Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Eloisa on Kiss Me and Kissing Games
Kiss Me, Annabel falls into that genre: the marriage is forced upon its participants. Poor Annabel...all she wants is a rich Englishman, and she finds herself married off to a poor Scot she hardly knows. The closest parallel I can find to her situation is a blind date.
I met my husband on a blind date, so I consider myself something of an expert. In fact, he was my third blind date (I'll describe the first two in a salacious blog at some point). The interesting thing about blind dates is that there's a dual experience: on the one hand, there's an incredible rush of intimacy that comes (I think) from not having "picked" each other. And on the other, the two of you need to figure out how to get to know each other...so there's a burst of questions. I'll never forget playing a question game with my to-be-husband. We each got to ask one question.
I asked something about his family. Then it was his turn. I looked at him expectantly (this may come as something of a surprise, given my modest, retiring personality, but I love to talk about myself):
"What do you like best about me?" he asked, with a charming Italian accent and even more delicious smile.
I burst out laughing and why I ever married the man...well, all I can say is that he truly does have some virtues!
At any rate, when Annabel finds herself married to a Scottish laird, and on her way, willy-nilly, to Scotland, she experiences both the rush of intimacy -- and the question game, although I gave it a twist. In Annabel's game, one person asks a question, and if the other answers honestly, they win a kiss. Of course, that's only kisses, but then Annabel and her husband start wagering for "favors"...what those are, I'll leave to your imagination!
What about all of you out there? Who's been on a blind date, and how did you get to know the person in question? Question games? KISSING games? Come on...tell all!
Monday, November 28, 2005
KITTY INTERVIEWS ELOISA JAMES
Yes, it's true. Yet another Squawker has yet another book out. Prolific as rabbits, aren't they? This time up it's Eloisa James whose romance, KISS ME ANNABEL hits the shelves today. Eloisa badgered me into interviewing her. here's the scoop:
KITTY: I did the research. Your daddy is a famous hippie poet whose star rocketed to fame in the sixties. Rumor says you were raised on some rural farm thingie—can you spell C-O-M-M-U-N-E? Love-in’s, sit-ins, happenings, flower power, psychedelic movement, oh my! So tell me what was it like smokin’ the ganj with the old man and the rest of the hippies? Did you meet Timbo “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out” Leary?
ELOISA: I did grow up on a farm, and my father is a poet, and I suppose we counted as hippies (we didn't have a TV)...but my mother was a strong break on the whole hippie thing. She made my brothers put on white shirts to come to the dinner table. Her voice issues from my mouth when I snap at my daughter for talking with her mouth full (why do I suspect that true hippies don't bother with table manners?). My father gloried in the whole 60's thing, although he forgot to introduce me to “Timbo.” Darn it. I did meet a bunch of 60's poets, most of whom had long hair and the look of someone who's smoked too much weed.
KITTY: KISS ME ANNABEL is like what? The nineteenth in this series? Is it ever going to end? And why not?
ELOISA: Four. FOUR. Is that too many for you? I love writing four books in a row. It lets me focus on a romance within each book (they stand alone) and still carry a wider story throughout. I think the key to making series interesting is connecting them by characters everyone wants to meet again -- but who are still changing. I came to this conclusion, actually, because I love Johanna Lindsey's regencies, but it was never all that satisfying to just read cameos of people I once loved, now grown up with children. I wanted them to actually be living and changing, if that makes sense.
KITTY: Well, speaking as a connoisseur du la novel romance, I gotta admit one of the main reasons I'm sticking with your series is Mayne. Gimme.
ELOISA: Writing books in series of four is allowing me to get Mayne to the point where he might -- just MIGHT -- be marriageable material. Because a guy who's slept with most of the married, female population of London is not exactly good husband material, no matter what anyone thinks.
KITTY: Okay. Let’s talk about your, ah, I guess you’d call it a style. You write knuckle- dragging, chest-thumping, over-sexed heroes with uber-‘tude. What’s up with that?
ELOISA: Gotta love it, Kitty. If you don't understand it at your age, well...picture me wiping away a tear for you.
KITTY: Babe, I ain’t complaining. Believe me. Just trying to keep the editorial distance intact. (Prima donna. Like she’d know more about men than me. In her thwarted little dreams!) What? Oh yeah. Okay. Up front, I’m in a slump. Brockway’s killed me for series. So why should I, or any one else, take the bait and buy this book? What makes it the best thing since double D batteries?
ELOISA: I've always thought that slumps were the...well, never mind that. I wouldn't want to insult you during your own interview. Brockway, huh? She burned out your gaskets? No comment. I think this is a great series because I'm trying to bring together two things from my last two series: the depth of emotion from the Pleasures series, and the female friendship from the Duchess in Love series. So far, so good. I'm enjoying it. And it's damn hot.
KITTY: Okay. You got me halfway there but let’s be honest...KISS ME, ANNABEL? Sounds like something you could read a bunch of five year olds during Sunday School naptime. Convince me.
ELOISA: See above? Damn hot. HOT, Kitty, HOT. As in making love outdoors, which is getting to be a signature of mine, which is really weird because I am a staid suburban mom.
KITTY: You know, many of the other squawkers cough: Lisa, Teresa, Christina :cough spend half their lives living on the New York Times bestseller list. How does that make you feel? I know it just about kills Brockway. She goes hyper-pissy whenever anyone mentions it (And every other day is NOT too much, Medeiros! No matter what Brockway says!) Do you think you stand a chance? Be optimistic. It’s kinda cute.
ELOISA: If you would just get over your slump and buy the damned book this week I might have a chance!
KITTY: Well, okay, I’ll buy the damn book. But I’m not going to promise to read it.You know, as much as I hate to admit it, I do kinda groove on your website. No, I’m not snickering. I really mean it. I especially like the readers’ page with the picture you took of the back of ELTON JOHN’S HEAD? Hello? What were you thinking? The man is a god and you weenie out and don’t get full frontal?
ELOISA: Sorry. Only his back. But did'ya see the picture of Bette Midler? Upclose and personal, huh? How about Glenn Close? Next month I'm doing a"behind the magazine shoot" thing because MORE is pubbing an article on me in February. It's a new part of my website and I really like it.
KITTY: Yo, well, let’s delve a little bit deeper into this magical readers' page thing. You got a free novella up for grabs for those who have “enlisted” but what’s with the whole password protection/registration thing? Are you collecting names to sell to porn sites? ‘Cause sister, I have been to the well once too often. I am tapped. No more credito on el Plastico. Got it? Not that the thought isn’t appreciated...
ELOISA: Nope. Not that anyone would want your address, Kitty. I'm sure you're already on the spammer's gold list for buying all that female viagra. I'm not selling my list, or giving it away either. But this way I can offer stuff like the free short story on my site and not have to worry too much about it getting stolen. And did'ya see the crossword puzzle? Next month I'm running a contest to make up new crossword puzzle clues from the Duchess in Love series. Give it a shot, Kitty!
KITTY: Yeah. What's a four letter word for "No way?" I'll buy the book though. I've always kinda liked outdoor sex...
Teresa Remembers a Devoted Reader...
We often tell you how much our readers mean to us and I was reminded of that all over again when I found this note from a couple of years ago in my files:
The e-mail I received this morning was simple. "I just want to tell you that my dear sister died today and to thank you for being such a friend to her." I first heard from Lourdes Goulart through snail mail. She was a young woman from the Azores living in America at the time and wanted to know if my name was Portuguese. She sent me an e-mail the following year to let me know that she was suffering from cancer that had originated in her breast and spread to her spine. She had returned to the Azores because medical care there was free. I sent her one of my autographed books, then rounded up several other books from my generous friends.
