Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Z is for Zoe

Zoe Archer came to my attention after a recent RWR article about the perception of having made it.  The article offered a healthy dose of reality.  Basically it address the "what comes next?" question after each step on the road to publishing.  It warns us not to rest on our laurels and that success is a series of baby steps.  She shared her own experiences in becoming published, sort of successful, finding a bigger agent, being dropped by that agent, and then taking risks that payed off.

In her article, she wrote that at one point, while feeling frustrated at an industry that seemed to demand Regency, she decided to throw genre norms into the wind and wrote a paranormal historical romance set in Mongolia. This is where I realized I had to read her books.

I picked up Stranger.  It turned out to be the final book in a series, but it stood on it's own.  Set in the Victorian period, the story spanned the USA, England, and the realm of Faerie. It involved both magic and technology (I would almost classify it as Steampunk, but not 100%).  The characters that had been featured in previous books were intriguing (I will definitely read all the Blades of the Rose books). The primary characters, well, I did not want their story to stop.  They were layered, flawed, sympathetic, vulnerable, and strong.  The romance was HOT but always part of the developing story and character growth.  Did I mention it was hot?

Rebel by Zoe Archer has been nominated as a finalist for this year's RITA award.  I'm looking forward to acquainting myself with more of her stories.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Y is for "You Look Marvelous"

When I create a character's physical appearance I always use an actor/actress as my model.  Lindz over at Rapturous Randomocity is hosting a the Now Starring... Blogfest today. 

The Now Starring... Blogfest! Have your cast list ready to share with the Blogiverse by April 25th, 2011. The premise is simple: 

1.       Choose 4-6 of your lead characters.   
2.       Let us know a little bit about what each of your characters looks like.
3.       Then, pick any actor or actress, they’re all at your disposal. 4.       Finally, apart from their appearance, what about this particular performer makes you think they’ll do your baby justice. What’s that special something that makes them perfect for the part? Their attitude? The way the walk? Their voice? Let us know.

In Courtly Scandals, I cast my main characters as follows:
  • Mistress Mary Montgomery, my leading lady, will be played by Julia Roberts, cashing in on the way her smile lights up her face.  She will need to shrink two or three inches and go with the brunette look.
  • Sir Charles Fitzjohn, my leading man, will be played by Simon Baker, also based on his smile and the way his eyes almost twinkle.  He's honorable but playful.   He will need to grow a few inches in height.
  • Mistress Blanche Parry, the mentor/fairy godmother-esque character will be played by Fionnula Flanagan.  Classy, wise, always dressed with the utmost elegance.  
  • Edward Da Vere, the Earl of Oxford, my villain, will be played by Rupert Everett.  He is entitled, debauched, shameless, and funny as all get out. 
  • Anne Cecil, the Countess of Oxford is Mary's childhood friend, but is now married to Oxford and has shown herself to be conniving, malicious, and slightly unhinged.  When I picture her, I see a young Sally Field.  Anne seems so delicate and needy with those big eyes, but she has a vicious streak a mile wide.
They all look marvelous, and who would expect less in a romance novel?  In fact, in the first draft of my first book, I had my main character be fairly average in appearance.  This was not well received.  Why?  Because it's about the fantasy.  There's enough real life in our real lives.  So, my cast is full of fabulously beautiful people.

Just for fun, below is a clip from a SNL video and the inspiration for my blog title.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

X is for Xenophobic

Today people generally are not afraid of foreigners. Technology and communication advances have truly made the oceans between us insignificant. While people may hold prejudices and/or still think their particular country superior, they are usually not afraid of foreigners.

Not so in Elizabethan England.  Xenophobia was thriving.  With political and religious tensions (often from the same roots), foreigners represented different ways of life that appeared threatening. This applied, not only to people from foreign lands, but to Jews and Romany who had lived in England for generations.  To quote the wisdom of the murderous mob in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, "We don't like what we don't understand, in fact it scares us," Elizabethans of every rank held and active dislike and fear of foreigners.

When I have tried to understand it in order to portray it accurately, but in a sympathetic light (considering I am writing from their pov) I pulled from my own experience with people who take a difference of opinion as a personal insult.   If the English people felt that different lifestyles/traditions/opinions/etc were, by their very existence, criticizing their own way of life, they might take umbrage and feel threatened. Again, this is just conjecture.  In the end, I have always minimized xenophobia. All three of my books involved the court of Queen Elizabeth and include the foreign ambassadors.  I treat them with the public respect they would have received (in most cases) and avoided the private derision.  The xenophobic attitude has never been central to my story and, therefore, was not necessary to include.

Today most educated people treat other cultures with respect, but that is not to say generalizations and stereotypes do not exist. I like to think they are good natured (for the most part).  My brother in law is British and pictures my husband in cowboy boots.  To be fair, my husband pictures my brother-in-law with a monocle.  While neither man wear boots or monocles, my British brother in law does own a hat collection and only would wear tennis shoes for tennis.  My husband does drive a full size truck and own a gun safe for his collection of arms.

