The New Fall Lineup
Anyway, while he's been gone I have been watching the ti-voed premieres of the various new network offerings. I have been actually looking forward to doing so because so many of the new shows are Science Fiction or Supernatural and I kinda like that stuff. Susie Kay Law did mention my predilection for teenage boy fare in my movies? I'd like to qualify that: SMART teenage boy fare and, as of yet, I haven't seen anything that qualifies as SMART amongst the new Science Fiction and/or Fantasy shows.
SURFACE? Don't look beneath it, cause there's nothing there. INVASION-- yeah, maybe of the Sandmen. The thing put me to sleep in 20 minutes. NIGHT STALKER? Try Fright Caulker, cause there are no chill in this thing. And SUPERNATURAL was SuperBanal.
Granted, my opinions are based solely on the premieres, but the state of the new fall line-up makes me sad. I really enjoy LOST, you see, and I was looking forward to something else, something intriguing with tons of meaty characters and interactions and mystery and drama and piquant weirdness, to add to my Tivo Season Pass Manager. Right now, LOST sits alone.
So, tell me, is there anything out there of this ilk you're watching and liking? Should I give any of the aforementioned shows a second look? Which ones and why? Give me some hope here, people. Otherwise I'll just have to read.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Eloisa on Plots that Someone Else Should Write
Because that's the kind of plot that often occurs to me: futuristic, totally improbable, what-the-heck-could-you-do-with-that type of book. Of course, there are those who have done big things with this kind of novel. And it occurred to me that perhaps, reading this Squawk blog, there's someone with a burning desire to write a novel who just needs a plot to get started. My gift to you!
They are kind of weird plots. But here's two that occurred to me in the last few days, and you're more than welcome to use them.
In the first one, our heroine would wake up one Saturday morning to find that a lot of people in the world were dead. In fact, at least a third of them. Every one died peacefully in their sleep, with no sign of distress. Total chaos! Crisis! Craziness! Her mother is dead. One of her brothers is dead. Her husband and infant son are fine. Her boss is fine. Her housecleaner is gone. What is going on?
Finally, after a few weeks, our heroine realizes that . . . the bad people are dead. All the people who were bad at heart.
I leave it to your imaginations what happens next...what happens to the world...what happens to her. Does she tell anyone?
Here's another idea. The first one is sort of a morality tale, a story that would be as weird as The Handmaid's Tale. This one is kind of futuristic romantic fun.
It shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone who read this far to learn that I adored Isaac Asimov as a teenager. Do you remember his Robot stories? There was one about a robot who was sent to a woman's house to be her servant. But he wasn't programmed all that well, and he interpreted his mission to help her as not only giving her a better hair cut, and redesigning the house, but sweet-talking her and...before you knew it, she fell in love.
So what if a story was set in the future, and robot servants -- as in Blade Runner, indecipherable from real humans -- were employed all over the place, albeit with loads of ethical controls built into them. And then the FBI (or futuristic equivalent) decides to send in one of their agents as if he were a robot. He's sent to be the personal servant of a beautiful young senator...except he's not really a robot. He doesn't really have those "ethical" controls. And pretty soon the young senator is finding that her robot is a lemon...sort of!
Anyone else got any great futuristic ideas? What's your favorite plot-about-the-future?
Teresa Sings "SPOOT Me Baby One More Time!"
As horrid as it is to expose all of our neuroses to you, gentle readers, I thought you'd want to know about a tribal ritual we here at Squawk Radio call "spooting". Now, the original term was "spotting", but a careless typo (Connie's perhaps?) has rendered the terminology unique. For us, spooting has become an intimate rite of passage that we perform whenever a new book is due out. This is how it's done:
1) Determine which Squawk Radio chickadee has a new book out that month
2) Travel to all of the bookstores/Wal-Marts/drugstores/grocery stores in your immediate driving range (if your royalty payment has arrived and you can afford gas)
3) Count the number of the aforementioned Squawk Radio author's books on the shelves
4) Deliver detailed report on placement and number of books at each site
Alas, since we're dealing with neurotic writers, instead of receiving appreciation for all of your hard work (or reimbursement for your gasoline), these are the responses you are likely to hear:
1) "What do you mean Lisa/Liz/Connie/Christina/Eloisa had more copies on the shelf than me?" (she whined)
2) "The publisher obviously forgot to ship my books this month! My career is dead and I wish I was!" (she wailed)
3) "They didn't have my book at all?!? &^%$$#%^!!!!!" (Liz, is that you?)
4) "They still had 30 books left! Holy crap, the book must be tanking! I'm going to have to go be a barista at Starbucks!" (back to whining)
What I'm trying to say is something our respective spouses learned a long time ago—there is no way to make a writer happy. If there are no books, we are convinced that there never were. If there are a handful of books, we're convinced they're not selling quickly enough. If there are a lot of books, we're convinced they're not selling at all.
But I have come up with a foolproof way to keep my dear friends from killing the messenger--lie. This is my new Official Spooting Report:
"So I walked into Wal-Mart and you had 6 pockets on the Bestseller rack, each pocket holding 6 copies. I counted the books and you'd obviously already sold 30 copies just since yesterday when they'd obviously arrived! And the good news was that there was this muscular Adonis type delivery guy right behind me wearing nothing but a g-string and carrying a fresh shipment of your books—30 more copies! But before he could place them into the rack pockets, he was besieged by a stampeding herd of wild-eyed women screaming, "OH MY STARS!!! Is that really Connie Brockway's/Christina Dodd's/Lisa Kleypas's/Elizabeth Bevarly's/Eloisa James' new book?!?! I HAVE TO HAVE IT NOW AND BUY COPIES FOR ALL 47 OF MY DEAREST FRIENDS!!!"
So tell me, my little chickadees, have you ever told a slight exaggeration to make a friend feel better? (Don't pretend innocence! You know just what I'm talking about--the time you told her those white pants really DIDN'T make her butt look big and her husband was witty instead of obnoxious.)
OR, MAYBE, YOU SEE YOUSELF AS AN EVENING CHICKEN, DANCING ACROSS THE NIGHT SKY, SPREADING STARS...?
Celebrate your chickenhood!
The clock is ticking and though we have had WONDERFUL response to the SQUAWK CHICKEN auction we just want to make sure everyone who is interested gets a chance to jump on this ONCE IN A LIFETIME (or at least until we decide differently. I mean this writing thing could go belly-up at any minute and a girl's gotta eat)
Anyway, just imagine, you, a chicken, at last!
Come on, you know you want to...
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Liz Offers Ten Signs that You Just Mailed Off a New Book to Your Editor
9. The !@#$%ing bathroom scale is !@#$%ed up to the tune of an extra ten !@#$%ing pounds.
8. You’re wearing your bangs in a ponytail.
7. You marvel at the big heat-producing appliance in your kitchen and wonder what it’s for. (But how cool that it does just the opposite of that big cold-producing appliance on the other wall!)
6. You can’t remember what that thing is called. You know. That thing. That whatever it is. That thing you use everyday. That...oh, hell. You know...
5. When you leave the house, it’s with cries of, “My eyes! My eyes! That fiery orb in the sky is burning out my retinas! AAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHH!!!”
4. GMAC Financing is calling every two minutes wanting to know why you haven’t made the the car payment for over a month, and you can’t remember what a car is, let alone this payment thing they keep talking about, and what the hell would a month have anything to do with it, since bacon and months was what you ate for breakfast?
3. The bottle of Johnnie Walker Black you bought to crack open in celebration of the book being finished is gone. As is the replacement you bought for it. As is the replacement you bought for the replacement.
2. Your family stares back at you with expressions they would normally save for fresh roadkill.
And the number one sign you’ve just mailed off a new book to your editor is:
You’ve been having an orgasm for twelve hours, even though your husband hasn’t come near you since you stopped shaving your legs and using moisturizer at some point in chapter eighteen.
