Six Years of Facebook Friendship

Just marriedAugust 10, 2015 is the six-year anniversary of when Sam Friended me on Facebook, which began our courtship which resulted in marriage. As a single girl for forty-two years, I got very used to my own rules. Now, with a few years of cohabitation/marriage under my belt, I’ve learned a few things:

It’s fun to do nice things for another person. Sam beams at me when I bring home food or do the dishes. I did the same just last week when he got me tickets to see Jane Lynch (my girl crush) at Joe’s Pub. Marriage can be a harmonious exchange of good tidings. Who knew???

Just because you’re together, doesn’t mean you have to spend every second together. When he wants to go out with his friends, I’m like, go for it, dude (as I turn on Housewives the second I hear his footsteps retreating).

Respect territory. The kitchen is his, the couch is mine. The yoga mat used to be mine, now it’s is. He cooks dinner, I bring home snacks and toiletries. I get the covers.

Bitchy behavior = he’s getting sick. And when he gets sick, I navigate between bringing him chicken soup and leaving him alone. He will yell at me no matter what.

In a New York apartment, he will see me in hot rollers. I once read that Gwen Stefani always makes sure she’s in full makeup, even around her husband*. I tried this and lasted one day.

Kindness wins over complaining. When I want to scream at Sam, I think, Is there a point to this? Usually, there isn’t. Sometimes, he deserves it, though.

Like all the books and rom-coms say: Trust is key. I leave my diary and phone out all the time. I don’t care if he reads them (the boredom would be punishing), but trust he won’t.

Ignore couple rituals. We don’t have a “date night” since we already spend a ridiculous amount of time together. Our Valentine’s Days are laughable. Romantic vacations are severely lacking in frequency and we don’t explode into tears over our love. We just are.

You can co-exist if you have different political leanings. Happening right now as the 2016 presidential campaign heats up. We discuss points of view without ridiculing the other’s beliefs. He’s wrong, of course.

Cleanliness is optional. Apart, we are clean-freaks; together, we are total slobs. We only clean in earnest if someone is coming over.

Being with the love of my life doesn’t solve all my problems, but it adds richness and joy to my life every day. I get to witness this other person’s life in an intimate way. What a privilege!

Happy Facebook Friendship, Sam! You’ve taught me so much and I’m excited for the next forty years.

*They’re divorcing but hey, it was a long-ish marriage.

Oversleeping

FullSizeRender(1)I didn’t set my alarm last night, which means I overslept until 8:00am. I have to be in the office by 8:30. Did I fret? No, but I did grab the first thing I could find in my closet, apparently, a lot of white. Sam said it looked fine but he’s in shorts-and-t-shirt season so what does he know? This is why I usually plan my outfits in advance. I can’t complain since it’s only an 8-hour day and no one will really see me and I did spend hours on my hair, which is amazing. And because I’m The Flash, I made it to work by 8:45.

Even editors of romance obsess over little things.

 

 

 

Summer Romance Recap

10400005_10153415799199449_3601979989100117259_nWith this week’s heatwave, I’m pretending the summer is over. What did I do? Here is a summary:

June, hmmmm. Okay, let’s skip to July, my birthday month. My hubby and I went to Washington, DC, where I mostly sat around, ate Reuben sandwiches, and/or visited landmarks while he worked. The city was positively steamy, which I tried to forget as we walked around the Capitol–breathtaking even with the construction. We passed buildings, fantasizing about congresspeople toiling late into the night for the good of America. While alone, I went to H&M in Union Station to buy cool new shorts, then showed them off at the Stamp museum. Do I know how to have fun or what?

We came home to celebrate my 47th birthday. Soon after this came RWA, where I got to meet some amazing authors, including a couple I’ve long admired: Deborah Blake and Karen Booth! The romance didn’t end there since NPR published its top 100 romances. Being mildly OCD (self-diagnosed), I decided that I needed to read (and re-read) the entire list. This week, I’m beginning with Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite a Husband. I’m intrigued to find out what makes the hero not quite a husband. She doesn’t have to do his laundry? In addition to this one, I’m finally reading To Kill a Mockingbird since I’ve pretended all these years to have read it. So far, so good. Jem and Scout are a hoot!