This video is a far cry from xenophobic attitudes, but it does involve some stereotyping.  I really enjoyed it and plan to ask my brother in law about the significance of the fig newtons.  I hope you enjoy it. :)

You’re watching Landline - Royal Wedding Hangover. See the Web's top videos on AOL Video

Saturday, April 23, 2011

W is for Wordle

I made this with Wordle. It is based on the selection from Courtly Scandals that I posted in the Broken Hearts Blogfest. It appears the words that are used most frequently are the dominant ones in the image.

Having chosen a more elegant and era appropriate font and layout, I decided to use a steamier selection from my w.i.p. Courtly Abandon and see what happened.  By the way, all that's happening in the scene is a passionate kiss, but you wouldn't think so to look at the key words in the Wordle art.

Friday, April 22, 2011

V is for Viral

I am 35. That's not old, but I think I passed some invisible line in the sand in regards to age and technology.  It's not as easy as it once was to understand the use and application of all the new gadgets and modes of communication.  I just created a Twitter ID and am exploring/learning the ins and out of that. I started my blog a year ago and feel confident that I know what I'm doing at this point. I'm listening to my Pandora radio station instead of a CD. I am getting more proficient at texting and have read four books using the Kindle app on my Droid.  I don't have a Kindle/Nook, but am no longer resistant to it. Romance e-books are booming so it behooves me to learn about them since I'll probably be responsible for marketing myself.

I started this blog in order to create a 'web presence.'  It became something much to me than something to add to my query, but that was how it started. I do not know how to make a book trailer, but I expect I can learn (though it does intimidate me) if I have to.

Things are not fads any longer, they are viral. Videos, blogs, and pics that go viral create instant celebrity.Celebrities are born every day with random videos of pudgy Scandinavians singing, hamsters being dramatic, or baby twins looking at their socks.  It is a world I'm trying to understand, especially in regard to marketing myself.

I was querying a small publisher recently and their website specifically said they wanted authors excited about marketing their material.  That tells me the author, with that publisher at lest, 100% responsible for any and all marketing.  That intimidates me, but it's something I have to learn about.

When my books get picked up, how will I approach this strange, new world of instant celebrity, 140 character blurbs, and home made movies?  Not a clue, but I'm willing to try.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

U is for Unsellable

Awhile back, Irene Goodman wrote an article for the RWR about the mistakes authors make that make their book unmarketable.

One of them that I have been guilty of (but I'm better now) was when authors do not clearly pick a genre.  Does the story start off as a romance then jump into fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and end as a thriller?  I wasn't quite so bad; I merely straddled genres.  Was I chick lit, historical fiction, or historical romance?  The answer was YES!   It was a problem.  That book, my first novel and my baby, will never see the light of day.  It's okay, the grieving has passed and I've moved on (more or less).

It was another one of her caveats that worried me more: writing about an unsellable subject.  She said that the author may love the history of Norway and write a great book, but if there are no readers interested in that subject, the book will not sell.

I write about the Elizabethan era.  After I finished my first book, I had a publisher, a big house, interested for a short time. When I did get the 'no' after revising based on her recomendations, she said that the Elizabethan era was too gritty and translated better into historical fiction than historical romance.  I thought that comment was specific to my first book.  So when I finished my second book, clearly a romance and just a better book all around, I queried her again.  Her immediate response was that the era was not good for romance.  So, that publishing house was saying no to Elizabethan England as a setting.


Phillippa Gregory's Tudor books, though historical fiction and not romance, took the world by storm. HBO's "The Tudors" has been a great success and is steamy (in spite of the creative costume choices). Every few years a herd of Elizabethan era films/mini-series come out and are successful.  Joseph Feinnes and Hugh Dancy are super hot, even in poofy-pants and wearing ruffs.  How does the romance reading demographic not like the Elizabethan era?

The Elizabethan time period straddles historical eras.  It does not have the chivalry and armor of medieval or the hygiene and easy access clothing of Regency.  It's the start of the early modern world when social mobility became an option, bathing was introduced as something that wouldn't kill you, cities developed sewage systems, the Church no longer held back science, art and music were thriving....yet there were still princesses, castles, jousting, and belief in magic.  It is an era with so many possibilities, maybe the problem is that the Elizabethan peg is too malleable and fits into too many holes to have a concrete readership.

So, am I writing about an unsellable time period? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

T is for Theme

I am currently working on the third Courtly book.  I have Courtly Pleasures, Courtly Scandals, and now Courtly Abandon.  The books tell the stories of three ladies, Frances, Mary, and Jane, and are set in 1572-1573 England. Each of my main character's deals with personal issues that are specific to their story, but all of them involve a character arc where they realize they are worthy of love, that they deserve happiness. 

I was worried that this commonality made the books too similar in theme.  Out of a fear of falling into a rut and repeating myself, I made a point to make the characters, passion, setting, and plot distinctly different (as different as is possible within the genre guidelines).  Still the theme remains the same.

