Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Liz Asks, "Who's that Girl?"
This is my new book, EXPRESS MALE, which went on sale this week. It's book three of the OPUS spy series that started with JUST LIKE A MAN a year and a half ago. You don't have to have read the first two books in order to make sense of this one. I try to keep related books individual enough that you can come into the action anywhere and not feel uncomfortable. This book features as its heroine the twin sister of a spy who showed up briefly in book one as a not-so-dumb-blonde named Tiffannee, and less briefly in book two as a spy-on-the-lam named Lila. But Marnie Lundy, said heroine of EXPRESS MALE, has no idea she has a twin sister out there in the world, as the twins were separated at birth. (Yeah, I know. That's something you hardly ever see in Romance novels.) All Marnie knows is that, in chapter one, she's mistaken not once, not twice, but three times, by three different men, for a woman named Lila, who is also identified as "the most dangerous woman in the world."
This comes as something of a surprise for the mild-mannered piano teacher and part-time lingerie saleswoman, since the greatest danger she's encountered lately has been her Saturday morning lessons with six-year-old Tad "Mad Man" Merriweather. Alas, she has no choice but to accompany the last of these three men, Noah Tennant, OPUS muckety-muck, when he pulls a gun on her and demands she take him for a ride. Ultimately, it winds up being the ride of Noah's--and Marnie's--life.
Mistaken identity is no more unique a device in Romance novels than is twins separated at birth. However, I have more than a nodding acquaintance with mistaken identity since my mom is a twin (though, fortunately, NOT separated at birth), and I grew up watching people constantly mistake her for her sister, my Aunt Dot. Me, I could never get it, since I had no trouble distinguishing the two of them. Hell, our dog had no trouble distinguishing the two of them. But to many of their friends and acquaintances, the two of them were indeed identical.
But then, it doesn't take being a twin for us to be mistaken for someone else. As a teenager, I must have fielded at least once a month the question, "You go to Fern Creek High School, don't you?" No, I went to Seneca High School. But there was obviously a girl at Fern Creek who looked just like me, and I wondered if she often heard the question, "You go to Seneca High School, don't you?" I was also often told I looked just like Bailey on "WKRP in Cincinnati," because that show was popular at a time when I had long hair and big glasses like hers. (Another friend called me "Mr. Peabody" after the Bullwinkle character, but I'd just as soon not go there.)
My husband and I started dating around the time Billy Joel's "The Stranger" was experiencing its peak popularity. Everywhere we went, someone would comment on how much he resembled Billy Joel, thanks to the bedroom eyes the two of them shared. (Thankfully, he bears no resemblance to Billy these days.) When I went to London in college with a group of exchange students, the roommate to whom I was assigned, Adele, looked A LOT like Princess Diana--same height, same hair color and style, same elegance of bearing, very similar features. This happened to be the summer of the royal wedding, so everywhere we went, heads swiveled constantly and people bent those heads in quiet discussion, obviously trying to discern if Adele was, in fact, the young Lady, soon-to-be-Princess, Di. A friend of mine in college was once mistaken for Steve Perry, the lead singer for Journey, by a fan so overwrought that he finally signed Steve Perry's autograph for her, just to make her leave him alone.
It's fun to think there are other people out there in the world who share our features. It makes me wonder if there's some distant DNA link between me and people who look like me. Maybe a thousand years ago, one of the ancestors of that girl at Fern Creek High School had a fling with one of my ancestors, and it took that long for the right combination of genes to come together again to produce two similar-looking girls who happened to live in the same place. Or, who knows? Maybe she and I were twins, separated at birth. (Though this would for sure come as a surprise to my mom.)
So how about you? They say everyone has a twin in the world. Do you or any of your loved ones ever find yourselves mistaken for someone else? Are there any famous people you or yours have been told you resemble? Ever try to pass yourself off as someone else?
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
A week ago I got an email announcing that my daughter was going to be a Snow Fairy in the kindergarten play. The letter noted that she would need white tights, a white gauzy skirt, and a white shirt. As it happens, my daughter is a tomboy who wouldn't be caught dead in a skirt or tights, but my sister lives right down the road and her two daughters glorify in gauzy skirts. Ooops--she has pink skirts and purple, but no white. She thinks she has a white leotard around the place somewhere. I go on e-bay and nimbly win a white gauzy skirt labeled "snow fairy". Then I realized that in order to get it in time, I have to pay an extra $20 shipping, which kind of reduces the bargain value, but so it goes.
The skirt arrives. It is made of little strips of gauze attached to the waist, with white butterflies at the end. Charming! Lovely! Very...very...girly. My daughter's face is stormy but resigned. The day before the play, I go over to my sister's to pick up the leotard. It's nowhere to be found, although she does find white tights. No problem...I go to the university, leaving leotard-buying instructions with our au pair. At some point during the day, a small pair of white tights slips out of my bag and is left on campus.
That night our resident snow fairy has nightmares. Three in a row. I wish I could say it was stage fright, but it seems to have been related to an injudicious showing of a G-rated movie with a scary witch in it. Said snow fairy wakes up with dark circles and an uncertain disposition.
The snow fairy's mother, meanwhile, discovers the loss of the white tights! Heart pounding, I call my sister. Pink tights, pink tights, pink tights...finally she finds another pair of white tights! The entire family heads to school. All the other snow fairies are already there, and the boy-animals are there too. Those little monsters are greatly taken by the sight my daughter in a skirt (a new look for her), and they point it out. Our snow fairy burst into tears and refuses to make her stage appearance.
Finally the snow fairy's daddy manages to wipe off all the tears and get her in line with her paranormal counterparts. We go back out and sit on small uncomfortable chairs to watch the tale of Crow and the Snow. Our snow fairy gravely dumps paper snow flakes all over the stage.
At the end, the snow fairy posse clusters for a picture. My snow fairy's narrow shoulders are slumped from exhaustion, and her little tummy sticks out. Her elegant, gauzy skirt is pulled way down on one side, giving her a rakish, drunken look. My niece's tights have a hole in the toe. Our snow fairy has gorgeous purple eyeshadow--under her eyes. She's the most beautiful fairy I ever saw.
There are moments in raising a child when you beg yourself to remember the picture, to never forget it, to be able to relive this moment when you are ninety-five. How about the rest of you moms out there? What's an unforgettable moment for you?
Monday, May 29, 2006
YOUR FRIENDS AT SQUAWK RADIO BRING YOU TWO DELICIOUS TREATS TO HELP YOU CELEBRATE MEMORIAL DAY!!!
Here's Hugh Jackman as the hunky Wolverine in X-MEN 3: THE FINAL STAND!
And here's a lovely, moist, and so light it practically floats summer recipe:
STRAWBERRY JELLO POKE CAKE
1 pkg. white cake mix
1 cup boiling water
1 pkg. (4 serving size) Jello-O Brand Gelatin (strawberry or your favorite)
1/2 cup cold water
1 tub (8 oz) Cool Whip or Cool Whip Free
1) Bake cake per directions in either 13X9 pan or in two round pans if you'd like to make 2 desserts
2) Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes
3) Pierce cake with large fork at 1/2 inch intervals
4) Meanwhile, stir boiling water into dry gelatin mix in small bowl until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water.
5) Carefully pour jello mixture over cake. Refrigerate until cool.
5) Frost with Cool Whip. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until ready to serve and store leftover cake in refrigerator
TIP: If you make it in 2 round pans, take one to the party and keep one for yourself. Just slice it like a pretty little pie when ready to serve!
(Recipe courtesy of Kraft and Kim Dousette)
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Okay, so it’s a holiday weekend, which means there’s gonna be a whole lotta grillin’ goin’ on. And as everyone knows, grilling is one of those things that demands a certain type of music. Fun. Light. Tropical. Look no further than this Putumayo compilation called “Islands.”
