Saturday, December 31, 2005

Reviewing books

Is it possible to feel sorry for a book who's only reviews online are by Harriet Klausner?

Just started reading a book with an excellent first chapter and tried to hedge my bets by trying to find reviews of it. Does it live up to the first chapter? Does the writing die off?

So I guess I'll have to suck it up, throw away my internet crutch and actually read the darn thing my self.

Interesting that I didn't know that I had gotten into the habit of reading reviews of a book I'm reading. Don't do it for all books--does it mean that the book didn't hold my attention as much as I though it did?

Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 30, 2005

It's still raining...

and there's not much more to report.

Although I will be ever so glad when my adorable children find themselves back in school during the day.

{sarcasm} Locking them in their rooms until school starts again is wrong, why?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go away

Someday soon the rain will stop.

Gotta love sunny California--rain, mudslides, landslides. Mmmm Hmmm.

When it really starts pouring like this, we also have problems with "vermin" coming into the house to stay dry and warm. (Hey! It's MY house, you guys!) So far, no ants, but last night husband saw a mouse skitter across the bedroom floor.

So that means sweeping, vacuuming, clearing out the pantry, caulking one more time around the furnace vents where they usually squeeeeeze in, and setting traps.

On the other hand, the house isn't threatened by mudslides, so I guess I can deal with one confused mouse.

Edited to add: It's only ONE mouse, right?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Once again, not about romance novels, but about horses.

Lovely boy.

But what does this cartoon have to do with him?

Well, without the cartoon, that horse's ancestors wouldn't have come to America. The whys and wherefores are detailed, but the short version is that a political cartoonist named Homer Davenport drew a sketch of Uncle Sam with his hand on Teddy Roosevelt's shoulder saying, "He's the one for me."

Teddy credited that cartoon as helping him in the presidential election. Davenport went to the new president and said that he would like to go to the desert to import Arabians. The president wrote a letter of introduction for Mr. Davenport. The original idea was to bring in breeding stock so as to improve the American cavalry, but some of the "Davenport" Arabians were bred to each other. (Davenport made an interesting mistake in protocol and ended up being given a prized war mare by a grateful tribal leader. This was highly unusual--Arabs would part with the superfluous stallions, but the mares were useful animals and not so easily given up.)Here's a very detailed article if you're interested in this story.

One of the horses which came over was Muson. Here he is with Buffalo Bill--I have this feed calendar lithograph hanging in my guest bathroom. (The image comes from the Buffalo Bill Museum.)

And here is his great-great-grandson, bred in all lines to Davenport Arabians:

Another of the Davenport stallions ended up at Mr. Kellogg's horse ranch in Southern CA. (Yes, that Kellogg, the cereal baron.) Being close to Hollywood, a lot of these horses ended up in early movies. The most famous being Jadaan, who was Rudolph Valentino's horse in The Son of the Sheik. Here's a picture of Jadaan with Rudolph Valentino. (Heh Heh. Only a horse person would credit the photo with the horse's name first!)

When Rudy suddenly died before the film was released, the public became insane for anything associated with Rudy. Jadaan was dressed in his movie costume and brought out riderless (sniff!) for the Sunday morning horse shows at the Kellogg ranch. He was trailered to Valentino's shrine for publicity photos. He led the Rose Bowl parade. When he died his skeleton was mounted, and (apparently) is still used as a teaching tool for the UC Davis vet school.

Another of Mr. Kellogg's horses (not a "Davenport", not that it matters) was also used as the model for Prince Charming's horse in Disney's Snow White. His name was King John.

Kellogg had an almost metallic chestnut Davenport stallion, Antez, who was among Mr. Kellogg's favorites. (Another famous "golden horse" who is related, although barely, to Antez is Bamboo Harvester, whom you may know as Mr. Ed. One of Clayton Moore's Silver's was related to Antez too. Antez was so prevalent in CA pedigrees at one point, that it wouldn't be surprising at all to find him show up in a lot of trained horses' backgrounds.)

There are a number of old American lines of Arabian horses--Davenports and part-Davenports start showing up in many pedigrees once you start looking for them. They were and are very useful animals, built for work and war. They are intelligent and long lived. And their stories are interesting to me, as they involve presidents, politics, movie stars, and American culture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Crankyreader wrote:

I apparently missed out on the whole "Ban Christmas, call it Winter Holiday/Festivus" thing that's raging this year. Although I seem to recall it happening some years back, as well.

What amuses me is that Christmas has pagan roots---Christianity at first banned pagan winter festivals or holy days, then when that didn't work, tried to take over the pagan holidays (by placing, for example, Jesus' birthday on Dec. 25, the birthday of the Persian god Mithras, who also had the magical number twelve around him), and covering the pagan winter solstice holy days with Christian festivities.

And I was going to comment there and then got wordy, so Hecka. My own post.

My grandfather was born in northwestern Iran (but he always called it Persia). He was Armenian. Armenia was the first Christian country and the Armenian Orthodox Church is, obviously, very old. At some point in the early 1900s my grandfather's village was visited by Presbyterian missionaries--he would say later that they converted the village. I don't fully believe that. I think the villagers were very polite and happy to get the attention and the bibles, but really, after the missionaries left? I think the village just went back to whatever it was they were doing before the nice ladies from Smith College showed up.

When he was about nine, my grandfather's family was warned by their Muslim Kurdish neighbors that the Turks were coming to level the village. They hid in the grape vineyards that night and eventually made their way to America. In Connecticut Grandpa met a very stern Yankee woman whose mother was a fire-breathing Methodist. (Well, she breathed fire AND she was a Methodist. I don't think Mr. Wesley made her breathe fire per se.)

Here's a bad scan of a picture of him when he was in High School--See why the Methodist ladies liked him?

Suddenly Grandpa was a Methodist, and he went on to become a pillar of the Methodist church: building fund, Council of Churches, etc. Except he traveled back to the Middle East every year to trade and never fully left that culture. (He often visited Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and went into the Soviet Union to visit Samarkand when such things were not done.)

In his heart of hearts, he was a Christian, and I think he enjoyed singing hymns. His laissez faire attitude about the details of religion combined with his dedication to the emotions or the spirituality of the practice of religion is, I think, both an ancient and a modern phenomenon. It's almost New Agey. He prayed, but he carried worry beads. He was Christian, but he carried blue beads to ward away the evil eye. Covered all bases, I guess.

He was run from his home by Muslims, but he was grateful to the Muslim Kurds who warned him. He would point out Rosicrucian and Mithraic symbols on various Persian tribal rugs. (My daughter's named for a Mithraic goddess.) And he would gleefully point out the five legged goats on tribal pieces to demonstrate that a tribal mindset isn't interested in ripping out to correct and mistake to make it perfect. Miscounted? Medallion too short? Oh well. (His other theory was that maybe the five and six legged farm animals ran faster.)

I think Easter was his favorite holiday. He loved the flowers, the Easter music, and the Spring Lamb. He once told me that after a winter of eating mutton fat mixed with rice and no vegetables at all that the feast of the Spring Lamb was what he, as a child, imagined heaven was like. His village didn't celebrate Christmas--Orthodox traditions focus on the Epiphany. I remember him saying that the women would sew their gold coins onto their dresses for Epiphany, but I don't remember him saying much else about winter holidays.

Anyway, all this to say, I get deeply confused when people get up on their high horse about some aspect of religion. We have to fight against the secularization of Christmas! (Huh? Where were you on The Day of Annunciation?) We have to make sure that all Christians believe as we do! (Huh? Go practice your own stuff and leave the rest of us out of it.)

Holidays are traditions and traditions are cultural. (Ever hear David Sedaris riff on the giant chocolate bell which delivers chocolate to good little French children on Easter? No Bunny? What are you guys, nuts?) Please, everybody go hunker down around your own tree, real or plastic, and let us Mithraic, Christian, Jewish families figure this season out on our own.

Happy Holidays!

Edited to add: I had to edit this about six times to get the spelling, the picture, and the formatting right. Blogger! I raise my fist at YOU!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The New York Times

I live in California, but my mother gets me a daily subscription to the New York Times. (My parents are completely addicted to this paper. Stories abound of them spending $5 and up for a two week old version when they travel.)

Somehow I don't have the same amount of time to absorb the paper as they do, but if they call about an article on page B24, I at least know which article to read before we continue the conversation.

Since Sunday my paper carrier has been tossing various newspapers on my driveway--a different one every day, and none of them the New York Times.

Um. Excuse me? Can I have my paper please?

[Called the 1800 NY-TIMES number and they said they would send out an email requesting that I get my proper paper. I have every faith in the NY Times customer ervice dep't, none in the local distributor/delivery service.]

May be this is a new holiday program, "Get to know your neighbor!" Everyone stands outside in their bathrobe auctioning off the paper that is not theirs. We all meet and greet until the correct newspaper finds its way home. Or maybe the delivery person is stupidly lazy and just chucks whatever paper is at the top of the pile out her window.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Debbie's Petland

When I was a kid there was a petstore not too far away from us. My mother has a very well developed "rescue complex" (my term). She sees an animal in distress and it comes home with her.

We got a black toy poodle, Patty, when I was about 3 (I think?). On the night Nixon was elected, my parents started getting annoyed at the TV as election results started coming in. (We drove around for years in a brown Ford LTD with the license plate, "Don't blame me! I'm from Massachusetts.") So we all piled into the car to go look at an orange Pomeranian puppy my mother had seen earlier in the day at Debbie's Petland. Father: "We have a dog." Mother: "I know, but let's go look."