Jane Lebak at QueryTracker posted an article about sequels that made me feel better.  While her article specifically addressed recurring characters and their consistent growth/changes in a story not designed to stand alone, it helped me see that the common themes tie my stories together and make them stronger as a whole.  Each book individually or all three together, they remind us that every woman is lovable, no matter what came before.

So remember, you're good enough, smart enough, and, doggone it, people like you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

S is for Summarize

I have posted on this subject once before. I was reaching then, and I am reaching now.
 At that time I was struggling with my synopsis for Courtly Scandals in order to get it to RWA's Golden Heart in time (btw, today is 3/18 and I will not know if I am an elated finalist or a dejected looser failure sucktastic unpublishable wannabe  non-finalist until 3/25).  I was having trouble highlighting the romance vs. the mystery -- I was frustrated and felt defeated, so I turned to my good friend Bill Gates for advice.

Word's Auto Summarize can be found under Tools. It takes the most used phrases and words and compiles them into a document summary based on your specifications.  At this point in time I am working on chapter 12 of my W.I.P. Courtly Abandon (about 36k words).  My 100 word summary today is as follows:

“Good God, Jane!  Jane sighed. Jane stated blandly. “Mistress Jane!”
Jane groaned inwardly. “Master Percy.”
“Jane.” Jane offered.
“Jane! Oh, Jane! “Come now, Jane.” Jane was astounded. Jane sighed. Jane was stunned. “Mistress Jane!”
“Jane! Jane interrupted. “Percy?” Jane was silent. Jane blinked. “Oh, Jane.” Jane felt sick. Jane nodded. Jane grimaced. “Master Percy!” “Jane?”
Jane shook her head. Jane laughed. Percy understood Jane’s bereft look. Jane rolled her eyes. Percy smiled. Jane sighed. Jane spat. “Jane, are you well?” Jane whispered her words.
Jane sighed. “Master Percy?” “Jane.” “Percy?” Jane shook her head.

Oddly, this time Auto Summarize has been useful.  It tells me my book is more about Jane than Percy.  I have learned, the hard way, that the hot guy needs almost equal face time because the reader has to fall in love with him.  The good news is it's not too late to fix it.

Watch out Percy! You're screen time just went up and you have seduce my demographic.  I think you have it in you; after all you look like Hugh Dancy, speak like a poet, love Jane for who she is and not just for her breasts, and let your inner passionate beast run wild when the time is right.

Monday, April 18, 2011

R is for Rickman

As in Alan Rickman.  Yes, I know it's silly, but I really dig on Snape.  Actually, it started back with Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.  He was a great Sheriff of Nottingham,dark, funny, yet still vulnerable.  In one scene he is stalking through the darkened corridors of his castle and notices two peasant girls.  He stops, points to one, "You. My room. 10:30." Then looks at the second girl and says, "You. 10:45. Bring a friend."

Good stuff.

I have read the Harry Potter books and never fantasized about the greasy, scrawny Snape Rowling describes.  I have seen the Harry Potter movies and Alan Rickman's Snape is a horse of another color.  It's not that he's sexy so much as dark, mysterious, and intriguing.  He's so lonely, I just want to give him some comfort.  Is that so wrong?  Perhaps.

Then again, I did not find him attractive in Love, Actually... so it must not be Rickman himself so much as the misunderstood villain. 

So, in celebration of my weird little crush, I give you this cake picture.  I think the seventh candle was originally in the row on the right.  I don't know who Colleen is, but I'm sure she had a happy birthday and I hope she wasn't actually turning seven.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Q is for Quoi?

I took French for a few months when I lived in Ireland. I was in 6th grade. I hated it, particularly when my teacher made me sing a song about apples.

I took French again at the local community college for high school language credits. I had a slightly (but not much) better attitude and actually remember some of it (though it was over 20 years ago).

Friends introduced me to Eddie Izzard's work a few years ago and I was enthralled.  He is a comedic genius. I recommend him to anyone, even people who are uncomfortable with transvestites (get over yourselves). Below is a clip of his description of a performance he gave in France. Ever since seeing this, whenever I see that confused look I often get after I say something I probably shouldn't have, I consider it their "Quoi?" look.  It amuses me and staves off embarrassment.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

P is for Poop

Yes, Poop.

Heroes and heroines of romance do not have any embarrassing bodily functions.  They never smell bad, pass gas, squirt milk out their noses, etc...  Even in the steamy scenes where sweat and bodily fluids are abundant, everything is very clean and, to quote myself, "smells like apples."

Break me not in your haste, for I to none would give distaste
When I wrote my first draft of my first ms, my heroine was a 7/10, attractive but not stunning.  She drooled on herself when she fell asleep in a carriage.  She threw up when she had to much to drink.  This did not fly with my beta readers and she became a perfect 10 and did not drool.  I did, however, keep the puke scene (it was comic relief).

This sets a really unnatural standard for what is sexy.  Seriously, I was uncomfortable passing gas in front of my husband (who did not have the same qualms) until I was so pregnant I couldn't control it.  When we started sharing a bed, I would get up early to use the bathroom, re-deoderize, and brush my teeth so I didn't have morning breath when I woke up in his arms.  Maybe I was a little obsessive in this, but I have a feeling many other people did the similar weird things to disguise the fact that they were, in fact, human.

