Archives for the month of: December, 2014

Today is not only the last Sunday of the month, but also the last Sunday of the year 2014. Over the past couple of months, there have been lots of excuses to behave in less than healthy ways. Most people think they will start living healthier come the New Year. That’s what Resolutions are all about.

Resolutions rarely work. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/why-most-new-years-resolutions-dont-work/

http://www.businessinsider.com/amy-cuddy-psychology-new-years-resolutions-2014-12

But what about Cousin Bill who kept all his resolutions? Yes, goal setting works. But they have to be obtainable, measurable, and have time frames. Here’s a great collection of links to articles on the subject, one of which might be just right for you. http://psychcentral.com/newyears/

If you are thinking that the holidays are almost over, you don’t need to worry until next October 31st, let me point out that you no doubt will get invited to a SuperBowl party, will give or receive chocolates for Valentine’s Day, will consume the Required Minimum Dosage of green beer on Saint Paddy’s Day, will eat half your weight in jelly beans on Easter Sunday, and then there are birthdays, weddings, christenings, trips to warehouse-type stores that have free samples of stuff, and so on. Every day, in this culture that revolves around food, you are challenged to stay healthy.

So lets begin with parties. http://www.zonya.com/healthtips_party_survival.html If you are going to a pot luck, bring something healthy that you know you can eat without guilt. A chicken and quinoa salad, maybe. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/asian-chicken-and-quinoa-salad-recipe.htmlA tip I learned from Dr. Nick Yphantides http://www.healthsteward.com/MyJourney.htm is to be adventurous when you eat at parties. Don’t waste your calories on mashed potatoes and gravy. You know what that tastes like. Try the proscuitto-wrapped mango bites. http://www.southernliving.com/food/healthy-light/healthy-appetizer-party-recipes/healthy-food-recipes-proscuitto-mango-bites

A healthy life-style includes not only healthier food, but daily, regular exercise. A minimum of 4 days a week, 30 minute sessions, and then as much activity as you can manage the rest of the week. Weights and resistance bands are great ways to exercise while watching a movie at home. Once you get the blood circulation going, I bet you will remember the plot of the movie longer.

As a writer, I spend a good part of my day sitting in a chair. This is one of the worst things a person can do. Add to it that I am overweight and diabetic, and I might as well be smoking 2 packs a day. Well, recently I had the pleasure of attending a group session led by Bo Beauchamp, a personal trainer with Fitness 19. He taught us how to use a chair as the start of our exercise routines. First of all, sit up straight. You won’t believe how much that alone will help you strengthen core muscles.

Here’s a chair warm up and cardio that is wonderful. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/videos-detail.asp?video=38 And follow with the sit to stand exercise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tj0lQeps4R0 Yeah, sorry about the elderly bit, but if you are someone who hasn’t exercised regularly, then you need to start slowly.

So start this now, today, immediately! Don’t wait for January 1st, that’s silly. Eat healthy every day, look for tips that will help you do so, and plan your day around your exercises. Writers are successful when they schedule their writing time and actually track number of words written. Exercise is successful for you when you plan it and track how much time you put into it. You can do this! I’m cheering you on from my chair.

I’ll be back on Thursday.

I’ve read quite a number of special Christmas romances set in the Regency period. My favorites have been Mary Balogh’s collection, and I looked for her new story every year. I don’t think that’s still happening, and I miss it. Even the short stories that appeared in anthologies would brighten the holiday for me. Checking the list on Amazon, there are a few that I seem to have missed, so I look forward to completing my collection.

Many people don’t think Christmas was more than a holy day in Regency England, and that was the key to the celebration. And what we think of as Christmas, with the tree, the decorations, the candles and all, came to fashion with the very dashing Prince Albert when he married the young Queen Victoria in 1840. (Although several notable persons of German origin did keep the customs before that) But there were many native traditions in England.

Oh, sure, the Puritans, bless their hearts, were against Christmas for the association with Roman Catholic ceremonies and the extravagant feasting and fooling around, sometimes in masks, the drinking, and the plays, and oh so many things to dislike. http://austenonly.com/2009/12/12/but-surely-christmas-in-england-didnt-exist-until-dickens-invented-it/ But the traditions simply went underground, they did not die out.

