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Monday, January 30, 2006

In Praise of the Perfect Bed and Pillow - by Trish Morey

I arrived home yesterday with my family after 18 days touring the North Island of New Zealand, and I have to say, nothing, but nothing, beats your own bed and your own pillow.

Don't get me wrong, we had a fabulous time, visiting friends in Auckland, my sister in Wellington and checking out plenty of great places in between. We spent time in the gorgeous Coromandel Peninsula, digging into the sands of Hot Water Beach to tap into the hot springs welling up below. We trekked down the hill to Cathedral Cove and splashed in the clean, fresh waves of the Pacific, and in the centre of the Island Lake Taupo and the power of the Waikato River and Huka Falls were awesome. Wellington was as beautiful as ever, its brightly painted timber houses clinging to the sides of the hills sprouting from the harbour and the shores reminding me of my recent trip to San Francisco. Rotorua and the thermal grounds with their boiling mud pools and geysers fascinated everyone in spite of the sulphur tainted air and Northland delighted all with a muscle straining journey across the Bay of Islands in a Maori canoe.

And the food! We ate fresh hoki in batter with kumara (sweet potato) chips, tucked into prawns direct from the prawn farm served on a huge platter with three different sauces, and sweated through a seafood gumbo and jambalaya to die for.

It was our best family holiday ever.

But last night, our first night at home, was simply blissful. After 18 nights on beds that were too soft, too low, too saggy, or just too ordinary for words with pillows that were flat, lumpy or just crucified your neck, being reunited with my bed and my own pillow made me realize just how Goldilocks felt finding that bed in the three bears’ house that was “just right”.

My bed. My pillow. My sanctuary.

Beds are like that. A faithful friend. Something that embraces you, night after night, warts and all, a place where you can let the cares of the day slip away as you recharge your body and your mind with a few hours of refreshing sleep. And no matter where I travel, one of my favourite places in the whole world.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Brokeback Mountain got me good


By Norah Wilson

Well it finally opened in my hometown. Brokeback Mountain. I knew it had cleaned up at the Golden Globe Awards (best motion picture, best director, best screenplay), and I’d heard the performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaall were not to be missed. So I rounded up two of my sisters and we went on Wednesday.

As I watched the movie, I think it suffered from all the advance hype. After having read the glowing reviews, my expectations were sky-high, and I found myself judging it against the hype. Yes, it was beautifully filmed (the Alberta Rockies pass nicely for Wyoming), the acting was wonderful, and it delivered a good story. But as I left the theatre, I asked myself, “Was it a great movie?” Sometimes it takes me a few days to figure that out. Now that a few days have passed, I can safely say yes, it was. It didn’t make me cry, but it left a kind of ache that keeps coming back to me at unexpected moments. That’s my personal barometer for measuring a movie’s impact.

The acting really was wonderfully. I went in there with an objective curiosity about how these two virile, heterosexual actors were going to pull this off. But they did their job so well, the actors and characters merged in my head. I forgot to watch the performance critically. All I know is that they did pull it off, beautifully. When Ennis/Heath put his arm around Jack/Jake’s neck, there was no mistaking the tenderness. And that reunion kiss after a 4-year separation was just plain hot! Throughout this story, they make you believe completely that each is the sole object of the other’s desire.

The movie has something important to say—quietly—about a lot of things, including same-sex love (or any kind of forbidden love), societal intolerance/pressure to conform, and personal choices.

But one of the most courageous things I think it does is to expose its big romantic heart. It plays it totally “straight” (if you’ll excuse the expression), and never hides behind cynicism. In retrospect, it seems to leave itself vulnerable to ridicule for many of the same reasons that critics deride the romances I love to read (and write). My prediction is that if Hollywood puts a few more movies like this in front of mainstream audiences, the novelty will wear off and the critics will start sharpening their claws. “Yeah, yeah, they’re lovers already. Now let’s see a bomb explode or a car chase.” Personally, I think that would be a crying shame.

In fact, I had two people ask me the same question after I told them I’d seen the movie. The question: “When Jake Gyllenhaall says ‘I wish I could quit you’, is it as cheesy as it looks in the trailers?” The answer is no; it was very powerful, within the context of a very powerful scene. As a romance writer, I'm keenly conscious that you could take some of the most electrifying dialogue out of the context of any book and make it sound overwrought and corny. To my astonishment, what I was seeing was not intolerance for gay relationships, but intolerance for romance. And how sad is that?

Personally, this is exactly what I want to see on the screen -- big, passionate, high-stakes love stories. I want to see more films that leave their exposed hearts beating out there in the open. This is more important for me than whether the relationship in question is heterosexual or gay.

So what did you think of the movie? Weigh in with your comments. I’d love to read them.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Be a Good Neighbor--Crap in Your Own Yard

By Maureen Hardegree

By neighbor, I don’t mean the families who live in my cul-de-sac. My immediate neighbors are considerate. They scoop their dog’s poop. I mean you, the guy who lives somewhere in my subdivision, who walks his big dog early in the morning and lets him crap in my yard and probably in the yards of many other people.

I’d been wondering who the owner of the large piles was. I saw you. Don’t pretend we didn’t make eye contact as I was waiting for my morning coffee to finish dripping. I’m sure you felt my ire through the glass pane of my kitchen window. If I hadn’t been in my pajamas, I’d have walked down the driveway with a bag and asked you to pick it up and carry it away with you.

Why is your dog’s crap in my yard a problem? Let’s see. It’s rude. Do I throw my cat’s crap in your yard? Does the fact that I have a pet ever cause you to have to wash your shoes, your kitchen floor, your carpet?

Yes, this is an outright tirade. I freely admit it. But what happened to me Sunday morning sent me over the edge. It was a dark, dreary, rainy morning. The kind of morning that still feels like night. I had just returned from dropping my daughter off at our church and I stopped at the end of our driveway to pick up the paper. Because it was so dark and rainy, I didn’t see what I stepped in. Since it was raining, and had been all weekend, I assumed the mushy feel to the ground was that famous Georgia clay having turned saturated. I got back in the car and drove up to the garage to park. I walked across the breezeway, into the kitchen, to the den, etc. When I left to pick my daughter up from class, I noticed the smell of dog crap in my car, and it hit me. I’d stepped in it and trailed it through my garage, breezeway, kitchen and den. Yes, cleaning the floors of my house and the pedals and carpet in my van were the highlight of my Sunday.

Evidence to the contrary, I am a reasonable person. Many years ago, I accepted that the neighborhood dogs were going to lift their legs to my mailbox. Those repeated dousings killed the climbing rose I planted next to the mailbox. Rather than rant in the neighborhood newsletter and install something to shock those dogs (which my husband assured me I couldn’t do), I pulled up the dead plant and found a climbing vine that neither dog urine nor drought can kill. Autumn Clematis produces pretty white flowers starting in August and blooms until the first hard frost which can be as late as November in this part of the South. It has lovely little green leaves throughout most of the year. The added plus? The pretty scent masks the dog urine.

All I’m asking Mr. Neighbor-With-Big-Crapping-Beast is that you bring a few bags with you when you walk it. We all shop. We all have those plastic bags from the grocery store. It’s not like you have to spend any additional money to be considerate.

Take this blog as fair warning. Next time I see you and your dog stopping to make a deposit in my yard, you’ll be making a fast withdrawal as well. If forced to do so, I will follow you, with your dog’s crap in bag, and place it in your yard, so you, too, can share the joy of cleaning it off of your shoe and any surface that shoe touches inside your house.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Fire Watching by Debra Holland

It was a dark and stormy night. Instead of turning on the heater, I lit a fire in the fireplace, and snuggled up to the hearth with an afghan, some pillows, and a book. My cats, Nicky and Pippin, curled up with me, enjoying the warmth of the fire in the cold room. (I live in Southern California, so it’s not freezing.) I had a lazy feeling of contentment, both from reading a good book (The Reign of Shadows by Deborah Chester) and having my cats sleeping on me.

