Sunday, April 30, 2006
Liz Says It's Okay to Panic!
The music is infectious pop with a little electronica sprinkled in, topped off with a dash of, yes, disco. And the lyrics... Well, there are A LOT of them, and they’re often at odds with the happy sounds of the music. The songs on this CD are indictments of gossip, hypocrisy, violence, infidelity, image, the shallowness of people/the press/the music biz/you name it. But they’re SMART lyrics. They may make you a little uncomfortable, but they’ll definitely make you think. While you’re dancing. Did I mention you’d be dancing? ‘Cause in spite of the darkness of the words, the music is so much fun?
Another thing I like about the CD is that, as a writer, so many of the lyrics describe really, really well what it’s like to have a career where you have to be creative on demand, where so many outside influences beyond your control determine your success, and where your professional performance is so public:
“Stop stalling, make a name for yourself.”
“Swear we’ll shake it up if you swear to listen.” (Or read, in the case of the writer.)
“Make us it, make us hip, make us scene
Or shrug us off your shoulders, don’t approve a single word we wrote.”
“It just doesn’t feel like a night out with no one sizing you up.” (It doesn’t feel like an RWA conference, either.)
“...the weather today is slightly sarcastic with a good chance of:
A) Indifference and (or)
B) Disinterest in what the critics say”
“Oh, we’re still so young, but desperate for attention.” (Okay, so maybe that last one is only half-appropriate for me. And the other Squawkers, too, though they’ll surely squawk about that...)
I could go on, but I’m probably already in copyright violation for printing as many lyrics as I have. What can I say? I just love music that can be intelligent and thought-provoking without being preachy and smug. Panic! at the Disco (don’t forget that exclamation point) are a band with a great talent for insight and observation, and they offer a number of anthems for the writer as well as the musician. Theirs is an eloquent voice that speaks for many of us. Plus, it has a good beat and is easy to dance to. Music just doesn’t get much better than that.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
SATURDAY BOOK BLOG
TERESA BREAKS OUT A THREE HANKY WEEPER--MARLEY AND ME: LIFE AND LOVE WITH THE WORLD'S WORST DOG
The one moral to this story is that you should always listen to Connie Brockway. (As much as it pains me to admit it!) She warned me that if I read this book, I would be crying for WEEKS. Then my Uncle Buddy, a 6' 2" bastion of male machismo confessed that he had bawled like a baby when reading the end of the book. But I thought, "Hey, I watch ER every week! I'm tough! I can handle this!"
So I picked up the book and started crying during the PREFACE. Okay, I'm lying, I actually started sniveling when I was looking at the puppy pictures of Marley on the inside front cover. Perhaps Kevin Bacon said it best in MY DOG SKIP--"A dog is just a heartbreak waiting to happen." Until they invent dogs with the 90-year life spans of parrots, we all know there can be only one ending to a great dog story. And MARLEY AND ME is truly a great dog story.
But MARLEY AND ME won't just make you cry. It will make you smile and it will make you laugh out loud and it will make you wonder why you didn't think to write a book about your ill-behaved monster of a dog so you could warm the cockles of America and make a bazillion dollars. It will also make you remember all of those fine dogs who have blessed your own life through the years. Those with spirits so sweet they seemed almost human and those who ate your throw rugs, swallowed your diamond necklace, and dragged your Tampax out of the garbage for the neighbors to see.
MARLEY AND ME is more than a story about a dog. It's a story about the young marriage of John and Jenny and the changes they go through as they add not only Marley, but three precious children to their lives. John Grogan is a columnist and former editor of Rodale's ORGANIC GARDENING magazine. His prose is fine and spare and made me reluctant to put the book down. I read it in two lazy Saturday and Sunday afternoons and yes, I read the ending with a box of Kleenex sitting on my chest and Connie's number on my speed dial.
The true moral of Marley's story is that there is something fine and beautiful about loving something (and someone) who is imperfect. That perhaps more joy and delight can be found in embracing someone's flaws than in trying to "fix" them. And if nothing else, reading about Marley--a dog who was diagnosed as certifiably insane even by doggie standards--may make you appreciate your own dog (or especially your cat!) even more.
So how about you? Have any of you read MARLEY AND ME? Will you read a book if you KNOW it will make you cry? And what's the last book you read that truly made you boo-hoo into a box of Kleenex?
Friday, April 28, 2006
You know why I’m a POV (point of view) slut? Because limiting POV to two characters bores me. ESPECIALLY in romances. Too often in limited narrative, the point of view characters do nothing but think about each other, and think about each other, and think about each –-every bloody time we’re allowed access to their thoughts–- until their internals represent the La Brea tar pits; Something interesting might work its way to the top but by the time it does it’ll be unrecognizable coated, as it is, by the preceding 300 pages of repetitive gluck.
And reading the pedantic shift of scene one, character one/ scene two, charter two, not only bores me, it makes me feels claustrophobic. The story for me becomes two people in a room, trading cards–-oops, internals-- in a two count rhythm. “You do something, I react. I do something; you react.”
For me, multiple viewpoints expressed within a scene add dimension. I love omniscient narrative, the technique of flitting from brain to brain in a group scene, siphoning off random impressions of an event and thus putting that event into a more universal perspective. This allows me the fun of “sitting on god’s shoulder.” Yes, popping around POVs in a scene can drain the emotional intensity from it, which is exactly the effect it is suppose to have –-giving the reader insight into the psyche of the main characters by allowing the her to see how the same event effects secondary characters. (Eloisa James did this to great effect in Midnight Pleasures)
Now I don’t advocate using multiple POVS in every scene, but they certainly work for me in “lighter” scenes, scenes where the stakes are minimal and the risks, both emotional and otherwise, are slight. In weightier scenes I try to keep to one POV so that the reader’s attention stays focused on the main event. At least so far...
Finally, it’s been so long since I was in grad school at the University of Minnesota –-for creative writing, not an English lit degree–-that we were still using styluses and yes, things may well have changed but I have to say this say: No one ever, ever said or implied that a writer should stick to one POV per scene. Of course, I could have been asleep during that class. The University years were good...
I love discussions on craft and I relish hearing reasons and rationale for why things are done in thus and thus a way. As long as it’s a discussion, it’s fun and exhilarating and sometimes even enlightening. But we should respect and believe everyone’s assertion that they are writing the very best books they can, using methods and structures that they have determined, through judicious and thoughtful consideration , to be the best.
So, where do you guys stand? Won’t pick up a first-person book on a bet? Love the intensity of tight Point of View? Find omniscient narrative distracting.? Would like to send a mail bomb to a head-hopping author? And why?
Thursday, April 27, 2006
I don't know about the rest of the Squawkers writing historicals, but there are times when I am riveted with jealousy for contemporary writers—mostly when I'm reading a contemporary and the hero speaks. It's so much EASIER to do a man in "regular" speech than it is in "Regency-speak."
Here's an example. I happen to adore MaryJanice Davidson's books, so I just picked up a set of three sexy novellas published together as Under Cover. In a novella you must establish the character and feel of a man instantly because you need your page count for other things (a plot, a sex scene and a proposal, to be explicit). Here's a tough guy hero, having an introductory conversation with a barman. He's just found out that he didn't win the lottery:
"Son of a bitch," he sighed, and drained his drink.
"Maybe next week," Mark said.