Yes, my book is FINISHED! Better yet, it’s MAILED! Talk about writing orgasmic ecstasy! I’m free! Free, do you hear me? FREE FREE FREE! FREEEEEEEEEE!!!!
Well, except for that new proposal that’s overdue...
KITTY INTERVIEWS LIZ ABOUT YOU'VE GOT MALE
Kitty: This ought be different. I have actually partied with Ms Bevarly. In fact, I taught her some of her more choice expletives. Okay-trip down memory lane over. ON to the interview.Liz, babe, you have a book out entitled YOU'VE GOT MALE --but why did you stop at one, I want to know. Why not YOU'VE GOT MALES? And why haven't any of the squawkers asked me to do a memoir, YOU'VE HAD MALES. LOTS OF MALES? Okay. Sorry. Anyway this is a spy story, right, and I heard you got the idea for these spy books from your kid. How the hell did that happen? Is he a spy?
Liz: Kitty, please. If you wrote your memoirs about all the males you've had, it would take up more shelf space than the ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA. Just be satisfied with all those footnotes you have in all those biographies of Kennedy and Castro and the Rat Pack. And that mention you had in the coffee table book about Altamonte. And aren't you the stewed tomato Chef Boyardee mentioned in his memoirs not too long ago?But getting to MY book. Yes, my son is responsible for the whole spy series.
He came home from school one day a couple years ago, saying his best friend Chuckie had sworn his dad could hack into the computers of the Pentagon and the United Nations. I, of course, knew Chuckie's father worked for a local food production company as vice president in charge of Nutella or something. So I was reasonably sure my son's friend was yanking his chain and my son was, as usual, being as gullible as Kansas in August. Oh, wait, that's corny, isn't it? Kansas, I mean. Not this story.Um, where was I?Oh, yeah.
Anyway, after this little post-school exchange in my office, I went back to work on the book I was SUPPOSED to be writing. But my brain kept circling back to, "What if Chuckie's dad really CAN hack into the computers of the Pentagon and the United Nations, and this whole Nutella, life-in-the-suburbs thing is just a front?" Wherein I had to put aside my work-in-progress and write a new proposal instead. (I WASN'T procrastinating. I wasn't.)
Kitty: The heroine of this book holes up after being in the pen for a few years for doing no-nos on the computer. So she's...what? Agoraphobic? She gets panic attacks? And if so, why isn't she taking any drugs. I gotta say a few pharma- What? Oh. Okay.
Liz: My heroine Avery deals with her panic attacks by consuming large quantities of Johnnie Walker Black. So I couldn't very well have her taking Xanax, too, could I? I mean, Johnnie Black is a BLENDED Scotch. Those are much better suited to Zoloft. Xanax is for your single-malts.But yes, she does suffer from agoraphobia and panic attacks, which was actually interesting to write about, as I used to suffer from panic attacks myself. It was almost an exorcistic experience writing about a character having one. Took a lot of the power out of those suckers for me. Kind of purging. Not like Connie's recent Golytely experience, but still cleansing in its own non-colonic way.
Kitty: There's a secondary romance in here that features an older woman/younger man. Cool and I am totally into that. But some of the other squawkers claim this isn't the result of forward thinking but on account of you're going through menopause. Which is it?
Liz: Definitely the latter. I don't think forward. I think in a more circular pattern. Kind of like spaghetti. No, the whole pushing forty woman with the twenty-five year old blond, ripped Adonis in a Speedo was, without question, hormonal in its genesis. And also kind of orgasmic, you want to know the truth.
Kitty: I'm hearing rumors that you're going the romantic suspense route now. That true?
Liz: I am mystified by all the reviews that have called this book romantic suspense. It's about as suspenseful as a job being vice president of Nutella. I write romantic comedy which I hope is grounded in emotion. People should be having fun reading me. If they're on the edge of their seats reading me, it means they need to take a bathroom break.
Kitty: You write about rich people a lot. Why is that? Is it wishful thinking orhave you been holding out on us every time you can't pay the tab at lunch?
Liz: I wouldn't say it's wishful thinking so much as it is unmitigated denial. I live in a very middle class neighborhood now, just as I did when I was growing up. But I often daydream about the Publishers Clearinghouse people knocking on my door. (To tell me something other than that my books have shown up in their Clearinghouse, I mean.) A big part of writing for a living is watching your bank account shrink while you're frantically trying to finish a book so you can get paid. And then watching your account shrink some more while you wait for your editor to read the book and release payment. And then watching it shrivel up and gasp for pennies as you wait for the paperwork to go through. Like any writer, I crave financial stability. Like any writer, it ain't gonna happen. So I like to move into palatial Hamptons estates with my characters and pretend their bank accounts are my own. It saves on the Johnnie Black and Zoloft bills.
Kitty: And the fact that your heroine is estranged from her family. Is that wishful thinking, too?
Liz: C'mon, Kitty. You've met my family. That time we partied together was at my cousin Mindy's wedding. Remember? She was the one who HAD to have a halter wedding dress so everyone could see her tattoo? So, yeah, okay, maybe I do some vicarious living through my characters' well-dressed and gainfully employed relatives.
Kitty: This book is number two in a series. Is this the first time you've done linked books? When will we see the next one?
Liz: I've written series for Silhouette Desire, but never in single-title contemporary until now. YOU'VE GOT MALE picks up where JUST LIKE A MAN left off. (And yes, I did get all the angry e-mail from readers about the bad guy getting away at the end of that book. I just, you know, blew it off. Here's a hint. There are two more books in the series after this one. 'Nuff said.)
The hero of YOU'VE GOT MALE made a very brief appearance at the end of JUST LIKE A MAN, and we learn more about Tiffannee the spy from that book in YOU'VE GOT MALE, too. (And yes, she shows up again in later books.) The next in the series is titled EXPRESS MALE and will be out in June '06. (Provided I mail it to my editor today, I mean.)
Kitty: Quelle kewl. Finally, fact or fiction: That pub photo in the back is actually from your seventhgrade yearbook.
Liz: Are you kidding? I looked A LOT better in seventh grade than I do in that pub photo. And hell, I was wearing Qiana and had Farrah bangs in my seventh grade picture. But somehow HQN pulled a grainy fifteen-year-old b/w photo out of the files and used it instead of the shiny new color one I sent. On the up side, I had A LOT more hair then. On the down side, those earrings are an affront to humankind.
Monday, September 26, 2005
YOUR FACE HERE!
Thats' right, you have the opportunity to bid on becoming our first ever Honorary Squawker. I'll take your head and put it on a chicken body (not necessarily the one above) and then put you on a pedestal on the sidebar of SQUAWK RADIO for a week. During your stay the other Squawkers will bow down before you and extol your great generosity and kindness and beauty or whatever the hell you want us to extol. In addition, after your week as Squawk Idol is done, we'll send you one of the lovely Murano glass frames Eloisa brought back from Italy complete with your color chicken picture inserted to commerate your stay with us. Or you can toss the chicken and use it for your kid's school picture.
So, come on! It's for a good cause. Bid often and Bid high!
Sunday, September 25, 2005
CONNIE SAVES YOUR LIFE (okay, maybe not, but it sounded impressive, didn't it?)
I know, I know... Katie Couric already saved your life a couple years ago when she had her own colonoscopy videotaped and aired on GOOD MORNING AMERICA. But I know, and you know, that you never really trusted it when Katie Couric told you a colonoscopy was no biggie because a> she’s on a crusade and we all know crusaders will tell you anything to get you to fall in with the ranks b> she’s an intrepid reporter, c> she can’t tell you all the down and dirty details because companies like The Incredible Edible Egg and Smucker’s Jams are paying her salary and they don’t like her to say things like “Hurts like ^%$&^!”
On the other hand, you can trust me because a> I’m not on a crusade b> I’m the antithesis of intrepid. Indeed, I’m a self professed coward who, I guarantee you, dislikes pain much more than you c> no one’s paying me nuthin’ to write this blog thereby freeing me of any constraints provided by good taste or journalistic integrity.