I read for hours, until I finished my book. Then I watched the fire, absorbing it with my writer’s senses and trying to find ways to describe the sensations. Not such an easy task. Fire has been described both orally and in too many books to count since humans first harnessed its power. It’s all been said. It’s all cliché’.

But I made a valiant effort. The easiest to eliminate was smell. No smell. My chimney must draw well. No acrid smell of smoke or ashes. Nothing to describe

The heat on my skin was a welcome warmth. (How many times have I read that? I think I’ve even written it.) But the hand furthest away from the fire soon became icy cold. I solved that problem by turning over on my side, so both hands toasted evenly. (Sound familiar?)

What does a fire sound like? It snaps, it crackles, and it pops. Just like Rice Crispies, and a very cliché. (Well maybe the Rice Crispies analogy isn’t cliché’...or is it?) It took me a long time to come up with another sound description--click. Did you know a fire clicks? It does. It’s more a click than a snap. Yet, if I used that word in a book, it would probably pull the reader out of the story as she or he tried to figure out how a fire clicks. Not a good thing. Then there was the “roar” of the fire, which really sounds like wind, flapping against the lose canvas sails of a boat. Soft flapping, not hard flapping. Great, a wind and water analogy for fire. It just doesn’t work. Yet, that was the perfect description of the sound.

I had more success with the flames. Well not the flames, but the sparks flying up the chimney. They looked like orange shooting stars, only shooting up into the sky, instead of down to earth. Ok, maybe not the best analogy, either. As for the flames, they flicker, they dance, they.... I give up on the flames.

But...what about the embers, glowing copper? I realized they were the exact essence and color of the psychic energy some of my characters use in my romantic science fiction book. I never thought to use a fire analogy when I was writing the book. Maybe I can go back somewhere and add it in. Yay, a practical use for studying fire.

But what I really learned is that some experiences, like being around a fire, are so primal, that the clichéd phrases are THE way to describe them. The words settle into the psyche with a familiarity that instinctively resonates with the reader, in the way something new and fresh wouldn’t.

Interesting. ☺ What do you think?

Debra Holland

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oh blast,, how time flies

Delle Jacobs

Well I missed my day, which was yesterday, and all this time I thought today was the 25th. Let's hope at least I manage to remember my brother's birthday tomorrow!

I have a fair excuse, though. I've finally got myself deeply immersed in my vampire story, and man, am I in love with my "almost-vampire" hero! It's taken me a long time to get to this point, where both my hero and heroine fascinate me and are absolutely meant to be in love. But I've had to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what wasn't working.

Like Theresa, I hate the "rules", because they are often far too arbitrary and limiting. But there's a different set of them that seem to have a noose around my neck, strangling both me and my story. Not historical accuracy-- I've always loved history so much that I don't want to mess with it. And I want my story to be so real, even people who really know history will believe they're there.

It's the vampire part of my vampire historical that's getting in my way. The thing that's so difficult, I think, is that to me most vampire lore just doesn't make sense. There has to be a rationale to my story that, given the basic premise, is almost impossible to tear down. But there's so much vampire stuff out there now, all following different "rules", that they contradict each other. It seemed to me, no matter what I tried, or whose "rules" I was following, someone else would inform me vampires couldn't or didn't do such things.

How's a writer to decide, when no matter what choice she makes, someone will come along and tell her she's wrong?

But does it really make sense that supposedly all-powerful creatures have so many limitations? So many handicaps? Heck, they can't even reproduce in the way every other mammalian creature has done for millions of years! And they can't go out in daylight? How limiting is that? Kind of hard to make a living, don't you think? Somebody even told me vampires have no interest in food. How can I possibly identify with a creature like that? I love food! Seems to me there are more things a vampire can't do than things he can.

However, I've written historical novels for years, and have managed to deal with critics who don't know their history, but think they do. But at least that was real history. How can people take sides about the behavior of fictitious creatures? Can they prove their points? I don't think so.

So it wasn't until I threw away the "vampire rules" that I could make a creature, with a world for him, that made sense to me. And once I did that, and quit worrying about how other people thought my vampire world had to be, that I finally found the heart of my story: a hero I can drool over, a heroine who intrigues me and gives me a temporary alter ego I love, and an outrageously humorous, villainous vampire that I can't wait to see get his own book. Once he gets what's coming to him, that is.

Yeah, Theresa, let's go back to "guidelines", not "rules", and use them within reason. This is fiction, isn't it? Who says we can't write it our way?

Delle

Down with Rules

written by: Theresa Ragan

Wow, is it my day to blog already? Time flies when you're having fun. Not. I had a root canal done this week. Not fun. But I did write every day. Fun. Anyhow, I think I'll talk about rules today. Just because I don't like following them. Rules bug me. I don't like demands or commands or directions either. I like to do things my way. So, yes, my blog is going to be about rules.

I don't like rules. I never have. I loved that part in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie where Barbossa says, “And thirdly, the Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.” When anyone discusses rules as they pertain to writing and as if they're written in stone, I cringe because I believe basic storytelling is instinctive. If the story you’re writing makes you laugh and holds your attention, it’s probably going to do that for at least one reader out there somewhere, hopefully a lot of readers. But hey, reading is subjective. I know that for a fact because I LOVE everything Susan E. Phillips has ever written, but I actually sat next to a woman once who didn’t like her books at all. Gasp! :) Anyhow, back to rules. I agree with those who say you should know the rules and know when you’re breaking them. If I had to write down rules for writing they would be read a lot and write even more--write every single day. I love reading how-to-write books, but I usually just nod my head when something makes sense then set the book down and forget all about it. For me, writing is sort of like making chocolate chip cookies. I know the recipe by heart. Hopefully each new batch tastes better than the last. I don’t need to look at the back of the chocolate morsel package anymore. If I throw in an extra egg every once in a while or too much vanilla extract, the cookies always taste good—sometimes chewier and even better. Maybe someday someone will even like my cookies enough to buy them! :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dani Does the Democratic Process

Being a good Canadian (and an unemployed one) I signed up to help with the election yesterday. Okay, let's be honest. My Dad told me there was substantial money involved. There isn't--allow me to dispell that rumor right here and now. It works out to about $4/hr. But I signed up anyway and it turned out to be very interesting. I thought I'd share a few of the highlights.

Training Day, five days before Election Day:

This is where they tell you that if anything goes awry with your station, you forfeit your check. (Whoopee.) Then they tell you how complicated the procedures are, "But everything is in the manual. Read your manual before polling day, and you'll be fine." I didn't get a manual.

Fortunately both Mom and Dad had signed up for this gig, so they had two. I got one of theirs and managed to study up by Sunday night, so I'd know what to do in case of a bomb threat, and how to swear out a warrant for someone's arrest, should a voter become heated over whether or not the tin of cookies was for everyone, or just the people in his polling area.

The night before:

The manual stated we should arrive 45 minutes ahead of time to ensure everything was set up properly. It also stated the new hours for polling. It used to be 9-9. Now, because the western provinces always feel their results are not making a difference in the results, we vote earlier, 7-7. That'd be a 6:15 start for me, then. (And no, I no longer get up at 5 to write. I take the kids to school and write during the day, like normal humans. This early morning start was an ugly complication I hadn't forseen. Wait, it get's uglier.)

I set my alarm for 5:30 and got ready for bed early, with the kids. Then I dropped by my daughter's room for tucking in. She promptly fell apart as 10 yr old girls are wont to do. Oh, the drama of growing up. An hour later, and many tears, I went to bed, mind agonizing over my lousy parenting--did I mention PMS was coming on? After tossing and turning, I finally fell asleep only to have the son pop by for a visit at 2. He'd had a nightmare. Normally I would just crawl into bed with him and be done with it, but now I was worried about missing the alarm.

