Monday, February 25, 2013

The Deeper Horror of the Go Daddy Kiss

This commercial made me feel deeply ashamed of my own hypocrisy.

I admit it. I gagged.


My full range of knowledge about these two actors is that she is what we consider traditionally beautiful, and he is... not.

Oh, and that they both possess bodies capable of sitting in chairs. I also deduced they both have lips. And they certainly have tongues.

Are they nice people? 

Smart, funny? Is there any reason they couldn't be a couple? They're of similar age, they might share endless common interests, like anime, concern about genetically modified foods, and a groupie-level fascination with 80's hair bands like Dokken.

Okay, I admit - I am the one with a Dokken obsession.
Unchain the night, baby!

For all I know, Jesse Heiman (the glasses guy) has a tongue that won't quit and is packing a pecker a p0rn star would envy.

Yet to judge from the internet buzz, I was not the only one making the Beyoncé face.

via msn, where there are more hilarious Beyoncé face memes.

So why did I - why did we - react that way?

I am not a traditionally beautiful woman

English: George Clooney at the 2009 Venice Fil...
English: George Clooney at the 2009 Venice Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Though occasionally I am smokin' hot, there are other times I look like the dog's breakfast. Generally I fall somewhere in between - my face doesn't scare small children, but I ain't causing traffic accidents when I walk down the street. 
I certainly don't want people to sneer at me as unworthy to be paired with a sexy guy (should George Clooney become available), based purely on my iffy looks. I know that I am much more than appears on the surface. Hey, I got skillz.

I've dated men of all different sizes, shapes, and skin tones. Plus I am very inquisitive nosy and people tell me things. So I can testify, many men (and women) who'd never grace a romance cover are amazing in bed, and some men who are hotties on the outside... Let's just say they have their shortcomings.

(Not implying that about you, George. But if you feel compelled to give me a demonstration, we could work something out.)

I'd like to blame society

You know, those people over there, not me - for being judgmental about people based solely on outward appearance. Reality: I am judgmental about appearances. Despite all I know on an intellectual level, despite my personal experiences and time-tested method of asking around, despite my resentment of people who might look at me and make superficial judgments, I myself am judgmental.

I may not go all Beyoncé face in public. When I see a "10" walking down the street with a "2," I may be able to zip my lips and not make a derogatory comment. But inside, that's my first, gut reaction.

I really, really don't like this about myself, and want to change my internal settings somehow, just as I'd like to reset my taste buds to remember kale as irresistibly delicious and chocolate as something nasty to be avoided.

They say the first step is awareness

for solving any problem. So, okay, I'm aware I'm a hypocrite. I'm also very conscious of being part of a society with a twisted concept of beauty that influences girls, boys, men and women to starve themselves, sometimes to death, to try to achieve that "perfect" outward appearance. To surgically add breasts, pecs, and fake butts, and suck out fat from other areas. Which sometimes works and other times leaves the recipient looking like a freak show exhibit. 

Oddly, I find I don't feel as judgmental on women (and men) who have plastic surgery, the facelifts, the tummy tucks, the Botox in the forehead, because I "get" the pressure of needing to feel young and sexy.

I've thought about trying to have my brain deprogrammed, but since it's awash in magazine ads and TV commercials telling us all that beauty = XYZ, any brainwashing might not stick. Besides, if it did stick, I might lose my crushes on Don Dokken and George Clooney, and my lack of patronage could singlehandedly crash the chocolate industry.

I guess I'll just have to work on not getting squicked out by public couples like Bar Refaeli and Jesse Heiman. (Though as a side note, the public tonsil-swallowing? Nobody wants to see that.) I will keep writing couples into my fiction work where the characters are not Cosmo Cover-ready, yet are sexy anyway. I will try to be aware of my prejudices, and supportive of people regardless of their appearance.

Have you ever felt judged harshly for being with a partner 
who was much more or less attractive than you?

Do you find yourself put off by couples who appear physically mismatched?

If so, how do you deal with it?
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Purging the Dreaded File Cabinet

So a couple of months ago, I was irritatingly smug about cleaning my desk. Cleaning my desk was an excellent thing, truly, but the thing is, only a few feet away lurked...

The Dreaded File Cabinet. <insert "da-da-doom" creepy sound effect here>

You see, I bought this very lovely file cabinet for my office, lo these several years ago.  Problem: rail guides in top drawer did not allow for hanging file folders, because they were not drilled in the right place. The drawer itself glided in and out beautifully, but not anything inside the drawer.

