Squawk Radio

Friday, June 30, 2006

A PRE HOLIDAY "CAPTION THIS"

Connie Brockway, 9:47 AM | link | 46 comments |
46 comments

Thursday, June 29, 2006


TERESA THE DRAMA QUEEN

I recently had one of the most thrilling professional experiences of my career. Did I win a major award, you ask? Sign a multi-million dollar contract? Finish the book of my heart? Steal one of Connie's RITA awards? No, but I did listen to one of my books on tape for the first time ever.

I remembered selling the audio rights to THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST when it came out in hardcover several years ago. But no one ever sent me a complimentary copy. So when one of my gal pals from church called and said, "Hey, I just checked out your book from the library!", I was definitely intrigued. Since I knew it was an unabridged version, I assumed it would retail for over $80. So you can imagine my delight when I visited www.recordedbooks.com and found out it only cost $37.95. (And only $14.50 if you wanted to rent it!) (But wait, THAT'S NOT ALL! For only $19.95, they'll throw in a set of Ginsu knives and this amazing vegetable chopper...oh...never mind...) I ended up ordering a set of tapes for me AND my dad.

I must confess to feeling a little nervous when I popped the first tape into my car cassette player. (Especially when I realized the "Beast" on the front of the tape appeared to be either a frog or an alligator.) How would it feel to hear someone reading my words aloud? Would it trivialize them? Make them seem ridiculous? But my fears were quickly allayed as British actress and narrator Virginia Leishman brought my story to rich and vivid life with her amazing voice and her skill with a Scottish burr. For the next few days, you had to DRAG me out of my car and I even suffered through the breakfast burrito at Sonic every morning just so I could listen AND eat at the same time.

Now Xtina says it's very telling that the ONLY audio book I've ever listened to was my own. BUT I've always been the sort of person who wanted to hold a book in my hands while I read. (And in 20 years, I've NEVER sat down and re-read one of my books from cover to cover after it was finished.) Listening to THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST on tape reminded me of how wonderful it feels to be read to. I hadn't experienced that magic since the 6th grade. As for listening to my own words on tape, I can only compare it to the thrill that a playwright must feel when they see and hear their work performed on the stage. I was a little worried about how the more intimate love scenes would sound, but Ms. Leishman is such an amazing actress that she swept you right into the flow of the scene and gave it as much joy and dignity as the rest of the story. (Of course it was even weirder thinking about my dad driving around and listening to them!)

So do any of you do audio books? If so, who are you favorite narrators? (I've heard the guy who does the HARRY POTTER books is amazing.) And if you could pick any actor to narrate your favorite romance, what would the book be and who would the narrator be? (Hugh Jackman anyone?)
Teresa Medeiros, 7:58 AM | link | 52 comments |
52 comments

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Liz on Truth and Fiction

Yesterday, while writing, I had to create a fictional chapter of a real fraternity for my hero to have been in while in college. And I’m already bracing myself for the e-mail I’m bound to get from people telling me Georgetown University doesn’t HAVE a chapter of Eta Kappa Nu. So I’m going public now saying, “I know that. I researched it and everything. Even went to the Eta Kappa Nu homepage to see what the name of the Georgetown chapter would be and saw that there wasn’t one. So I cop to--gasp--making one up for the made up hero of my made up book.”

I also know the University of Southern California doesn’t have a campus in Santa Barbara, but I put one there for a book anyway. My heroine’s ex-husband in HE COULD BE THE ONE was an abusive SOB she met when she was a student of his in college. I wasn’t comfortable putting an abusive SOB on the faculty of the English department of the very real University of California at Santa Barbara, so I made up another college for him to be an abusive SOB for.

I can do that you know. On account of I get paid to make stuff up. But damned if I didn’t get angry letters about it anyway.

And once, I created a fictional county in eastern Kentucky for my hero to have grown up in. It was early in my career, and I didn’t want to step on the toes of anyone living in a poverty-stricken Appalachian county, and I went on at length about the hardship my hero suffered growing up. So I made up a county based on several like it in that part of the state. Then I got letters from people telling me, “Hey, you’re a native Kentuckian. You know there’s no Hazard County. What were you thinking?” Nowadays, I probably would have gone ahead and cited a real county. Back then, I just wasn’t sure what the protocol was.

But even now, it’s not easy toeing the reality line in fiction. I do try to stay as realistic as possible when I’m writing about places and things, but sometimes, I have to, well, make stuff up. I had a heroine who was a waitress in Louisville in one book, and although I had her visiting A LOT of actual restaurants in my hometown, the one where she worked was fictional. I needed an owner and manager and staff for her place of employment, and had I used a real restaurant in town, even if I said nothing but glowing things about it, I would have been replacing everyone who worked there in reality. On the other side of that coin, for another book, I had a little girl who actually attended my son's very real school. But although I described the place realistically, I never mentioned the school by name. The protective mom inside prohibited me from drawing attention to it.

I tend to mix and match reality and fiction when I write my novels. But that’s okay. Novels are part truth and part fantasy. The feelings and experiences and reactions of the characters can be very real, even if their surroundings aren't always. But whenever something in a novel doesn’t ring true, maybe it’s just because it, well, isn’t true. And maybe, just maybe, the author already knows that. As long as the reader has a good time reading, this author, at least, feels like she's done her job right.

So how about you? Do you readers get peeved when a writer takes literary license with your hometown or a city you love to visit and know well? Or do you like to being in on the writer's little joke? Do you writers try to keep things as realistic as possible, or are you like me, bending the rules to suit your needs?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 8:28 AM | link | 66 comments |
66 comments

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Eloisa on Love and Death

My son is twelve years old. His world is not yet darkened too much by hormones; he still likes his parents most of the time, and his little sister, most of the time. Even school is OK. There is only one person in his class whom he really doesn't like -- let's call her Beatrice. Poor Bea. Everything she does is annoying. She's afraid of the littlest bugs. If a ball is flying through the air toward her, she screams and crouches even though -- he demonstrates a lazy flight with his hand -- the ball hits the ground long before it would hit her. "In fact," he add with emphatic sincerity, "she screams really loudly all the time. And she's always after me!"

As far as he's concerned, his class is full of Henry's and Andrew's and skateboards....no girls. Except Bea. Bea is always at his elbow, screaming at something and clutching at him. Bea asks to be his partner in science. Bea tells him what she thinks the right answer to a question is -- even though he didn't ask her.

In short...in the view of this particular romance author (and therefore, expert) Bea is in love.

Alas, her feelings are not reciprocated.

Things came to a head this afternoon when Bea again insisted on being my son's science partner. They were doing a project involving finding small creatures in the stream behind the school. He related with real fury in his voice that she found a "snake-like little thing" and she insisted on putting in it the same container with his katy-did, even though he told her not to. And then that "snake" ate off his katy-did's arm. "And then my katy-did died. She killed it!" At that point, apparently, he became so "frustrated" that the teacher separated them.

Poor Bea. In the midst of love, we are in death. In response to the promptings of her heart -- to be next to my son -- she promoted a massacre.

Surely you had an utterly unrequited crush at some point in your past -- come on, tell us one embarrassing thing it led you to do! Your anecdote hopefully won't end in blood and tears, like my son's...
Eloisa James, 9:47 AM | link | 52 comments |
52 comments

NEWS FLASH: SATURDAY BOOK BLOG AND FREE BOOKS!


Hi All --

This is Eloisa and I just want to let it be known that this Saturday's book blog is on James Rollins's new hardcover, BLACK ORDER (due out June 27th). It's an amazing adventure thriller (with an ending every romance reader will sigh over) -- AND SQUAWK HAS FIVE ADVANCE REVIEW COPIES TO GIVE AWAY!

So be sure to stop by the blog this Saturday...

Eloisa
Eloisa James, 2:18 AM | link | 2 comments |
2 comments

Monday, June 26, 2006

TERESA NEVER COULD RESIST A GOOD CHICKEN

I realize you guys probably thought this was a pic of us gals at SQUAWK RADIO when you first glanced at it but it was the Comments under Xtina's blog below about male behavior that prompted this post.

I have to confess that it doesn't bother me one whit if my husband eats at Hooter's restaurant. (Of course I like it even more when he takes me because I love their chicken wings.) I'm just not threatened by fake tans, tight t-shirts and girls who wear panty hose with their short-shorts and are all named Tiffany, Brandi, Bambi or some variation thereof. As a matter of fact, if you talk to those girls, they're usually pretty nice and are probably just trying to make some extra money or earn their way through medical/law school. (And you just have to admire a restaurant that attracts patrons by having girls hula hoop outside the front door.)