The petstore worker put the puppy in my arms and led me into a small room where we could play together. After a while she came back and asked to hold the puppy. I said, "Sure!"

She put the puppy, MY PUPPY!!, back in the green fiberglass cage with the silver bars in front. I started shrieking and hiccuping at the same time. (I was 4 at the time.) Apparently I shrieked all the way home. I vividly remember lying in bed that night crying while my father's voice boomed from his bedroom, "Not ANOTHER word about that dog!"

The next afternoon, without explanation, my mother brought me home from daycare and in the kitchen was MY PUPPY! (We named her Sprite and she lived eleven years and had two litters of pups. The pick of the first litter went to my best friend--she named her boy, Pepsi. He became the neighborhood character--showing up on people's porches and demanding to be let in to sleep in the kitchen. Sprite was categorically my very best friend.)

As years went on, we acquired more and more animals (mostly finches and budgies) from Debbie's Petland. The most famous tally was the year we had 2 dogs, an iguana, a chameleon, a canary, 8 finches, 3 budgies, 3 rabbits, a descented skunk, and three ringnecked doves in the house. The crickets and mealworms were never counted. (At one point we took care of an orphaned raccoon--what a disaster! And during the same period of time we owned two horses, but they weren't in the house, so kind of didn't count?) My dad built huge chicken wire and wooden enclosures for all the animals, and dutifully dug trenches for their handmade coffins when they died. (Except for the horses--we didn't make him built cages for them either.)

My aunt had seventy horses, four dogs, and 15 cats when she died.

My mother currently has three Yorkshire terriers and I-don't-remember-how-many-but-last-time-I-asked-it-was-between-ten-and-twenty parrots, two finches, and a canary. (She doesn't have the huge macaws, and some of the parrots are actually parotlets and cockatiels, so they're not big, but they ARE LOUD!) (The third Yorkie came in as a puppy when the first Yorkie suddenly developed kidney failure earlier this summer. Then the elder Yorkie rallied--still needs daily subcutaneous doses of fluids--no one knows how she's still alive.)

Large numbers of pets run in the family. I think we all have a barely controlled tendency towards hoarding. No one lives in squalor; we've always accepted ridiculously high vet bills as part and parcel of this contract with the animals. So probably hoarding is a harsh term, but the numbers of animals we're talking about defy an easy explanation.

I go towards the "rescue complex." I know how to take care of these guys, I know they'll have a good home with me, I'll take 'em home. The others at home will just have to learn how to adjust.

This tendency terrifies my husband. We have one dog.

But there was a period a few months ago where I was trying to set up fish tanks in every available space. (Short story--we have weird water. Had it analyzed and everything. Went on internet forums--eventually everyone said, "Whoa. You have weird water." Algae grows in our Brita pitcher, let alone in our tanks.) So I ditched the tanks.

Then on Friday I started looking at guinea pigs on the internet.


These two are a bonded pair:

And this one is so sleek and cute!

All weekend I've been scouring internet forums, learning about nutritional requirements (They need fresh veggies. Duh.), cage requirements (They need big ones but there are detailed instructions on how to build a piggy palace. Aren't there detailed instructions on how to build everything these days on the net?), and rescue organizations (These two are adoptable from a reputable guinea pig rescue.).

Omigod. I really want a guinea pig cage in the family room. I want pigs. Smooth shiny little Wheep! Wheep! Wheepers!

And then there's the voice of reason saying, "Hey! Knock! Knock! Remember how on this blog you've repeatedly written that you NEED to vacuum and you HATE to vacuum, but you'd better do laundry RIGHT NOW?! You need more pets in your life?"

And then the other voice whispers, "Please?"

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Made these for my two nephews.

Apparently I CAN finish a knitting project. It's so infrequent that I had forgotten that I had the ability.

Went to a meeting as an audience member and brought a ball of yarn and two needles. (I gave up on the Madame Defarge sock--I need to start counting rows and I can't do that in a meeting.) Friend behind me keeps leaning forward and whispering in my ear, "I love to watch you knit. It's so wonderful. Can I put in a request for something?"

"Well, no, dear friend. I just can't seem to finish anything, If you'd like a scrap, a rectangular piece of knitting, maybe for a washcloth, I can give one of those. But really, I never finish."

Four hours later I looked in my lap and I had a serviceable scarf. It was a little narrow, and the yarn was a little glittery for my friend behind me. But he's married, so maybe he'll gift it to her. Anyway, I wadded it up in a ball and tossed it over my shoulder.

Made me happy to have finished something. Made him happy because he thought I had been kidding earlier in the meeting. Made me happy again, because now he won't keep asking me for a piece of my "gossamer art."

Must. Buy. Tree. Today.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Or Not.

Seven Things To Do Before I Die:

1. Learn how to blow glass.
2. Go on Alaskan cruise all by myself with no guilt.
3. Go on a knitting retreat.
4. Live in a cabin with lots of cats with a view of the sea and a woodburning stove.
5. Sit on a cutting horse.
6. Fully understand the similarities and differences between these Arabian horse strains: Abayyan, Dahman, Hadban, Hamdani, Kuhaylan, Muniqi, Saqlawi, etc.
7. Plan the songs for my own funeral. (OK, maybe that's gross, but it is something I should do at some point.)

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

1. Clean without getting angry.
2. Cook a meal.
3. Be spontaneous. (Sorry Megan--I stole yours because it works for me too.)
4. Shut UP at a party.
5. Smile and be nice to someone I think is stupid.
6. Be on time for more than a few days at a time.
7. Give advice and then not be hurt when that person decides not to take it.

Seven Things That Attract Me To My Spouse (or Significant Other, Best Friend, etc.)

1. "F*ck em if they can't take a joke."
2. Being a good Dad.
3. He actually (no really!) has grey eyes.
4. He loves me.
5. His sense of humor, sick though it may be.
6. He cooks.
7. He listens to me blather on about whatever subject I'm currently obsessed with without blinking.

Seven Things I Say (or Write) Most Often:

1. Eh, Yeah.
2. My brain is like a sieve!
3. not only..., but also....
4. Wait. Stay with me--I'm getting to the point. Soon.
5. (After trying to get a child's attention) "What IS your name?"
6. (After noticing that my children's clothing doesn't match or hair is uncombed) "Who's your mother? And how did she let you out of the house like that?"
7. When are you coming home?

Seven Books (or Series) I love:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. Nine Horses by Billy Collins
3. Tredana Series by Joyce Ballou Gregorian (Castledown's my favorite)
4. Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
5. Silver Birch by Dorothy Lyons
6. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. Drinkers of the Wind by Carl Raswan

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again

1. Notorious
2. My Favorite Year
3. To Kill a Mockingbird
4. Captain Blood
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.
6. His Girl Friday
7. Young Frankenstein

Seven People I Want To Join In (Be Tagged)

1. Kate Rothwell
2. p. Devi
3. KristieJ
4. crankyreader
5. Jay
6. Renee
7. Ummmm. I'm running out of names (whine) OK, Douglas Hoffman.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Would have written something shorter yesterday, but I only had the time to write a long post....

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Circus schmircus

Photo copyright Andrew Dunn, October 28, 2004
A photo of Billy Smart's Big Top

Edited to add: I had to change the time--blogger still doesn't like me. Maybe because I go slightly off the deep end in this post?

I just got into a cat fight on a newsgroup this weekend when I took someone to task for calling poor horse training, "Circus Tricks."

"Hey," says I. "Don't denigrate what you don't know. Those guys work for generations to get their horses to do that in performance. It's not a trick."

"Hey," responds Idiotic Dressage-inista. "We'll call it what we want because that's what it is, a Circus Trick. Not all of us have run off to JOIN the circus. Some of us live less interesting lives." She tried to call circus training obvious, while her dressage work was mystical and difficult. (Also said she could do it sitting down)

Gloating--Moment of victory came when I asked, "If it's so obvious, then how do you propose to have a group of six horses enter a ring, split into two groups of three, have one half change direction and then weave in and out through each other as they race towards each other in a 38 foot ring? I can't lunge one horse while seated, and you can train six?" Ah...Sweet Victory...She backed down.

That stupidly long preface is to say that I get a touch defensive about either belittling or glamorizing the circus. Circus folk are just like that.

Half of the stuff you see in the circus is based on tons and tons of really hard work. The other half *is* really only a trick, a pig fetus in a jar pretending to be something else. I get ticked off when someone presumes it's all one or the other. And I really don't know why it's so personal to me. I was only at one circus for eight months--that still makes me a "First of May", someone who shows up for the first day of the new season and leaves before "Green Night", which is the last day of the show. My husband stayed for more than a year--he qualifies--I'm mostly a pretender.

Why do people end up at a circus? Well, you're either born into it or you join. Born into it--whole other kettle of fish. Those of us who have lived in houses with cars and yards and commitments to society (school, taxes, laws, etc.) are never going to get our head around those guys. Really. Take my word on this. Born-circus are their own separate society, and they like it that way just fine. You can marry in, and they will gladly accept you and treat you as born-circus, and your children will be born-circus too. They will be polite to those who are not born-circus, but they are separate.

Sometime in the 1980s the Federal Gov't realized that they hadn't included Ringling in their census for some time. (Ringling has three separate shows, Blue, Red and Gold. Blue and Red alternate in North America and Europe. Gold travels in Japan. Ringling is HUGE.) Gov't asked the Front Office permission to take census. Front Office (Stupids!) said, "Sure. Go right ahead." Census takers showed up at the lot and were greeted by four roustabouts holding tent stakes. (Another aside, sorry. Ringling hasn't performed under a top since the Hartford Fire, but apparently they kept the tent stakes around. Lot bosses like to threaten tired roustabouts with them. They are about 4 1/2 feet long 4" diameter iron rods with a flat pan head for driving into the ground. Mean things.) Roustabouts told the census takers there was no one on the lot who had any interest in talking to the American Government. They could go to the front office to see if anyone left the lot to go talk to them there, but not to hold their breath.

