It’s Happening: My 30th High School Reunion

mulletIn three weeks, groan, I’m attending my high school reunion. Let me muster the energy to drag my fabulous self to what can only be an unnecessary trip down memory lane. I am so over that.

Lie, lie, lie! I’m not even close to being over it! This eagerness must be palpable because somehow, I wound up on the planning committee and–wait for it–amassing enough 80s music to last 3 hours. I love the build-up, the preparations–emotional and wardrobial (that’s a word)–and the blinding nostalgia. How could you not want to re-live your painful adolescence?

In the spirit of reunions, let me revisit my reunions. Each one has a flavor.

My 5th Reunion: Um, I don’t attend this one because life is too traumatizing. See chapter 4 of my book, Romance Is My Day Job. I call this flavor “gum stain on the subway platform” because it is just that icky.

The 10th: It takes me months to pick out this purple gauzy dress and chunky patent leather heels. The hair is everywhere. Classmates are marrying and having babies, like my best friend Nici. Isn’t 27 too young for this? I breathe into paper bags over the idea that I could embark on such adult rites of passage. My recollections of this reunion are vague because I am hyper-focused on an impending first date with some dude in NYC, the dude responsible for my being in NYC. An important domino in my life. Would I be in New York if it weren’t for this date? Probably not. Flavor: Tiramisu because it is the first time I try the dessert in New York.

The 15th: Ugh, 32. That’s almost as old as Jesus before he died and I have done nothing too important. IMe, Nici, Kirsten do learn that my classmates are wildly interesting, but I eat too many strawberries (not sure what this means and yet it is my lame excuse for fleeing Connecticut before the real festivities). Jesus would not have done this. Reunion flavor: Strawberry Agita.

My 20th: I’m 37! Though I could be the only single one left, I am…okay. Am I? Oh God. Why did I cut my hair short? Why!?? Despite those pesky feelings of low self-worth,  sleek black pants and a raincoat hide a whole lot of sh&*t. I’m grateful, at least, that I have done nothing terrible ever. Job, roof over my head, loved ones, no longer living off credit cards: not too shabby. Flavor: One scoop of vanilla because I’m blessed.

My 25th: I’m MARRIED. Look at my husband! You all know him! He’s cool! I’m not a dork anymore! Married, married, married. Oh wait, I missed all the crazy after-hours shenanigans because I’m married married married. Okay, I’m still a dork*. Flavor: Two scoops of matching flavors, whatever he wants.

My 30th: Married, married, married. This means I have another set of eyes and sharp senses to take in the entire event: my classmates, my teachers, the beautiful school itself, etc. I will enjoy this reunion and stay up all night**. Class of 1986, I’m ready. Beware of the girl who watches and records everything. She might write about it someday. Just kidding, sort of. But seriously, flavor: Whatever keeps us dancing.

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*but married

**to catch any shenanigans. The fact that I use the word “shenanigans” only proves my dorkiness.

Romance Pet Peeves: The Shefani Edition

gwen and blakeIn this age of negatives, I need balance, so please forgive–or love–my special combination of romance writing “pet peeves” and my latest obsession: the Gwen Stefani/Blake Shelton relationship. I haven’t been the same since November 4, 2015, when their couplehood was confirmed. No doubt, I see these peeves as a neon light (wink wink), which will brighten up your romance novel:

1. He knew… She realized… He wondered. The first time Blake saw Gwen in her flapping plaid paper-towel dress, he knew he’d have trouble resisting her. This sentence is not hella good (wink). Every now and then it’s okay for your characters to know, realize, or wonder. More often than not, the reader wants to see how Blake has trouble resisting her. Does he turn away and focus more on his bromance with Adam Levine? Does he wish he’d worn something nicer than his jeans and plaid shirt* from yesterday? Is he sweating or having trouble speaking?