I also don't mind it when my husband does a double take if a pretty (translate: stacked) girl walks by either. I guess I'm just confident enough to believe that any man would have to be an idiot to leave me. That's just the way my daddy raised me. What's the old saying? I don't mind if my husband looks at the menu while he's out as long as he eats at home? (Shut up, Xtina. That wasn't meant to be as naughty as it sounded.)

So this is my question for you? Are you the jealous type? Do you consider it disrespectful if your husband or boyfriend ogles a pretty girl over his chicken wings? Or do you think it's okay as long as you reserve the right to do the same if Rod Steele shows up in your backyard to do some landscaping?
Teresa Medeiros, 3:57 PM | link | 35 comments |
35 comments
Christina Dodd says IT’S A GUY THING

I don’t want to startle anyone with my revolutionary statement but — men are different than women. For instance:








I have no idea who thought this up, but I know it had to be a man.






And:







Okay, I admit, I cackled, but once again, I’m pretty sure a guy thought that up.

And finally, while my husband and I were shopping in Home Depot, on the end of one of the rows they had a toilet set up as a display, and the sign bragged, “Guaranteed to flush twenty-four golf balls!” To which my husband said … well, never mind what he said, but he said it loud enough that the lady in front of us turned around and glared in affront.

My point is — when I talking about it to our oldest friends, Jerry and Donna, I ranted, “So who tested this? Who are they trying to appeal to? Constipated golfers?” and Jerry said, “Well, Christina, I’d buy the toilet just so I could try flushing twenty-five golf balls.”

Jerry’s a guy. Such a guy. Like my husband. Like all the guys you’ve met.

What guy-things have you seen that mystify you? What does your guy-friend admire that you think is weird? What about your brother, your husband, your co-worker? Does he want to flush twenty-five golf balls? And most important — how did we get put on the same planet with these creatures who think such weird guy-thoughts?
Christina Dodd, 12:39 AM | link | 40 comments |
40 comments

Sunday, June 25, 2006

TERESA'S TRENCH COAT LANDSCAPING ADVENTURE

In the "You Show Me Yours; I'll Show You Mine" spirit of the day, this is my landscaping project of the year. It's a petunia (I think). We've lived here for 10 years and I've never stolen my neighbor's garbage before but when I was taking my own garbage to the curb on garbage day, I saw this forlorn petunia sitting on top of her container. Apparently, the poor dear was rootbound and she'd mercifully decided to put it out of its misery. It just looked so pitiful sitting there that I looked both ways, then grabbed it and ran. (And perhaps I should mention that I couldn't find my robe so I was wearing a trench coat over my pajamas at the time.) Although I have a notoriously black thumb, I repotted it and babied it and it's thriving now. But my neighbor is still looking at me suspiciously.

And I have the perfect suggestion for curing all of your landscaping woes--MOVE TO KENTUCKY!!! (Or as my grandmother called it after moving from Arkansas--The Promised Land...)





















Teresa Medeiros, 12:49 PM | link | 7 comments |
7 comments

Lisa says "Greetings from Planet K"


Xtina says down below that she's got a home improvement project going . . . well I'LL show you home improvement!!!

Welcome to Planet Kleypas . . . a barren, desolate wasteland incapable of sustaining any recognizable life form. Scores of optimistic (or is that opportunistic?) landscapers have assured us that with enough time (lots of time) and money (lots of money) this dry and unforgiving land will be turned into a lush green paradise complete with lawn, stone steps, a fountain, flowers and trees. Will keep you posted.

There is nothing inspiring about the view from my window. But I remind myself of the immortal words of EM Forster, who knew that interior landscapes are richer and far more beautiful than anything to be found outside the territory of the human heart. I thump my chest wtih one fist and chant, "HERE is where the sky is blue. HERE is where the birds sing . . ."

Whimper.
Lisa Kleypas, 11:08 AM | link | 11 comments |
11 comments
XTINA DODD SINGS THE BLUES

While Liz is on vacation (let’s all let her know how happy we are for her … ftttpppp!), I thought in lieu of her music blog, I would bring you up to date on the state of my house. As many of you recall, I build a new home last year in the coastal mountains of Washington state. The view is gorgeous, we love our home, and the actual ordeal of building was awful. The yard — well, we describe it as Mordor. We’ve got pallets of rock and piles of gravel sitting around everywhere, and no matter how much we work, it seems like there’s more to do.

But finally, we’re making a couple of huge steps forward. We have guy working in our back yard, and one in our front yard (and no, Connie, that is not a euphemism.)


In the front, our concrete man is preparing to pour the walk. Yes, that’s right. We have a gorgeous, handmade, black walnut front door and a broad front porch, but you have to walk through Mordor to get there. And in the back, we have a guy building a dry stack rock wall with huge boulders. Maybe some of you remember him, he’s worked for us before. His name is Rod Steele.

The photo is our backyard, and just think, it's looking better. So strip off your garden gloves, put down your shovel, sit in the porch swing, and tell us — how are your home improvement projects going?
Christina Dodd, 12:55 AM | link | 18 comments |
18 comments

Saturday, June 24, 2006

WRITING WRONG: JENNIE KLASSEL, AUTHOR OF IT HAPPENED IN SOUTH BEACH, OUTS HERSELF

I confess, I confess! I’ve been in the “show” for five years now, and I’m still as green as a newbie when she gets The Call. Perhaps if I confess my shortcomings before this distinguished audience, I can find peace and closure, and get on with my writing life.

Let’s begin before I lose my nerve.

For starters, I write backwards. I don’t mean I write the ending of the story, where everything is neatly tied up, and make my way back to the beginning, the upshot of which is that my editor shoots me an e-mail saying that she can’t make heads or tails out of any of it. Oh no, it’s far worse than that. I come up with a title first. A title will pop into my head, and then I have to think up a story to go with it. There’s not a craft seminar at a romance conference anywhere in the known universe that would condone this approach, which leads me to my next sin of Writing Wrong.

My heart doesn’t have a book. I’m supposed to write books of my heart, and I try, really I do, but they always come out of my fingers. I rest my fingers on their proper keys, and they skip and scramble left, right, up and down, pausing often to stab the delete button. The rest of me might just as well be out in the garden trimming the roses. Unfortunately, my fingers and I are attached at the wrist, so I’m stuck in the stupid chair for hours as my tush creeps sludge-like over the cushion, and I pray for the little ping that announces incoming mail to save me from myself.

So, my fingers are all revved up for the story, and it’s time for me to select a genre. Here is where the road to madness begins. I discover to my horror that genres have been madly reproducing since my last contract, and new little sub-genres are toddling around in search of those six or seven special sub-genres so that together they can create one gigantic, mutant Mega-Genre that could very well wipe out the romance industry altogether. A dismaying scenario, I’m sure you will agree.

I know what I have to do. Choose a genre that “speaks” to me. Kevin Costner riding across the prairie buck-naked certainly speaks to me, but no, Western romances aren’t selling. Western romances have never sold. Western romances will never sell. If no other romance genre existed, Western romances would not sell. Everyone knows that.


And then there’s the problem of the publication date. Say, I choose to write a Western against the earnest advice of every writer, agent, and editor in the business. What do they know, anyhow? My fingers dutifully pound out an exhilarating saga set in the 1860s about a family of bank robbers in Abilene. My editor is not amused. Perhaps if I add some other element (read “genre”) she might take another look. I like to think I’m a cooperative person; I’ll concede and throw in a paranormal element. My fingers race over the keys, and a family of bank-robbing vampires takes the stage. My editor buys the book, a production slot frees up, and my career staggers on.

But wait! By the time the book hits the shelves a year later, banks in Abilene are being cleaned out by fourteenth-century Scottish knights taking a time-travel detour on the way to rid the Holy Land of a plague of vampire-eating aliens. I get one star in Romantic Times, my editor resigns, an eerie silence envelops friends and colleagues. The ping of the e-mail alert is not heard in the land. I am, for the moment, an embarrassment, an object of pity, the writer who Wrote Wrong and got precisely what she deserved.

One last Writing Wrong, and I’ll have most everything off my chest.

I can’t hear my own “voice.” I know I have one because other people hear it. Would I throw myself off a cliff if I could hear it, as I almost did the first (and last) time I heard what I sound like on the telephone?

To sum up, if I’m not writing from my heart, if I don’t write stories that speak to me, if I let my fingers do the writing, if I’m deaf to my own voice, what in the name of all that’s holy am I doing with my life?

Writing Wrong, that’s what, and loving it. And since I Write Wrong according to the rules and perceived wisdom, but I somehow managed to get four books into print, then I guess I must be Writing Right as far as my readers are concerned.