I love this CD for many reasons. Number one, it fits all the requirements listed above. Number two, it’s not specific to any particular set of islands. You get music from islands both domestic (Hawaii and Puerto Rico) and faraway (Madagascar and Cape Verde). With this one CD, you can visit places in the Oceans Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Caribbean, and South Pacific. You can hear voices singing in Spanish, French, Portuguese, English and a number of dialects and languages indigenous to the various islands that birthed the music. Almost all the music has its roots in African rhythms, but each place and culture (and artist) has embraced those rhythms and made them their own, often with musical instruments as exotic as the islands themselves. What you end up with is a mix of global sounds and songs that all inspire smiles, laughter and dancing.
But the main reason *I* love this CD so much is because I know one of the artists who appears on it. Okay, okay, I MET him. He was responsible for one of the most magical nights of my life. (And no, not like that.) Quito Rymer, who concludes the collection with his number, “Mix Up World,” used to be (and might still be) the proprietor of a bar on Tortola's Cane Garden Bay called Quito’s Gazebo. My husband and I spent an incredible week on that beach, and many evenings at Quito’s. One night in particular, when Quito was performing, there was much dancing and drinking and Quito ended up buying both my husband and me a round simply because he said we looked like we were having so much fun. We later returned the favor by naming a cat after him. (And Quito was a GREAT cat, may he rest in peace.)
So as you slap those burgers and brats and what have you on the grill tomorrow, slap “Islands” on the CD player, as well. I promise you’ll be dancing as you flip your fare, and you’ll feel as if the beach and the sparkling turquoise ocean is right up the street.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Saturday, May 27, 2006
I started reading Harlan Coben when one of my favorite booksellers recommended TELL NO ONE. I loved it and immediately wanted to glom everything the guy had written. However, as I read the back cover copy for each of his earlier books, I was dismayed to discover they all featured a recurring protagonist named Myron Bolitar. Now, usually, I love recurring protagonists in mysteries. But Myron Bolitar was a sports agent, and I’m totally not into sports (unless Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the one writing about them). I really didn’t think I’d like the books, and I feared they would be too male-oriented for my tastes. Still, Coben became an auto-buy for me after TELL NO ONE--in hardback, no less--so I continued reading all his ensuing books, all of which were excellent, and none of which featured Myron.
I was SO looking forward to Coben’s new book that came out earlier this month, PROMISE ME. But when I read the jacket copy, I saw with some disappointment that the story returns to his Myron Bolitar character. Dang. What was I going to do for my annual Harlan fix? For all I knew, he’d be returning to Myron indefinitely. With a heavy heart, I bought PROMISE ME anyway. But because I dislike coming into a series in the middle of a character’s growth, before I could read it, I’d have to go back and read the Myron Bolitar books from the beginning. All six of them.
I am SO glad I did.
DEAL BREAKER is the first of those books. In it, Myron is still building his sports representation agency, but he’s landed a plum client in quarterback Christian Steele. Unfortunately, while Myron is negotiating a very important contract for Christian, Christian’s past comes back to haunt him in the form of a missing-and-probably-dead girlfriend, secrets, lies and blackmail. There are a number of twists and turns to the plot, and the end, as it always is with Coben’s books, was a total surprise. But the stories, as good as they are, aren’t what keep pulling me back to these books. It’s Myron, plain and simple, who does that.
Oh, there’s a lot of male fantasy built into Bolitar. He’s a former college basketball star who took Duke to the NCAA finals and won. Then he was drafted by the Boston Celtics. (Alas, an injury ended his career before it even began.) He did some shady work for the government once upon a time. He’s handsome and women adore him. But instead of buying into the whole macho schtick, Myron is modest and self-deprecating and charming. He’s the kind of guy who would appeal to any woman.
And speaking of women, one of my favorite things about all of Coben’s books are his women characters. Even in the sports books, there are many, and they are strong and well-written, not the cardboard background scenery women often play in books written by men. Myron’s assistant, Esperanza Diaz, another recurring character, is a former pro wrestler attending law school at night. In a later book, Myron reps a female pro basketball player whom Coben brings fully to life. Even Myron’s love interests are interesting, smart women who serve to build and enhance Myron’s character instead of being a prop for it.
I just love everything about the series. I’m currently reading THE FINAL DETAIL, the last of those first six Bolitar books, and then it’s on to PROMISE ME. Myron’s come a long way from DEAL BREAKER, and it’ll be interesting to see what’s been going on with him the last few years while Coben’s been visiting other characters. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a handsome, charming guy.
So has anyone else fallen for Myron the way I have? Any other Harlan Coben fans out there? Or has anyone else read a book they thought would disappoint, only to be completely swept away by it?
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Lisa on "Not So Macho Men"
I’ve always been pretty consistent in my preferred type of man. I like ‘em macho. I like a big, burly, hairy, barrel-chested, deep-voiced manly-man who can change a tire and beat up the bad guys--the kind of guy who holds you on his lap when you cry. Extra points if he carries a cloth handkerchief. Can’t help it--macho is a turn-on. I think this is why Teresa and I share the same avid fondness for Russell Crowe--put him in the right role (Gladiator!) and he sweats testosterone. He's manly even in a skirt and sandals.
But I have a confession : every now and then I find myself fascinated, compelled, and yes, sexually attracted, to a different type. The anti-macho. The Pimpernel. The Olivier.
I’m not necessarily talking about homosexuality--it's the delicately androgynous quality that gives an actor or character a stunning erotic charge. Laurence Olivier had it in his youth. James Dean had it. Johnny Depp certainly has it. Orlando Bloom had it in LOTR, but later seemed to lose it along with the long blond hair. Sometimes--although this is arguable--Keanu Reeves has a moment or two of feline sexiness, in-between the long blank stares. (Ironic side note : despite their magnificent and thoroughly convincing portrayal of two cowboys in love, there is nothing androgynous about either Heath Leger or Jake Gyllenhal, so they’re out of this discussion.)
I’ve tried to figure out why the anti-macho guy can be so compelling, and I think it’s this : you get the sense that he really "gets" women, or that he would be a refreshing change from a steady diet of manly predictability. Going to bed with him would not be plain vanilla. He’s got moves way beyond Missionary. Liberated from the constraints of traditional masculinity, this guy could take you places you’ve never been to before. And in Depp’s case, you could even make the argument that he represents a form of ultimate masculinity . . . whether he wears nail polish, eyeliner or beads in his beard, whether his hair is worn long or short . . . whatever he says or does, Depp knows that beneath all the playful affectations, he’s a man. And he makes certain we know it, too.
Any other anti-machos you’ve thought were attractive? Are you one of those who don’t get Depp? Do you like the ever-reliable vanilla, or do you fantasize about the other thirty flavors too?
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Teresa Enrolls in THE BOYFRIEND SCHOOL
If you haven't read Sarah Bird's classic romance THE BOYFRIEND SCHOOL, you probably should. It's one of my favorite contemporary romances of all-time. Originally published in 1989, the book is about Gretchen Griner, an underpaid photographer sent to cover a "Romantic Times-like" conference in Austin, complete with cover models and authors dressed in full Southern belle regalia. There she meets bestselling romance author Lizzie Potts (known as Viveca Lamoureaux to her adoring readers) and romantic chaos ensues as the well-meaning Lizzie decides to fix the cynical Gretchen up with her brother Gus by making him over as the ultimate romance hero.
One of our own adoring readers recently let me know the movie version of THE BOYFRIEND SCHOOL (originally titled DON'T TELL HER IT'S ME) had just been released on DVD. While not quite as good as the book, it really is pretty adorable. And it will make you say four words you never thought you would-- "Steve Guttenberg is HOT!" When Gretchen (renamed Emily for the movie) first meets Gus, he is recovering from cancer treatments and is boring, bald and bloated. But the quirky Lizzie (played by Shelley Long before anyone realized she wasn't going to be a big movie star) quickly makes him over into "Lobo," a mysterious Harley-straddling hero with a stubbled jaw and a really fine mullet. If you enjoy a romantic comedy that's romantic, funny and touching. I think you'll love this one! (And did I mention that Steve Guttenberg was really HOT?) (Available at http://www.deepdiscountdvd.com for $9.48 plus free shipping!)
