My After Happily Ever After: Vol. I

1504209_1388883841371074_78845019_oA friend told me that I haven’t been married long enough to write about being married. He’s probably right. But a few lessons have been valuable for me on this bridal path. I blame serial dating for twenty-five years, my “little sister” complex, and an inner princess for needing my own way at all times. What a novelty that in a relationship, you have to cooperate with another person. Here are some of my marital takeaways:

  • Being kind and respectful always wins–even when he’s irritating.
  • I’m generally nice to others but very self oriented. Now, I think about little things Sam might like. On my excursions, I’ll pick him up a snack or his favorite newspaper. It goes a long way.
  • I hold grudges, but Sam caves within minutes. He never gives up on people unless they’re truly reprehensible. This shows me how silly it is to stew in self-righteous indignation. We bicker now and then, sometimes really fight, but I’m better at saying I’m sorry.
  • Five years later, everything he does still charms me–how he walks, how his hair sticks up, his obsession with his expensive toothbrush, how fussy he is in the kitchen, even the cadence of his snoring (it changes depending on what he eats and drinks). Someday, I may take this for granted. For now, I stare as much as I can.
  • You have to do things you don’t want to do. I try to gauge what’s important to him. This can be difficult because, like a guy, he shrugs his shoulders and says he doesn’t mind one way or the other. I don’t like eating in restaurants, but he does. Sometimes I suggest we dine out and his eyes light up. His joy is well worth the inconvenience of sitting in a noisy, cramped space and waiting on potentially greasy food (I can be nuts in a restaurant).
  • Men seem to have their monthly cycles, which I find fascinating. I know to stay away certain days of the month.
  • He can’t stand to be within fifty yards of the bickering Housewives. I can still watch my precious Housewives, but I wait until he’s out of the room.
  • I just assume people are there and I don’t reach out to them as much as I should. When you live with someone you love, you can’t assume. I try to check in with him a few times a day. He’s the type who loves hearing from people so I know it’s a big deal. Being with him has made me better about calling my mother, too.

I’m sure I’ll learn more over the years and some days will be more difficult than others. Most of the time, I think how lucky I am.

Fifty Shades of Saturday

rs_634x1005-141114095132-10644711_665591963557478_6990185292071945908_nEver since the casting for Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve been eager to see the movie. Jamie Dornan was brilliant in The Fall, one of the creepiest series I’ve ever seen and well worth a Netflix binge. No doubt, he could bring Christian Grey to life, though I’d been set on Charlie Hunnam for the role. Dakota Johnson, whose memorable short stint in The Social Network, seemed a perfect choice as Anastasia Steele. I’d Youtubbed her a little as research and found her charming and natural (double kudos if it’s all a performance). As for the story itself, I’m Switzerland and won’t even try to explore all the issues this book provokes in people (it makes me tired). I wasn’t offended by what I read, but it’s not my thing either. I like that a book–rather than a reality show–has created such a phenomenon and I support most women who laugh all the way to the bank.

But back to the movie. The sad fact is that I haven’t stepped out much since last June. Call it mild agoraphobia or just a Garbo phase, but I’ve kept my outings to essential only. I put off seeing Fifty Shades until the last minute (before we’d discuss it at work). I felt grateful that E.L. James wrote a story that would get me out of the apartment. Either because he was bored, curious, loving a free ticket, or just supporting me, Sam tagged along. We entered a mostly empty theater (it was early). Two creepy guys sat in the back. Two girls in the middle. Sam and I gave each other a look and found a place on the side. Because he liked Maid in Manhattan, I thought he could sit through this. Then again, he’d seen the J.Lo flick during our honeymoon phase*. Now, he won’t even consider watching anything with Jennifer Lopez, Hugh Grant, or Julia Roberts in it. Yes to Sandra Bullock and double-yes to Melissa McCarthy.