This story rings so true for me. Circus folk are SO protective of their own. No townie anywhere is going to harass a circus performer. No one is getting behind the yellow fence to wander through the back lot.

Circus life is male and violent. Guys get drunk and play chicken in bars. (Two forearms held together with a lit cigarette held between them. First to move their arm while the cigarette burns loses. Knew a guy with trails of burns down his forearm. Sick shit.)

But women are protected. Guys, even husbands, aren't allowed to beat women. But they are allowed to run a woman off the lot if they've gotten bored with her. Our cookhouse cook gladly called the roustabouts Niggers and Hebes--but when a townie threatened a black circus worker, the circus rednecks cleaned his clock. Some townie makes goo goo eyes at a circus girl: look out.

OK, this is devolving into some gross rant. Like I said, some of the circus is really twisted and really violent. But it is what it is.

I read Kiss an Angel. And I can't make it work for me. A lot of it was OK, but the attitude of the lot was wrong.

The hero pissed me off, make no mistake. He got better over time. The grovel scene was good, but I do not think that any girl would put up with his behavior for a minute. Then when she got to the circus, I couldn't get what in the world she was doing. Trying to make a marriage work? Trying to have circus performers *like* her? Eh?

No one's holding you to the circus, making you stay. People bug out all the time. A fellow groom left the lot one day to do laundry and never came back. The entire crew shrugged their shoulders and said, "No sawdust in her veins," and went on about their business. The heroine in Kiss an Angel kept wondering if people liked her. Oh, get over yourself. It's not about finding acceptance or love or approval. It's all about what's going to make the top go up and the show go on. You don't want to stay? Fine. Leave. See if we care. No one tells you while you're there that you are a valued part of the system. Because really? You aren't. There are fifteen more just like you waiting to join up. And maybe they'll work harder than you ever did.

The plot thing where the jealous biddie convinces the hero that the heroine has to be made part of the act? NO WAY!! NO HOW!! That show is sacred and separate, Separate, SEPARATE from anything else in the back lot. No one goes in front of the audience just because. Putting her in the "spec", the first parade-like portion of the show where the performers are introduced? No freaking way. (We called it the charivari, for what it's worth.) Putting her to work with the elephants? Who belonged to another performer? No freaking way. Putting her to work with the menagerie. Oh good lord! Please. NO WAY!

No. No. No. NO.

You join up, you work grunt stuff (or if you're a performer's wife, you don't work at all). You work the sub-tent crew, checking the top in the middle of the night during storms to make sure it doesn't blow away. You work a butcher's gig, shelling out popcorn. You work the ticket window (Although that's pretty cushy--usually reserved for a pregnant wife of a performer.) Mostly you sit around and wait and clean while the circus is performing and then you work a 48 hour shift straight through, no sleep, no rest, tearing down the top, loading it, driving to the next spot, unloading it, and resetting it. Then you sleep for 4 to 5 hours, get royally drunk, and start the whole thing over again. Unless you work for the trainer, you don't work with the animals. Ever. (You think trainers want drunken rednecks around their animals?)

(Kiss an Angel got load-out wrong too. They would tear down and then rest, and then move the tent to the next spot. Um. No. You take that tent down, the owner of the property wants you off. NOW. Sometimes if you get to the next lot fast enough you can grab a few hours sleep before dawn and set up. If not, tough luck. You'll sleep when that tent's up and the ring's set. I'm not kidding about the 48 hour shifts--there are tricks, none of them pleasant, for keeping you moving. Performers leave before tear down, sleep at the next lot, and sleep right through set-up. Tent crew thinks performers are bunch of pansies and performers don't bother with tent crew.)

When I joined the circus (to work for the equestrienne) I was wildly angry with my family. I was sure I was deeply unloveable, that maybe I had even been marked with some secret symbol on my forehead which made me, The Unloveable, instantly recognizable. I went to the circus and spent a fair amount of time complaining to the first guy I met about how hard the work was, and how angry I was, and how miserable I was. Without batting an eye he would say, "So?" Whoa.

If I complained about the equestrienne yelling at me he said, "She's a jerk. We all hate her. But if she hated you she'd never bother to notice you. You just need to work harder. Do it or leave." Whoa.

The circus is very sentimental and very brutal. Families are honored above everything. Mothers are worshipped, friends are loyal, and the violence and passive-aggressive defensive attacks never cease. And this just didn't ring true for me in Kiss an Angel. Everyone who was mean was either a villain, or a wounded tiger waiting to be healed by a woman's love. No, circus people are both really mean and really supportive, often in the same sentence. I knew one really awful "villain" in the circus--could have been a character in a book. But then he got drunk one night, picked a fight, and a "First of May" tried to come after him with a cleaver. (I never saw it, only heard it from across the lot.) And I suddenly felt so protective of him. How dare that guy threaten one of us? Didn't he know who he was dealing with? That rush of protective love scared me terribly.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips got a lot of the lingo right--donniker, for sure. (Circus guys, if they get in trouble with the law while in town often give their names as "Donny Kerr" or "Don O'Kerr" or "Don Acker", just as an FU to the townies. Made you say it. Made you say it.) But why, oh why, does the heroine win over the crew with telepathic communication with animals? Pul-eese. Circus folk are suspicious. Telepathy? Good night. See you later.

And then suddenly at the end of the book we discover that the hero is actually privately wealthy, and a professor???? No!! Just killed the whole set-up in one extra fantasy-fulfillment plot device. You're circus? Fine. Be that. But you cannot be born-circus and flitting about teaching courses somewhere. On another schedule? Like, you just show up in the summer? Once every other year or some such thing? Poser.

Circus workers just hate the front office and those silly people who work a desk job and get all excited that they "work for the circus." (Your advance man is your friend. But the twits who get corporations to donate money to your educational foundation? Please.) We had a picnic once on the lot for the Front Office. One of them saw the Bobcat and asked who drove it to the next lot. I thought the tent boss was going to get violent. Someone else pointed out that the Bobcat wasn't rated for highway travel, and that it was loaded onto the prop truck. We never had another picnic for the poor fools. If the lot boss were also an art professor on the side, I don't think he'd survive this level of hatred for incompetent people who "think they know circus."

I think I get mad about circus stuff in the same way magicians get mad at psychics. The pyschics are gleefully tricking the public while the magicians are screaming, "You idiots! Open your eyes! Don't you know ANYTHING?!?" There's a strange level of contempt for people who get fooled, especially when your job is to delight and confuse them.

The guy I met in the circus went on to become a chef, and found himself in familiar territory. If you know Anthony Bourdain, you'll not be surprised to hear that a lot of kitchens hate the very customers they are serving. Somewhere in the back some very talented people are burning themselves on the grill, bleeding into your food, and muttering, "Think I'm here to entertain YOU? Don't you GET it?"

After all that, I didn't hate Kiss an Angel, but I did find myself muttering, "Ugh. You don't GET it, do you?"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Weekend Update

Spent a little too much time doing stuff which was unecessary. Like tracking down this cutie pie picture from hunt in Virginia. Such a Peanut!

Anyway, read Anne Stuart's Black Ice and am partway through LaVyrle Spenser's Morning Glory

Black Ice. Whoa. What a book. Wow.

Will try to be more articulate later.

Also read Chistina Dodd's Move Heaven and Earth. Quite nice.

Edited to Add: Finished Kiss an Angel. She got a lot of the lingo right, but true to the circus? Eh. Not so much. Kind of like reading about a sixth grade girl and thinking, "That would never happen in MY school." She had these hangups about being accepted. Who accepts you in a circus? You show up, you work, you get drunk, you go to bed. Not necessarily in that order. And he's got another profession on the side and they accept HIM? No freaking way. Uh unh. Nope. I think I'll end up writing about that one though--she almost got it and I want to figure out where it clicked and where it slipped. (Except that I could have totally doen without the threatening hero and the plot set-up. She couldn't just be down on her luck and joined a circus to escape an identity? That's what everyone else does--why a forced marriage? AGHHHH!) End of edit.

Jehosiphat? Did I read all that in one weekend? Gulp.

Here's a few more to take you out...."Mommy? Can I have one? Pleeeeese?!"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Just for Cindy (Neener Neener Neener!)

I have a thing for farm names. Broad Hill Farms. Upland Farm.

It's a very poetic enterprise to sit around thinking up names for a farm. When I was a little girl, my Breyer horses all lived at Sky Meadow Farm (which really is an embarrassingly little girl name). I had a riding instructor once who said you could always tell the horses owned by kids--they all had names like Snowflake, Pudding, or Hershey's Kiss. Sky Meadow Farm has that over the top feeling to it. {But my horses were named good strong names--Rustem (Persian Hero), Onyx, Fairfield, and Sea Foam.}(Alright, that one blows, I admit. And she wasn't even green....)

I think I'd get too silly if I had to name a house. The English tradition of naming a house, Manderley, or some such thing, can get really dumb really fast. I think I'd default to Lilac Hill, or something Nancy Drewish.

Here's some other farm names I like: Minglewood Farms, Firehouse Farm, Evergreen Farm. And here's one which Cindy might like: a little dairy farm in New Brunswick called Sow Cow Farms, Inc. No, really!