Shortly after that I received a beautiful cross-stitch of a windmill she could see from the window of her hospital room. Lourdes apologized for its quality because the chemo was weakening her eyesight. I thought it was beautiful. We exchanged e-mails and books several times after that. Her e-mails were always bright, witty, and filled with humor and humanity despite the suffering she was enduring. I couldn't begin to imagine what it must be like to have bits of your teeth break off with each meal or to have the cutest orderly at the hospital catch you with your pants around your ankles when you collapsed in the bathroom of your hospital room because you were too weak to sit on the commode. She told me how she'd fled from the dentist in her wheelchair after he told her he would need to pull all of her teeth because the mental image of herself--fat and swollen with no hair or teeth was just too much to take in.
She fantasized about American food (especially Mexican and Chinese :)) and talked about how hungry the steroids made you, how you just kept stuffing yourself, imagining the calorie count, and at the same time contemplating eating your mother's fingers if they got too close to your plate.
She started my most recent book the day before she entered the hospital for the last time. She didn't want to read past the first page because she didn't like to be interrupted once she started on a good book. She left me with this bit of wisdom: "Sometimes the best you can hope for is to survive today and have something to eat tomorrow."
Go with God, Lourdes, and I hope He was waiting to greet you with a romance novel in one hand and a fat Mexican burrito in the other.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Liz Gets a Jump Start on the Holiday
Yes, we are some of those nauseating people who listen to nothing but Christmas music between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the house, in the car, wherever the iPod may take us. As a result, we have A TON of Christmas CDs. So that's what I'm going to blog on between now and December 25th. (And no, there won't be a quiz, so feel free to skip the Sunday music blogs between now and then if you're a grumpy humbug.)
First up, Liz Story's "The Gift." This is the loveliest Christmas CD we own, filled with gentle piano renditions of some of my favorite carols, many of which are routinely overlooked on holiday compilations. "Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle," for example. "The Holly and the Ivy." "The Wassail Song." But there are also favorite contemporary classics like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song." And there are some beautiful, classical pieces like "Pange Lingua/A Hymn To The Virgin" and "In The Bleak Midwinter/O Sanctissima."
The entire album is just gorgeous, and it's perfect for those quiet gatherings of friends, or for the holiday dinner, or for fireside eggnog sipping. It also does wonders for calming me down after a full afternoon of last-minute shopping. (On account of, no matter how hard I try, I ALWAYS have last minute shopping.)
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Lisa on "Stuff I Stockpile In My Bathroom Cabinet"
Do you know how much you can tell about a person by the contents of her bathroom cabinet? So many of our habits, concerns, hopes, preferences are exposed by the collections of liquids, pills and implements we keep there. Take a look at mine--you could tell in less than a minute that this stuff belongs to a mom who worries about her weight, tries in fits and starts to be healthy, and fights the good fight against encroaching middle age. (You could learn even more by looking at my medicines, but there's only so much I'm going to reveal!). I so envy those women who are comfortable with their au naturel selves. And I don't know who decided that men can have hairy legs but women should be smooth. But I dutifully trudge into the bathroom every morning, where I shave, tweeze, file, brush, polish, moisturize and adorn my mortal self, and emerge to face the day. It's a lot of work, being a woman.
I love learning about grooming products that work so well, people keep buying them over and over again. And I love sharing good info with friends who ask the same nosy questions! There are some things I stockpile, and if I ever hear the company is going out of business, I'll have to fill a warehouse with a lifetime supply.
Here are the ten grooming products I can't live without:
1. Burt's Bees Garden Tomato Toner
I have fussy skin, and this clears up any looming breakouts and gets rid of every trace of soap, dirt or oil. So good I don't mind smelling like a salad.
2. Badger Lavender and Orange Lip Balm
I've tried every lip balm ever made. This makes your lips smooth and soft without feeling greasy or waxy.
3. Big Sexy Hair products
Flat, straight locks like mine need all the help they can get. This makes my hair bouncy, shiny, and as full-looking as its possible for my poor little wisps to get.
4. Beauticontrol Cell Block-C moisturizer
This stuff is a pain to get, you have to order it off the net or from a Beauticontrol consultant. But it works so wonderfully for sensitive skin, doesn't clog your pores, it minimizes wrinkles, and it has SPF protection with vitamin C. And it has a subtle citrus essence that makes you want to eat it.
5. Beauticontrol "Show Of Hands"
Miraculous. Also difficult to obtain, but you can put it on dry, cracked, painful, terrible-looking hands, and a couple of minutes later they're dewy and smooth. I've tried similar products but nothing comes close.
6. Aveeno Baby Wash
I fell into the habit of using this stuff on myself after washing the kids, and it is gentle, thorough and makes you squeaky-clean.
7. Crest Whitening Expressions Vanilla Mint Toothpaste
Great breath, white teeth, terrific flavor.
8. Cutex premoistened Nail Polish Remover Pads
I started to use these just for traveling, but they're so convenient that now I use them at home. One pad does all ten fingers.
9. Mason Pearson Bristle Brush
To buy this legendary brush, you have to dip into your retirement account. But it's so worth it. Great for your scalp and makes your hair smooth and glossy.
10. Royal Secret Cologne
This is the only fragrance I've ever worn that people always ask about. I've been aggressively sniffed by people in airports, grocery checkout lines, cocktail parties, PTA meetings etc, and everyone says "You smell SO GOOD." This amazing cologne is a mixture of sandalwood, African orange, roses and amber . . . it is a dry, sophisticated, fresh-smelling, absolutely wonderful scent.
Well, girlfriends, now you've had a glimpse into my bathroom cabinet! Please share some of your favorites . . . despite my reliance on old favorites, I love to try new things, and we'll all benefit from your shared wisdom.
Friday, November 25, 2005
we only know that according to various reports from around the country (that would be the many states and regions the squawkers live in) you're probably doing one of these things. Enjoy your day!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
KITTY'S THANKSGIVING WISHES. . .
So I'll start out with me.
10) male bodies (no, you can't make me choose which part)
9) male bodies (but I bet you can)
7) single malt scotch
6) blended scotch
5) Scotsmen-- in kilts-- drunk on scotch
4) Cubana Perfecta cigarillos
2) the 60's!
10) My good friend, Connie Brockway
9) That delicious vixen, Connie Brockway
8) The fabulously talented Connie Brockway
7) The exceptional sublime works of my dear friend, Connie Brockway
6) The masterful word use of the dazzling romance novelists, Connie Brockway
5) The razor sharp wit of Connie Brockway
4) The evocative love scenes penned by that vunderkind of literature, Connie Brockway
3) The wisdom inherent in every book written by Connie Brockway
2) The selflessness of Connie Brockway
1) The artistic talent of Connie Brockway
Hey, wait a minute. Isn't Christina on vacation in NYC?
How about you guys, what are you thankful for?
10) That my neighbors don't sleep with chickens, so no bird flu in the NJ suburbs
9) That teenagers start bathing at some point, because I've been promised that
8) That my mother-in-law is taking care of the dog who became incontinent
7) That incontinent guinea pigs live in a cage and don't run around the house
6) That I don't ever have to go through high school again
5) Ditto on the senior prom
4) That red wine exists
3) Ditto xanax
2) The smell of babies' heads
1) Friends. Near and Far. Internet and Otherwise...
10) Okay, I'll say it: LYCRA
9) The livestock wandering through my house
8) The gift certificate for a 90 minute massage sitting on my desk
7) Wine. All wine. Except bad wine. Not thankful for bad wine.
6) A fabulous family of fabulous cooks many of whom will be showing off their fabulous skills in THREE HOURS
5) Okay, now I need to say it again: LYCRA (especially in jeans)
4) Christina Dodd's excellent taste
3) Unlimited time onphone calls between network subscribers (otherwise we'd be in a cardboard box)
1) my families, the one I was born into and the many I wasn't. And lycra.
1) My husband and son (Yes, they’re one unit. In fact, the three of us are one unit.)
2) My mom
3) My mom’s legendary dressing cookies, available only once a year on Thanksgiving
4) Creme brulee
5) Silk pajamas
6) Johnnie Walker Black (Oh, come on. You knew it was coming.)