Sadly, we only lasted an hour in the theater. Dakota Johnson was adorable. She brought so much to the role. In my opinion as a celebriholic and movie junkie, Jamie Dornan was a better serial killer in The Fall and his talents were wasted in this movie. I still thought he was good, just not fall-down-in-a-faint good. It was beautiful to watch, and even though the pacing dragged for me, I could have lasted admiring the Seattle vistas, the helicopter, the glamorous decor, and Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice. Our movie drug of choice has been too many Channing Tatum movies where things go boom and each moment contains serious biceps flexing. Channing Tatum is Sam’s Julia Roberts so we’ve watched every Jump Street and sabotage of the White House flick.

As Ana saw Christian play the piano, I glanced over at Sam whose eyes were glazing over. This was his look when he saw a Kardashian, a Duran Duran concert or Sex and the City, the “please get me out of here” look or “at least give me a glass of bourbon.” No matter how provocative Christian was, no matter how many contracts he wanted Miss Steele to sign, my husband would rather be flogged to death than sit through another hour. I wasn’t so into it that I needed to stay. Given we spent 30$, I thought he’d want to get his money’s worth, at least see some blindfolding and whipping. When I suggested we leave, he brightened, as if I’d given him a pizza. We left.

I’ll wait a little longer to see Fifty Shades in full, or at least, the last hour.

*Though the honeymoon phase is over, we are still nauseating in our lovey-doveyness.

Romance Tales from Louisiana

Last weekend, I went to Shreveport, Louisiana, to attend a conference for romance writers. I had gone to this event maybe fifteen years ago and remember feeling like such a newbie, quivering over my speech, but having a blast with some amazing people. My colleagues have been as well, and they always come back with raves. I knew I was in for fun (and work, too). As usual, I went through my pre-flying rituals:

1. Freaking out

2. Packing and re-packing

3. Picking out a Steven Seagal movie to watch but then opting for Sons of Anarchy instead–sort of same thing (bringing out inner warrior self)

4. Looking at husband, possibly for the last time (since I could die) and feeling that if I did plunge into a land mass due to engine failure, I’d have absolutely no regrets. Everyone knows I love them.sam

Oddly enough, this time, I had no flying terror since I’d spent most of the week on weather.com, ensuring perfect plane vistas from my window seat. Because I’m a spaz and superstitious, I don’t eat while in transit (since eating brings on wild turbulence and the universe operates based on my actions always) so I arrived in Dallas famished but ready for my next flight. Alas, it was cancelled. Luckily, the conference organizers had a nice lady ready to drive me to my final destination. My luggage decided to stay in Dallas until the evening when it magically appeared in Shreveport.I didn’t know this until later that evening, after visions of sleeping in my business clothes and wearing them again.

After a mini-road trip, I arrived only to set down my purse and run to be on the editor/agent panel. I’m not sure what I said that evening, but it was lovely to look out into the audience and see three of my authors–Lenora Worth, Beth Cornelison and Farrah Rochon–smiling at me. They gave me hugs of sympathy, though by that time, I was deliriously happy to be on the ground. A lovely agent loaned me her brush. My author gave me some toothpaste and the nice lady at the front desk passed me other supplies. Oh right, and I was hungry-ish, but too rattled to eat. After twelve hours on the road, I went to my room and just collapsed. At 10pm, my luggage arrived.

The next day, I felt amazing with the post heinous travel glow of gratitude and did a “Chat With” workshop. Most of the questions involved preparing a good pitch, how publishers feel about hybrid authors, deal breakers in a submission to an editor, how can writers improve their work. There’s no substitute for being able to engage with writers face to face. For a few hours, I also did appointments, which I’m hoping will yield some great projects on my desk (e-reader). A nice perk–there were snacks everywhere and I indulged, making up for my travel hunger strike. Hurray for bags of snacks!!!

The conference en11043052_805084322873362_8048958285275004698_nded at a nice dinner with my authors. I gave up giving up gluten since bread must be eaten sometimes. No regrets, especially since the next day promised rain for my journey home. Memories of bread, amaretto house cake and enthused writers got me through those jerky moments in the clouds. After lugging my suitcase up five flights of stairs (our elevator is out for three months), I opened the door to find my favorite guy and my favorite foods waiting for me.