"Maybe pigs will fly out of my ass."
"I have no idea," Mark said cheerfully, "but a man like you probably has several
That made him crack a smile. Wiseass punk bartender. "I don't have to take this. My
left sock is older than you are."
The list of things in that brief conversation that would be difficult to reproduce in a Regency setting, using a titled hero, are endless. Slang? Cursewords? Scatalogical references? It all comes down to rough male conversation amongst men. Christina could do it in her contemporaries; Lisa probably does in that Texas romance of hers coming out next year. I'm dying of envy!
In my opinion, there is no better way to establish your hero's identity and character than by having him in a conversation with a male friend. He can curse. They can insult each other – check out the Shakespeare Insult website. No question -- men were scratching themselves, and boasting, and carrying on generally two hundred years ago, pretty much the way they do now.
So…I'm going to take a shot at historical translation of MaryJanice's conversation, above. My Renaissance era hero just found out his horse lost at Epcot. I'd have to make this historical detail clear before the conversation, but a codpiece is the piece of leather or cloth that Renaissance gentlemen wore over their private parts, outside their clothing.
"Bloody hell," he sighed and drained his brandy.
"Maybe next time," Mark said.
"And maybe the Queen will tie a ribbon on my codpiece."
"There's a chance," Mark said cheerfully, "especially if she is struck blind and
could find such a wee peapod in the dark."
That made him crack a smile. Impudent young dog. "I should challenge you for that.
My codpiece itself is older than you."
"A distasteful thought."
So here's a challenge! Find a really male-flavored line in a contemporary romance you have lying around the place. Now translate it into historically-flavored language. Do a bit of antiquing on it. And Squawkers...you too!
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
ELIZABETH VAUGHAN GOOGLES HERSELF (and it ain't pretty)
Don’t. Trust me on this. It’s like hiding in the ladies room and listening to people talk about you. Sure, you might hear something good. But on the other hand. . .
Now, in an effort to set the record straight, allow me to state the following:
1. I am not an opera singer.
2. I am not a medical doctor. More to the point, I am not a medical doctor who has some very different opinions about certain types of undergarments.
3. I was not married to the Fifth Lord of something or other and bore him five children, three of whom died in childhood. I’m not married, and I haven’t borne anyone anything. So to speak.
4. I am not that poor woman who went through a horrific experience in the Philippines. I tried reading that book, and since one of her kids shares the name of one of my brothers, I didn’t get past the first bombing raid. Gave me the willies.
5. I do not have an elementary school named after me. But I am tempted to travel there and have my picture taken in front of the sign!
6. I am not an artist who creates lovely still-life paintings. I wish.
7. I was not accused of housebreaking in 1708 and tried at the Old Bailey and found guilty. But I am slightly dismayed to learn that the punishment was branding and I really hope my name sake wasn’t, if you know what I mean.
8. I have not written any children’s books.
I now know that there are a lot of ‘Elizabeth Vaughans’ out there, since my search produced 5,470,000 hits. Kind of humbling, really.
But this particular Elizabeth Vaughan happens to love stories. Stories that involve fantasy worlds. Swords and magic, chain mail and romance. Not to mention dragons. I write the kind of stories that I like to read.
So, have you ever Googled yourself? What did you find?
Elizabeth A. Vaughan is the author of ‘Warprize’, the first book in the Chronicle of the Warlands. The second book, titled ‘Warsworn’, will be released by Tor Books in April, 2006. Beth is currently working on Book Three of the series, and planning a new project for release in 2008. She still believes that the only good movies are the ones with gratuitous swords or lasers. Not to mention dragons. At the present, she is owned by three incredibly spoiled cats and lives in the Northwest Territory, on the outskirts of the Black Swamp, along Mad Anthony’s Trail on the banks of the Maumee River.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Last June, Christina Dodd said, “Geralyn Dawson told me about WARPRIZE by Elizabeth Vaughan, saying it was the best book she’d read for a long time, that it was the author’s first book and that she was fiercely envious over Elizabeth Vaughan’s talent … it is definitely a romance, very intense, the first of a trilogy, and as I read I had the sense of being carried into the beginnings of a myth. It’s set in a different world, but it feels like earth to me, maybe a Germanic country during the Mongolian conquests. Our heroine, Lara, is a princess and a healer, a woman who grew up in a walled city in a castle, and Lara is given to the conqueror, Keir, as a Warprize. Keir is a nomad, and Lara’s thrown into a world of tents, barbarians and women warriors. How she deals with the change and Keir — and how they deal with her — makes fascinating, completely romantic reading … the story is very much a sheik fantasy with a heroine who could have been written by Julie Garwood. Elizabeth Vaughan is an author to watch.”
WARSWORN, the second in the trilogy, is on the shelves this month, and Elizabeth Vaughan has agreed to blog with us. Please welcome Elizabeth Vaughan!
Okay, I know some of you were a trifle bit skeptical when I admitted that I had a giant pink pig who helped me block out my love scenes so I thought it was time to introduce you to Petunia.
Petunia once belonged to my roommate in nursing school. She was getting ready to take a one way trip to the city dump when--unable to bear the thought of her rooting through the garbage with her delicate little snout--I intervened. (Look at that face! Could YOU have let her go to the dump?) Despite my husband's insistence that she's old enough to manage on her own, she still lives in the bonus room over our garage.
She used to earn her keep by tussling with my nieces and nephews when they were little, but now I call upon her for a much more important duty. If I'm writing a scene where my hero and heroine are facing each other, about to embrace, I use her to figure out exactly where his snout...um...I mean his nose...and his (paw? hoof?) would be. We also share the occasional waltz.
You'll notice that Petunia looks better than I do in this pic because she freshened up her mascara and I didn't. She never could resist a photo op!
So how about you? Do you have a treasured stuffed animal they'll have to pry out of your cold dead hands?
XTINA DODD AND THE WONDERFUL TYPO
The Squawkers have a typo policeman, and her name is Teresa Medeiros. The rest of us are slapdash at best. If we misspell a word or forget a period at the end of a sentence ... well, stuff happens. And maybe we forget a whole word, but what can you expect? It's not like we're professionals ...
Wait a minute! We are professionals! So it's good we have Teresa Medeiros to kindly point our mistakes. (The Squawkers give Teresa their best chicken salute.)
But occasionally a typo comes along that is so awful, so horrendous ... so hilarious ... that we don't need Teresa to point it out. This one came to my attention to when my family was getting ready to visit Vancouver BC. My daughter explored tourist attractions on-line (http://research.microsoft.com/~szeliski/Vancouver/) and found this evocative description:
There are wonderful restaurant (and shopping) on Robson Street, just a little north of the hotel. The Courthouse is a beautiful piece of architecture, and the new Pubic Library is also supposed to be impressive.
Even with spellcheck, typos are a way of life. What are the best typos you've ever seen?
Teresa, I wasn't asking you.
Monday, April 24, 2006
For anyone reading the blog who might have discovered us recently, Squawk Radio adopted a family after the hurricane devastation in New Orleans. Our family is a single mom named Leslie who writes historical romances with her mother Christine; their writing name is Christine Holden. Leslie and Christine evacuated from New Orleans with Leslie's new two-week-old baby, her three-year-old and nine-year-old daughters. We decided to better Leslie and Christine's experience -- of losing their home and finding themselves in an unfamiliar state -- as much as we possibly could.