I bet most writers indulge in Writing Wrong, but they’re smart enough to keep it to themselves. They might fool their colleagues, they might fool their agents and editors on occasion, but you can be sure the one group they can never fool is their readers.

Perhaps other writers will come out of the closet and share their Writing Wrongs with us? Writers and readers are a forgiving lot.

Readers, does the current genre-bending craze (sorry, I couldn’t resist) affect what you buy? Does the title of your favorite author’s latest release -- for example, SLUT WEREWOLVES FROM THE DELTA SECTOR DO MANHATTAN -- send you stomping out of Barnes & Noble in a snit? I’d really like to know (it’s part of my therapy), so pop on over to my web site at www.jennieklassel.com, enter the title contest, and you could win some cool stuff.

Thanks, Teresa. I feel ever so much better now!
Teresa Medeiros, 12:11 PM | link | 9 comments |
9 comments

Friday, June 23, 2006

SATURDAY BOOK BLOG

Teresa Travels to Sunny Florida for IT HAPPENED IN SOUTH BEACH

Every now and then, you stumble on a voice so fresh and delightful that you just know the author is destined for stardom. I felt that way when I recently read Jennie Klassel's IT HAPPENED IN SOUTH BEACH. Apparently I'm not the only one because when I read her bio in the back of the book, I learned that Jennie was "discovered" when she won the Romantic Times/Dorchester Publishing "New Historical Voice" Contest a few years ago. I haven't read her historicals yet but after reading BEACH, her first contemporary romance, I most definitely plan to.

IT HAPPENED IN SOUTH BEACH is a delightful mystery with a strong thread of romance. Our intrepid heroine is Tilly Snapp, Sex Detective. Now 26-year-old Tilly (who has been living a quiet, celibate life in Boston ever since her husband was struck by lightning on the golf course) never had any intention of becoming a "sex detective" but when her beloved and eccentric Aunt "Ginger" (yes, that would be Ginger Snapp) meets her untimely end while parasailing naked in Jamaica, Tilly has no choice but to join the search for her aunt's fabled "Pillow Box of Win Win Poo"--which contains the most valuable collection of antique erotic "accessories" in the world. Complicating her task is enigmatic and wildly sexy Interpol agent Will Maitland (who has an "oh-god-yes" mouth and eyes the color of "fathomless pools of bittersweet chocolate, Irish coffee, AND aged brandy"), who proves himself willing to follow her from one end of the globe to the other to both find her aunt's murderer and reintroduce her to pleasures that don't involve a pair of C batteries.


This is a clip from one of their first exchanges. (Yes, the book is written in first person and Tilly is the one speaking):

"I am a nice person! Can't you see I'm a nice person?" I protested. "I am not a criminal. I am not a homicidal maniac. And definitely not a double homicidal maniac. I can't even kill a cockroach, much less send my naked aunt plummeting eighty feet into the Caribbean. Nor do I skulk around whorehouses looking to carve up strange men in flagrante delicto. The only private collector I know is my mailman, who collects bottle caps. I didn't even know what a pillow box was, remember? Heck, it's been months since I replaced the batteries in my vi..."

Agent Maitland raised a brow. "Your what?"

"My flashlight," I snapped.

I'd like to tell you that IT HAPPENED IN SOUTH BEACH is like a cross between Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie but even that doesn't do justice to the freshness of Klassel's voice or her delightful interjections of whimsy. I haven't been so enchanted since I discovered Dorothy Cannell's "Ellie Haskell" mysteries. The book is laugh-out-loud funny but also posesses a lot of heart. After I finished it, I was delighted to learn that Tilly's adventures are going to continue in SOUTH BEACH CONFIDENTIAL, which will be released in 2007. After I contacted her and told her I'd be featuring her book this morning, Jennie graciously agreed to pop in and blog with us this afternoon so make sure to stop back by and give her a big Squawk shout out! (You can visit her website at www.jennieklassel.com)

So is anybody familiar with Jennie's work? What encourages YOU to try a new author and who was the last new author YOU discovered who made you chortle with delight?
Teresa Medeiros, 4:57 PM | link | 18 comments |
18 comments
KITTY KUTTLESTONE ASKS THE SQUAWKERS TO CONFESS THEIR FAVORITE THINGS THAT ARE BAD FOR YOU...




This morning as I rolled over on an empty bottle of tequila and groped for the alarm clock someone had been rude enough to actually set to go off (funny, Liz), I knocked my bottle of "illegal substance" to the floor, spilling pills everywhere. Never one to be wasteful, I crawled over Buck?/Hector?/Pete?--Who cares? Some biker with spectacular tattoos--and got down on all fours. It took me about ten minutes to find all my pills under the pizza boxes, rum bottles, empty potatoes chips bags and chocolate wrappers. But as I was gathering them up, I found myself steeped in philosophical musings (I'm deep) and wondering just of which of the many possibilities represented among all the crap littering the floor (and my bed) I would give up if I had to. Which was the worst for me? Of course, I have no intention of giving up anything but still...

So I decided to pose a question for the squawkers and you readers: What is your favorite thing that is bad for you?And Lisa? I'm not taking about lipgloss without SPF protection.



ELOISA ON THE MYSTERIES OF DESIRE...FOR MALLOMARS

For those of you who may not know of them, mallomars are an extremely weird source of nutrition. Almost 90% of all sales are in the New York metropolitan area (which says something about them right there). Nabisco only sells them during the winter months because otherwise they deteriorate in the heat. My Italian husband swears they taste like cardboard (he doesn't like popcorn or board games either--let's face it; he's no American). I swear they taste like heaven. What you have is a cookie at the bottom, with a big marshmellow on top, and the whole thing covered in a thin dark chocolate topping that cracks when you eat it. It's a S'More without having to do all the Girl Scout/campfire/bonding crap that never really worked for me. Well, how could it? My mother thought Girl Scout uniforms were sexist. At any rate, putting the woes of my childhood aside, for me, mallomars are the most desirable food in the world, bringing together childhood memories, irresistible flavor, and the huge pleasure involved in eating a substance with a complete lack of nutritional value.

LIZ CONFESSES HER CRIMINAL PAST

I suppose true crime books aren't really all THAT bad for you, but I can't see how they enrich one's life very much. I do love true crime books, though. Not so much the gory details of the murder written about (though, um, I don't skip over those parts), but more the way they're solved. The forensics and deduction and all that stuff. And it's amazing how much they've changed since, say, the Jeffrey McDonald murders in 1970 written about by Joe McGinness in FATAL VISION.

My favorite true crime book, though, is Jerry Bledsoe's BITTER BLOOD, since two of the murders written about in that book took place only a few miles from my home. (Gee, that's a gruesome thing to confess to liking, isn't it?) When my son was in Kindermusik, we used to drive past the house where Susan Lynch and her cousin Fritz Klenner shot and killed her ex-mother- and sister-in-law every week. And every time we did, I held my breath. The house has changed owners several times just in the seven years we've lived out here, and as of a couple of weeks ago, it was up for sale again. Kinda gives you the willies.

I guess reading true crime is a safe outlet for my fears, the same way watching a scary movie is. And there's something very satisfying in reading about someone who DIDN'T get away with murder. Keeps the world in balance, I suppose.

SO WHAT'S A NICE GIRL LIKE TERESA DOING AT A QUENTIN TARANTINO FILM?

My first introduction to the cinema of Quentin Tarantino came when I heard a reviewer talking about PULP FICTION. He said, "You know how there are movies you wouldn't watch with your mom? Well, I wouldn't watch this movie with Satan." Since I don't care that much for profanity-laced films or the gratuitous violence of movies like DEATH WISH or the crude humor of AMERICAN PIE, I surprise myself by adoring Quentin Tarantino movies.

I love his use of music and the way he makes every shot count and his seamless blending of Hitchcock, the spaghetti western, blaxploitation films and martial arts. And most of all I love the way his dialogue in Samuel L. Jackson's mouth can make a stream of ear-blistering profanity sound more eloquent than Shakespeare (Sorry Eloisa!) As a writer I'm always looking to spot the puppet strings and he's one of the few filmmakers with the power to surprise me.

I love the KILL BILL duet but my all-time favorite (and probably the sweetest of his movies) is JACKIE BROWN. Robert Forster's protrayal of kind, decent bounty hunter Max Cherry who falls for Pam Grier's flight attendant never fails to move me. Toss in Bridget Fonda's snarky stoned surfer girl, Robert DeNiro's bumbling ex-con, and Samuel L. Jackson's indelible portrayal of clever but ice cold arms dealer Ordell Robbie AND a fair amount of hilarious dialogue, and you have a modern cinema masterpiece. So I love Quentin Tarentino movies. Just don't tell my mom, okay?!!!
LISA ON THE DANGEROUS DELIGHTS OF INTERNET SHOPPING

When my husband Greg and I moved from Houston to a small west Texas town approximately forty-five minutes from the nearest mall, I knew my days as a fashion goddess were over. And let's face it--even when the mall is nearby, there's not much shopping one can do while encumbered by a fussy baby, a fifty pound stroller, and a diaper bag the size of a Hefty Cinch Sak.

