This One’s Taken.

Here’s what I overheard today, shortly after I finished off my Iced, Venti, 3-shot, 2-pump sugar-free vanilla latte with extra ice:

My boyfriend did something really special to my girly bits last night and you have to try it!
But I want to be a MILF to my teenage son’s mates!
It’s a shame I married that assholio instead of my high school sweetheart.
That girl so totally was a whore for giving your brother crabs!

Ahem. Did you people realise you’re in the ladies room? The ladies room in a major metropolitan shopping mall, a busy shopping mall with a line of people, like me, waiting to use the facilities?

See that photo over there? Look closely:

  • A toilet stall is not a cloaking device; we can see your feet under the door;
  • A toilet stall does not include sound insulation; every word you said about ‘discharge’ came though the door loud and clear (and perhaps it’s best to see your Dr about that little issue);
  • If you are standing in line to use the facilities whilst talking on your phone; like stalls, cell phones do not come equipped with a cloaking device or cone of silence.

You know, I have to thank you for having no boundaries when it comes to discussing intimate details of your lives. You made me laugh when I was getting grumpy that the line was so long when I really, really had to pee. So, to show my gratitude, you are all going to feature in a scene in the novel I am currently writing.

Yes, that’s right. You kind women of the See’side Shopping Centre ladies room are my urgent comic relief.

There Can Be But One Explanation: Or What Would Cole Porter Say?

Here is the News: CNN’s Talk show host Larry King is set to dee-vorce his eighth wife.

Now I don’t know about you, but there’s something about a man who’s been married eight times, like Larry baby.

And Mickey Rooney.

                         Robert Evans had seven wives.     
Great Balls o’fire Jerry Lee Lewis had six.
Billy Bob Thornton chalked up five.

William ‘Kirk to Shaternprise’ had four.

Sigh…There’s something about a man who Just. Keeps. Trying. Don’t you think?

What is it about these guys anyway? Is it the hair? Because there seems to be a lot of it. Have you seen those photos of Larry with wild, wind-blown hair? Rooney’s got that classic 40s swoop. Evan’s has that 70’s thing happenin’. Jerry Lee’s locks were a trademark 50s bad boy. Billy Bob’s goes wild with his facial do’s. Shatner’s hair…well, Shatner’s toupee is legendary.  And you can bet that toupee is made of real human hair so it’s still hair.

If it’s not the hair, is it the glasses then? Three of our champion dudes o’ matrimony are wearing specs. Big bad specs.

Oh, pardon my sexism. Let’s remember the ladies too! Zsa Zsa Gabor tops the keep on marryin‘ list with nine, yes NINE, husbands. Elizabeth Taylor and Lana Turner tie with eight. And it’s five each for Joan Collins and Geena Davis (not bad for a MENSA babe).

It’s fairly easy to poke fun of serial marriers. But despite the fact they keep doing it over and over, the heart of the matter is they clearly believe in something. All right, you may argue that it’s lust, or security, or someone to clean up after you, or a being short a couple of IQ points, but our MENSA member Geena Davis blows that point outta the water. It could well be one of those things.

Or it could be that theses people believe in the Voodoo that you do. They might just believe in Romance.

They very well may believe in Love.

Awwwww.

There’s been recent speculation that Elizabeth Taylor will marry for a ninth time. Although her publicist denies it, there may be some truth to the gossip.

If you ask me, I bet Larry will beat her to the alter. Or maybe Larry’s divorcing wife # 8 so he can make the lady with the Violet Eyes his bride #9.

Of course, if this were a romance novel, the heroine would be punished for her serial marriagehood, while the hero would be redeemed because he finally found the ‘right woman.’ Could Liz Taylor be Larry King’s redemption?
 

Why Regency Romance Gets Stuck in My Craw (As scavenged from my readers group)

1. Virgin Heroines;
2. Balls (dance, not anatomy);
3. Virgin Heroines;
4. Gaming Halls;
5. The oops, ‘why the hell didn’t you tell me you’re a virgin’ sex scene; 
6. Upperclass twits and social climbers with Virgin daughters they want to marry off to a duke;
7. Everyone has a title;
8. Virgin Heroines;
9. Maidenheads;
10. Virgin Heroines;
 
Oh, all right. I’m messing witchu. Sort of. I can do Victorian romance. I can do Westerns, American Revolution and Civil War romance, but clearly, there’s something about Regency romance that makes me groan. Regency romance novels are incredibly popular and I’m not knocking them. Really, I’m not. There are some really fabuloso ones out there that I have enjoyed.  Unfortunately, this moan stems from the last few Regency-set romances I’ve read because they were very nearly traced and cut from the same cloth. I was disappointed. Greatly disappointed. I’m damn tired of the same elements appearing over and over, right down to the cookie-cut-out hero and heroine. If you read regency romance maybe you know what I mean. If you don’t, refer to the list above and insert a BIG YAWN.