So do you guys have any buried treasure romantic movies to recommend? Ones that might not have hit it big at the box office but that won over your own heart?
Lisa Kleypas insists, "DON’T MAKE MY RAKE FAKE."
Is there any romance fantasy more powerful, more satisfying, than a cynical rake falling helplessly in love? Now, I enjoy reading about beta heroes, and I have nothing against nice guys. Lots of great romances have featured nice guy heroes.
But if the hero of a romance novel is described as a rake, referred to as a rake, and proclaims himself a rake . . . he'd better not be a nice guy who pretends he’s one bad dude but secretly rushes to help little old ladies across the street. I want him bad to the bone.
A hero is not a rake just because he’s had mistresses. He’s not a rake merely by virtue of gambling or holding his liquor. A rake has to be truly, deliciously wicked, crossing just over the edge into villainous territory. Give me a dark, intelligent, manipulative sinner who never whines and has arrogant disdain for the rules. I’ll even take him a little bit mean, as long as he grovels proportionately near the end.
It’s no challenge to tame a nice guy. There’s no danger in sleeping with a faux rake. I want a brand name rake, not a cheap knock-off. I want RAKE, not the low-calorie imitation “I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Rake.” And you know why? Because the more wicked they are, the harder they fall. You can’t achieve the delicious melodrama, the juiciness, the bigness of a full-blooded romance without a truly powerful hero being brought to his knees by the end of the book.
While we’re on this topic … a rake can’t be tamed by mere innocence or virginity. He can only be brought to heel by a heroine who refuses to be cowed or fearful. A heroine who is smart enough to figure him out, and strong enough to manage him. A lesser woman would be demolished or completely ignored by a true rake, but our heroine’s got his number. And he punishes her for it, in ways that make our toes curl. (Hers too.)
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems I’ve been reading about a lot of watered-down rakes lately. And although there are definitely times and places for political correctness, I would rather keep it out of my romance novels.
Unless, of course, the story is about a politically correct heroine who’s just been kidnapped by a rake.
Christina Dodd Pleads, “BRING BACK THE CLICHÉS!”
Clichés. I love romantic clichés. The reason they become clichés is because they work. So here are my demands! You Runners (Quillers?), pay attention!
I want over-the-top stories filled with non-stop adventure, hot sex, and a man who has slept with dozens of women but only wants the heroine— and he can’t have her! I want books with plot holes big enough to drive a sixteen-wheeler through, but are written so well I don’t care! I want sheiks — men who ride across the hot desert with their white robes flying, who snatch a woman from her bed and steal her virginity with no notice of what is politically correct! And pirates! Let’s hear it for swashbuckling pirates who ravish women without guilt. I want guys who can do it all night long without chemical aid. And I want them to be rich! I want men who inspire adjectives like hotly, sardonically, wetly, savagely! I want to see women masquerading as boys while they work for the hero! Sure, I like heroines who are engineers and doctors and CIA operatives — but what happened to the rest of us? I want to read about women who are teachers and secretaries and librarians! Especially librarians! Especially a librarian who starts out timid and by the end of the book wins the life she wants, the wealth she wants, the man she wants, and the best sex in the history of the world!
I don’t care what people who don’t read romance think of romance! I have my primal sexual fantasies, and I demand the right to indulge them in my reading without bowing to some stupid false values set up by the politically correct police!
Connie Brockway Demands THAT HER HEROES "SHUT UP AND KISS ME!"
That's right! Get rid of the heroes' Point of View! Give me back the enigmatic hero with the mysterious and tragic past. The guy whose cold, unfathomable gaze send ripples of fear down my, I mean my heroine's, spine because I, she, know it's as much lust I'm/she's feeling as fear. Give me a hero who never says, and better yet never thinks, a word in his own defense despite mounting evidence of his perfidy, lasciviousness, and general over-all moral decay.
Give me someone with a sneer and icy glare, a man I (Okay, I completely buy into the place-holder thing regarding readers and heroines, so why pretend otherwise?) am unable, against all good sense, to resist. Yes, I always suspect his motives; Yes, I realize he's dangerous; Yes, I can never get a clear reading of his emotions. He talks roughly, in riddles, and with repressed passion. He pulls me it his arms only to thrust me away (sometimes savagely! Yeah me!) He scares me, fascinates me, confuses me and I LOVE IT!
So, for the love of GOD, stop infiltrating his thoughts! I don't want to know what he's thinking! I don't want to be privy to some endless harangue against a disloyal friend or a failed military battle. I don't want to cycle through a relentless, pathetic litany of all the "weely, weely good weasons he's thuch a bad man - like mommy was a whore, and daddy liked his older brudder better!" Bleach!
I don't care why he's a sonofabitch! I just want him to look at me, with inscrutable and desperate longing and to somehow know that, do to my incredible sensitivity where this one man is concerned, there is something in him worth redeeming, something he is constantly fighting against but which my funny/vulnerable/courageous nature inspires. I want to be the tipping point that saves his ravaged soul, and I don't want to learn the reasons his soul was ravaged from him. I want to find it out myself, through conversations with his butler and best friends, from his murdered wife's diary, from the dour housekeeper and the notes in the back of the family bible. I want the layers peeled back slowly. I want to discover his true stellar worth, without the author using my hero’s Point of View.
I demand you give me back Rochester and Max de Winter, Roc Pendorric. Comte de la Talle, or Leon de Valmy! That's right. Give me back my GOTHICS!
To read the rest of this blog, visit www.runningwithquills.com!
Monday, May 22, 2006
RUNNING WITH QUILLS TAKES OVER SQUAWK RADIO!
IF YOU HAVE ANY INFO OR TIPS, CALL 555-MISSING CHICKENS!!!
Running With Quills Group Blog Question: What Was the Biggest Surprise You Encountered While Writing Your Latest Book?
NOTE: Those of us at www.runningwithquills.com would like to say up front that we have no knowledge of how or why Miss Kitty obtained the following interview. Due to the number of Green Ghost Margaritas consumed during the process all any of us can remember is a tattooed chicken in five-inch stilettos standing on the doorstep, notebook in hand. Everything after that is extremely fuzzy...
-I'm sure you've reinvented yourself many times, Kitty dear. Especially after a few of the Green Ghosts.
Well, that's what I ended up doing in the middle of my last book: reinventing myself. I’m going in an entirely new direction with my writing, so new that I’ll be using a pen name. My hero — the most fascinating man I’ve ever created, a man I’ve been wanting to write about forever — will tell his story in NIGHT LIFE, a paranormal romance to be published by Berkley in April 2007. I’ll be announcing more details and my new name later this summer. Until then, I hope everyone is still enjoying the Sweetheart books: SWEETHEART, INDIANA and GOODNIGHT, SWEETHEART.
Hey, Kitty, you cigar-smoking, tattooed, pierced piece of prime lush--so you want me to blab about one of my "zowie" moments. For you, anything--even though some might find what I'm about to write embarrassing.
My biggest shock came in my current release, BODY OF EVIDENCE. When the villain was revealed, a few pages before the end of the story, I was amazed. How could this be when I was sure someone else "did it?"
I suppose I should come clean. When I start writing a book, I rarely know for certain who the villain is. Sometimes I'm sure I do, then everything shifts and I literally gasp as I recognize I was mistaken. This isn't all bad. Obviously, if the revelation of the villain catches me off-guard, I've remained fresh throughout the story and I've allowed events to unfold as characters grow. The story gets bigger and fuller as it matures and it's a lot of fun for me to work this way.