(Not to be confused with a Salchow or any such thing.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Does this book get better?

No, really. I got to page 17, turned to my husband and said, "I have never hated a book so much in such a short amount of time."

Presently I'm at page 24. It's sitting on the kitchen table daring me to pick it up. And I found myself actually sneering at it this morning as I poured coffee into my mug.

I actually want to read about the circus in this romance but I cannot stand either the heroine or the hero, or the plot device which throws them together. This makes it hard to read. Sigh.

In other news: Blogger is finally letting me onto my own blog. I kept getting an "access denied" error--essentially that I didn't have the requisite authority to visit my own blog. (You know life is bad when you Google the exact name of your blog, click on the link, and Blogger STILL won't let you on the page....) And along this same line, I finally installed a new printer the other day. Funny, I opened the box, followed the installation instructions, and the computer wouldn't talk to the printer. It "knew" that new hardware was installed, but it couldn't find the driver--which I was sure I had installed a number of times from the handy dandy CD which came with the printer. I just find it so amusing when the installation instructions don't work. So I went to the Control Panel, selected Add New Hardware, inserted the CD one more time, and this time the computer downloaded about 15 minutes worth of software. Wha???

OK, but it works, and the internet is allowing me access to my own blog. Count your blessings. Count your blessings.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lost post

Wait. I lost that post. How come when I came to the blog this morning it was on my page?

I remember sitting down Sunday to dash it off, losing it, and thinking, "Oh well. It wasn't that important anyway."

So how come it's here on Monday morning???? The love/hate with technology continues.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


OK, after much sorting through backlists, I have found the two Judith Ivories I like. I think I can see why she is so admired--her writing is very well done. I'm still not sure these are not my favorite books of all time, but I have found the ones which resonate with me.

Untie my Heart and Beauty

I'll see if I can fill in the details later, but these two worked for me as I read them. Others of hers have impressed me with their structure while I read them, or made me think about them after I finished, but I wasn't really involved with the experience while I was reading. Having found these, I'm interested that I have no interest in continuing to read her though. (Man, that's just mean.)

Books I'm waiting on from PaberbackSwap: Black Ice and Prince of Magic by Anne Stuart, Morning Glory by Lavyrle Spencer, and Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Christmas, eh, Holiday Thoughts

Who's brilliant idea was it to put Hanukkah on Christmas night? People? Get a plan here.

So after rummaging through the stockings and opening presents, after the inevitable let-down of the afternoon, we're supposed to start right into 8 days of Hanukkah? Gah!

My husband still remembers the Hanukkah he was 10 as the worst one. His parents gave him socks as gifts. (Well, they were small--there is a tradition of small gifts for Hanukkah--but I think their utilitarian aspect was a bit much for him.) I'm remembering the story badly--it's too early in the morning--but I think there was one big gift and the folks supplemented with socks. The thing is, Hubby only remembers the horror of the socks.

A cool site with lots of make it at home ideas for funky menorahs.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Scheduling nightmares

I looked over my schedule for December. Excluding the "let's meet for coffee" appointments I have during the day, these are the dates for which I have evening commitments this month.

2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, Xmas Eve, First night of Hannukah (Christmas night).


If anyone sees me bumping into walls, it's only because I haven't had any sleep.

(By the way, only two of those are Holiday parties, the rest are business, family, or political commitments.)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Going once....

I'd really like to sell my kids.

I know that would be bad and everything, but really, I think I need a break.

Today I'm sure will be a good day, but yesterday my funny, intelligent, athletic, and handsome son refused to go to school. He's doing this power struggle thing where he tries to run away from home (made it to the end of the windng cul-de-sac), or he tries to leave the school campus. He's too big to mandhandle, and too young (seven) to let loose.

Yesterday he stayed in his room, cleaning it and vacuuming it. I took his toys out and he could either read there or come downstairs to eat. By the end of the afternoon he was royally bored and ready to talk about why he refused in the morning. Very articulate boy--it was a great talk. He's got a great sense of humor too.

So I took him to karate class to work off the excess energy he had from hanging out all day. Within 5 minutes he had convinced himself that a kindergartner had cheated at Red-light, Green-light (which the kids play on the mat while waiting for the lesson to start), so he grabbed the kids by the shoulders and started to push him. I lept up and yelled, "Hey! Let go!"

This got my son embarrassed and, sigh, angry at me. So then he ran out the door of the studio, barefoot, and walked briskly to the other end of the minimall. I got him back to the studio on the promise that we could immediately go home, but first he had to get his shoes. We walk in the door and my son starts yelling AT THE INSTRUCTOR (Yeesh) that he shouldn't let kindergartners cheat. The instructor very calmly asks son to calm down, son yells again, and makes a beeline for the door.

I grab him (See a pattern here? He grabs, I grab, le sigh.) so he won't hightail it out the door again, and we end up on the floor. The female instructor comes over, takes his ankles onto her lap, and says, "Whoa. What's going on, kid?" He spent half an hour mildly wrestling with her; she wouldn't release him until he said he would get his shoes on, he wouldn't say that. But he was laughing the whole time.

OK, there's a lot of therapy which needs to happen here, and he and I both see therapists. I know where I screwed up yesterday, I know where he made some odd decisions, and we'll all have lots to talk about later.

But for right now, what I'm left with is that this is so damned exhausting. Setting up his environment so that nothing's abrubpt or spontaneous, making sure he eats properly, giving the other two kids some amount of attention, conferencing with teachers & principals, keeping myself calm, and doing my own stuff (politics, writing, reading)--I'm running on fumes here.

And it's cold and raining today, which means ::shudder:: indoor recess. He's at school, so I do get some break, but I feel so guilty for dreading this afternoon when he comes home. I love my children. I love my children. I love my children.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Falling for Anthony" in Hot Spell, an anthology

Not sure why it took so long to write this up, except there seemed to always be one more thing to do. Also, even though I ended up only wanted to write about Meljean Brook's "Falling for Anthony," I felt as if I at least needed to finish all the other stories in Hot Spell first. I didn't enjoy them so much, and therefore they took longer to read.

Then, when I started this review, I ended up doing a long post simply on what makes me crazy about the paranormal heroes I've run into so far. I intended it as a "parking lot" exercise, but in writing that I discovered a better way of describing what it is I like about Anthony's story. However, writing all of that took time. Poor, patient Anthony, waiting for his praise.

First of all, like Cindy, I never would have bought this book if it were not for Meljean's blog. I'm just that oblivious to romance buzz that I have not read any of the other authors, although I had heard of Shiloh Walker and Emma Holly. Second, I almost never read anthologies, unless it includes one minor character from another series I've already delved into. (I think Holiday of Love was the last anthology I read (1994?), and that was only for Arnette Lamb's Hark, The Herald! story--I bought it in spite of including a Jude Deveraux. How the mighty have fallen--there's nothing like an autobuy author who becomes completely incompetent to incite the wrath of a fangirl scorned.)

So, now I've read the other stories, none of which I liked, and I'm back to only focusing on Meljean Brook's. I'm glad I spent the extra money to buy the entire anthology, if only for this story, because I probably wouldn't have bothered with a paranormal anthology the first place. But to have missed out on Anthony? That would have been sad.

I find that short romances have the problem of:

"Hello! I hardly know your name, but I have to say, you're fine!"
"Why, thank you!"
"I feel an overwhelming urge to take you against this wall."
"Why, thank you!"
"Let's get married and live happily ever after."
"Oh my! Such a sudden turn of events. Dither. Dither. Dither. Ehhh, OK."
"Why, thank you!"

"Falling for Anthony" includes in its set-up that Anthony has grown up admiring the lovely Emily. Anthony is about to reluctantly head off to the Napoleonic wars, and feels the need to hide for a moment in his friend's study. (He considers curling up with a copy of Paradise Lost, which I though was a "droll" touch.) He is startled to find Emily beating up her father's mantelpiece with a family sword which has been lying around for years. After talking to Anthony for a moment about how disillusioned she is with her family, she takes out her frustration and anger by hopping onto Anthony's lap and forcibly seducing him. (Really good scene--made all the better by the way Brook shows the reader in the previous conversation how much they both admire, or even love, each other.)

Anthony hies off to war, where he encounters a....Well, how many spoilers do you want in this thing, anyway? Let's just say it's a paranormal being. Anthony is near death when he is offered the choice to either die or to become a Guardian. They look like angels (Hey! That can't be a spoiler--it's on the cover of the book!), but are more accurately immortal beings who are charged with protecting humans from demons and such. They cannot return to Earth until after everyone they know has died, since it is such a temptation to revert back to the life you once led.

There's not much time in this world, Caelum, but Brook sets up a complete and intriguing universe here. The secondary characters are wonderful, the descriptions are poetic. I love to read about Anthony flying.

Anthony is charged to come back to Earth before he is ready, specifically to guard Emily. It is simply wonderful to read what follows.

The best romances are about two people who are desperate for each other but who have to struggle to be together. They also need to change somewhat over the course of their relationship in order to convincingly resolve to be together by the end. Well, one of these characters happens to have died, so that's something of an impediment. To have an old family friend who died in the wars suddenly show up in the country manor house would startle the servants, so Anthony and Emily not only have to stay together to keep her safe, but also they have to stay in the same bedroom. Lordy, he's powerful, protective, nurturing, and smart, and she's forced to stay in the same room with him. Tough luck there, huh? The sex is great, forceful and tender, but the conversations Anthony and Emily share are really the best part of their relationship. They reach out to each other, shifting their views just enough to be believable, and convincingly meet at the close of the story.

