Auntie Mame’s Banquet

One of my role models, Auntie Mame, famously said “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death. Live!” Which corresponds to my word for the year, Celebrate, as is celebrate all the fabulous things in life, big and small. We’ll start with the very fat squirrel outside my window – I think we’ve been dumping too many stale crackers into the snow. We’re firm believers that squirrels need love just as much as birds do, so we have lots of both flocking around. 
And then there’s this: I get to spend my working days thinking of young women for Tom Hiddleston to sleep with – as if he needs any help. Does the that make me a pimp? Naaah. And I share the wealth – I’ve created women for Alan Rickman, Adam Driver, Rafe Fiennes, Howl (from Howl’s Moving Castle, Daniel Day-Lewis, and a so many others. It’s just Tom is the hero-avatar du jour. I hope he appreciates my efforts.

So let’s see – we have nature, we have pretty men. What other treats do we need? Oh, food! I’m on my 401st day straight of studying Danish (checking out my roots) and in the course of things I learned to make æbleskiver.  Recipe upon request, and you don’t need the special pan – apparently you can just use a muffin pan. I was going to have something incredibly beautiful but we already have Hiddles, then I thought about puppy-cute but we already have Hiddles. Reminds me of a Dennis Leary ad for MTV. Let me see if I can find it. But substitute Tom Hiddleston for Cindy Crawford. Yum.
And last but certainly not least – the song for the day.

Life is a banquet. Go out there and live!

Oddly enough, the videos are showing up on one part of my computer but not in the preview.  So in case you can’t find any of the videos, get the to Youtube and search for Hiddleston Ice Bucket, Aloe Blacc Wake me up and Denis Leary/Cindy Crawford, and I’ll learn how to embed by next week.

O-bla-dee

For those of you who might not recognize that phrase, it’s from a light-hearted Beatles song that goes “o-bla-dee, o-bla-da, life goes on.” For good or bad, it goes on.

If I talk about the latest school shooting I’ll go on an insane rant against the NRA, politicians, the mental health system, the way lost boys are treated, and then I’ll cry. So I won’t go there. At this point it’s too upsetting.

So life goes on. Something’s up with this computer and I seem unable to post pictures – I was going to upload a bunch of daily treats for y’all (Tom Hiddleston and the ice bucket challenge, etc) but it’s not working, alas. Hmm, let me see if there’s something older I can upload. This is a test.
. That worked. That’s the new cover of my very first book, written the winter of 1971 (trust me, I was a baby). It’s clunky but original, and it’s on sale through the rest of the month if you want to see where I started. Most people don’t sell their first book (I didn’t sell my second). But #2 and my first historical are the only ones that never saw the light of day, which says something about me. And that sucker was written on a manual typewriter, God help me.
Also, the Russell books (Never kiss etc.) are on sale for the month, as well as the sinfully delicious Fire books (Consumed by Fire, Wildfire, etc.).

And with the latter, you can usually get the audio for a pittance, and the audios are excellent (except Susan Ericksen does say Gross-ven-or Square in the first Never one, but she’s corrected that later. I forgive her.). But I will figure out how to upload new photos, etc., so I can pass along the treats.
My word for 2018 is Celebrate. Not the “hoo-haw, everything’s great” kind of celebration, more a gratitude type where I pass along the small, glorious things in the world (like Tom Hiddleston’s ice bucket challenge). Even small scraps of pleasure, humor, beauty, help in hard times.

But instead you have to settle for what amounts to an advertisement today, which I hate. Look at it as a money-saving tip, not a sales tactic. That’ll make me feel better

Groundhog Day

Well, I suppose I could do the same paragraph over and over again in honor of Bill Murray’s movie, but I’ll resist the temptation. But man, I love Bill Murray!

So someone came up with the idea of doing a piece of art every day in February on Instagram. Unfortunately I don’t remember who it was, but the suggestion was mostly for visual art, drawings etc. Of course I’ll take it one step further – it gives me a way to explore Instagram and connect with more people.. I’m relearning how to play the guitar, and last night I worked out “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Key of C, which is a pain because F-chords have always been a pain, but it’s good key to sing in. I think I’m going to have to accept F chords if that’s my new key.

Upate on everything – I’ve started the process of getting HEARTLESS edited – I never need heavy editing so it shouldn’t be much, and then we go forward with covers, etc. (unless some traditional publisher swoops in with an offer I can’t refuse). So HEARTLESS, Brandon and Emma’s story, is getting closer to the light of day.