My biggest surprise while writing THE WRONG HOSTAGE was that it looks so easy in the rearview mirror. Huh?Listen up....Every day I sit down and write for hours, feeling like I’m pulling teeth to put on the bloody page. Every day I reread what I did the day before, aka review mirror time. Every day I’m surprised that the pages read easy, and I mean anyone-could-do-this easy, what-are-you-whining-about easy. Why in hell couldn’t they WRITE that way?*Elizabeth slinks off to bang her head against the keyboard.*
When I first decided to write an ultimate fighter (think UFC or Pridefighting) turned movie star for the hero of my book JUDE'S LAW, I thought I'd be doing plenty of research. Ha!
This is MY sport. I watch every new competition and own all the available DVDs. I know the fighters, their styles, their strengths and weaknesses. I know their attitudes. Writing Jude Jamison, my hero, was a piece ofcake.
JUDE'S LAW doesn't contain any competition fighting scenes. But there is a big hunk of super Alpha male who *knows* he can protect what's his, and intends to do just that - even if the heroine isn't quite sure she wants his protection. Yet.
They always say to write what you know. This time, I did!
Know what else surprised me? How many readers are also fans! And how many readers have become fans since reading the book. I'm thrilled. I guess we romance readers know a great Alpha when we see one, huh? ;-)
Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick):
What surprised me the most about writing SECOND SIGHT (my latest Amanda Quick title) was what I turned up in the research. It was amazing how many ways there were to kill someone in a Victorian darkroom. To back up a little here, my heroine is a Victorian era photographer. Turns out that in the 19th century the technology of photography developed a lot like the technology of computers today -- real fast. Every year brought lots of new technological developments and lots of new professional hazards.
For example, cyanide was a staple in the average 19th century home darkroom. It was, of course, a deadly poison. Ether (highly explosive) was also commonly used in the processing of photographs, along with a number of other extremely dangerous chemicals. In addition to this, the average male Victorian photographer liked to smoke in his darkroom around all those chemicals...
The result was that 19th century photography journals were filled with obituaries for photographers who accidentally (or intentionally) killed themselves and others as well. No telling how many murders were written off as just another "photography mishap".
Great plot material. Heh, heh, heh...
Liz Says, What the !@#$%...?
What the !@#$% is going on over at the Running with Quills blog? You know, the one by megasellers Jayne Ann Krentz and Stella Cameron and Elizabeth Lowell and Suzanne Simmons and Lori Foster? The one that's got that tasteful and elegant (if completely lacking in chicken whimsy) color scheme going? And also some hunky guy with these incredible blue eyes that I'd probably recognize if I ever got out of the house any farther than Kroger and Lowe's?
Anyway, has anyone visited over there lately? They've got this blog up saying they've bribed Kitty--OUR Kitty Kuttlestone--and will be doing something shady with Squawk Radio tomorrow. Check it out:
I mean, can you imagine? Thinking they could get away with something like hijacking OUR blog by promising Kitty a couple of measly margaritas? Thinking they can actually BRIBE Kitty Kuttle--
I gotta warn the other Squawkers. Damn. I hope this isn't Terri's Bunco night. Or Christina's pinochle night. Or Eloisa's Sisters of Roma night. Or Lisa's Reading to Adorable Children night. Or the night Connie goes out drinking with the crew of the Nimitz...
Lisa says "Meet Beatrix Hathaway!"
After a weekend of voting, Beatrix is the winning name! I think it’s adorable and fresh, and I owe it all to you. And especially to Sara Lindsey, who suggested the name. (I’ve already sent you an email, Sara--let me know if it doesn’t come through!)
In case you’re interested, Clementine was an extremely close second, with Ella and Paisley tying for third, and Phoebe coming in fourth.
Now back to my work-in-progress about the Hathaway family!
Love to all,
Four years, eleven months and 26 days ago, our family bought its very first pet. Her name was Muffin, and she was a guinea pig. She was my son's pet, and she loved him the best.
For the first few years of her life, we kept talking about sending a video of her to Animal Planet. Muffin had one great trick. She would leap to Luca (my son): literally, leap through the air from a sofa or a pillow, to his shoulder. She would fearlessly do it over and over, hurdling herself through the air to a boy of six, who thought she was better than a cat, and nicer than a dog, and all around perfect.
She had a big heart for such a small animal, and she loved the rest of us too. She would call to my husband when he entered the kitchen, distinguishing the sound of his feet from those of everyone else in the household. Muffin wasn't stupid; once my husband fell in love with her, he insisted on buying heads of romaine lettuce for her to eat during the winter when there was no grass.
She had a special purr for me. I would snuggle her in the crook on my shoulder, up against my face, and she would start to purr. Sometimes Luca would bring her to me and say, "Muffin needs a mom cuddle" (who know the mysterious communications of boy and guinea pig?). I would cuddle her, and she would start to purr right away.
In the last few weeks, she's been getting thinner and obviously more tired. My husband cut up an apple slice for her at noon, and she hardly touched it. Lately, he's resorted to organic lettuce, and she would only eat the tips. When we came back from a school event, she was dead. Her guinea pig companion, Starling, was crouched before her, nose to nose, obviously asking her to stand up and rush to the bowl to get to the lettuce first.
We buried her in the garden. Luca gave me a surly 11-year-0ld boy's glare when I asked if he wanted to say something for Muffin, so we all had group hug instead. My daughter surreptitiously gathered flowers from neighbors who are better gardeners than we are. She said a prayer for guinea pigs and we talked about what guinea pig heaven must be like.
I'll tell you what I think guinea pig heaven is like. In that place, the grass is always a tender green, and it's sprinkled with small carrots and bits of sweet apple. Sometimes alfalfa makes an appearance, but not the dried kind: the delicious, fragrant stuff that makes horses sick if they eat too much. There are all kinds of small homes and houses to snuggle into, build under the trailing branches of apple trees always in blossom.
We've all lost pets we love...let's talk about all those different kinds of heaven. I'm thinking there's a different kind of every beloved little soul who was once on this earth.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Liz Gets Highbrow for the Sunday Music Blog
It’s not that I dislike opera music, it’s just that... Okay, it’s that I dislike opera music. I’m sorry. I’m sure there is much to love. But when I was in junior high school, our music teacher, Mrs. Yahnig, dragged us to every dress rehearsal of the Kentucky Opera Association, and I honestly would have rather stayed at school and gone to TV Math instead. The costumes were great. The sets were awesome. But the music... Well, save an occasional rather riveting aria here and there, it just went right over my head. All I did was sit there thinking about how itchy the seats were.
Which is probably why I love this CD. It’s like they found all the opera numbers I could possibly like and put them in one collection. Then they made it ever better by operatizing (wow, I think I just coined a new word) a couple of Broadway show tunes, too. And then, as if that weren’t enough, they brought in the big three--Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras--to record it for me. (That fourth guy on the cover is just Zubin Mehta, who conducted the symphony playing for the big three, that’s all.)
It really is a wonderful CD, with what I assume must be opera’s greatest hits. Sort of a “Now That’s What I Call Opera!” thing. There are selections from everyone from Puccini to Leonard Bernstein, much of it stuff you’ve doubtless heard but could never identify by name. Making it doubly fun is the fact that I have no idea what these guys are singing about until they get to the Broadway selections. My favorite number on the CD is “Dein Ist Mein Ganzes Herz.” What’s it mean? No clue. Another fave is “No Puede Ser.” What’s that mean? No idea. But damned if these guys don’t give me chills when they sing it anyway. And the broadway stuff is just incredible. I guess I could read the liner notes to learn more about each of the numbers, but I kind of like having this nebulous sort of enjoyment of the music for music’s sake.
There’s one added bonus to being familiar with this CD. Every now and then, some famous opera piece will pop up in a movie, and you can impress your friends (provided they’re not opera-lovers like mine) by saying, “Hey, that’s Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’ from the opera ‘Turandot.’ I love that piece.” Of course, at one point, while you’re listening to this CD, you’ll also go, “Hey! That’s the Frito Bandito song!” Just don’t do that when you’re with your opera-loving friend. Trust me.