So here’s the timeline:
First of all, prepare to be hungry because the day before your colonoscopy you eat nothing. Now, this may make you a little cranky but if you’re like me, there is a small, scheming part of your psyche that is rubbing its palms together and muttering “Hey! This could be the jump start on that diet that’s gonna drop ten pounds off my carcass in one week!” I say, go for it. Make lemonade out of them lemons! You might as well because that’s pretty much all you’ll be drinking for the next 24 hours.... “clear fruit juices." By the time dinner rolls around you’ll be so full of apple juice you’ll actually be looking forward to drinking something else, something different, something like... THE PREP KIT that has been chilling in your refrigerator all day like a bottle of vintage champagne.
Honeys mine, it ain’t champagne.
“Prep Kit” is simply gastro doc speak for “colon draino.” It is guaranteed to make said colon as clean as a newly minted shotgun barrel which, in case you are not married to Daniel Boone, as I am, is very clean indeed. It’s called, and I kid you not, Golytely and I can only assume that the team of ad guys who got the job of naming this stuff must’ve wet themselves laughing when their little joke came back approved. Because I can think of several far more appropriate names and “lightly” doesn’t occur in any of them.
Name irony aside, I can also pretty much guarantee you that your enthusiasm for drinking something, anything, other than apple juice will last through, oh, say the first two of the sixty-four ounces you are required to consume over the course of the next three hours. Lucky you, I have a few hints to help it down the hatch. First, the colder Golytely is, the more easily it goes down. Second, invest in a big bottle of white cranberry juice to swish around in your mouth after each cup you chug. Third, do chug it. Do not attempt to sip it. It simply cannot be done.
The good news? The Drinking of the Purge is the worst part of the entire affair. I swear it! And yes, it’s a pain but it’s hardly painful.
After the Drinking of the Purge, I suggest you get a laptop, a couple good DVDs, and an extension cord that stretches from your sink’s electric outlet to the toilet because, my friends, the word “throne” will never hold greater meaning for you. For it is from this reciprocal you shall rule your nighttime domain. Oh yeah, and an Ipod might be a good idea, too. And maybe some crosswords. And lots and lots and lots of TP. You get my point: You aren’t going to want to venture too far a field for the next 5-6 hours.
The next morning, bolstered by a whole new understanding of the word “clean”, you will call your ride and have him/her take you to the office for the exam. You will need a ride, in fact the nice people at the gastrointestinal care center are going to insist on it. Because you are going to be sedated. YEAH! Finally some light in this, er, tunnel.
At the doctor’s office, you go into a little cubicle where a nurse gives you a surgical gown (read “body apron” and why do they only come in grandpa prints?) and starts an IV. The prick of the I.V is much more intense than anything that goes after. I think I yawned when she was doing it. (I know, I know— “that Brockway knows how to man it up, doesn’t she?”) The nurse then gives you the obligatory spiel on the risks involved --for the record, they are like all risks involving sedation and invasive procedures—and you sign the release form.
Now comes the boring part.
I have a theory which I’ve developed over the last decade and which I occasionally float past my husband, himself a doctor, and it’s this: Doctors keep a patient waiting for a minimum of 45 minutes so that by the time of any actual procedure occurs, that patient has been bored into a state of near insensibility, thereby saving a few bucks in sedative costs. My husband denies this. But not as strenuously as he once did. Hm.
Anyway, a few hours later, after you’ve read every Good Housekeeping magazine from 1978 on, another nurse comes and takes you to The Place of Exam—a small room with all sorts of cool high-tech gadgets surrounding a very comfy-looking exam table complete with mattress and warmed blankets. After you slide in on your left side, the doctor himself makes an appearance. He sits down next to you, pats your arm, and once again explains the procedure, just in case you still had a few sensate brain cells firing away. Then finally, finally, the moment I’ve, I mean you’ve, been waiting for... he inserts a vial over the syringe and depresses the plunger and a few seconds later... yum.
Confession time: I am a chatty sedatee.
During one surgery where they used a spinal block on me, I ended up asking the surgical staff so many questions they finally knocked me out just to shut me up. And I wasn’t asking about the surgery. I was asking about their kids’ college tuition and where they thought the best place to eat lunch was and if premium gas really gave you any better bang for your buck.
Anyway, I warn the doctor of this. He replies kindly that this is fine and asks if I am comfortable. Why wouldn’t I be comfortable? I look up at the screen and realized that we have already begun the colonoscopy—either that or this is a very weird office where they loop previous patient’s colonoscopies onto the in-room monitors.
“Is that me?”
“Yup. All pink and shiny and clean. Golytely works well!”
“Yeah. It’s swell.” I reply darkly. We chat about nicer topics for a few minutes until I feel a small pressure. I don’t like it. “Hey, doc. Hit me again, will you? I got some pain here.”
“Pain?” he asks and to my drugged ears he sounds suspicious.
“Unnecessary discomfort.” I’m not married to a doctor for nothing. He hits me again. Ah.
A few minutes later I hear him say, “Well, lookee here. That’s quite a polyp!”
I drag my semi-focused gaze up to the monitor just in time to see a little noose wrap around something ugly enough that I don’t want to describe it and pop! it’s sucked down into the tip of another little tube that has magically appeared right next to it. I do not feel a thing. Not a thing!
The doctor finds two more polyps which he removes. Again, no pain. Indeed, I’m drifting into la-la land and thinking about writing—“Ouch!”
The very last turn at the very upper most end of my colon produces a crampy sensation.
“Hit me again?” I suggest winningly.
“Nope. You’re done.”
The cramp lasts, oh, maybe 10 seconds and then... whoosh. The scope is gone and I’m done.
I rest in a recovery room for 30 minutes, then go find my ride and make him stop at MacDonald’s on the way home.
To hell with diets.
And that’s it, my friends: Connie’s Colonoscopy. No big deal. EXCEPT... Remember that monster polyp? The doctor looked at it and even emailed a picture of it to my husband (Oh, what romantics these docs are! No banal “My Wife at the Beach at Acapulco” on my guy’s desk! Nope! Instead an 8 x10 glossy of a shiny pink thing which David proudly shows around the office as “Connie’s Big Polyp!”) Well, the deal with that polyp is this—in a year the chances are that it would have been cancer.
So for god’s sake, jump start that diet. Evacuate those bowels. Abandon yourself to the sweet, sweet drugs of oblivion (did I mention I got a plot out of this?!) and in doing so, just maybe you’ll save your life. At the very least you’ll make Katie proud.
Liz Falls for New Music
English country dances. Oh, yeah.
I LOVE CDs with compilations of English Country Dance music. And this one by Bare Necessities, titled, um, "English Country Dances," is easily my favorite of the half dozen CDs like it that I have in my collection. It's WONDERFUL. Lively, beautiful music perfect for driving in, well, the country. And if you live in an urban setting, this CD will keep you calm and happy in even the worst traffic snarls. But it's great in the house, too, especially when you're cooking up hearty stews and such for colder weather (which I can actually manage), or relaxing by the fireplace with a good book.
Bare Necessities consists of four musicians: two violinists, a pianist, and a multi-talented player of winds like flute and recorder who also doubles up on guitar when needed. The songs are all hundreds of years old, dating back to Elizabethan times, and reflect different periods in England's social history. But every one is an absolute joy to listen to.
I can't describe it any better than reviewer Albert Blank, who said: "One of the ensemble always sustains the melody line to propel the dance forward. This frees the others to surround the melody with improvised lines creating textures and moods which intrigue the mind and beguile the ear, yet lift the dancers and float them along in a way that few dance musicians achieve, let alone sustain."
I'll just add this. If, like me, your favorite scenes in A&E's version of "Pride and Prejudice" are 1) the Netherfield ball, and 2) the country dance where Lizzie first encounters Darcy, then you will adore this CD. 'Nuff said.
