Friday, March 31, 2006


You may remember a while back I posted about two bonsai trees I bought; one for my son and the other for my daughter.
My son immediatly painted a backdrop for the bonsai tree, so it wouldn't feel lonely or out of place, and he painted one for my daughter's tree too. My daughter put her bonsai in her bedroom, and also found a painted fan she got in a Korean shop in New Jersey, and a Chinese calendar we got at our local Chinese take-out store. My daughter's tree grew and grew!
Now it looks like it has two huge bunny ears or antennae. My daughter refuses to trim her tree, claiming it's Happy.
(It looks estatic - you have to admit.)
My son's tree is much more sedate
(I put the two together for comparison - my son trims his tree, waters it, and keeps it from drafts.)
But I love my daughter's exhuberant tree. It's no longer bonzai, it's bonanza!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What happened to writing this week?

What happened to writing this week?
Monday I sat down at the computer and started to work on my WIP when the phone rang. It was France Gallop, one of my clients. They needed a drawing for a kid's frame to color. I said 'Fine, when do you need it?' and they said 'Today.'
So I spent the day working on a drawing and getting it approved by the powers that be at France Gallop, and after five p.m. we settled on a version everyone liked, and I made dinner.
Tuesday I have a two hour gym class I love, so I didn't get home until after noon, and then I had to go shopping because on Monday all the stores are closed in France. I did manage to squeeze in an hour of writing before my daughter called from school. Could I come pick her up? One of her teachers was sick and they didn't have class. And could I drive her friend Pauline home too?
Wednesday was today, and this morning I came downstairs to find my son had taken over the computer (in France kids don't go to school on Wednesday.) My daughter had sculpture class, and I gave English lessons to two children, and then a friend dropped by with her dog and kids in tow - shall we go for a walk? And the weather was gorgeous so I said yes.
Tomorrow is Thursday, and the electric company is cutting off our electricity from 8 a.m. until noon. And then the mason is coming to look at a wall which is collapsing in my laundry room. I also have a neighbor's daughter coming for an English lesson. She has a test she wants me to help her study for. Tomorrow I don't think I'll get much done. Plus I have gym, and I really love my gym class.
Friday I have to drive my hubby to the airport. He's going to St. Tropez for the weekend - yes, being a polo pro is a hard life, lol. I get to stay home...But that means Saturday and Sunday I may have time to write!

Monday, March 27, 2006

As Easy as Apple Pie

There is nothing as easy to make as a French apple tart. I made one tonight, so I thought I'd do a photo cooking lesson. Okay - everyone ready? You need:
A couple apples, a half a cup of sugar, some cinnamon, lemon to keep the apple slices from turning brown, a tablespoon of butter, and a ready-to-back puff pie pastry.

First step:
Lay the pastry in the dish and slice the apples. Toss them artistically into the pie dish.

Step two:

Cut a one tablespoon of butter over apples. Add 1/2 cup sugar (sprinkle over the top) and a dash of cinnamon.

Step three:

Bake in a 175 C° oven for about 45 minutes.

Let cool a little bit, then enjoy!!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Really Sappy Shows (we love them!)

My daughter and I are watching sappy shows and we love them. Ann of Green Gables was on for three Sundays in a row (the whole series) and my daughter and I sat and watched the whole thing. Today there is another sappy show about a widow and a cowboy, and of course, we are hanging on every word.

It's raining out. The sky is gray. There is nothing to do but watch sappy TV shows and drink green tea.

What are the sappy shows you love the best?

Link for the day:A Woman of no importance

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Self Doubt and why it's Good for writers

I read an interesting article about Patrick Viera this morning that got me thinking. Patrick is a football player (soccer to us Yanks) who has been playing since about 1996 with a top rate club in England, Arsenal. His coach wrote a book about him enetitled 'Viera'. I didn't read the book, but part of it is excerpted in the Guardian. Anyhow, his captain says this about him:

"The trophies Patrick won with France obviously gave him a lot of confidence. But he's a guy who always has self-doubts. I like the type of self-doubt he has because it produces some very positive questioning. It's not the sort that paralyses you during a game, instead it leads to a process of reflection which makes you self-critical. Patrick always analysed his performance with great lucidity."

That struck a chord with me, because so many writers doubt themselves. They are terribly insecure about their writing. I think it's important to take that self doubt and turn it into something positive. Instead of becoming insecure, a writer should try to become self critical and instead of letting the doubt paralyse you (I do this sometimes, I think 'this isn't right, I can't go on!') You should try, instead, to turn it into a constructive questioning session between you and your book.

Me: "Why am I stuck at this point?"
Book: "Either you have a problem with the character, or you're just being lazy. Try writing three more pages and see how that goes."
Me: "The character can't do what I need him to do.
Book: "Go back and make sure you've given him the ability. Maybe you left something out! Check!"
Me: "The plot is getting too complex, I'll never be able to keep all the thread untangled."
Book: "Either make an outline now and take care of all the plot lines, or get rid of the ones that don't forward the story. Is that plot about the race track helping or hindering? Look carefully and remember, 'when in doubt, leave it out!'"