So Nessun Dorma, everybody! (Whatever the hell that means.)
Friday, May 19, 2006
BOOK BLOG: Eloisa Talks About Death. Sort of!
The book is by Christopher Moore, and it's called A Dirty Job. The job is: Death. Sounds grims, no? It's one of the funniest books I've read in ages. I actually found myself giggling out loud at several points. The story is pretty simple (if crazy). Charlie Asher is a normal, neurotic guy whose wife just had a baby. She shooes him out of the hospital room to go home and get some sleep; he comes back suddenly and finds a tall man standing next to his wife...who turns out to have just died. And before Charlie knows it, he ends up with the job of a death merchant, just like the tall guy standing at his wife's bedside.
You all know I hate tear-jerkers, so I assure you that even though the situation sounds like one, it isn't. If I tell you that his wife's soul wanders through the book, because it was transported into a Sarah McLachlan CD, do you see why the reader laughs instead of cries?
The book's brilliance is not just in all the fantastic details of Charlie's new job as death (when someone dies, he has to go pick up their soul...which might be in a CD, or in a vase, or in one unique case, a pair of fake breasts), nor the presence of the three Morrigan sisters in the sewers of San Francisco (they're from medieval mythology), nor the fantastic bits of Tibetan lore about death that weave through the book.
What is insanely, hysterically funny is Christopher Moore's way of talking about Charlie and, frankly, Charlie himself. I think the best way to illustrate it is just to quote some. For example, Charlie is a Beta Male. Moore spends a good deal of time describing Beta Males, and I loved every bit of it -- at least partially because my imagination is so taken up with describing Alpha Males. Alpha Males are out charging after mastodons, as Moore points out. I could have told him that later versions of the same spend a lot of time stalking around Regency London wishing a mastodon or two would come by and make their day.
But Beta Males "could imagine in advance that attacking what was essentially an angry, woolly bulldozer with a pointy stick might be a losing proposition, so they hung back at camp to console the grieving widows." Every bit of sarcastic humor like this has a thread of trueness that keeps your laughter a bit rueful.
And one final detail, just for romance readers: there's a romance. A happy ending. I love that!
Do NOT miss this book! Apparently Christopher Moore has written a bunch of other books, so this is the first I've read. Anyone out there read any of his other books? Are they all this good?
Michelle Buonfiglio here, reporting “live” from this week’s Romantic Times Readers Convention in Daytona, Florida. RT, as it’s generally known, is a week of events designed to bring readers and writers of romance together to talk shop, show mutual appreciation, and dress in lots of black leather and renaissance recreation garb.
It’s professionally satisfying to know the Squawkers trust me to bring you a story this big; in-depth reportage of this nature usually falls to my hero and mentor Kitty Kuttlestone. But I understand a small act of indiscretion at last year’s RT – something about a bottle of Mateus, a fishnet stocking, and three Ellora’s Cave cover models -- won our girl, Kitty, a year’s reprieve from RT reporting duties.
And so it falls to me, Kitty’s much, much younger colleague, to bring you the cold, hard truth about just what goes on at this yearly gathering of romance lovers.
Myth: The Romantic Times Readers Convention is just a bunch of lust-crazed romance-reading women chasing after half-nekked Mr. Romance contest entrants competing for a chance to be the next Fabio. Who wouldn't run after these gorgeous guys? Well, from left to right you have Travis Greiman, a Mr. Romance contestant and his MOM, author Lois Greiman. She probably did enough running after him when he was three. Then there's me and Andrei Claude, Mr. Romance 2005/cover model.
Fact: Sometimes the women are half-nekked, too. But their leather bustiers are always kept tightly laced. That goes doubly for their thigh-high boots. Especially if they happen to be Heather Graham, alias a swash-buckling pirate!
Myth: The parties at RT Convention are hedonistic, decadent, and thoroughly devoid of those things which promote the finer sensibilities.
Fact: In the previous sentence, the word “thoroughly” is superfluous.
Myth: One can find more loyal romance readers -- and more appreciative authors -- just about anywhere else on Earth.
Fact: Bar none, the readers who attend Romantic Times Readers Convention are some of the most steadfast, loyal, and encouraging fans a writer could ask for. Well, except for the readers who hang here at Squawk Radio.
From Daytona, I’m Michelle Buonfiglio of Romance: B(u)y the Book. Gotta run. The seams of my fishnets are a little off-center, and a nice, young Mr. Romance contestant has just offered to help straighten them. Mateus, anyone?
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to? What have you done at a party that you’d rather forget? What’s the thing your friends told you you did at a party, but you still don’t remember?
Lisa has the top ten!
I have had the best time looking over all your name suggestions! Thank you for your wonderful imaginative responses--some of these are definitely names I would never have thought of. And a character who promises to be unique should definitely have a special name. It was difficult to narrow the list down, keeping in mind the spirit of the character, the names of other characters already in the book, and past names I’ve used. But I finally have a top ten, and I’m asking for your help once again . . . please vote in the comments section for your favorite out of these ten! One vote per visitor please. I was going to pick it myself, but I would have infinitely more fun if you would do it for me!
Just a brief description of the character:
--She is a Victorian girl, and at age fifteen she is the youngest of five siblings.
--She is smart, affectionate and effervescent
--She loves animals and carries a small pet lizard in her pocket
--She has a distressing personal problem--she is a kleptomaniac. Whenever she has taken something, she goes to great pains to return it, and is always remorseful.
Here are the final ten :
If you like one of these, please let me know!
A wholehearted thanks from me--
Thursday, May 18, 2006
I have good news and bad news.
First the bad news — the second printing of THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS is flawed with missing and/or scrambled pages. So if you’re reading chapter ten and suddenly realize you’ve skipped to chapter twenty-one, you have a faulty copy.
Now the good news — All copies of the first and third printings are fine, and thanks to the readers who wrote me to tell me about the trouble (you know who you are!) I was able to convince my publisher, HarperCollins/Avon, to find the source of the problem and offer a solution. Here’s what they have to say:
“If you have obtained a flawed copy, please contact us by email at BarefootPrincess@HarperCollins.com and a new copy will be sent out to you. We are sorry for the inconvenience and want you to enjoy Christina Dodd's THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS from being to end.”
Thank you to everyone who bought and enjoyed THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS, and thank you for your fortitude if you discovered your copy wasn’t perfect. Contact BarefootPrincess@HarperCollins.com within the next month and they’ll replace THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS.
And there is more good news — THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS is my twenty-ninth book, and this is the first time I’ve had a misprinting. Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing happening. But then, I’m the only author I know who’s had her cover artist draw a three-armed heroine (http://www.christinadodd.com/cita-cover.htm), so I guess I’m a special case.
Case of what, I have no idea.
Thank you for being such wonderful, patient, enthusiastic readers!
Squawk Radio Bids a Fond Farewell to Christie Ridgway!
Thank you, Christie, for entertaining us so well with your blogs and your musings! Keep writing great books like your current release, THE CARE AND FEEDING OF UNMARRIED MEN, and we'll keep enjoying them!
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
What Christie’s Watching
We didn’t get cable TV for a long time. Not quite as long as my brother, however, who just informed me on Friday that they finally have more than four channels—now that their second and last child is off at college (I can hear my nephew’s bellow of protest from UCLA as I type). So though we’ve had lo, so many channels for a few years, I continue to be amazed by what’s at the tip of my remote-punching fingertips.
Now I know everyone is into Lost, Survivor, Idle, Grey’s Anatomy and such, but here’s a three shows you may have missed:
Little People, Big World
My younger son and I are addicted to this show. (They had a Mother’s Day mini-marathon and we loved it.) This program is about the Roloff family. Mom and Dad and one son are little people, the rest of their kids are average-sized. We can’t figure out what charms us so, because they’re just doing the things any regular family does (kids squabble, Mom rolls her eyes at Dad’s plans, Dad tries to appease Mom…sound familiar?). They do have a way cool farm, though, and you just gotta love their can-do attitude.