You can thank me later. And you will. :o)
UPDATE: our Katrina Refugee, Leslie Ferdinand
She is really starting to sound much more cheerful. FEMA still hasn't approved her for any housing assistance because -- get this -- an inspector has to declare her house destroyed. That's all very well, but the inspectors can't reach her house in order to inspect it because the mud is too high (water went over the roofs in her neighborhood). So that's kind of on hold, and they're staying in the garage at the moment. Zoe, her 9-year-old, has adjusted well to school in Texas, so that's great.
Everyone has been so generous: three more boxes arrived yesterday. I'm keeping the really heavy things like books until she gets a more stable place to stay. We got a couple of James Bond movies, but if you have any more, Leslie's mom loves her James Bond! And for those of you who asked about more books Leslie used to have, she had collections of Judith McNaught, Jude Devereaux and Joanna Lindsey, and those are all gone, obviously. Thank you all for your huge generosity. The Squawker community is truly awe-inspiring!
Saturday, September 24, 2005
More Auction Treasures!
Friday, September 23, 2005
We love it when our publishers keep our books in print forever but as some of you dear readers may have noticed, the reprinted versions frequently lose some of their lovely bells and whistles--like the metallic foil titles and gorgeous original stepback art. All of Christina's talk of nipples made me want to pull out some of my old stepback art on this sleepy Saturday morning and relive the mammaries...um...the memories!
This was the original stepback art for HEATHER AND VELVET, one of the last covers Fabio posed for before going off to "write" (cough...cough...) his own romances. The incomparable artist Steve Assel did the impossible--he made Fabio look like a Mensa candidate! (And I hope you'll notice my heroine's strategically placed hand. And the fact that unlike Christina's heroines, she only has 2 of them.)
No visible nipples here but out of all of my stepbacks, I always wish I'd bought this Pino painting from TOUCH OF ENCHANTMENT to hang on my office wall. I love it because it's not only sexy, but very tender and it perfectly conveys the time travel atmosphere of the book. Notice how the New York skyline morphs into the medieval castle. And they finally got a heroine with short hair right!
Believe it or not, the male model from this stepback from A WHISPER OF ROSES is not Fabio. (Although his mammaries are equally impressive.) I always loved this cover because it put the woman in the dominant position--something you don't see very often! This was another Steve Assel cover. He was known for his incredible skill in drawing hands and for his use of light. (And for the tasteful way he could make a man's kilt ride up while he was being manhandled by a saucy wench.)
As I'm sure you've noticed, although many of our heroes are written with chest hair, most are neatly shorn for the cover art. I've been told that this is because it's very difficult to portray a hero with chest hair without making him look like Robin Williams and because most of the cover models shave their chests.
So today I leave you with this deep, philosophical question: When it comes to men and their chest hair...do you prefer them furry or bare???
Xtina Asks about the Power of the Nipple
This time I had a special treat. I had seen the outside cover, but I hadn’t seen the drawing for the stepback (the inside cover.) So I peeked inside and … whoa. She’s gorgeous, he’s manly, and that nipple draws the eye like a bullet.
As an author, we’re always curious about whether our covers make you pick up a book, so right now I’m asking – do you look at the stepback art when you pick up a book? Does it influence your buying? And most important, about this marketing trend toward manly bare-chested guys and their nipples – what do you say, yes or no?
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Eloisa on the Fine Art of Copyediting
In case you noticed that the second description sounds better, that's because I would place myself amongst that kind: Eloisa James, Absent-Minded Shakespeare Professor. My students giggle when I announce that I am unlikely to remember their names for weeks. They love it when I can't remember the title of a Shakespeare play and stumble around saying "You know! The Jew of Malta? No - no -- no -- Merchant of Venice!" The fact that I actually can recite chunks of Shakespeare when called upon to do so just makes me more of a cliché and therefore, from their point of view, all the more proper for my job.
The problem is that I have two jobs, and what works for Professors doesn't work for Historical Romance Writers -- and certainly not from the point of view of the Harper Collins Copyediting Department. Copyeditors are the people who take one's edited manuscript and go through it with anguished sighs and (probably) oaths, changing the grammar and making it all consistent. A copyeditor is what Barbara Cartland dearly needed in that romance in which the heroine's name changes half way through.
I haven't muddled up a book that badly so far. But sometimes my characters' titles change in the middle (at least, they did before I hired a research assistant with an eagle eye). Quite often, I leave out a word now and then--just one of the small ones. And I've never really got the hang of titles. This infuriates copyeditors -- absolutely infuriates them. I just plowed through 42 typed pages of copyeditor's comments for The Taming of the Duke. Here's a sample:
Given the rules of address for the English peerage, the married daughter of an earl would retain her title as Lady first-name if her husband is below her in the order of precedence. She would be Lady Husband's-title or Lady Husband's name, depending on how high in the order of precedence, if he is ahead of her. Now Lady Girselda (Willoughby) is usually referred to as Lady Griselda, which implies that Willoughby was below her in the pecking order or a commoner. In any event, it is not correct to refer to her or to address her as both Lady Griselda and Lady Willoughby, so places where she is addressed or referred to (wrongly, one assumes) as Lady Willoughby should be changed to Lady Griselda or possibly Lady Griselda Willoughby in reference, not address. Changed needed here, also pages 121 and 363.
Sigh. This is a typical comment, I assure you, only sometimes they sound more annoyed.
Is anyone else as ill-suited to some part of their job as I am? What do you do badly and why?
Liz Gets Lost (on account of SOMEone has to blog around here)
So. What did everyone think of the season opener?
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Xtina Slaps the Chicken
Have you ever been watching television and realized that it had changed your life?
No, I’m not talking about a great drama or news report. I’m talking about one of those commercials that sends you diving for the mute button.
I saw one the other night. It showed an obviously successful author at a bookstore autographing her books for her hoard of adoring fans when suddenly, she had to leap up and run to the restroom — because she had hemorrhoids. I had a lot of thoughts while I watched her flee. How come they never show a guy with hemorrhoids? Was her problem caused by an inferior medicine like Preparation G? And, of course, my primary concern — now I can never visit to the restroom in a bookstore or my hoard of adoring fans is going to assume I’ve got hemorrhoids, too, and heaven knows that’s what everyone wants to think about their favorite romance writer.
I mentioned this to my younger daughter, and she burst forth with this invective about her most hated commercial which she’d seen at a friend’s house in mixed company. It involves a beautiful young couple in a rowboat that springs a leak. “So the girl pulls a box of Tampons out of her purse — not one Tampon, but a whole box — and she opens one and sticks it in the hole and the boat’s fixed. And the guys smiles like he’s happy when you know he’s thinking, ‘I’m not getting any at the end of this date.’”
Hm, I thought. Commercials create some really strong feelings. I asked my oldest daughter about her most hated commercial — “The Meow Mix commercials because once I hear it, I can’t stop singing that stupid song.” (And now you’re singing it, too.) I asked Susan Sizemore which commercial she hated most — “The Geico commercials.” And let’s not forget the golden oldies. Before the days of the mute button (the best addition to television after the off button), my mother used to go berserk over the Accent commercial. Anyone remember that one? This woman wanted to wake up the flavor of her uncooked chicken so she’d slap the poor, cold carcass and yell, “Wake up!”
Yup. You have to love the image of women in advertising.
I’ll bet your fingers are twitching on the keys right now, aren’t they, because you know just which commercial makes you shriek. So tell us what it is and let us all hate it together!
And FYI, thanks to all your generous bidding so far, today I'm overnighting a check to Leslie for $3000. You guys are THE BEST. Keep checking the auction page, because in the next couple of days, I'm going to be posting some amazing things. Very special items from Karen Marie Moning and Sherrilyn Kenyon and Edith Layton are waiting in the wings. And more stuff from the Squawkers, too. Don't miss out!
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Lisa on "Stop, Drop and Plot"
“Susie, did you bring the things?”
This is my first question upon being picked up in a big silver minivan at the Minneapolis airport for the annual autumn ritual known as Plot Group.