In honor of realism, I have written a short scene that you will never see in a romance.  Enjoy.

Frances straightened her dressing gown as she stepped out from behind the privacy screen and crossed to the ewer. Pouring the tepid water into the basin, she lathered her hands with the lavender soap. Henry was still in a daze, lying replete across their bed. She hoped he would fall back asleep rather than…
“God’s teeth, woman! Did that unholy stench come from you?”
Frances grimaced. “I pray your pardon, husband. I think me that last night’s boar was undercooked.”
Henry sat up, ineffectively shielding his nose with his hand. “It still amazes me that such a beautiful woman can create such ungodly odors.”
Frances merely shrugged. “I am a human, you know.”
“Oh, I know.” Henry stood and walked toward her, the glow from the hearth turning the hard planes of his bare chest into liquid gold. “There is so much about your human attributes I very much appreciate.”
He drew aside the silk of her dressing gown, exposing one shoulder. Leaning forward, he lightly nipped, then planted one searing kiss on her skin.
She shivered in spite of the heat and pressed towards him, her lips on his neck then to his ear lobe.
He sighed and wrapped his arms around her. “Frances…”
His words were interrupted by a drawn out sound of thunder crack, then three smaller fizzes as Henry’s flatulence echoed throughout the chamber. “Now it is I who must beg forgiveness. Perhaps the boar is not sitting well with me.”
Frances gagged as the stink assaulted her and covered her face with her hands, breathing in the lingering scent of lavender soap. “There is naught to forgive. You are human as well.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

O is for OMG

I have two small children who watch Nick Jr. One of the regular shows is Yo Gabba Gabba.  Those of you not familiar with the show, imagine the psychedelic bizarreness of Teletubbies coupled with the low tech old-school Electric Company filmed during a rave while the director is on X.  Given that, it is strangely entertaining and even appeals to teenagers in a cult-ish kind of way.

One of the episodes featured Leslie Hall for the 'dancey dance' section.  I found her intriguing and looked her up. It appears she is almost like an art installation in herself, mocking pop culture and beauty norms.  The academic analysis aside, she is a trip.  So, here is her web video. It is almost hypnotizing and you may find yourself humming it later.  Or not.  Either way, you may experience the urge to utter OMG many times during the video.

What does this have to do with writing? Romance? Ermmmm... well, I'm sure I could make a connection, but the honest answer is - nothing.


Thursday, April 14, 2011


I have had a few shocks of late.  Well, not shocks exactly, but moments where everything seemed upside down.

1. A dear friend of my husband's and father-in-law's passed away.  I was not able to go to the funeral because of other obligations, but I wish I could have.  Death is just really a trip, isn't it?  Everything is so transitory, nothing matters very much. But death, death is for ever.  It's hard to get my brain wrapped around it.

2. I found out a former student (who I admired and thought of as having a bright future) is a daddy at the age of 16.  This in itself is not unusual, nor am I passing judgment (honestly), but it does freak me out just a little.  I hope that he takes his responsibility seriously, but doesn't give up on his potential.  This is not the first time this has happened, but it's the first time that it has really surprised me.

3. I was not a finalist in the Golden Heart in spite of the fact Courtly Scandals is a great book (if I do say so myself.  Hey, confidence is a good thing). When I sent in my submission, it was with the understanding that it needed work and at least I'd get an idea of my demographic's response.  Even so, I held out hope, which was foolish.  BTW, congrats to the finalists. I do wish them luck.  AND, on the plus side, I don't have to figure out how to afford the conference (even though I'd love to go).

That's about it for now (right now it is 4/1/11 and I have 3 moments listed.  If anything further is added, it will be posted after 4/1 and, personally, I am really intrigued as to what they might be.)

Addendum 4/14: Life continues to be bizarre.  Most of it is too close to even talk about yet so I won't.  Nothing great, nothing horrifying terrible, just stuff that requires mulling over, processing, categorizing, and ultimately dealing with.  Either that, or things that I will simply file away to deal with another day in the style of Scarlet O'Hara. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

M is for Modification

If I ever go back to school for my MA in History, my thesis would be about the evolution of body modification in Western culture as pertains to fashion and social norms.  Everyone thinks about foot binding in Asian cultures or neck rings in Africa -- but extreme body modification happens around us today. Most people do not note it because it conforms with our society's ideal of beauty.  Since when was a 6' tall, size 2, 32 D woman a natural body type? Social norms set unrealistic standards of beauty that are unattainable to the majority of the population, and for those with the ability to acheive those standards, require unhealthy living and plastic surgery. 

The true fashionable ideal is only available to the elite, the wealthy. The working class woman does not have time to dedicate to aesthetic fitness or the money to spend on face lifts, boob jobs, or Prada shoes.  As such what is considered beautiful has created an unspoken but clear class delineation.