So don't let doubt paralyse you. Try talking to the book and even with the characters (Jaci is a great one for doing this, lol) And listen to what they say!
Self doubt can be very positive if you ask the right questions!

OK - and now for somethign completely different......

The link of the day
Guerrilla Gardening
Check it out!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Saint Abdul of Afghanistan

In Afghanistan there is a man being tried for converting to Christianity from Islam. According to the lawmakers, it's against the sharia law (law of Islam) - since some interpret the Koran as saying that if you turn from Islam you have to be killed.

A few hundred years ago, it was illegal to worship only one god, and the Romans had a field day tossing Christians to the lions for sporting and entertainment. Many of these martyrs went on to become saints (St. Blandine, St. Polycarpe, St. Pothin, and St. Irénée the martyrs of Lyons, for example)

Poor Abdul Rahman propbably won't feel comforted by this fact. But it would be interesting to see how long it will take the Catholic church to declare him a martyr, then possibly give him sainthood.
Saint Abdul of Afghanistan, the century's first official Christian martyr.

It wouldn't be quite so galling if Afghanistan wasn't a country that the US had freed and set up the government for. It seems that if the US had wanted this, they could have spared themselves a lot of trouble and bombs and just left Afghanistan to the taliban.

On a brighter note, it seems things are looking up in Iraq.
And if you believe that, go read
Riverbend's blog and weep. Bahgdad Burning

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I'm in the middle of a chapter and thought I'd take time out to do my Thursday Thirteen list.
Here is is:
Thirteen things about myself that I hate.
1) I can procrastinate for days.
2) I hate making decisions about money.
3) I can't stand my stomach
4) I really hate my singing voice. It scares crows.
5) I hate my habit of interrupting people
6) I can't tell my left from my right
7) I can't do math. Numbers make my heart race.
8) I can't say 'no' to chocolate.
9) I can't tell a joke - even the easiest ones fall flat when I tell them.
10)I'm incapable of balancing my monthly budget
11)I can't say no to kids and gypsies selling stuff door to door.
12)I bite my fingernails
13)I clench my jaw at night so hard I have to wear a teeth guard.

Thirteen things about myself I actually like:
1) My freckles
2) My sense of humor
3) My family (well, most of them, lol.)
4) I like to play games
5) I'm basically friendly
6) I'm a sucker for a stray dog or cat
7) I can write with both hands at once, and write backwards and forwards.
8) I can do a handstand
9) I make pretty bouquets with flowers
10)I'm a decent rider
11)I can get along with prickly people
12)I can concentrate and finish any project
13)I have a hell of an imagination

Happy Thursday Thirteen!
Since I'm technically challanged, (I forgot to put that in the hate list) Just add your blog in the comments list - thanks!!

Welcome spring!

The first day of spring was two days ago, but it wasn't until today that it started to be 'spring'. It snowed, hailed, and sleet fell yesterday, so when the sun came up in a clear blue sky this morning it felt really good!

Here is a very depressing article by Richard Curtis - it should be required reading for any aspiring author, and readers should take a look at it too. It explains a lot. (Especially why I can't find my favorite authors or haven't been able to discover a really good author lately.)

Richard Curtis

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Hullabaloo

I was supposed to be writing today. My next book is coming along beautifully and I'm having such fun writing it. All right - I have fun writing all my books, but this is laugh-out-loud fun, and I really wanted to keep at it.
But life gets in the way. (As usual)
So I have fifteen minutes to play on the computer, so I'll write a blog post. About something. (Waiting for inspiration...)
About...Fat heroes!
Yes, fat heroes. Regularly in the Romance Writing Blogworld there is a big Hullabaloo about 'Why are there no fat heroines?!' Well, I can't answer that. I never really thought about it. I don't like (and we went into this before) I don't like too much description because I like to imagine my own hero and heroine. I don't need her measurements, clothing size, or weight. A good author should be able to show not tell how the characters look. And I don't care if the heroine is fat, thin, or dyslexic, as long as I can IDENTIFY with her and find her SYMPATHETIC. I'll be more inclined to do so if she's dyslexic, can't do math, and gets lost the second she leaves her house. Now there's someone I can identify with. And if she loses her car in the parking lot, I love her already.
Anyhow - back to the hullabaloo. Three or four times a year someone starts whining about fat heroines and the lack of or dearth of or whatever...I say, what about the fat hero?? There is something very depressing about the readers squealing they want fat heroines and hunky, slim, athletic heroes. Why do men get to stay fit? Can't they be chubby? Can't they have a fat tummy too? WHY DOES THE HERO HAVE TO BE PERFECT? It does not make sense to this reader.
The fuss says 'we want imperfect heroines (real life people - I like that) but the fuss never spreads to the hero, who stays firmly rooted in the fictional fantasy of the prince on the white horse.
Hello! Why can't the fat heroine have a fat hero? Why can't the slim heroine have a fat hero? (If he's rich and drives a fancy car, this is very realistic. He can even be twice her age and a Scientologist to boot...)
Anyhow, think about it. It could be an interesting story. Really.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