Here’s another example: Gwen sat on the plane. She realized that she’d forgotten her Urban Decay makeup kit. Of course, her natural beauty would allow her to face the outside world, but still. She knew she had to keep a better To-Do list. Again, I’d rather experience the stress Gwen endures when she doesn’t find her makeup kit. It’s a bummer when you’re about to land, photographers are just waiting to see you not perfect, and you are used to being ready. I go through this every day…on a much smaller scale. Sure, I can realize I forgot to put on lipstick, but I’d rather show the reader how my pulse increases when I open my purse and don’t find my Kat Von D lipstick. I bolt for the closest Duane Reade and run up and down the aisles, then grab a coral lip gloss, which is good enough (but not Kat Von D).

2. So many qugwen-stefani-zoom-87aae920-0a3a-4769-b671-151aeb9b7975estions are annoying in life–and in romance novels, especially in a character’s point of view. See here:

The limo took Gwen from the private plane to Blake’s million-acre ranch in Oklahoma. It was her first trip. What would she find? Would her waterproof foundation and mascara survive country life? Would Blake approve of her red stiletto boots killing his tomato plants? Oh God, will he ask her to clean up horse poop?

Nothing ruins a visit home faster than family peppering you with questions, and you don’t want to do this to your reader. The reader is supposed to be asking these questions herself and letting the story guide her to the answers. As a writer, why not convey Gwen’s feelings over seeing her love interest for the first time on his turf? This will develop her character for the reader. And as far as I’m concerned, Gwen can wear her red boots anywhere. Probably not on a subway grate.

3. Here a but, there a but, everywhere a but, but.

It’s natural to critique. You give a compliment, and then take it away with a “but.” Watch any talent show and you’ll hear constant use of “but.” You’re an amazing singer, but your Vibrato sucks. Without a “but,” you’re perfect. But here’s my problem. I see this kind of paragraph often, full of “buts”: On The Voice, Blake felt absurd without his cowboy hat and bullwhip, but he couldn’t bring it onto the set. He loved the money and free drinks, but he hated being under those blinding stage lights when fish and ducks and trucks better scurry when he takes Gwen onto his surrey with a fringe on top. But would she want that?  Watch those “buts,” people. It turns a character into a big whiner.

That’s enough silliness for today. Do these pet peeves mean a rejection letter? Not necessarily (maybe they mean the end of my sanity). Today, I let two “but” sentences go by without changing them because they worked side by side. Rules/editor preferences aren’t life.

Happy writing and let us pray that I find another obsession the next time I post. Like, maybe the presidential election? Just kidding.

*That’s all I wear outside of work so no judgment here. Actually, I just wear hideous pajamas.

Editor Is [not] the New Billionaire

iStock_000016891929XSmallMy first few years in New York, working as an assistant editor, I lived on credit cards. It cost a lot to live in Manhattan and, once again, I’d chosen a career that didn’t promise wealth. Maybe I should have been more financially pragmatic and looked for an apartment in Queens or Brooklyn, but I wasn’t. Those years taught me a lot about cutting corners, which I still do to some extent nineteen years later. If you love to edit books, you can do better than survive. Here’s how:

Food:

Breakfast can easily turn into lunch. If you put off breakfast, tada, it’s lunchtime! That’s one meal you don’t have to pay for.

Lunch: If you want to stay healthy and save money, make your own. Most of us give in to the sandwich bar. Reasoning: you’re too busy as a working woman to prepare food. Sadly, this can’t carry through to dinner unless you want to blow all your money. Another way to save money: take out industry people. It’s professional, enjoyable, and it’s a write-off or your company will reimburse you.* Did I just say that out loud?

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Writing Without Limits

IMG_1408I had the good fortune of hanging out with San Diego’s romance writing chapter last weekend. Not only did I get to hang out with fabulous people and empty the Hilton of all its Smart Water, I also spoke to the chapter about “Writing without Limits.”

The conference organizers suggested the topic–thank you, SDRW, because I had no clue–so I went from there. Confession: movies inspire most of my ideas, so here was my thought process: I should go running. That helps me think. Remember that cool movie about running, Without Limits, about Steve Prefontaine? It’s sort of related. Run with your whole gut. Don’t heave, though, at least not near me. I’m now inspired to think about this talk. Though I did not go running, I did plan the talk.