This is not new to Western culture. As feudal law gave way to centralized government and a focus on the value of education and culture over brute strength, the distinction between masculine and feminine was made clearer through styles of dress. In the upper classes, the woman's dress greatly limited physical movement.  The practice of corseting took feminine shape and restricted it into something considered more sophisticated, with only the lower classes who did not have servants to dress them or needed to be able to move freely remaining shaped by nature.

Corsets changed shape from era to era, sometimes strictly conical, sometimes hourglass, always modifying the natural shape of a woman's body.  Some eras had more extreme modifications in the name of fashion followed but something more relaxed followed by more layers and stricter binding, always cyclical.  Add to that bustles, hoop skirts, panniers, farthingales, bumrolls, petticoats, push up bras, wigs, ruffs, trains, stilettos, platforms, waxing, breast/bottom augmentation, tummy tucks, cut muscles, color contacts, acrylic nails, perms, weaves, tattoos, or piercings and you end up with generations of well dressed women who probably don't even know what they really look like.

That said, I have pierced ears, a tattoo, and have been dying my hair since I was 18.  I like my bra to give a nice lift, I shave my legs every so often, love pedicures, and like how I look in heels.  I love historical costume and have been an active participant in historical reenactment as a noble of Queen Elizabeth's court, complete with corset, farthingale, bumroll, etc...  I am not criticizing fashion or fashionistas or those who have plastic surgery (though excessive use can be considered a pathology).  I am merely identifying that body modification is alive and well in the modern world and has been growing and changing for some time.

The image below is a time line of fashionable silhouettes. You can really see the changing standards of beauty in regard to body shape.  Notice that after 1820, the male shape stayed more or less the same: functional.

I decided to add this post because I noticed that the majority of my A-Z posts were aimed at comedy and/or for shock value.  During my regularly scheduled posting, while I do indulge my sense of humor, I also like to approach the historical and social aspect of my writing. My stories all stemmed from my love of history and my love of history is directly related to my love of costuming.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

L is for Loser

This is for everyone out there that has had their confidence chipped away by rejection.  You invest so much of your self, your creativity, your time, and your soul into your work and then leave yourself vulnerable to complete strangers.  Sometimes you respect where they come from and adapt, sometimes you don't and tell yourself to ignore them, but it almost always hurts.

So, to all my fellow rejectee's out there in the blogosphere, I recommend you get crazy with the cheese whiz. That's what I'm doing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

K is for Karma

Specifically, A Bitch Named Karma by Stephanie Haefner.

I bought the ebook and started reading it over this past week. I knew from Francine Howarth's review awhile back that it was not the erotica implied by the cover art (when my husband saw my purchase on the screen, he inquired hopefully as to the nature of the book).

I started reading (using the Kindle app on my Droid) on the air plane. The whole time I was shaking my head at the cliches that seemed to make up the story. With direct nods to Sex in the City, Legally Blond, When Harry Met Sally, and  He's Just Not That Into You, I had no idea what I would say to Stephanie in the future. Yes, it was entertaining -- but I was expecting something more, something honest and thoughtful.

And I got it.  Without giving the story away, the cliches are part of what turns out to be a satire, mocking shallow women's fiction.  Real life gets in the way of the glamorous facade of chick lit and the story takes unexpected, wrenching paths that make you stop and think instead of just admiring the haute couture.  It is a smart, intriguing story with a very relatable main character. I give this book a gold star.

BTW, the censor bars were placed after my 6 year old daughter came in to my office as I was writing this. I had to explain what a bitch was and why we don't call people that. Then she told me that the girl really should not have her boobs showing, so I added the bars. :)

Yes, I know I'm a couple days off.  It's because I scheduled posts for Sundays.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

J is for Junk

Usually, the word 'junk' only applies to the junk I don't want to see.  You know, when a drunk friend from high school moons you toooooo much.  Or when crazy no-pants-man walks around the backstage area where you're trying to get dressed.  He's only wearing his shirt and socks, but since it's chilly, he wrapped a blanket around his shoulders.  Yet, still there is junk.

What else?  Hmmm... Okay, you're laying on a towel on the beach and your dumb-ass boyfriends friend who might be high or not (there wasn't much difference) starts to squat over your face as if he's going to pass gas. He doesn't (thank God!), but it does give a clear line of sight right up his leg.  Then there are those accidental pictures that you find when doing a Google image search for lederhosen (go ahead, do it)... Seriously, there's a lot of junk out there that I don't care to see but somehow always do.

There is nothing sexy about junk.

You may wonder what this has to do with writing romance?  Just for you I will try to make a connection.

The romance genre treats male genitalia with reverence. It is lauded with poetic euphemisms and has an almost magical quality.  It would be hilarious if a book got published where the heroine got an unwelcome view of the hero's junk and described the sweaty ball sac or his wrinkled elephant trunk.  It might ruin the illusion of the penis as a cure-all-proof-of-true-love, but man would I laugh.

So, just to share my pain, here is a pic I titled "Grandpa's Junk." To be kind, I made sure there was no actual skin involved, just a tight speedo.