Allow me to explain my list. So what is it about those things on the list that stick ’em way down there in my gullet? Gee. I’m trying to figure that out. Perhaps it’s because I know my history or because I’ve read Defoe’s Moll Flanders and Burnley’s Evelina as well as Jane Austen and I know what I liked better. Family secrets, bastard children and sexual escapades weren’t limited to the Aristocracy. The Regency era wasn’t only filled with the gentry and not every female was an eighteen year old virgin who had no idea about sex. The 18th and pre-Victorian 19th century were randy times full o’ lusty sex and excess like the 1980’s. Common folk were not excluded from par-taying like it were 1999, however in Regency romance, they are.  Really. Think about it. Can you come up with of a Regency that features a romance between a blacksmith and the baker’s daughter? Or one where the tenant farmer has a thing for the groundskeeper’s eldest? The housemaid and the valet?  It just breaks my heart. Regency cooks and footmen needed to get down too, didn’t they?


Indeed this comes down to being a matter of taste.  I know many readers like the Regency era for, as Anna Campbell put it at yesterday”s Brisbane Writer’s Festival, the fairy tale. I like fairy tales. I’m living a freakin’ fairy tale! I’ll agree that the Regency lends itself well to fairy tales what with the clothes and the colours and the estates and the wealth an all, but there are fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel and The Fisherman and his Wife where there’s not a ball, a baron, or a sexually ignorant virgin in sight. For some reason, that’s the kind of fairy tale that appeals to me. It’s dirty. It’s dark. It’s poor. It’s the kind of fairy tale I’d like to see applied to more Historical romance, to more Regency set romance.

What? What did you say? I should quit my belly-achin’ and write one?

Are you kidding?

Oh, no. Oh, no, no no. I’m not about to write historical romance. Uh-uh. Nope. I’ll let Jo Goodman do that. Or Lorretta Chase. Or Laura Kinsale. Or Lisa Barry. Maybe, if I beg her hard enough, I can get Anna Campbell, the Godmother of Regency Noir, to write a duke-n-virgin-free Regency just FOR me.

And in the meantime, I’ll stick with my contemporary romantic comedy fairy tales. 


Attached To A Bunji Cord.

You know that great idea I had yesterday, the one about Twittering a romance novel? Sorry to disappoint you all. I failed to come up with a hook-you-in opening line that’s short enough to fit the 140. It’s an interesting challenge, one I’m sure would have suited Hemmingway, but understatement and economy do not Oldbitey make.

Well, duh, you say.

Sigh. I’m one of those writers who does stuff in big chunks of a show already in progress, I don’t plot. I have the A and the Z (with Z equaling the Happily Ever After/emotionally satisfying ending), but not much of the alphabet in between. Every opening sentence I came up with was too freakin’ long. I got to thinking what it might have been like if Hemmingway had written a romance, one that adhered to the RWA’s code of the Happily Ever After.

Then I just got to wondering if the 140 frugality was something I could actually do.

I’ve got to finish rewriting my IASPR (International Association for the Study of Popular Romance) presentation so I don’t look like an eed-yet when I pubic-I-mean public-speak (again, thanks for that memory Brobitey). Did I mention I was presenting my masters crap at a conference? Yeah. I’m surprised about that too and since that’s the case, an endeavor such as Hemmingwaying my way into Twitter is not the most efficient way to spend my time. I mean, writing And She Was and facebook take up enough of my precious time as it is. Do I truly need to add Twitter to my time suck?

You just know I’m gonna give it the old college try.

For all you non-twits out there, here’s what I’ve got so far:
The way Colin drank should have been her first clue the evening wasn’t going well. The meteorite should have been her second. The chunk of blistering space crud punched a hole through the roof, blew a fissure in the ceiling and set the dining room table alight. Nonna’s hand-embroidered tablecloth, the one that traveled from Linguaglossa, Ellis island, Athens (Ohio, not Greece) to Santa Fe went up in a flare of red-orange.(yep, that there’s my tricky sentence) The scotch Colin threw turned the flames blue. The bowl of pasta Ness upended transformed the fire into a thick, garlic-scented pool of tomato sauce that bubbled and smothered the blaze with a hiss.