Our plot posse varies from year to year. This year the guilty parties are : Connie, Xtina, Me, Susie Kay Law, Susan Sizemore, and Geralyn Dawson. Who would guess that such a mixture will result in the most fabulous eruption of brainpower and creativity ever known in the history of plotting? If this sounds like a teensy weensy exaggeration . . . you had to be there. My theory is that the combination of personalities and the performance of ancient plot group rituals resulted in a perfect psychic groove.
“The things” I ask Susie about . . . well, that is a gigantic pan of caramel cashew chocolate oatmeal bars, which she brings every year. Don’t ever attempt to plot without The Things. It has been our discovery that minds fueled with these sticky gooey yummy cookie-bars will inevitably come up with great plots.
Another essential preparation for plotting--the ritual exchange of gifts. As you can see from our photo, my gift to everyone is a pair of oversized crystal-studded sunglasses. Among our other exchanges : Susan Sizemore bestows the most gorgeous hand-knitted scarves, and Connie brings everyone a bottle of Mad Housewives merlot. Which leads me to reveal another plot group necessity : keep minds lubricated with good red wine.
We drive up to Connie’s gorgeous cabin on a lake, where the air is clean, the woods rustle with ancient music and mystery, and the cabinets are stocked with coffee and microwave popcorn. No TV. At Connie’s place we are entertained exclusively by the sound of our own voices and the inventions of our minds.
In the interest of being completely forthcoming, I will reveal there is a philosophical difference between Connie and moi on our style statements for the weekend. Connie feels one should “dress down” in the woods in Northern Minnesota. It becomes immediately apparent that “dressing down” is a relative concept. Connie has specifically stated that we are to wear tee shirts, jeans and sweatshirts, and no makeup. I argue that I should be allowed to use moisturizing foundation with SPF to protect my skin, and gloss to keep my lips from getting chapped. In other words, I need make-up for health reasons. Connie remains skeptical. Later I change into my pink crystal-studded Minnie Mouse tee and leather-trimmed jeans, which Connie views with a threatening glower but remains mercifully silent.
The actual plotting begins as soon as the refrigerator is stocked and the casserole is in the oven. Connie has made a delicious chicken, lime and rice dish, and sliced fresh homegrown yellow and red tomatoes with basalmic vinegar. All plotting sessions are taped. We are all familiar with the rules, including : do not force a concept on an author even if everyone else loves it . . . . there are no stupid ideas . . . and, work at a plot until the author is happy with what she’s got. Before last year I had always plotted solo. I had no idea how much you can learn from working with others.
Every kind of plotting personality is represented in this year’s group. There is Connie the Architect, who pays keen attention to structure, consistency and style. Christina the Gourmet Chef, who patiently adds a little of this and removes a little of that until the seasoning is just right. Susan is a knitter, both figuratively and literally, her mind clicking even faster than her knitting needles. Susie and Geralyn are both Slam-Dunkers. They take everything in, quietly mull over thoughts and possibilities, and suddenly speak up with an absolutely brilliant solution or idea that pulls it all together. I’m not certain how to describe my own plotting personality, except that I feel like a hummingbird that has sipped from a thousand flowers. I am constantly referring to old movies, past books, personal anecdotes, anything my mind alights on during the discussion.
We break for wonderful meals, including Connie’s sun-dried tomato tart, Susie’s rainbow of salads and southwestern chicken roll-ups with pepper jelly cream cheese spread. One morning we dine on omelettes made with brie cheese and succulent orange-yellow chanterelle mushrooms. We have hunted the mushrooms in the woods, under Connie’s expert guidance. A long, sunny walk through the dappled forest, amid earthy-leafy smells and refreshing breezes is just what we need to keep the blood circulating and the spirits high. Our course is quickly redirected when Connie hears an animal-like huff similar to that of a mother bear who intends to rip apart any romance novelists who may have inadvertently gotten too near her cub. Faced with the threat of dismemberment, we turn around and prudently head to another part of the woods.
On the second night, I , as usual, become sleepy around nine o’clock. Group is relentless and ruthless, insisting on more plotting. I fuel myself with coffee and more cashew caramel bars. After breakfast the next morning, a suggestion is made that next year we need to plot with pedicurists and cabana boys in attendance. Unanimous agreement. We proceed to plot a surprising variety of books including horror, fantasy, suspense, womens fiction and romantic comedy. We constantly strive for the fresh twist, the unusual insight, the unexpected choice. Only one historical is plotted, and it is not at all conventional. After dinner I furtively shower in five minutes, blow-dry my hair, and frantically ply my limp locks with a curling iron. Halfway through I am interrupted by Connie’s indignant screams when she realizes I am self-grooming. Guiltily I trudge back to the main room, half-curled and half-straight. I do not have wash-and-wear hair.
By the time the weekend is over, we have shared ideas, feelings and questions. We have hugged, laughed ourselves silly, and exchanged personal confidences and secrets .We carry away our collections of good feelings and great plots like trick-or-treaters with heavy plastic pumpkins. It has been an precious intersection of hearts and minds, accompanied by good, loyal friendship. We want each other to do well, to be happy, to succeed in our endeavors.
In the competitive business of publishing, our friends are the oasis.
Congrats to Hugh Jackman!!!
Well, if you can't be holding one of the Squawkers, Hugh, it's nice to see you holding that lovely golden lady. Congratulations to Hugh Jackman--winner of the 2005 Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Music Program!
Sunday, September 18, 2005
FIFTEEN THINGS YOU NEVER THINK YOU'LL DO UNTIL YOU GO ON A BOOK TOUR
1. Eat a large ribeye steak in bed at 10 PM
2. Watch an episode of MY FAIR BRADY on VH1. (Yes, this is the new reality show starring 47-year-old Christopher Knight, a.k.a. Peter Brady, and his 22-year-old love Adrianne Curry, who went directly from winning the title of America's Next Top Model to guesting on Surreal Life 4 where she met and fell in love with the former child star.)
3. Watch "Peter Brady" wearing nothing but boxer shorts being paddled by his 22-year-old lover while he yells, "Thank you, Bubble Queen! May I have another?"
4. Try to jab out your eyes with the complimentary hotel pen
5. Spend an hour at a Sharper Image store trying out every gadget and massage chair in the store
6. Get both feet caught in a Sharper Image foot massager and briefly panic
7. Drink 2 Chocolixir dark chocolate milkshakes from the Godiva store in one day
8. Stay up all night because you've had too much chocolate
9. Call your husband weeping hysterically because they sent home one of your favorite contestants on ROCK STAR: INXS
10. Learn how to play Spider Solitaire on your computer
11. Play Spider Solitaire on your computer until your hand curls into a spider-like claw
12. Accidentally get cherry crush toenail polish on lovely hotel duvet and try to wash it off with nail polish remover, which only succeeds in smearing stain until it resembles something on CSI
13. Turn duvet over to try and hide stain
14. Get lost on second floor of hotel while looking for ice machine and suddenly realize the long deserted hallways bear a striking resemblance to the Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING
15. Fall madly and passionately in love with each reader who took time out of her own busy schedule to attend signings in Louisville and Charlotte, including these lovely ladies in the pic above from the Louisville Romance Writers AND my very dear fellow Squawker, Elizabeth Bevarly, who picked me up at the Louisville airport, ate dinner with me and acted as my official driver for the duration of the evening. Wuv you, Liz!!!
So tell me--if any of you have ever traveled alone for business, what was your most favorite and least favorite part of the experience???
Liz Goes Crazy for Music
Johnny Clegg, born in England, moved to South Africa as a child and quickly became enamored of African music. As an adult, he earned a degree in anthropology and forged strong ties to the Zulu tribe at a time when Apartheid was still a way of life in that country. (“Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World came out in 1990, but Clegg was making music way before then, first with a band called Juluka.) I remember seeing a piece about the band on “60 Minutes” back in the 80s, where Savuka was referred to as “Apartheid’s nightmare.” Because it mingled races, music, dress and culture. And MAN, did they make it all wonderful.
