Tuesday, October 31, 2006

November at the Wet Noodle Posse

Slide on over and check out this month's ezine...complete with an article by moi.

Novem is Latin for nine. Before Rome's King Pompilius created January and February, November was the ninth month. The Leonid meteor shower peaks in November, and chrysanthemums bloom despite the cold. Sometimes we treat November like just a lead-up to December, but it's full of signs and wonders: colored petals in the snow, flashes of light in the night, and the reorganization of time itself. Enjoy November.

Most of us thrill to the story of the Phantom of the Opera. But Colleen Gleason, who is writing a book using the character, actually went to Paris and toured the real-life Opera Garnier, in all its gilded, red-velvet splendor. Enjoy the pictures and learn what accident really happened with the infamous chandelier.

Valerie Parv is Australia's queen of romance writing. Sydney's major library has been collecting her personal papers since 1994, and the media turn to her when they need information on romance publishing. This is because she has sold 20 million books in 24 languages. That alone would make her a SuperHeroine in our eyes, but she also owns a coffee shop, volunteers at the Canberra Zoo, and is pursuing an advanced degree. Noodler Pam Payne tells about the amazing Valerie.

As the weather cools, meals change from grabbing a salad between the soccer game and filling the swamp cooler, to actual cooked things. The Noodlers give you six comfort-food recipes to make things easy until Thanksgiving. Chicken and Dumplings, Cube Steak, Pot Roast with Roasted Vegetables, Bread-Maker Raisin Bread, Dressed-Up Mac and Cheese, and the most decadent microwaved potato you will ever eat.

With the time you save making our easy recipes, you can whip up some of Maureen Hardegree's Thanksgiving napkin rings. In just eight simple steps, Maureen shows you how to dress up your table with wired ribbon and embroidered fall leaves, eliminating all need for hand turkeys.

Terrible things happen to good people, and if you're one of those people, you have some post-traumatic stress to work through. Dr. Debra advises a family who was forced off the road and attacked. The immediate hurt is over, but emotional healing takes time, and is helped by both mental and physical therapy.

Looking for an exercise that lessens stress and strengthens your heart? Something low-impact that tones muscles? Anne Mallory recommends swimming, and gives you the pros and cons to decide if this is the exercise for you, along with aquatic alternatives to plain old laps. Water yoga, anyone?

Awwww… Look at your new puppy! Look at the little puddle on the floor, and the little teeth marks on your hand, and the little chewed wad that used to be a leather purse. Would you look at that?! Luckily for you, Stephanie Rowe has ten wonderful tips for training your dog not to take food off counters and scramble over safety gates, along with other horrible things you never dreamed Pookums would do. Stephanie knows dogs.

Discussions among writers can grow heated when people ask a simple question: Do you plot your story out or write by the seat of your pants? In the process of giving a workshop with two other well-known authors, Dianna Love Snell discovered that plotters and pantsers are not two sides of a coin, but part of a continuous spectrum. Where do you fall?

Noodler Jenna Ness isn't sure how many books she's written — is it eight, or nine? If you're still struggling to find your process, you might want to read about hers, which is very streamlined. Jenna became a mother in 2005, but she still finds 90 minutes a day to write, and has landed the agent of her dreams.

Parlez-vous français? Sprechen sie Deutsch? The Noodlers' Faves this month are three languages we wish we spoke in addition to the pause-filled, incoherent English we stammer when we're talking to our kids and typing at the same time. Habla toddler?

WetNoodlePosse.com -- Be good to yourself, or else.

Retro Tuesday: '80s Lyrics Quiz #7

Back to the lyrics this week...name the band and the song:
1. I can't help recalling how it felt
to kiss and hold you tight
2. Will you meet him on the main
line, or will you catch him on
the rebound?
3. Watching every motion in this
foolish lover's game

4. You make the sun shine
brighter than Doris Day
5. Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dream, red,
gold and green
6. They threw an American flag in our face
7. When I'm dancing close to her, I can smell the chemicals
8. She told me to come but I was already there
9. Streetlight people, living just to find emotion
10. It belongs to them, let’s give it back 
11. Everything you do is quite angelicate 
12. Rolling like thunder under the covers
13. I don't know what you expect staring into the TV set
14. My eyes dilate, my lips go green
15. I touch you once, I touch you twice

Have fun!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Of baking cupcakes for a class Halloween party, and other tales of school-baking on a Monday moanin'

As I contemplate whether I want to actually bake the three dozen cupcakes my daughter volunteered me to bring to her Halloween party tomorrow--or to buy them and, while saving myself a good chunk of time would also expend a good chunk of cash--I am reminded of the story a friend of mine told me of a similar situation.