Gosh, OB, that’s not very romantic or Hemmingwayesque.

Cheese and bacon, give me a chance! This is my first try at field dressing an animal of any sort.

What’s Wrong With a Little Dirt?

I’m a big fan of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Not just because Mike’s a big hunk o’ eye candy with a penchant for making quips and poop jokes, but because he (and The Discovery Channel) show us people who are everyday heros.

In a romance novel, a hero can be a Beast (as in Beauty and the), scarred both physically and emotionally. He can be a hit man the likes of Anne Stuart’s Ice Blue. He can be a soldier, a vampire, a werewolf and spy. He can be a cop, an Ad man, a guy who paints in his spare time when he’s not being a a billionaire who collects art and runs his family’s casino. This isn’t to say there aren’t any real guys here. There’s the bad boy Fireman and the charmer investment banker, followed by the hot nerdy professor who’s only pretending to be a nerd. The bartender at the corner pub used to be a marine, the boy next-door is a public defender, the jock is the high school football coach, and his buddy the comedian is the local mayor. Of course there’s also the recently divorced Vet who looks after the widower rancher’s livestock. These are all respectable everyday positions available to the average hero. Nice, solid, guy’s work, but Mike Rowe makes me want something beyond The Beast, beyond the billionaire, marine, coach, Indiana Jones type.

 Dirty Jobs makes me want a Dirty Hero.

And I don’t mean x-rated dirty.

Call it a yen for some realism, but I want a hero who’s an undertaker. Or, like Mike shows us, a man who cleans out giant wind turbines that generate electricity. Or a guy who crawls under houses to replace insulation. Or a guy who tidies up sinkholes where people dump their trash. Because really, are these dirty men not worthy of romance, of love?

If the crux of a romance novel is built upon a central love story with a optimistic emotionally satisfying ending, not the job the hero has, who are we to say, "Sorry Dr Sebastian Morris DDS, but cleaning teeth and fixing fillings just isn’t as sexy as a Assistant DA cleaning crime outta the Big Apple?" 

Why do we get fixated upon rules, upon what is and isn’t allowed within the frame of romance fiction? A heroine can’t be over the of 40. A heroine can’t be a bitch. A hero cant have an unappealing job like undertaker, butcher or dentist. Who’s to say a dentist can’t be hot? If you put Mike Rowe to work as in a dental office, you better believe he’s gonna make a scale and filling look incredibly sexy.

I’m making my appointment for a checkup today!

 

The Ongoing Unibrow

If you’ll recall yesterday’s (now edited for spelling) bite, I yammered on about romance and the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome.  You know, I don’t get no respect.

If you had enough of my terrier-like nip on Monday, I advise you all to turn away if you don’t want another one on Tuesday. 

Oops, too late! 

All righty.  to recap: I bemoaned the fact romance lacks a voice in the literary world. I said romance readers have been brainwashed.

And now, I’m gonna piss some people off, but this is my soapbox and I’ll look like an idiot if I wanna.

Yes. Brainwashed. I mean that too. Romance readers buy into the idea they’re supposed to be ashamed of what they like to read. This is a huge reason why the genre lacks acceptance in the literary world.

Another reason is more a personal theory. I am of the opinion that romance is, at times, a little too prescriptive and narrow and unwilling to change. This is something I think that keeps it from being fully recognised as a ‘literary’ work. 

"What’s that?" you say. "How is romance prescriptive and narrow? How on earth is romance unwilling to change?  Romance has changed by leaps and bounds!

Ok, I don’t really want to go into the history of the romance genre and how it’s developed over time now, but I’ll briefly mention the evolution of the Harlequin-Mills&Boon’s ‘dime novel’ and how the women’s movement influenced female heroines in romance–much like in the world of Barbie, and how she went from Secretary and Stewardess to CEO and Pilot. There’s the whole sex part too, as in heroines get to have it and not be classified as ‘bad girls."