Then the internet saved my life. I discovered all you have to do is type the name of your favorite store followed by .com, and you can order anything you want in the any size and color, delivered right to your front door. Sure, there's a shipping fee, but when you factor in the cost of the food court at the mall, plus the gas to get there, it's still cheaper to let your fingers do the walking. Not to mention faster and infinitely more convenient.

Ultimately, however, the convenience is the problem. The internet allows one to spend money with reckless abandon, in lightning-fast paperless transactions. Internet shopping can turn into a form of entertainment, accompanied by a flood of endorphins as the final process your order button is pressed . . .

Excuse me, I have to run. Heard there was a sale at AnnTaylor.com . . .

CONNIE BROCKWAY SAYS "YES!" TO UNCOOKED EGGS!!

Chocolate chip cookie dough! Cool, chilled, salty, sweet, gooey, delicious uncooked chocolate chip cookie dough! I'd rather devour a bowl of them in their natural state than even a couple once they've been cooked. I confess, I have made an entire batch of cookies that have never seen a baking sheet, let alone the inside of the oven. In fact, a baggie filled of pre-scooped morsels of ambrosial delight lay nestled in the bottom drawer of my freeze --because if you can't have cookie dough fresh, the next best thing is frozen.

So there's my bad-for-you favorite. I laugh in the face of Salmonella, I throw my fate in the teeth of bacterial threats! I LOVE CHOCLOATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH AND I'M NOT GOING TO STOP EATING IT!

CHRISTINA REFUSES TO GET OUT OF BED

Behavioral psychologists say that your bed should be used only as the place you sleep. They say that if the only reason you go to bed is to sleep, you develop the habit of sleeping when you go to bed. I think that's probably right. I also think I don't care.

I love my bed. I love the way it looks, I love the fact that it's tall and when I fluff up the pillows behind my back I can look out at the view from the windows while I do my email, or read, or, heck, write a book. The only thing I don't do in my bed is exercise, and well, never mind, this is a family blog.

For a year I've been asking for one of those reading pillows with the light and the arms with the pockets in them for your glasses and your pen, and my husband has steadfastly ignored me. Which would be okay if he was buying me diamonds, but nooo. I think he's ignoring me because he figures if he buys me one, I'm never getting out of bed.

Which is a problem why?

Eloisa James, 7:39 AM | link | 67 comments |
67 comments

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

ELOISA ON ALIEN CULTURES


So...here I am in Florence. My husband's Italian, and this is my fourteenth summer in Florence, not counting a semester or two spent here thrown in the mix: nothing about it should be alien, right? We make our way through the Parisian airport, tracing the same path from one terminal to the other every summer. My children greet each step of the way with ecstacy. "No, mama, we go to D2," they cry, dancing in front of the TV screen when their poor tired parents take too long to find the flight from Paris to Florence. "It's always D2!". Well, geez. Who would remember that? But to them, having made this trip to Nonna's house in Florence every year of their life, it's unimaginable that I would be confused at any moment.

We arrive at my mother-in-law's apartment to the sound of much rejoicing. She has everyone's favorite food ready. The dog has gained weight; otherwise everything is exactly as it has been. The children tear from room to room, re-discovering their forgotten toys.

So what's alien about it? That's the odd thing: the more years I go to Florence, and the more affectionate I grow about this scruffy, lovely city, the more I notice how incredibly alien the culture is in small ways. It's not just that my mother-in-law puts out wine at lunch and would be a) surprised and b) rather displeased if adults didn't have a glass or two. It's not just that MacDonalds serves wine too. It's the little things.

When we landed at the airport for example, there's the control tower. But the Florence control tower is topped by an enormous soccer ball -- a fitting symbol of the national obsession: not, as in America, with safety, but with soccer.

We went out for gelato, or ice cream, after dinner. Sure, we get Italian ices, or gelato, in the US. We might buy a lemon flavor, or chocolate. But in Italy, gelato is made by small neighborhood gelaterias. Their ice cream isn't delivered in big trucks: they make it by hand. Any given day they offer perhaps forty flavors. Sure, there's a lemon one. But you know what was most popular last night? Rice flavor. I watched the crowd. Rice, and then melon. My husband got Vin Santo, which is flavored by the sweet sacrimental wine they serve at Catholic communions. My daughter got "After Eight" -- you guessed. Probably to the surprise of the Nabisco Corporation, this ice cream is made with After Eight mints.

One final example: we went home after ice cream and leaned out the balcony. Down below us and across the road, the triperia was going great guns. All the 20-year-old males were out there, flexing their muscles (and their mopeds), while girls roamed around wearing garments that resembled bras with about half the fabric. The little shack was surrounded by chairs -- and every one was taken up by a beautiful, hip young Italian (and sometimes I think there is no nationality quite so beautiful). Triperia, you ask? Tripe. This hip hangout makes sandwiches with TRIPE. Look that one up, if you don't know...

Alien culture? I think so!

Who else has an example of a foreign country with a little alien custom that you noticed and never forgot?
Eloisa James, 10:09 AM | link | 56 comments |
56 comments
LIZ ON RITES OF PASSAGE


My son attended his first rock concert on Saturday, but since he’s twelve, his dad and I went with him. It was actually kind of a “rock concert lite” experience since the band, 30 Seconds to Mars, was playing at the World Series of Video Games and the cost of the concert was included in the event’s $10 daily admission. So they played on a stage rigged up inside the video game hall, and the set only lasted thirty minutes. It was a good intro into the rock concert experience for a twelve-year-old. Well, except for the part where Jared Leto said something about a blow job, which I had to explain later. Part of being a mom, right?

I wasn’t the only mom at the event, but I certainly wasn’t part of the crowd. (Though I DID have better fashion sense than one of the other moms, who was wearing camo pants and a black lacy tank top.) While my husband and son spent the hour before the concert exploring all the free games, I offered to grab us some seats. They thought I’d be bored. I told them I’d grab seats near a group of teenaged girls. It would be vastly entertaining. And it was.

But even more fun than eavesdropping on them was watching the roadies set up the instruments. What was funny was that all the roadies were my age. Naturally, I started writing stories in my head for them, most of which involved midlife crises and abandoning jobs as accountants and stockbrokers to travel the rock ‘n’ roll highway. And it made me feel better about what I do for a living. Maybe I have to put up with a lot of crap in this job, but at least I don’t have to stand on a stage wearing plaid shorts and black socks, in front of hundreds of buff teenagers, tuning a guitar some young hottie is going to be playing a little while later.

I was chastised for my smugness, though, when the band started signing autographs after the show. My son had brought his CD, just in case, but being only twelve, he got shouldered out by the other kids pretty quickly. So I took the CD and muscled my way to the front of the crowd for him. Alas, I was dismayed to discover I am no longer hot enough to attract the attention of a bunch of buff young men. (I was relieved, however, to see that the mom in the camo and black lace wasn’t, either.) But by God, I managed to catch the eye of the not-so-buff, middle-aged security guard standing with them. He grabbed the CD from me and passed it to the band, who signed it without looking up, then tried to hand it back to some sweet young thang in a halter standing in front of me. To her credit, she didn’t say, “Oh, that belongs to the old lady behind me.” She smiled and handed it back to me. And all I could think was, “Her mother raised her right.”

So my son and I both completed a rite of passage on Saturday. He went to his first rock concert, and I realized I’ve reached an age where I attend rock concerts and notice the middle-aged roadies and the moms dressed in camo and black lace and the not-so-buff security guards and how the kids were raised. What’s really weird is that I realize I don’t mind realizing that. And maybe that’s the biggest rite of passage of all.

So what are some recent rites of passage you’ve experienced? Which moments in life do you recall where you realized something very important about yourself? Any other 40-somethings been to an event swarming with teenagers? And, most important, anyone donning camo and black lace together these days?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 9:54 AM | link | 44 comments |
44 comments

Monday, June 19, 2006

Confessions of Kathryn Caskie, Wedding Crasher

I crashed a wedding once.

Oh, not the Vince Vaughn sort of wedding crash where the goal is come home with a hot body to dance the horizontal Macarena with all night.