So, because I couldn't use hanging file folders in it, I simply piled old notebooks and manila folders and three ring binders and wire-bound notebooks and paperclipped copies of critiqued short stories that I needed to edit and magazines on writing and all kinds of crap into the top drawer. And because it just felt wrong to make the bottom drawer my "working" drawer, I simply filed various bullshit in the second drawer, like my sixth grade report card and travel brochures for the Kern River.

Just FYI, one of my earliest novels still retains the pin-fed paper guides on each side.

In a working human body, you consume food, and excrete waste. If you don't get rid of the crap, you will reach a point where you not only feel terrible, but can't function.

My writing had become constipated.

Time for a high colonic.

I realized that the issue of the top rails not functioning was not a Decree from on High. I could, in fact, drill new holes and move the rails, so that they worked. I was a little nervous, because I was sure  I was gonna drill right through and mess up the aesthetic front of the cabinet, but I - didn't.

Woo-hoo, me! *swaggers and blows sawdust off drill bit* Look out, Builder Bob, there's a new carpenter in... No, not really. I just got lucky.

So I made an Office Depot run (does anyone else squee whenever you are forced to make a trip to an office supply store?) and bought box-bottom hanging file folders, and set up a section for each novel. Outline/synopsis, research docs, character studies, working drafts. Query Letter. Rejections folder. Book Contracts (none yet, but I'm keepin' hope alive).

I had been collecting tidbits about locations, from NoHo to the RenFaire to Griffith Park and had already set up file folders containing notes, magazine articles, etc. about each one. I moved those to the front, since I might will want to use them for more than one novel.

A full 25% of my top file drawer is now set aside for short stories, on most of which I need to actually review the crit notes and revise. And now I can.

My Hoard of Great (but ancient) Writers' Magazines? Bye-bye.

In theory, I was planning to go through each magazine, xerox the best articles, and put them into a three-ring binder, neatly organized with tabs. In reality? Ain't happened in the last 20 years, ain't gonna happen.

But I did keep about 50 really, really good articles, both from traditional magazines, and the 'Net, that I thought were worth revisiting. Here's how I organized them.  

Section One:

  • Genre Glossary (from Dystopian to Steampunk to Magical Realism to Cozy Mystery)
  • Outlining
  • Synopses
  • On Learning/Writing Style (Visual, Auditory, Tactile)
  • Characters (main)
  • Characters (secondary)
  • POV (Point of View)
  • Staying Motivated/Writers' Block
  • Craft Exercises
  • Vocabulary and Cliches, Duplicate Phrases
All my great articles, mid-organization
(My writing style is to figure out everything out about my characters, first, down to whether they're a fan of broccoli or not, and worry about plot later. You may go at it in the opposite direction: plot first, characters second. )

Section Two
  • Plotting
  • Dialogue & Dialogue Tags
  • Openings Pages
  • Hooks
  • Ending Pages
  • When to Tell, When to Show
  • Common Problems
  • Writing Humor 
  • Writing Romance
  • On Prologues
  • Editing

Section Three
  • On Writers Groups
  • On Agents (Why You do/don't want one, How to tell a good one)
  • Queries
  • Pitching
  • Market Research
  • On Rejection
  • Book Proposals
  • Publishing Contracts 
  • On Self-Publishing
All the articles neatly organized. Yeah, file folders!

My plan is that now that my articles are in an order that makes sense to me, it will be easier to review the pieces I need when I get stuck in some area, or to quickly add a new article I love. I still think a three-ring notebook would be a great idea, in theory...

Scribbling 'R Us

 I tend to jot down notes on whatever notebook I am carrying around with me at the time. And, of course, I continually bought lots and lots of new notebooks, because you can really only record fresh new ideas in a fresh new notebook.

If there was any actual value to a barely consumed wire-bound notebook, I would now be rich. But what I have done is tear out all those nuggets of what I thought were brilliant ideas *snort* and put them in one file folder, to be gone through... soon. While the notebooks are now freed up for new ideas, as I have become less finicky about only using virgin notebooks in my old age prime of life.

Oh, dear sweet sentimental youth, I found a wire-bound notebook with a carousel horse on the cover.

Not that there's anything wrong with carousel horses. Or dolphins. Or big-eyed teddy bears.

It's just that I'm not 17 anymore.

I have also noticed that my handwriting has vastly changed over the years, morphing from "Tortured-curlique" to "Screw-it- I-have-better-things-to-do" style.