Everyone reading this blog rallied together. We sent gift cards so that Leslie could buy clothes and medicine. We sent her a television, a VCR, plates, silverware, books, dolls, children's clothes, and those heart-warming "special" gifts that said: "Don't panic, girlfriend. We've got your back" -- soaps, perfumes, bubble bath and gift cards to Victoria's Secret.
Things were really tough for Leslie and her little family for a while, even with our help. She moved into a garage in Texas, where her "host" family demanded rent, but wouldn't give a receipt so that she could apply for FEMA help with the rent. Her insurance company back in New Orleans declared that they wouldn't pay because (they said), her house wasn't drowned by a hurricane, but by a flood, and they don't cover floods. She moved from the garage into an apartment complex paid for by FEMA that turned out to be drug central for baddies from the neighborhood.
But with perseverance, and strength of character and will, Leslie and her mom have created a new nest for the family. A wonderful advocacy non-profit down in Texas tackled the problem of her insurance company and got them to pay out to the mortage company. Meanwhile the mortgage company had decided they would really like to own the land under Leslie's destroyed house, so they put the insurance company check in escrow for "undisclosed" reasons and foreclosed on the house -- sending the notices to Leslie's old address in New Orleans! Leslie found a job, but her boss kept forgetting to come to work (and pay his employees). There has been set-back after set-back, but finally things have really turned around. Leslie and her family are out of the bad apartment complex and nestled in a little house right next to Leslie's relocated uncle. Gigi, their dog who swam out of the window to safety and was rescued by a terrific animal welfare group, has stopped nipping and seems to have recovered from the trauma. The children only have nightmares once in a while, and are as naughty as ever (which Leslie takes to be a sign of well-being!).
I just wanted to celebrate for a moment all of the people who escaped, like Leslie, from New Orleans with barely more than a suitcase or two. So many lives, like Leslie's and her family's, have been devastated in a personal and financial sense, and yet people rallied to new challenges without giving up. Leslie has a serious heart ailment, and stretched every dime before Katrina hit her hometown. To start over again with a two-week-old baby is exhausting to even think about, yet Leslie never gave up. So let's celebrate the strength of Leslie and her mother Christine!!
At the same time, we're choosing today -- the last day of the "Squawk Classic Blog Week" to post an update about Leslie because we want to celebrate the wonderful community that has build up around this blog. We aren't just talking about books -- although that's our favorite activity! -- we're also forging bonds and friendships that have touched everyone of the Squawkers. The kindness and generosity of the Squawker community shored up Leslie in her time of need...
Here's a cyber cheer for everyone of us!
P.S. If anyone would like to send Leslie a home-coming card, just let me know and I'll give you her address...firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, April 23, 2006
That's right. It's time to break out the exploding champagne bottle again. (Sometimes a champagne bottle really IS just a champagne bottle, you know!) This week our very own Eloisa James celebrates 3 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list with THE TAMING OF THE DUKE.
This week she defied both gravity and the publishing odds (which can be very odd indeed!) by going UP on the list instead of down. Congratulations Eloisa and a big thank you to all of her devoted readers!
Liz on the Perfect Music for Your Next Sexy Dance Event
The reason the music sounds so European/Latin is because the three members of Gotan Project are natives of France, Switzerland and Argentina. You may have noticed that Gotan is “tango” with its syllables switched, and that’s where the group found its musical roots. Though they’ve updated the sound with elements of electronica (and even hip-hop influences, to a lesser extent), they’ve somehow also kept this very authentic, traditional feel to the music. Barcelona-based vocalist Cristina Vilallonga only enhances that with her provocative, smoky jazz-club voice. (Though many of the songs are instrumental.) The group records both original tunes and covers of traditional tangos. And all of it is just wonderful.
If you want sexy music, this is it, baby. Maybe its the whole Latin/Parisian feel, or maybe it’s the slower tempo, or maybe it’s the 1930s thing, or maybe it’s the fact that the songs are longer in length than much of what’s out there. (“Triptico,” for example, is over eight minutes long.) But when you put Gotan Project on the CD player, essentially what you’re doing is sliding on a slinky dress, strapping on sexy high heels, and tucking a hothouse flower behind your ear. Then you’re headed off to the nearest dance hall to meet a dark-haired, dark-eyed man in a perfect tux--probably named Eduardo or Raoul. Next thing you know, you’re in his arms, bent backward in a perfectly executed tango dip. And suddenly, the room and the music--among other things--are getting very, very warm...
If you visit gotanproject.com, you’ll get an EXCELLENT feel for the group’s work, along with the opportunity to view a video of the song “Diferente” from their latest CD, “Lunatico,” which just hit stores this month. The music and visuals mesh beautifully and illustrate perfectly what Gotan Project does best. Speaking for myself, I’m headed out this week to buy it. I could use a little sexy dancing in a slinky dress with a guy named Raoul. But then, couldn't we all?
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Lacy Hairgrove - wins an autographed Eloisa James book of her choice!
Amy Parker - wins an autographed ARC of Christina Dodd's upcoming August release TROUBLE IN HIGH HEELS!
Sarah Riley - wins an autographed Connie Brockway book!
Peggy Musil - wins an autographed Elizabeth Bevarly book!
Nancy Halloran and Julia Canchola win autographed ARC's of Teresa's upcoming October release THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME!
Linda Adam - wins a "Wallflower" mug with the cover for Lisa's upcoming August release SCANDAL IN SPRING!
Congratulations to all of the winners! If you'll send your full name and snail mail addy to email@example.com, she'll see that they're forwarded to the appropriate Squawker.
Thanks to everyone who entered their name on the Squawk Radio mailing list. If your subscription was pending, you were STILL included in the drawing so don't panic. Here's to another fabulous year spent sharing friendship and fellowship with all of our Squawk Radio "listeners"!!!
(Make sure and tune in next week for the return of the SATURDAY BOOK BLOG!)
Friday, April 21, 2006
Lisa on "Eighties Redux" (originally published 10/25/05)
As some of you know, I'm writing my first contemporary novel. It is a bigger, more complex story than I've ever tried before, with a longer time span and a bigger cast of characters. It starts off with my heroine as a thirteen year-old girl who is a child of the eighties. Naturally I'm including tidbits of eighties American culture to give this part of the novel some framework and flavor. And the more I ponder the eighties, the more I can feel a primal shriek of agony welling up inside me--"What were we thinking???"
I'm not going to try and delude you into thinking I wasn't "of" the eighties. Some people do that, you know. They pretend they were innocent bystanders, that they weren't "into" Madonna, they never watched MTV, their hair was never that big.
Well, I was an eighties girl. My hair was spiral-permed every eight weeks, moussed teased and sprayed into a big brown helmet. I wore shoulder pads up to my earlobes. I resembled a five foot tall linebacker. In four inch heels.
I watched Dallas, Dynasty and Family Ties. And God help me, I can't believe I'm saying this in public--I danced to Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" about a thousand times, and I adored it.
I saw the movie Wall Street, and I actually did have a little trouble buying the "Greed is Good" line. But I saw Flashdance and I cut the necklines of my sweatshirts and wore leg warmers. And big headbands that covered my entire forehead.
I owned a Rubik's Cube. I never ever ever ever ever ever got all the little colored squares to match.