Nope. In fact I was already at a wedding reception in the same hotel. Only I had tired of flapping the Chicken Dance and trying to figure out how to manage the Electric Slide without have my toes crushed by the bride’s portly father. Besides, the music was much better down the hall...so what’s a girl to do?

Well, duh. Crash.

Some people loathe weddings. Who honestly looks forward to eating bad food, or chatting with crazy Great Aunt Gertrude about incontinence? Of course there is champagne. Still, to many, a wedding is not celebration but rather an obligation. Sort of sad, isn’t it?

I love weddings. When the bride and groom stare in one another’s eyes, (insert audible sigh here) they see the Happily Ever After romance authors write about. Their world is full of possibility. Of love.

But what romance author doesn’t love weddings?

When a group of my readers in Florida carried out a dedicated letter-writing campaign begging me to marry off the elderly, matchmaking Featherton sisters, how could I possibly refuse? I loved the idea, and knew that Love Is in the Heir, the last book in my Featherton sisters quartet for Warner Books was just the story to carry off four weddings (and almost a funeral).

The book hit the shelves on June 1st. The timing of the release was almost kismet really. Because you see, June 1st was also my wedding anniversary. My um...22nd anniversary.

Of course, I was married at 12. My husband to be and I met in grade school (not college—that’s only a nasty rumor).

At least that is my story, and I am sticking to it.

You know, it’s interesting though, when I ask a couple how they met, more often than not, they tell me it was a wedding.

So that go me to wondering....

How did you meet your true love? Do you have a hilarious, sweet, or crazy story about the first time you laid eyes...or hands on each other?

The bloggers with the top five most memorable moments (chosen by moi, Kathryn Caskie) will each win a signed copy of Love Is in the Heir. So come on, dish!
Christina Dodd, 6:17 PM | link | 75 comments |
75 comments

Every once in a while an author comes along who creates their own niche -- and consequently rockets to the top of the heap in a matter of a book or two. Kathryn Caskie is one of those authors. There are a lot of people writing Regency romance, but no one writing in Kathryn's niche, because she's the only one there!

So what's that niche? Let's put it this way: who else would write a book about a young woman who created a cream that made ladies feel utterly delicious ... down there (that was the plot of Lady in Waiting)? In her newest book, LOVE IS IN THE HEIR, the Earl of Devonsfield needs to name an heir, but his nephews are twins ˆ and no one knows which one came first. In short, there's a reason why Romantic Times BOOKClub keeps giving Kathryn such high rankings and talking about originality and humor: she is tremendously gifted at setting up slightly daft, entirely funny plots.

Tomorrow, let's welcome Kathryn Caskie to Squawk Radio!
Christina Dodd, 5:59 PM | link | 8 comments |
8 comments
Christina Dodd talks about THE WORST WEDDINGS SHE HAS WITNESSED

It’s like Funniest Home Videos, only you’re there in the church surrounded by the groom’s friends and the bride’s relatives, and you can’t laugh out loud. You’re not even sure you want to, because this is the wedding of someone you know, and the minister is wearing a suit that looks like he slept in it, the best man is chewing gum, and the pianist didn’t practice the wedding music. In fact, if she can play music at all, she hides the fact pretty well. You turn to the groom’s mother and try to lift her spirits with a jocular comment — “Maybe the pianist at least practiced the wedding march.” She turns and offers a frosty glare. “That’s my sister playing.”

Yeah, like that never happened to you.

When Scott’s cousin got married (the first time), the ring bearer was about three. The little guy carried the beautifully decorated pillow with the wedding rings tied to it with ribbons all the way down the aisle without mishap. Yay, ring bearer! Then the minister, a grown man, tried to get the rings loose, couldn’t untie the knots, and with an audible ripping sound, tore them off the pillow and blessed them while they were dangling from the ribbons. The sight of those gold circles swinging back and forth is still burned into my brain.

One time I saw the groom place the ring on the bride’s hand — the wrong hand. During the rest of the ceremony, the congregation watched, fascinated, as the bride struggled to get it off her right hand and onto her left hand. So much for keeping the ring on forever as the symbol of their love.

I went to one wedding for friends in college — I’ll call them Sam and Anne. Anne was a sweet, kind, lovely flake of a girl. Sam was a great guy, the salt of the earth, but he was the wrong religion for Anne’s folks. So when I walked into the church, Anne’s side of the church was completely empty. Completely empty. Intimidated, I scurried over to Sam's side and sat down. Sam came out and waited at the front of the church. The wedding march began. And Anne didn’t come out. And she didn’t come out. And she didn’t come out. Sam was clearly panicked. His family, who obviously wasn’t any too happy about Anne, started muttering, and in disgust, Sam's mother proclaimed, loud enough for everyone to hear, “She’s changed her mind.” But finally Anne came down the aisle, she and Sam were married, and they were very happy. Whew!

I’ll bet you’ve witnessed, or been involved in, weddings that included those awful, embarrassing, horrifying moments … that make a wedding so wonderful and memorable you giggle about it years later. Pull up a folding chair, have a cup of punch, balance a plate of wedding cake on your knees, and tell us all about it.
Christina Dodd, 2:35 AM | link | 64 comments |
64 comments

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Liz Serves Up Some Music for Dads

Since I did my mom’s favorite album for Mother’s Day last month, it seems only fitting that I do one of my dad’s today. I’ve mentioned before on the blog that my father was playing saxophone in a swing band when he met my mom, so jazz was a big part of my growing up. The majority of the music in my parents’ album collection was jazz or swing (with a handful of cheesy stuff like Mitch Miller and the Ray Coniff Singers thrown in). But my dad also went the country route from time to time. He loved Bobbie Gentry (though he thought it was scandalous that she performed wearing--gasp--pants) and Tammy Wynette. But more than anyone in that genre, far and away, he loved Johnny Cash.

I remember distinctly two albums: “Mean as Hell” and this one, “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.” But since “Mean as Hell” isn’t widely available anymore, and since so much of it is more storytelling than singing, I’m blogging on the live album. And yes, it was actually recorded live at Folsom Prison, the audience consisting of a couple thousand inmates and the guys paid to keep an eye on them. My only gripe with this CD is that it doesn’t have “Ring of Fire.” In spite of that, it’s really, really, really excellent, Johnny at his best in many ways.

There are great classics on this CD, like “Orange Blossom Special” and “Jackson,” and, of course, “Folsom Prison Blues.” There are ballads like “Dark as the Dungeon” and “The Wall.” There’s funny stuff like “Cocaine Blues,” with lyrics that go, “I thought I was her daddy, but she had five more,” and “Twenty-Five Minutes to Go,” where the gunslinger is taunting the sheriff during the last twenty-five minutes of his life that said sheriff has promised him. There are songs of loss, songs of celebration, songs of love, songs of life. And yes, there is much storytelling, too. All of it sung in that craggy, affectionate baritone that somehow makes it all sound even more meaningful. This CD is just so quintessentially Johnny Cash. He’s performing in an environment that helped to define him, singing about every aspect of life--his and ours.

A lot of performers reach out to their fans, but I don’t think anyone ever touched them with the depth and tenderness that Johnny Cash somehow managed. He probably wasn’t any more human than a lot of celebrities. But he displayed that humanity more than most. He overcame a lot of hardship in his life and struggled with demons to his dying day. He loved more deeply than most people are able to ever manage. He embraced his faith with a tenacity that many believers envy. He was just a lot like us, and he wasn’t afraid to show it. And all of us--even those of us who aren’t big country fans--still love him for it.

I hope my dad and Johnny ended up in the same place in the afterlife. I’m thinking they probably did. They were a lot alike in many ways. And I hope, wherever he is, my dad is still able to enjoy the things he did when he was Earth-bound, like the music he loved so much in life.

Today of all days, here’s to the dads. If you can, give yours a big hug today, whether physically or through a phone call. And if you can’t, do what I do and remember what those hugs were like. Happy Father’s Day, everybody.
Elizabeth Bevarly, 11:23 AM | link | 14 comments |
14 comments

Saturday, June 17, 2006

CONNIE'S SATURDAY REVIEW IS ON THE BOOK OF THE DEAD


I love gothic novels. The enigmatic hero, cobwebs, secret tunnels, family curses, ancient evil reaching out from the past to threaten the present... For years now I have been lamenting the dearth of good gothics and wondering why this well-loved and venerable genre hasn’t enjoyed more of a resurgence of popularity. Luckily, I’ve been able to feed my anorexic gothic habit about once a year with the excellent novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs.

Their first collaboration together, a book entitled RELIC, gill-hooked me (Minnesotanism for really, really captivated) into this continuing series of mysteries set in or about New York City (with the exception of STILL LIFE WITH CROWS ) and a recurring cast of characters that features the supremely mysterious, preternaturally self-c0ntained and ultra-sophisticated FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast. I’ve been a fan ever since.