Good thing I have a heavy-duty shredder.

Aaah. I feel relieved.

Cleansed, even.

And I didn't even need to spray air freshener.

True, it did take most of the day (though I feared it would take even longer than that). I still have to look at all my scribbled notes - you never know, might be gold in them thar hills!

I also found a recipe I'd been looking for. Seeing as it involves major quantities of shredded hash browns and cheese, this may not be a good thing.

My hands are beat all to hell - deep paper/file folder cuts, shallow cuts, dry and ashy.

The cat went to bed without me.

But I have a deep sense of satisfaction. And a couple dozen half-fresh notebooks ready to record new ideas.

I'm starting with the carousel horse one.

When was the last time you purged a file cabinet?
Did you find anything surprising there?
Do you keep articles on writing? Any tips on organizing them?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Rumor Has It...

Doesn't that short phrase perk your ears up? It sure does mine.

What surprises me, is that I recently checked out two books in the library, two very different books, one chosen for my reading group, and the other at random, and in both books the power of rumor in a small town makes up a big part of the plot.

Stones from the River, by Ursula Hegi, published in 1994, is an epic novel set in the fictional town of Burgdorf, Germany, beginning in 1914 and concluding in 1952. It's about 530 pages, dense pages, 5 x 8 book size pages.

Kristan Higgins' Catch of the Day, published in 2007 is a wicked funny, contemporary romance, a trade paperback of under 400 pages, set in fictional Gideon's Cove, Maine, and covers the course of one year.

While there is no population stated for Burgdorf, Gideon's Cove is 1,407; Burgdorf feels about the same size. Both lead characters (Trudi and Maggie) are in charge of a town gathering spot; Trudi runs (with her father) the town's pay-library; Maggie runs (inherited from her grandfather) the town's only diner. Both women are Catholic and the church is a fairly significant part of their lives and of the town's events. Trudi looks for a date in the classified ads of the newspaper; Maggie looks at online dating sites.


So how do these books differ?

In Stones from the River, there are Nazis. (Then again in Catch of the Day, there's Mrs. Plutarski, the priest's secretary, who comes off as something of a Nazi.)

Trudi is a Zwerg, a dwarf. This makes her a bit of an outsider, and what makes matters worse, her mother is crazy. As in, going to church and taking off all her clothes for the angels, crazy. Then she dies before Trudi is even four years old. Trudi learns to collect stories, and takes pride in retelling them, reshaping them, making them her own. She also has a touch of prescience.

The Jewish people in Burgdorf are an integral part of the town, initially. But slowly, over the course of years, they are first subtly demonized. There are the German people, and there are the Jews, Us and Them. After the feeling of separation is created, after people have come to tolerate the Jews being insulted, cheated, stones thrown at their windows, they may have their fine houses and businesses taken away. If a Jewish person is thriving while the rest of Germany is in recession, it's easy enough to play on the resentment of the neighbors. Surely those things couldn't have been honestly earned. Once moved to the outskirts of town, they are then moved to other towns, and finally the "work camps." Hegi does a powerful job of portraying how such a horror can come about. At first, rather than protesting their mistreatment, many of the Jewish people themselves believe that if they just keep a low profile, this too shall pass. By the time the harassment gets serious, it is also taken for granted. Those who protest and speak up to defend their neighbors, are also jailed and harassed.

I found this part of the story fascinating. I found Trudi herself sometimes admirable, generally interesting, and other times not very likable. In the beginning, when she believes that if she hangs from her arms, it will stretch her out and she will grow, I felt very sorry for her, and was moved by her experience of meeting another Zwerg, a beautiful and talented woman named Pia who was comfortable in her own skin. Then there's the search for a boyfriend or lover, because like any girl, she wants to be kissed, and loved. Trudi is definitely a complex, but not comfortable character. She uses rumors - collecting them, spreading them - to get back at those who've hurt her, or who've persecuted their Jewish neighbors.

I think about 90% of the book is told from Trudi's point of view, including the first third. The early chapters move slowly, and several readers in my book group gave up right there. As Trudi's voice becomes older, it becomes much more compelling. The end, on the other hand, is a little choppy, as if the author realized how incredibly long the book was already, and felt the need to wind it up quickly. All in all, this is an excellent book, rich in description, and well worth the read.