I was shocked when I first heard of the strange new disease called "gay cancer" and later renamed AIDS.
So much to remember about the eighties . . .and so remarkable to me that some of my younger readers may not automatically recognize the references I'm weaving through my narrative. What was good about the eighties? What was bad? Anything you think I shouldn't overlook as I try to convey this gaudy, busy, fascinating time in our history?
Lisa's note: "I can't tell you how much fun the comments were when I originally posted this blog--not only did your observations and memories make me laugh, but they helped to give me that 'eighties feeling' I needed to capture while writing my first contemporary novel.
A few days ago I finished the final revisions for the novel, SUGAR DADDY, which turned out to be a big modern sexy book set in Houston, Texas. It's very much a Cinderella Story, following the triumphs and difficulties of a hardworking young woman named Liberty Jones. And above all, it's a love story, with more depth, emotion and passion than I've ever put in a book before. Thanks for your part in helping me to put together the personal history of my first contemporary heroine."
Lisa on "Brought home the bacon, but I'm too tired to fry it. And I can't find the pan." (originally published 11/7/05
Some men complain nowadays about the ambiguity of their modern roles and how difficult it is for them to be sensitive and manly at the same time, and whether or not they should open a door for a woman. I think they have a real gripe--it's always confusing when a person has to balance what appear to be conflicting roles. But is a man's new-age dilemma any more difficult than being a working woman, or a mom, or God help us, a working mom? I’ve been blessed with a job that allows me to stay at home with the kids. Although this sounds great on the surface, combining work and kids at home is sort of like that volcano experiment where you mix vinegar and baking soda. Something is going to explode, and there’s going to be a mess. And we know who’s going to have to clean it up.
This leads into a big question, followed by a few more :
Do we have it all? Have we given up on having it all? Who should make it easier for us if we do try to have it all? How do you make the decision, and how do you keep from regretting it later? Are you happy with the choices you've made so far?
Do you remember that commercial back in the 70’s . . . “I can bring home the bacon . . . fry it up in the pan . . . and never ever let you forget you’re a man . . . “ I was just entering my teen years, and it was impressed on me by society that I was supposed to successfully juggle a career and family, and also be a sexpot in the bedroom. Pretty high standards! I personally don’t know a single woman who has ever managed all that without some pain and sacrifice. Thank God husbands help more nowadays than they used to, or at least they know they’re supposed to. (If only they helped as much as they think they do. I read a study once in which the husbands who claimed they did fully 50 percent of the housework, really only did about 10 percent. But they honestly thought it was 50.)
I’ve also read recently in a provocative NYT piece by Maureen Dowd, that a large number of women in their 20s have given up the notion of having it all, considering it to be an impractical, even unworkable idea. I don't know if this is true. I hope it isn't.
I’ve tried to do and have it all, and my husband and children would probably tell you they would have liked more home-cooked meals and more time with me. But they would also say they appreciate that I’ve been happy and fulfilled in my work. (They know I would klonk them with a frying pan if they said otherwise.)
So I’ve ended up wondering . . . are we as women better off doing fewer things and doing them well . . . or trying to have it all, with all the sacrifices, stress and frozen dinners that entails?
Lisa's note: "It seems as if this topic is even hotter than it was a few months ago. Lately the controversy over the difficult choices we women must make has sometimes been labeled "Mommy Wars." The comments on the original blog were warm, honest, funny, and very supportive of each other--I think we all recognized no matter which path you choose, there are sacrifices and challenges we each have to face--and thank God we have our friends to help us get through it. (And a romance novel to take our minds off things is sometimes quite handy!)
FYI, my giveaway is a truly adorable mug with the cover of "Scandal In Spring" one one side, and the word "Wallflower" on the other. If you're like me and need some form of caffeine to start the day, please don't hesitate to sign up for the Bravenet mailing list on the left side of the page!
I have a confession to make. I am a massage junkie. I am totally into paying a complete stranger to rub my body for money. I've had massages on cruise ships, in hotel rooms, at spas where writer's conferences were being held, and once there were even these lovely Balinese twins who massaged in perfect synch, every motion of one mirroring the other. (Hey, get your minds out of the gutter! This was in a legitimate world class spa on a cruise ship!) After a long day of sitting at the computer, my shoulders, neck and back are usually tied up in fist-like knots so I have no problem indulging myself in the luxury of a massage at least once a month.
For over a year, I had the best masseuse on the planet. Jenny had the tender, healing hands of an angel and best of all, only charged $45/hour. But alas--she was forced to give up the business after being sidelined by a nasty car wreck. I can assure you that her suffering has been NOTHING compared to my own. (Just kidding, Jenny!)
After three months of suffering in silence, I finally decided to pay her replacement a visit. She was a small woman with short arms, but the long blonde braids should have tipped me off to her torrid past as a Soviet gymnast. From this moment forward, we will simply call her...Helga. Before she began, I told her that I knew I was "knotty", but she didn't really have to apply pressure point therapy because I was more into relaxation than pain. Apparently in her native language, this translated into, "Hurt me, mama. I like it rough!"
This was a not a massage. It was a mugging. She attacked each body part with equal ferocity and soon I found myself silently praying, "Please, Lord. Just don't let me be paralyzed from the neck down when I crawl out of here!"
I struggled to muffle my whimpers of pain and cries for mercy by biting the face rest. While she was pounding my glutes, she informed me that "she had a lot more male clients than females." I could only assume that this was because she had killed most of her female clients.
My dread grew when she wrapped a towel around each extremity in turn and began to tug with all of her strength, telling me that "one of my clients was 3/4 of an inch taller after I finished with her." I silently began to give thanks that at least she wasn't going to try to stretch my neck. That was right before she came around the table and cheerfully chirped, "Could you lift up your head?" and proceeded to wrap the towel around my throat.
After I had limped home, iced various body parts, and made sure I could still wiggle all of my fingers and toes, I related the full extent of my suffering to my husband. He simply blinked at me and said, "Why didn't you just get up and leave?"
"Leave?" I sputtered. "Are you out of your mind? I was just trying to survive!"
Later, it occurred to me that it was a valid question. Why didn't I leave? Was I afraid of being thought rude or embarrassed? Did I think Helga might chase me down and put me in a headlock? I finally decided that there's just something about lying on a massage table wearing nothing but a sheet and your underoos that makes you weirdly passive.
If you don't hear from me again, you'll know that "Helga" has internet access.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Okay, I have a confession to make. I'm TSTL. That's right--My name is Teresa Medeiros and I'm Too Stupid To Live. The first day we moved into our new house, I ran the car into the garage, effectively wrecking both of them. After listening to the song LIFE IN THE FAST LANE by the Eagles at least 10 million times since the 70's, I just figured out the line that says, "There were lines on the mirror" is talking about cocaine, not wrinkles. Only today I risked life and limb (and my beloved Jag) to drive to Starbuck's during a terrible thunderstorm/tornado watch because I couldn't bear to live another moment without a Grande Mocha Lite Frappuccino.
So I consider it a personal affront when readers say that they can't stand heroines who are too stupid to live. Just go ahead and kill me now, why don't you? (For other examples of my stupidity, you may contact any of the other Squawkers by private e-mail and a comprehensive list will be provided to you.)