For me, that's the fantasy I look for when I start a romance. I want to feel that connection grow emotionally. I want to hear the characters admit to each other what we in real life never get around to saying to our partner, whether out of embarrassment or fear of rejection. Transcendental sex is, of course, part of that fantasy, but the parts I remember or repeat in the shower to myself, are the parts of loving conversations where one character reveals his or her flaws, or needs, in the full uncompromising view of the other. Usually in a short story, this deeper level of conversation never happens and the romance feels stilted. Yet "Falling for Anthony" really succeeds in this area.

Then there's the added bonus that both main characters are endangered by not one, but two paranormal beasts. The secondary characters continue to intrigue, and I'm looking forward to the imminent sequel. There's action and danger, along with the very real problem of how to stay together as a couple if one half happens to be immortal, or dead, depending on your perspective.

After reading "Falling for Anthony," I rushed along to read the other stories in Hot Spell, eager to find better stories by more accomplished authors. One was just confusing, and all were a disappointment in comparison. In each of the other stories I never had the satisfaction of listening in on those conversations which built the romance beyond, "Hey! You've got a body! I LIKE that!" (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Singular Lady

Hold on, Meljean, I'll write about Hot Spell in a sec, but I had to get this posted today or lose my train of thought.

I just finished Megan Frampton's A Singular Lady. Actually it was my bit of escapism over the Thanksgiving week when both my parents were staying with me.

I haven't read a classic Regency romance in years--mostly I've read Historical Romances set in the Regency period, which tend to have more sex, more plot twists, and more pages than the classic ones. Well, with A Singular Lady I can remember what it is I like about the Regency romances: snappy wit and great dialogue. Megan Frampton creates an intelligent, manipulative, flirtatious, and witty heroine, Titania. It is such a dangerous game to write a witty, spunky, heroine who is likeable, yet Megan brings it home. I really liked this heroine straight through from the start of the book to the end.

More on Titania in a minute, but I do have to get out of the way the two things which bothered me in A Singular Lady. First, I like Edwin, the broad-shouldered pugilist Lord who is the object of Titania's affections. But I don't feel as if the book is balanced between the two characters. I would have liked more exposition about him, or maybe more scenes from his point of view--he needed to be more developed. The second point is one I don't usually care about, but there's a historical detail here which bothered me. I am not a stickler for proper nomenclature, I usually don't remember where wars are taking place at any point in the Regency period, and I don't keep up with the fashions of the day well enough to care whether the waistline is accurate. However, Edwin keeps talking about having just come back from America. I think if he had just returned from anywhere else in the world I wouldn't have noticed, but America? 1813? Ehh.

(General Disclaimer: I had read a review of A Singular Lady before I read the book wherein the reviewer brought this point up. I was prepared to dismiss it when I read the author's explanation about his travel route being cut from the book, and so on. But even while I was trying to dismiss it while I read, and tried to substitute "Portugal" whenever I read "America", it still sprung up off the page at me. America just doesn't jibe with Napoleonic/Regency England.)

OK, enough of that.

Titania Stanhope comes to London as a penniless maiden who must marry for money or watch her uncle kick her and her brother from their estate. She decides to pretend to be wealthy so that eligible bachelors will not think she is trying to marry for money, even though she is. Edwin Worthington comes to London newly wealthy, but decides to pretend he's a pauper so that women will not be attracted to him solely for his wealth. Ah, the ironies of life.

Megan Frampton has characters lying to each other, and then telling the truth, and then lying again. What I found remarkable was that when a character, especially Titania, lied, I understood her motivation. When the plot turned to present the opportunity for truth-telling, I could understand the motivation for telling the truth. I've read so many romances where I'm left scratching my head at the timing of these decisions, but A Singular Lady flowed through these shifts smoothly.

And then there's wit. I can't describe humor, and I can't analyze wit, but I do enjoy it. I lapped up A Singular Lady in one afternoon, because it was just that enjoyable. Titania writes small "dispatches" from the battlefield of courtship which are great set pieces, but her true sparkle is on every page, as she's deciding what to wear, talking to Edwin or Alistair, or just describing her surroundings. I am always so prepared to hate a heroine who is too cute, too precious, or too perky, but I genuinely like Titania. I hope she and Edwin will be very happy together.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My brain is a sieve. Her Brain?

I keep telling my kids when I forget to hand in the permission slip, or I come to pick them up twenty minutes early and then bitch at them for making me wait, that my brain is a sieve. Now it's a family joke. Mommy forgot milk? Her brain is a sieve. Mommy can't remember your name? Her brain is a sieve.

My parents are staying with me for the holiday, and one of the reasons my husband bought me the boxed set of Horatio Hornblower was to have something on hand to entertain the two very educated parents. (Dad is a Ph.D. from MIT, Mom is a Ph.D. in Renaissance Comparative Literature from Harvard.)

When the movies start, my Dad is in the kitchen with me, bringing me up to date about Nelson's naval strategies. I keep saying things like, "Yes, Dad. Actually they talk about the Fire Ships in this series. Yes, Dad. They have the Marines on board the ships in this series. Yes, Dad. They are wearing different uniforms; they are land soldiers." Mom calls in, "Come watch it!" So I'm relieved of his wisdom, but soon I realize the real reason she wants him sitting next to her. It's not to make my job of cleaning dishes easier, it's that she needs a blow-by-blow account of the action which is unfolding directly in front of her.

When did my intelligent mother become so befuddled and elderly? (OMG! That means one day I'LL be befuddled and elderly!!! AGH!!)

They've now watched six 2-hour movies. Exact quotes I have overheard during this period:

"Who's that?"

"What's the name of that ship?"
"It doesn't have a name. It's just a merchant ship."
"But what's its name?"

"Why are they speaking French?" (My favorite. And my favorite response from my Dad, "BECAUSE THEY'RE FRENCH!")

"Is he an Admiral?"
"No. A lieutenant."
"Why isn't he an Admiral?"

"Who's that?"

"Why are they speaking Spanish?"

"Isn't he dead?"

I remember as a child gathering around the television so we could watch Masterpiece Theatre together. We watched the entire "Upstairs, Downstairs" series, of course. But I also remember "I, Claudius." And for every plot twist, every new assassination, we were on the edge of our seats. (Hey! Anyone remember Patrick Stewart wearing a particularly bad curly black wig for "I, Claudius"? I do! I do!) (Hey! I found it!)

I also remember "Elizabeth I" and various Shakespeare dramas (Henry IV?). And Mom and Dad debated how close to the original plot the adaptation was, or whether the nuance of a particular character came across in the costume choices in this production.

What happened to this woman's brain? It is upsetting and shocking that she's this obtuse.

Course, my ten year old daughter has the answer to the problem at hand. She once told me that after shopping with Grandma, they came out of the store and Grandma turned to her and said, "I have no idea where the car is. Can you find it for me?" Daughter told me the story and finished with, "You know how you always say your brain is a sieve? Grandma's is a bathtub drain. There's no plug."


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

I hate cleaning my house.

I'd say more about how much I maybe kind of enjoy, maybe love, maybe loathe the holidays where I invite everyone to my house to stare at the dustbunnies, but right now I'm cleaning.

I hate cleaning my house.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I need a hero

You know how it is when you get a song stuck in your head? And that song is just a wee bit annoying?

Come on, sing with me,

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'till the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'till the morning light
He's gotta be sure
And he's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life

OK, that was annoying even when it was on the radio all the goddamn fucking time. (Can I swear here? Well, it is my own space, so I guess so.) And what is still annoying, nay irksome, nay irritating, is that with all of Bonnie Tyler's repetition of her requirements, I'm not sure that if this guy were to show up we'd be all that amused.

"Hello. I am your hero. I'm strong, fast, fresh from the fight, sure, soon, and larger than life."

"Whoa, man. Back away."

Anyroad, a few months ago I started thinking about heroes, alphas and betas. And I signed up for Paperback Book Swap around the same time. Well, trading books certainly bumps up your TBR pile, but at the same time you have to have an idea of what title you're interested in requesting. Using All About Romances' lists, I pulled out a variety of Beta Heroes titles and threw them into PaperbackSwap's wishlist. All this to say that I've been reading a lot of authors I hadn't even heard of, over different time periods, but I've been focusing on the heroes in each one. Makes for an interesting mish-mosh if you haven't posted any reviews in a while.

One I just have to get out of the way. It was actually a cute bit of fluff.

George and the Virgin by Lisa Cach is a time travel quick read about a professional wrestler transported back to a medieval castle where there lives a virgin abbess and a real dragon. George teaches her to make french toast, rescues her from her need to keep a dragon around, and transports her and her twenty-odd younger virgins back to modern times.

Two notes--PaperBackSwap amusingly lists this title as George the Virgin, which I think is a hysterical error, and there is a plot device here where, like ten, you know, giggly girls? You know, who are like twelve? All stay hidden from George, like, in the same castle, for, like, the whole book? George is very nice to (Help! I've traded the book already, can't remember heroine's name) what's-her-name, and builds her a couch so she can relax in front of the fire, but he's a beta hero? A dragon-fighter? Not sure the french toast and the couch makes up for the dragon-slaying in the alpha-beta phylogeny game. Not a terrible read, just one more under the belt.