YOU be the agent

The idea was terrific. Firebrand Agent Nadia Cornier decided to play a game on her blog called 'You be the agent', and posted query letters she invented/cobbled together, and invited everyone to 'be the agent'. We had to
A. Reject
B. Request Partial
C. Reject with a request to see future projects

Well, I played along quite happily. Nadia posted three queries, and I made two requests for partials and one rejection.

After reading Nadia's last entry I noticed I rejected the agent's own work, lol. She dug out a story she'd written a while back and made a query to go with it.
I did request an existing YA book, so I was happy about that. I also requested a book from a query letter full of typos and mistakes - but that's because I was caught up in the idea of the book, lol. Nadia says she'd have requested partials from all three queries and then goes on to explain why - which is terrific for us writers agonizing over query letters.

Here's the blog:
Agent Obscura


Friday, March 17, 2006

Away in a manger...

If Jesus was born in Israel today, and Mary didn't have enough shekels to pay the hospital...(after being turned away from two other hospitals)what would happen? Apparently, he would be held hostage.

This from the Guardian today:

"Israel's justice ministry is deciding whether to prosecute a Jerusalem hospital that held a new-born baby for two months as collateral because its mother was unable to pay her bill.
The ministry intervened last week to force the Moqassed hospital in East Jerusalem to give the infant to its mother and is examining whether to charge it with false imprisonment.

The mother, who is an Arab but has not been named, gave birth to triplets prematurely in January. As the children's father is a Palestinian resident of the West Bank, the hospital demanded payment of 10,000 shekels (£1,250) because it said it was not certain of recovering the costs of treating the babies from Israel's national insurance fund even though their mother is a legal resident of Jerusalem.

When the woman said she was unable to pay, the hospital said it would keep one of the three children, a girl, as a "guarantee" until the money was found.

Earlier this month the parents went to the justice ministry. The head of its legal aid office, Eyal Globus, said he investigated their claim and found it to be correct.

"It turned out that things were exactly as the mother said they were; the third baby was being held," he told Haaretz newspaper. "This is not the first time that the hospital has kept babies as hostages for payment of debts."

The ministry ordered the release of the baby and said it would ensure the insurance fund reimbursed the hospital. The hospital declined to comment.

The woman's family told Haaretz that she was turned away from two other Israeli hospitals because she was unable to pay a deposit of about £40,000 before being admitted."

(Does this story sort of remind you of something that happened in a manger once? Anyway, now we know what would happen if Jesus was born today - he'd still be in the hospital until Mary could cough up the shekels. Or maybe the three kings would foot the bill?)

Note: this story has a happy ending since the ministry is paying the insurance and reimbursing the hospital. But I had the same problem when my twins were born prematurely in the US, and there was never any question about the hospital keeping one of the twins hostages until we cold pay off the bill, which came to nearly a quarter of a million dollars, BTW.

Moral of the story:
Is there a moral here? Can you think of one?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thursday Thirteen Fours

1) Four jobs you have had in your life:
1. Salesgirl
2. Inventory checker (have no idea what my job title was - I had to do inventory for a department store one year)
3. waitress (this job lasted exactly 3 days, so I'm not sure it counts. I was also a hawker for a pizza restaurant - I stood on the street with a tee-shirt that said 'had a piece lately?' and yelled 'get a piece of pizza!'- this lasted until the navy came in.)
4. model

2) Four movies you would watch over and over:
1. Willow
2. Lord of the Rings
3. Ladyhawk
4. Harry Potter III

3) Four places you have lived:
1. New York
2. St. Thomas
3. Paris
4. Palm Beach

4) Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. Lost
2. The Experts
3. Camelot (a French comedy skit)
4. Buffy

5) Four places you have been on vacation:
1. St. Tropez
2. Megève
3. Palm Beach
4. (my life is basically one big vacation so I feel like I'm cheating here, lol)

6) Four websites you visit daily:
1. New York Times
2. The Guardian
3. Agent Obscura
4. Blogs - pick a blog, any blog...

7) Four of your favorite foods:
1. Steak
2. Chocolate
3. Chocolate
4. Chocolate

8) Four places you would rather be right now:
1. Someplace Warm
2. Someplace Sunny
3. Someplace warm and sunny
4. Probably Australia

9),10),11),12),& 13) Four friends you are tagging that you think will respond:
1. Andrea
2. Jim
3. Wynne
4. Virenda

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cold Snap

The cold returned with a vengence this week, putting frost on the windows and turning the grass white and sparkly in the morning.
I've been hard at work starting another book. I'm about 10,000 words in and starting to get an idea of where it's going. (I have the beginning and the end...I just have to find the middle. It will appear. I'm 'pantsing' this one, which means no outline...Unless I get bogged down in which case I will make one.
Note to self - outlines will prop up a sagging middle. Does that make them the girdles of writing?