The music is grounded in tribal rhythms that are blended with pop, and traditonal African instruments combine with electric guitar and keyboard. What results is a sound that is unique, compelling and a joy to listen to. Many of the songs are topical for the times in which they were written, influenced by South African politics and cultural injustice, but many describe happier, global conditions like love, passion and parenting. Even the songs about oppression are filled with determination, fire and hope.
Clegg’s music is unlike anything else out there, current or past. But it has an appeal that is universal. Because at its core is a message of love, hope, respect and compassion. And who on the planet doesn’t crave--and deserve--that?
Saturday, September 17, 2005
UPDATE: our Katrina Refugee, Leslie Ferdinand
Hi everybody! I just talked to Leslie, and it was a fun conversation, because I went downstairs and opened boxes with her on the telephone. And Squawkers...you have done us proud!! Leslie now has plates and cups; she has movies for the children and books for herself; she has clothes for herself, her mom, and the children -- AND she has lotions and shampoos enough to go on thousands of dates (although she tells me she's done with men).
We started talking about books...like all of us, books are some of the things she misses most keenly. So I asked her: if you had known what you know now, what's the one book that you would have taken with you (not family photo albums, nor a bible, but a novel).
Here's Leslie's pick -- she's couldn't narrow it to just one book:
Baby Blessed, by Debbie Macomber
the Outlander series, by Diana Gabaldon
I know some of you have asked me if there's any other keepers Leslie misses...well there they are. If you can find them...bless you!
And if the waters were rising and YOU had to leave the house (loved ones, photo albums and pets intact) -- and you could only bring one book, what would it be?
Eloisa answers the question, "Where do Your Ideas Come From Anyway?"
I realized it a few days ago, teaching a class on Shakespeare's Tempest. In Shakespeare's play, Ferdinand arrives on the island where Miranda grew up and first thing you know, they're sitting down before a chess board. To make sense of this, you have to know how sexy chess was in history. Back in the Middle Ages, a chess game was the one permissionable reason for which a woman could ask a man into her bedchamber. Chess was the game of nobility...hours of leisure were spent at the board.
For those of you who don't remember, The Tempest is an archtypal romance. Miranda falls in love the moment she sees Ferdinand: "I might call him a thing divine," she says, "for nothing natural I ever saw so noble." Poor thing. Her first man, after all. The scene when they play chess is one of Shakespeare's greatest flirtation scenes. The first thing Miranda notices is that Ferdinand is doing a little cheating: "Sweet lord, you play me false." (That's men for you: brave and new until they they steal your pawn -- or worse!).
So now I'm thinking that my heroine is very very good at chess. So is her husband, except they haven't played together since they had a terrible fight over his mistress, a few years ago. But a certain rakish gentleman challenges her to a match...and the wager? I leave that to your imagination (grin). And then her husband finds out and begins a chess match of his own...
What's the best flirtation scene you can think of from a book or a movie? Ten points if you can think of a flirtation scene that includes a game!
Friday, September 16, 2005
Liz Bids Jacquie Adieu!
Jacquie, you da bomb. Don't be a stranger to Squawk Radio. 'Cause, you know, we know where you live.
A recipe for the uninitiated
And thanks again, everyone, for making me feel so welcome! Y’awl have been great! xox
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Elizabeth on Handling the Writing Biz
Yes, over the years, we Squawkers have become quite adept at this much-maligned, oft-misunderstood medium. For the record, it’s five syllables first line, seven syllables second line, five syllables third line. And for the record, haiku !@#$%ing rocks! Nothing says emotional overload like a good haiku. And there’s no better way to capture unmitigated neuroses. Here are some of our favorites from the Squawker haiku files:
My review appears today.
Hide the cutlery.
The Internet’s down.
Can’t get Amazon ranking.
Where’s the cutlery?
My book’s out this week.
Nora’s on the list again.
All thirty-five spots.
Conference time again.
No weight loss. My hair is gray.
They point and snicker.
Contract offer sucks.
Dinner? It’s PB&J.
For the next six months.
When I first started,
I thought this story was good.
It bites the big one.
Anyone else have some inventive, unusual ways to cope with emotional overload? (‘Cause God knows, we here at Squawk Radio need some new ways to deal with our own.) Who else loves haiku like we do? Anyone want to create some reader and writer haikus? You’d be amazed how cathartic it is. (And, MAN, is it a great way to NOT write the book you’re supposed to be working on.)
MORE auction riches!
So go see! There will be more tomorrow! (And you guys ought to thank Kim in IN for that faboo copy of TO THE NINES, which has generated MUCH interest, and which has many watchers, 'cause she's the one who arranged that for us. Thanks, Kim!)
Meeting Someone Totally Cool
My first RWA conference was in 1997, the year before I sold my first book. I was overwhelmed by the number of attendees, the choice of workshops. And the opportunity to meet some of the writers I adored. I attended a chat session given by Squawk Goddess Lisa Kleypas at that conference and I remember sitting in that room thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I’m sitting in the same room as LISA FREAKIN’ KLEYPAS!!” I also met Nora Roberts for the first time at that conference and nearly fainted. One of my friends took a picture of me with Ms. Roberts and I still have it on my desk. My mother is an AVID romance reader (guess that apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, huh?!) and over the years at RWA’s yearly conference, every time I’ve met one of our favorite authors, I call my mother. The conversation goes like this:
Me—Mommy, you’re never going to guess who I just met!
Me—Mom, I’m at the writers’ conference. Why would Jerry Seinfeld be here?
Dad—(because my parents always talk on the speaker phone)—You met Jerry Seinfeld?
Me—No! No Jerry Seinfeld. Guess what author I met?
Mom—I can’t guess. Tell me.
Me—(all atwitter) Julie Garwood!
Mom—(breathless) You did not!
Me—I did, too!
Dad—Who’s Julie Garwood?
Over the years, I’ve made that call to my mother and spouted out other names such as Karen Robards, Lisa Kleypas, Virginia Henley, Teresa Medeiros, Connie Brockway, Amanda Quick, Tami Hoag--just to name a few. In fact, when the conference was in New York in 2003, my parents came to the huge literacy booksigning and Mom was able to meet a bunch of her favorite authors. To say she was thrilled is an understatement. But one of the biggest thrills for me was at the conference in 2004 in Dallas when I had the honor of meeting Judith McNaught. Oh. My. Gawd. I nearly hyperventilated. She was so lovely and so gracious and I really do think I drooled on her shoe (great shoes, btw—Prada, if I’m not mistaken). I bought two hardcovers of the re-release of Whitney, My Love—one for me and one for my mom, and she signed them, writing lovely notes in both. I told her how much I loved her books and how they’d inspired me to write historical romances and how Something Wonderful had kept me up all night reading and on and on, and really she probably thought I was insane but she was so polite and nice and charming. I had the moment immortalized in a picture and here it is--me and Judith McNaught. Anyway, after I spoke to her, I zipped out my cell phone and called my mother.
Me—Mommy, you’re NEVER going to guess who I just met. Who I am, at this moment standing not fifteen feet away from!
Me—Mom, I’m at the writers’ conference. Why would Antonio Banderas be here?
Dad—(because my parents still always talk on the speaker phone)—You met Antonio Banderas?
Me—No! No Antonio Banderas. Guess what author I met?
Mom—I can’t guess. Tell me.
Me—(all atwitter) Judith McNaught!
Mom—(breathless) You did not!
Me—I did, too!
Dad—Who’s Judith McNaught?
So…have you ever seen or met someone totally cool? Someone who made you think, “wow, I can’t believe I’m looking at/talking to this person?” C’mon, spill…Inquiring Minds want to know!