THE BOOK OF THE DEAD is the conclusion of a trilogy pitting Pendergast against his brilliant sociopath brother Diogenes, who is planning to use the re-opening of an Egyptian tomb exhibit (buried intact for fifty years deep in the bowels of the New York Museum of Natural History) to wreak his vengeance against humanity for the horrors visited on him as a young child. That’s right, I said “horrors visited upon him” and “vengeance against humanity.” I’m telling you, when I said “gothic,” I meant GOTHIC.

"Ooooo. This is scary stuff, kids!" (extra points for attribution of that quote)

In the meantime, Aloysius is in a maximum, maximum security prison awaiting trial for murder and must be sprung from it by his band of odd and never-to-be merry but oh-man-are-they-smart men, so he can stop his whack job brother BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!! And, of course, only Aloysius can do so.

TECHNO-GOTHIC! I'm in heaven!

Shamelessly convoluted, with more sub-plots than a soap, operatic with hints of supernatural (or at least extremely disturbing UNnatural goings-ons), and filled with the sort of arcana , historical nuggets, and insider info (particularly about the New York Museum of Natural History) that shot THE DA VINCI CODE to the top of the lists, THE BOOK OF THE DEAD offers a really intense, action-packed, page-turning atmospheric adventure.—think I got enough modifiers in there? And the best part of all? While you get all those little juicy morsels of cabalistic esoteria, ala Dan Brown, you also get tantalizing and ingeniously crafted, three-dimensional characters. As in, "character development," as in I remember who everyone is and why they did what they did after I closed the books. Hell, I remember it months later! I can barely wait for the next episode starring the uber-refined and uber-deadly Pendergast.

So, what about you? What modern gothic gems have I missed that you have recently read and loved? I need my fix!
Connie Brockway, 9:23 AM | link | 24 comments |
24 comments

Friday, June 16, 2006

Teresa's Friday Gift to the "Clark" Fans

Even though I'm a Lex woman myself, I have to confess that I wouldn't mind papering my bedroom with this "wallpaper".

Bring on the red kryptonite, baby!
Teresa Medeiros, 2:47 PM | link | 12 comments |
12 comments

FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET TERESA TRAVELS TO METROPOLIS TO MEET BAD BOY LEX LUTHOR

I'm always a day late and a dollar short so it's no surprise that I didn't start watching SMALLVILLE until this season. Tom Welling, who plays the young Clark Kent, is VERY easy on the eyes with his pouty lips, baby blues, and flawlessly feathered hair, but I was caught off guard to find myself falling under the spell of big, bad, bald Lex Luthor. (Lucky Lana Lang gets to kiss them BOTH!) Apparently I'm not the only one to fall for this penultimate bad boy with his mesmerizing mix of ambition, vulnerability and serious Daddy issues. In several online communities, he's known simply as "Sexy Lexy." And besides, what's not to love?

1) He's an evil genius
2) He's a multi-billionaire
3) He lives in a totally rad castle/mansion that screams for a woman's loving touch almost as badly as he does

4) He drives a bitchin' sports car
5) He looks wonderful in a smirk AND sweeping around in one those long, black leather "bad boy" dusters


Every year on the second weekend in June, my husband and I make our annual pilgrimage to Metropolis, Illinois for SUPERMAN DAY so you can imagine my delight (and my giddy girlish squeal) when I discovered that actor Michael Rosenbaum (SMALLVILLE's Lex Luthor himself!) would be one of the guests of honor this year.

As we waited in the autograph line for over an hour for our first sighting of him, I quickly discovered from the 3 giggling girls in front of me and the two somber-faced boys behind me that the girls were thrilled because it had been reported that he "had hair" while the boys were disappointed that he wasn't sporting his trademark "chrome dome."

I'm happy to report that he was absolutely delightful, funny, and incredibly good-natured, especially considering that they'd placed him outside under a tent in the 150 degree heat. (He also did some VERY nice things for a worn t-shirt and tight jeans.) My favorite moment came during the Q&A session when a girl stood up and asked him, "So is it a terrible burden to be so incredibly hot?" He laughed and said, "Well, it's hard to consider yourself hot when you have to get up and look at Tom Welling every morning. But every now and then, I think I might be a little cute."

They were trying to get so many people through the line that they weren't allowing pics WITH him, but my husband snapped the one below as I was gleefully skulking off with my autographed poster.


So do we have any other SMALLVILLE fans out there? And if so, does your heart beat faster for Clark or for Lex? Do you want to be saved by the ultimate hero or save the ultimate bad boy???

Teresa Medeiros, 7:19 AM | link | 67 comments |
67 comments

Thursday, June 15, 2006

KITTY INTERVIEWS JILL BARNETT

KITTY: Barnett, KIRKUS reviews, which notably did not review my memoir, BIG GUYS I HAVE KNOWN, listed your book, DAYS OF SUMMER, as one of the top ten summer reads. Why?

JILL: I have tried to figure this out, because the pick was by "the editors of Kirkus" and eventually, two months later, the reviewer just slammed me. Obviously she is not a beach kind of gal. I have heard "big beach read" from more than one publication. It was all over the newspapers here last weekend.

Since the advance copy didn't have the summery pearlescent shimmer cover, I have to believe it is the meaty story aspect. Without the old fashioned thousand pages, the story of DAYS covers plenty of time and drama without being a saga. Also, there is the fact that the characters are far from perfect and there are plenty of them and some controversial secrets, plus it is very, very fast paced.


KITTY: This is a big, sweeping, gossipy family dynasty, land-o-the-mega-wealthy type book, isn't it? Where'd you get hold of my diary? So, tell us a little about it.

JILL: Funny about your diary. Maybe if I had read it I could have produced the book earlier.

Actually it isn't that kind of book at all. It's not gossipy or sweeping, and there is some private wealth, but not the society. It is the West Coast, where things are separate and casual and not so clickish, especially in the beach communities.

I did make California a character because I lived through so much of what California was in the 50's, 70's and forward. It's in my bones and blood, those things none but we native baby boomers and those who came before know intimately about the state, most of which break a lot of outside misconceptions of Southern California. (Hollywood does not a state make.) This is the real California, the land where a place as magical as Disneyland was born, where the Beach Boys played at local dances, and a real-life Jules Verne kind of island where everyone knows everyone was only two hours by boat from the mainland.

For all of the time passing in THE DAYS OF SUMMER, thirty years, the scenes are very focused and the time periods we experience were chosen carefully. We don't see their whole lives, but only the characters' moments of change and highest drama.

And the characters are far from perfect. They make mistakes, but we understand why and how and perhaps understand ourselves and our own lives better because our choices are always easy in retrospect. Understanding that allows for us to forgive ourselves as the characters find their happiness and peace.

KITTY: You recently moved to the Great Northwest. Does this have anything to do with the reason you haven't had a book out in two years? I mean, has there been a mold problem or have you just been watching the slugs grow fat in your backyard?

What is your excuse then?

JILL: I just feed the slugs a dinner of salt. Cruel, me.

Ugh. I can't joke about the real reason. And I won't lie. The truth is I was emotionally devastated, overcome by a delayed reaction to tragedy and the biggest losses in my life.

I said goodbye to my husband one morning and took my daughter to school. Late that night, a policeman stood at my door and told me Chris was dead. I was so scared, so afraid to be sole support and to take on the whole responsibility to raise our daughter alone (she was 11) that I ran forward on sheer woman-power, mother-power.

And over the next few years, I lost everyone in my family except my sister and daughter, one after another, and each time I was the family anchor, the one planning the funerals and packing up and taking care of everything alone, because no one else could do it or was there to do it. I was quite numb with time.

For the coming years I did not stop to do anything but what was best for my daughter, and us together. Fear is quite a catalyst for me, always has been. Anyway, by the time she went off to college at 18, I guess subconsciously I let go, so naturally I had a delayed reaction to losing Chris and my dad and so many others who were my life. My grief woke me in the morning and I went to bed with it at night.

I couldn't write. I couldn't think. I couldn't love or feel. And I hid it from everyone, although two friends knew me better than that, and eventually they dragged me up by my hair, me kicking and screaming, and made me see I could go on and I could write, that I wasn't broken, just my writing process was. So with some time and practice and good friends at my back, I have my love of writing back and a whole new process of producing books. I write my books longhand and love it.

KITTY: I know everyone here at SQUAWK is sorry to hear about this and hope the writing of your books provides you with at least some small part of the great pleasure they do your readers. What are you working on now?