Wide, wide awake at 2:30, when the son finally nodded off, I got back to my own bed and stared at the ceiling until ten minutes before the alarm went off. Therefore, I looked and felt my very best for polling day.

Polling Day:

Fortunately, I was in a room with several pros. There was only one other newbie, and that was my partner, Tom. I'm sure you can guess who got the longest list of electors? Yup, that was us.

Our first customer was the voter who had just moved into the area and didn't have any I.D. Did you know that if you don't want to Swear To God, you may Solemnly Affirm? I didn't, but I do now. Anyway, there was a whole bunch of swearing, right off the starting block, but after that, Tom and I got the hang of things and muddled through a steady day.

Between times, there was plenty of snacking on all the goodies everyone had brought. Did you know Pringles now makes a chip with trivia printed on it? In Canada, they alternate in French and English. That's some trivia for my American friends.

Anyway, we didn't lack for conversation when things slowed down. Of course, if you know me, you know I rarely do. At one point, I said to Tom, "To be honest, my husband and I are a little bit anti-social." His reply? "I doubt it."

Finally we were done and closed the polls. This is when you begin all the counting procedures, by hand. I compare my records to Tom's and if they match, happy day, report the results, go home and have a drink.

It was a few hours before I got that drink. The other polls closed and packaged and left without incident. We got to hang around, with the runners waiting on us, the janitor vacuuming, while we figured out where we'd gone wrong. Fortunately, the manual was there for us. "These figures must balance. Count again."

It turned out to be a minor oversight. An unused ballot had inadvertently been left in one book. We all went, "Ahhh!" Then we sealed and stamped and signed and then, finally, I went home and had a drink. (Vodka & grapefruit juice)

So it was a long day, but an eventful one. I learned that only about 60% of people vote, that Elections Canada employs about 60,000 people on the day of voting, and that the voting process in Canada is full of checks and balances that might keep you there late, but they're there for a reason.

There is very little room for error in our election process, even less for monkey business. You might not like the results of the election, but speaking as someone who has participated in the process, I can say I am confident that the guy who got elected was elected fairly and democratically. For that peace of mind, I would have volunteered.

Which I may have. Cross your fingers I see a check....

Dani

Monday, January 23, 2006

Creative Re-Reviewing

by Jill Monroe

About a week or so, a pretty flying discussion took place over at Romancing The Blog on book reviews.

I thought I might share my perspective as an author.

Most everyone who has employment has a performance review. Usually this entails a meeting with your supervisor, sometimes even over coffee. A form can be involved. Although these reviews can take place in many different ways (I'm picturing a scene from the TV shoe The Office), I can say with almost certainly the results of your evaluation are never printed in a magazine or posted on the Internet for all to see.

A month or so before my first book, Never Naughty Enough, was released, one of my good friends e-mailed me. "Hey, I saw your review in RT - what did you think?"

Well, I hadn't seen it. And just what did her question mean? Was it a bad review? Did the review say something weird? Did it say my book was bad and I needed to lose 15 pounds? Surely if it were a good review, my friend wouldn't want to know what I thought. She'd say congratulations.

Luckily she e-mailed me the score (4 - yea) and the last sentence.
Jill Monroe's debut, Never Naughty Enough, is a strong effort, seamlessly blending raucous humor and pure sensuality.


Of course, if you know me, you've heard me talk about how my ability to obsess, will know I spent hours, and I mean hours on the word "effort" Click here for an example.

Anyway, like an idiot, I signed up my name for google alerts. Google will send you a nifty little e-mail anytime you're mentioned. Let's just get this out right now - MISTAKE!!! And no, I no longer get the alerts anymore.

So picture the evening, kids in bed, dh planning an evening at home with me. My name pops up. It's a review site, and based on two or three words - NOT GOOD.

I've likened in the past getting a bad review to flowing through the stages of grieving. Denial and Anger are first and on the heels of each other. Then comes the forwarding of the bad review to all your friends and critique partners. A round of blasting e-mails, usually with the subject header of “They’re Wrong” and “They Totally Missed It” floods your inbox.

Next comes the stage involving chocolate and diet cherry cokes from Sonic (I celebrate with these items, too). The last stage is acceptance. This stage only comes after I have rewritten the review.

This is my favorite part, and easy to do. And although I have not consulted with Dr. Debra, it's very therapeutic, and I'm sure she'll say it's a healthy release. I remove all the words I don’t like from the written review. For instance, the new (and highly improved) review I received became:

Never Naughty Enough is… entertaining and unexpected.


Hey, honestly, all those words were in that review!

I call this technique of getting over a bad review Creative Re-Reviewing. And although I hope you're never in the need to creative re-review, feel free to use it if needed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Greetings from Debra Holland

In December, a relatively new friend sent me an email that he signed, much love and peace to you. On the first reading, I totally missed that line--a message so common at the holidays that it’s easy to overlook. It was only a few hours later, in rereading the email, that I caught the line. This time I let myself absorb what I sensed was the deep sincerity behind those words. I also felt a bit chagrined about not noticing the line in the first place.

His email started me thinking about the casual greetings and endings we all use with each other, yet take for granted.

“Dear” is a polite and formal salutation in a letter. Yet it is also a term of endearment. When the word is used in a letter to friends or family members, it has a different significance than when it’s used in a business letter. Yet I know, when I receive a letter, I read right over the “dear” greeting as if it were not there.

I often sign my letters and cards, “Love, Debra.” But I only do this with people I care about. However, the recipient probably reads the text of my message, and skims over my ending. I know I do when I receive that signature line from others. And in so doing, I miss the one word, Love, that may be the most important one on the page. Such a tiny word...such a meaningful word.

For the rest of the holiday season, and ever since, I’ve tried to pause for a moment and let the positive meaning behind the greetings and farewells sink into my psyche. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a kiss hello, a hug goodbye, an email, or a scribble on a card. I’ve found that there’s something about my slowing down and lingering on the positive message, whether physical, verbal, or written, that’s an instant stress reduction in the business of life--a double gift from the sender and a simple way to let more love into my life.

Try it. ☺

Love,

Debra Holland

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bad Boys

How bad is bad?

I’m playing around with a story idea in which my hero is…less than heroic. He’s the black sheep of the family, has scandalized them to the point where they’d do anything to put distance between them. He’s gambled his trust fund away and his family is tired of bailing him out. He’s never worked a day in his life, never taken responsibility for anything, and it’s time for him to grow up.

On the other hand, he’s a real charmer and can get people on his side very easily. I actually really like him.

The thing is, for him to make the journey I have planned for him, he has to start out as a Bad Boy.

Now, I know the fascination with Bad Boys. Rhett Butler was a gambler and a smuggler. Maverick was a gambler. See Diane’s post about the Phantom, or witness the fandemonium about Lost’s Sawyer. These guys are bad. They’ve separated themselves from the world. And yet, women root for them to be redeemed. Are they, though?

Rhett, I would say yes, but not through love of Scarlett, but through love of Bonnie Blue. Maverick, well, bad example since it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. The Phantom…Diane theorizes he’s redeemed because Christine proves to him he can be loved, so he gives up everything. But meanwhile, there’s Raoul, his rival, tied to the grate.

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Sawyer…now, when we meet Sawyer, he’s out for number one. He’s scavenging through the plane for supplies he can use in barter. He’s stealing from dead people. He was a con man in his previous life, he killed a man he believed to be the man who ruined his life, and he plans to kill again. So what makes us root for him (besides the dimples)? His fondness for Kate, which was crude at first, is now tender. He reads, so much that Jack had to make him glasses, and maybe we associate that with intelligence, I don’t know. The way he calls Jin “Chewy” because no one can understand him. I think part of what we like watching about Sawyer (besides the shirtless scenes) is that he’s being dragged out of himself, and he’s doing it kicking and screaming.