Perhaps the last hurrah of my summer, aside from two upcoming conferences, is that I attended a reunion (similar to the one in my book) where I got to see the wonderful people in my family. I’m very blessed. Now it’s time for me to edit three books by Monday with no rest to watch Bachelor in Paradise*. Please pray for me.

*Why did I remind myself that this exists?

 

Pet Peeves…A Few Clichés

editingThis post is coming a little later than I’d planned. I got sidetracked by news of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck’s impending divorce. And a certain red-haired presidential candidate’s fiery comments about immigration. And how Kourtney and Kids are going to cope sans Scott. Oh, and my latest obsession with Vanilla Kreme donuts. I managed to crawl back into blog mode because a few items jumped out at me while reading romance these past few weeks. Here are some clichés I’ve seen so much, I have to call them pet peeves.

The soon-to-be-reunited exes never had problems in the bedroom. Are you kidding me? In a romance, one sort of has to imply that sex was always hot, but it might be refreshing to try realism — that as the relationship disintegrated, the–ugh–lovemaking* slowed down to ten times a week instead of thirty.

The hero is always raking a hand through his hair when frustrated. Does he ever find leaves? In some ways, it’s cool that guys fuss with their hair too, but the raking of hair in romance is like the jaw clench actors use to denote anger. Can’t he just have steam coming out of his ears? Or, in my family, there’s the exasperated sigh, which conveys severe frustration/disgust. When my husband is angry, he gets this wrinkle between his eyebrows (like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally…). This is a rough one, writers.

He fell for her like a moth to a flame. I’d like to be the flame in this metaphor because being the moth would suck. This phrase, I’m sure, just flows naturally from the fingers. For years, I let  it go, but I’ve been striking it out of manuscripts. What about: He fell for her like Marc Antony fell on his sword after hearing the Cleopatra was dead (I don’t think this is true, but you get the idea). Or He fell for her as one does during a case of vertigo when the barometric pressure changes. (This is why I don’t write romance)

One thing I’ll say–as much as I make fun of clichés, I do sometimes find them comforting. The familiar can be very soothing. At the end of the day*, it’s always good to be aware of clichés and investigate alternatives.

*This word is another pet peeve. Who says this unless perhaps in an editorial meeting, instead of rougher language.

**Another pet peeve. Cannot believe I’m using this so-ten-years-ago phrase!

Procrastination (Written Over Months)

001 (2)Dear Diary,

Please help me.

Take away these obsessive thoughts of:

Yarn websites, Candy Crush, the Kardashians, Kardashian babies, Anthropologie, all the Housewives, Girls, social media, getting my FitBit numbers higher, my hair’s summer frizz, and Vanilla Kreme donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts.

Instead, infuse my brain with motivating thoughts of:

Nature, cute animals, motivating writing/editing tips, actual exercise at the gym, vegetables, Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noir, a walk after dinner, finishing books instead of buying more, cleaning around the apartment, consistent kindness to others.

When I list my accomplishments, it’s not as if I’ve done nothing. In fact, I’ve done a lot — just not everything. I have no concluding sentence here. Just that summer silliness has begun.

Yours in putting things off,

p.

Five Tips for Fine-Tuning Your Romantic Voice

17SCANDAL-superJumboAdmit it, you were expecting my Barry White impersonation. No such luck! Instead, after reading a whole pile of submissions, I’ve put together pointers for you as you write that proposal/manuscript/and even that Powerpoint presentation. I swear, I follow these tips when I have to talk to a group. Be thankful that I’m not singing. Others aren’t so fortunate.

Here we go:

1. Create intimacy with your reader. I love it when a writer’s voice invites me into the story, like I’m about to get some juicy insight into a character’s plight. This is the reason why I watch reality TV, as if I’m learning about a secret world–though I don’t always like what I see! Scandal is very good at showing us the scandalous behind-the-scene world of politicians. The more a writer does this–creates a connection, reveals–the more I want to read her book. I want that intimacy with your story. Show me what the characters are hiding.