Cover of
Cover of Catch Of The Day
Maggie, in Catch of the Day, is the unmarried half of identical twins. Her sister Christy has a great husband, a beautiful baby, and a very nice house. Maggie is happy for her sister, but doesn't see why she can't have the same thing for herself. Then Tim O'Halloran comes into the diner: light brown hair, green eyes, broad shoulders, beautiful hands, and an Irish brogue. She falls in instant crush, and the only thing missing is what the man does for a living, because as he was telling her, there was a hubbub in the diner, and she missed that part of their conversation. She felt too embarrassed to ask him to repeat it, but that's okay, she'll be seeing him in church on Sunday.

You guessed it, it's Father Tim. Unfortunately, Maggie is the kind of woman who finds it hard to keep a secret, so half the people in the pews know all about her hot Irishman, and turn to stare at her as the new priest appears at the altar and introduces himself. The book is light, hilariously funny, as Maggie gets into one dating scrape after another, not always her fault. She owns and runs the diner, to her mother's vast disapproval, she also owns a small house in which she rents an apartment to a 91-year-old widow, to whom she brings food, watches movies with, and cuts bunion pads for. Maggie also babysits her baby niece one night a week, and does Meals on Wheels one night a week.

Her hero, besides her dog, Colonel, is Malone, the lobsterman who berths his boat next to her brother's. Malone is almost a caricature of a Maine lobsterman. Nobody even knows the man's first name. In this story, Maggie manages to generate and spread rumors that hurt not only herself, but the man she's fallen for, and her friends.

Although I really like Higgins' engaging voice, and adore her sense of humor, I found it a little hard to read it first, because it's written in first person, present tense. "I ask, I say, I smile, I stand, my mouth drops open…" I also wanted a little more emotional connection and conversation between Malone and Maggie. I felt Maggie was doing too much work trying to build a relationship out of great sex, but in the end it all worked out. (This is not the case in real life, boys and girls.)

Have you read either of these books?
Have rumors ever gotten you in trouble?
Would people call you a good gossip, or a good secret-keeper?

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Friday, February 15, 2013

The Only One with Explicit Sex?

I belong to a terrific writers' organization, RWA (Romance Writers of America) and an extremely kick-ass, prolific chapter, LARA (Los Angeles Romance Authors). Many, many members of our chapter are best-selling authors, and in the almost two years I've been a member, several have even become personal friends.

So when the decision was announced we were putting together a short story anthology, Five Minute Love Stories, I was like, yippee, I'll write a story for it. Maybe they'll even take it.

Chellesie B. Dancer, author of Power Play, which beats 50 Shades  like a buggy whip, in both cover and hot smexy content, raised her hand. "Is there a limit to the heat level?"

"Any heat level would be fine," said amazing anthology wrangler Kathy Bennett, author of the best-selling A Dozen Deadly Roses.

A delighted murmur went through the room.

Hmmm, I thought. I guess the trend will be to go super-hot. Can I even write a super-sexy romance in 1500 words or less?

I felt scared. I felt intimidated. I felt clueless.

And then one day, I was riding the spastic elevator to my day job, and I was ambushed by a very naughty idea.

So I wrote it. 

And they took it.

And now, along with Kathleen Cadman, Leigh Court, Samanthe Beck, Robin Bielman, Debbie Decker, Chellesie B. Dancer, Robert Hecker, Kristin Elizabeth, Janie Emaus, Debra Kristi, Brenna Johns, Scarlett Llewyllyn, Christine London, Brenda Scott Royce, Veronica Scott, Laura Sheehan and Lisa Weseman, my little story is "out there," available for purchase.

Only, as it turned out, among all these fabulous authors, many who write erotic scenes so hot I must read them with my Ove-Gloves on, mine was the only story that required a warning for containing explicit sexual material.


You know, like when you're at the roller rink doing the Hokey Pokey, and everybody does the Hokey-Pokey to the left and you go to the right? But you're still somewhat happy and proud because at least you didn't faceplant?

That would be me.

Explicit sex (scenes) may not be to your taste.

You might love my story, you might hate it, you might feel meh about it. But I hope you'll drop a few bucks for Five Minute Love Stories, because besides Emergency Stop, the anthology is chock full of awesome. Some of the stories also boast a fair amount of steam, while others are sweet as a cupcake.