The Irish held on to the Yuletide customs as part of their struggle to keep their culture alive under occupation and suppression. The use of holly to decorate began long ago there, and remains a source of holiday cheer today. http://www.ireland-information.com/articles/irishchristmastraditions.htm

The Yule Log, the Decorations on a Tree, the Singing of Carols, all started long before the Victorians got involved. Pagans marked the Winter Solstice by bringing evergreens inside, bonfires were lit outside, and Saturnalia celebrations also used lots of evergreen plants. When Christianity bloomed in England, the holiday of Christmas and the same plants were given Christian significance. Except for mistletoe, because that nasty little parasite was druid through and through. The Church banned it until the early 19th century. http://austenonly.com/2009/12/14/jane-austen-and-christmas-decorating-the-georgian-home/

So back to Miss Austen, and how she celebrated. Her letters tell us more, but she did cover some traditions in the novels. And a book I must add to my collection is Jane Austen’s Christmas: The Festive Season in Georgian England. The back cover blub states “Miss Austen would have known elaborate house parties and fancy dress balls. The Mummers would surely have attended her home in Hampshire, as would the Waits, encouraging ‘good Christians’ to ‘awake’ on Christmas morning. She is also known to have enjoyed Christmas pudding, still then a fairly new dish, loved by the Georgian monarchy and copied by many families at the time.” http://www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austens-christmas-the-festive-season-in-georgian-england/

So don we now our Regency apparel, dish up the Christmas pudding, http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1159/classic-christmas-pudding and ask Mary to sing a carol or two. I’ll be back on Sunday.

Pinterest is both great and horrible. Great in that I can find models that match what I think any of my characters look like, and then make it easier to describe them. And horrible in that I waste a lot of time looking at half-naked men, tall ships, and funny goat pictures.

I like to find a model who has lots of pictures up on Pinterest and elsewhere, so that I can get lots of ideas of what the person looks like happy, sad, dirty, tired, etc. I apparently found a one-shot wonder in my model for David Cooper. The young man, terribly good looking, is Russian and only the one photo of him is available. (David is the hero in my published novella, Appetizer: Pure Seduction from the Regency Banquet series.)Featured image

That happened again with my choice for Valentine Archer in the Bowman’s Inn Anthology. Stunningly good looking, but no match on Google Image Search and no information on who he is. I even looked at page after page of sexy blond men hoping to find the original photo I pinned. No need to thank me, I sacrificed my time willingly.Featured image

On the other hand, my model for the Curtis twins in the Regency Banquet series is Parker Hurley, and not only is he eye candy with amazing ink, he’s had lots of photos posted on Pinterest. I grabbed so many, I think I should start a folder or board or whatever they call it just for him.Featured image

But that’s only peripherally what this post is about. I watched a great movie today, a docudrama about sled dog racing. The Spirit of the Wind is about George Attla, Jr. Probably the only actors in it that you will have heard of are Slim Pickens and Chief Dan George. But the movie didn’t need bigger names to be moving and entertaining. And the best parts are that some of George Attla’s actual relatives had roles in the film, and there is a post script at the end to tell you what happens between the end of the film and present day.

I went looking for the film because Buffy Sainte-Marie, an idol of mine since high school when her great song Welcome, Emigrante accompanied a civics film on immigration. She did all the soundtrack music for Spirit of the Wind, and won a number of awards. I was reminded of her when I searched Pinterest for a Native American woman model to be Amanda Boone in The Bowman’s Inn anthology.Featured image

I also discovered another song by Ms. Sainte-Marie, Indian Cowboy in a Rodeo. Sadly, Pinterest has zero photos of Indian Cowboys in Rodeos. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

Stealing shamelessly from Jeff Foxworthy, I sat reading a Regency novel recently, and noted a behavior in the heroine. Then I read a hockey romance (yeah, my newest addiction) and saw the same behavior. Thinking back, there are lots of things that apply to the heroines in romance novels. At least 85 %, to be honest. Here’s the ones that popped into my brain.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – you enjoy doing things that most women in your position would not think of doing. Such as galloping in Hyde Park during the peak of the social hour. Or taking long walks in the country without a chaperone. Even reading serious books about politics and philosophy. (Side note, a critiquer once complained about heroines always loving to read, to the point that it seems a cliché. Well, we all love to read. And we have television, movies, computers, and so on to choose from. In Regency England, reading was one of very few entertainments allowed to young women. If you had half a brain, you would love to read.)
You Might Be A Heroine IF – whenever the hero’s unfashionably long hair falls into his eyes, you can hardly resist brushing it back for him. Dude, buy a comb!