Though depleted, I always return from conferences energized. It’s a festive time for both introverts and extroverts to bond over their craft. Only 4 months until RWA…

 

15 Romance Clichés–Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

young romantic couple kissing in front of sunset in santa monicaEvery genre has its clichés and I sort of love them because they can be like chicken soup or The Brady Bunch, i.e. comforting old friends. At the same time, when you’re a voracious reader, these clichés get tired and seem like a quick exit. As a professional reader, I see certain things so much I could just die*. Here are some offenses I would urge romance writers to avoid from now on:

  1. Referring to sex as a “dance as old as time.” You know what’s as old as time? Mitosis! Or if you have another belief: God. So really, sex isn’t a dance as old as time. For me, personally, the hustle is a dance as old as time because, for me, that’s when time began.
  2. The hero says he’s hungry but not for food. Let’s just say lovin’ and feasting aren’t the same thing, but comparisons are made interchangeably throughout acts of whoopee. He feasted on her body. He sipped her lips.  I’ve programmed myself not to wince over this hungry-not-for-food cliché. Instead, I try to think of Duran Duran**. Here, though, Simon Le Bon is hungry but not for food. Alas.
  3. The heroine runs into the hero–literally***. And as their hands touch, this odd bolt of electricity goes up their arms! Wonder what that could mean…? I say it’s from rug burn.
  4. They engage in the Missionary position 90% of the time. I get it because the hero and heroine are face to face. It’s more intimate. In a category romance, you certainly don’t want the first act of forever love to begin with, “Get on your knees, Sarah.” One time I was reading a romance and I became a little agitated because the hero and heroine weren’t in the usual face to face position. So shocked was I that I didn’t skim the sexy and romantic scene. Well done, romance writer!
  5. His tongue “sweeps past her lips.” There’s no pretty way to describe French kissing, but I’m tired of this one.
  6. Running his tongue along the outside of her lips. I’ve read this bit of foreplay since the 80s. And it’s still happening! I may be naive about technique, but ew.
  7. The heroine dabs on gloss, and that’s the extent of putting on her face. I know the heroine is supposed to be low maintenance. Do real-life heroes like kissing gloss? Maybe it’s an aesthetic thing in romance, but heroines don’t all need gloss. Okay, maybe they do. Here’s what I use, just because I like it.
  8. When she’s really driving him nuts, the hero runs a hand through his hair. I know he can’t reach for a Xanax. It’s good he has hair, right? At least he’s not balling his hands into fists. On TV, you’d see the actor clench his jaw (indicating frustration). It’s a valid reaction to aggravation, but cliché.
  9. Starting your story with a dream, car ride, breakup, anything in italics. This normally makes me put down a book. I just can’t do it! My eyes are too feeble to read italics for long stretches. Now if it’s a manuscript I’ve already bought, I forge ahead and consider how important it is to the story to begin this way.
  10. Kissing her thoroughly, senseless, or breathless. You can’t exactly say he kissed so powerfully as to bring on an asthma attack. After this mind-melting experience, which causes respiratory distress, her lips are swollen from his kisses. I understand that the writer wants to convey intensity. There are other ways. These have been used again and again.
  11. He has a baritone voice. Just overused. I like a good Irish tenor myself.
  12. He’s seeing how she has curves in all the right places. What about the wrong places? Whenever I read this, I laugh a little to myself.
  13. A real annoyance to me is the combative banter between the hero and heroine, especially at the beginning, to show he’s arrogant and she’s a spitfire! There are people one can hate on sight, but wouldn’t you be polite? If these characters are going to bicker, the writer should show motivation behind it aside from temperamental issues or irritation masking desire.
  14. After their lovemaking****, the hero cooks breakfast, especially eggs. So many heroes, as it turns out, can make omelets. They go to omelet school before they take out a lady. What a heroine really wants is a nice gooey Cinnabon in the morning–or that’s just me.
  15. The heroine says at the beginning that she has no time for love. I never believe this. It’s a deliberate set-up to show us just how radically her world is about to change. I have a friend who has no time for love. He works at his day job and spends all his free time dazzling in the entertainment industry. “What about love?” I queried. He acted as if I’d asked him about string theory. If the heroine has no time for love, she wouldn’t even be thinking this or saying it. When in doubt, show us how busy and indifferent she is.