Walker, Texas Ranger
In case you never saw it during its prime time run, the repeats play every day. Even if you’re not into martial arts, you just gotta love the dialogue. It’s nothing if not excruciatingly bad. One of my fave lines: “There’s more to being a Ranger than wearing a badge.” Yes, each episode offers up at least one such polished chestnut. And if you’re really, really lucky, you’ll get to hear Chuck Norris sing the theme song himself.
And…drumroll please…my newest television find—
Yes, this is real program. I discovered this show last week in the triple-digit range on a network named “Fuse.” With a music video playing behind them, contestants dance while stripping down to their skivvies. They also tell about their work and their hobbies and always have an awkward pause as they try to get their pants off over their shoes. At the end they even remove their undies, but the show puts a “tasteful” barrier over their privates in order to preserve someone’s (theirs? the viewer’s?) modesty. Then, if you feel so inclined, you can vote for your favorite who then goes on to compete in the big dance-off on Saturday nights. While this might not be anyone else’s idea of entertainment, I was laughing so hard when I discovered it that my whole family came in running. It’s now must-see TV in the Ridgway household, though I did astonish my son when I told him that if anyone attractive comes on the show (which appears to be a long-shot) he’ll have to leave the room. “I only get to watch the unattractive ones?” he asked, incredulous. Yes, I told the 13-year-old. Am I the only to whom this makes complete sense?
All right, now it’s your turn to share! What TV tips do you have for me?
It all started during a Girl's Night Out at the mall while shopping for a double-D cup bra at Frederick's of Hollywood. (Alas, it was not for me!) While we were eyeing the garter belts and teddies, one of my friends said that she wished they had more sexy "costumes" for husbands that didn't involve elephant trunks. My other friend chirped, "Or parrots!" I looked at both of them askance, trying not to imagine any romantic role-playing games that might involve a parrot (unless it also involved Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.)
Further discussion revealed that there was just such a shop on-line at www.threewishes.com That's right--it turns out you can you fulfill your husband's favorite fantasy by dressing up as a pom-pom-waving cheerleader, Catholic schoolgirl, naughty nurse or French maid complete with feather duster. But he can also fulfill your fantasy with some of these perennnial favorites. (I kid you not!)
THE MAILMAN - Every writer's favorite fantasy comes to life, complete with cap, polished shoes, and a satchel stuffed full of acceptance letters, fan mail from your adoring readers, and long-anticipated checks from your publisher!
I have to confess that I'm pretty disappointed that they didn't have a UPS man costume because those little brown shorts are REALLY hot. But I'm thinking this guy probably still knows how to deliver!
The Policeman - I don't know about you but I'm guessing those handcuffs aren't optional. Wonder if they sell a furry version? (Of the handcuffs, not the policeman.) If your husband was wearing this, there's no way you'd ask him to "cease and desist," would you? Entrap me, baby!
Mario - Okay, I'm not being judgemental here but if your fantasy is to have your husband dress up like Mario and check your...um...pipes, you just might be smoking those mushrooms, not jumping over them.
But I'm sure you can find a matching Princess Peach Toadstool costume and some willing Koopa Troopa Turtles to spice up the action. And we all KNOW just how hard it is to find a reliable plumber!
This costume is simply called Peter. So if you fancy yourself to be Wendy or Tink and you're looking for a Lost Boy to come knocking at your bedroom window after the kids are asleep, this is the costume for you. (Captain Hook is also available if you prefer the Bad Boys. Crocodile optional. Oh, and the female version of the same costume is called "Captain Hooker". Really.)
Okay, so I have to confess that I'd probably rather see a man in a fine Armani suit than with a parrot on his shoulder (or an elephant trunk in his shorts.) How about you guys? If you could pick one costume to spice up your love life, would it be a pirate, a Viking, a Regency gentleman? Or that big gorilla from Donkey Kong?
I just returned from the gym. Don’t hate me because I regularly have gummy hair and sopping workout clothes. But feel free to envy me, because when I go to the gym I’m doing my absolutely favorite thing in the world…reading.
Now, ideally reading is meant to be done on a bed. But like you, I’m sure, I’ve read just about everywhere—carpool line, dentist office, children’s sport practices (though I never read during an actual game…unless I’m sure I won’t be caught). I even can read while blowdrying my hair—though that can be tricky.
Reading at the gym isn’t tricky at all. Both the stepmill and the elliptical machine have convenient book holders. Tricky is what you read at the gym. Here are my helpful hints if you too want to find your pleasure while you’re experiencing pain:
Magazines. These fit nicely in the holders on the machines. However, those annoying subscription cards have a tendency to fly out and fall to the floor. I hate litterbugs, and reading magazines at the gym can make me one. Also, you must choose your magazine wisely. My Costco now carries periodicals and I went crazy the other day and bought several. This month’s Cosmopolitan has an article emblazoned with the huge words: ORGASM UNLIMITED. Take it from me. Do not bring this magazine to the gym unless you like the sweat of the guy on the machine next to you dripping onto your shoulder. Yes. Ick.
Paperback romances. Of course this is what I usually have with me. People always look at what other people are reading (you do, right?), and so I often place my selection face-up on the bookholder and then go fill my water bottle, doing my small part to advertise the current romance I’m enjoying. Once I begin working out, I use one of those black-jawed office clips to keep the pages open. I once brought a paperback erotic romance with me to the gym. Once. Remember what I said above about the orgasm article? Same rule applies. I swear, certain words must leap off the page and grab a guy’s eyeballs. (Eyeballs, I said!)
Worst Book in the World to read at the gym. I own a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time. It’s supposed to be Good For Me. I started it a couple of times, but didn’t make much headway. So I began putting a romance in my bag with this book, thinking that I could read a little of both each session. Um, I’ve finished dozens of romances and a handful of mysteries since then, but have read no more of the other book. What’s wrong with me? I finally figured it out. Not only does the beautiful prose and complex ideas sail right over my poor oxygen-starved brain, but in my edition the pages are so thin they stick to my sweaty fingertips!! Ick again. Enough of that intellectual drivel, I now say. Please, just give me a romance with pages the density of paper towels and sex that isn’t juicy enough to attract the attention of the guy dripping an elbow away.
Do you tailor your reading for certain activities? Are there books or kinds of books that you save for certain occasions or locations?
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Ninety miles from Hollywood is Palm Springs, California, where former presidents and foreign dignitaries play golf, where the rich recover from addiction or embarrassment, where celebrities from all walks of fame pursue mindless pleasures. Fifty-five years ago, it was here that Norma Jean Baker was discovered and a decade after that it became the favorite hangout of the Rat Pack. Now a new generation of hipsters is moving in, drawn to the mid-century modern architecture and the atmosphere of carefree hedonism.
Between spa appointments and tee times, beautiful people sit beneath misters at sidewalk cafés, bobbing to the bossa nova tunes oozing through outdoor speakers. While golf carts are fitted with holders for martini shakers, their über-cool owners swap sightings of old school-cool residents such as Kirk Douglas and Connie Stevens.
Palm Springs is hot sun and haute camp and the setting for my latest book, THE CARE AND FEEDING OF UNMARRIED MEN. Although it’s only a couple of hours away from my home, I’d never visited there until I needed to do research for this book and its predecessor, AN OFFER HE CAN’T REFUSE. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing! From the wind farms on the way into town to the amazing green of the famous golf courses (did you know the glamorous Thunderbird car is named after the even more glamorous Palm Springs Thunderbird Country Club?), this area has an identity separate from that of the rest of Southern California.
On my last visit there it poured (which is why THE CARE AND FEEDING opens with rain) but my younger son and I still had a wonderful time. We traveled to the top of Mt. San Jacinto on a tram and visited Frank Sinatra’s grave (check out my website for a picture of me there, taken by my son). I also introduced my little guy to his first professional massage, which is now his idea of nirvana.