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In Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale, we first meet the hero leaving the bed of his married mistress. It takes a stroke and incarceration in a mental hospital, abandonment by his family, the impending loss of his title to make him see the error of his ways. He was intrigued by the heroine who wasn’t afraid of him, comes to depend on her, much to his dismay, and falls in love with her. (Although, in honesty, I thought several times while reading the book that the heroine would grow into a bitter faced religious woman who looked down on her husband and wondered why she ever married him.)

In Black Ice, the hero is a heartless mercenary who, while he stepped out of looking out only for himself, still had a long way to go in my mind. Clearly they’re much worse than my Ethan. (Well, maybe. I haven’t decided what the scandal is yet.) And they get the girl and word of mouth about these books is through the roof.

So what will it take for Ethan? What steps does a bad boy have to take to be redeemed? What qualities does he need to have to make us root for him?

Friday, January 20, 2006

It Was the Worst of Times/It Was the Best of Times by Diane Gaston Perkins

When dreams come true the sandman sometimes forgets to tell you that within every good dream, there is a nightmare.

I’m living my dream-come-true of writing Romance, getting books published, and even getting money for it. In this dream, I have the security of two publishers who want what I most love to write-Regency Historicals-and I have book contracts lasting into 2007.

The nightmare is that there always seems to be some sort of monster at the door. Two weeks ago, it was my critique group saying my Christmas (2006) novella, due Jan 15, lacked enough conflict. So I swallowed my pride and emailed my editor that I’d be one week late. Secretly, though I thought I’d be done yesterday.

But another monster popped out in the form of a nine-page revision letter for the book I just turned in. And another one when I realized my last two chapters of the novella were stupefyingly boring and the re-write needed to be re-written. And another when I remembered that I have a whole other book to write by the end of April and I haven’t figured out one of the main plot points. And then, of course, I remembered it is my day to blog...

I’m not complaining, because it doesn’t seem right to complain about having one’s dream come true. The point of all this is, that even in a nightmare, there can be a good dream, too.

Because, in the middle of all this stress, The Phantom of the Opera came on HBO. I never saw Phantom in the movie theater, and my Blockbuster card is so dusty pulling it out makes me cough, so discovering Phantom was a whole new experience for me. I mean, Gerard Butler. SIGH! What a wonderful job of acting. I can’t think when I’ve seen an actor portray such sensuality, such ecstasy, such pain. Singing, too! The Phantom has been a blessed relief from my woes, a treasure in the midst of a trash heap, a--good dream inside a nightmare. After I’m brain dead from writing stuff I throw away the next day, I turn on Phantom (now copied) and look at Gerard Butler.

I’m guessing that whenever life is turning stressful or dark or full of demons, if we look hard enough we can also see things that give us joy. Even in our worst days. The death of my friend Maryanne, put me back in touch with the joy of knowing her. When my mother died, I discovered how many people in my life cared about me. When I made the difficult decision to retire from my day job, a week later I sold my first book. When my daughter had to move out of the apartment she’d just moved into, she wound up witnessing the cat in the new place have kittens.

And this week, my joy is:


Be good to yourself......or else!

Diane

(Peek at Diane’s other blog, Warner Women, for a more thorough discussion of the Phantom’s character- an analysis on dark heroes)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oh, Baby, by Kiki Clark


“Ever since my girlfriend had her adorable little girl, I’ve been having baby dreams,” I confessed to my friend. He had come into town for a quick business trip, but now his laptop and suitcase sat by the door. We were chatting over breakfast tea as we waited for his college-aged daughter to call and tell him she was ready to have her wireless installed. Outside, a fine, steady snow fell. I felt the need to clarify. “In the dreams, it’s never a baby I personally had. It’s always one that someone gives me, or I find, or rescue. Sometimes from dogs.”

“Well, you’re not too old. Plenty of people have babies at our age.” He is four years younger and far more fit. I’m a writer, and get my exercise from shouting at my computer screen. “What about Joe?” he asked, referring to my husband.

“Oh, he’d be perfectly willing. But neither of us feels that strongly about it. I’ve told him that at my age, if he really wants a kid, we could adopt a Chinese toddler and bypass all that pregnancy and diaper business. But he’s not interested in adoption. It’s pride of ownership, I guess. That and the fact that it’s so much cheaper to make your own.” I took a sip of Genmaicha. “It seems like there’s more to worry about, bringing up a child these days. I have a friend who got a call from another concerned parent – some girl was spreading rumors that my friend's daughter was spending her $400-a-month, anti-depressant allowance on cocaine. My friend said she panicked for just a second before she remembered she didn’t give her kid $400 a month for anything, not to mention that she wasn’t on any prescription medication. Turns out this other girl spread the identical rumor about a bunch of her so-called friends. Another mother I know was told her son had to go to the delinquent’s school because he passed out flyers for his band on school property. So he had to spend a week and a half with the kids who wave guns around class and threaten to rape teachers.”

My friend shook his head. “It’s a lot of work. But for every negative, there are plenty of positives. You have to look at the added value to your life. And it’s really only the first three to five years that are the hardest. After that they’re in pre-school or kindergarten, and you have six hours a day all to yourself.” He laughed. “Then you can catch up on the sleep you missed.”

“Six whole hours, huh?” I sometimes don't start work until I've been up for six hours, and my schedule as a whole is very flexible. Joe and I attended a James Bond party last weekend and stayed up until two o’clock in the morning. There was a lot of champagne. I spent the entire evening speaking in a Russian accent and telling fortunes. “Our life is so easy. It’s nice to have the luxury of saying, ‘Oh, should we have a baby?’ as if it’s similar to selling the house and living abroad for a couple years. But a child is such a responsibility. Even after they leave home, you’re still a parent. You’re a parent for the rest of your life.”

“That’s true, but you see a lot less of them after they turn eighteen.” His cell phone rang. “Hello?” He listened for a minute before speaking. “What lane are you in? Uh-huh. Well, just put the hazard lights on and walk to the gas station. Yes, they’ll have containers. What? All right. How about I meet you there?” He hung up.

“Your daughter ran her car out of gas?” I guessed.

He smiled. “Added value.”

I hugged him goodbye at the door, then watched as he carried his bags through the snow. In another month, I’ll be babysitting my friend’s adorable child for the first time. She may giggle the whole visit (her usual state) or she may scream. Either way, it’s only for a couple hours.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Going Home

Going Home

The word MOVING has six letters, but I'm thinking it should only have four because it is the most unpleasant of all words to a writer. It means we have to be tidy in our workspace, the doorbell and phone ring in your head after you go to sleep instead of your characters voices, not to mention you dream about packing because you're afraid you've forgotten something. It forces you to get in touch with your domestic side. I've been sewing pillows, arranging silk flowers and candle sticks when I want to be writing.

My husband keeps readjusting my vision to keep my spirits up and get me through the moving stage. We're going home to the country after four years in the city, actually suburbia, a place of leaf blowers, lawnmowers, and sidewalks. When our new house is finally built, I'm going to have my morning coffee on my front porch again while I watch the hawks soar over the valley. I'll have acres instead of square feet as a canvas for my landscaping plans when my muse needs a break. It will be dark enough to see the stars at night and the moon rise over the mountains. If it sounds like paradise, it pretty much is.

The city is not without a few haunting grounds I'll miss. After a hard morning of writing, I've grown used to treating myself to a mocha latte and a walk through the bookstore where I can inhale the scent of new books and imagine my name on the shelf beside the names of my favorite authors. Though I crave the privacy the country, I will miss the friendly people in the neighborhood who say hello every morning as I pass them on my daily walk.