The Harlequin Reprints are momentarily on hiatus while I rework them – I have interesting ideas about things to do with them.

Ice/Heat is on hold for its turn in the line-up. I want to do Remy’s story in New Orleans, then enough time has passed for Peter and Bastien’s children to grow up. I’ve got so many books in my head that I’ve forgotten who has who, but I know Bastien has a daughter and Swede, and Peter has a daughter and Mahmoud (wasn’t that his name?) plus Dylan from On Thin Ice. Anyway, I love the idea of Mahmoud and Dylan both wanting the same young woman, who loves them both (normally I don’t like triangles but this might be a quadrangle or an incredible tangle of emotions while the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and I’m going to love playing with them.

In the meantime I’m playing with a new idea that I’ve wanted to write for probably 25 years – I remember Harlequin shied away from it and that was looooong ago.

So masses of things to do and not enough time to do it.

I do have a question, but there’s no need to answer if you don’t have an opinion. I’m wrestling with POV and tense on the new MIP (Mess In Progress). It’s almost definitely going to be alternating first person hero and heroine, but for some reason I started out in present tense. It seemed to demand it. Now I’m rethinking the whole thing.

Some people find present tense incredibly annoying. For me it’s basically invisible if the book is good.

Does anyone out there have a strong opinion for or against present tense? (You know the Dracula comes into the room instead of Dracula came into the room).

The New Year

. Good morning, my darlings. I’ve been having lots of Great Thoughts, and I’ve decided to share them all with you. Now, in general I’m not crazy about writing blogs – I’m ambivalent about teaching. What works for me might not work for other people, and I dislike being the Voice of Authority. OTOH I don’t mind being Sister Yoda, ancient voice of wisdom, mainly because I’ve lived through a lot of shit and managed to glean a few bits of helpful hints along the way.
Another problem with blogs is that they tend to be all about selling, and selling things makes me feel scabby. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with selling – my son is excellent at it, and I’ve had other great salespeople in the family. It just doesn’t work for me. I’ll give almost anything away if someone wants it, I’m physically incapable of handing one of my books to someone and receiving cash in the other hand . Then again, I have deep-seated money issues, as so many people do, so it’s little wonder. I think I should have been born fabulously wealthy – I’d give most of the money away and I wouldn’t have to worry about things.

But I also have another blog where I faithfully write at least once a week, seldom talking about writing, just talking about my life, and I decided to move that over here and add in writing stuff as well. This way if people are interested they can engage, and it won’t seem like I’m ignoring things. One thing I do promise – I won’t ask stupid questions to get web traffic. I’ll ask questions because I want to know the answer.

Let’s see – today is Wednesday. I can try for every Wednesday, or pick a different day, but I’m going to start checking in here on a regular basis.

Here’s what I’ve been doing.

I belong on an episode of Hoarders, and while I’ve been working on it for years (I’ve stopped buying things and I donate bags and boxes of stuff all year long) it’s still out of control. I love the calm of a clean house, I just don’t love it enough to do it.

But it was time to attack our bedroom. It’s been a disaster for more than six months, and when I facetimed with my son Tim on Friday he was horrified, and he grew up with me as a mother. (The mother of one of my kids’ friends once told me I was put on earth to make other women feel better about their housekeeping). I should have taken photos of before — I had some, but it got substantially worse before I finally had enough. So I dove in, and made surprisingly good progress. If I get really energetic I’ll upload some before and after photos.

And I’ve been writing after a fitful couple of years where I stopped and started a number of things. My shoulder went haywire and I ended up having it replaced, so the combination of the physical issues of typing and the time surgery and PT took, added with the toll that anesthesia takes on your creativity, and I’ve spent a lot of time drifting and rewriting. Then I ended up with no new contract (the case for most of the writers I know given the sudden shift in publishing and the virtual death of mass market) which, being a traditional writer I found depressing. Plus the book I was working on was a royal pain in the butt.

But it’s done, and I’m working on getting it out ASAP – it’s finally Brandon and Emma, and I’ll tell you all about it next time.

But first … The Shape of Water. (An endless moment of rapturous grinning ensues).
Just … so wonderful. Not like the rampart scene in Last of the Mohicans or the bed scene in The Big Easy, more along the lines of the end of the Big Easy,when they’re dancing. I just sat in the movie theater with a big smile on my face, the one that Richie calls my Disney smile. It appears when I first arrive at Disney World. It appeared when I found out I was having a granddaughter. It’s sheer, innocent joy untrammeled by reality. You don’t find that very often, but I found it last night. I’m still smiling.