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick and The Bargain by Jane Ashford end up getting lumped together here. Both are Regency romances where the hero is a cool, analytical, scientific type who uses logic rather than bulging chest muscles to protect his lady love. Arthur Lancaster, Earl of Merryn, from The Paid Companion, is investigating a series of murders, the whereabouts of dangerous machine, and the whereabouts of a mad scientist. Lord Alan Gresham, from The Bargain, is investigating the appearance of ghost who is teasing Prinny. In both books the hero and heroine pretend engagement in public so as to mingle with the ton. (Ariel of The Companion is the daughter of the woman who is supposed to be a ghost, so that's how she gets involved. Elenora from The Paid Companion actually is paid to play a part. As a further link between these two books, both heroines are descended from actresses, which apparently is a very important trait.)

Overall, Arthur is a more fully developed hero, and ultimately his is the better book for it. Alan would have worked just fine--he is analytical and precise--except that he keeps having the same realization in his head whenever Ariel speaks or acts. Not an exact quote but, "Good God! She's brave and intelligent!" Yeah, OK, put a sock in it. I also thought the "What is this burning sensation of passionate possessiveness I feel for the lovely Ariel? Surely, I, as a man of science, can analyze its cause" was dumb. The man's a scientist, not an idiot. (Arthur, on the other hand, feels passion but tries to logically decide whether or not he should act upon it. A little better.)

At the end of The Bargain Alan becomes totally unhinged when his love is, sigh, kidnapped. (I'm getting a little tired of the kidnapping thing. Too many Jude Deveraux Montgomery brother stories in my impressionable youth wherein every heroine must be kidnapped, preferably all four at the same time to allow all four heroes to rescue them. Dumb.) And he has to ask her, basically, "Is this terror I feel for your safety, love?" Could so totally have done without that scene. (Oh, and BTW, she's kidnapped not by a mustache-twirling villain, but a nefarious troupe of Shhh ACTORS!)

OK, now I've made it out that Alan is rushing around thumping his chest; that's not true. He's very precise and measured, and I enjoy his thought process. But I found myself embarrassed for him when he became confused by his own thoughts or flustered in passionate protectiveness.

But then in contrast, Arthur is so controlled, and Ms. Quick/Krentz/Castle only allows for two love scenes, both oddly interrupted, that his passion feels tepid and strangely focused only on one breast, Elenora's left.

I think Ms. Quick is trying to get this out of the heaving bosom category and into the "Fiction" section of the bookstore, so that would explain cutting down the sex scenes. However, there's not much going on in the rest of the story, even though them thar's a lot of words written. Most of the plot is taken up with the murder mystery, which is, well, not as complex as you might expect. I like to have a bunch of suspects, threats, red herrings, etc. But instead we spend a lot of time trying to figure out the identity of one person. As soon as that person gets a name, Ta-Da!, s/he's the one. And then the heroine gets, sigh, kidnapped.

Amongst the other similarities between these two books is that they both have very strong heroines who are protective of the servants, brave, able to turn the attention of an entire ballroom to them, without being that beautiful, and are more intelligent than usual.

Another entry in this group of I-don't-know-what-I'm-getting-into-but-someone-says-there's-an-interesting-hero is One Man's Love by Karen Ranney. Big time goof-up disclaimer: I read it in, I think, August, and have really lost track of the details. But I remember the general impression I had.

This story centers on a English/Scottish man who leaves Scotland (as a boy) and becomes English, to the point where he enlists in the military. He is then posted back to watch over the village he grew up in--and he doesn't want either side to know who he is. The relationship between Alec and Letis is very sweet. He brings her gifts, he's very interested in her talents and friends. She hates him because he is the conqueror. I don't buy that she wouldn't recognize him as an adult--they were best friends as children. I just went back to my High School reunion and met people who were instantly familiar to me although I had never had a conversation with them when I was at school. Then Alec becomes a Scottish Ian and Letis still can't tell the difference. ::Family Feud buzzer:: Nope. Don't buy it.

But I like the gentle respect Alec/Ian shows for Letis. He brings her a loom and wool to pass the time. He's interested in her family, and her life. I liked him.

And then, another catchy tune, "One of these things is not like the other."

The Dark Highlander by Karen Marie Moning. General Disclaimer: I skimmed this book to the point where at the end the hero says, "I first fell in love with you when I saw you from the cab" I had to go back and find the scene.

The Dark Highlander is Daegus, who is doomed to an eternal life, holding within his soul thirteen evil spirits who are trying to take over the helm. When the spirits get too powerful, Daegus has discovered, he can get control back by having fast, hard, doggy-style sex. And Church Lady says, "Well isn't that conVEEEENient?" Since he's a multi-bazillionaire in modern Manhattan, he can entice anyone he wishes up to his penthouse to have fast, hard, doggy-style sex with them. ConVEEEENient. Except that one day, he finds his soul-mate. BOOM! She's the one. Toss the rest out on their ear. He'll keep her safe from someone who's stalking her (him?), she'll help him research the answer to saving his eternal soul, they'll travel through time together, and eventually they'll have fast, hard, doggy-style sex because he says he needs it to stay strong against the forces of evil. (Um. Chloe? The Senior boys used to try that excuse on the sophomore girls way back when, and even we didn't fall for it. The Church Lady may need to have a little Church Chat with you.)

The sex is hot. The hero is hot. The total experience? Ewwww.

No, wait, I don't have any problem at all with fast hard sex, that's not the issue, even though I keep referring to it. I don't buy the: "I fell madly, deeply, passionately in love with you the very first time I saw you. Our souls reached out through time and space and connected like a fuse and an explosive." Nope. Nada. Nuh Uh. It gives me the creeps. It's like setting up the romance hero as being a stalker or a potential abuser rather than a lover. Some are so possessive and obsessed it's scary.

So I think I've discovered the hero I don't like, one which apparently is all the rage in paranormals: (Please use your Ahnold The Guvernator voice), "Dahlingk, you are my one twoo love. I Kannot live wizout you. Ze Aneemal in me is thundering inside of me, forcing me to take you. Against this vall. Against this floor. Look in my eyes! See them change Kolor! No more Girly Men for Yoo!" OK, that last bit was mean--but the animal magnetism, soul mates reaching through time? Can't. Quite. Deal.

The "beta-hero" idea. Interesting, but still mostly incomplete for me. I think because The Bargain and The Paid Companion are SO similar it's hard to get a representative sample. I have a few more posts to make about books, so I'll keep fleshing this out over time.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's a cliche called before it gets repeated 14,000 times?

Sometime in 1986 or 1987 I read The Rope Dancer by Roberta Gellis. I was sure when I read it that I was reading something new and unusual in Romance and was looking forward to seeing more books like this.

The Rope Dancer is set in Medieval England but is unusual in that the hero and heroine are not lords, knights, or landed gentry. Telor (hero) is a minstrel who travels from one castle to another with his dwarf sidekick, Deri. Carys (heroine) has grown up in a performing troupe; her specialty is rope-dancing, i.e., twirling and tumbling on a taught rope strung high above the crowd. Over time Carys' troupe has dissolved, and one night she must perform alone. The crowd is drunk, tries to attack her, and she manages to escape, bloodied and bruised. Telor and Deri come upon her in a ditch. They nurse her back to health and invite her to travel with them.

Somehow I had remembered most of this set-up, although I couldn't remember much else about the book. (I had forgotten about Deri too.) So I recently reread it, and was struck by how, to my mind, stereotypically 1980s this book was. Or stereotypically something.

One recurring bit that irritated me, and apparently warrants its own mini-rant is personal cleanliness:

When Telor and Carys first meet he is floored by her smell. He practically gags when he gets near her, and later on, to win his affection, Carys starts sniffing the pits of her shirts to ensure that her nasty odor doesn't return. The historical detail of rubbing down with straight wood ashes and the introduction of soap is educational, but to me it seemed as if Telor had an oddly modern phobia.

In the late 1980s I worked for a circus, hard physical work around horses, wood shavings, and dirt. From October to January I don't think I took more than one shower a week. (The shower room was in a semi-trailer fed by a garden hose. Cold, colder, coldest.) The circus moved to Florida from January through March where we illegally lived in a celery field. (The owners were big cat trainers--large round metal barns were set up in the field. They had invited us to be there, but it was illegal tenancy in the eyes of the local police force.) The water was irrigation-grade, non-potable, stunk of sulphur. I was talking this over with my husband last night, and he says that he doesn't remember showering at all during the time he was in Florida. I remember two showers.

Now, if you remember the showers from 13 years ago, it seems to me that they were fairly infrequent.

OK, so we had almost 100 people at the main lot, and perhaps 40-50 in Florida. I don't remember us stinking. We all stunk together, and no one much cares. In a less extreme example, I've been on camping trips for ten days or more where we didn't bathe. Returning to the hotel, it's quite a sight to watch dirt swirl down the drain, I admit. However, Telor's annoyance about body odor got me annoyed every time.
End of Rant. Sorry...

The major piece that I had forgotten about The Rope Dancer was how little time Telor and Carys actually spend with each other. Carys falls for Telor, and he is attracted to her, but doesn't want to impose. Carys and Deri spend time together and become friends.

When Telor comes back into the picture, he's jealous of Deri's camaraderie with Carys, which allows the author to hint that if you're jealous then you must be in love. When Telor moves to kiss Carys, she's undone by the idea that Telor is directing any attention to her, a lowly, scruffy little dancer. So Hero Worship + Jealousy = Love?

This emotion, their lifelong commitment to travel England together, doesn't seem grounded in anything. Carys is constantly offering sex to Telor as payment for rescuing her or for food. Telor denies that he wants payment and turns her away, but then starts getting attracted to her. How to have sex with a woman who has offered sex as payment without it being payment? I'm not sure, and ultimately it seems I'm not that interested in the answer.