You Might Be A Heroine IF – you are extremely poor but have a kind heart and pure soul. And you are still fascinating to the men in your life.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – you have brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, even nieces and nephews who might have their own romance story to tell. It’s awesome because then you and your true love will get to make guest appearances in those future stories.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – you are willing to sacrifice your love and you chance at a happy ever after in order to do something noble for the man you love. You may cry afterward.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – rather than buy yourself a new dress or shoes, you spend all your income on seeing to the old family retainers who have been more like family to you than your actual family.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – there is something unusual about you. You had a foreign parent, or are dark when the fashion is for blonds, are thin when the fashion is for plump armfuls, or are witty when women should be vacuous and should not speak up.

You Might Be A Heroine IF – there’s a spark in your heart to write a story about an unusual woman who makes a difference in the lives of those who read about her.

Best wishes for your own Happy Ever After. I’ll be back on Sunday.

Monty Python fans will immediately recognize that phrase, from the Spanish Inquisition sketch. But I bet nobody expected to see it on this blog! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WJXHY2OXGE And that’s where they’d be wrong. However, that’s not what my subject is about today.

I have a comfy chair. And it’s torture because I have to leave it sometimes. I can’t sit for more than an hour, hour and a half tops. Luckily the indoor plumbing is close by. One must have a cup of tea while sitting in the comfy chair. The one thing you must have is a cup of tea and a good reading light. The two things you must have are a cup of tea, a good reading light, and a stack of books – The three things. . . Oh, never mind.

I do have some age-related issues in my life, mostly that I can’t believe I am as old as I am, and I still try to do things only a younger person should do. Like read a real book. I love my e-readers and the applications of those on my phone. I always have reading material with me. Back when I had to wait for a ride, or took the bus to work, or whatever, if I forgot my book, I was in for a long, boring wait. These days, that is not a problem.

I also have control over the size of the text, so I can see it without glasses if I wish. Usually there is an increase of pain when you fall asleep reading on a phone or reader, than there used to be with paperbacks, but still less than a hardback, so it’s all good.

But now and then, I have a paperback or hard cover that I want to read, and it’s not convenient to purchase it again in e-format. Such was the case with Georgie Lee’s Rescued from Ruin. http://georgielee.blogspot.com/2014/04/rescued-from-ruin-in-now-available.html Georgie is a real angel that I know from RWA, and I won a copy of this great Regency romance. And I got a copy of Brenda Novak’s Heart of Christmas from the Whiskey Creek series. http://www.brendanovak.com/bookshelf/whiskey-creek-series/the-heart-of-christmas/ On top of that, my favorite book cover is on Sally Orr’s The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide), and she gifted me with a copy to celebrate my retirement. http://www.amazon.com/The-Rakes-Handbook-Including-Field/dp/1492602116 I had to figure out a comfortable way to read, even if just for an hour every day.

Light and lots of it was the first consideration. My Amazon parrot likes to sit on the back of my comfy chair while I read, and he also likes to destroy (pick a noun). I have a floor lamp with an extended hinged arm, and that keeps the lampshade out of beak range but where I get the light I need. Like this, but not bronze and not as fancy. http://www.amazon.com/Pompeii-Bronze-Swing-Floor-Lamp/dp/B003ZWAT7O/ref=sr_1_5?s=lamps-light&ie=UTF8&qid=1418401745&sr=1-5

Then the most difficult compromise. My eyes are and have always been unable to see much of anything clearly. I am near-sighted I think. Anyway, I have always read whenever I could get away with it by not wearing my glasses. Nowadays, that is not an option for real books. The print has shrunk. My arms got shorter. Yeah, all those jokes now hit home. And it’s way past time for me to visit my optometrist. Got that penciled in for next year.

My regular distance glasses are actually no-line trifocals, and they make life interesting. I tried to read using them, and my eyes ached in no time. The lenses are thick and heavy, and I want to take them off after 10 minutes. Not working as planned.

I have a pair of computer glasses, which I highly recommend to anyone who needs spectacles and works with computers. Mine are so comfortable that I often walk around wearing them instead of the regular pair. I have even driven while wearing them, but not on purpose. Just a mistake that I try not to repeat.