I also started a daily photo blog - combining my love of photography with my love of procrastination - I think I've found my calling.
I'll go down in the record books as the author with the most websites.
So go here and see what life is like in a twelfth century French village.

Montchauvet Daily Blog

Or go here and see how well I can procrastinate (and sign up as one of my Friends, lol)
My Space

Now I'm off to haunt the Washington Post's discussion groups. (I'm elevating Procrastination to an art form...)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mr. Perfect

The other day my husband was in a bad mood (don't ask me why - I think it was because hunting season is over and he had to put his bows and arrows away.) It made him crabby - so my son went around all day calling him "Mr. Grumpy". And that made me laugh. My husband is rarely grumpy, so when he's in a bad mood, everyone picks up on it. And because he has such a terrific sense of humor, we all feel comfortable teasing him about it. He's been my husband for over twenty years now. We met in 1979 when I was 18, and somehow, I just knew I'd met the man I'd marry. He felt the same way - telling his friends even before we'd met - "Wow - did you see that girl?" I fell for his shy smile and mischievous eyes. He says he admired my intelligence and my 'Cough - cough' OK - you didn't fall for that either? Well, I think it was my legs and 'bosom' as my great-gradmother would delicately put it. Well, it's true that the physique is the first thing one notices about someone elses unless you're blind, in which case it might be the voice or handshake. In my case, I thought he was too skinny but cute, not handsome but nice-looking, and he had these incredible twinkly eyes. He was playing polo when I saw him and the next weekend when I went back to watch a match - he was sitting on the sidelines with a huge cast. He'd shattered his elbow. I asked him how it was, and he told me (in very broken English) that it really "urt", but it would be all right in a month or so. So I sat next to him (he made sure that chair was empty) and we talked. We couldn't talk very much, because I spoke no French and his English was atrocious. He spoke Spanish fluently, but my Spanish was limited to "El Radio de Noche Puerto Rico!" the only station I could get in St. Thomas, where I'd grown up. So we sort of talked and he asked me on a dinner date. I took my sister with me on all our dates. He told me later he was desperate to ditch the chaperone, lol. Finally, after two months of dating, he invited me on a weekend to Deauville, where he'd started to play polo again. I took a friend with me, but this time he managed to ditch the chaperone...and we've been together ever since.
Why is he the perfect man for me? Because he's patient, he's funny, he's fun to be around, and he's got gorgeous eyes. He's an eternal optimist - when our babies were born prematurely and the doctors said they only had a 25% chance to survive, he Never doubted they would be fine. He has faith. He's not religious, but he has strong moral values. He's not a finacial wizard, but he does his best. He's had polo accidents and broken his arm, hand, hip, nose, and wrist - but he managed to become the best polo player in France, playing off an 8 handicap. He never cheated at the game, like so many others, or stooped to using the dirty tricks some players use. Even the best players admire him for his fair play. That's part of being perfect. His reputation is pure gold, as is his heart. He can't pass a stray dog on the street without stopping to pick him up, and he's adopted lost kittens (even though he claims to hate cats) and even a wounded bunny...
He thinks the sun rises and sets on his wife and children, and we pretty much feel the same for him. So how can I not love him? He's perfect.

Ann tagged me for this - so I'm going to be romantic and tag all you gals who have the 'perfect' man. Go for it!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Polly Gimme

I read an editorial in the NY Times that pondered the legalization of polygamy.
After reading this, and trying to keep an open mind, I started to laugh.
Why? Well, think of it this way. If it's legal for a man to have several wives, it will have to be legal for a woman to have several husbands.

I'm starting to like the idea more and more.
And because of that...It will never become legal.
Oh...Did you guys forget something? You can't pass a law that affects only one sex, which brings me to my next VIP (very Important Point) Freedom of choice. You American women better get your voices heard, or you'll be living in a country where abortion is illegal, and polygamy a fact of life...For men only.

Who's Afraid of Polygamy?
Published: March 11, 2006 the New York Times

If gay marriage becomes legal, its opponents have been warning, the next step in America's moral deterioration will be legalized polygamy. These conservatives won't be happy with "Big Love," the HBO series starting tomorrow night.
This story of a husband with three wives in Utah will not terrify Americans. Polygamy doesn't come off as a barbaric threat to the country's moral fabric. It looks more like what it really is: an arrangement that can make sense for some people in some circumstances, but not one that could ever be a dangerous trend in America.

After watching the husband on the show struggle to pay for three households and watching his three wives struggle for his attention, the question that comes to mind is not how to keep polygamy illegal. The question is why we bother to ban something that takes so much work these days.