As I wrote above, these clichés can be welcome to a reader, but it should be every writer’s challenge to forge a new path. Make it even more memorable and creative for us, your old, new and future readers.

*Hyperbole is a real-life cliché.

**This doesn’t take much.

***Misuse and overuse of “literally” drives me batty these days, not literally.

****I hate this word because it seems to old-fashioned, but in romance, you can’t avoid it, especially when describing coitus in meetings or with authors. Sex can be too technical, making love too syrupy. Boinking isn’t an option either, so it’s lovemaking or the love scene (s).

25 Things You Don’t Know About Me

2806004-jawsAfter reading US Magazine‘s 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me section and missing those Facebook invites to share personal facts, I thought I’d take advantage of my Narcissism 1st amendment rights and do my own confessional! So here are some things you may not know about me. Though…maybe you do.

1. I like going into Duane Reade and buying a lot of crap.

2. Since using this lip balm, I’m now obsessed and keep at least 4 on hand.

3. The number 107 has followed me since childhood. I see it everywhere.

4. Being out in a storm is my favorite thing–as long as it doesn’t hurt me.

5. My all-time favorite movie is Jaws.

6. I love to run but am extremely lazy.

7. I’ve been reading tarot cards for the last 20 years. Yes, I started because of a boy.

8. I’m an insomniac (I’ve tried everything).

9. I started wearing an eyemask to sleep in my 40s. No idea…

10. After the Pan Am flight 103 blew up, I developed a fear of flying, which I still have, but I get on the plane anyway.

11. Since this commercial, I’ve been using the same skin cream for almost 30 years.

12. Ironing and starching clothes relaxes me.

13. I collect ribbon. I’m not sure why, unless Laura Ingalls and Nellie Olsen need it for the church social.

14. It’s important to me that I live in a country where people can have different opinions on the same topic. Red and blue and purple should be able to co-exist.

15. I love that a cup of coffee cures my headache 99% of the time.21eaea3a236b9ba62475fce3c4ee56d1

16. I’d never owned any kind of diamond until my husband proposed.

17. In high school, I cracked my jaw while blowing a funky smoke ring*, and I’ve been able to tell the weather ever since.

18. I want to read everything.

19. My husband accepts my girl-crush on Jane Lynch. Every time she’s on the screen, I can’t look away, especially in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Role Models.

20. It takes a gallon of oil to keep my hair from being broom-like.

21. Since living in NYC, I’ve learned to carry essentials in case of an emergency: tiger balm, eucalyptus oil, anti-bacterial wipes, a mini-elephant (for good luck), Advil, Altoids, back-up Altoids, secret money, cell phone–and I always wear sneakers so I can run if I need to in case of attack, storm, blackout.

22. One of the most embarrassing moments of my life: My dorm mother caught me imaginary slow dancing with my imaginary boyfriend Nick Rhodes (sophomore year of high school, when I took a short hiatus from my long-term imaginary boyfriend, John Taylor). She said, “Okay…?”

23. I read Hard Times by Charles Dickens when I was 10, just to impress my parents. I don’t remember anything about it.

24. I did the calligraphy on diplomas for four years of high school seniors (damn those who had two middle names!) when I was in high school.

25. Four years later, I still can’t believe I’m married and to such a cool guy. How amazing!

 

*I don’t smoke anymore.

The Crush You Can’t Explain

Recently, I was sitting in a class, wondering why my teacher seemed especially enjoyable to me. After a good half hour of analysis, his sudden smile brought my fascination into focus. He resembles a star I could binge-watch without end. I can only explain my love in pictures:

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Donald Sutherland is a god on TV and in film. He’s the voice telling you that grapefruit season yielded particularly succulent delights for your drinking pleasure. DS’s majesty permeates the cosmos. Now that I’ve confessed, dear reader, it’s your turn. Who do you love inexplicably?