My dear friend was a busy, working, single mom with two kids, and her seven-year-old daughter asked her to make cookies (or she was otherwise volunteered to do so) for school one day. My friend--I'll call her Janet--didn't have the time or the desire to do so.

But what she did was, I thought, infinitely more creative than actually baking the cookies.

She bought a package of Oreos and laid them out on a cookie sheet in neat rows, spaced generously, and put it on top of the stove.

When her daughter came home, she saw the cookies on the cookie sheet and said, "Mom! Did you bake those Oreos?"

My dear, wise friend told her she had indeed, and so now Janet has gone down in history at her daughter's school as the only mom who knows how to make Oreos!

Clever, clever gal.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

For those curious minds...

Here's my Maleficent Halloween costume, handmade from the neck up.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My favorite day of the year.

Today's my favorite day of the year.

Why? Because today I get the one thing I can't buy, beg, borrow, or steal. I get time. An extra hour.

One extra hour! It's Fall-Back Day!

I'll stay up late knowing I get to sleep an extra hour.

I'll watch a good movie, something fluffy, because, after all, how often do I get an extra hour?

Or, I'll indulge in reading a bit longer on a really good book (something I don't do so much nowadays), knowing I can sleep.

Or...I'll go to bed at my regular time, and get up an hour early, which is really my regular time, but it will give me a whole extra hour in the morning to read or laze in bed. Yay!

Or...I'll go to bed at my regular time, and I'll sleep that extra hour. Yes! Sleep! O, she beckons so prettily!

This is my favorite day of the year.

What about you?

(and don't forget to change the batteries in your smoke detectors)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Blogroll update.

I updated my blogroll list, and I'm sure I missed some. So if you're not there, speak up!

And...just for fun on a Friday...which hunk do these eyes belong to?

Halloween for Sluts?

So, my friend (the one who said iPods are making us anti-social, and also the one who hasn't seen The Princess Bride [she still hasn't seen it, even though she had a Princess Bride party at her house three weeks ago...because she fell asleep before Westley was asked to get down the pitcher for Buttercup]) has been ranting about Halloween costumes.

(I'm thinking she should start her own blog...but then where would I get all my ideas for posts?)

She can't find a costume that's not made for a slut, she says. Since when did Halloween become an event where it's all about sex? she asks.

My answer is: what in our society isn't all about sex anymore?

Erotic novels are selling like hotcakes. Movies are getting sexier and sexier, and those PG ratings are being pushed closer to R all the time. Television shows, even at 8pm, have too much implied sex for me to let my kids watch. Music, clothes, ads...everything is sex, sex, sex.

Why should Halloween be any different?

My question is: where do we go from here? Surely we can't get any more sex-focused as a society than we are now...or can we?

I hope not.

So will we come full circle and become a less promiscuous society over the next generation? A less sex-focused one? Ever? Or will we go further? (But, as I said, where else can we go from here?)

What do you think?

(And will someone please give my friend some non-slutty Halloween costume suggestions? She's an elementary school teacher for pity's sake...she can't be a French maid or a harem girl or a wicked fairy at the school party.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #8

Thirteen Random Songs from my
"Jamming Music" Playlist

(aka, Songs you would find me dancing and air-guitaring or fake-drumming
around the house to
if you happened to come by while they were playing...)

1. You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC)
2. Pump it Up (Elvis Costello)

3. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)

4. It's the End of the World as We Know It (REM)

5. Roll With the Changes (REO Speedwagon)

6. Supernova (Liz Phair)

7. Song for the Dumped (Ben Folds Five)

8. Keep Your Hands to Yourself (The Georgia Satellites)

9. I Will Follow
10. I Melt With You (Modern English)

11. Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)

12. Kiss
13. Harder to Breathe (Maroon 5)

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Favorite Villain

Having been in a household with three children for the last ten years, I've seen my fair share of Disney movies. (Well, to be honest, I saw a lot of them before we had kids, but I've seen a lot more since then. Like, every one that's been made.)