I'm not going to tell which title goes with which story or theme (read 'em and find out), but I will tell you,  we've got:
  • Egyptian time-traveling heroes
  • Heroines falling... falling in love, too.
  • Red, white and blue heroes
  • Librarians
  • Matchmaking dogs
  • British lords
  • American Actresses
  • Widowers studying up on their romance novels
  • Demons
  • Angels
  • Single Parents
  • Business Travelers with luggage issues
  • Protective and loyal brothers
  • Tag-along sisters
  • Cake decorators
  • Nephilim
  • Long lost loves
  • Honeymooners
  • Suffragettes
  • Giraffes
  • Earls
  • Music Teachers
  • Widows
  • Traffic School
  • Sleepwalkers
  • Doctors
  • Long married partners
  • Baristas
  • Divorcees
  • Teenage time travelers
  • Babies born on the 405

Who could ask for anything more? Conveniently sized for sampling on lunch, break, or whenever you need a quickie... love story, that is.

As a sidenote: The editors advised me the word "fapalicious" might be confusing. I kept it anyway. From Urban Dictionary:

The definition of something or someone so irresistible, that you cannot help but feel the urge to masturbate.
Did you see the tight ass on that lady? She's definitely fapalicious.

Five Minute Love Stories can also be purchased through B & N for your Nook, and via Smashwords. And on Amazon, did I mention (like 8 billion times)?

We know you have other anthologies for your reading pleasure, and we appreciate your choosing to enjoy Five Minute Love Stories. Have a safe flight fun read.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Misery, Romance's Essential Ingredient

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film)
Romeo and Juliet (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Or, if not misery, then at the very least, Serious Conflict.

It makes everything in romance better, like baking with vanilla.

Don't believe me? When was the last time you were enthralled by this romantic story:
Once upon a time, two happy, well-adjusted people of similar and appropriate age met and fell in love. Their loving, supportive families and communities couldn't do enough to lend support to the new couple, who shared the same values, goals, religious beliefs, and economic class status. After a dating period that was neither too short nor too long [hey, wake up! I see you nodding off] they married and lived happily ever after.
We want to live that story. We don't want to read or watch that, because as a story, it's boring.

Lovers Against The Whole World

We want class barriers, family feuds, forbidden love.  We want insurmountable odds the couple must battle to overcome to be together, and even if they fail in the end, à la Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story's Tony & Maria, or Titanic's Rose and Jack, at least they got to be together for those few, blissful hours. *wipes away a tear*

In some ways, doomed romances are even better than those that are fulfilled, because we never have to witness the inevitable bickering: It's your turn to get up with the baby; Have you seen my keys?; My god, what is that smell

We don't have to watch Romeo's hairline recede or Julie's breasts sag.

Mind you, even if the author doesn't kill off one (or both) of the lovers, it's usually better if s/he ends the story while the passion is still hot and before tedium sets in.

Love As A Black Hole

Then there's the "pull" of two people with incredible chemistry who fight their attraction all the way, not wanting to be in love with each other. But, like a black hole, we know they're going to to get sucked in eventually. That's the fun of it; we see it, even if the characters don't.

Moonlighting's Maddie (Cybil Shepherd) and Dave (Bruce Willis - speaking of receding hairlines). Romancing the Stone's Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) and Jack Colton (Michael Douglas).

And of course, Gone With The Wind's Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.  That incredible kiss while Atlanta wasn't the only thing burning:
He was kissing her now and his mustache tickled her mouth, kissing her with slow, hot lips that were as leisurely as though he had the whole night before him. Charles had never kissed her like this. Never had the kisses of the Tarleton and Calvert boys made her go hot and cold and shaky like this. He bent her body backward and his lips traveled down her throat to where the cameo fastened her basque...

Oh, my!  *fanning self with hand*

Gentlemen (and ladies), that is how to kiss, as if nothing else is going on, even if the whole world is exploding around you, and your woman thinks she's in love with someone else.

Three's Not Always A Crowd

Love triangles take the best elements of forbidden love and the irresistible attraction, and if done right, we still root for the lovers, even though by society's rules we should despise them. In the myths and legends of King Arthur, we have Queen Guinevere and Lancelot (yes, I know, much of this was layered on later). In real life, we had aging Catherine of Aragon, her husband of 18 years, Henry VIII, and innocent victim? scheming interloper? Anne Boleyn.

However she initially felt about him - it can be quite dangerous to scorn a King's affection - there is no question that Henry was besotted by Anne:  
"...I would you were in mine arms, or I in yours, for I think it long since I kissed you."