Hope the other "J" posts you come across today in the A-Z Blogfest are less disturbing than the above pic.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I is for I

As in, me.  Yes, if E is for Erin wasn't self glorifying enough, I am going to post about myself again.  Actually I am going to post about posting.

Right now I am continuing my prep for the A-Z blogfest.  So far I have A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, P, S, T, W, and Y completed and scheduled to post on their appropriate days at 5am PST.  I have something begun for M and X, but they're not ready.  This really has been quite a challenge partly because it goes against my better judgement.  Why?  Because, generally, people who follow my blog don't check it every day.  I find when I schedule posts too close together, each post gets less hits.  It seems that people only look at the most recent post when they check a blog.

Of course, this A-Z blogfest is another sort of beast.  People who have never seen me before will be here looking at my really weak "I" post and I will be seeing everyone else's I is for Icecream, Icharus, Illegal, Iguana, Itchy (oh, that would have been a good one!), Isotope, I-pod, Iran, etc...

So, in honor of posts from the past that received the least amount of love, here they are again, just in case you have the time before jumping over to visit the 400+ other participants. (Don't worry, I don't expect much)

Query Spoof Contest 5/27/2010 (the first time I participated in a contest/blogfest)
Fighting the Urge 5/30/2010
Try a Little Tenderness 6/9/2010
Care Bears 6/13/2010
Forces of Nature 11/30/2010

Friday, April 8, 2011

H is for Herpes

The nicest looking cold sore ever.
This is that blog that needed to be posted for that A-Z blogest that may be the death of me, but no genius guided me in the right direction, so here I am.

Okay... herpes.

Well, herpes sucks. In it's varying forms, it stays with you forever, waiting for your immune system to crash.  Yes, you all are thinking of genital herpes, which, I am proud to say, I do not have.  Yay for me.  I do get cold sores.  I have had chicken pox.  I once had a pityriasis rosea outbreak.  I also have had mono.  These are all in the extensive, inbred, dysfunctional herpes family.

Herpes is there, waiting for me to get sick, to drink to much too frequently, to get old and frail.  It's lurking in the dark shadows, planning it's next comeback.

Herpes, however, will never show up in my romance novels.  It's just not hot.

So, there is my H is for Herpes.  Not nearly as exciting or scandalous as you thought it would be, huh?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

G is for Gardner, as in Gardner's Mutliple Intelligences

My day job is teaching.  For a few years I was a home school facilitator and was really able to help home school parents fine tune lessons to their kids specific learning styles. 

There are 7 9 (they added a couple recently) learning styles:

1 Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence -- well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words
2 Mathematical-Logical Intelligence -- ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns
3 Musical Intelligence -- ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber
4 Visual-Spatial Intelligence -- capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly
5 Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence -- ability to control one's body movements and to handle objects skillfully
6 Interpersonal Intelligence -- capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others.
7 Intrapersonal Intelligence -- capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes
8 Naturalist Intelligence -- ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals and other objects in nature
9 Existential Intelligence -- sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.

Personally, when I test I am a musical, verbal/linguistic, and intrapersonal learner.

You may wonder why I am talking about teaching and learning in a blog about writing romance.  Well, my current main character, Jane, is a bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, naturalist.  She thrives on movement and experiences and does better in groups than alone.  She craves companionship and is more at home in nature than in controlled society.  She learns by doing, does not care for reading.  In analyzing how she learns, it helps me consider how she behaves, interacts, and grows.

This is just one of the silly little devices I use to avoid archetypal characters.  I also have run astrological charts on Mary (Courtly Scandals) and Jane (my w.i.p. Courtly Abandon).  A fellow blogger, Nicole Ducleroir, commented that she uses the MBTI personality tests.  Do you have any interesting tricks you use to help flesh out your characters?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

F is for Fabio

I wrote this post toward the beginning of my blogging career.  To date, this is the post that gets the most hits and the audience is from all over the world.  Why?  Because people are searching for the image of Fabio with a tiger.  While the below article is the same one from my post, I chose to use a different picture because it made me smile.


From the original post on 6/6/2010:

One year we had a Fabio Christmas. He was at the height of his fame and we bought my mother the calendar, the short video of love scenes, a CD of songs specifically chosen by Fabio to inflame desire, and three books citing him as the author. Mom, while pleased on some level, was a little embarrassed. My brother, sister, and I enjoyed a lot of giggling at her expense.

Afterward I, surreptitiously, read my first three romance novels. I was both embarrassed and intrigued – after all, there was sex in them and I was a teenager. I never listened to the CD, but my brother and I, in a silly moment, did call the Fabio hotline listed on the calendar. It was a toll-free number where you could get a personal message from Fabio himself. The message was that in order to be loved, we had to first love ourselves. You can imagine the fun we had with that.

Years passed and Fabio marketed fake butter and had a run-in with a goose. The world forgot about him – he had become no more than a caricature of himself.

Ten-ish years after our Fabio Christmas, I was shopping with some friends in the garment district of down-town Los Angeles. I was frustrated about having to change my design because I couldn’t find the perfect shad of red in a cotton velvet. I was tired and I felt grungy.