7) The happy thrum of a cat’s purr when it’s curled up in your lap
8) Patchouli soap
9) Christmas lights
1) My mother-in-law who is such a wonderful and enthusiastic cook that I've never had to learn how to cook a turkey and who insists that I bring nothing but my beautiful smile to Thanksgiving Dinner (because she's obviously eaten my cooking before)
2) Russell Crowe
3) My darling husband, the love of my life
4) Russell Crowe
5) My precious kitties Queenie and Buffy (also known as The Buffster, Little Love, The Brat Cat, and H.R. Buffenstuff.)
6) Russell Crowe
7) Starbuck's nonfat, decaf lattes with 2 Splendas
8) Russell Crowe
9) Having a job where I get paid to play endless games of Spider Solitaire while trying to think of something clever to write
10) Having modest friends like Connie Brockway
10) A bottle of good red wine
9) Internet shopping
8) My own espresso machine
7) George Clooney
6) Writing on computer instead of typewriter
5) All things Disney
3) Husband who still likes to kiss
2) Snuggling with children
1) Friends who think it's just fine to be crazy
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Xtina goes Xmas Shopping
When it comes to Christmas shopping, there are three kinds of people. People who get everything done early. I call these “weird people.” People who make lists, stumble around and mostly get everything done before December 25. I call these “normal people.” Finally we have the procrastinators who do everything at the last minute. I call these “men.”
Take my friend Susan Mallery (THE SHEIK AND THE VIRGIN SECRETARY, December 1). It’s Thanksgiving week, and I know — without checking with her — I KNOW that she’s done with her shopping. She’s also done with her wrapping, her mailing and her cards are written, addressed and stamped. She used to mail the cards before Thanksgiving but got such a hostile response from her less organized friends she holds onto them until closer to Christmas.
Then there’s me. Around October, I always make the same resolution — I’m going to get my Christmas shopping early. So I hit the internet and start ordering stuff. You know. Stuff. Stuff for the kids, stuff for my husband, stuff for my friends, stuff for my father-in-law who, God help me, is the hardest man in the world to buy for because he doesn’t want anything and if he does, he buys it for himself. (Yes, somehow buying stuff for the kids and the relatives is my job. Would someone explain how that happened?) I usually get the stuff that needs to be mailed packed up and shipped by December 10. You know — soon enough that I don’t have to pay for express shipping but not soon enough to avoid the lines at the post office. Around December 15, I haul all the stuff out of the closet and put it in piles according to who gets what, figure out what everyone has and how much is left to be bought, and in a frenzy order/shop for the rest. Then in a grim tone I announce to Scott since I did all the work of figuring out the gifts and getting them, he can wrap them. This has the effect of having him help. Then we put them under the tree. My family opens gifts on Christmas morning. The gifts are often wrapped for less than twenty-four hours.
Then there’s my husband. October elicits no such response from Scott. Christmas? Why worry about Christmas in October? Or November? Or even December … until around the twenty-first when SOMETHING (possibly the millions of commercials and print ads) calls to his attention that he has three days to get me (remember, I’m his sole responsibility) a gift. At this point he becomes a martyr. With many heavy sighs, he trudges down to the mall. He shops for a couple of hours. He comes back in a fury and announces that WHATEVER IT IS I WANT, THEY DON’T MAKE IT ANYMORE. He hits the internet. He orders something (not what I want, because they don’t make it anymore) and uses overnight shipping to get it, thus making sure the shipping costs more than the gift. (In the interest of fair play, he demands that I tell you he does the Christmas cards and writes the Christmas letter. He does, and usually early in December, too. Bless him!)
So there we have it, the three categories. Who are you? The organized one? The normal one? Or the procrastinator? (And do not, for heaven’s sake, tell me you fit none because you’re of another religion or even atheist. People in your family have birthdays, don’t they?)
Lisa fashionista warns "Christmas is coming . . ."
The goal : affordable gifts with the appearance of luxury. If you have some good suggestions, please, I beg you, don't hold back! Children are relatively easy, so I'm concentrating on grownup gifts. Here are a few things for adults that I know for certain are great and reasonably priced:
1. Target cashmere sweater by Isaac Mizrahi
One of the reasons I am a dedicated Tar-jay shopper. These 100 percent cashmere sweaters come in beautiful colors, they're soft and luxurious and they're only THIRTY NINE DOLLARS!
2. Lands End flannel pants
I bought these for my husband Greg last year, and they're incredibly comfortable and have washed beautifully. Twenty dollars and worth every penny.
3. Bath and Body Works : Shearling Bear
This cucumber melon body wash and lotion smell insanely good, and they're perfect for making dry winter skin feel pampered. Twenty-two dollars, but remember the products are full-sized, and the adorable bear is included!
4. Barefoot Dreams adult robe for men or women
The Barefoot Dreams Company started out making baby blankets and then robes and throws for adults. The knit fabric of this robe is the fluffiest, most unbelievably soft and cuddly stuff you've ever felt. Put one on warm from the dryer. It's a wearable climax. Worth 99 dollars? Yes. Oh, yes. You can buy one at www.amazon.com or www.nordstrom.com
Let's help each other with gift suggestions for men and women. This may save us time, money, aggravation, and then instead of fighting the crowd at the mall, we can sit down with a romance novel and put our feet up! Any great new stuff you've heard about this year? What gifts do you especially like to give or receive?
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Liz Reveals Her Secret for a Happier Holiday
My typical (until last year, I mean) Thanksgivings have always contained the necessary ingredients to make each more miserable...ah, I mean memorable...than the one before it. Conservative relative who drinks too much and picks a fight with nearest liberal? Check. Liberal relative who drinks too much and picks a fight with nearest conservative? Check. Relative, having had not a drop to drink, tells off-color jokes that offend, oh, pretty much everybody? Check that. Much-married relative with no kids who knows better than me how to raise my own? Yep, checkarino. Much-married relative whose kids have all moved thousands of miles away from her who knows better than me how to raise my own? Oh, yeah. Check that baby. Relative who bases his decision on whether or not to speak to me according to--from the best that I can figure--whether or not the planets are aligned into the shape of a Boron molecule? Checkaroonie. Belligerent children (not my own) who go through the pockets and purses of those who have had too much to drink and rob them of all their spare change? Checkaroo. And I’m reasonably certain I’m the only one of the Squawkers who has had a holiday erupt in gunfire.
Okay, now then. Take all that resentment and pettiness and anger and offense and obnoxiousness and misanthropy and...and... Where was I? Oh, yeah. Take all that holiday crap and double it. NOW you’ve got my traditional Thanksgiving holiday. (Until last year, I mean.)
Yes, my dear Squawkers, I must endure TWO Thanksgivings every year. One for lunch and one for dinner. One with the in-laws and one with the blood. There’s plenty of misery for everyone that way. At least, there was until last year.
But last year, I found a guaranteed way to survive Thanksgiving with nary a nick to my ego or my person. Last year, I discovered that the holiday really CAN be a celebration of one’s good fortune and an opportunity to count one’s blessings with the people who mean the most to them. Last year, I found the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Last year, I had A LOT to be thankful for.
‘Cause last year, for Thanksgiving, my husband and son and I went to Chicago. Alone.
So is everyone else prepared for Thursday? Anyone got any holiday horror stories they want to get off their chest? Anybody got a ticket to Chicago they’re not using...?
Eloisa on the Anatomy of a Bestseller that Doesn't Sell
There was an interesting column in Publishers' Weekly a few weeks ago, talking about how nobody knows how to make a bestseller. Just think about huge bestsellers that have hit the shelves in the last few years: The Nanny Diaries, The DaVinci code, Freakanomics, The Devil Wears Prada, He's Just Not That Into You...