King Henry and Anne Boleyn Deer shooting in Wi...
King Henry and Anne Boleyn Deer shooting in Windsor Forest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The thrill of the hunt during the thrill of the hunt
Henry was willing to turn his kingdom upside down for her, to break with the Pope, a kind of breathtaking passion that sounds quite romantic - on paper.  Later, he was also passionate enough, in a different direction, to have Anne's head chopped off. In real life, generally a husband doesn't have the power to have his spouse legally executed when he's sick of her, but tragically, too many women (and some men) are killed by their spouses and lovers.

Back to GWTW - there was the Scarlett-Ashley-Melanie triangle, plus the Ashley-Scarlett-Rhett triangle.  Triangles all over the place, like Southern-fried geometry.

Then there was Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester, and (unbeknownst to Jane) crazy Mrs. Rochester chained up in the attic.

Mad, Mad Love

Juana la Loca via Wikimedia
Another scenario that makes for an exciting story is when one member of the couple or triangle is actually, diagnosably, not right in the head. In Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester couldn't be with Jane because of Mrs. Rochester - only nobody except Mr. R and Mrs. R's keeper/bodyguard knows that Mrs. R is still alive. Whether you think that Mr. R is a cad for not telling Jane about Mrs. R., or about trying for a more humane arrangement for the woman than chaining her in the attic, or a hero for not accidentally-on-purpose slipping her a little too much laudanum, her presence certainly adds a certain spice to the love affair.

What happens when you fall in love with someone and s/he goes insane (possibly gets PTSD following a major trauma, like being deployed overseas), or becomes alcohol or drug-addicted? (When A Man Loves A Woman.) This can make for a great story.

Don't go too far, though. In Real Life, Joanna of Castile (aka Juana la Loca) was so deeply in love with her husband Philip the Handsome that after he died, she used to travel with his coffin, and regularly drag his decaying corpse out of the box to caress and kiss it.  Girlfriend, unless you are mated to a vampire and everybody knows this, that whole necrophilia thing is gonna squick people out.

Killing Me Not So Softly

One big genre in romance is the suspense/thriller genre. Few things throw people together as quickly and urgently as somebody shooting at them. To put it crudely, if they're imminent danger of dying, the adrenalin gets flowing, and many people want one last f*ck before they die. *raises hand guiltily*

If your characters do get shot or stabbed or blown up, make sure you don't actually blow them into too many pieces. Remember: life-threatening wounds (followed by mind-blowing sex within a totally unrealistic time frame) = excellent drama.   Actual death of main character = mood (and plot) killer.

Unless it comes at the very end, after we've already had a satisfying consummation, à la R & J, or Titanic.

Back to the "But He's a Muslim Jet, and She's a Wiccan Shark" Thing

When I was a little girl, Meredith Baxter and David Birney starred in a TV show called Bridget Loves Bernie, about a wealthy Catholic woman in love with a poor Jewish man, and the difficulties that ensued, because the religion issue, at the time, was huge. From Wikipedia:
With a primetime slot between All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Saturday nights, the situation comedy was #5 in the ratings among all shows for that television season and obtained a 24.2 rating, tying with The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie. Nevertheless, CBS executives decided to cancel the show in response to hate mail from viewers who objected to the inter-religious marriage depicted on the series. It was the highest-rated television program ever to be canceled after only one season.
The stars fell in love themselves, married in 1974, and had three kids together. After divorcing in 1989, Baxter remarried and re-divorced. Most recently, Bridget (Meredith Baxter) has announced that now she loves Nancy, another woman, and as far as I can tell, nobody has batted an eye.  I also find it interesting that nobody sent hate mail about the rich marries poor aspect of B Loves B, something that isn't so easy to manage in Real Life.

At the same time as BLB premiered, there were still places in the United States where a person of Caucasian descent could not legally marry a person of African-American descent. Much as today, there are few states where men can marry men, or women can marry women, and even in states where it is legal, it's not yet legal for income tax purposes. I don't think anyone doubts that within the next decade, or at the longest, two decades, "gay marriage" will be legal everywhere in the US.

While there are adoptable children languishing in foster homes, and elderly couples on their second, third (fourth or more) marriages, the whole "but in nature these couples can't reproduce" argument goes flying out the window.

Mississippi Masala
Mississippi Masala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Still, marriage and couplehood goes deeper than a compatible shade on the Pantone color chart or the way one's plumbing is assembled. Putting aside the whole "Grandma would shit a brick" or "Dad will hit the ceiling," or that "the neighbors will whisper" issue, it is a great challenge to become a couple with someone of a completely different cultural background.

