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."

Ouch!

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!

P-Tooey!

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.

Gah.














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!!!!!!!

ALL THREE!!!!!

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?

Houston?

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

Update

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.