Anyway, in honor of Halloween coming upon us, I wanted to devote a blog post to my very favorite Disney villain.

She's elegant.
She's beautiful, in a horrific sort of way.
She's smart.
She's powerful and can shapeshift.
She puts Prince Phillip in a dungeon! Woohoo!

She's the magnificent Maleficent.

I've always loved her. Sleeping Beauty was my favorite Disney movie when I was younger (and still is)--I adore the Middle Ages, which is basically the time period of the movie. I always thought Aurora was the most beautiful of the princesses (great hair!).

And Maleficent. Cool, calm, evil, and so very elegant.

About four years ago, we went to a Halloween party and I made my own Maleficent costume. (I wish I had a scanner so I could post a picture!) Even though it was home made, everyone knew who I was the minute I arrived. It was those horns that gave it away.

Oh, and the purple eyeshadow.

And I'm not ashamed to admit that when I was creating the villainess for my Gardella Vampire Chronicles series, I used what I liked about Maleficent to create the character for my own Lilith. (Yes, I know Nora Roberts's vampire queen's name is Lilith too.)

I wanted her to be frighteningly elegant and calm, and surprising too, in some ways.

My Lilith isn't dressed in flowing black robes, and she doesn't have purple eyeshadow up to her eyebrows. But in some ways, she's my tribute to Disney's fabulously evilly gorgeous Maleficent.

So...who's your favorite Disney villain? And why?

(PS, my other favorite Disney villain is from the absolutely hilarious Emperor's New Groove.

Her name is Yzma. She looks like she could be Maleficent's great-great-great-grandmother, doesn't she?)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Retro Tuesday: '80s Bands

Name the artist:







Monday, October 23, 2006

For my girlfriends.

Go here.

Select a product. Ask to see the side effects.


(And remember who sent you, okay?)

My favorite gizmos.

There are certain little things in life I just wouldn't want to live without. I could, sure, but I wouldn't want to.

And I'm not talking about things like my computer (I'd certainly die without that!), my cell, my car, etc. I'm talking about the little things that make life so much easier.

For example, an apple slicer. I must use it five or six times a day. We eat a lot of fruit in my house, and I use the slicer for apples and pears. Constantly. It never even gets in the dishwasher; I have to wash it by hand all the time.

My newest favorite makes-life-easier gadget is the Tide-to-Go Pen!

My aunt introduced me to this little baby when my five year old daughter splashed ketchup on my white pants. She whipped out this pen and showed me how to use it, and I was hooked.

If you haven't used one, get thee to a store and buy a package of three. One for your purse, one for your diaper bag (if you still carry one), one for the kitchen, keep one at your desk, etc. They literally erase stains--as long as they are fresh--of pretty much any type. Even chocolate from my daughter's white shirt! Great invention. Love it.

I also love duct tape and binder clips. You can do so much with just those two things--I swear you could probably fix a leaking roof (Holli!) or even a flat tire.

My other very favorite little gadget is something I never leave home without. I carry it in my purse--I'd even leave my planner home in order to make room for this nifty little item if necessary.

It's my leather book weight. I love to read while I'm eating (at restaurants or when I'm eating at home alone), and this little gem is one of the best gifts I've ever received. And the comments I get! I can't tell you how many times someone has come up to me in a restaurant--customer or waitstaff--to take a look at it. Love it. If you're a bibliophile, or know one, this is a great inexpensive gift.

So...tell me about some of your favorite gadgets/gizmos. What little thing can't you live without and why?

And don't forget to watch Studio 60 tonight!

Friday, October 20, 2006

I am so thankful for the Internet.

I've set my DVR to record Studio 60 on Monday nights (and HEROES t00) ever since the pilot a few weeks ago.

The first show was good, the second better...and then I went to watch the third show (which aired October 9th) earlier this week and noticed that the DVR hadn't recorded the show which aired this past Monday the 17th (see, I thought I'd get a two-fer and watch them both at one time). No dice.

Something happened and it didn't record. I think it's my Music Man's fault for turning off the cable box, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, long story short...the third episode was better than one and two, and then they showed the teaser for the episode which aired this week...and Sting was on it.

Sting. (The one guy I'd throw it all away for if he walked through the door.)

Plus the plot's getting thicker and hotter and I'm loving it.

And so this is where the Net comes in. I just watched the fourth episode from the nbc.com page.

And I got to see Sting play the lute and sing Fields of Barley.