So it was that I sat down in my comfy chair with the reading lamp on, picked up the book, and read. And my eyes didn’t get tired. My computer glasses are perfect for reading! This is like the best Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa gift ever. And that reminds me of the classic Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith as the last book nerd left alive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAxARJyaTEA Glad I got to have a Happy Ever After ending. I’ll be back on Thursday.

I am not referencing the 1956 Bob Hope movie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049841/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt or the 1925 song written by George and Ira Gershwin and sung so beautifully by Ella Fitzgerald. http://www.metrolyrics.com/that-certain-feeling-lyrics-ella-fitzgerald.html?ModPagespeed=noscript I’m talking about the instant connection some couples feel the moment they meet.

Personally, I had a mild case of it when I met my husband, but if he had been unmarried, I might have let myself get into the experience. As it is, every time I see him, I get a feeling of gratitude that he picked me. In many Romance novels, the certainty of the feeling plays a role in the story.

I was lucky enough, as I think I wrote before, to hear author Brenda Novak speak at an RWA meeting not in November. I happened to have a copy of a book from her Whiskey Creek series, The Heart of Christmas. http://www.brendanovak.com/bookshelf/whiskey-creek-series/the-heart-of-christmas/ As an introduction to the Whiskey Creek gang, it’s not bad. I certainly will be finding the rest of the series for future enjoyment. But I imagine the story would touch me more if I had been familiar with the two Main Characters when they were secondaries in other novels. And that might be more than I could take, because this has me crying and laughing almost every other page. Ms. Novak brings together two of her people who have loved and lost and now think there is no right love for them in the world.

The story has one of the great openings of all time, and balances on instant attraction between Eve and Rex. Both end up doing things they usually wouldn’t do, because of that certain feeling. The feeling of certainty that being with this person is right.

The reader takes a while to realize why that attraction is there, that this person fulfills something vital that is missing in each of their lives. That staying away from each other, the policy their brains want to follow, is not an option according to their hearts. And that feeling.

My NaNo project, which I certainly should not have started when I did, also works on that certain feeling. Ash knows Romela is the one, the second he catches her scent. Being a shape shifter, he has better abilities of sight, smell, and hearing. Romela has been through some very bad times, and is trying to get her son back. She just doesn’t recognize Ash at first as the one true love of her life. But once they shift and get to know each other as jaguars, she gets it. She’s certain. But she can’t stop the journey she started, not yet.

Some readers have been puzzled by this instant connection between them, which means I haven’t done a good enough job yet of setting the stage and motivating the MCs. So I will be reading more books with that instant connection and spotting the way the author makes it clear. Should be fun!

On Scribophile, a member of the Romance group, Writers Who Love Romance, shared this video of Jennifer Lopez because David Gandy is also in the video. The song is titled First Love, because she wishes he had been her first love so there would not have been a second, third, or fourth love. Romela only had one other lover before Ash, but I think this still works as her theme song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfgoiYu9EUE Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

My villain in my NaNo project, The Way She Moves, is the darkest character I have ever tried to write. And that worries me because my tendency is to give the bad guy a redeeming motive or quality. But Luis is not redeemable in any way. I may kill him off at the end of the story, although he could be handy in the sequels.

To start out, however, I looked up definitions of evil. Wiki, of course, is my first stop. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil “Often, evil is used to denote profound immorality. In certain religious contexts, evil has been described as a supernatural force.” So far, so good. There’s a bunch of supernatural elements to the story. But then I read, “The philosophical question of whether morality is absolute, relative, or illusory leads to questions about the nature of evil, with views falling into one of four opposed camps . . .” Philosophy? This is not the University of Wallamaloo! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f_p0CgPeyA

Dictionary. Com’s first definition is close to what I have in mind. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/evil “1. morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked:
evil deeds; an evil life.” And a little farther down, under nouns, “7. the force in nature that governs and gives rise to wickedness and sin.”

A Catholic view of Evil http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05649a.htm “Evil, in a large sense, may be described as the sum of the opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universe, to the desires and needs of individuals; whence arises, among human beings at least, the sufferings in which life abounds.” Suffering is good. I mean, evil.

When I tire of typing evil, I have a wealth of synonyms to choose from: http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/evil depraved, loathsome, obscene, vile, bad.