For all that this is supposed to be a romance, it's not very romantic. Lovers don't talk to each other, although they talk to their friends. And there's the cliches of Medieval romances (let's see if I can get them all): big dinner in the main hall, gruff men-at-arms, escapes across castle grounds in the middle of the night, kidnapping, war, a harvest fair in the clear bright air where the heroine eats a meat pie and is bought a trinket, another rescue, and a bath in a bedroom.

I think when I first read The Rope Dancer I was intrigued by a romance about peasants and hadn't read enough romances yet to pick up on the cliches. Now that I've reread it, I'm still intrigued by a romance about peasants. Maybe everyone else cribbed Roberta's scenes and turned them into cliches, but when I read it now, it just feels tired.

Maybe that's the main problem with going back to an old friend. Sometimes they're not that interesting. Sometimes they're just old.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Damn, I just made a fool of myself.

Was all into writing my review for Meljean Brook's Hot Spell, and Roberta Gellis' Rope Dancer and, and, well I went and checked a totally insane message board focused on my city and, well, blew up.

Sputter. Sputter. Spew! Spew!


Damn, I knew better than to check that crud. Knew it would make me angry and well, it did.

OK, I've been asking for a budget workshop since August. Can't quite seem to find a date which will work, let's try again.

Had a conversation with a guy in October who told me that he was SURE, Positive, even, that if a budget workshop were to be held, then A-Board-Member-Whom-I'd-Rather-Not-Name wouldn't come because he doesn't want to know the truth. "What? You're crazy! Why would you say such a thing?"

So two weeks ago we had another board meeting wherein we discussed the possibility of having a board workshop. Sup puts out one date, Nov 14--the board member in question can't make that date. OK, we'll try again.

So the BAC (Budget Advisory Committee), a volunteer group which sorts through budget issues, announces in Sunday's paper that they're having a budget workshop on Nov 14--one member of the BAC is quoted in the paper as inviting the board to attend. (Well, gee, thanks, but by law we can't show up unless you've publicly noticed the meeting 72 hours in advance by posting the agenda at certain sites.) And, surprise, surprise, the one board member who said he couldn't attend in a public meeting two weeks prior, didn't attend.

And on our own nasty corner of the universe I'm then slammed for wanting to "ignore the truth" because I also didn't show up, etc., etc.

So I went and posted on the message board. Stupid. Ignore them. Don't feed the fire.
But I couldn't help myself--I hate seeing a set-up in action. Rivals the mustache-twirling villain in fiction. "Oh ho HO! And you thought I had gone out by the back door, you little minx. Now I have you in my clutches."

Makes you want to toss the book against the wall. And this sort of behavior in "real" life makes me want to toss the parent volunteers and anonymous posters on a message board perhaps twenty people read against the wall.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Help me, I'm drowning.

I'm drowning in a disgusting sea of drool. Saliva. Thumping hearts and vacant stares.

I'm awash in langour and daydreams. The waves of infatuation are lapping at the sides of my boat of forward progress.

I had plans for this weekend, damn it. I found my vacuum cleaner and was going to use it, for god's sake. (OK, that is a whole different story. My babysitter used it on my living room floor and very nicely put it away. It's been missing for over a week. And yes. I looked in the closets. And no, it wasn't in there. HOW DO YOU LOSE A FREAKING VACUUM CLEANER?!?!?!?! ::small voice:: She put it in the upstairs linen closet which is so packed with junk I never thought to open the door. Shows you I wasn't changing the sheets either, huh?)

I can't walk into or past my bedroom anymore without being sucked in. What is the problem?

Horatio Hornblower.

Boxed DVD set of Horatio Hornblower.


So fine.

'Course Kennedy ain't so bad either.

God help me. I haven't had crushes like this since, well, that would just be embarrassing to say.

Choices are: vacuum, eat, read, write, watch more Horatio Hornblower. NO! NOO!! I say! No more of this time-wasting foolishness! The Dog Hair is pillowing up around your shoes as you walk across the floor, woman! (Channelling Cap't Pellew?) Do your DUTY!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Election results

Yesterday was election day.

I have been working myself into an anxiety-induced depression during this campaign. I support two candidates for three seats, and we kept throwing in the third name whenever we were asked who else to vote for. (Three open seats.)

I currently sit on the board, so I can only do so much campaigning before it begins to look odd. But I helped set up calendars, organize volunteers, update spreadsheets, collate and highlight precinct lists. Any grunt job I could get my hands into.

Last night at around midnight we learned who won.

WE DID!!!!!!!


Whooo, yeah!

And although I am gracious in public what I will say in my little blog is, NA NA NA NA NAAAA NA!

And to crib a delightful comment penned by "A teacher" this morning on a completely rancid local message board where scum post anonymously and smear their opponents with personal slurs, "HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"

Victory is very sweet.

Ahem. Back to your regularly scheduled lunacy.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Proustian Bargain

Warning: very long post

Is it wrong to wish someone dead? Someone you love and admire?

I went to an exclusive boarding school, and there I met a fantastic professor who deserved to have had a Dead Poet's Society-type of movie made about him. He was funny, charismatic, intelligent, obscure, and striking. He was a beloved character, in the Dickensian sense of the word, on our campus and in our daily lives. In my early years at school, I was intimidated by his reputation, but certainly knew who he was. As a Junior I was encouraged to take a course from him before I left school from a student who could do nothing but sing his praises.

The first few days of school we never had classes. It was a week to settle into dorms, meet with your academic advisor, and try out for fall sports teams. This professor's only offering that fall was a Hemingway and Fitzgerald course. I hated Hemingway, liked Fitzgerald, and decided to sign up. I was excited and surprised to get a slot in the twelve-student class.

The first day our teacher handed out the course syllabus, a book list, and a questionnaire. He told us to fill out the questionnaire in class, which we did in silence. One question remains with me, "What do you expect from this class?" Being a perfect snot, I answered, "Not much. I like Fitzgerald, I hate Hemingway, and I was told to take a course from you before I graduated. Two out of three's not bad." (He commented in small neat letters when he returned our questionnaires later that week, "A challenge. Feel you are deserving of an A already?") The syllabus indicated that 50% of our grade would be based on classroom participation and small essays, 20% on the final exam, 20% on 3 large essays, and the final 10% on sartorial resplendence.

For The Sun Also Rises he assigned us the Book of Ecclesiastes. The next day he walked slowly into the classroom dressed in his standard outfit of a black turtleneck and dark dress slacks, carrying a worn Bible. He walked to his desk at the front of the class, opened the Bible and began to read aloud, with no preamble or explanation. At about verse 4 he looked up from the Bible, scanned the room, and softly said, "Shall I break into song?" When we read Tender is the Night he again, without explanation, turned up in class wearing a full varsity football uniform. He handed out lyrics of the fightsongs of various Ivy League schools and instructed us to sing them as loudly and as boisterously as we could. Later he told us it was to get us into the proper "Rah! Rah! Princeton!" mode in which Fitzgerald lived.

I could tell you so many stories about him, like the time I locked myself out of my room after 9pm and how after my housemother called him for advice (He was also a dean on campus.), he appeared out of the mist on his burbling black BMW motorcycle. He walked with me to the back of the house, asked me to point out which window was mine, and nodded. Soon he was striding off over the neighboring field. Then he turned and called me, "You got yourself into this. Come help me break into the carpentry shop." We did, and he "borrowed" a ladder, which he then climbed up to my window to unlock my door. (I know that in order to climb onto my desk he had to move my illegal coffee maker and illegal hot plate, but he never saw fit to mention it.) I could tell you more of these, but that would only make this post that much longer. Suffice to say, I felt honored to have known him, and I worked very hard to gain his respect. (Later in the year I took a Flannery O'Connor course from him. The comment on my final five page essay was "Perspicacious.")

Nonetheless, the memory of this great and quirky man is now painful. And I really think it would be easier if he had died.

More than ten years after I graduated, my beloved professor, to whom my senior class dedicated the yearbook, was convicted of hundreds of counts of possession of child pornography, displays of child pornography, and an attempted aggravated felonious assault on a twelve year old boy.

I want to make it thoroughly clear that I do not think he was innocent of these charges, nor that he was railroaded. (Although it is odd that he did not act out this way on campus. The administration asked current and former students repeatedly for any evidence of sexual assault and found none. I only say that this is odd. It is not to say that he is innocent. He isn't.) This is not an apology for his behavior. I think he shattered lives.

But I cannot shake my memories of him. My warm memories of him.

I cannot shake the dread that if he had stayed on campus, at some point I would have visited him, bringing my small children, and would have endangered them.

I cannot shake the absolutely sure knowledge that I have known an evil person.

And I cannot make my horror at his current behavior align with the man I thought I knew. Of course, he enjoyed playing a part, acting as a high school varsity football player, for example. So I am assured that he played the part of quirky professor well.

He made the news again this week--a motion, an appeal--and I find that I sincerely wish he had died. I don't want his death out of retribution for his sins. I don't want him to die now. I wish that he had died years before his control snapped and he tried to abduct that poor child. I wish it for purely selfish reasons.

Then I could maintain the memory of him, the memory of my old school, in that bright, autumnal, firey light the development office captures so well in every cover of the newest "Please send us money" brochure. The wide green expanses of the lawns, the bright orange oak trees, the small classrooms in historic brick buildings with white trim, the engaging brilliant professors opening young minds: all these are part of the bouquet of memory. And I want to hold tight to those pristine memories.