Mix It Up, indeed. 

Mississippi Masala dealt with a romance between an Indian-American woman (originally from Uganda) and an African-American man from Mississippi. Who "owns" the truest African cultural heritage in that situation?

While the whole "Us Against the World" Situation can push a couple together, what if the whole world isn't pushing back, but quietly minding its own beeswax? The dynamic, both for a storyteller, and for someone trying to live the life, is to find and express new ways to understand the inner conflict between two people who want to be together, but are pulled apart by internal, rather than external forces.

Is That My Mother On The Phone?

What if the love triangle isn't between a man and two romantic interests, but between his wife and his mother? That's the premise of Everybody Loves Raymond, where there's a married man still a bit too enmeshed with Mommy Dearest (who just happens to live across the street). It could just as easily be the wife who is still closer to her mother than her new mate, or closer to her daddy, or her friend from elementary school.

Wandering Back to the Main Point

If we want an engaging romance - to read, watch, listen to - we need Misery, aka Conflict. We do not want to eavesdrop on endless pages of goo-goo ga-ga "I love you more," vs."No, I love you more, my Cinnamon Applesauce Surprise."  We need some of that, but mostly, we want the angst, the misery, the "OMG, these people belong together but there's no way they can ever make it work."  And then, somehow, the writer makes it work.

That's the satisfaction of True Love.  When despite all the odds, our couple gets together anyway.

Who's your favorite fictional (or real-life) couple? Why?
(Besides you & your spouse, you don't want me to get all stabby.)
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Monday, February 4, 2013

Slut of the Month: Peggy Lee

Picture of Peggy
via Peggy
Nobody could sing a song like Miss Peggy Lee, though many have tried.

Born Norma Delores Egstrom in North Dakota in 1920, Peggy Lee endured something that makes-or-breaks many women, the loss of her mother at an early age, and an absent/uncaring father.  According to Wikipedia:
Her mother died when Lee was just four years old.[3] Afterward, her father married Min Schaumber, who treated her with great cruelty while her alcoholic father did little to stop it.[4] As a result, she developed her musical talent and took several part-time jobs so that she could be away from home.

When the Crowds Were Loud, She Went Soft

From the official Peggy Lee site:
It was at the Doll House in Palm Springs, California that Peggy Lee first developed the soft and "cool" style that has become her trademark. Unable to shout above the clamor of the Doll House audience, Miss Lee tried to snare its attention by lowering her voice. The softer she sang the quieter the audience became. She has never forgotten the secret, and it has given her style its distinctive combination of the delicate and the driving, the husky and the purringly seductive. One of the members of the Doll House audience was Frank Bering, the owner of Chicago’s Ambassador West Hotel, who invited her to sing in his establishment’s Buttery Room.

Benny Goodman discovered Peggy Lee’s vocalizing in the Buttery Room at a time when he was looking for a replacement for Helen Forrest. Miss Lee joined Goodman’s band in July, 1941, when the band was at the height of its popularity, and for over two years she toured the United States with the most famous swing outfit of the day, playing hotel engagements, college proms, theater dates, and radio programs.

Peggy Lee wrote music for films, acted, and created conceptual records albums - which encompassed jazz, chamber pop, art songs, and poetry. From Joel Siegel's 1998 review of Miss Peggy Lee:
As The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music observes, "Her smoky, laid-back sexuality had something teasingly neurotic about it, vulnerable but also untouchable in the end." Like her label-mates Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole, she achieved and sustained vast popularity without compromising her refined musical principles. She assembled a wide-ranging repertoire – ballads, swing and Latin tunes, novelty numbers – and was one of the few white singers capable of interpreting black music without condescension, introducing bluesy songs previously recorded by Little Willie John, Joe Williams and Ray Charles to mainstream listeners. Her infallible rhythmic instincts served her well at all tempos, and her chameleonlike ability to shift character from song to song enabled her to communicate a rainbow of emotions.

She was nominated for 12 Grammies, ironically winning only two for Is That All There Is? (She was also given a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.)

Yes, She Liked Men

Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee
Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee
(Photo credit: classic film scans)
Married four times, clearly the title of her 1959 album I Like Men! was quite true to life.  She also admits (brags?) of numerous affairs in her autobiography.

"I learned courage from Buddha, Jesus, Lincoln, and Mr. Cary Grant," she said.