None of the publishers really honestly knew that they had a wild bestseller in their hands when they launched those books. Or maybe it's more fair to say that publishers often hope that they have just such a bestseller -- but who can say which book will make it and which won't?
One interesting thing the column (by Sara Nelson) pointed out is that publishers often make the mistake of jumping on the same old bandwagon and shelling out big bucks to get the author to write the same thing over again, in so many words. According to Nelson, Simon & Schuster paid a reported $2 million for Everyone Worth Knowing, the follow-up to The Devil Wears Prada. Who's heard of it? Not me. Broadway coughed up around the same amount for the "sequel" to He's Just Not That Into You called It's Called a Break-up Because it's Broken. Nelson says the Break-up clung to the bestseller list by its toenails.
She suggests that the repetitive publishing industry didn't take into account the luck of tapping into the perfect moment -- timing is all. I think Hollywood suffers from the same short-sightedness. (Although in the case of the Break-up, it could have been that truly crappy cover, above.)
Sitting in the movie theater this afternoon, people behind me were talking about yet another remake of King Kong that's apparently on the way. Hollywood hardly seems to get an original idea, so they remake old bestsellers in a way that reeks of desperate hope.
What do you guys think makes a huge bestseller simply pop out of nowhere? Any examples? And what's the lamest follow-up book or movie you've paid for recently, and wished you hadn't?
Monday, November 21, 2005
TERESA PONDERS AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES (AND ROMANCE!) AT THE MOVIES!
It's so rare to find a satisfying romance at the movies that I nearly dissolved into raptures of delight to discover not one but two of them this weekend! On Friday I had the distinct pleasure of going to see the new theatrical version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE with Keira Knightly and Matthew MacFadyen. To be honest, I was prepared to be disappointed. I had seen the rather murky looking trailer that made even the gorgeous Keira Knightly look washed-out and blotchy. Plus as we all know, every version of P & P must now be compared to that platinum standard of the 1995 BBC mini-series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.
But I found the new movie to be thoroughly delightful and exhilarating! At just a little over 2 hours long, it couldn't cover quite as much ground as the mini-series (Wickham and the two younger sisters had very minor roles), but it beautifully captured the romance and robust good humor of Austen's story. I was caught off guard by several laugh-out-loud moments. Keira Knightly embodied Elizabeth Bennet's intelligence and wit. (Her portrayal also reminded me a little of Jo March in LITTLE WOMEN.) One glimpse of her smile and you knew why Darcy's heart was captivated. MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy won me over in the moment when I realized his voice had the exact same timbre as Alan Rickman's. The murkier cinematography actually ended up making the movie seem more vital and historically accurate. The gritty images of daily life are contrasted with breathtaking shots of the English countryside, including one of Mr. Darcy striding out of the mist that almost rivals Colin Firth's rising up out of Pemberly's pond on the female gasp of appreciation scale. (Yes, this is an actual scientific device. I have one in my office.)
Next up is the rather luscious and dangerous Joaquin Phoenix channeling Johnny Cash in WALK THE LINE. At the literal heart of the movie is Cash's longstanding and long-unrequited love for June Carter (the ever ebullient Reese Witherspoon finally being allowed to put her Nashville accent to good use) and the trials and travails he must suffer before finally settling down with the love of his life. From the foot-stomping power of the very first scene, music is the thread that binds these two restless hearts and what makes the movie even more remarkable is that Phoenix and Witherspoon did all of their own singing!
If you're looking for a taste of romance this Thanksgiving, I wholeheartedly recommend these 2 movies! Next up for me is the new HARRY POTTER! If you've seen PRIDE AND PREJUDICE or WALK THE LINE, I'd love to know what YOU think. And I'd love to know what other movies you're excited about seeing this Thanksgiving and Christmas season (NARNIA and KING KONG anyone?)
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Liz says, "Time for some downtime."
Time for Liz to mellow out.
And what better way than with some primo muscle relaxers from the doc, and Marcus Roberts’s “Gershwin for Lovers” on the CD player. Ahhhhhhh. I feel better already.
Starting with one of the most beautiful renditions of “A Foggy Day” I’ve ever heard, right through the closing poignant notes of “But not for Me,” the CD exudes style and sophistication. Better still, it eases all the tension right out of your body and your mind. (And yes, I was of that opinion about this CD even before the muscle relaxers.) As one gorgeous song after another plays--”The Man I Love,” “Someone to Watch over Me,” “Summertime,” “Our Love is here to Stay”--you can easily close your eyes and transport yourself back to the speakeasies of the 30s and supper clubs of the 40s. You’re wearing your favorite black Dior and most luminous Cartier diamonds, and cradling a perfect gin martini--or, in my case, a JWB mist--in your velvet-gloved hand. Oh, yeah. That’s where I want to be. Thank you, Marcus!
But first, I have to finish my book revisions. Then again, they might go more smoothly if I just slip into my favorite Dior and put a little Marcus Roberts on the player. And a muscle relaxer has pretty much the same effect as a gin martini. Now if I could just keep my velvet-gloved fingers from slipping off the keyboard...
Oh, well. I’ll manage. Cheers, everybody!
Lisa on "Parentspeak"
Now that the kids are home for a week for Thanksgiving vacation, my Mommy radar is picking up the usual trouble signals. The mysterious quiet, when you know the children are up to no good. The moments when my young son casually inquires, “Mom, where’s the goo-gone?” and when I ask him what for, he turns evasive. “Oh, nothing.”
“Nothing” happens a lot at our house.
“What was that sound?” I ask.
The answer from upstairs, “Nothing!”
“What is that blue stuff on your hands?”
“Where is your little sister? What is she doing?”
All this nothingness naturally leads to the negative language of good parenting . . .
“Don’t put your fingers there.” “No, you can’t do an experiment with the dish soap and the orange juice.” “Turn that down.” “Turn that off.” “No, leave that right where it is.” “Don’t run with that.”
And my husband Greg and I are surprised to hear echoes of our own parents’ voices. I’m starting to refer to my nerves, just as my mother did. “Children, leave that bubble wrap alone, it’s getting on my nerves.” And the other day I heard Greg, who is the gentlest of fathers and has never raised a finger to either child, say in an ominous tone, “Dont’ cry or I’ll give you something to cry about.” This, of course, was his futile attempt to hold back the chaos. When he came into the room, he asked me, “What are you laughing about?”
I told him, “My Dad used to say that to me all the time. You sound just like a Dad.”
Is there anything you’ve heard yourself saying that sounds just like your parents?
Friday, November 18, 2005
XTINA SHRIEKS WITH JOY!
Hey, Christina. Has anyone let you know yet that you made the LA Times online crossword puzzle?
Go to: http://games.latimes.com (you may have to register, but it doesn't cost anything).
Click on the Daily crossword. You need the puzzle for Friday, 11/18/05. If you're too late and it gives you a later puzzle, look right above the puzzle box for the for the "previous date" / "today's crossword" links.
You, m'dear are "# 13 Down: Romance Novelist named Christina"
The answer, of course, is DODD!
I guess that means you have really arrived. Never mind all those best seller lists. You're in the LA Times Crossword!
My thanks to Janis Reams Hudson for letting me know. I feel like a star!
Life as The Queen
Hello All You TGIF Squawkers!
I was born in England, emigrated to Canada and married a Canadian, Arthur Henley in 1956, so next year we will have been married fifty years. We were high school sweethearts and went steady for five years, and then were engaged for a year and a half before we married, so we've been together a looong time.
When we married, we were the same age, Now, of course, I'm much younger. My husband is long-suffering. When we would take our two young sons out to dinner the waitresses often thought it was a man out with his three children.
In the 80's when we lived in Toronto, the IN place to be on Friday or Saturday evening was Yorkville. It was filled with posh boutiques, hippies, coffee houses, theaters, and people paraded up and down to "see" and "be seen."