But I know it's time to leave. I've never lost the excitement of the feel of dirt instead of concrete under my shoes as I walk. It's time to go home.

Lorelle

Monday, January 16, 2006

My Weekend

I’ve had a weird weekend, folks.

Why is it that yesterday at my local grocery store I could find thirty-five kinds of dog food, twelve kinds of kitty litter and eighty different kinds of chips but couldn’t find one #@!* green, seedless grape for my grandkids or any lox for my Sunday bagels?

And speaking of grandkids, why did my beautiful and precocious four-year-old granddaughter have to wait until the minister said, “Let’s bow our heads in silent prayer,” to announce to the whole congregation in her best outdoor voice that, “I have to sit to pee pee because God didn’t give me a PEE-NUS!”

Later I was out and about with a girlfriend in her new car. After we went through a toll booth, she tossed the change to me. I looked all over the dashboard and center consol for an ash tray to put the change in and couldn’t find one. When I said as much my friend laughed and said, “Oh, cars don’t come with them any more. People don’t smoke like they used to.” Huh? I look at the five cars surrounding us at the red light and see smoke billowing out of three partially-opened windows. Now color me silly but I think I found the cause of those fourteen wild fires we had this weekend. It’s not the four months of drought we’re experiencing but the non-smokers throwing their imaginary cigarettes out their closed windows for lack of an ashtray.

And if the US Postal Service knew they were raising the price of a first class stamp by $0.02 then why didn’t they make more $0.02 stamps for those of us with rolls of $0.37 stamps?!? I stood in line for 45 minutes last Friday only to be told when I got to the window that they’d run out of $0.02 stamps and that I’d have to come back today. Three months ago that wouldn’t have been such a chore because they had a TV in the lobby which made the waiting time more tolerable, but not anymore. No, they had to remove the TV because, “People were watching CNN instead of the close circuit USPO video while in line.” Huh? The USPO video--a silent slide presentation--is on a four minute continuous loop. The average wait in my post office is 25 minutes. That means you see the same *#@! slides 6.3 times per visit and I’m there at least twice a week. Trust me…I got it the first time. I should not mail any liquids, perishables or explosives, and you can get a package anywhere overnight for the right price. Great. Now give me back my CNN or hire some staff!

There. I feel better now. I think I’ll get some work done today after all. If you haven’t check out my new contest for the launch of THIEF IN A KILT on www.sandyblair.net , you might want to take a peek. I’m giving away a medieval-styled, thirty-eight carat amethyst necklace set in sterling silver. Have a great week.
Sandy

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wet Noodle Posse Blog

by Pam Payne

I'm going to join the "I'm late" bandwagon. It's barely still the 15th here in my world, but I just got home a little while ago from taking the youngest to the airport. She's headed back to college, back to her new life away from her family. And yes, I cried. I always cry when I send one of my kids off to school. It's a mother thing.

I was thinking about Jenna's sister-in-law (see the Superheroine article on the Wet Noodle Posse website), and thinking about how much I admire, not only Jenna's sister-in-law, but her mother-in-law too. My youngest has that type of giving heart, wanting to help the less fortunate, but I'm guilty of trying to talk her out of it. Not because I don't think she'd be great at it, and fulfilled by it, but because I'm afraid. Afraid she'll get hurt, afraid she'll get sick, afraid she won't get to come back home.

My whole life I've been afraid. Not of things I can see, so much, as by the "what ifs." It's a side-effect of having an over-active imagination. It's part of what makes me a writer, that inability to turn my brain off and not think of all the things that could possibly happen. Yes, one of them might actually occur, but the chances are probably a lot smaller than my imagination leads me to believe.

So how do you turn off that imagination and let your kids go? Let them take risks with their safety, their emotional well-being? Do you just make yourself stop caring? I don't think so. There has to be a way to draw the line between coming up with endless crises for our fiction and letting them spill over into our personal relationships.

Until I figure it out, I stand in awe of Jenna's mother-in-law, that she's found a way to let her little bird fly and make such a difference in children's lives.

Pam/Tori

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I'm Late, I'm Late

Here it is January 14th, and the day is way more than half over. The 14th of each month is my blog date. I'm not going to miss posting a blog today, but I would have to say I'M LATE.

I got to thinking about my very bad habit of being late. It definitely annoys my husband. And I've tried over thirty years of marriage to be more punctual, but it hasn't happened. Could lateness be genetic? I have three brothers who all tend to run late. I've analyzed the situation in order to come up with a reason why I tend to be late.

I was never late for school or work. My lateness tends toward social occasions or group meetings such as church, organization meetings or doctor's appointments. The one thing I recognized in all different situations is that I hate to waste time. I want every minute to count for something. I don't like getting someplace early just to sit around. So while I'm getting ready to go to an event or appointment, I'm trying to get as much done as possible before I leave. I'll try to cram in exercise and a shower, fold a load of laundry, wash one more dish, dust a piece of furniture or read e-mail in the time I've allotted for getting ready. Doing that one more thing often results in my being late because inevitably something happens that I didn't count on. Since I had built in no extra time for this unforseen occurrence, I am late again.

Before I started to write this blog I Googled "I'm Late, I'm Late." Of course, I found the lyrics to the song from Alice in Wonderland. (I often sing that.) Interestingly, I found two other blogs about people being late, even CEO's. I could nod my head in agreement with many things they said. I could even identify with their reasons for being late. One person ponders why people are hung up on being punctual. Maybe the punctual people could answer that one.

In conclusion, I'll fall back on a cliche. "Better late than never."

Merrillee, who was NOT late turning in the completed manuscript for my December 2006 book, LOVE WALKED IN

Friday, January 13, 2006

Are you feeling lucky?

It's Friday the 13th. Are you feeling lucky today?

If you ask my oldest daughter, who happens to be on her way to a weekend school retreat, who knows what answer you'll get. It should be a weekend of fun, learning and friends. I'd feel pretty lucky. Of course, she packed a bag with jeans and sweatshirts, walked out the door this morning in a long-sleeve t-shirt and slacks, and left her winter coat in the closet. It was 40 degrees and cloudy this morning. Now it's 32 degrees and we've got 2 inches of snow on the ground. Naturally here I am, worrying if my baby is freezing her tushie on her trip. Praying they're having lots of indoor activities.

If you ask my middle daughter, who performed at the high school pep rally today, then celebrated with Cold Stone ice cream with mom, she'd probably say she's feeling lucky. Yes, we ate ice cream even though it's snowing. When you love sweets like we do, nothing stands in your way. Not even the latest diet you keep saying you'll start. Tomorrow. :-) She's packing now for a weekend church retreat she's been looking forward to since mid-December. Sharing a weekend of special moments with friends and having the quiet time to think and grow closer with her faith sounds like a winning weekend to me. I'd say she's lucky.

If you ask my youngest, currently outside sledding with the neighbors and planning on staying the night with a friend, today's a pretty good day. There's no school tomorrow.

My husband, on his way home from a weeklong business trip, will probably think his day is ending fairly well when he finds out all three of the kids are out for the night so we have the house to ourselves. I imagine his mind will fill with visions of an evening of romance and... well, you know.

Me? I'm hoping everyone gets to where they're supposed to be safely, especially with the snowy roads. Thirty minutes of quiet relaxation on the couch sounds pretty good. Add a glass of wine or a Lite Mike's hard lemonade and it's looking really good. Throw in my hubby and a fire...WOW... I'm feelin' lucky. :-)

I hope you're day's been a great one. If not, take heart, it's not over yet. The evening is still young. Heck, if you're out on the west coast, it's still mid-afternoon. Even if you haven't had the best of days, take a deep breath, look yourself in the mirror and smile. You're a Wet Noodle Posse member or friend, and you're loved!