And I got to see Matt and Harry almost kiss.

And I got to see Jordyn McDeer kick some old-boy patootie.

And I got to see Danny start to fall for Ms McDeer.

If you aren't watching this show, you should be.

It's funny, smart, literate, and romantic. (I mean, on what other prime-time show do you get references to August Strindberg?) There are a couple great themes that are developing in a very interesting social commentary.

Go. Check it out.

Buffy meets Jane Austen taken to a new level...

As you know, my January release has been described as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Pride & Prejudice," and on some level it's true.

It's about a girl, rather like Buffy in the sense that she finds out she's a vampire hunter, but quite a bit unlike Buffy in other ways (ie, she doesn't complain about it, she actually embraces the chance to be different...at least at first). And this girl happens to live during Regency-era England, which is roughly the time in which many of Austen's books are set.

Anyway, using a high-concept phrase like "Buffy meets Jane Austen" is an easy way for me to give someone a quick preview of what the book is about, in the broadest sense...until a Brit with a delightfully dry sense of humor gets hold of the concept, and writes to me thus...
"I'm seeing Mr D'Arcy[sic] backing away, the camera zooms in onto his exposed, vulnerable throat.... Afternoon tea with the vampire. Won't you walk with me in the moonlit garden?

"Later, Darcy is safely festooned with garlic, and has a high collar embroidered with silver crucifixes.

"At Northanger, the plague of zombies is most troublesome. Yesterday we lost a coachman to them, they ate his brains, and then chased a parlourmaid, who found refuge in the orangery. It is most inconvenient, as one can hardly take a stroll in the rose garden without zombies bursting through the privet hedges. Fortunately old Tom, the gardener, and two of his boys, can be employed to keep them at bay with their pitchforks.

"Emma is strangely pale, wears a velvet band around her throat. These days her behaviour is a little odd. She sends messages by her maidservant that she is 'Indisposed', and will remain in her room throughout the day- yet by evening time, she comes down to dinner, and is a lively, vivacious girl again. Poor girl, she has terrible insomnia, goes out in the night for long walks, returning just before dawn.

"The walks seem to be doing her a measure of good, for she returns lively, refreshed, and rosy-cheeked."
Not exactly what I had in mind, but amusing nonetheless.

Thank you to Ersatz Soubriquet for his charming description of what came to mind when he heard the pitch-phrase about my book!

(You should know by now that I'd take any opportunity to post a pic of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #7

Thirteen Random Books from my
Towering, About-to-Fall-Over
To-Be-Read (TBR) Pile

....which one should I read next?

1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

2. The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

3. A Great & Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

4. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen

5. Surviving Demon Island by Jaci Burton
(Advance Review Copy. Woohoo!)

6. Barbarian Prize by Deanna Ashford

7. Northern Lights by Nora Roberts

8. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

9. Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
by J K Rowling
(I haven't read it yet because I'm waiting for Book 7...I want to be able to read them back to back. But I'm dying to read it.)

10. Broken Music by Sting

11. Naked in Baghdad by Anne Garrels

12. These Old Shades
by Georgette Heyer

13. A Reputable Rake by Diane Gaston

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Seven Wonders of the World...according to Colleen

I saw yesterday that there's a movement to sort of re-identify the Seven Wonders of the World, mainly because all but one of them no longer exist.

I guess if they're no longer standing, they don't consider them wonders? I suppose that makes sense.

Anyway, the Swiss foundation (New7Wonders) spearheading the change has a list of twenty-one finalists, and they're asking for people to vote on which monuments should be included.

I remember learning about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and then it seems to me there was a list of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, etc.

Interestingly enough, the criteria for inclusion on this new "potential Wonders" list is that the item must have been finished before the year 2000.

If I were making the decision, I'd still be looking at monuments and buildings that were:
1) built before modern technology (ie, without the use of gas or steam machinery) and

2) are grand in scale

3) have some sort of cultural or sociological meaning

...so this would be my list:

1) The Pyramids at Giza~the only one of the original Seven Wonders that is still standing. I think it's a no-brainer why these mammoth objects should be included in the updated list.

2) The Great Wall of China~it meets my criteria in the sense that it's ancient, and of course it's mammoth enough to be seen from space. Various walls were built as early as 200 BCE, and as late as the 17th century as a protection. It was built by the man-power of criminals, prisoners of war, and political dissidents, who were also in danger of being attacked by brigands during the construction. The wall was made to protect and provide a line of dermarcaktion for various Chinese Dynasties.