On one visit I wore my new navy-blue cape with red epaulettes and brass buttons. An innocent youth about 12 or 13 (there were such things in those days) came up to me with an awed look on his face and asked, "Excuse me, Miss, are you royalty?"
Arthur and I had a good laugh and decided to go to the theater. In the lobby, the young usher looked me up and down, then looked at my husband and said, "Boy, did you get lucky!" From Princess to Prostitute in 3 blocks!
I have two sons, Sean and Adam, who are different as chalk from cheese. Sean, the elder is dark and short like me. He is my Celt. Adam is fair, 6ft. tall, long boned. He's my Norman. My younger son never said a curse word in his life, while the other one never said anything that wasn't irreverent.
I was a dedicated stay at home mother and waited until they were in their late teens before I began my writing career. By the time my first grandson was born, my career as an author had begun to pick up. So I put it to Sean this way: I can be a typical grandmother and babysit and bake cookies OR I can put my time into writing and try to have a successful career--you decide. Sean said, "Mom, fill them coffers!"
The life of a romance author is glamorous, but only occasionally. I sit in a room alone for an entire year, dressed in comfortable rags while I write a book. Then I have to metamorphosize like a butterfly, spread my wings and get as much attention as I possibly can for myself and my book. Then, as soon as I start to enjoy it, they shove me back in the room and say, WRITE ANOTHER BOOK.
I have had some glamorous trips, however. Most of them with Kathryn Falk, the owner of Romantic Times. We were both born on December 5th--two eccentric Sagittarians!
We went to the opening of the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, did wild dances in full highland dress and ate haggis on our birthday.
We went shopping at Harrod's in London, prowled the stalls of the silver market at dawn and admired the Elgin marbles at the British Museum.
In Tuscany, we went to the vineyards for wine tasting, in Rome we visited the Colosseum where the atmosphere gives you chills, and then threw coins into the Trevi Fountain. We gazed at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and toured the Vatican.
Then on to Venice--a city of my heart. The shops, the masques, the costumes, the palazzos--oh my!
The people on the tour had a private, romantic midnight gondola ride around the narrow back canals and each gondola had a musician who serenaded us with romantic Italian ballads.
I even took a speedboat out into the Adriatic Sea to visit the Island of Murato, where the fine Venetian crystal is made. I bought some bling that day!
Another glamorous excursion with Kathryn was the cruise: Tampa, New Orleans, Cozumel, Playa del (Somewhere or other). So the first night out I'm seated at the Captain's table with Heather Graham, Linda Lael Miller, and Violet Windspar, the lady who had written about a hundred books for Mills & Boon. Kathryn points to me, Heather & Linda and says to Violet, "These ladies earn a million dollars a book!"
I didn't want to make Kathryn a liar, but I didn't want Violet to have cardiac arrest (which seemed quite possible) so I said, "Well, I have a million dollar contract, but that's for more than one book, I'm afraid." The others kept their mouths shut. LOL!
The cruise had a Canadian Film Crew aboard who were doing a documentary. I agreed to do an interview and when they found out I was the only Canadian aboard, they followed me around that cruise every bloody nautical mile. I tried my best to avoid them, but they stalked me like they were the paparazzi. Each time I left my stateroom, I had my roommate Debbie Mainger go out to reconnoiter to make sure the coast was clear. They found me anyway. The end result turned out not too badly. I can watch parts of the film without cringing!
Another great part of my life is where I am able to live. I got my green card (which is pink) and moved from the frozen north to tropical Florida. I live on the Gulf of Mexico in a nice but unpretentious house with a dock, a boat and a caged swimming pool. But even Paradise has its downside.
A couple of years ago, I remember it was November 13, the weather was glorious and I had all the sliding glass doors open to the pool and I even had the cage door open so my dog (Lili the Schnauzer) could go in and out. She began barking like hell and I thought it was the mailman at the front door. She wasn't barking at the front door however. A snake, a three foot black racer had come into the house. Instead of going back out, it slithered into my old office. I have a desk, an old computer that I only use for email, bookcases and a pulldown sleeper couch. Across one wall I have two large closets packed with fancy clothes, I only ever get to wear at conferences.
So I closed the door that led back into the house and opened the sliding door of that room that led back out to the pool. I went to my new office on the other side of the house and carried on with my writing. Every once in awhile I would look to see if I could see the snake leave. Never saw that.
When Arthur came home that night he went in and searched. Told me the snake had gone.
Just to be certain I didn't get a nasty surprise I emptied the closet floors of about fifty pairs of shoes. Kept them out for a couple of weeks before I put them back.
Three weeks later, it was December 5th, my birthday and we were going out to dinner.
I changed clothes, got shoes from the closet and sat down on the couch to put on my shoes.
I stood up and looked down and saw something strange on the carpet. It looked like a melted chocolate with a soft creamy-yellow center. I wondered who the hell had dropped a chocolate on the carpet! I bent down, stuck my finger in it, brought it to my nose and sniffed. It was shit! And not just any shit! I knew immediately that it was too exotic to be anything but snake shit!
I called Arthur into the room and said, "That snake is still in here and it's under this couch that I've been sitting on for three weeks."
He told me I was nuts. I opened up the sleeper couch, and there it was coiled up and ready to strike at us. We chased it out even though it didn't want to leave. Poor old snake; I guess it was looking for a warm place to hibernate before the cold Florida winter set in.
I see him regularly in the garden now. He's grown quite a bit and I've gotten used to him.
When Art cuts the grass he moves from the backyard to the front yard. I'm glad he lives here because I know he'd chosen anyone else's garden he'd be dead by now.
So that's it, my squawky little chicks. It's been a slice of heaven.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Virginia ANswers the Question : WHERE DID YOU COME FROM?
Actually woke up thinking it was Thanksgiving today. I'm often delusional!
All in all, I think I'm a pretty good writer, or I wouldn't keep doing it. HOWEVER, once in a long while I come across writing that is so superb, it fills me with awe. This happened on Sunday when I was perusing the New York Times Bestseller List where it allowed me to read the first chapter of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA.
His writing is exquisite and makes me realize that I am only one rung above a hack!
I get reader mail that tells me I do archetypes well, especially the wise older woman.
Well, of course, that was my mother, Lil. She was the oldest of eight and born in a Lancashire slum called Spake Hazy (Irish pronunciation for Speak Easy). Poor doesn't describe their condition; they were poverty-stricken. She taught herself to read at four and became a voracious reader with an insatiable curiosity about everything on earth. She was the best-read person I ever met in my life and she could stand and quote Shakespeare, scene after scene. My favorite was The Battle Of Agincourt.
She was dominant, opinionated, shrewd, vivid, dramatic and passionate about everything in life. Sometimes when I was small, I was embarrassed to go out with her. I remember once we came across a Rag and Bone Man with a donkey cart. He was beating his donkey. Lil snatched the bloody whip from the old bugger and lashed him back and forth. Then she flung the whip away and said, "Now you know what it feels like!"
She was only 5 ft. tall and wore a size 4 shoe. (It has only been in the last few years that the family has been told the truth. Her mother, my grandmother, was born on the island of Bali to a Balinese woman. My grandma's name was Ada, but really it was Aida. Her father John Holt was a Liverpool shipbuilder who sailed the world. He had 3 wives and she was the youngest of 21 children. (God only knows if he was actually married to the woman from Bali)
Anyway, he brought the child home to Lancashire, but when he died, the other twenty made sure they got the money from the shipbuilding business and the runt of the litter ended up in the slums with more mouths than she could feed.
By the time I was born, the Irish in the mill town of Bolton, Lancashire had moved up a notch from poverty-stricken to Lace Curtain Irish. They still lived in little row houses, but instead of being drunken, idle swines, they had become RESPECTABLE. They overcompensated by mopping the flagstones on the pavement outside their houses and scrubbing their stone windowsills. Then they would rub it with a Donkey Stone to make it white. That's where the Rag and Bone Man comes in. He comes round the streets collecting rags and in return he gives you a Donkey Stone.