I hope you’ll consider traveling with me too, by experiencing Palm Springs through my latest book. It really is a unique and absolutely fab place—I’m so glad I didn’t miss it!
Is there a special location in your own backyard that you discovered after years of passing it by?
I was thinking the other day about how I came by this romance writing gig. What makes me so driven to tell love stories? I realized it goes deeper than my happy marriage to my college sweetheart. Farther back than when I found my first Georgette Heyer novel in the library. Even before I stumbled across MARA, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE on the YA shelves.
It’s in my genes.
Consider this recent phone conversation I had with my mom. After many years alone, she and her husband, Bill, are now closing in on their fourteenth wedding anniversary. She still lives in my childhood home which is far enough away that we don’t see each other often, but we talk a lot. So we were discussing movies and I mentioned that I had recently seen Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead, both which starred Jake Gyllenhaal.
Mom: I haven’t seen those movies, but that Jake Gyllenhaal…
Me: (Long silent pause full of mental, but wholesome, lusting.)
Mom again: It kept bothering me, every time I saw his picture. I was just certain I knew him.
Mom: Yes. He was just so familiar.
Me: (Another long pause while I start to think that maybe she actually does know him. Don’t you have those six degrees of separation stories in your family? I thought this might be one of those. After all, my grandmother taught Kris Kristofferson in grade school. As a teenager, my sister-in-law babysat Kris Kristofferson’s kids. A school buddy of mine was one of the lesser-known comics who sometimes showed up on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” This was starting to sound way better than ol’ Kris and my funny friend.)
Mom: Then I figured it out!
Me: Yes? Yes? (I’m beginning to fantasize about Hollywood lunches. Maybe even a seat next to him at the next Academy Awards.)
Mom: Those blue eyes… That beautiful dark hair…
Me: Yes? Yes? (My palms are rubbing together in anticipation.)
Mom: It’s my Bill!
Me: What? (blink blink blink)
Mom: He looks just like my Bill! Except Bill has a little gray hair, of course.
Me: Right. (Mentally tearing up Oscar night tickets.)
Mom: And my Bill’s eyes are brown.
Me: Right. But other than that…
Mom: Yep! Other than that, he looks just like my Bill!
Me: (Holding back my smile and speaking aloud this thought…Yep, if Jake Gyllenhaal was a graying, brown-eyed, EIGHTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD man.)
Isn’t that just the best, though? In my mother’s eyes, her darling, aging husband is one of today’s hottest Hollywood stars. That takes imagination, yes? And a true belief in the transforming power of love. Hah. I know the source of my desire to write romance novels now.
Is there someone (or a couple) in your life who inspires your belief in love and happy-ever-after? Or, heck, we can just dish about our celebrity connections. Did I happen to mention that the mother of my best friend is best friends with the mother of Annette Bening?
Monday, May 15, 2006
I met Christie Ridgway a decade ago, shortly after she sold her first book, THE WEDDING DATE, to Silhouette's now-defunct Yours Truly line. Back then, our sons (her youngest, my only) were preschool aged, and Christie was planning a birthday party for hers. But the Ridgways were in the midst of having a pool installed, and there were huge piles of dirt in their backyard, something a lot of moms (:::koff koff::: ME :::koff koff:::) might have seen as a bit of a hindrance, party-wise. But not Christie. Christie simply decided the party theme would be Dino Dig. She buried plastic dinosaurs in the dirt, provided the party-goers with pith helmets and shovels, and a good time was had by all. I knew right away that this was a woman who A) was creative, B) was lotsa fun, and C) knew how to show people a good time.
What I didn't realize until I read her first book (and every book thereafter) was that this was true not just of Christie's personality, but also Christie's books. Her stories always delight me, surprise me, and make me laugh out loud. As BookPage says, her books are "crammed with smart girls, manly men, great sex and fast, funny dialogue." Her new book, THE CARE AND FEEDING OF UNMARRIED MEN, out this month, upholds the tradition, when society columnist, “Party Girl” Eve Caruso, butts heads (and other interesting body parts) with monster truck driver and businessman Nash Cargill, aka “The Preacher.”
So join me in welcoming Christie Ridgway to Squawk Radio. She's blogging solo tomorrow, then joining the rest of the Squawkers on Wednesday and Thursday, as well. Thanks for visiting with us, Christie!
The truth is that I don't know Spanish. But I wish I did! You know those educational dreams you have, and tuck away somewhere as time passes? One of mine was to learn Spanish, marry a Spaniard, and spend my life in a Spanish village, with a vine of ever-blooming flowers over the roof. I would have a bra size at least three bigger than that given to me by nature, and wear my hair tumbling down by back. I would be gorgeous, a Spanish Sophia Loren and when a band played in the village piazza (OK, that's Italian because I don't know Spanish), I would drive everyone wild with my brilliant dancing.
Hey, the nature of fantasy is that it's FANTASY! It may also be cliched, but since we get many of our fantasies from cliches, that makes sense.
Alas, no Spaniard ever invited me to Barcelona, my bra size is as small as it ever was, and even worse--I'm not sure I have enough time left in my life to learn Spanish. Under those circumstances, it gave me particular pleasure when my books were picked up by a Spanish publisher. Here's my very first cover, for Much Ado About You, apparently a bestseller in hardcover (Spanish women have SUPERB taste--did I mention that?).
One need look for evidence no further than the fact that it appears that the Squawkers are pretty much beloved in Spain. One reason may be that Spanish publishers really seem to understand covers. Look at Terri's: these two books have gorgeous, romantic covers (we call these "real estate" covers).
Lisa's publisher in Spain has take a different tact and given her dreamy pictures of young women. They're absolutely beautiful -- which may explain Lisa's bestseller status in Spain! She went on a tour last year and had a wonderful time meeting her fans in Barcelona and Madrid.
It's also fun to see how differently Spanish publishers treat historical versus contemporary covers. I'm putting two of Christina's books here, a historical and a contemporary. The contemporary is bold and sexy; the historical is sexy too, but in a mediated, more delicate fashion.
Of course Harlequin is a huge seller in Spain, and you can tell from Liz's covers why contemporary romance is so popular. They're funny, jazzy and sexy.
I think we might be able to see at least part of the reason why Spanish romance sells so well in the huge variety of Squawker covers I've pasted here. They seem to be making superb use of women on their covers.
I know the "cover controversy" rages on . . . but what do you think of these covers? Do you think that American art departments might learn something from their European counterparts? Would you pick up these books?
Sunday, May 14, 200616 comments
Liz Says, "Happy Mother's Day, Mom!"
ANYway. Mom and Aunt Dot had these little box-shaped purses into which they had tucked sandwiches my grandmother made for them, along with jars of tea. So when the security guys came down the looooong line of young women outside the concert hall who had been standing for hours waiting to see Frank and made them all dump their lunches into trash cans, Mom and Aunt Dot just shrugged and held out their hands and opened their coats, indicating they had nothing edible. Then, after the first concert was over, as all the other girls gradually left to get food, Mom and Aunt Dot kept moving closer and cloesr to the stage, sneakily eating their lunches. Ultimately, they ended up with primo seats for the second show.
My mom still loves Frank as only a bobby-soxer teenager can. Needless to say, I heard A LOT of Sinatra growing up. And this, “In the Wee Small Hours,” was my mom’s favorite album by him when I was a kid. I know this album art intimately. I know these songs by heart. My mom played this album constantly when I was little. To be honest, although this is certainly a great album, it’s not my favorite by him. I like a jazzier, livelier Frank, and the songs on this collection are ballads and therefore pretty mellow. Of course, the mellower Frank is, the smoother Frank’s voice is, so maybe that’s why my mom liked this one so much. And since it’s Mother’s Day, this is the album that made the cut for the Sunday Music blog.