But seriously, I hate almost any black and white rules that put limits on my fiction, either writing it or reading it. I want to write about all sorts of characters and my very favorites are characters who make mistakes and learn from them. One of my favorite themes is to follow a girl as she makes the journey toward womanhood. And you know what?--girls often do foolish, impulsive things, especially in pursuit of love. Things like climbing out of a window in a ballgown like Lottie in ONE NIGHT OF SCANDAL or visiting a dangerous gambling hell to track down a gorgeous hunk of a vampire like Portia in my upcoming book THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME. (Editor's Note: This blog edited to squeeze in shameless, unsubtle plug for upcoming book per lesson learned from Christina and Connie.)
I love that Connie recently brought up Lolly LaRue in the classic romance JUST A KISS AWAY by Jill Barnett because it was Jill who once said to me, "I love to write about people who make grand and glorious mistakes and who suffer terribly for those mistakes and who are better people for it by the end of the book." Isn't character growth the very definition of well-written fiction?
So many things that we used to simply call "a plot" are now dissected mercilessly on the internet as "characters that are TSTL" or "Big Misunderstandings" or "Mary Jane heroines". If we avoid all of these things, then eventually we won't have anything to write about except perfect (and boring) characters and the romance genre will continue to grow even narrower in scope.
Every one of us has suffered through that moment in the horror movie when the heroine decides to creep down into the cellar all by herself with only a flashlight for a weapon to investigate the mysterious noise. I may shout, "Don't do that, you idiot!" but it doesn't usually make me stop watching the movie. (And while we're on the subject of flashlights, how come those people on CSI don't ever just turn on the freaking overhead lights?!?!?!)
I would also like to argue that there are all different kinds of smarts in this world. In my book SHADOWS AND LACE, when Gareth asks Rowena how long it's been since she's eaten, she says, "Four days" and holds up three fingers. Is she stupid? No, just uneducated. I once had a fascinating conversation with another writer about Jed Clampett of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. Was he stupid? Nope, he was innocent. There's a distinct difference. Was Lucy Ricardo stupid because she managed to get herself into all of those messes? Nope, she was hysterically funny. I'm a very open-minded reader. Give me characters I can care about and I'll let them get away with murder (sometimes literally).
I only have one hard and fast rule--the hero must never, EVER kick a kitten.
So how about you? Have you ever had your own TSTL moment that would make you worthy to be the wacky, madcap heroine of your own novel?
A SQUAWK RADIO EXCLUSIVE: WIN THE FIRST AVAILABLE ADVANCE READING COPY OF THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME!
Just sign up for the Bravenet SQUAWK RADIO mailing list in the box at the left of the page to be eligible for this week's prizes. Not to be outdone by that shameless Christina Dodd, Teresa will be giving away NOT ONE, BUT TWO! autographed advance copies of THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME, so hot off the press it's still sizzling. For more info about the book, visit the Coming Attractions page at www.teresamedeiros.com. Good luck!
Elizabeth on Handling the Writing Biz (Originally Posted September 2005)
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.)
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Liz Offers Ten Signs that You Just Mailed Off a New Book to Your Editor (Originally Posted September 2005)
10. You scream horribly when you catch your reflection in the mirror.
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 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...
EXCERPTS FROM CONNIE'S WRITING DIARY --first published May 2005
Everyone knows that the beginning of a novel is the most wonderful, creative, juiced up time in a writer's life. So, since I am beginning a new phase in my writing career, I thought I'd shared those first few days of magic!
DAY ONE 9:33 a.m.- I crack my knuckles and types the words, "The little kid hit the glass window of the refrigeration unit with an audible splat." Damn. That's good. Visceral. Intriguing. I can work with this. I go and fix myself a mimosa to celebrate the dawn of a new writing day in my career.
10:17 a.m.-I've been on the phone listening to my great-uncle describe his impetigo, but now I've returned sans mimosa (I poured it out halfway through Phil's description of erupting blisters.) I stare at my sentence and make a little change, "The brat hit the refrigeration unit's glass wall on a dead run." Hm. Better. This is a more concise image. You understand that this isn't a "little window," it is a "viewing..." Hey! "The brat hit the viewing window on a dead run." Nah. "The brat approached the refrigeration unit on a dead run, hitting the viewing window with an audible splat." Shit. Shit, shit, shit. I raise my eyes to heaven imploringly. Look at that. Time for lunch.
DAY TWO 11:11 a.m.- Yesterday was just a test run. TODAY is the day I am really starting that novel. I am in a celebratory mood. This may have something to do with the mimosa already in my hand, but I'm willing to go with the general festive and confident mood it has inspired. Besides I already see the problem with that first sentence. I fix it. "The brat darted from the crowd surrounding the National Butter Association's revolving Butter Sculpting Studio on a dead run and hit the glass wall with an audible splat." That's good. I'd been missing that 'splat.' So good in fact, I call a friend to read this fabulous first line and bask in her approval. She responds, "Kids, even brats, don't splat." Shit. She's right.
DAY FIVE 3:40 p.m. -Okay, Okay. I've been busy. But is it any wonder I haven't been able to really invest myself in this process when I've had things like dry- cleaning the winter coats and setting up this blog and drawing chicken bodies hanging over my head?! But now everything is under control. I can really concentrate on my writing. "The kid darted from the crowd surrounding Butter Sculpture Studio and hit the window on a dead run, shaking the refrigerated unit from its two by four foundation."
"The kid shot from--" The email rings and a window pops up on my desktop. It's yet another note from Eloisa demanding, again, a new head for her chicken. Drat Eloisa.
DAY SIX 6:55 p.m. -Screw the kid and screw the refrigerator. I'm going to make a cheesecake.
DAY NINE 10:48 p.m. -I finish the last of the cheesecake. Thus revitalized, I plop myself down in front of the monitor... " 'And you were once a Butter Princess,' the judge whispered in a theatrically lowered voice." or maybe, " 'And to think,' the judge shook her head, 'you were once a Butter Princess.' " Yes. Yes, yes. This is a much better place to open. I am pleased. But if I changed..." 'And you call yourself a Butter Princess.' The judge's eyes narrowed--" "Hold the phone. This is not a historical romance novel. My characters eyes do not 'narrow' anymore. Or do they...?!The phone rings. It is Eloisa. She is most strident. She insists she be given a new chicken head. I am going to bed.
DAY TEN 9:00 a.m.-I have worked on my new novel for ten days. I have written one sentence. Normally this would motivate me to write, but it is Sunday. I shouldn't really be working on Sunday. God wouldn't like it.
I turn off the computer, wondering if this rationale is going to come back and bite me in the ass. Right in front of the Pearly Gates.
My first contemporary book HOT DISH will be available November and I'm delighted to be able to unveil the cover for the first time here, for you, my little squawking friends! (And below that is how the original sentence ended up!)
"A bang shook the freezer as a fat little cheek smashed into the Plexiglas window like a bug hurtling into the windshield of a VW. The cheek stuck, glued there by equal parts sweat, syrup, and sunscreen. Above it, a kid’s single visible eye rotated in its socket like a gecko’s, coming to rest on the hundred pound, head-shaped block of butter inside. "
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
I'm up! I posted this just before we drove our daughter to her junior year of college last summer. I didn't expect her to be back this summer but guess what? That's right. The Doo-dah returneth and this time she's bringing company! A DOG! A PUPPY! And she GOT A JOB! (Guess who's puppy-sitting all summer?)Sigh...