When polygamy was outlawed in the 19th century, the Supreme Court upheld the ban by citing the "evil consequences" of a practice that "has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe." It dismissed polygamy as "a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people," as if that were reason enough to damn it.

Yet an institution that has been around for so long must have had something going for it. Humans aren't as inclined to polygamy as some apes are — we probably evolved as hunter-gatherers who mostly had one mate at a time — but some form of polygamy has existed in the vast majority of cultures.

Some opponents of polygamy call it the exploitation of women by rich men, and that's true if the wives are coerced into the marriages. But many wives have willingly chosen it, like the three women on "Big Love," who have married a successful businessman.

These three wives, who live in adjacent houses, sound much like the women in polygamous marriages I've talked to in rural Africa. The African wives told me they had mixed feelings about the arrangement — and their fellow wives — but over all, they figured it was better to share one prosperous husband than to marry someone else without land, cows or a job.

That's the way social scientists figure it, too. Polygamy isn't the cause of women's low status in traditional societies, but rather a consequence of their trying to move up. The biggest losers from polygamy are the poorer men who end up with no wives. Women benefit because polygamy increases their number of marriage prospects — and in traditional societies, marriage is often the only way for a woman to improve her status.

Even in those societies, polygamy is practiced by just a small minority because few men have enough resources to entice more than one wife. As a society modernizes and women become educated, they gain other economic options and become less and less willing to share a husband. Eventually polygamy is out of question for practically everyone, men and women. At that point, the monogamous majority can safely proclaim its moral superiority and outlaw the practice for everyone else.

Critics say children would be better off growing up in a home with a full-time father, but a part-time one is better than what's in many homes today. The father in "Big Love" is more like Ward Cleaver than today's alpha males who've dumped a series of wives and families.

Polygamy isn't necessarily worse than the current American alternative: serial monogamy.

Elizabeth Joseph, a lawyer and journalist who was married to a polygamist in Utah, says her experience handling divorce cases made her appreciate the stability of her marriage. She also appreciated other perks, like the round-the-clock day care that enabled her to keep an unpredictable schedule at work and to relax when she came home.

"If I'm dog-tired and stressed out, I can be alone and guilt-free," she explained in a speech to the National Organization for Women. "It's a rare day when all eight of my husband's wives are tired and stressed at the same time." She told the NOW audience that polygamy "offers an independent women a real chance to have it all" and represented "the ultimate feminist lifestyle."

She won't persuade many American women, feminists or otherwise. But if a few consenting adults like her still want to practice polygamy, there's no reason to stop them. And if the specter of legalized polygamy is the best argument against gay marriage, let the wedding bells ring.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Well, yesterday was busy. I went to gym, went shopping for groceries, had lunch with a pal at a sushi restaurant (Love sushi - Luckily - you'll see why) Got home, took a jog with son and dogs, then I checked my e-mail and found a letter from agent Caren (sounds vaguely F.B.I.-ish doesn't it?) asking me for some new revisions on chapter One. Seems she preferred my original beginning instead of what she'd suggested. I took her ideas and incorporated it into my original beginning now it absolutely rocks. Two heads Are better than one. And Caren has some good suggestions. (I love talented people.)
Then time for dinner party - I got dressed up and went to friends' house. On the table was a huge sushi platter! Yummmmm!
Guests nationalities: Three French, one British, one Argentine, one Malgash (from Madagascar) one German, one American (me). We had Cosmos for starters and lots of red wine. Then I was up at 6 a.m. this morning trying to teach our new puppy not to bark and wake everyone up. Rusty, our older dog, was looking on with a pained expression as I stormed downstairs to swat Auguste on the rear. Rusty never barks and thinks Auguste is an aberration. Not to mention a pain in the butt.
Right now they are both snoozing in the same doggy bed (they are so cute when they sleep - just what I used to think about my kids...)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Just started a new book two days ago. On chapter four. Having fun. Decided not to use personal pronouns anymore.

Just kidding.
Actually, I was sitting at my desk happily writing, when my husband came in the room, cup of coffee and plate of toast in hand, looking for tape.
Why do men never know where the tape it? Or the batteries, or the new package of toilet paper? I'm not the perfect house-keeper, but my brain, for some reason, keeps track of all these little things. I can be immersed in a new story and can still tell you where everything is.

"Tape is in the basket by the toaster. Batteries are in the drawer under the toaster in the kitchen...Where they always are."

"Oh, right. Thanks."

The tape is quite visible for anyone in the kitchen using either the toaster of the coffee maker (hubby makes his own toast and coffee in the morning) So he saw the tape at least three times before asking where it could be. The batteries never move. They've been in the same place for five years now.
I'm trying to form a hypothesis about men's brains and looking for house-hold items. I will test it for a few years and it will evolve into a theory. Sort of like the theory of evolution only far easier to prove. I'm betting this will be accepted as fact in a few years' time. Men's brains only have room for toast and coffee.