JILL: I'm well into the next book and absolutely loving it. I have *never* had a book come to me like this one has/is. Atria wants to bring it out late next fall sometime, which is good because it is not a summer book, but a winter story, and another family drama, set in San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, both places I lived and know well.

It's about a single family (all adults) broken apart and their journey back together again. There are two subplot love stories for two different generations. I have something to say about how our society treats its women of a certain age and about what that same society expects from its young men. Like Days it fast forwards through time so you really understand the makings of these characters and their relationships.

KITTY: You went from writing some of the most charming romances in the genre (and I don't throw that word "charming" around lightly) to generation spanning books. Was the transitition hard?

JILL: The desire wasn't difficult, but the execution was. And the charm of meeting a love is still very much a part of my books and always will be. I want the reader to fall in love, too.

When my publisher came to me to say they wanted to bring my books out in hardcover back in 1998, I was really struggling to write fairy-tale historical romances. I'd lost Chris and my dad and so many people I loved, and each book was getting harder and harder to write. I remember calling Susan Phillips one day and asking her, "How can I write these happy, joy-filled love stories when there is no joy in my heart.?"

Hardcover turned out to be my gift from God or Fate or Whatever Spirit. I felt and still do, that if someone is going to plunk down that much money, they should get a bigger story experience. By then I knew I wanted to write bigger books about the issues I was facing in my life. How do I find a sense of peace again? How do I find the grace to rise above all the crap that life dumps on you? How do I live down my own mistakes and bad choices? How do I forgive life? Those questions and the search for answer became my stories.

And I had to completely rethink how I write books. I whined and cried to my best friend that I wasn't good enough to write these stories, but I was just scared and searching for answers and knowing I was taking a huge risk with my career. Once I made the commitment, things eventually fell into place.

KITTY: Is there any other type of book you'd like to write? Any other genre you'd like to dip your talented little tootsies in?

JILL: God only knows, but probably not a mystery. Look for some first person in the future. I have so many stories in my head I just want to live long enough to write them.


KITTY: Okay-- time to play the Stupid Question Game.

1> Cole slaw or caesar salad?

JILL: Out? Cole Slaw. Home? My Ceasar.

KITTY: 2> You're driving your best friend's car. What's the make?

JILL: Cadillac & Chevy

KITTY: 3> What's better, five for a dollar or first one free?

JILL: The first one free and I only have to have one.

KITTY: 4> What brand of deodorant are you?

JILL: Baby powder.

KITTY: 5> How many drinks are you planning on buying Kitty Kuttlestone at RWA's conference?

JILL: As many as she can handle, and margaritas and cosmos for me.

Kitty Kuttlestone, 10:02 AM | link | 32 comments |
32 comments

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Jill Barnett talks: Heads Like White Elephants & ‘Size’ Matters

(Forgive the title, Hemingway is one of my favorite writers.) Okay, so I went to some earlier blogs to give me an idea on SR blogging, since Christina sent me a list of rules and I’ve lived much of my life being a good girl and obeying rules. Until I was in publishing for a while and learned that following rules doesn’t get you anywhere. Too, when I reached a certain age, I decided I needed to bend some more rules.

So Squawk Radio seems the perfect forum to be less tactful than normal. After all, I get to have a chicken body, something far from normal, right? Here goes… Jill Barnett, ex-good girl, is being non-PC.

Did you see the photo below on Eloisa’s NYC blog? The first thing that struck me was the size of Fabio’s head. Now let me clarify that I’ve met the gorgeous and lithe Eloisa and can confirm she is Charlize-Theron-tall, gracious, and her head is a perfect size, very normal. Now scroll down and look at Fabio. His head is huge. (I can still remember childbirth…his poor mother!)

Lord knows he can’t change the size of his head, and I have nothing against the man. (I use that spray butter every summer on corn on the cob.) He’s probably responsible for much of my royalties on JUST A KISS AWAY, where he posed for the original cover with black hair and an eye patch.

In fact, I would guess he has signed more copies of that book than I have. I can still remember the Johanna Lindsay cover years ago that made me doubletake. A medieval knight in tights. Long hair. Great muscular thighs, and incredible facial bone structure.

He photographs spectacularly, and that got me thinking again. Years ago I saw an interview when Merv Griffin said he hired Vanna White for Wheel of Fortune because she had a big head and he knew the camera would love her. In that one sentence was the truth I had missed all these years: why I cannot take a decent photo. My ancestors gave me ‘the small head gene.’

I grew up in LA and often saw stars in person. They are so much tinier than they look…except for their heads. For stars to get big screen roles, they must be unrealistically thin. So nowadays they are even smaller with Hollywood and NY’s obsession for a size zero body. Just when and who invented a size zero? Isn’t zero nothing?

A while back I went on strike against the Neiman Marcus catalog (stopped spending a fortune there) for two reasons: one because they put terribly expensive clothes on twelve year old models. If the clothes fit a twelve year old, the clothes will not fit me. I have boobs, hips, and my grandmother’s German butcheress arms, but those arms are a whole different topic and IMO proof God is a man.

Reason number two for my strike was because suddenly out of the blue a size XL_the biggest size they offer in designer clothes_is now a size 10-12. I am a size 14. Women’s sizes do not fit me (too short and too roomy) and regular sizes don’t recognize that I exist. I am caught in a hinterland.

I had people laughing the other night because I told a story about going into the Gap in to get another pair of my favorite jeans: low rise flares, size 14. Only a few months since I’d bought the jeans I was wearing. That day I tried on three pairs of the new season’s same style jeans in the same size. They were all too tight. Those stinkers had changed the sizing again.

The poor salesperson, a young man, stupidly asked if I wanted a size 16. I walked out and handed him all three pairs and said, “No way. These jeans I’m wearing are a size 14. If your new size 14 doesn’t fit now, you’re not getting a dime of my money.”

So let’s talk about frustrating heredity, (my curly hair, which actually makes my head look bigger) Fabio’s poor mother, Hollywood & those NY designers, frustration with sizing, and what you would like to go on strike against.
Christina Dodd, 10:40 AM | link | 56 comments |
56 comments

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Xtina Dodd gives you Jill Barnett!

I met Jill Barnett more than ten years ago at an RWA conference in New York City. At the time her book, BEWITCHING, possibly one of the funniest, sweetest books in history, had taken the genre by storm. Jill and I bonded — okay, I hung around her because she was cool — and we hung around so much we ended up changing clothes in each others’ rooms. Thus, when I asked her for a quote, she suggested, “Christina Dodd — I’ve seen her naked.” We didn’t use that one, but Jill’s wicked sense of humor led her to define a new genre — frothy historicals.

Then, in amazing tour de force that has come to define Jill’s talent, her first hardcover was a ground-breaking novel set in World War II called SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY. It was a shock to discover that Jill, who I’d thought was shallow (like me), had hidden depths and a heart-breaking way of telling a story.

Now she’s back with THE DAYS OF SUMMER. When I worked at the bookstore, this is the kind of book we sold people when they came in and announced they were going on vacation. It starts with a horrific crime, follows an engrossing mystery, and the fascinating characters fall in love, suffer tragedy, die, change, grow. Kirkus named DAYS OF SUMMER one of its Top Ten Summer Beach Reads.

Welcome Jill Barnett!
Christina Dodd, 9:56 PM | link | 18 comments |
18 comments
Xtina Dodd asks WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?

Have you ever watched the funniest sit-com on television and thought, “Huh?”

Me, too — but I’m talking about Seinfeld. Which one are you talking about?


Have you ever quoted one of your favorite movies and had the person you’re with stare at you like you’ve spouted horns? “WHAT is your favorite color?” isn’t funny unless you’ve seen the film.

You know how couples have one movie that mean a lot to them? Something romantic? Something meaningful? Something which colors the whole relationship forever? For my husband and I, it’s BLAZING SADDLES, the sublimely stupid, slightly incoherent classic cowboy movie spoof. Hey, it’s a ground-breaking movie!



Okay, it’s a ground-breaking movie because it contains the first fart heard in cinema (“The Fart Heard ‘Round the World”), but what can I say? We think it’s funny. We think Mel Brooks is funny. Not always — he’s done some wretched movies, but YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and THE PRODUCERS (the original movie made in 1968 and the recent musical) are sublime.

We have friends who think Mel Brooks is so stupid, they went to see BLAZING SADDLES twice — once on their own and once, forgetting they’d seen it, on our recommendation. They, um, thought the movie was crude. And they think Mel Brooks is insulting. To, um, black people and white people and brown people and old women and cowboys and the Irish and Nazis and Jews and women with large breasts and men with large penises and the KKK and gays and bad musicals and — Methodists! That’s sort of the point, and they knew that, but they were offended anyway — because his movies don’t make them laugh.