And then, there he was. Fabio.

I pointed him out to my friend who, having not had the entire Fabio experience, asked “Isn’t that the butter guy?” Yes, yes it was.

The oddest thing was that he saw me see him. He was carrying a bolt of fabric for a very beautiful young woman and about to enter a storefront but, instead, stood there waiting for me and my friend make our way though the pushy vendors and sidewalk sales cluttering the path between us.

The man was a giant. All of the artfully gaping, billowing linen shirts I had seen over the yeas had not done him justice. He towered over me and I felt so delicate my bosom almost heaved. I fought the urge to rip my shirt and plaster myself against his thigh and simply asked if he was really Fabio.

Stupid question. Of course he was.

He signed my costume design paper and I excused myself from his aura of unbridled masculinity and went about my day, feeling decidedly awkward.

Fabio probably meets fans who are excited to meet a celebrity wherever he goes. He had no way of knowing, when he signed my paperwork, that I had had a Fabio Christmas and called his hotline. I was/am a real fan of sorts. It was very cool to meet him -- seriously, it made my day/week in a way meeting Ike Turner did not.

Okay, so what's my point? Fabio's message about loving yourself before others can love you is one of those universal truths that women, in an era of self-deprecating jokes and size two models, forget. My stories have running theme of self-love -- not that type that makes you blind, but the type that offers healing, self respect, and and optimistic future view. So, on that note, thank you Fabio.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for Erin

2004 at my sister's wedding
Nice to meet you.  My name is Erin Kane Spock.  When I married, I almost didn't take the name Spock for two reasons:

1.  I am a Trekkie, but was not prepared for the level of teasing and STUPID jokes that people make when they hear the name.

2.  The Kane family has a very strong family identity.  For a long time, I was lead to believe that we were actually the superior race.  Forget racial tensions and skin color, it was all about the Kane's, FTW.  I have since gotten over this misconception.  The Kane's are just as messed up as any other family (sorry Grandma).

This is a casual costume. 
My name, Erin, means Ireland.  I lived in Ireland as a child and young adolescent.  There aren't many Erins there, but there was a popular brand of soup.  So, I was frequently Erin Barley Beef or Erin Oxtail... it was great.  By which I mean, it was terrible.  When I moved back to the USA, I was determined to go by my middle name (or a derivative thereof) Christina.  I sat down in class along with 5 other Christy, Chris, Christine, Whathaveyou.  I stuck with Erin.

1979ish, my first marriage was short lived.
I never really got over the disappointment that I was not born a princess.  I am sure this is what lead me to Renaissance fairs during high school.  My interest in costuming translated into a fascination with history in college.  My focus of study was the Renaissance and Reformation, specifically social history and costuming.

(c) Richard Lowe
My love of all things Elizabethan inspired my choice of topic in regards to romance.  While I do love reading Regency, I found the Tudor/Elizabethan era woefully under represented in the genre and thought I might create a niche for myself.  Instead what I found is that the Elizabethan era is this weird period of time in between medieval and Regency that doesn't seem to have a market within the Romance spectrum (more suited for historical fiction).  Personally, I love the potential of the era.  The costumes, the opulence at court, political intrigue, new discovery, the art, dance, entertainment, bi-polar morals... even the arcane.  So many possibilities.  It's the bridge to modern times, with the advent of the shopping mall, more regular bathing, literacy, and social mobility.  Obviously, I still hold on to hope.  I would like to be published and I believe the stories are good, but I would not be writing at my best if I were to choose a different era at this time.  I have stories in my head that need to get out and I will continue to write Elizabethan era romance until a different sort of story becomes dominant in my psyche.
A big wheel, the closest thing to flying.

I have two finished Elizabethan era historical romances, Courtly Pleasures and Courtly Scandals.  I am currently working on my third, Courtly Abandon.  I have ideas for completely reworking Courtly Pleasures (and returning the original version to its original name, Courtly Love), but that is not a priority.

E is for Erin.  I've been blogging for a year, I figured it was time I properly introduced myself.  Nice to meet you. :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for Dammit!

The good news is that I got a request for a full manuscript from a publisher. I'm pleased with the positive response, but this has happened before (different book, though). So don't get too excited.  I'm trying to hold the excitement at bay myself.

Anyway, the request included formatting guidelines so I finally broke down and changed everything to a single space after the period. Yes Andrew and Raquel, I did it. But it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.

I did a simple "replace all" for all periods followed by two spaces to be followed by one space. Done? No. There are other forms of punctuation. So then another replace all for !  , ?  , and "  . Great. Done. Wait, no -- I forgot the ellipses. Done now? Yes. And thus,  Courtly Scandals joined the MLA formatting for the 21st century. God, I feel old.