3) Angkor Wat (Cambodia)~Built in the early 12th century, this temple is considered to be the largest religious structure in the world. Originally built as a Hindu temple, its main structure (shown here) later became a center of Buddhism. The towers are shaped like lotus buds, common aspects of Khmer architecture, and the entire design of the temple is harmonious and balanced. (Read more here about this interesting structure.)

4) The Colosseum (Rome)~As I'm writing my third Gardella Vampire Chronicles book, which takes place in 19th century Rome, I'm researching this amazing building as the site of one of the scenes. I don't know why it wasn't included in the "original" Seven Wonders, but I'm putting it on my list.

This amazing amphitheater was built using the pulley system, which allowed the workers to lift the massive blocks, and was designed to be as comfortable to ancient Romans as our Superdomes are today. There were 80 ground-floor entrances, three tiers of seating, bathrooms and running water throughout, and a removable roof that could be pulled over the viewers in the case of inclement weather. We don't even have that feature in our arenas now! It could seat 50,000 people. Definitely a Wonder!

5) Macchu Picchu (Peru)~The most familiar symbol of the Incan Empire, Macchu Picchu is set amid the lush green mountains of Peru. Not merely a city, but more of a retreat for important Inca nobility, it was built with the mountains in the background so as to appear like Incan faces turned up toward the heavens. The structure is made with polished dry-stone walls, cut to fit perfectly together without mortar, in a technique called ashlar. The space includes temples, sanctuaries, apartments, and gardens.

6) Stonehenge (England)~Truly another ancient marvel, these massive stones were somehow raised and arranged in a perfect alignment. There are many theories as to why and what they were used for, but most experts agree that the placement had to do with their alignment with objects in space during the ancient times.

(Interestingly, Graham Hancock's Footprint of the Gods discusses the amazing similarities between the placement of structures at Stonehenge, Giza, Angkor Wat and one other location in the Western Hemisphere that I cannot recall at this time. Very interesting theories.)

7) The Taj Mahal (Agra, India)~I must admit, I'm a bit biased by including the Taj in this list. It's not as ancient as the other items on this list (built in the mid-17th century), but it's so breathtakingly gorgeous and architecturally perfect that it get my vote.

A monument for the Shah Jahan's deceased wife, its pearl-like beauty is most appreciated when one sees how the architectural style evolved from previous temples and monuments that weren't quite perfect, and ended here, where it could get absolutely no better. We have balance, we have minnarets of the perfect height and placement, we have symmetry, and the epitome of the onion-shaped dome. Built with white marble inlaid with precious gems that catch the morning and evening sun, the Taj is glorious. Perfection and glory. I really hope to see it in person some day. (Maybe a Gardella book set in India is in line?)

So that's my list. Here are some of the others in contention. Which ones would you include? Which ones have you visited?

Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Chichen Itza Aztec site, Yucatan, Mexico

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Easter Island Statues, Chile
Eiffel Tower, Paris
Hagia Sophia church, Istanbul, Turkey

Kyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan
Kremlin/St.Basil's, Moscow
Neuschwanstein Castle, Fussen, Germany
Petra ancient city, Jordan
Statue of Liberty, New York
Sydney Opera House, Australia
Timbuktu city, Mali

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Retro Tuesday: '80s Movies Quiz #3

Name the flick. And the actor or character speaking the line...

1. "Days get shorter and shorter, nights longer and longer, before you know it, you life is just one long night with a few comatose daylight hours."

2. "I don't make things difficult. That's the way they get, all by themselves."

3. "You're going to be fertilizer! They're going to bury you right next to Jimmy Hoffa!"

4. "Well my mother raised me on blackroot. It's good for you. It puts hair on your chest, doesn't it, Sticks?"

5. "All cowboys ain't dumb. Some of'em got smarts real good, like me!"

6. "G@dd#mn it, I knew I should've listened to my mother. I could've been a cosmetic surgeon, five hundred thou a year, up to my neck in tits and ass."

7. "You have to purify yourself in Lake Minnetonka."

8. "Your shower shoes have fungus on them."

Bonus question: these quotes all have something in common. What is it?