Hugs,
Pris

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dani's Hilarious Writing Antics

Okay, I have none, except that yesterday, I ignored one of the cardinal rules that my husband has written for me: Dani is not allowed to cook and write at the same time.

Now, I don't claim to be the Queen of Breadmaking anyway, but I can produce an edible half-dozen loaves on a regular basis. Unless I go upstairs to write, don't hear the timer, and let it rise for four hours. You know there's something wrong when you wander down to refill your coffee cup and the delicious scent of warm YEAST is wafting in the air.

What did I do? Cooked 'em anyway, of course, because I've been down this road before. They fall, and turn out really dense, no one likes to eat it, and I start hearing, "Why don't you buy bread?"

But bread isn't the only non-writing activity I've overlooked lately. I also forgot I was blogging until yesterday. Bridget, the darling, has agreed to pinch hit for me, and I'll be taking her spot on the 24th. I think this will be a permanent arrangement, so look for me there from now on.

Happy New Year,
Dani

A Very Longhorn New Year

So, everyone. Last month, you took my hand and let me lead you through a 'Very Longhorn Christmas'…and as a result you cheered the UT Longhorns to their Rosebowl victory over USC, like the good little blog-buddies you are.

Thanks. And to my USC readers: sorry.

Now, in a companion blog entry (which means I promise not to do any more Longhorn-themed columns after this) we'll go deeper into our exploration of what makes Texas so very special; so very…Longhorn.

First of all, there's the "Texas Exes" thing. I'm sure everyone knows the song, "All My Exes Live in Texas", right? It's about a guy who's on the run from his ex-wives and girlfriends. I bring this up because everywhere you go in Austin, you see t-shirts and car stickers reading "Texas Ex" or "Lifetime Member: Texas Exes Club". Now I ask you--am I to be blamed for thinking this meant the wearer or the bearer was divorced, flaunting his or her newly single status in a brave and amusing way? When I moved here, I found myself impressed by Texans' upbeat, in-your-face attitude about what must be an extremely high divorce rate.

Have you guessed the punchline yet? No, I didn't think you would. You see, "Texas Exes" is the alumni association of the University of Texas. Texas is teeming with this kind of "in" joke.

And here's another "in" joke. Have you heard the one about me, my car, and a couple of guys with a radar gun? For starters, let me explain that back in Massachusetts, you could do anything, and I do mean anything in your car and get away with it. In downtown Boston, I once saw a car go the wrong way down a one-way street and then run a red light, without provoking the officer in the cruiser next to me to do anything more than look bored and shake his head. Very occasionally I would get stopped by a nice uniformed upholder of the peace for a friendly chat about something I'd done wrong on the road, but it never resulted in any actual, well, you know--consequences.

Fast forward to Austin. I'm driving back from morning kiddie drop-off, really needing to use the loo in a pronto-pronto way, and suddenly I come round a curve and two guys with motorcycles and a smoking radar gun pull me over.

Fine, I thought. A nice chat, and on to the loo. The nice chat did take place; it was a very long, informative and interesting one, full of references to the local deer population, the demographic of the women they'd pulled over so far that a.m. (all white females, all born in the same year, and no, I'm not telling you which one), what time of day your house was most vulnerable to break-ins, and how to go about paying for my speeding ticket. Wait a minute. Speeding ticket?

Yes, my friends. I just got to Texas, and I just got my first ever speeding ticket. I admit, it was kind of a thrill going to the police station later and getting a paper emblazoned with the big boldface words: "THE STATE OF TEXAS vs. BRIDGET STUART", but the rest of it was kind of a downer.

And here's where I need to pose a burning question for you, my blog-buddies. Do you think they would have ticketed me if I had a Longhorn hood ornament and a "Texas Ex" sticker on my car? ...or for that matter, a current registration?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The power of the 250

by Charity Tahmaseb

This time of year, it’s easy to look back at all we didn’t do the previous year and make grand plans for the one just begun. Finish that book, lose that weight, paint the house. Sometimes it’s good to stop to think on the things we did accomplish during the previous year.

I discovered that for me, the single most effective thing I did during 2005 was also so simple, so tiny, it almost seems insignificant. From September to December, I made it my goal to write 250 words per day, taking to heart Anne Lamott’s advice in Bird by Bird:

It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.

I took that one simple lesson of writing (and life) and really put it into practice. Dashing off 250 words is easy. I write three pages longhand each morning. I have not one, but two electronic journals. So I do write. Sometimes a lot. But never, I felt, enough, on my novel. But by the end of December, I’d added 60,000 words to my work in progress (I realize for some of you, 60,000 words is a novel, but I’m writing a big, fat book--I need words, lots of them).

I also did something else. I made this activity my own by giving it a new name. While I adore Anne Lamott’s “one-inch picture frame,” the notion isn’t mine. Somehow I ended up calling it “writing the 250” and it stuck--both the name and the practice.

For 2006, look at all you want to do and find one small, nearly insignificant, thing you can do, and then name it. Make it your own. Give it power to grow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A message from Terry McLaughlin: Be good to yourself!

Several days ago my daughter-in-law brought me a few things she'd found in the attic of her house--a house built by my husband's parents, both of whom are deceased. One of the items was a small pink box with a French label: a sampler of eau de toilettes I purchased at Fragonard in Paris as a souvenir for my mother-in-law. I was surprised to see that box again after all these years. And I was a bit dismayed that everything in it is still the same, unopened and unused. The scents are still sweet, but faded with time.

When my husband got home that evening, I showed him the little bottles and asked why his mother had never opened them and enjoyed her gift. "She probably thought they were too special to use," he said.

Every day is special. Every day is precious.

I've placed that little pink box on my desk top, where it can remind me to treat myself and those I love to special things, to celebrate the precious days of our lives whenever possible. Maybe I'll use the holiday china for dinner some night this week, or scatter a package of wildflower seeds along our winding drive, or finally frame and display those family pictures waiting in a box. I'll pick up the phone more often when I think of a friend, just to say hello.

What can you do for yourself or for those you love this week? Remember the Wet Noodle Posse's slogan: Be good to yourself, or else!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Celebrating the New Year

by Lee McKenzie

My year is off to a beautiful start, and here’s why.

New Years Day dinner was very special this year. For the first time we had the company of our daughter and her boyfriend, and our son and his girlfriend. Parenthood for us has been filled with so much joy and so many rewards and now, as an added bonus, our adult children and their significant others make wonderful dinner companions. Life is good.

I’m also happy to say that so far this year I’ve been writing, writing, writing. My brilliant critique partner and I have become each other’s conscience. Every morning we post our daily goals by email and every evening we account for what we’ve accomplished. It’s great to be working with someone who shares my love of writing and the dream of someday being published. Yes, life is good.

Wishing a wonderful year to all,

Lee

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Stupid Diet Tricks

By Jenna Ness

At the hospital the day I had my baby, I weighed (can’t believe I’m going to say this out loud) 201 pounds.

In the last ten months, I’ve lost 55 pounds. I’m now a pound lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight.

How? Easy. I didn’t do anything drastic. On the contrary, I do as little as I possibly can. I eat candy and cookies all the time. I walk a little, but that’s it. So how has all my post-baby weight melted away? The answer: stupid diet tricks.

I consider myself something of a diet connoisseur. I started dieting when I was twelve. You’re probably familiar with the cabbage soup diet and Atkins– every woman has tried those at some point – but I’ve also done Diet Center (my mom took me there when I was a borderline obese teenager), the air-popped-popcorn starvation diet (when I was a miserably chunky scholarship student at an ultrarich boarding school), and Weight Watchers (several times). And they worked … for awhile. Then I would binge myself sick and gain it all back plus more.