There are actually some real gems on this album. In addition to the title track, we have EXcellent versions of “Ill Wind,” “Mood Indigo,” “Last Night when We Were Young,” and “What Is this Thing Called Love?” Well, let’s just say there’s not a bad song in the bunch. It’s a sad album, though, with virtually every song being about loneliness or loss or the surrendering of hope. A lot of people say this album is Frank’s reaction to losing Ava Gardner. Only Frank could make despair sound so good.
Another thing I adore about “In the Wee Small Hours” is the vintage jazz accompaniments, due in large part to the influence of Nelson Riddle, with whom Frank collaborated on several occasions. You’ve got some cool electric guitar and piano, and a lot of those cheesy strings and horns that should sound maudlin but instead zap you right into a dark, smoky bar with red lighting and clinking martini glasses--the height of sophistication. The whole CD just captures beautifully that period of cool lounge jazz.
So, bartender, pour me another. And give my friends here another hit, too. We got a Mother’s Day to celebrate. Cheers, Mom!
HAPPT MOTHER'S DAY, ALL YOU MOTHERS!
read, than scroll to the pic...
In a in California zoo, a tiger gave birth to triplet cubs. Unhappily, triplets are rare and the cubs died quickly after their births and the mother tiger went into a sharp decline
due to depression. The vets, desperate to help her, sent out a call to all the zoos nation-wide looking for some tiger cubs of an approproiate age for the mother tiger to surrogate.
Unhappily, they could not find any. The only orphans they could find were a litter of weaner pigs so the vets decided to try something that had never been done in a zoo before.
The zoo keepers wrapped the piglets in tiger skins and put them in with mom. Would they get dinner or be dinner?
Take a look for yourself.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Saturday Book Blog
You know how it is — your husband leaves, you’re alone in the house for six whole days, and you go wild. You do all the things you want to do but can’t because he wants stuff like, oh, food on some weird schedule (three times a day? who made up that rule?), sleep on some weird schedule (what’s wrong with staying up until three in the morning?) and conversation when you’re sobbing, for the forty-seventh time, over Beth dying (“But haven’t you read that book before?”)
So for Mother’s Day this year, I got the best present of all — the house to myself. (Or almost to myself — the dogs are here.) Before Scott left, I performed the ritual I always perform — I got a new cookbook, picked out some recipes, and went wild! (Did you think I was going to flash my boobies?)
And this time I picked a real winner. It’s called THE BEST LIGHT RECIPE from the Editors of COOK’S ILLUSTRATED. In case you don’t know about these guys, they test every recipe extensively until they come up with the best one. Not only that, they tell you the perambulations they go through to get to the recipe (that can be interesting or boring depending on how food-fixated you are.) They tell you what brands to use, what pieces of meat to use, how to prepare the food. In THE BEST LIGHT RECIPE, they tell you the perambulations they take to remove calories and still make the food taste good. What they don’t do is good, appetizing photos of the dishes. The recipes are printed on plain white paper and occasionally they slap in a bunch of photos. But that’s a minor caveat, because THE BEST LIGHT RECIPE are truly the best light recipes!
I made their Chinese Chicken Salad. It was so good (and plentiful) that when I got done with the chicken breast that topped it, I cooked another chicken breast and ate half of it with more of the salad. And did I feel guilty? Not at all. Calories for a single serving was 250. With my splurge, I probably got it up to what? 400 calories. Horrors!
I’ve tried one of their pasta salads (OMG), the Greek-Style Chickpea Salad (OMG), their Mac and Cheese and their Chicken Tortilla Soup (OMG.) I haven’t done their desserts, but here’s the situation — they say if they can’t make a recipe light and still have it taste good, they don’t put it in the cookbook.
So far, I’ve found no reason not to believe them. So you go wild, too, get THE BEST LIGHT RECIPE!
Friday, May 12, 2006
KITTY UNHAPPILY POSTS ABOUT THE SQUAWKERS...AGAIN
Someone give me the address for Krentz and her crew again.
This is too damn much work for not much recompense. That's right, for the THIRD TIME IN A WEEK (which is three times too many) I have been "asked" to post something, this time an unpdate on what the Squawkers are doing in the next week or so. Why would you care? My question exactly! But on the teeny chance someone out there does give a rat's patoutie, here's the 4-1-1 on the Squawkers (and you can all count yourselves lucky Blogger has an upper limit on its font size otherwise Eloisa would be blowing your hair back with a 400 point headline!)
Xtina Dodd Posts Excerpt of TROUBLE IN HIGH HEELS!
The first excerpt of TROUBLE IN HIGH HEELS, (August 1), a romantic suspense about family problems, sinful sex … and the jewel heist of the century, is up on my website, and reading the excerpt is a great way to decide if you want to buy the book. Or you could enter Xinta's contest for an advanced reading copy of TROUBLE IN HIGH HEELS and win an early read. Better still, you can visit http://www.christinadodd.com and do both!
TERESA'S MAY CONTEST
This month on Teresa's website at www.teresamedeiros.com, you can enter to win a gorgeous framed 8X10 of the artwork for THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME (October 2006) autographed by Teresa herself. And that's just the Grand Prize!
You'll also find an excerpt there and a May newsletter with some more pics from the Levy Authors at Sea tour.
After giving dinner guests a humiliating tour of her "gardens" last night, she has also been inspired to mulch, weed, and actually plant some flowers in the coming week before the Neighborhood Assocation gently asks her to move on.
ADDENDUM: Connie just reminded me that I'll be Guest Blogging Friday May 19th over at http://romantically-inclined.blogspot.com/ with Haven, Michelle the Merry, April, Isabel, Emily and Andrea!
Eloisa posts about her BULLETIN BOARD and her NEW CHAPTER for TAMING OF THE DUKE!
There are two fun new things on my site. The Bulletin Board is up. It's a smaller, lazier place than Squawk...please come over and check it out. We're talking about books, and babies, and Milky Way cakes. Some people are talking about writing, and a lot of people seem to be talking about Mayne.
And then I put up a final chapter of Taming of the Duke. So many people weren't sure when Imogen discovered a certain secret (keeping it obscure in case you haven't read the book), that I wrote another chapter and put it up in my Readers' Pages. Come on by and check it out (www.eloisajames.com)and then pop into the Bulletin and talk about it!
LIZ HAS GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS
The good news is that I have the cover and first chapter of my June release from HQN Books, EXPRESS MALE, up on my web site at www.elizabethbevarly.com . The bad news is that that's about the only thing on my web site that's been updated. (Hint: Do NOT enter the contest, since it's, um, a year old. Hey, I've been busy! Doing...stuff. You know how it is. And I'm planning on having a big contest at the end of the month to herald the book's actual release.)
In other news... Well, actually, there is no other news. I'm trying to finish the last book of the spy series, OVERNIGHT MALE, which will be out in May of next year. And I've managed to change out all the winter clothes to summer. And I got a little dusting done. And I'm growing out my bangs. (I know. It amazes me, too, sometimes, the glamourous life I lead.) But hopefully you'll enjoy a little sneak peek at EXPRESS MALE, which will be hitting stores on May 30th.
CONNIE FINISHES HOT DISH! (someone had to use the big font!)
and promises to update her website this week at www.conniebrockway.com
and is blogging tomorrow with www.romantically-inclined.blogspot.com (and our own squawkette HAVEN RICH)
and is expecting Doodah and her new puppy on my doorstep any minute now.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
LISA'S TRANSITIONAL PERIOD
I'm looking forward to "Scandal In Spring" coming out in August, also waiting with great excitement as St.Martin's Press puts my first contemporary novel "Sugar Daddy" into production. And I've started my next Wallflower novel. (A new excerpt is on the "sneak peek" page of my website at www.lisakleypas.com ) It's an interesting experience, going from modern-day Houston back to Victorian-era London--I have written with my contemporary voice for so many months that I wondered if it would be hard to find my historical one again. But once I started, it was like slipping back into my favorite pair of slippers. I love writing Wallflowers!--I'm loading this new one with as many treats and pleasures as I possibly can.