(Oh, and one of these movies was made in 1990. Just to keep things fair.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

I Don't Get Leo DiCaprio

I mean, I don't get the gushing over him. The loin quiveration, as Lainey calls it.

He does nothing for me. He looks like a pansy! A wimp! Kind of greasy, with that little goatee.

I like manly men. He appears like he just got out of high school.

I've seen most of Titanic, in bits and pieces (can't stand to watch that scene where the mom puts her kids to bed), and he certainly didn't do it for me then. I'm sorry.

So can someone explain his appeal to me? 'Cause, really, I think it's crazy, this squeeing over Leo.

I understand he's great in The Departed, which I haven't seen yet. But for me, I'd take Matt Damon anyday. I've been crushing on him since The Bourne Supremacy.

But Leo? No thank you.

Happy Monday

I had a great weekend. Hope everyone else did too.

The Tigers are advancing to the World Series! ROARRRR! (The last time the Tigers went to the World Series, I was a senior in high school, lusting after Kirk Gibson.)

My alma mater, the University of Michigan, kicked some Nittany Lion butt. (can you say sack?) (oh, and sack?) (sack!) Go Blue!

I had a three hour lunch meeting with two of my writing buddies (they are my first "readers" of my books).

And I cooked. I love to cook! I don't have much time nowadays, and I also have picky eaters (meaning that they don't like to try new things--they eat pretty well, but they don't like anything that looks different).

So I made a big pot of Potato & Corn Chowder for a little get-together on Friday night. I'd made enough so there would be leftovers, and brought it home and added a bunch of broccoli to the soup and had it for Saturday night dinner. Yu-um. There was even enough to freeze for a later meal!

And for my in-laws' birthday celebration, I made a four-tier Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from scratch. It was wonderful, although I must say, just not as good as the one we had at Ray's in the City in Atlanta this summer.

Guess I'll have to try again.

Oh, and I've so far resisted the urge to buy a green iPod nano...but I'm weakening. Big time.

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, October 13, 2006

To iPod or not to iPod (or, See the Person!)

I'm thinking about getting an iPod.

Currently, I use Rhapsody for music downloads--I'm not exactly sure how iTunes works, but with Rhapsody, I can listen to pretty much anything I want to for a fee of $7.95/month, and then if I want to buy/burn tracks, they're $.89/track. It's great--we feed Rhapsody through our stereo system and listen to newly released CDs, old stuff from the '80s, and everything in between for $8 a month.

I dig it. That's how I found James Blunt, way back in December.

But I'm thinking about getting an iPod so I can take the music with me, or listen to books on tape, etc.

Anyway, so I happen to mention this to the group of friends Music Man and I go out with every Thursday, and I explain that one of the reasons is so that I can wear the iPod and keep listening to music/workshop sessions/books on CD when I'm running errands, going shopping, etc.

And one of my friends mentioned that it really bothered her that people wore their iPods when they go shopping.

"It's anti-social," she said. "We're becoming so anti-social and isolated, and it bugs me." (That last part isn't a direct quote, but you get the idea.)

Thus began a lively conversation about this stage of communication--or lack of--in our society. We do so much by internet, text, cell phone, etc.--as our communication capabilities explode, are we actually becoming more anti-social?

I have beloved friends that I've met once or twice in person, but "know" through the internet and telephone.

During this conversation, another friend mentioned an Isaac Asimov book (she couldn't remember the title) in which the society depicted therein had advanced so far in technological communications that it was considered rude to interact with another human being in person. Everything was done by holograms, etc. (I wanted to know how they had sex.)

This discussion brought me to another point I've been wanting to write about for awhile. I was at a meeting with a ministry group in which I'm active, and we got to talking about how easy it is to rush through life and past people without really seeing them--seeing each person as an individual.

We pass people in the grocery, on the street, at school, at work, in the car and they're just people. The plural, the generic, the masses.

But they aren't. Each person is a person.

And what a difference we would make if we saw each one of those people as a person, not as one of a mass.

As an individual, who maybe had a bad day, woke up on the wrong side of the bed, their coffee maker didn't work this morning, they got in a fight with their kid, they got some unexpected money, they passed a test, they finished a big project, have a headache, found out their mom has cancer, found out their wife was pregnant....

You get the idea.

What if we each did that, maybe not to every person we came in contact with, but made an effort to really see the person we pass on the grocery aisle or who serves us our coffee, or who takes the parking place we had our eye on? What if?