Maybe Fitzgerald held onto Princeton because it had a pristine aura as well. Maybe I can see that longing in Fitzgerald for what was perfectly familiar because I'm predisposed to have that same longing too.

And maybe I know that because a brilliant, engaging professor took the time to show me how flawed and talented F. Scott was.

I wished he could have died so that I could have written him a eulogy.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A recent letter

Dear Internal Editor,

I am saddened to have to write this letter, and I hope that you will be able to respect my wishes and that we will remain friends at its close. You have an excellent role to play in giving me little nudges when my sentences don't gel. My friends have commented that you have a wonderful way with descriptive clauses. I value your time and energy which you've already dedicated to this NaNoWriMo project. Nonetheless, I have come to the conclusion that it is going to be very difficult to storm ahead in my goal to write a coherent 50,000 word novel during the month of November with your continued assistance.

As you will no doubt note, I am only 2 and a half days into this exercise, so perhaps my misgivings are premature. Nonetheless, I have to state concisely that my word count is still at 4,291 and so far my main character has not walked onto the page. A very, very minor character has taken over. I could feel your pain when he spent four paragraphs picking a lovely tomato. That hurt me too—-he has promised me that he will be less Proustian in the future.

Yet I'm not sure that you were correct when you insisted suddenly at the bottom of page four that it was time for bed and sent him offstage in the middle of the day. (Thank you for making him brush his teeth. He seemed to enjoy describing the sensations, and I'm sure my dental hygienist thanks you in absentia.) I am currently trying to be very, very quiet as I type so as not to wake him. I hope you can see this as an effort on my part to demonstrate my respect for you.

This morning though, as I tried to coax my main character to prance lightly across the page, I was not amused to see you treating her so roughly. She will need to spend a few moments limbering up before she woodenly declaims, "I must leave immediately on an important mission." She was, justifiably, a little miffed at this sudden turn of events. She had been looking forward to sitting at her kitchen table over a cup of tea so that she could describe her apartment for the reader. (And yes, I know that's a tired method of character sketching, but maybe it's her form of early morning yoga, a clich├ęd, self-absorbed cup of tea.) When she was bustled into packing her bags and arranging pet-sitting for her cat, I found that she became quite truculent. Indeed, there was such resistance that I had to give up writing about her entirely. Fearful of waking the slumbering giant, I had to instead introduce yet another minor character solely to meet my daily word count quota. This is not advancing the plot at all. Soon there will be no book for you to edit.

I will need your aid, no doubt about it, come December, January, and February when the time will be ripe for gutting entire sections, adding transitional paragraphs which would allow the characters to be in the same room during their critical conversations. In the meantime, I would like to suggest that perhaps you might like to take a vacation? I have not researched plane fares, but I understand that early November tends to be a good time to take advantage of off-season specials. If you were to take a month-long cruise to Alaska, which I have always wanted to do, would you tell me about it when you return?

Please know that I value your input and respect your opinions greatly. You have been an important partner in my search for "a voice." At this time however, I feel that we will have a great project to work on after the close of November, perhaps after the excitement of the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays, if you were to do me the ultimate favor of shutting up. Please. At least for the next thirty days.

Yours truly,

Suisan (Who's also Binni on NaNoWriMo)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nano Nano

OK, like I really have no idea if pilots and astronauts really talk this way, but I've seen Apollo 13, and I was even forced to watch portions of it in a well-meaning Change Management Conference where we learned to "Think like the astronauts. First Identify the Problem" Eee gads I'm just so goddam happy to be at this conference so I could learn to do that first. Yippee!

Ahem. Sorry. Like I said, I have no idea if astronauts actually talk this way, but it's my little blog and I say that for tonight they do.

Houston, we have a problem.

Go Ahead, Eagle. Over.

We have no plot. Repeat, we have no plot. Over.

Eh, Eagle. Copy that. No Plot, Roger. Eagle, what about the manual there? Can you find the outline? Over.

Roger, Houston. I have the outline. Repeat, I have the outline. Over.

Copy that. Over.

Houston, word count is up to 4291, repeat four two niner one, but the characters aren't advancing the plot. They wish to have the narrator describe their inner thoughts. Apparently the narrator enjoys doing this and we have no plot advancement whatsoever. Over.

Copy that, Eagle. Eh give us just a minute here, Eagle. We're looking for an answer here. Over.

(sounds of much rustling of papers)

Eh, Eagle?


Eh, Eagle we've kind of looked into this whole NaNoWriMo thing and we're seeing that fifty thousand words is a high goal there and you've got a lot more writing to do. It occurs to us that with board meetings and holiday visitors and Thanksgiving and everything, you're going to be needing to get a lot of words on paper there. So our guys here in expert systems are saying that you need to keep on writing, even though it sounds as if your characters are having a little trouble getting their marching orders. Over.

Copy that, Houston. Keep writing and try for plot a little later, is that it? Over?

Roger, Eagle. Four thousand is pretty good for two days, and our experts tell us you can edit like hell in December and January. Over.

Roger wilco, Houston. Over and out.

G'night Eagle. Over and out.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Started NaNoWriMo today...1,900 words so far.

List of things I've been meaning to write about:

1. Once Upon a Pillow by Christina Dodd and Connie Brockway was a good anthology. A series of stories about a bed and the sex had, I mean the relationships forged, on the bed. Interesting way of connecting the stories together. Liked the first "medieval" (what DOES that mean in the context of a Romance) and the "Regency" stories the best--mostly for the characters. The Modern tale of the private museum tour guide and the fabulously handsome, fabulously muscular, and fabulously wealthy (OOOPS! It's a secret--but come on, a handyman wearing a close fitting black turtleneck? Anyone in a black turtleneck obviously is fabulously wealthy in Romancelandia.) lover did not, once again, ring true. I am hopelessly unable to deal with comtempt romances. Just can't suspend the disbelief.

2. Ordered Meljean Brook's Hot Spell from my local bookstore. I've been ordering a lot of books from them recently. Small town: I'm in the grocery store and one of the bookstore clerks comes up to me in the aisle.

"Your order is in," she says with a little smile.

"Oh, thanks. I've been ordering a lot. My daughter is devouring books this Fall."

"Oh, this doesn't look like a book for your dawww-terr," she says with a wink and a nudge.

Oh please! Oh pul-ease. It is a book, yes? Must we be so very catty about the fact that it has, ::gasp:: SEX in it? Enough to single me out in the grocery store??

3. I pick up Hot Spell from the bookstore later that week and two clerks (not the same one from the grocery, mind you) are behind the counter. "Oooo! That one looks good. Is it a romance? With Angels?"

"Well, it's an anthology, and I think one story involves an angel-like character, and at least one of the others has a vampire. I think."

Younger clerk says quickly, "I don't read romances." Older clerk looks as if she'd like to fess up to reading the occasional one, but is concerned about seeming to be unhip or a target of scorn from the younger clerk. She admits to having read them when she was younger, but not now.

"I read a lot of romances," I say, ensuring eye contact with the older clerk. "Some are good and some are simply awful. But there are a lot of good ones out there."

Older clerk is pressing her index fingers to her thumbs and rubbing them in circles. She says all in a rush without stopping to take a breath, "Will you let us know how it is? We'd be interested in hearing how you like it. The angel looks like an interesting idea. How did you hear about this one?"

"I read Meljean Brook's blog, so I ordered it for her story. I really don't know anything about the other authors, although I know that Emma Holly is supposed to write some fairly firey stuff." I can't stop looking at her hands. Is she warming her thumbprints? Is that some sort of secret sign that I should know? ("I am a reader of chick porn, but I cannot let it be known abroad. Leave your review handwritten in green ink at the back door of the bookshop between 2 and 3 am on Tuesday morning.")

The clerks and I have an entertaining chat about the rise of vampire and paranormal fiction. I do strenuously point out that many romance authors are writing about these topics fairly well, girls, if you'd like to take note. And then I leave.

4. I'm part way through Hot Spell and, eh, wow. It's like, you know, got a lot of sex in it. Like, eh, I told the clerks I would write a little reader review thing for the book. Which I like very much, but eh, I'm not sure I can write a reader review for this particular bookstore. Because eh, this has a lot of sex in it. Like, a lot.

5. I am trying to write a review for it---but finishing it would be a good prerequisite. I've read in this order, Meljean Brook's Falling for Anthony(angel-like Guardians are a cool idea, relationship works well because characters have known each other from long before the start of the story), then Emma Holly's The Countess's Pleasure (I am very very confused by the demon thing. I haven't read her before and I need a primer.), then Lora Leigh's The Breed Next Door (genetic engineering in contemp romance--what Beauty & The Beast could have been if Vincent had had testosterone). I haven't yet read Shiloh Walker's The Blood Kiss.

6. I survived Halloween. But only just barely. My son could not cope with the excitement of a parade and classroom parties. He woke up out of sorts, and finally we had to put our feet down and say, "Behave yourself or you don't go to the school parade." Well, he didn't behave, and I took his two sisters instead. He stayed home with his Dad. It is a mournful thing to watch a school parade by in their Halloween costumes and know that you are doing the right thing by setting boundaries for your child's behavior and that he will not be able to show off his joy that morning. I cried as his second grade walked past. (I did not know that while I was at the back of the school crying my son and husband were at the front of the school waiting to leap into the parade when it snaked across the front circle.) Later that afternoon I was called to come pick up my son from school since he had fought on the playground. I was weepy the rest of the day. Damn. I hate when I turn into a labile mommy, sniffling at parades and tearing up at commercials. Damn. Damn. Damn.