Of course I did. Who wants to live off air-popped popcorn for the rest of her life? Nobody. Who wants to count points until the day she dies? Not me. It’s been a hard-earned lesson: the only diet that will work is one that you’re willing to live with for the rest of your life.

So when I was 21, I made a vow – no more diets. I decided to eat whatever I wanted, as long as I was hungry. That was my very first diet trick. If I had half a piece of cake, and wasn’t hungry any more, I had to save the other half until later. Thirty pounds disappeared almost without effort.

If you’re using the right diet tricks, a little willpower goes a long way.

But when I was pregnant, all bets were off. I ate around the clock, hungry or not. I’d eat mac n’ cheese for nausea. I’d eat a big bowl of ice cream every night, calling it “calcium for the baby.”

Clara and me, 4 days after she was born.
Clara and me, 4 days after she was born.
Leaving the hospital with my sweet seven-pound baby in my arms, I had to face a cold hard truth – a big fat me.

I felt so terrified and desperate that I might have gone back to Weight Watchers if I’d had the time or energy. Since I had neither, I had to force myself to be patient and have faith. And slowly add back better habits, a.k.a. diet tricks.

Here’s what I did.

Figure out some small change in your life you can live with forever. When you plateau, figure out some additional small thing and start doing that, too.

10 months later.
10 months later.
Over the last ten months:

1. First, I switched from Sprite and sparkling juice back to diet soda.

I’d cut out my beloved diet colas during pregnancy to avoid caffeine and NutraSweet. But the instant I was done with labor, I ordered a Diet Coke. I probably cut 300-400 calories out of my diet per day with this one change, and it was a change I was very happy to make.

2. I started getting more sleep.

Clara helped with that when she was about 3-4 months old and started sleeping through the night. That enabled me to cut back on the pastries, many of which I was eating simply out of exhaustion. I started taking her out in the stroller here and there.

3. I only eat when I can sit down and enjoy it.

That means no eating in front of the fridge, no snacking over the sink, no swiping chips while racing through the kitchen. I started this after I hit a plateau in July. It’s worked astonishingly well. As a busy mom, always rushing around the house (you know how it is) I often find that sitting down to eat something is more trouble than it’s worth.

But I still eat whatever I want. Some days it’s broccoli, some days it’s a banana split, and always it’s chocolate. Where’s the punishment or self-deprivation in that?

I lost 10 pounds over three months, but in November I once again started to plateau. For three weeks, I didn’t lose anything. So I added two new things.

4. I started drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day – non-negotiable.

5. I started walking 20 minutes on the treadmill while Clara takes her afternoon nap – negotiable, but I probably do it 4-5 times a week.

Over the holiday season, I lost 5 more pounds, and I’m still losing. When I inevitably start to plateau, I’ll add some other new habit. Maybe I’ll do stretches for five minutes, or stop eating after 8 p.m., or switch to non-fat salad dressing, or all three. But whatever I do, I’ll make it as easy on myself as I can.

So how can you make it easier on yourself? If you work in an office, the “only eat sitting down” trick might not work for you. But I bet you can figure out some stupid diet tricks of your own. What are some things in your life that you could change and not really miss? What are some new habits that you could easily start?

And before you say, “I don’t have the patience to lose weight that way” and rush yourself back to Cabbage Soup Hell, let me point out that research is on my side. Many experts now say that small changes are the only effective approach.

“Big changes simply don’t work,” asserts nationally syndicated exercise physiologist Bryant Stamford. “Forget about pledging to do superhuman things over the next 12 months … Instead, make choices that are comfortable and doable and that are more likely to be sustained.”

So maybe just eat a little more broccoli on your cheesy potato, instead of trying to erase both cheese and potatoes from your diet entirely. And you don’t need to start living at the gym to make a healthy difference in your life, either.

“The biggest health benefits come from just a small increase in activity,” notes health journalist Tara Parker-Pope in The Wall Street Journal. “Five hours of housework a week, a nine-minute walk a day or four hours of weekend golf all translate into dramatic reductions in risk for heart attacks and other health problems.” And even more astonishing, in a 1999 study in Kings County, Wash. of more than 800 residents, people who walked or gardened for just one hour a week had about a 70% lower risk of dying from a heart attack. A single hour a week!

All right, so maybe I’ll never be as glamorous-thin as star authors Jane Porter or Lisa Kleypas, but you know what? That’s okay. I choose the pleasure of having my cake and eating it too. (And having bread. And imported chocolate. And hot salted fries. And chicken vindaloo with naan. And… well, you get the idea.)

So let’s make our New Year’s Resolution for 2006: No more punishing diets. Make your stupid diet tricks gentle, make them kind. Be good to yourself or else. It’s the best way to become the healthy, food-enjoying, life-loving girls we all deserve to be.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Remembering Maryanne by Diane Perkins

Today the Wet Noodle Posse received some terrible news. One of our own, Maryanne Cappelluti, passed away.

For the last several years Maryanne has suffered from scleroderma. Scleroderma is a rare autoimmune disease of the connective tissue. It causes thickening and hardening of the skin and organs of the body, and the most serious form leads to death. Maryanne had the serious form. She is survived by her husband, and a teenaged son and daughter.

Maryanne is a member of the Wet Noodle Posse because she was a finalist in 2003’s Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest. Her category was Short Contemporary and her entry Bachelor #2 was a riotous tale about the reluctant prize winner of a reluctant bachelor in a reality TV show. I had the pleasure of reading it. Maryanne made you cheer for the hero and heroine even while you laughed at their situation.

Maryanne did not attend the RWA conference in 2003, but she did attend in 2001 when the conference was in pre-Katrina New Orleans. She came with her husband, her biggest supporter--a hunky firefighter who turned heads as he walked through the conference floors.

Maryanne was terrified of interviewing with an editor, but, of course, she charmed everyone who came in contact with her. One of the nights Maryanne came to the room I shared with Melissa James (Silhouette Intimate Moments and Romance), Karen Anders (Harlequin Blaze), and Leisa O’Conner, and we wound up acting like rowdy twelve year olds at a slumber party. The poor people in the room next to us begged us to be quiet, but Maryanne had us laughing so hard it was impossible. It was, without a doubt, the most fun I ever had in my life.

Our good cheer continued on to the Awards ceremony, as you can see. (From Left to Right - Leisa O'Connor, Melissa James, me - Diane Perkins, Karen Anders, and Maryanne)

This is how I shall always think of Maryanne, so full of life and joy, before her illness robbed her of her health and her potential to be a really fine romance author. I spoke to her right before Christmas. We had a deal going to attend the conference in Atlanta this summer. She was determined to attend.

She'll be there, too. I know she will.

Getting there

by Anne Mallory

Sometimes just getting there is the hard part. Whether we are resolute this January, or just carrying on as normal, this month is a hot one for health and fitness clubs everywhere, as well as good intentions galore. We say we are going to run, swim, bike, do aerobics, walk and get in shape physically and mentally. And for a few days or weeks maybe we do. Then the statistics stagger for the number of people that continue the hard fight. But sometimes showing up is half (or more than half) the battle.

I know for me getting to the pool and then jumping in the cold water is the hard part. The actual swimming isn't so bad (well, usually -- we all have our days), and I usually feel great during and after a good workout. But getting to the pool? My brain always forgets that good feeling of working out and instead concentrates on the thousand reasons not to go or countless other things I have to do.

In a similar fashion, when I'm trying to write, sitting down in my chair and opening my Word document is the hard part. Writing (again, usually) isn't so bad. Getting there is.