What if we didn't wear our iPods so as to be lost in our own little world, but instead had the earphones out of our ears, so we heard the little old lady behind us in the grocery ask for help getting something down...or we actually talked to the server who takes our order, instead of talking to them in short, one-word comments while our cell phone is pressed to our face?

What if?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #6

Thirteen Movies I'm Embarrassed to Admit I've Never Seen

1. The Godfather (I, II, or III)

2. Field of Dreams

3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

4. Psycho

5. Jaws

6. Chinatown

7. Annie Hall

8. The Graduate

9. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid

10. The Sting

11. Doctor Zhivago

12. Risky Business

13. It's a Wonderful Life

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Autumn rain...makes me feel fine

I walked outside after a meeting this morning and it was gorgeous.

It had been raining, a nice, gentle but solid rain, all morning, but it had just stopped, so the air was damp and clean and crisp. The sky is light grey and cloudy and the leaves are absolutely brilliant.

I stood there and drew in a deep breath and just felt and basked.

Ever get those moments? Not just stopping to smell the roses, but stopping to enjoy something that isn't obviously perfect or beautiful?

Roses are easy--they smell amazing, they're masses of velvet petals all unfurled in a pleasing way. A sunny day is easy too--a warm brilliant blaze, or, in the winter, an eye-stunning blast of bright.

But rain? Walking to your car in the rain? Yep. Stop and smell the rain.

I think everything about nature is beautiful, even when it's ferocious (blizzards) or damaging (hurricanes, tsunamis) or frightening (arachnoids, snakes), inconvenient (rain without an umbrella anyone?) or gloomy (raining and cloudy).

Just had to share. I loved the weather today.

(The pics are from my backyard.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Smallest of Luxuries

As I've mentioned before, I love the autumn. The sweaters, the cider, yadda yadda yadda.

The only thing is, I'm one of those "cold" people. I'm cold all the time. Even in the summer, sometimes I'll be working on the computer at night and I'll turn on my little space heater for my feet.

Yes, my feet are always cold (as my dear Music Man, who allows me to put them on him anytime I want will eagerly confirm).

So yesterday, I went to Target and I spent $50 on a bunch of new pairs of socks. Not el-cheapo white crew socks like I always buy, 6 to a pack, that get holes and seem to disappear in the dryer (or somewhere along the way) a day after I buy them, but nice socks.

Talk about a small luxury. It was lovely feeling to be able to choose from several pairs of nice heavy pretty socks this morning when I dressed. (Contrary to popular belief, we novelists don't sit at the computer in our robes and bunny slippers all day. Sweats and socks, maybe, but no bunny slippers in this house.)

I know I'm not the only one who appreciates a little luxury like this.
Come on, spill!

Retro Tuesday: '80s Lyrics Quiz #7

Today's special edition is One-Hit Wonders of the '80s.

Name the song and the band....

1. No sex, no drugs, no wine,
no women/No fun, no sin, no you

2. If I could fly, I'd pick you up

3. Well, I talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about it

4. I know a guy who's tough but sweet
He's so fine, he can't be beat

5. I wish I was in Tijuana,
eating barbequed iguana

6. Can't you see
What this crazy life is doing to me

7. If you're blue and you don't know where to go to
why don't you go where fashion sits

8. 'Cause me say listen to the drummer, me say listen to the bass
Give me little music make me wind up me waist

9. But that's when she started talking about true love, started talking
about sin

10. I never needed love...like I need you

...so have at it. Answers posted later today.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Squishy Couch

Last night, my children played one of their favorite games with their dad. It's called squishy couch (I wish I had taken a picture....)(where's that darn digital camera when you need it?).

They take every single couch cushion, every bed or sofa pillow, every blanket, in the whole house and pile it on top of a prone Music Man, who is stretched out on the couch.

Then they launch themselves onto it/him. Bounce, jounce, squeal, laugh, jump...until someone rolls off and gets hurt.

Thirty seconds later, they're back at it, playing Kid of the Mountain while Music Man lies underneath, his face turned out so he can breathe, and lets them have a raucus time. With all that padding, they can't hurt him.

He loves that game, because he's playing with them, but he gets to relax at the same time. Pretty smart guy, eh?