P.S. - he just asked me where the strawberry jam was hiding...(It was next to the sugar bowl.)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Baby's got blue eyes...

I read a lot. I read all genres, and I mean, all genres. Science fiction, mystery, romance, biographies, self-help, historical fiction and history books, children's books, you name it. And one thing that makes romance different from almost all these books is the detail applied to the hero and heroine's names and description. In no other genre will a book start out like this:
"Rebecca Demorney stepped out of her house and tossed her blond hair out of her face."
I just picked up a romance book I had lying around and opened it to the first page - the first two words are the heroine's name. Maybe it was a fluke. But it seems that in romance books, the heroine is described right down to her toenail polish by the end of the first page. And throughtout the book, her hair will be described as golden, silken, flying in the breeze...well, you get what I mean.
I'm going to pick on a book I love, so no one can say I'm being biased here. "Outlander". (I LOVED this book, it's one of my all time favorites.)
For all the author's protests that it's not a romance, the number of times the hero and heroine go boink throughout the series is mind-boggling. In the last book, I think they were ducking under hedges and darting into closets every three pages, but that might just be my imagination. Anyhow, take my word for this - the book is a romance. Another thing that's sure - everyone knows that the hero, Jamie, has blue eyes and red hair. How do we know? Because in every chapter we get a re-cap of his looks. Every time he changed expression, his looks are described. His blue eyes flashed. His blue eyes grew steely. His blue eyes crinkled with laughter.
Question: Do authors think that the reader will forget what the characters look like if they don't describe them at least once a chapter? Does it really add to the book to see the heroine's blond hair cited so often?
In the Martha Grimes mystery books I read, some of the characters have physical attributes that get repeated often. Melrose Plant has green eyes, I believe. And Inspector Jury is tall, dark, and handsome - though I can't vouch for the color of his eyes. Carrie-Ann is drop-dead gorgeous - but her whole character is nothing but a gorgeous physical description, so I can forgive Martha Grimes for foisting her upon us.
In the science fiction books I read, the hero usually gets described once or twice, (usually how he looked in his space-suit) and if there is a heroine, she's usually got some sort of physical description, but it fades into the background of the story unless it's a romance science fiction, in which case we'll have the hero and heorine described ad-nauseum in their space-suits, out of their space-suits, and how her blond hair looks floating in weightlessness.
Historical fiction (I was reading a fiction book based on the princes of Wales the other day) describes the people, but doesn't go on and on, (as in a historical romance) about broad shoulders beneath various colored capes, dresses of endless hues that bare creamy bosoms, and more about the eyes.
Why is it that romance harps endlessly on the physical description of the hero and heroine? For once, I'd love to read a romance novel that didn't mention the character's physical appearance every chapter. I can remember what they look like. You only have to describe them once, and maybe throw in a couple 'his blue eyes looked sorrowfully at her' or 'there was a ray of hope in her brown eyes...' and even then, it's not indispensible.
I like to use my imagination to fill in the blanks. Having someone described right down to the mole on their left calf is fine - as long as it's done only once. But if the author just mentions a "smokey gaze beneath a flame-colored mane of hair", I will be able to imagine something completely different (and far more fascinating) than if the author said; "Jilly Monet had dark gray eyes and bright red hair that hung well past her shoulders."
Sometimes, less is more. And in romance, description should be used more sparingly and with more respect for the reader's memory. Honest, I can remember that the hero has blue eyes. You don't have to hit me over the head with it every chapter. And even if you never mention their last names or eye color, if the romance is strong and the characters interesting...I won't even notice. My imagination will fill in the blanks.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A fringed shawl

It's bitter cold out today so I'm sitting at my desk with a moss colored fringed shawl around my shoulders. For fun, I even put on a green and gold glass bead bracelet to match. I feel all dressed up. Do you sometimes dress up? I usually slop around the house in jeans and a big sweater. (I have on jeans and a sweater - I just added the shawl for the cold and the bracelet for the fun.)
But that's not the reason I started to blog. I was working on edits this morning, finished, and then sent off the manuscript hoping it will do. Then I blog-hopped for a bit, and stopped in at a professional's blog to see her take on promotion. She was raving about a writer who has a new way of promoting her book through a large blog space reserved (mainly) for musical groups and kids. Since the author had written a teen story, this was a great promotional idea. So I went over and admired the site. The band/music theme worked pretty well for a book. But this is what bothered me:

Being an author used to mean writing, sending the book to an editor and collecting royalties or getting a flat fee.

Being an author usually means holding down another job - very few authors can support themeselves writing (I think the percentage here in France, anyway, is 1% - not very inspiring is it?)

Being an author now means having to promote your own work.