So for those New Years resolutions...maybe instead of saying that you are going to do XX amount of weights, cardio, swimming, etc., or that you are going to lose XX number of pounds, or that you are going to type XX pages a week, you should try one that says you are just going to show up at the gym, club, exercise video, street, writing chair, XX times a week and then take it from there. Just get there. :)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Two-Faced?

by Colleen Gleason

We're six days into 2006. How are those New Year's resolutions holding up? It's still pretty early, so I'm thinking we're all still on the right track. (I am...except for that plate of nachos Tammy made me order last night...) (In my defense, I didn't eat them all. Not even close.)

Anyway. I'm pleased with my progress on my resolutions, and I give big kudos to everyone else who has stuck to their diet, exercise, and production goals so far. Keep it up!

Many of you probably know that the month of January was named after the deity Janus, and that his image is one of two faces: looking back (old) and looking ahead (young). Fittingly, Janua means "the gate that opens the year." What a wonderful image...the door of a new calendar year opening.

It was at the turn of the New Year that the Romans made their own resolutions, hoping for forgiveness from their enemies and exchanging presents.

H. P. Blavatsky writes
Let no one imagine that it is a mere fancy, the attaching of importance to the birth of the year. The earth passes through its definite phases and man with it; and as a day can be coloured, so can a year. The astral life of the earth is young and strong between Christmas and Easter. Those who form their wishes now will have added strength to fulfil them consistently.
So it's not just a date on the calendar. The New Year truly is a movement of our earth that wants us to make changes and to look ahead, after reviewing what lies behind. It's so hard, though, and in his book The Friendly Philosopher, Robert Crosbie suggests:
All have doubtless made New Year's resolutions, and all, no doubt, have failed to keep them. There must be reason for our failures....The reason for our failures is that we do not understand our own natures. Our first mistake is to make negative resolutions. We say, I will not drink; I will not lie; I will not do this; I will not do that. Whereas the proper resolve to make is that—I will do this, the opposite of what we are now doing. In this case, we make a direct affirmation of the will, while the other form of resolution puts us in a purely negative position.

So if you're having trouble keeping your resolutions...turn them positive. Remember the story about Jim Carrey? He wrote himself a $10 million check one New Year's Day, and resolved to make it reality.

We all know how that turned out.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Random Thoughts

I spent the better part of the month of December in bed with a back problem. The majority of that time I was on some pretty powerful muscle relaxing and pain killing drugs. One of my physical therapists (there are three of them) calls this "better living through chemistry."

During that time I was able to apply my brain to the state of the world, and I came up with the following conclusions:

People have lost all common sense, and daytime television sucks.

I have to admit that I’m not too much of a tv watcher. When I heard friends talk about how they just couldn’t miss "Buffy" or "Alias" or "Sex in the City" I was amazed, as sitting in front of a box for extended periods of time (or sitting anywhere for extended periods of time, for that matter), doesn’t interest me. I like to keep moving.

Let me throw in a disclaimer here: I had bronchitis last January (2005 was not a stellar health year for me) and I got hooked on CSI: Las Vegas. I watched re-runs of that program almost every day until I stripped down to all but a basic cable package—partly because of the price but mostly because I was watching way too much CSI.

I have come away from my recent viewing experiences with one burning question… What the heck are people thinking?????

Have you watched these shows? The Judge Judy, Hatchet, Joe Brown pseudo-courtrooms where the segments are a neat 15 minutes long (Andy Warhol would be so proud), or the Jerry Springer type shows (Which of these twelve men are the fathers of my six children?--DNA, get your free DNA tests right here!). The sitcoms are peopled with incredibly shallow characters. Even the so-called news shows are rife with speculation and inaccurate reporting. I’ve heard enough about the Jen/Brad/Angelina triangle to last a lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong…I do think tv has some value. It provides me handy weather reports and tells me which roads to avoid on my way to work. During my confinement it kept me up to date on the Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas debate. I now know that the Orlando Magic can’t win a game unless they’re wearing their white pinstripe uniforms (which precludes road wins, unfortunately).

I’m thankful, too, for my neighbor, who has an awesome DVD collection, which she was willing to loan, and for Netflix, which provided me with some excellent filler.

Except for "Van Helsing." Oh dear, don’t get me started…

Happy New Year!

Karen

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Month Early!

Noodler Book Alert!

For those of you who just can't wait until February, you'll be pleased to know that Noodler Diane Gaston's newest historical from Harlequin, The Wagering Widow, is available a month early through the eHarlequin site...











...along with Noodler Trish Morey's latest Harlequin Presents, titled Stolen by the Shiekh.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Trying New Things

Like Trish mentioned in her fab post, it's a brand new year and many of us are setting resolutions and goals for 2006. It's funny how year after year my resolutions look exactly the same. Well, not exactly the same, but pretty darn similar. Why is that? Am I not getting anywhere with my goals? Not taking them seriously enough? Or is it that year after year I find myself wanting the same things? Because when I look back over the year gone by, I actually did accomplish quite a few of my 2005 resolutions/goals. So why do the same things keep showing up on my list year after year after year???

My biggest goal for 2005 was to sell a book. (Check out Jane Millionaire!!! Woo hoo!) What's my goal for 2006? To sell a book. :) New year. Same goal. What were some of my other 2005 goals? To eat healthier. To exercise more. To lose weight. To spend more quality time with the people who matter. TO be a better friend. To try to do at least one unexpected good thing for someone every day of the year. You know what? All these goals are on my 2006 list, too. Does that make me boring? Man, I hope not.

This year, I've resolved to come up with something different for my list. Something new. Something exciting. Something that is a worthy resolution. Something that at the end of the year I can say, Oh yeah! That's a new one & Oh yeah! I did it. Something I'd never done before. Something that's an experience that enriches my life. The problem is figuring out what that goal is...any suggestions???? The things that come to mind are para-sailing, kayaking, mission work of some type, taking a class on something I've never tried before, kidnapping my husband one weekend totally out of the blue for him and flying us somewhere exotic (we've never been on a vacation alone & didn't have a honeymoon, so I'm liking this one), Sending my mom flowers once a month for the year, paying for the person behind me in a drive thru's meal once a month, you get the idea on where I'm going with this TRYING SOMETHING NEW with my resolutions.

So, am I the only one who tends to set similar goals each January? What are some of the goals that tend to show up every year on your list? I triple dog dare ya to do something different this year. To pick a resolution that you've never made before and then to make it happen. Something brand new. Something a bit off the wall and not your typical kind of resolution. And hey, it's a triple dog dare ya and as the mother of a 2nd grader I can tell ya that you just CAN'T ignore those. :)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A Brand New Year by Trish Milburn

The firecrackers are going off like crazy around the neighborhood, a sign that a new year has dawned. My how time flies. Doesn't it just seem like everyone was freaked out about Y2K?

Today is the day most of us resolve to make changes in our lives. We're going to eat healthier, exercise more, go after that dream we've never chased because life got in the way. We have the best of intentions, but somewhere around Feb. 1, life gets in the way again and those resolutions go the way of the the month of January. And when the next New Year's Eve rolls around, we feel bad because we didn't accomplish what we'd resolved to 12 months earlier and vow to do better in the next year.

I'm here to encourage you to not put it off. If you've made resolutions, stick to them. Write or type them out and post them where you'll see them every single day. Instead of judging how you've fared as the clock ticks toward midnight on Dec. 31, take a hard look at your list on the 1st of each month. Are you accomplishing your goals? If not, ask yourself why and if your answer is a true reason or just an excuse. Resolve all over again to do better and make out resolutions for that month, things that will bring you closer to accomplishing your year-long resolutions.

I suggest this not to stress you out. No, it's so that when the next Dec. 31 rolls around, you look back at the past year and feel an incredible sense of accomplishment. After all, that's what the Wet Noodle Posse is all about -- being good to yourself.

Happy 2006, and I hope you all accomplish your goals and realize your dreams.