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
My Favorite Things
While I may not have laundry/housekeeping chromosome, I definitely have the collecting chromosome. Even as a kid, I always collected stuff. Coins. Rocks. Shells. Records. Stamps. Stuffed animals. And of course, books. I still have my childhood set of Nancy Drew books (she made me want to be a detective), my Cherry Ames books (she made me want to be a nurse), my Vicki Barr books (she made me want to be a flight attendant—do you see a pattern here??!), and my Agatha Christie books (luckily she didn’t make me want to be a murderer J). I also loved Trixie Belden and the Penny Parrish series. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be my signed first edition of Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides—because not only is that one of my favorite books of all time, but he actually SPOKE to me when he signed the book! Of course, when he spoke to me, I forgot how to speak English and said something like, “blah, blah, yup, blah, blah.” ACK! I also have collections of dolls, Lladro (Spanish porcelains), art books, and Princess Diana books and stamps. I’ve heard someone say that if you have three of something, it’s considered a collection. Great. Like I wanted to collect cellulite dimples. NOT! I've added a picture of one of my favorite dolls from my collection. Her name is Caroline and she plays music.
So…what are some of your favorite things? What do you collect and why is it important to you?
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Okay, just kidding. I'd NEVER skip Christmas because it's my favorite holiday but I am skipping town for a few days and leaving the blog in the capable hands of my fellow Squawkers and Jacquie D. I'll be signing books in Louisville, KY on Wednesday and Charlotte, NC on Friday night. (You can find the complete tour schedule on my website.) Inspired by my fellow Squawkers' selfless generosity (and the fact that I just can't bear to part with the leather-bound editions of my OWN books!), I've decided to donate my autographed mint condition first edition of SKIPPING CHRISTMAS by John Grisham. So check the Katrina/Leslie Ferdinand auction tomorrow afternoon for that and some other fantastic new items. This one would make a fabulous Christmas present for that discerning Grisham fan!
Here's the URL for easy clicking: http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZlizabevQQhtZ-1
Ta ta for now, my little chickadees! If I can find some internet service, I'll send you a report from the road.
But you guys are incredible!!! We've raised over THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS for Leslie and her family so far, and the bids are still rising. In fact, this puppy has been so incredibly successful, we're going to extend it for a couple more weeks. The Squawkers have dug deep into their closets (and for some of us, this involved dangers rivaling asbestos), and found yet MORE riches to put up for sale. And we've suddenly remembered friends we never knew we had (or, rather, they never knew they had in us--but they're about to find out) whom we are going to hit up for MORE.
Rumor has it we have an autographed John Grisham waiting in the wings, along with an autographed copy of MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. One Squawker's editor is looking around for ARCs of future books to offer for sale. And the incredibly generous Janet Evanovich has pledged a hardback copy of TO THE NINES which she will personally autograph for the winning bidder.
Check back later today (I hope--really must get some writing in), but certainly tomorrow for some additional treasures. Holidays are just around the corner. And who wouldn't love an autographed book?
A million thanks to all of you! (Oh, and Hi, Jacquie D'! Welcome to the Radio!)
The "Joys" of Living with a Teenager
Monday, September 12, 2005
Climbing Mount D'Alessandro
KITTY interviews JACQUIE
Kitty: Welcome, Jacquie. I don’t know if you know this but in a recent on-line poll you and me tied for Best Accessorized Woman at Sturgis — well, hell, of course you do! So my first question for you is for all those fashionistas out there—where do you buy a plush toy alligator purse?
Jacquie: Thanks for the welcome, Kitty. Great to be here. But what do you mean we TIED for Best Accessorized Woman at Sturgis?? That’s not what I heard. Last I heard, I’d edged you out in the shoes and purse categories, while you gave me the nudge in the support hose and rhinestone eyeglass categories. And that darn Eva Longoria chick beat us BOTH in the mini dress competition. Whattaya say you and I wait for her out in the parking lot and clunk her with the ugly stick? Get back to me on that. Anyway, about my plush toy alligator purse—her name is Allie and she accompanies me to all swanky functions. She’s vintage now—I found her in the last century in a boutique in Atlanta called Paper Affair. Allie has a sports-nut husband (Albert--he’s the mascot for the Florida Gators) and two children who chew everything in sight. She also has a tiara and a collection of bling to wear when we go to parties together.
Kitty:Now, my spies at RWA Reno told me that for the award ceremony—which you did not win but since no one else on this blog won either we have decided not to be sensitive about although I might point out that no one who DID win in 2005 has ever (or, knowing Brockway’s capacity for bitterness, will ever) be invited to be guest on this blog--- where was I? What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Okay—I heard that you had planned to appear in some sort of get-up that would have put the Good Witch Glenda to shame. I didn’t see it at the award ceremony—what happened and was it really as, er, big and frothy as rumor has it and can you post a picture of it?
Jacquie:Ah—you must be referring to what I called my wardrobe malfunction. And let me tell you, Janet Jackson and Nipplegate had nothing on this disaster. Let me start by saying that the entire thing really is Teresa Medeiros’s fault. Yes, that’s right. Teresa may look sweet and innocent, but she planted an evil seed that led to a fashion disaster of epic proportions. You see, at RWA in 2004, Teresa wore this lovely gold, poofy dress that I called a Princess Dress. She looked gorgeous and I decided that next year (which was this year), I didn’t want a slinky dress, I wanted a poofy Princess Dress (as I said, all Teresa’s fault). But when it came time to shop for my RWA dress, there were no Princess dresses to be found! I searched everywhere, but no luck. Then, finally, I saw an ad for a store in Atlanta called Cinderella’s Closet! The perfect name! I’d find the perfect dress! I went to the store, and it was as if the mother ship had landed. Gorgeous Princess dresses everywhere. I bought the PERFECT dress—a frothy, poofy, tea-length confection with a gorgeous, delicately embroidered scalloped edge. I found the perfect shoes and earrings to go with it. The entire ensemble was PERFECT and I couldn’t wait to wear it. The night before my flight to Reno, I was packing. All my clothes were in the suitcase—all that was left to do was add the Princess Dress. This is when I discovered that due to Extreme Poofiness, the Princess Dress was going to take up A LOT more room than I’d anticipated . In fact, it was virtually unflattenable (not sure if that’s a word, but you know what I mean). There was No Way the dress was going to fit into my suitcase. I realized that the poofy dress required its OWN suitcase—and even that would have been difficult as due to Extreme Poofiness, the dress didn’t really FOLD (who knew tulle was so shockingly unfoldable??] Besides, I already had two bags to check in, so I couldn’t have another suitcase. The store had given me a fancy garment bag and had suggested I carry the dress on the plane, so I decided that’s what I’d have to do. But when I tried that, the whole tulle-doesn’t-fold-over problem again raised its head. The dress was so poofy, it wouldn’t fold over my arm, so the only way I could have lugged it on the plane would have been to hold my arms out straight and carry it. I tried it and my husband said it looked like I was carrying a dead body. I was distraught and stymied. It was first time a dress had ever gotten the better of me. After much fretting, I made the heartbreaking decision to leave the Princess Dress at home. I intend to wear it to RWA in 2006. The conference is here in Atlanta, so I can just lay that sucker across the entire back seat of my car and drive it to the hotel, where it will take up most of the closet space, but hey, my roommates will just have to suck it up. But between now and then, I’m going to bring it back to the store and have it de-poufed a bit so I’m not knocking lamps off tables. As for a picture, one doesn’t currently exist. You’ll have to wait for RWA in 2006. But hey Kitty—if you intend to compete with me in the Poofy Dress category, you’re going to have bring on your *A* game, toots.Kitty: Snort. You expect to FIT into the poufy dress a year from now? You know some day, Lil Miss Svelte, the "Even Things Out" gods are gonna come after you and, honey, you are going to blimp out and blimp out GOOD! And I'll be there. Back to work...
Have you always been so fashion-forward? Or was your fashion sense the result of all the time you spent in a cloak closet with Cary Grant? (And THAT is why I get paid the big bucks, dear readers, I “get the dirt on any skirt!”)