CONNIE HERE TO CONSOLE ALL YOU EMPTY NESTERS (originally published August 2005)
Last weekend, we dropped my daughter off to start her junior year in college. This coming weekend my friend is sending her kid off for his freshman year. How are we handling it? My friend hangs her head, sighs, and reverently whimpers her son’s name on an average of once every fifteen minutes. She has begun to tell anecdotal stories about a kid who is barely 18 and, even more weirdly, always in the past tense. Now, either my friend is planning to do her son in, or she is already experiencing Empty Nest Syndrome.
Me? Not so much. I am too busy rifling through the yellow pages looking for a mariachi band for a forthcoming fiesta. The festival I’m planning to hold? The Feast of the Clean Bathroom! Ole!
It’s not that I lack sympathy. I remember mourning little Doo-Da’s (my pet name for my daughter) initial leap from the nest. I remember looking over the edge of that nest and thinking how far the drop was. I also remember thinking that it might be entertaining watching Doo-da frantically flapping her wings on her way to wherever it is she’s going. Not because I’m a nasty mom—though certainly a case can be made there-- but because having done everything within my power to insure that this kid is not going to hit the ground with a splat, I am also relatively certain she will eventually land safely somewhere. Hopefully not back in my nest...
I tried to teach her life’s most important lessons, (never order meatloaf.) I held her tight when she needed comforting and stood aside the times she beat her little wings in a trial run at freedom only to hit the living room window and slide to the floor, a little bruised but wiser for the journey. It worked out, too.
Oh, that’s not to say that there haven’t been a few air pockets in Doo-da’s maiden flight. Apparently, I’d neglected to teach her the FINANCE chapter from the dog-eared manual I carry around solely in my head, Raising a Doo-Da. But, all in all, I’ve spent more time congratulating myself than castigating myself and for a Catholic mom to say that is doing pretty good.
The first year my daughter went to college I would wake in the morning and look around my pristine house (hey! hey! this is an opinion piece! and my opinion is that relatively speaking my house in damn pristine!) and smile and think, “She’s out there somewhere, independent, brave, learning, her little wings growing stronger as she flaps higher and higher! God love her!”You should do this to! It’s very empowering!
Then go turn her room into a study. That's even more empowering.
But be forewarned: Just when you have developed a civilized routine and have stopped looking under beds for the piles of clothing that used to appear daily in the laundry room—because how can one child produce that much dirty laundry? It’s gotta be there somewhere!-- and have reacquainted yourself with music you want to listen to and at a decibel that you are fairly certain is not damaging your few remaining audio nerves, you'll look around and there she'll be. Doo-da.
“What are you doing here?” you ask around a mouthful of moon pie, because no longer having to worry about representing the four food groups at every meal you are now representing one per day and today’s is “Sugar.”
“Geez. Nice greeting. Earth to mother, it’s Thanksgiving. And what you done to my room!”
Got that? You understand what I’m telling you? That’s right. THEY COME BACK. And your nest, the one that may have grown a little dusty over the last two months but remained miraculously uncluttered, the nest where for eight short weeks you could pretty much guarantee that when you opened the drawer where you stuffed your silk scarf it was still going to be there, that nest disappeared the second she walked in the door! Evaporated Poof! Leaving you with only a vague and melancholy yearning.
Doo-da is back and she’s brought five times the crap she left with. And to make things really bizarre, though she might have become an adult in the great forest of the real world, in your nest she is still 16 and still a slob and you still can’t stand it so you still are doing her clothes and shutting the door to the bathroom where amazing messes take place with ritualistic regularity!
So, newly christened empty nesters, dry them wrinkly little eyes and take from my words either joy or trepidation, depending on whether you are an empty nest neophyte or a jaded old hen. They come back. Sooner than you can imagine.
Enjoy your empty nest! Wash your hands in a sink that isn’t ringed with grime or make-up or both. Lie on your carpet and wiggle with pleasure when you don’t roll over any pretzels. Enjoy the blessedly empty places on your end tables where soda cans once dwelt 24/7. Listen to the awe-inspiring silence. Read a book right through the dinner hour. Go now, go ! Stare at your silent and empty washing machine! Do it. It won’t last.
Now excuse me, I got me a mariachi band to hire and the clock is ticking.
Okay, it’s really Christina on finishing a book, but sexual obsession is a waaayyyy better title and finishing a book does involve an obsession of sorts.
I just finished the third book in the Lost Princess series (working title Princess3 — catchy, huh?) Most books start with an exuberant burst of creativity. I always love my first three chapters because they’re so exciting. Hero and heroine meet and start their adventure. It’s wonderful! I’m amazed at my genius! Everyone’s going to want to read this book!
Then at fifty pages, I have an unfortunate realization. I need four hundred pages. My excellent math skills immediately inform me I have to write three hundred and fifty to go. I also realize there’s no way I can write so much. I’m a fraud, never mind the fact I’ve written twenty-eight books, I’ve never really done this before, and it’s impossible!
So I plod along alternating moments of brilliance with long passages of absolute drivel and before I know it, I’m at page three hundred. Okay, it’s not before I know it — it’s forever. But at around page three hundred, something happens. I get this rush. I can see the end and I work long hours. I wake up in the morning with passages of text in my head (they’re frequently out of order) and I write them before I get out of bed. I write all day and late at night. Eating becomes something that involves cereal, restaurants or take-out. My eyes look like two little computer screens, square and backlit. At the beginning of the book I aim for ten pages a day. At the end of the book I have been known to write as much as forty a day. It’s work. It’s madness. It’s obsession.
Of course while I write the end moves away from me.
This is a rule that always applies. The end is never at four hundred pages. I write on and on, waiting for the bad guys to bite the dust. For the family to reunite. And most important, for the glorious moment when the hero falls to his knees before the heroine and begs her pardon for being a jackass. Because my heroes are always jackasses and they always have to beg for the heroine’s love.
Finally, finally, when my rear has conformed to the shape of my chair and my fingers are little nubs, I write it. THE END. Those are the most wonderful words in the English language and that includes “I love you” and “Here’s your royalty check.” I smile like I’ve got a hanger stuck in my mouth. I stumble to bed because I haven’t slept for so long — and stare at the ceiling because my brain won’t turn off. It is literally stuck in high gear for about forty-eight hours.
And then, of course, I take a week off.
Ahahahahaha! Sorry, for a moment I was delirious and thought I was living a writer’s fantasy life.
Actually, I’m so far behind on everything else — fan mail, real mail, sending out contest prizes, making decisions on the granite/door knobs/carpet for the house we’re building, petting the dogs, petting my husband, talking to my kids, cleaning the house — that I make a list, a horrible list of Things to Do, and start desperately trying to catch up. With Princess3 the aftermath includes having two books on the shelves — and I still have promo material to mail. CLOSE TO YOU has been out for six weeks, SOME ENCHANTED EVENING for two. It’s a little late to worry about reminding people to buy the books, but the envelopes are stamped so by God they’re going out!
So that’s it. The book is done. My life will slowly return to normal. I’ll start the synopsis for the next book Monday (although I guarantee my office still won’t be clean) and I’ll start the same cycle. And really, finishing a book is like experiencing the biggest orgasm ever and the pleasure lasts for days.
So you see, it is sexual obsession.