Featured image

Here’s my muse for Luis, and I have to say he is not loathsome to look at. In fact, he’s beautiful in a very masculine way. And that goes along with something I picked up years ago. Evil doesn’t always look ugly or bad. http://www.archangels-and-angels.com/misc/fallen_angesl.html “The apocryphal Book of Enoch explains that a group of rebellious angels “left their first estate” (heaven, or the sky) and came down (fell) to Earth to marry human women and have children with them.” “Lucifer, who himself succumbed to pride, was the first and mightiest angel to be created. With intelligence, radiance, beauty, and power unmatched among all of the angels in Heaven, Lucifer was second in majesty only to God Himself.”

A dear friend who is a sister of my heart relayed this past chapter from her life: A million years ago or so I had a boyfriend for a very short time who I found out was an assassin. He killed people for money or other considerations. Looked somewhat like Nicolas Cage. That ain’t ugly, right? Anyway, he was totally immoral. Well, that’s what I would think an evil person would be. He was nice to me, flowers, things like that. He wasn’t a good lover. I understand that he could possibly have wanted my approval as a swain, which explained the flowers, etc., but his pleasure was important to him. Mine wasn’t. This post of yours brought him back to mind instantly. Hadn’t thought of him in years.
To sum up, I have a sexy, immoral, depraved man who has supernatural powers and seeks others in the world from whom he might take more power. He created a fortune and empire through prostitution houses, drug dealing, and gun running. He also ignored the connection between mates, as all shape shifters know there is only one other person in the world who will share their lives. He kidnaps his own son, would have aborted any female children, and is not above using his wife to further his own plans. Sounds evil to me. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

A conversation thread has me laughing and thinking of my own learning stages as a teenager and a young adult. We aren’t born knowing how to kiss. We get sweet kisses from Mom and Dad, and sometimes from siblings. But that sexy, lay it on me, knock my socks off kissing? We have to learn that.

As Romance writers, my friends and I chat about such a wide variety of things on Scribophile. We discuss the words young children mispronounce, we list songs that inspire us, and suggest books to read. We talk about the other Scribophile writers whose work we like, and if we are stuck on a plot point, we ask for input and help. Recently someone had a young female character who had not been kissed, and several of us admitted to kissing our own hand for practice.

I’ve said before that “Write what you know” is less than true. Write what you can imagine, and let me tell you I was a late bloomer with a vast imagination. The summer before I started high school is when I learned the truth about how women got pregnant, and how couples had sex. I’d had a few sex ed instructional classes in grade school, but it was a Catholic school, and discussed mostly which pads to buy when you started to menstruate. Thanks, Kimberly-Clarke.

No internet existed and no home computers, so I couldn’t research that way. I fell back on the time-honored method all kids have available. I talked to my girlfriends. “You mean they –” No, couldn’t imagine my parents doing that. Of course, they had been divorced all of my life, but then again, I was the youngest of three.

So if it was good enough to have people coming back for more, why wasn’t I getting any? Oh, right, I was a 14 year old shy overweight nerd. I had a blazing affair with the shower tiles, kissing and thinking about being kissed.

Back to the girlfriends. “His tongue? Really?” The shower was not equipped. If you make a fist, you can pretend that the thumb and the hand are a mouth. There’s room for your tongue.

Still, years went by before I got to use my skills. I remember being at a party with friends from work, and we were playing a really fun card game or two. We weren’t at a table, we were sitting around a nice room, kind of dark, but enough to see the cards. In almost one breath to the next everyone turned to the person they had brought to the party and started making out. Awkward. I was there alone, and was the first to leave.

I got to kiss my cousin goodbye when he went to the Army. I got a very surprising kiss from a young man as he entered the RenFaire where I was taking tickets, and lots of forgettable kisses as I worked my way out of my shyness.

When I met my husband, I thought we would be just good friends. You know what changed my mind? The way he kissed me. He focused on me, my pleasure, and used not just his lips, but his hands to touch my face, to caress my neck. There was no doubt in my mind that I had found the right man for me.

I wrote Romance before I had any firsthand (well, except for the kissing and, er, never mind) exposure. So don’t worry so much about writing what you know. You know how things make you feel, and how to express those things so that your audience gets the same feeling. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back on Sunday.

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