A good portion of the audience was bemused. It’s got a difficult premise (not difficult for me – I swallowed it whole, but many people aren’t as eager to throw themselves into fantasy as I am). But the Oscar nominations thrilled me, and if you’re open-minded I recommend it highly.

I’m going to toss a writing nugget out there every time as well, and I’ll start out with one of the most contentious. You’ve heard all about “no prologues, epilogues or flashbacks.” My BFF Crusie (I have two, Jennifer Crusie and Sally, my BFF from childhood) – anyway, Crusie believes in the rule with steely-eyed resolve.

Not me. Tools are made to be used, rules are made to be broken. For every reason not to use the three, there are strong viable reasons to use them. I know why writers and others hate them – prologues, epilogues and flashbacks are not the story you’re reading. They exist in another time, and in the best of worlds the book should be all about what’s happening on the screen, not other times.

But sometimes there’s no better way to do it. I find a good rule of thumb is to see if there’s any possible way to avoid them. If you can pass important background information without a flashback, do so. Same with the prologue. As for an epilogue (the one I do most) you try to set up the book so that you know they’re going to have a happy ending without a scene with a dozen babies.

BUT — I write really terse endings. I don’t like 5 pages of mush and oh my darlings after everything’s been resolved. My favorite ending is the one from NIGHTFALL, and it’s very … abrupt.

Because of that, in my historical in particular, epilogues can be very useful, sometimes even necessary to ensure that the battling couple really does live HEA. And I’m thinking of writing some epilogues to some of my older books, now that 20 years has passed, to see where my couples are now.

So those are my grandiose plans. Writing tips, popular culture (movies, men, music), regular life and epilogues. It should be fun.

You’ve got your movie suggestion. Your song of the day: America’s Sweetheart by Elle King.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Glædelig Jul

Happy Holidays, my children!

I had a truly stellar Christmas. Christmas Eve was just Richie and me – we stopped and visited with my BFF Sally after picking up some last minute things – I made seafood chowder, we lit all the candles, finished our decorating, then watched the George C. Scott version of a Christmas carol, in between face timing with Tim and the grandkids, as snow came down outside and goodwill abounded.

I was pretty tired. We’re having hellacious weather (lots of snow, some ice, and then the bottom of the thermometer is going to shatter) – so both of us snuggled down for a long winter’s nap (me listening to a cute Christmas romance on my iPhone, only to have it suddenly ring at 8 in the morning (we we exhausted so still sound asleep.) It was the grandkids in New Mexico, two hours earlier, opening their presents, excited and happy. I was on the iPad, the other grandparents on the iPhone, and we watched them romp around in joy. I’d made Christmas pajamas for all of them, and Alex was proudly wearing his (Ali was wearing hers later that day) from a large amount of Hello Kitty Christmas flannel I’d bought for Daniel when he was a kid, and they looked adorable.

We facetimed for a couple of hours, then I finally got to pee, then we had sausages and scrambled eggs, then my older child Daniel called on FT, and we watched him open his presents, and then honorary DIL Erin called for help on setting up the PS4 Pro we gave them, (2nd ft with them), while I was making Risalamande (traditional Danish Christmas dessert). Then my niece Jenny, the only one remaining from my family of origin, called me via FT, (she and my younger son Tim went out for early morning ski runs in Tahoe and then she took him out for a Christmas lunch, which was just perfect). Then grandson Alex again, then we went to my BFF Sally’s (I’d been planning to make Gløgg and Smørbrød but I crashed, cried a little, cheered up, got to Sally’s and immediately Facetimed with Tim and then with the grandkids again while they facetimed Tim on another device. Finally we went home and I had the best night’s sleep in my entire life.  The only person missing from my life was my other BFF, Crusie, but getting her to FaceTime or even talk on the phone is a major battle.

I’m sitting here this morning by the Christmas tree watching Hallmark movies and snuggling under my delicious new electric throw (which, since the temperature won’t be reaching 0 degrees for the next few days it will be very timely – a present from Sally).

So now I’ll sew and pick-up stuff and bake my grandmother’s julekage with no deadlines – we celebrate the entire week between Christmas and New Years. Life is quite wonderful. I have the best grandchildren in the world, wonderful friends (Jenny and Sally in particular), an excellent niece, fabulous children who seem to be emerging from long, difficult times. We won’t even mention that magnificent man I married. Plus two phenomenal cats.

I’m hard-wired to notice the good things around me – I think that’s partly why I’m happier than most people. Life is a banquet, and right now I have a groaning board.