Please don’t tell my husband.
This book, Princess3, is Princess Sorcha’s story and the third Lost Princess book. The title became THE PRINCE KIDNAPS A BRIDE, out in December. I have the cover which I’ve been guarding assiduously, and only for this special occasion, the Squawk Radio anniversary, will I unveil it.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Actually, I’m talking about you guys.
Lisa, Liz, Teresa, Connie, Eloisa, and I (Christina Dodd) are all pretty much the same loud, obnoxious, arguing, irksome, opinionated women we always were. On that first day, all of us took a stab at explaining why we six writers were doing such an unique thing as blogging together. Here’s mine. By the way, there’s no use looking back at the comments — at that time, for fear of spammers, we didn’t allow comments.
Who are we at Squawk Radio and why are we blogging together?
Those are questions we often ask ourselves. Actually, we're six published writers of various genres — Lisa Kleypas, Teresa Medeiros, Connie Brockway and I write historical and contemporary, and I also write paranormal. Elizabeth Bevarly writes contemporary series romance and mainstream romance. Eloisa James writes historical romance. Between us we’ve written over a hundred books, we’ve got a lot of awards, and we’re all familiar with the bestseller lists. We email everyday, amusing ourselves and each other.
Or at least amusing ourselves.
We share our woes and our triumphs. The best part about this group?
When one of us surges ahead in publishing, the others are comfortable enough to whine, "But what about me? When do I get to win?" Occasionally if there's too much triumph for one person, the emails will start coming in, "Who are you and why are you emailing me?" or even the succinct, un-subtle, "Bitch." Sometimes the threat will come across email "I'm going to lapse into a sullen silence." That never happens because nobody notices. The rest of us are too busy being entertaining. The truth is, if someone really wants to make everyone cranky, all she has to say is something like, "I've been bicycling and it really works! The weight is just melting away!" I don't want to mention her initials (Teresa Medeiros) but considering some of us have a deadline and are doing nothing but sit in front of the computer (initials Christina Dodd), that is just mean.
How close are we? We talk about our periods. THAT'S the ultimate female bonding.
As you can see, we haven’t changed a lot. We’ve written a few more books, hit a few more bestseller lists (this month our Eloisa James is our reigning bestseller queen!) and been nominated for a few more awards (at least — they have, and I wish them the best of luck whenever I think of it, usually with a heartfelt, “Bite me.”) One thing is for sure — we live to amuse each other and now you. Thank you for being here through our tumultuous first year, and I hope you enjoy the whole week of our classic blogs.
Please remember that every day this week, the daily blogger is giving away an autographed book to a lucky winner picked off the Squawk Radio Bravenet mailing list. Not to influence you unduly, but I’m giving away the best prize (did I mention we're a tiny bit competitive?) — an advanced reading copy of my new contemporary, out in August, TROUBLE IN HIGH HEELS. Sign up in the box on the column to the left! No pushing! There’s room for everybody. :)
The other Squawkers have been dining with firemen, and stabbing ourselves with forks, and fending off snakes . . . but I (she said virtuously) have been starting a new book, the fourth in my series about the Essex sisters.The only thing better than beginning a book is ending one. In the beginning, because I'm not a synopsis-writer, it's all panic, excitement and pleasure. Anything could happen. All sorts of things do. I had a vague idea of where I was going with Josie's story, but a bunch of new characters popped up in the last few days.
So I was thinking how hard it is to create an image of a character that will stick in the reader's mind. Of course, we can lovingly describe every muscle the hero has to his name, or the heroine's silky lashes, silky hair, silky breasts...all of it. There's a great poem by Marvell telling his lover that he would praise her breasts for two hundred years: sometimes it feels like that when you're writing romance. A hundred years for each breast, and two hundred more for all the rest.Well, given our strict publishing schedules (grin), all that chest description doesn't leave too much time to describe secondary characters. So it has to happen fast.
I was looking around for help the other day and came across Mary McCarthy's Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. She does it brilliantly.
Here's a priest: "a wrinkled, elderly man with a hairless face and brown, dead curly hair that looked like a wig."
A girl: "Ruth Bent had red-dish-brown frizzy hair...her voice was deep, like a man's; her skin was swarthy and freckled...she had a good figure, small, with a sort of shimmying movement to it."
And here's a hero. She's talking about her father's family (and expect a rendition of this to show up in some future hero of mine!):"Nevertheless, there was a wild strain in the family. The men were extraordinarily good-looking, dark and black-browed as pirates, with very fair skin and queer lit-up gray-green eyes, fringed by the 'McCarthy eyelashes,' long, black, and thick."
So here's a challenge:
Pick a public figure. any public figure, but not one with the plastic beauty of a movie star, because that's hard to describe. And not a politician, because we have No Politics rule on Squawk. Give us One Good Sentence. And then tell us who is, so we can all revel in your description.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
No, I am not going into those arcane rituals that my husband and I learned on that remote Fijian island back in... Christina! Hush in the peanut gallery!
The thing is: I finished a book today. HURRAH! I can't turn it in yet, due to some serious plot problems, but I have a complete draft. I don't know about other squawkers and writers out there, but I'm dazed after I finally finish a manuscript. I can't remember what the book was about. Did it have deep themes, meaning, emotion? Tone, metaphor, crisis? Jenny Crusie said in a workshop that every scene must have a protagonist and an antagonist. I can't even remember what happened in the middle of the book, but since there weren't any bad guys, I probably missed out on the antagonist thing.
geez. The only thing I can remember about my own book is that it has a lot of sex in it. So I decided to count the longest sex scene (generally the first although, thank goodness, in this book my heroine isn't a virgin, which always adds a page or two for pain and suffering).
OK, from the moment that the hero walks into the room to find a naked woman on the bed (a nice moment, from the male pov), 16 pages. In Times New Roman, 12 point. Then I looked back at my very first novel, Potent Pleasures. In PP, from the moment the hero walks into the inn room and finds his wife in her bathrobe, there are 9 pages.
What about the rest of the squawkers? Are you writing longer sex scenes, or am I the only one going the way of Ellora's Cave? And what about readers--do you like the new, longer sex scenes, or do you skip over them?
SPEND THE WEEK RE-LIVING "SQUAWK RADIO ---THE EARL(ier) DAYS!"
Yes, it's me again. And it's Easter Sunday. And I got me a date with a ten pound solid chocolate rabbit (see his photo on the left) so let's make this short and sweet.
Starting this afternoon at three o'clock, SQUAWK RADIO is kicking off their
ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY PARTY
Each day, each of the squawkers will repost their favorite blogs from the past year, as well as give away an autographed book.
All you have to do for a chance to win, is sign up for the BRAVENET SQUAWK RADIO mailing list (on the left hand bar--down a ways) . Because this is how we're going to choose the winner. From that list. Many of you are already subscribers, so you're already good to go. No need to sign up twice. And if you have a friend you want to recommend SQUAWK to, this would be a good time. She might even end up thanking you! (stranger things have happened. Probably.)
SO COME ON! SPEND THE WEEK STUFFING YOURSELF WITH VIRTUAL CAKE AND CHAFFING VIRTUAL CHAMPAGNE!
Kitty, off to find that rabbit...