Jacquie: Ooooh! How did you find out about that?! What are you—the FBI?? Yeah, yeah, I know, you have your sources. To answer your first question, I hate to dispel the myth, but I only get dressed up when I go to conferences. The rest of the time I’m in either jeans or shorts and a T-shirt, or sweat pants. I guess that’s why I LOVE dressing up for conferences and parties—the rest of the time I’m totally casual. Now, about my time in the cloak closet with Cary Grant—in my LBW (Life Before Writing) I worked for TWA at Kennedy airport. My first job with them was a part-time gig in passenger relations during college. It was great fun, especially since I got to meet a lot of celebrities. We weren’t supposed to ask for autographs, but every once in a while someone would come through and you’d just have to ask—I mean, how many chances do you get to meet Cary Grant?? Anyway, he and his wife were on their way to LAX and it was my job and a co-worker’s to escort them from the Ambassador Club to their flight (a tough job, but someone had to do it J). Since Arsenic and Old Lace is one of my favorite movies, I was totally thrilled. So I go into the Ambassador Club and there he is—all suave and handsome and distinguished, dressed in gray trousers and a white shirt. It required a huge effort not to drool on his shoes (Italian black loafers, btw). And oh, yeah, his wife Barbara looked nice, too. Anyway, while the other passenger relations rep chatted with Barbara Grant, I had a chance to actually talk to Cary Grant! Here’s how the convo went:
Me—(hoping I’m not looking too star struck and drooly) Mr. Grant, it’s an honor to meet you. I’m a huge fan. Arsenic and Old Lace is one of my favorite movies.
CG—(in that fab accent) Thank you. That’s very kind.
Me—I’m not supposed to ask, but do you think I could possibly have your autograph?
CG—All right. (Looks around and lowers voice) But I don’t want to give one to everybody. Let’s go in the coat closet.
Me—(no fool) Okay.
**Note—the coat closet is of the walk-in variety and well lit (darn). I hand him my pen and clip board (which has a papers on it containing all the inbound and outbound flight info).
CG—what’s your name? (my badge only read “Passenger Relations Agent)
Me—(after experiencing a bad moment when I couldn’t remember) Uh, Jacquie.
CG writes “To Jackie” and signs his name, then holds out the clipboard to me. Now, again, I ask you—how many chances does a girl have to be alone in a coat closet with Cary Freakin’ Grant?? Not many. So I sure as heck wanted my name spelled right.
Me—Actually, Mr. Grant, you spelled my name wrong.
CG—I did? How do you spell it?
I told him. He crossed out the wrong spelling, wrote it correctly, then added two exclamation points.
CG—why do you spell you name like that?
Me—My mom picked it out.
After that, I got to actually carry his garment bag (he offered, but I insisted—again when do you get the chance??) while I escorted him to the plane (much too short of a walk). He asked me about my job and school. I think I answered intelligently, but who the hell knows? He was debonair and charming and it was so exciting. I left him and his garment bag in first class and practically floated from the plane. I still have that piece of paper he signed!
Kitty: Yeah, but how was he in the sack? What's that look for? You mean you did not hit on him?! What a waste. What a crime. I'm disappointed, Jacquie, so before you tell me you met Hulk Hogan and didn't hit on him either, let's leave other celebrities and talk about YOUR celebrity.
You've got a new book out, NOT QUITE A GENTLEMAN. Your hero, my Nathan Oliver, was he based on someone you’ve slept with or only wanted to sleep with and who?
Because I have GOT to say, boy-howdy! I got to get me one of them! Whew!
Loved him. L-O-V-E-D him.
Jacquie: Thanks, Kitty! That’s high praise coming from someone who’s, well, not easy to please. Nathan is not only gorgeous and sexy, he’s a doctor AND he has a fabu bedside manner—not too many guys like that roaming around Regency England. He’s enough to make a girl WANT to get the vapors! He’s based on every man that every woman has ever wanted to sleep with—with sleep having nothing whatsoever to do with it.
Kitty: I know you don’t do series, but you do introduce characters in one book who sometimes show up in another. Do you have any plans for someone in NOT QUITE A GENTLEMAN?
Jacquie: As a matter of fact, I do. I’m working on the follow-up to NQAG which will feature Nathan’s brother Colin as the hero. And boy, does that poor guy find himself in a Mess! As for writing books about characters who show up in other stories, that’s a fact. Nathan was a minor character in Love and the Single Heiress (he was The Unfortunate Suitor). As soon as he showed up on the page, I knew he’d have to have his own book.
Kitty: Now, in case anyone out there doesn’t know, you not only have great shoes, do fabulouso regencies but you also write contemporaries, both the hot, steamy Blazes (and, by the way, my lawyers are looking into that. I told you that crap in confidence!) and romantic comedies for Harlequin. Myself? I’ve never found sex funny and yet there are times --and really odd times too--some of my boyfriends can’t seem to stop laughing. Do you work on books concurrently or are you a straight through to the end kinda gal? What’s your work schedule like?
Jacquie: Call off the lawyers, babe. I changed your name to protect the not-so-innocent. And the guy I gave you?? Honey, you owe me a pair of Manolo’s for THAT man—whew! As for your question, I’m a straight through to the end kinda gal (I’m not sure if that sounds quite right, but I’m going with it). After I finish a long Regency, I like to switch to a shorter contemporary. I think the change helps keep me fresh and motivated. I do have to make sure that my Regency-era heroine doesn’t whip out her cell phone or my contemporary hero isn’t instructing his valet to tie his cravat. But other than that, it’s a writing rhythm that works for me.
Kitty: Workaholic! What do you have coming out next and when?
Jacquie:I have four books out next year! A contemporary Valentine’s Day anthology entitled Sinfully Sweet in February in which all the stories revolve around chocolate, another contemp anthology involving summer love due out in early summer (when else?!), a Blaze involving an extreme adventure due out in late summer, and the Regency historical in the fall. Hey--no wonder I’m tired!
Kitty: Trust me, there are more interesting ways to get tired. Okay, time for the fun questions! If you were a soda brand, what would you be?
Jacquie: A&W Diet Cream soda. It’s my favorite and I can never find it at my local supermarkets here in Atlanta! L They have A&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;W Diet Root Beer, and A&W regular cream soda, but not the diet. I like my soda like my Princess Dresses—fluffy and poofy.
Kitty: What have you got in your purse RIGHT NOW?
Jacquie: Oh, Gawd, my purse is always a disaster. Okay, I’m emptying it out now--here goes—a baggie containing half a dozen Tylenol, my fat wallet which is full of receipts but has NO MONEY in it (only a creased and dirty looking 32 cent stamp in the change part), a pack of two Oreos from my last airplane flight (they were sort of smooshed, but still tasty), a box that’s supposed to hold 4 double A batteries but is empty, 3 double A batteries (I think the 4th one must have jumped ship), a tube of Neosporin (I’m a klutz), a tube of Dior Kiss lip gloss (hey—I’ve been looking everywhere for that!), three nickels (two of which have some sort of gum-like substance encrusted on them), four pennies, 6 quarters, a bunch of tissues of dubious cleanliness (I’m throwing those away), a new pack of Extra peppermint gum, an empty pack of Extra peppermint gum, my mini camera (was looking all over for that, too), an empty spray bottle that I think at one time contained hair spray (don’t know what happened to the hair spray), four chapsticks (one of them empty), cap to a lipstick (lipstick that would go with it nowhere to be found), a pencil (with no point on it), 16 (yes, 16!!) pens (now I know why I can never find a pen in my house!), 9 (yes 9!!) lipsticks, a crumpled up napkin from Starbucks, and a bunch of crumbs that are from God only knows what. I’m really glad you asked because my purse looks so much better now!
Kitty: The nickname you would most like to have earned?
Jacquie: Mother of the Year.
Kitty: One thing you wish you hadn’t done in the last month.
Jacquie: Accidentally washing a red shirt in with the whites—only to discover that my teenage son has a freakish aversion to wearing pink underwear. Pesky kid.
Kitty: Thanks, kid. Now, let's go hit the Flea Markets.