Do you have any favorite games you played with your father...or your children?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Research & Writing Historical Novels

On Wednesday, Jaye was kind enough to ask:
"I have a question about research. I've always wanted to tackle an historical. But despite my education, which is heavily history-related, I'm intimidated. Do you research as you go or is there a lot on the front end? Even though it's paranormal, since it's in an historical setting you can't get too crazy with the world building, right?"
Thanks for giving me a blog topic, Jaye. I'm always in need of one.

As for how I combine research and writing my novels, the short answer is: I research as I go.

But that's partly because I've been writing, reading, and watching historical fiction for a long time. So, like you, Jaye, I already have at least a sense of the era.

I know the basics about what the people wear, how they travel about, what conveniences they have and don't have, etc., so when I sit down to write a book set in the past, I have enough information just to be dangerous.

But the fun part comes as I'm writing, because that's when things start to happen. Usually, I have the bare bones of a plot, but not the details. And the details, in my opinion, are what makes a book. And the details are what I research when I'm in the process of writing.

When I have to make decisions--about what someone is wearing in particular, about where a certain house or building is located, about what they might eat at a ball or fete, about a political event that's happening--that's when I do the research for that particular thing. I stop writing and start searching.

I think this works partly because it keeps the whole process from being so intimidating. I don't have to know everything before I start! You can't eat the elephant all in one bite, as one of my bosses used to say--and that's a great mantra for historical research.

For example, in Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of the Phantom of the Opera, I didn't have the best sense of 1887 Paris. I had enough to start off (I'd read the book, seen the movie), but I didn't have the details.

So when I had Christine and Raoul take a drive through Paris, I had to find out what it might have looked like, and what they might have seen. I was able to answer this question by using three tactics:
  1. Googled "Paris 1887" and got lots of stuff
  2. Looked at paintings of Paris that were done in the late 19th century
  3. Read fiction set during that time period
Paintings particular were helpful to me, because I'm a visual person, and seeing a picture of Paris with the Eiffel Tower just being built gave me an image to work from.

And reading fiction written (and set) during the time in question is really valuable. I can hear how people speak, what words they use, and often get little details that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

So it was fun for me to learn, through this research, that in 1887, the Eiffel Tower was just being built and the Parisians hated it. They thought it was a monstrosity.

And so I found a way to include that little tidbit in the book.

And that brings me to another serendipity about research, and why I do it as I go: it's the gems I find. The little nuggets of detail or information I'm not looking for, but I find accidentally. If I did all the research up front, I may not find these pretty little things.

Here's another example: I'm currently writing the third Gardella Vampire Chronicles book, which opens in Rome. I had to decide where a particular church that is important to the Venators (the vampire hunters) is located.

I guess I didn't really have to exactly identify where the church was, but I wanted to. It gives me a better sense of place, too. So I spent about three hours, literally, poring over a book about Rome and then validating my decision to locate the church of Santo Quirinus in what is called the Borgo.

When I started researching the Borgo, I found a lot of interesting information about that area; details that I included in the setting: that the umbrella makers were relegated to this quarter because the wet silk they used smelled so bad, that rosary makers lived in the Borgo, and I even found a painting of the area.

As to the second part of your question: I don't think that paranormal world-building in a historical setting is any more difficult than it is in contemporary settings. In fact, in some ways it might be easier.

It's a lot of fun to take a historical fact and twist it to fit my world-building. A perfect example occurs in Rises the Night. I introduce John Polidori, who is the author of The Vampyre (the first book that really portrayed vampires as aristocratic, mysterious creatures that lived amid Society).

My research taught me that John Polidori died in 1820, which is the year in which my book is set. How convenient is that? I also learned that there was some mystery surrounding his death. Hmmm.

Some said he died from poison. Others said he died in an accident.

I decided that he died from a totally different reason--related to the world I've built--and made that an event in my book.

So, to sum up, let me just say that for me, as far as research goes, once I have the basic idea of the time period, the research is just for little details. But the little details (hopefully) are what give the book its flavor and color and authenticity, and paint the picture.

I don't use everything I learn. I don't describe my characters' dress every time they come on the scene, or every single carriage or room. I give enough to paint a wide swath, with a few well-placed details, and that usually works to give a good flavor of setting without bogging the book down.

I hope this answers your question, Jaye--at least from my perspective. I'm interested to hear from other historical authors (and contemporary authors, too, because they have research issues too!) how you handle research when it seems so broad, and so intimidating.

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