It's a fact of writing life. Authors are encouraged by their publishers to have their websites, their blogs, their plogs, their writer's space, their 'freinds', their chat grops, their mailing lists, their newsletters, their contests, their chats, and their own original ideas about promoting their book. Not to mention traveling to conventions, book signings, postcards, business cards, bookmarks, cover flats, and special stickers with 'autographed copy' written on them. (If I've left anything out please let me know - I'm trying for a complete list here)

So this professional's blog got me depressed for a while as I struggled to come up with a new, exciting, fun way to promote my book that had nothing to do with going to jail, (those who read my blog will know what that means, lol) or spending money I don't have, or taking too huge a chunk of time out of my day. I like to write. I don't know how to promote. It's depressing to see this bubbly new idea that will probably work well but that will take up a lot of time. (This person has no kids or family life, I just noticed. Just write and promote. Some have all the luck.) So before depression settles even more firmly around my shoulders like a fringed shawl, I will stop thinking about promotion...and start something I am good at - writing my next novel.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Human Tribe

I've been sick in bed for the past two days - the weather was so bad I caught a chill, and rather than fight it, I decided to just pamper myself, drink lots of chicken broth and tea, and sleep. So I did, and now feel much better. But while I felt too awful to work, I couldn't resist blog hopping. I look at my computer like a window open to the world. The world is so diverse, and so many people have such different lives that it's endlessly fascinating.

Here are blogs I discovered besides the one on my links list:


There is also


All these blogs have more links from people who comment (read the comments and click on the posters) and you can go from Brazil to Australia to Israel to France to Iraq in the click of a mouse (a new cliché to take the place of 'wink of an eye')

And while I go back and forth I keep in mind the article I read a while back in the National Geographic about the human DNA - about how we are all descended from a hunter / gatherer tribe in Africa. There is a mitochondrial Eve who mothered the tribe of humans - mothered this incredibly diverse array of individuals who live in peace or are at war, who believe in different gods and mythology - but who ALL come from the same family. We all sprang from an African Eve...

It boggles the mind. And of the article, the thing I loved most was the comment from a native American who, while submitting to the DNA test, said, "I just hope it's not going to prove we're* all Swedish. *speaking about his tribe.

Personally, I love thinking that somehow I am related to every person on earth.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My Glamorous Life as a Writer / Part 4

A little while after that book signing, I stopped telling people I was a writer. When I told people what I did they were always impressed. So how come I stopped? I think it was because people were impressed with the notion of writing a book, but their first question was never: “What is the book about?” it was always, “How many copies did you sell?” or “How is the book doing?” which took away the entire artistic, creative part of things and made me feel like a salesman or someone who’s worth was measured in dollar signs. I’ve never put much emphasis on dollar signs. I’d rather be measured by the things I’ve accomplished. Hopefully, I’ll have more friends at the end of my life than published books.
And then, one day this summer, I went to a big bookstore. It was so big and important, I didn’t dare tell them "I’m an author”. But I went to the children’s book section, and there was my book. I went to the erotic section, and there were two more of my books. And then my stepmother asked at the information desk if one of my historical books was available. The woman checked the computer and said, “Jennifer Macaire. Let’s see. We have ‘The Secret of Shabaz.” Here she paused, and then, to my immense delight, she said, “I know that book. It did really well here. My daughter read it and loved it.”
I couldn’t stop grinning, my stepmother introduced me as the author of the book, and I floated away on a cloud. It wasn’t finished though. The bookstore manager came looking for me in the aisles and said, “I noticed you have another book coming out soon. Would you be interested in doing a book signing here?”
He gave me his card and told me to contact him when I got back to NY.
My glamorous life as a writer came rolling back. It was worth it after all. Worth the rejections, the edits, the flashers, the measly pay and the heartbreak. It was worth it. Someone’s daughter had read my book...and loved it.

However, I can’t speak about my life as a write without mentioning ‘The Promise’. It’s a book I wrote when my sons were about nine. One day, they asked me to write a story where there were no grown-ups. “None at all?” I asked.
“None,” they replied firmly. And then Sebi gave me the idea. “They all got killed off by a virus,” he said.
So I sat down and wrote ‘The Promise’. It was a slim, unassuming story about a boy named Ryan who didn’t give up. He made a promise to his father, and he meant to keep it. He and his younger brother and sister made a voyage to the south of France, meeting other survivors along the way. It was a small book, but it had great consequences. My mother, an English teacher, decided to use it in her class in a maximum security prison for minors. In my book, the narrator is the hero of the story. But the boys in the prison identified with Red Sky – the villain. But Red Sky redeems himself in the book. The boys in the prison loved the book so much they asked my mother if she could find the film. My mother said the book wasn’t a film, but she knew the author. Incredulous, the boys demanded to know who it was. When she told them it was her daughter, they wondered if I couldn’t come in and talk to them about the book. It required several months of preparation, special permission, and lots of organizing – but the day arrived I went to prison to speak about my book.
I was a little wary, and had no idea what to expect. And it certainly wasn’t the barrage of thoughtful, interesting questions the boys asked me. From the metaphor of setting free the wolves, to Red Sky’s motives in saving the horse…everything had to be discussed at length.
Amazed by the visit, and amused by the demands I write a book ‘just for Red Sky’, I sat down and wrote a sequel and presented it to the classes for Christmas. (Just what they wanted – an unedited first draft!) My mother had them editing it for an English lesson one day. (How many of you can spot the misplaced modifier in this page? How many typos can you find?)
I’ve been back to the prison three times. Each time I’m thankful for the prison authorities who take the time to organize the day for me, and who make everything go so smoothly. A special thanks to the director and to my mom, of course, for letting me be part of the program. It really means far more to me than dollar signs to hear a young boy tell me, “Mrs. Macaire, I want to say something. When I’m out of here, and I have a wife and kids, I want to be sitting on my sofa one day and watching television and see your film, ‘The Promise’ with my kids. And if it doesn’t become a film, I’m still going to sit down and read the book to them. Because it was important to me. It made me see to the future.”
Well, after that – who needs a best seller?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Glamorous Life as a Writer / Part 3