My mother was also a witch, an animal-healer, a psychic and people were a little afraid of her. She believed in past lives and reincarnation. She also believed that when you had been back enough times and learned enough lessons you would move on to a higher plane. People called her The Duchess. I now refer to her as The Oracle. However, lately I realize that I am taking over and becoming The Oracle.
I adored her. I was an only child and she loved me with a passion. She has been dead for 30 years and I speak to her every day, although part of me hopes she has moved on to that higher plane.
I did not start writing until after she died and my only regret is that she never knew I became a successful author. She would be proud that I write sexy stuff. That was one of the subjects that fascinated her (especially aberrant sex, Lol.)
I have her Tarot cards and do them often.
My husband's mother, by contrast, was a small-town Canadian lady who was extremely conventional with not much humor. When I got my first book published, naturally she bought it and read it. Referring to the sex scenes, she said to me, "Wherever do you get such notions?"
I replied, "From bloody frustration, not from practice!"
See y'all tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
KITTY: Settle down! Damn, you women are immature! What the hell do you think is going to happen, that Ms Henley—one of the few women to have been on this blog whom I actually respect (yeah, you squawkers can make of that what you will!)—and I are going to start mud-wrestling or something? For cryin’ out loud. I’m sorry about this, Virginia. The Squawkers attract a decidedly odd following.
First, let me say this— your depictions of certain luvvvv gymnastics have helped inspired many an uninspired lover for me. So beaucoup merci, babe! Now, on to the interview...
What was the first romance YOU ever read and how'd you like it?
VIRGINIA: When I was 12, I read my mother's FOREVER AMBER and it shocked the devil out of me. The sex scenes made me feel sick to my stomach. (However, I did manage to finish it.)
You're known for your hot love scenes and gritty historical backdrops, has your style changed over the years and, if so, how?
VIRGINIA: My style hasn't really changed. The combination of hot sex and gritty history worked for me, so I never change it. Of course 25 years ago when I started, forced sex was acceptable. I've toned it down a little bit!
KITTY: Yeah. I noticed that. Damn it. Well, I guess all we can do is hope for a renaissance of political incorrectness.
You got more bling than an NBA all-star! Are they from ex-lovers? (Have I ever showed you the cigar band Castro gave me?)
VIRGINIA: Yeah, Right! I've been married to the same man for 50 years. I buy my own jewelry and mix fake and real gems all together. With me--more is more.
KITTY: I can’t help but notice that you wear a size 0. Hm. How do you keep that figure, you bitch?!
VIRGINIA: My weight never changes even though I don't diet or exercise--I have old lady arms, though.
KITTY: Oh, right. Like I believe that. I haven’t seen a waist that trim outside a junior high school-- Oh, yeah we're supposed to be talking about books. What's your next book and when can we look forward to it?
VIRGINIA: UNMASKED came out in September and was set in the time of Charles II. Signet has moved my next book up to July. It's the sequel to my medieval A YEAR AND A DAY and tells the story of Jory de Warenne.
KITTY: Tell us something about it.
VIRGINIA: Well, in the first book I left Jory pregnant with Robert Bruce's child, so I decided to go back in her life to when she was 18 and tell her whole story.
VIRGINIA: I won't write contemporary because I don't do it well. History is my passion, not writing books.
KITTY: You're an ex-pat Brit, aren't you? How'd you get here-- and do NOT say "on a plane."
VIRGINIA: I emigrated to Canada with my parents when I was 12. We sailed on the Acquitania during March gales and I was seasick every bloody day!
KITTY: Okay, Virgina, it’s time for the Stupid Question part of the interview:
First, if you could be a gemstone what would it be?
VIRGINIA: I'd be amber, although it isn't strictly a gemstone. All those inclusions such as insects fascinate me.
KITTY: Second, cruise or caravan?
VIRGINIA: When I was young and innocent, I would have chosen a caravan and a romantic sheik, but after seeing so many deserts on the news, I've had enough sand, thank you, and I now realize there are NO dashing sheiks! I'd cruise around the Greek Isles.
KITTY: Third, feathers or whip cream?
VIRGINA: Oh, feathers, hands down! They tickle my fancy. Although, I'm very superstitious about the evil eye on peacock feathers. Just give me a big ostrich feather fan to cover my naughty bits and I will strut my stuff.
KITTY: And finally...wanta mud-wrstle?
VIRGINIA: With a name like Kitty, you must be Irish. All Irish are eccentric, I know this for a fact because I come from a long line of Irish ancestors.
However, I thought it was only the men who drank too much.
Are you sure you're not Mrs. Giggles?
THE VIRGIN SPEAKS!!!
Hello Fellow Squawkers:
There are many myths, stories and legends about the life of a romance writer, but one thing I know is true: WRITING IS HARD WORK!
So I've been thinking about my fantasy job. I want a deal like Cindy Crawford has with Rooms To Go Furniture.
She doesn't design the furniture.
She doesn't make the furniture.
She doesn't arrange the furniture.
She doesn't stand in the store all day and sell the furniture.
And she certainly doesn't deliver the furniture.
All she has to do is sit on the furniture and then take her check to the bank.
So like Cindy, I want to sit on a large stack of books on a particularly bad hair day and say,
"At this point in my life I just want to do things I'm passionate about."
Then I'll take my check to the bank.
The one thing about my writing that elicits the most questions is the SEX. I learned that good erotica should build slowly and climax with a bang. The only editorial changes my first editor wanted, was that I make every encounter between my man and woman longer and more sensual. I got a spicy rating and the books started to sell.
When I got my first Publishers Weekly review it was for THE FALCON AND THE FLOWER.
The last sentence has been burned into my brain ever since.
"Only a hard core fan of soft core pornography could slog their way through this one!"
It gave me a hives all over my thighs, BUT the damn book jumped onto Walden's Bestseller List, so I guess it is true that there is no such thing as a bad review.
My books definitely contain a good deal of sexuality and sometimes violence. With my hero and heroine I use mostly sensuality until well along in their relationship and then I allow a few scenes of raw sexuality to occur. I create a hero who is dark, dominant and dangerous and then I create a heroine who is a match for him, or more than match.
I like to put my reader in bed between my couple and let her in on all their sexual secrets.
Over the years I've built up a readership who begs me not to change my style and to please never change the way I write about sex. I write from the heart and then my editor edits it and we arrive at a mutual compromise.
Sometimes I can get away with putting sex or violence in a dream, that way it didn't really happen! Or another way would be to show the thoughts of the male character. "He had an overwhelming desire to rub her face in the dirt, or he thought she needed a good f--king or a good beating and someday he was going to give her both!
Finally, the very best way to get away with sex or violence is to use humor as I did with the opening of THE PIRATE AND THE PAGAN, "What a beautiful cock!"
That opening line has defined my career. And that book has sold more copies than any other.
When you write the kind of stuff I write, you have to develop a quick come-back when you are being interviewed.
The question I always get is, "Do you and your husband practice your scenes?"
I reply, "Yes, that's why he's so short--it's from banging his head on the headboard!"
I don't want to give you the impression that books sell simply because of the sex. Nothing could be further from the truth. My books are extremely heavy on history and I think my stories are easier to digest if they are leavened with sensuality and a very strong romance to give the story balance. My work is searched down to the finest detail. Almost always I use the royal courts as a backdrop to give the story color and a larger-than-life flavor.
I'm a great believer in calling a cock a cock. I love explicit words for body parts and bodily functions. I am not a proponent of the notion that anything goes. My rule is that if I would enjoy it myself, I would put it in the story.
I usually begin with a map and then select the period in which I want to set the story. Some periods are fun-loving in a risque way, indulging themselves in a lavish court life and the characters laugh a lot.
When I write a medieval, the time is completely different. The characters are stronger, darker, where the warriors are larger than life. The villains can't be just a little wicked, they have to be evil and cruel.