I’m talking about the unwritten rules that prescribe what a heroine can and can’t do, what she can and still can’t be, what a romance story can and can’t include. At its heart, romance is escapist fantasy. A vampire is fine. An alien is acceptable, so are assassins and spies.  But a romance heroine can’t be a Judd Apatow pot smoking loser who lives with her parents. She can be too stupid to live, or a divorcee, or innocent, but heaven forbid she has a foul mouth–unless she fights vampires or double agents and then it’s Ok to let fly with the fucks and shits and sons of bitches. 

What I’m getting at is how it’s just dandy to cross your paranormal with your romance, but not your romance with your women with an attitude. 

Don’t you dare say, hey, now, Old, what about Chick Lit? Chick Lit is not romance, people, but it does highlight my point. In Chick Lit, a heroine can have some major ‘tude. She can swear like Marine Sergeant Carter or be Samantha from Sex In The City. She can be materialistic, flakey, and even mean spirited. Yet, take that attitude and give it to a heroine in a contemporary romance and suddenly that shit won’t fly. The hero can be a brooding dickhead who changes. The heroine can merely transform from ugly duckling to swan. The contemporary fantasy has to remain in a much smaller, prettier box. 

Now why is that?

I dunno, but I’m going out on a limb here. It’s a little wobbly and kind of a stretch, yet I’m hanging it out there anyway. It’s my brain and if it’s been washed then it’s up to me to hang it out to dry, right?  So maybe, just maybe, if contemporary romance would open up a little, be a little less rigid about rules of heroine behaviour and allow for some materialistic, flakey, mean spirited attitude to infiltrate the fantasy, the way a vampire infiltrates the community, contemporary romance might climb up a rung in the literary world.

Oh, quit your laughing. It’s my theory and I’m entitled to it.

Now get off my green. You’re blocking my putt.

And as a completely unrelated side note, Glenn Tilbrook’s new CD is out TODAY!

Stickin’ it to the man(uals)

I chose the project and it’s counter -intuitive. 

It’s been building slowly. I’ve been doing my research and I’ve reached a breaking point with these How to Write a Really Fantastic Romance Novel Everyone Will Want to Buy manuals

Where do writers get off telling other writers the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ of using the written word? I don’t mean grammar or punctuation, those have their place as an aid to (mostly) the reader. I’m getting at the writers who say, ‘never use adverbs,’ or never head hop, only Nora Roberts can get away with that,‘ and my favourite, ‘keep your style simple; only literary novels use descriptive passages.’

Don’t thrust your small-minded pettiness on my writing. Writing, like a language, is a living thing. It evolves over time. Style can change in a decade or less. What was considered pulp fiction of the day (Chuck Dickens) is now classic literature. He was pretty long winded and mightily descriptive. Put a descriptive passage into a romance and you’ re being hoity toity and not adhearing to romance genre. 

Face it. One man’s Dr Seuss is another man’s Sophocles, James Joyce, or Jacqueline Susann. That Jackie Collins novel you think is trash is one person’s golden nugget. 

Wait a second. This was a bitch about prescriptive bossy boots books, not another dive into literary snobbery…

Hmmm, Could they be the same thing?

Let’s say there’s a snotty family resemblance–they’re brown-nosin’ cousins.

So I have to ask myself this question: Is this about me? Is this about my writing? 

No. 

But it could be. 

Sort of. 

Only because it annoys me so much, but listen, from where I sit, I think it’s admirable to want to stand something on its head, buck the trend, and try something different. I appreciate a romance that’s different from all the others. Hello, Elizabeth Hoyt anyone? 

Hooray, Elizabeth Hoyt! Yay!

I heard the mighty Puck-slapping Maple Sucker agree. Heartily. Hey look, an adverb!

Tarnation! I want to chuck these How-to guides out the window, but I paid good money for them and my research isn’t finished.

Luckily, (adverb again) I can claim it on my taxes.

While I’m up here on my soapbox, lemme toss in my 2 bits: Let’s get rid of pink or pastel covers. Let’s ban all those bodice-ripper style covers than never seem to actually capture what the hero and heroine are supposed to look like. Let’s have covers that match the title. Let’s allow the author to have input into the cover artwork!

Back to the research at hand.

Two degrees of Jenny Crusie

Occasionally this planet gets a little bit smaller. Earth becomes a teeny-weeny, itty-bitty place. Yes, it happens even down here at the bottom of the world .