So then I went and did this to my W.I.P., Courtly Abandon, and promised myself that, from now on, I would adhere to the stupid new single space rule. I save all my chapters in separate files, so after fixing chapters 1-8 I decided I needed to do a rank/precedence change to my potential-but-not love interest. The Earl of Kingsley stepped down on the totem pole to the Viscount of Kingsley after another 'replace all.' But I was foolish. I did not select the 'more' option and ended up with the following words scattered throughout my 8 chapters:
  • Viscounty
  • Viscountiest
  • Viscountier
  • cViscounty
And, of course, Earl starts with a vowel... So then  I had to go through and fix all the 'an Viscount.'

After all of that, I whined to my husband and he asked why I didn't just do a replace all for all two blank spaces. Yes, I felt like an idiot. Dammit! Why is nothing easy?

BTW, it pained me to write this post using single spaces after periods. This transition is going to be tough. Old dog, new tricks and stuff.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for Cider

When I was eight, my family took a summer vacation to Ireland.  My grandparents, my parents, my uncle, my two young siblings, and I drove around Ireland, Wales, and England for a summer in a 1984 VW Quantum.  The three kids, me included, piled in with the luggage in the trunk of the station wagon.   Besides the close confines, another problem reared its ugly head -- I got car sick.  All the time.  My Grandpa joked about making a map of all the places I puked throughout the trip.  Whenever I got sick, my Grandma would move to the back seat and my Mom would move to the trunk with my brother and sister (ages 5 and 3) and I'd get shotgun, with the window wide open and a trash bag on my lap.

Being in Ireland, we stopped for lunch at pubs and had 'pub grub.'  My parents would get us either a half pint of lemonade (generic 7-Up from a soda fountain) or cider.  Everyone in my family believed it was apple juice.  When I told them it tasted yucky, they told me to stop whining and drink it, it cost money.  Of course I was also complaining about the butter on my sandwich and the lack of ketchup for the 'chips,' so I don't blame them.

In the USA, cider is a non-alcoholic beverage.  We specify hard cider when it is alcoholic.  Not so in Ireland.  Yep, my family was giving their kids booze and the Irish bar tenders at the little pubs we stopped at probably thought it was funny. I cannot say whether or not there was a correlation between my cider intake and my car sickness, but it's possible.

I write about the Elizabethan era.  Water was not for drinking -- water caused dysentery and worse.  People started their mornings off with a small ale.  Of course, the alcohol content was less then than it is today (a small ale being very much like a near-beer).  In order to write the era correctly, I had to find out about what the various classes ate and drank, how it was prepared, and how it was stored.  Let me say, the Elizabethans had to have strong digestive systems.  Their nutritional habits truly tested the theory of survival of the fittest. 

I chose my topic for today's A-Z blogfest because I am currently drinking Fox Barrel Black Currant Cider.  I do not think it is yucky and I plan to drink the whole thing.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Bloomers

Point of fact:  Bloomers were not worn during the Elizabethan era.  What did they wear?  Well, they wore a heck of a lot of clothing, but no underpants of any kind.  Honestly, it makes sense.  If you have multiple layers of skirting held out by hoops, it's hard enough to use the necessary without adding the additional step of dropping your drawers.  My historical costuming is accurate in my novels (with the exception of me saying 'hoops' rather than 'farthingale' -- it has to be accessible to non-Tudorophiles).

I do wear bloomers when I'm in Elizabethan garb.  This is mainly for my own comfort and modesty, but also for hygiene purposes.  It gets dusty in Southern California and walking along in hoops can cause a miniature dust-devil under your skirts.

I found the below clip based on one of the searches I found in my blogspot Stats page that lead the unwitting searcher to me.  What he wanted was:

Thanks for coming by.  Please check out the other participants at the A-Z blogfest.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for April Fool's Day

I wonder how many other bloggers chose the same title?

This is my first entry for the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

I remember reading through the blogs participating in this challenge last year.  I was new to blogging and feeling my way through the blogosphere.  Now it's been just about a year.  I have new friends, people who have influenced me from all over the world.  My name is better known, but more importantly, I have joined a community of like minded writers.

So here we are, April 2011.  Specifically, it is April 1st -- April Fool's Day.    In honor of the day, I have written something about myself that is completely false except for one truth.  Can you spot the true fact about me?

I was born in the early 80's in Victorville, Ca.  The middle of three children, I grew up never quite living up to the standards of my older brother, Mark. Flanked by brothers, I was always very active in sports, but though I got a few  JV letters, my only Varsity letter was for Academic Team.  

I met my husband while on a biking trip through Ireland.  We shared the love of nature and physical activity and hit it off immediately.  It was unfortunate that I injured my knee during that adventure and have since had to slow down.  The down time has given me the inspiration to write, to recapture the thrill of adventure on paper even though I couldn't experience it for myself the same way.  

I write inspirational action/adventure.  I am very active in my church and my faith features strongly in my writing.  I became a vegetarian in order to help stay lean -- I have a petite, slight build that can't handle weight well and I hate it when my butt gets bigger than my chest.  Right now I am in the middle of a green tea and leek cleansing diet and I love it.

So, most of the above biography is a load of lies -- but one fact is true.  Can you find it?

The beautiful image above comes from Chantal's Stained Glass Patterns.

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