In a lot of my books, my hero is my most important character because I believe a lot of female readers are buying the book because of the man. If you can make your reader fall in love with him, you've got it made. Sometimes I start out making my reader HATE my hero, then he does something so wonderful, the reader starts to love him in spite of herself.
For instance, in TEMPTED, Black Ram Douglas is terrible husband material, and on his wedding night, he and his men go on a pub crawl. But later, when the heroine is poisoned, he nurses her so tenderly that it touches the reader's heart, and the woman reading the book wants a man who would do that for her.
When I'm writing, I become my characters. I become the hero and feel his hot lust. I become the old maidservant and feel her aching back, I become the prostitute who must first entice the customer and then satisfy him, while at the same time making sure I get my hands on the money. If my heroine gives birth, I feel her labor. If she has to walk miles, I get blisters on my feet.
Secondary characters are what make the difference between a good book and a great book.
But all my characters, whether primary or secondary, show all their emotions. I never miss a chance to convey to the reader what they are thinking and feeling.
I also have what is known as a recurring character. Mr. Burke, my butler/majordomo isn't in all my books, but he's in a lot of them. Since he serves the same purpose, I simply call him Mr. Burke (When I wanted a French chef, I called him Mr. Burque.)
The formula I use of blending heavy history with hot sensuality has really worked for me. It is like a one-two punch! And I can tell you my readers don't want one without the other. If I just wrote about the history, the kings and queens and the battles, it would be boring. And conversely, if I just wrote erotic love scenes, the reader might throw it aside in disgust.
To make it in this business, guts has got to be your strong suit. Talent helps, but in the end it's balls that count!
See y'all tomorrow.
I have had the pleasure (and I do mean pleasure) of knowing Virginia since we both worked for Dell. My first impression? Small, except for her amazing writing talent, her fabulous story telling ability, and her appetite for living large. (Oh, and the rocks on her fingers, toes, ears, around her throat, wrists, ankles, woven through her hair, clothing, purse handles and anywhere else she can strap ‘em...)
My second impression? I don’t remember. All I know is that over the years and without exception, as well as being an amazing author, she is has time and again proven she is one of the most loving, ribald, sane, witty, generous women I know.
(Even Kitty is a little awed...)
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Xtina — Torn Between Delight and Terror
So when the phone rang, I grabbed the phone ready for a gossip, but it wasn’t Geralyn on the other end. A stranger said, “Hi, Christina, this is Gayle Wilson, the president of RWA. We'd like to issue an invitation —"
I thought, "I'm going to kill that rat Geralyn, what horrible job did she volunteer me for?"
“— To be our luncheon speaker at the 2006 RWA conference in Atlanta."
The luncheon speaker? Holy smokes, this is a big deal! This is one of the centerpieces of the conference! I’d be speaking to and inspiring 2100 published and unpublished writers about their hopes, their dreams, their ambitions! You can imagine my first thought was how honored I was ...
Okay, actually my first thought was "Is Gayle *$#%@ crazy?" and "I'm going to kill that rat Geralyn."
Because, ladies, public speaking is my phobia.
Of course, I’m not alone. Fear of public speaking is the most common phobia. People are less afraid of dying than of public speaking.
I consider this eminently sensible.
When I realized I was nervous about public speaking, I decided to face the fear head-on. As a senior in high school, I took a speech class … from a guy who despised people who were afraid of public speaking. It was much akin to taking swimming from a coach who drowned his students. I lived through it (unfortunately) and went from nervous to phobic. For years I didn’t speak in public.
Then I got published. Within a week, I was asked to speak at my local RWA meeting. I said, “Are you crazy? You know I don’t do that.” And the coordinator said, “Oh, but it’ll be different now.” HAHAHAHAHA! In fact, getting published hadn’t changed my personality, but it had changed people’s perception of me.
Eventually someone invited me to give a speech so far in advance I thought the day would never come and said yes. And I lived in terror for the six months before. So I decided once again to tackle my phobia. On the theory that exposure would lessen the terror, for a year I said yes to everyone who asked me to speak.
A couple of things happened during that year. I got good at giving speeches — because of my fear, I spent days writing a speech, and before I spoke I practiced over and over until I almost lost my voice. Because of my program, I cut down the time of panic before a speech from six months to a few weeks.
A lot of you speak in public without any worry at all. A lot of you quake in your shoes, too. And maybe some of you are scared to death but manage to speak anyway. Reveal your secrets, tell us your techniques!
Because being the 2006 RWA luncheon speaker WAS too great an honor to pass up. I said yes.
Now I have to write a speech and practice it. And lose weight and get in shape. And have a face lift. And liposuction. And get taller.
See you in Atlanta.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Liz, Debbie M., Teresa and Unidentified Chicken
TEN THINGS TERESA LOVES ABOUT HER JOB
1) Getting woken up by a cat instead of an alarm clock
2) The freedom to exhibit lunatic behaviors without getting carted away to the nearest mental hospital like a) waltzing in one's office with invisible partner b) talking to one's self like a schizophrenic while practicing dialogue on daily neighborhood walk c) making out with a large stuffed pink pig while blocking out love scenes (Let's see--if the hero's paw was here, then where would the heroine's snout be?)
3) Falling in love with a sexy, gorgeous new man every year and having one's husband not mind as long as those royalty checks keep coming
4) Having 350 pics of Russell Crowe on one's screensaver and assuring husband it's "research"
5) Having office decorated with Fairy Tale Barbies, Beauty and the Beast memorabilia and talking replica of Captain Jack Sparrow from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
6) Talking to your talking replica of Captain Jack Sparrow as he mumbles sweet nothings in your ear
7) Buying all of the romances you want and assuring IRS it's "research"
8) The ability to zone out during boring conversations with excuse of "Oh, I'm sorry, I was just thinking about the next plot twist in my book."
9) Watching repeated viewings of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE with Colin Firth and assuring editor waiting for late manuscript that it's "research"
10) Going to THE BOOKSTORE in Radcliff, KY (owned by the incomparable Jerry!) where the delightful Debbie M. works and meeting Liz for an extraordinary signing where we were plied with homemade brownies, chocolate chip cookies, gift bags and treated like royalty. Getting to sign books for Santa, Manuelita and some of our other Squawk regulars. Visiting with readers, including two delightful women who "won" the privilege of eating dinner with us. (We had such a great time that WE felt like the winners!) Being plied with filet mignon and the best pie I ever ate--think butterscotch coconut served warm with dollops of fresh whipped cream--gwwaarggghghg...oops, sorry, I just choked on my own drool!
We've done a lot of talking about the challenges of balancing family and work and our very own "dream jobs" lately. So whether you're a stay-at-home mom, an executive, an artist, or are fulfilling one of the Squawker dreams of working in a sandwich shop, what is ONE THING that you simply love about your current profession???
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Our Guest Squawker starting mid-week is...
Okay, who DOESN'T know who the "Queen of Steam" is?!
Eloisa...with Thanks to Squawk!
So I popped onto Amazon and sure enough, a while later a slightly battered but perfectly legible copy of the book fell through my mailbox door. And I just finished reading it to my daughter. I'd forgotten a lot...I read it as a child, and I found the style of writing less entrancing (an omnicient narrator is a very hard act to juggle), but the imagination just as wonderful: the flowers that smell like baked bread, the cats that talk, and the Whiffle Bird who only speaks in in emergencies. And since my daughter was not interested in the workability of an omnicient narrator, she adored it.
So this is a Squawk Thank You! Thank you to whoever mentioned the Wangdoodle, from myself and my daughter.
Has anyone else found a CD, or a book, or something they loved through the blog?
The Squawkers Bid a Fond Adieu to Amy
Friday, November 11, 2005
Amy on The Wonderful World of Being a Girl
I love being a Girlie Girl, and I love being an Athletic Girl. I love being a Career Girl, and I love being an Adventurous Girl.