I do not know Jenny Crusie, but I read her books. Last night, while at a readers club, I thumb through the first few pages of her book, Faking It. I’m one of those who watches all the credits at the end of a movie. I also like to read all the publishing details, the copyright date, the acknowledgements and dedications in the books I read. I get two names down on Jenny’s Thanks To page and shout, ‘Holy crap!’

It seems Jenny and I know the same woman.

Coincidence you say?

Hmm, maybe, but how many people in one town share the same name? How many women with that name live in the same town as Jenny Crusie?

I’ve been wondering what happened to her for the last 15 years. I tried to track her down a few times. The last time I saw her, in the small college town where we lived across the hall from each other, I didn’t stop for a chat. I didn’t suggest a cup of coffee. I should have.

I think of her every April, when her birthday rolls around. She was sweet. She helped plan a surprise birthaday party for me. She had a sultry voice, beautiful brown eyes, long, sleek, black hair I envied. Her dad was a cop. She liked Duran Duran, Melissa Etheridge, and George Michael. 

Cue the Disney music…It’s a small world after all…

I’m not beyond asking a complete stranger for a favour.  I know someone who knows Jenny Crusie. Hopefully, by this time next week, I’ll be talking to a women we both know.

High horses and soapboxes

Literary fiction.
What the hell is it? Does anyone beyond the world of the critic care? Where does this snobbery come from? Who says it has more merit than a ripping Science Fiction story or heart-pleasing Romance?
 
A novel that speaks to the masses…hm, let’s say The Da Vinci Code, yes, that got bashed by the literati. Not the type of jam I’d put on my toast, but damn, people read that mother scratcher, and enjoyed it. Dickens wrote pulp fiction, and he was a master storyteller, yet he was considered low-brow at the time. Oddley enough, today you find him in the section labelled Literature, far away from Dan Brown. 

Oh you so readily embraced James Frey, didn’t you? I understand James Frey’s pain. I get why he lied. Snobbery. We all want to be loved. It’s a basic human need. He got popular and sold books. You’re just jealous you didn’t think of his ploy first.

 
Literary Fiction types turn up their noses at anything popular, as if popular negates a good story. I swear, if toilet paper didn’t exist there would be some out there who’d refuse a page of the Da Vinci Code to wipe their ass. Since Literary Fiction is all about content and style, God knows paper embossed with little Robert Langdons would leave skid marks.
 
Grow the hell up and quit your frickin’ high school clique mentality, you blow-hards. Break it down into genres. Admit Literary Fiction is a genre and move on. Read what you enjoy and quit bashing Romance (which outsells LF and all other genres hands-down), Science Fiction, Mysteries, and the Babysitters Club (ok bash that if you want). Meanwhile, is there anything wrong with the simple, catch-all term FICTION?
 
Hey Booksellers listen up! This means you Borders, Dymocks, and especially Angus & Robertson! Want to make MORE money? Carry more Romance and promote it. If you have it, we will buy.

Scandal sheets, rag mags and the loss of Premiere

Sadly and suddenly, the death knell sounded for Premiere Magazine last month. 

Premiere was all about movies, from those clapper loaders behind the scenes to the actors, costume designers, producers, you name it they all got a mention. It was fascinating and informative, as well as up to date with film production in the US and other countries.

I’ve had a Premiere subscription since the late 80’s, just after they began. When the publication folded, those of us left with subscriptions (I’d recently renewed ’til end of ’08) were transferred to a substitute magazine: Us Weekly. We had no other magazine choice offered. It was US Weekly or nothing.

Of course, none of us loyal customers overseas were notified the magazine was folding until after the fact. I suspect subscribers in the US and Canada got the same treatment. At the beginning of May, I simply received a postcard declaring April 2007 was the last issue of Premiere

I got my first US Weekly yesterday. 

Oh Fuck.

It’s in the bathroom. The only fitting place for it. 

Us is a weekly magazine. I receive one issue of Us for one month of Premiere. The publication arrived 3 weeks after the printed date. Old news. Crap news. Not really news at all. Just lots and lots of pictures with really big captions and lots of pretty colours.
 
To me, Us Weekly is, besides an appalling waste of paper, nothing more than a glossy version of dumbed-down drivel. There is no mention of movies. It’s all fashion photos, and crap I would paper my birdcage with–if I had a bird. 

Meanwhile, I’d like to say a big howdy to Jimbo over at the Bomb Town News Observer in Los Alamos.   

One more thing. In his heart, I know Kergillian misses Jerry Fawell.