2. Start in the right place. This is a tip I repeat over and over. Part of what stops me from reading is that the set-up can seem so ordinary. Boy meets girl. They hate each other on sight. Or, girl is intrigued by boy as they are assigned together. Boy goes to destination, meets girl, conflict ensues. Some of these set-ups are necessary, but to lessen the editor yawns, there must be excitement and tension. Take a chance and start your romance in a riskier place. Those too-easy set-ups are sometimes not the most effective.

3. Take time to flesh out a moment. I may be contradicting myself here. As you create the above mentioned excitement, be sure to expand upon those mundane moments. They can please an editor’s senses. I am a big fan of routine, descriptions of a person’s process (code for: food preparation; colorful portraits of nature, which are lacking in NYC; interesting wardrobe choices), and how one lives in everyday life. Show us how the heroine decorates her cupcakes (mmmm, cake!), how a cowboy/girl takes care of a horse, how a spy may agonize over what to pack. These tiny details reveal character. If you loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, you must have enjoyed passages about their daily chores. They are the reason I cleaned my room, joyfully did laundry, and enhanced my work ethic. I could have read those chapters on baking, sweeping, and walking to school forever. Don’t deprive the editor of those details! Also, don’t go overboard.

4. End chapters with a bang. One of the reasons why everyone read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code–aside from scintillating content–was because every chapter ended with a bang. You don’t need to give your reader whiplash, but the opening three chapters–and many chapters afterwards–should end with a crucial moment/question that leads the reader to the next page. I like the whole “this is the last thing I wanted” or “do you dare to take on this horrendous yet provocative assignment” type of situation. Also ask, what does your character want to avoid–then, make it unavoidable.

5. Stay focused on the purpose of your story (romance). As I read submissions, I can usually tell when even the writer gets tired of her story and just wants to get it done. It’s important to  find ways to revive your story, invest in it, keep those central themes in mind, believe in your characters. When I devour thrillers, which is often (hello, Harlan Coben), I love how the writers have at least four subplots going to augment the “Oh no” factor. Always remember the reason why you have to write this story.

There, I’ve solved everyone’s problems. Now it’s time to get back to it. I realize many of you are sad that I didn’t sing. I’ll make up for this here.

Shelving Self-Help (Temporarily)

trainingThe minute I feel a twinge of discomfort, I enroll in a class, delve into a new topic (the Battle of Actium, circa 31 BC) or buy a self-help book. A few weeks ago, I felt exceedingly middle-aged, so I signed up for a few personal training sessions. As I went through painful exercises–painful, in that they took me away from my couch–I knew that the sessions were a temporary fix, that I will never be Arnold Schwarzenegger from the 70s. And yet, I can’t fault that impulse to improve.

This is why I love self-help! My stack of self-improvement books takes up most of my bookshelf, lines the walls and makes for a healing tower on my bedstand. I’ve become obsessed with audiobooks for my walks home, especially ones about mindfulness, habit-changing, and meditation. On Facebook, I subscribe to key self-helpful authors and devour, write down, and try to remember their bullet points of advice and wisdom. Several times a day, I scroll down for a nugget and write it in my mostly empty “gratitude journal” (even though I’m very, very grateful for all I have). I’m addicted to that five-second boost, and vow to use the guidance in all future behavior or interaction with others. The skip in my step might last for a day, maybe a week. But then I’m back to who I’ll always be, which ain’t half bad.

Though I adore an engaging read that will educate me, I wonder if I really need another pep talk…or long list of steps to achieve wellness, cure insomnia, ease anxiety? It’s time to have more fun with that twinge of discomfort, develop a sense of humor about it, don’t think I can fix it by wearing a clown nose around the house and recite my self-love in front of a mirror (though that wouldn’t hurt).

For right now, I want to see what it would be like not to listen to experts on how to improve myself. As I try to resist Oprah’s Soul Sunday, Elizabeth Gilbert’s motivational Facebook page, or Eckhart Tolle’s distinct voice in my ear–it won’t be for long–I will try to lift weights to ensure better health and try to be where I am as much as possible. I might also listen to other stories. With current events such as they are, fiction is starting to sound much better. For now, in my spare time, I’m back to thrillers, even more romance, and okay, maybe one book on self-coaching…But to all these affirmations, I maintain this.

(Ps. If you have a great self-help recommendation, let me know!)