Okay.

Then there’s MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, which we adore. (“WHAT is your favorite color?”) In my family, cutting yourself with a kitchen knife involves saying, “It’s only a flesh wound,” right before crumpling to the floor in a dead faint. But I do know there are people who don’t think see the humor in the knights who only pretend to be riding while their squire runs behind them making the hoof noises with coconut shells.



What doesn’t make us laugh? My husband and I rented RAISING ARIZONA and watched about half of it in profound silence before turning to each other and saying, “This isn’t funny. These are our relatives.” I told that to another friend who said, “They’re my relatives, too. That’s why it’s so funny!” We were uncomfortable. She was amused.



She thinks the Coen Brothers are wonderful. A fight between two knights where one gets his arms and legs chopped off with cheesy special effects makes me laugh. Someone putting a body through a log chipper does not.

Humor is not universal. There’s no explaining what works for one person and what doesn’t for another. There’s no changing it. If you don’t like the “right” kind of comedy, people with high opinions of themselves will try to tell you you’re wrong. If you laugh at fart jokes, people will make fun of you. If you think black comedies are depressing, people will try to educate you as to why you should think they’re funny. I know. It’s happened to me.

And I insist on enjoying the movies I think are funny, and I’m not going to defend myself for laughing at that scene in THE NAKED GUN where Frank sings the national anthem before a baseball game, and he’s off-tune and forgets the words. Oo, and remember the scene where the bad guy gets knocked off the bleachers, flattened by a steam roller, and the high school band marches over him playing, “Louie, Louie?” Hysterical!

Come to think of it, watching comedy like reading romances or eating Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup. You’ve got two choices — you can defend your choices, or you can ignore the bastards and enjoy yourself.

So what makes you laugh? What doesn’t? What’s your favorite funny movie? Which one did you just not get?

And please, everyone, don’t try to explain why Seinfeld is funny — I’ve heard it all before.

Teresa, I’m talking to you.
Christina Dodd, 9:25 AM | link | 123 comments |
123 comments

Monday, June 12, 2006

ELOISA MEETS FABIO! (AND GREG VAUGHN FROM GENERAL HOSPITAL TOO)

Last week I had the true pleasure of being a celebrity judge for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter's campaign to find a new "King of Romance" to replace Fabio in their commercials. The event took place in Madison Square Park, in New York City -- in the pouring rain -- and it was so much fun! So here's a kind of photo journal of my part in the show, except that I can't post a pic of me with Greg Vaughn (the new King of Romance!), as that was taken by a professional photographer. I'll post it whenever it comes my way. This first photo is me on my way to the event because I wanted to PROVE that there was a moment when my hair was not frizzed by the pouring rain.

Now Fabio had none of these frizzing hair problems. I have to tell you that I was unprepared for Fabio as Fabio. He is really sexy, intelligent and handsome in person. And his hair! Not a frizzy strand in the bunch. One of the other judges was the associate editor for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. There's a woman who knows hair product (given as she has to control the unruly locks of women lounging around the Caribbean in all that heat). She and I agreed that Fabio had excellent hair control.

I don't have any pictures of the actual event (i.e., when the soap opera "hunks" were doing their performances) because, well, I was a judge and I thought it would look unprofessional to squeal and shoot pictures. But I can tell you that all the men were gorgeous and witty. Ricky was definitely the most funny, but Greg had a certain winsome charm that won over the judges.

All in all it was a lot of fun. So here's my question. If you could be a celebrity judge for any national contest, which one would you choose? A reality show? Miss America? The Emmy's?

Eloisa James, 9:09 AM | link | 39 comments |
39 comments

Sunday, June 11, 2006

ELOISA SUBS FOR LIZ'S MUSIC BLOG



I'd be the first to confess that I am not the person to substitute for Liz. I hardly ever listen to music. It's not that I don't love it, because I do. But I have no time, or at least that's how it feels. I keep tellng myself to get a boom box in the kitchen, because that way I could get Mozartified while making pasta, which would undoubtly be great for a stressed-out evening. Sadly, I only actually sit in the livingroom when I'm reading aloud to a child (no music) or when we have people over for dinner.

So this music blog is about Music for Dinner Parties. I discovered Madeleine Peyroux about a year ago -- through this blog! Some conversation started on the blog about Leonard Cohen (another dinner party favorite), and one wonderful reader mentioned that Madeleine Peyroux had done a great cover of Leonard's songs. I rushed over to Amazon and bought this CD, which has become one of my favorites.

Now I'm going to make a feeble attempt to describe Madeleine's music the way Liz does her CDs on Sundays: well, she has a smokey voice. Sexy. You play this CD when guests are over and you feel as if they will think that you are cosmopolitan and you really know music. Since she only has two CDs, you can say carelessly, when asked: "Oh, she's something of a cult favorite." She reminds me of Norah's music, but sexier and more evening-ish.

In short, this is the perfect dinner party music! Last night I played this and then followed it up with my CD of Leonard Cohen's best and I felt like the experienced, music-wise person that I'm not.

Anyone else have a dinner party favorite I should give a spin?
Eloisa James, 8:05 AM | link | 33 comments |
33 comments

Saturday, June 10, 2006

SATURDAY BOOK BLOG

Xtina Dodd Talks GHOST HUNTER



GHOST HUNTER is the newest book from Jayne Castle, the futuristic alter-ego of author Jayne Ann Krentz (in contemporaries) and Amanda Quick (in historicals.) Two hundred years ago, earth colonists reached the planet of Harmony and have isolated ever since. They’ve built a culture like Earth’s, yet distinctly different, for beneath their cities are mysterious catacombs built by a long vanished culture filled with energy ghosts and traps. Luckily, humans have developed, and continue to develop, psychic powers to help battle the elements.

GHOST HUNTER is the sixth full-length book in the series (if I’m counting right) and my favorite. But I knew it would be — it features a heroine who escapes a marriage of convenience with a big, tough Guild boss (think the Mafia, but no bumping off) because she discovers he’s marrying her to further his career.

Of course, he comes after her. Heh, heh.

This is one of my favorite plots. I love the righteously angry heroine pitted against the dark, quiet, dangerous guy, and I love it more when they’re flung into danger and have to rely on each other for survival.

Elly is a former academician who after she breaks her engagement to Cooper, flees to the big city and opens an herbal shop. She makes new friends, lots of them, learns to dress, and collects a small, sweet, fuzzy pet with enormous teeth called a dust bunny. This woman can survive and thrive on her own — yet she remains desperately in love with Cooper.

When Cooper shows up (his secret plan was to give her six months to get over her little fit of rebellion and bring her home — I can always depend on Jayne Castle for good, solid alpha heroes), Elly has a job for him — one of her friends is missing in the catacombs and she wants to find her. It’s not the welcome that Cooper expects, and flings them into a world full of killer drugs wielded by a serial killer.

GHOST HUNTER is gobs of fun, full of adventure, but the center of any Jayne Castle novel is the romance, and the romance between bubbly Elly and intense Cooper made me … well, let me think how to say this … I was rooting for them to hit the sheets. Although I can’t remember if there were ever any sheets involved, but there was this scene in the car … no, no, I’m not saying anymore.

So I wrote Jayne and asked if she would come over to talk to us, and she wrote this about her futuristic career — “My whole career as a futuristic/paranormal writer has been kind of weird. The very first manuscript I ever wrote was a futuristic romance, although there was no name for it at the time. There was, of course, absolutely no market, either, and it never sold. Later, after I'd established my Krentz name, I managed to convince an editor to publish three of my futuristics: SWEET STARFIRE, CRYSTAL FLAME and SHIELD'S LADY. There was still no market! In fact, those books nearly sank my career. Folks stood in lines around the block NOT to buy them.

But those books led me to my Amanda Quick career so all was not lost. The reason they led me to an historical career was because it finally dawned on me that there are a lot of parallels between historicals and futuristics, mostly in terms of the kinds of relationships between the sexes that you can do in both sub-genres. For instance, if you take a close look at GHOST HUNTER you will see that it is really the classic "runaway bride" story. Or, in this case, the "runaway fiancée."

And, of course, you get to do cute animals in futuristics!”

So let’s talk about Jayne’s interesting career path, and who reads futuristics, why and why not, and how many people (besides me) loved SWEET STARFIRE, CRYSTAL FLAME and SHIELD'S LADY.

And let’s not forget that GHOST HUNTER debuted at #12 on the New York Times! Congratulations, Jayne!
Christina Dodd, 9:55 AM | link | 31 comments |
31 comments