My husband thought it was terrific. His wife the erotic romance writer. He told ALL his friends. They started calling me Samantha. The first time that happened I thought the person had forgotten my name and I corrected him. He winked and said, “Yes but Samantha is so much more exciting, according to your husband.”
I was torn between wanting to hit my husband or hit his friend. Writing was serious business! I was an intellectual! I soon got off my high horse. A well written book is fine. But in the erotic romance business the readers want emotion, characters they can care for, and lots of hot and interesting sex. Dithering over things like description, pacing, and atmosphere held me back. My editor told me to stop mucking around and Just Write!
Fine. I could do that. I had to adjust my attitude, but I was used to that. Anyone who has had kids knows that having an attitude is setting yourself up for a hard fall. Who can feel young and glamorous when your kid asks you what it was like living with the dinosaurs? Or when they see you in your bathing suit, their eyebrows go up, and they blurt, “You’re so fat!” (And the minute before you’d just been thinking how well you looked.) So attitude wasn’t the problem. I put my dreams about writing ‘literature’ aside and wrote...and published over fifteen erotic romance books.
But having kids also meant they were always begging me to write a story for them. So I did. I sat down and wrote ‘The Secret of Shabaz’. It was one of the hardest books I wrote. I wanted it to be for all ages, especially for teens – that group of children with an attention span of about thirteen seconds. I wanted it to be fun but at the same time I wanted to give readers something to think about. I love fantasy, so I wrote a magical tale full of adventure, a dash of horror, a pinch of romance, and with a heroine I would have wanted as a best friend. I finished it after two years of writing on it between erotic romances and sent it to Medallion Press. They loved it.
I was on cloud nine. I was a published author of a YA book! Now I could tell my whole family, even the ones who had weak hearts. This was exciting. I started getting an attitude again. I was going to NY for the summer, what better way to kick off the new book than with a book signing in a big bookstore? I looked up bookstores in the neighborhood and called them. Two agreed. I gave them the ISBN numbers and practised looking modest. (Hard to do – I was getting an attitude.) I found a passage to read that was not too long, not too short, and had some humor in it. Perfect. I found a little black dress that made my tummy almost look flat. I asked all my family and my friends living nearby to come. I brushed my teeth.
I arrived on time.
The bookseller had set up a little auditorium with a table and MY BOOKS sitting upon it. I had a poster the publisher gave me which I propped up near the books. I sat on the chair. I waved to my parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles...and several strangers. The strangers sat up front. My family, in an élan of generosity, left the whole front row free. I introduced myself, picked up my book, and started to read.
The man front and center opened his legs wide.
He had on baggy shorts. He lifted them a bit to make sure I noticed he was not wearing any underwear.
I lost my place in the paragraph and had to start over. My first book signing and I was getting flashed.
I was determined not to let that little detail ruin my book signing. I would have understood if it had been for my erotic books. But this was a kids’ book, for goodness sake! My glamorous life as an author was taking another beating. I was at my first signing, damn it. I wasn’t going to let some pervert ruin it. And then the bookstore’s cat jumped on the table and sat on my pile of books. It wasn’t comfortable there. It jumped down and prowled around the table as I read. There were several titters. And I hadn’t gotten to the funny part yet. I risked a glance at the audience. Wrong move. Flasher had pushed his shorts up and was practically waving his equipment at me. The cat jumped down to my lap. Better. I kept reading. I didn’t miss a beat. Then the cat got bored and left. I finished reading and stood up, determined not to look at Flasher and ask the audience if anyone had any questions. There were more titters. I looked down. There was cat hair all over my black dress. It looked like I was wearing a gray apron. Resigned to my fate, I asked if there were any questions. There was a long silence. One person raised their hand.
“Yes, mom?” I said.
(to be continued...)