I love that for my birthday I can decorate with pink balloons and Disney Princess balloons, and that for work, I can carry a pink backpack and a pink and peach suitcase. I love that when I do these things, my friends smile and wish me a Happy Princess Day, and my coworkers smile and tell me that I’ll certainly never mistake my suitcase for anyone else’s.
I love that I can get dirty and bruised on the soccer field. I love that I can go to Peet’s in the morning in my grubby PJs with a hat stuck over my messed-up hair. I love that I can study History or Science or English or Medicine. I love that I can stay at home with my kids or choose to have a career. I love that my choices are my own.
I love that I can see the world on my own terms. Japan by myself, Thailand with my best friend, New Zealand with my husband. I love that my worldview isn’t limited by my gender.
I love my girlfriends. I love laughing through tears and then laughing some more. I love finding the perfect dress and calling my best friend to tell her all about it. I love it that we can talk about cute boys, sex, life, shoes, food, diets and the latest interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. I love that we are there for each other. Always.
I love that my daughter will see a woman be President. I love that my daughter will see a woman playing professional sports. I love that my daughter will be able to study what she wants, see the world as she wishes, and do it all knowing she is the equal of any other person.
I love that being a girl doesn’t mean any one thing. Wear pink. Wear black. Wear nothing. Be a professional. Be an artist. Be a revolutionary. Spend 30 minutes getting ready or spend 30 seconds. Be yourself.
So, what do you love about being a girl? C’mon… You know you want to share!
Amy on Stupid Idea #3,465
I don’t intimidate easily, but the specter of serving up Thanksgiving dinner makes me want to run straight to the Vodka bottle. First off, we have to deal with the whole Stuffing debate. My husband wants his mom’s stuffing. My brother wants my mom’s stuffing. I want to make my own. (I’m such a rebel!) Then there is the turkey debate. Brined? Covered with cheesecloth soaked in butter and wine a la Martha? Straight-up fried? On top of all of this, my mom (God Bless Her Heart… and I do mean that in the snarky southern sense) keeps trying to take over the dinner as she believes that since I didn’t have my menu set early enough (October!), there will surely be a Thanksgiving Meltdown of epic proportions. It is like a Very Special Iron Chef Event – Battle of Thanksgiving! Watch our challenger as she tries to overcome the hurdles of obligation, tradition, “helpful” advice and medicinal martinis while serving up a notoriously tough bird and large portions of required carbohydrates!
Alas, I do exaggerate. A little. I *am* intimidated by the whole event, but I am also strengthened by the knowledge that (a) I am a crazy obsessive planner and will be doing a “beta release” of my Thanksgiving dinner this Sunday for my friends; (b) My family really is lovely and they will eat whatever I put out and laugh their way through it; (c) We have a lot of wine on hand for “emergencies”; and (d) We are going far far far away for Christmas so I only need to worry about this one big holiday!
For all my bluster, I’m looking forward to conquering Thanksgiving on my own… Or at least enjoying the process! What about you all? What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Do you have any special recipes or tips to share with a newbie? Any success strategies for maintaining your sanity while also serving up the perfect meal?
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Amy on Reading Romance
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this topic, and the one conclusion that I keep coming to is that I read romance because I love to read. I also read nonfiction, poetry, the classics, philosophy, modern literature, thrillers, the back of cereal boxes, inflight magazines and US Weekly (but only in line at the market – I never purchase it outright. Never. I swear.) I spend a good portion of my life with my nose buried in a book – laughing or crying or just intent on understanding some small part of the human condition. I like to feel, to think, to escape, to enjoy, and when it comes down to it, I really only discriminate between that which is a “good” story and that which is a “bad” story. This isn’t a genre-specific designation; it is a metric of personal satisfaction with the story told. And when I think of my life as a reader, I like to think about it as a search for good stories that takes me down many different paths, some with dead ends, and others that end in gardens rich with tales waiting for discovery.
So, with all these paths to choose, why might I veer towards the paths marked “romance”? Why, when I have more than fifty books of all genres in my TBR pile, do I pick a romance to read? And I’m not talking about comparing covers and back cover blurbs or quotes from other authors; I’m speaking to the inherent qualities of a romance and what I, as a reader, know I’m getting from the book.
I spent some time on a flight the other day pondering this question, and came up with a personal Top 5 List (aka Five Reasons Why Amy Picks Up a Romance Novel): (1) Falling in love: the Good, the Bad and the Wonderful; (2) Heroes and Heroines; (3) The Escape Factor: Life Experiences except 100 times better; (4) Families and Friends; and, (5) Romance, Seduction, Sex. These five reasons can be further netted out to The Big One: I love to read stories about people falling in love. It is this beautiful, wonderful, magical moment in time that transcends the modern and the historical, and when portrayed in a good story, it is enjoyable and compelling and a perfect escape from the day-to-day of powerpoint presentations, conference calls, budgets, too-tight jeans, too-loose shirts, frayed bras, late dinners and early mornings.
In summary ladies, for me, Reading Romance is part and parcel of reading itself. Good Stories are not the sole purview of any one genre; they are all around us, begging to be read. So don’t be shy, tell us what makes it a Good Story for you? What do you look for in a book? Why do you read romance or any other genre of literature?
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
There was a lot we couldn't do. We couldn't make Leslie feel better about the dogs she left at home, thinking that she would only be gone a night (but this blog celebrated when Gigi found her way home after swimming out a window!). We couldn't help the fact that Leslie ended up living in a garage apartment way down a dirt road deep in the Texas countryside. But what we could do was rally to her side with as strong a show of sisterhood as this blog is capable of.
And let me tell you... WE ARE ONE STRONG SISTERHOOD!
There's all the bidding that lit up Ebay which Elizabeth described. But in addition women from all over the country send Leslie things, many of which made her burst into tears from the pure kindness of it. I can't possibly mention everyone (the thank you list that Leslie is working on contains 153 names). So let me just tell you about some of the things we received. Anke sent a TV and VCR she had in her basement; Peggy sent a Barbie stable and a laundry basket; Susan sent sundresses, and Nicole send videos. Erin send clothes, and Elsie sent half the Disney store. Franzeca sent the research books Leslie lost, and Debbie sent books she loved (and baby clothes). Andrea sent girly toys and videos, and Teresa sent a lovely quacking duck and kitty stickers. Jessica sent baby things, and Nancy sent a "strength" notebook and an encouraging note for Leslie's nine-year-old. Karen send jasmine candles, and Teresa sent beautiful soaps; Rex (or maybe Rex's wife?) sent a huge number of children's movies, and Kim sent beautiful embroidered t-shirts. J. sent measuring spoons and cups, and Anna sent socks and bath soap. Beth sent books and Elaine sent the first four Harry Potters in hardcover (!). Janet sent kitchen cloths and cookbooks, Andrea sent children's clothes. And there were more things as well... an outpouring of support and encouragement that made every day a little easier.
And finally...Laura T. decided to buy Leslie's family Christmas presents and make presents for her family this year instead. I don't have words for that generosity.
And these are just the physical things we sent. From all over the world -- seriously -- came cards for $10, and cards for $100; cards for the Gap and cards for Target. Cards for Walmart, and cards for Waldenbooks.
I can't tell all of you how much this meant to Leslie -- or what she would have done without it. As a young woman with a serious heart ailment, she's on disability. She and her little family have stretched each nickel that entered their house, and losing their house (it went entirely under water), has been a terrible blow. She's used the money we sent to buy gas to drive her daughter to school, and food to feed all of them. She's used the CVS cards to buy heart medicines.
And finally after all these months, FEMA just announced that they found her an apartment! It's unfurnished...and so now those cards will come to the best use of all, buying sheets and chairs and tables for Leslie's precious little family.
I asked her what she wanted to say and she started to cry.
But she rallied to say God Bless you All, and Thank You.