And She Inspired Miss Piggy

 Bonnie Erickson in an interview with Smithsonian Magazine:
My mother used to live in North Dakota where Peggy Lee sang on the local radio station before she became a famous jazz singer. When I first created Miss Piggy I called her Miss Piggy Lee—as both a joke and an homage. Peggy Lee was a very independent woman, and Piggy certainly is the same. But as Piggy's fame began to grow, nobody wanted to upset Peggy Lee, especially because we admired her work. So, the Muppet's name was shortened to Miss Piggy.

In honor of Valentines' Day, coming up, I must share this clip from my favorite romantic movie.

Peggy Lee didn't just sing the tune, but actually wrote the lyrics. (She also supplied the voices of the Siamese cats, and "Darling," in addition to the female dog, "Peg," clearly modeled after her persona.)

Later, when Disney discovered this cool new technology called videotape and began making a boatload of money by selling their back catalogs in videotape format, they figured no way Peggy Lee and their other musicians were entitled to share in the profits. After all, they hadn't signed contracts that included videotape, had they?

Disney Messed With the Wrong Bitch

Miss Peggy Lee, and after a long court battle, the courts, saw it very differently. Without her efforts, and the precedent setting court case, many recording and other artists who signed contracts in the days before videotape, DVR, live streaming (and whatever comes next) would not be receiving the royalties they do on works from classic works like Lady and the Tramp.

What A Dame!

In her seventies, despite polymelitis rheumatosis that put her in a wheelchair, a broken pelvis, diabetes, and (rumors of) heavy drinking, Peggy Lee was still giving sell-out stage performances. Writing. Painting pictures.

Miss Peggy Lee died in 2002 at the age of 82.

Future Slut of the Month Candidates:
  • Mae West
  • Joan of Kent
  • Cleopatra
  • Sandra Fluke 
  • Morgan le Fey
  • Aspasia
  • Madonna
  • Liz Taylor
  • Dorothy Parker 
  • Kassandra of Troy
  • Tullia d'Aragona
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Lillie Langtry
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Shelley Winters
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • "Klondike Kate" Rockwell
  • Catherine de Medici
  • Jezebel 
  • Lucrezia Borgia
  • Umrao Jaan
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine 
  • Theodora (wife of Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine Empire) 
  • Jeanne d'Arc
  • Margaret Sanger
  • Hwang Jin-i
  • Coco Chanel
  • Sappho
  • Joan of Kent
  • Catherine the Great
  • the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown
  • Eva Perón
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Anaïs Nin
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Mata Hari
  • Malala Yousafzai
Who's your favorite slut? 
Vote for one on this list, or name another slut to be added to it.
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Friday, February 1, 2013

And Red All Over #goredforwomen

That's the punchline to more than a few jokes. It's also the theme of Go Red for Women.

I admit, I usually intend to participate in this event, and I also usually miss it.

Because I'm usually busy busy busy, ya know? Besides, heart disease is for old people, it's something that affects men, not women, and I don't have to worry if I don't have any symptoms, right?

All myths. Heart disease claims the lives of one in three women, while only one in thirty-one dies of breast cancer in a year.

Would you even recognize the signs of a heart attack? (Hint: they can be very different from the way they're portrayed in the movies, or experienced by men.) Take a couple minutes and watch this clip.

Sure, "we all gotta go sometime," but do you really want to go in a stupid, preventable way? I don't.

Now is the time to find out what your risk is. (I recently had a physical, and while my outlook is great in some areas, there's definitely room for improvement.)
The Heart Truth® is a national awareness campa...
The Heart Truth® is a national awareness campaign for women about heart disease sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Red Dress®, introduced by the NHLBI in 2002, is the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness. Visit for information on women and heart disease. ®, TM The Heart Truth, its logo and The Red Dress are trademarks of HHS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Take up regular exercise - it doesn't have to be boring, nor hugundously expensive, nor hard on your joints. "The practice of yoga is known to improve many risk factors for heart disease including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, and stress and inflammation in the body," saith this doctor in this article.  People tried to talk me into yoga for years, and I pooh-poohed it; now it's the one exercise I get in almost every day. I feel so much better when I've done my morning yoga.

Consider donating money, or time, or simply spreading the word. Take a CPR class.

But if you do nothing else, learn the signs of a heart attack in women. It could save your life, or that of someone you love.

Are you wearing red today?
This month for Valentines' Day, show your love to you,
by taking good care of yourself .

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