Saturday, April 15, 2006
There's a couple of things that you should know about this book right off the bat. The first is that the little French maid with the devil tail and horns is...a mystery. And not a mystery connected to the book either. In other words, this isn't a paranormal about that a sexy tribe of French maids who happen to have tails. The second thing to know is that this is a Brava. For those of you who may not know, Brava is the publisher Kensington's "hot" line. VERY hot. HOT HOT HOT.
Now we have that established, let's talk about Very Hot for a moment. There's a lot of it being published these days, and every time I open Publishers' Weekly there's talk of a new line of books opening up, everything from Harlequin's new Spice line to Avon Red. I love a sexy, erotic story -- the problem I find is that it's a real art. In some ways, I think it may be harder than writing a romance (some people call these erotica). Just think about it: the parameters are fierce, and the more requirements you put on a writer, the harder it is to make a good story, in my opinion. Not only do you have to have a romance (at least in most of these stories), but it has to end happily--and you have to spend a lot of time describing sex. There are two immediate challenges there: one is that you don't have as much time to describe the hero and heroine because they're too busy boinking to get to know each other, and second, you run the risk of getting repetitive, not to mention, boring, while talking about sex. Let's not kid ourselves: writing good sex is a huge challenge. Now let's add a third challenge: make the book a set of three novellas. The problems above just tripled themselves: short number of pages, lots of sex, no space for character development.
All that means, from the reader's perspective, it's not all that easy to find great HOT Books. Or at least that's been my perspective. But then there's Gemma! She's actually only written two books, but I've read both of them, so I'm pretty much a Gemma expert at this point. I've learned a lot from reading those two books. First of all, hot books with a sense of humor are SO much more fun to read than straightforward boinking. Second, the hero and heroine need to have sharply distinguished characters off the get-go (to give them time for the boinking and have us still remember their names). Here's how the first novella in Gemma's collection opens:
"The trouble with giving up casual sex, thought Nan, frowning at her fingers splayed open on the steering wheel of her Jeep Liberty, was that she hadn't had any sex at all. Not for six months, maybe more." Nan's funny, breezy personality is out there immediately. This is going to be a story about Nan getting lucky -- but it's phrased in a hilariously realistic way. For example, Nan and Damon end up in the parking lot, only to be interrupted. The scene is from his point of view, and what I loved was how realistically cross he has when she hissed at him to "Move it" and tried to wrench up his zipper. He bats her away because "this was a delicate operation." He's such a guy. By the time Nan and Damon actually have sex, I'm celebrating it. The sex itself is as funny and individual as the characters. From a writer's perspective, one of the hardest things is describing orgasms. We tend to flounder around with description of fireworks and curling toes. I like this: "She added her voice to his; like a couple of alley cats. It was earthy, lusty, and it sure was sweet."
OK, there are three of these stories. They move really fast and they include a mystery as well as all that sex, so that means that the mysteries are kind of silly. But the men are gorgeous. In my opinion, Gemma writes best from the male point of view. In the second stoory, Genie's first boyfriend has come back from living abroad for years.
"I always thought you'd grow up to be one of those taut, lean executive types," she says. "But you're so...so...rugged."
God. She made him sound like Neanderthal who'd wandered in off the tundra.
Gemma Bruce is brilliant at the kind of internal commentary that gives a story this short the kind of intimacy that makes us love the characters. In the third story, Delia has been cruelly dumped by her husband Vincent (who was unfaithful) because he said she was fat, among other things. She's lost some weight, but she still doesn't have any confidence in herself -- and now she needs to seduce a millionaire because she's working as a PI. It was a lot of fun to watch the scene through Delia's commentary:
She ran her finger along a wet spot on the bar then wiped it on her sweater right at her cleavage.
No response. Damn the man was impervious...
She took a zip of seltzer and just for fun sucked in a piece of ice and rolled it around her tongue. Hell, she'd always been good at this seduction business. She was still good at it in spite of Vincent You've-let-yourself-go and I-don't-love-you-anymore Dunmore.
Is there anyone not cheering for Delia to hook her man? The story isn't just telling us that two people met and had lots of sex; it sets up a situation in which we're sympathetically tied to the characters AND enjoying all that sex at the same time.
So has anyone read Gemma Bruce's books? Or do you have another great hot book like this one to recommend -- one that uses humor in the same pages as red-hot?
Friday, April 14, 2006
The fine ladies :cough: of SQUAWK RADIO invite you to help them celebrate a whole year of squawking! Yes, that's right, kids, they made it a year and NO ONE KILLED ANYONE! Yet. Who'd have thunk?
TERESA HUMS THE THEME FROM THE "LOVE BOAT"
Here are the promised pics from the Levy "Authors at Sea" cruise! For those of you who don't know, Levy is an amazing book distributor that partners with publishers, authors, and the Carnival Cruise line to invite readers to spend an entire week hanging with each other and with their favorite authors. This is their second reader's cruise and there were 450 readers aboard and 29 authors. And even though fellow Squawkers Christina Dodd and Connie Brockway sailed with them last year, they still invited me to come ;) The pic below the Carnival Pride is Avon luminary Brian Groan, editor May Chen and authors Victoria Alexander and Carla Neggers.
We kicked off the cruise with a Bon Voyage party at the Long Beach Westin where Dean Koontz and Jackie Collins were the guests of honor. In a perfect stroke of timing, the CELEBRATE ROMANCE conference was just wrapping up in Long Beach so I got a surprise visit from author and frequent Squawk Commenter Lucy Monroe! Here I am on the ship with my brilliant charade team--Carla Neggers and Cherry Adair. Notice how the only child (me) always knows where the camera is!
Here I am with Levy lovelies Emily Hixon and Kate Mirsky. Their staff did a wonderful job of herding us kittens/authors all week. And no, the next pic is not me after the "all-you-can-eat" pizza buffet. The theme of the ship was "Beauty" and these 20 foot murals were plastered all over the ship. It was quite gorgeous--sort of like a Renaissance brothel with Michelangelo as the interior decorator. If your kids didn't have a clear grasp of human anatomy BEFORE they boarded the ship, I can promise you they did AFTER! (Don't worry. I won't post pics of the GIGANTIC replica of Michelangelo's "David" that adorned the steak house. This is a family blog.)
Another fringe benefit of the cruise was getting to spend time with editors! First we have my partner-in-mischief and fellow expert kayaker, Avon editor extraordinaire May Chen. Next up is Kensington editor and beloved Squawk Guest Blogger Kate Duffy. Kate and I were the back-up dancers for Heather Graham's funtastic karoake party. They told us to be "sultry" and I kept having to explain to Kate that they said "sultry," not "sulky".
The Captain's Gala party was formal night. Here I am with James Bond...oops, I mean my beloved husband. Those gorgeous gals with me are authors JoAnn Ross, Luanne Rice, and Heather Graham.
Cuddling with dear friends and authors Debbie Macomber and Sherrilyn Kenyon (Kinley MacGregor).
Here's me and Mr. Bond on the beach at Cabo San Lucas. His horse had just tried to bite my horse so I was keeping my plump, juicy thigh well away from his enormous teeth! (The horse's, not my husband's.)
By far, the best part of the trip was meeting the readers and finding out that we all spoke the same language--the love of books. We may have started out as "readers" and "authors" but at the end of the week, we left the ship as friends!
So how about you guys? If you could cruise the Mexican Riviera with ANY author (besides the Squawkers, of course), who would it be? And why???