Anyway, when you write, invariably, there are limits to face, both internal and external. You put limits on yourself. We all have places we’re scared to go. I don’t like to write action even though I know characters have to do something. And in many cases, I’m scared what they’re going to make me do. You want to sell your writing, which means interacting with others and their limits. Because of market trends, you may feel your character should act a certain way or you have to write a certain story.

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Happy New Year and New Goals!

miamisingHappy 2016! Are you ready for a better year?

I definitely am, though aside from horrific world events, my 2015 wasn’t bad. The paperback version of Romance Is My Day Job emerged in January. I got to visit Louisiana for a conference in March, then another one in my home city. Summer ended with a spectacular family reunion, two more conferences and a trip to Miami to see my adorable father-in-law and his lovely companion. My husband has a new pasta maker, which means more deliciousness on my plate. Best of all, my family is reasonably healthy and sound.

Goals for the year:

An easy one: Be a good wife.

I will push myself a little harder  and avoid bingeing on Vanderpump Rules. People who work hard go places. Then again, I have to do the right kind of work. Sometimes working harder in the usual areas slows one down in more important ones.

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2016–The Year of No Fear

10408509_1452102735049184_7143387598584098629_nIt was an ordinary moment, me talking to my boss about my conferences for next year, all of which involved flying (my not favorite activity even though I do it often). I love conferences, and yet, getting myself out the door on Travel Day can be pure drudgery.* Knowing my shaky relationship with flight, my boss asked if it was okay, my going. I said, “2016 is my year of no fear.” Who knows where that sentence came from, but it is sticking in my head, especially with what’s been in the news. Right this instant, I really can’t imagine going anywhere. So much bad stuff is happening out there. Let’s all stay inside.

I imagine many feel this way right now, but there are gifts you only get when you leave your house.  A few days ago, I was supposed to go to a party then bailed at the last minute. You really should go, I thought. A little into the party, I got a text from my husband, who holds a doctorate in Patience-ology. It was a selfie of him and my beloved high school Latin teacher partying down. Sam said, “You still have time.” Faster than you can say semper ubi sub ubi, I threw on clothes and got my butt to the party. The best part was precious time with my teacher.

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Endurance

004I stopped running a year ago. Every time I went to run, I’d get impatient before darting home in that cloud of failure. Be gentle, I reassured my agitated self. This I was and perhaps rightly so since we were entering the holiday season. This gentleness went on for months, and I finally declared, “I’m no longer a runner,” citing back problems, anxiety, and overall fatigue with the sport after almost forty years. At Duane Reade, I breezed by Runner’s World in the magazine section. Nope. Don’t wanna read that anymore. I’m going to relax. Maybe do yoga.

What I discovered soon after this was how easy it was to abandon tasks, like a healthy breakfast or my no-dessert-every-day regimen. My yoga ambition lasted one day. I became easily distracted, stopping a project after five minutes.  Eventually, I would finish what I needed to get done, but no more. Rewarding myself was a big part of gentleness, so I did a fair amount of TV watching. When I went to exercise–now trying to befriend the elliptical–I stopped after ten minutes. The boredom was mind-numbing. A personal trainer helped me rebuild my strength and I got through an hour of this each week. Little by little that hour didn’t seem so terrible. An addiction to Fitbit and a competitive streak with my Fitbit friends also fueled my soul (I’m going to beat you, John. I don’t care if you’re biking and climbing mountains now). Maybe weight lifting and protein smoothies could be my new sport.

The nasty reality came when I stepped on a scale and saw a number I hadn’t seen since college (my beer, croissant, double-bacon-cheeseburger days). This got me back to the treadmill fast a few weeks ago. Though I’d lost my endurance, I vowed to fight for it again. Slowly but surely. Last week, I finally hit a distance mark I hadn’t seen in a year.

This is gradually bleeding* into more than one activity and helping me set some real goals with the knowledge that:

  • If you don’t work hard, how does that help you?
  • If you can’t write a blog post, how can you write a book–especially when you’ve written 8 before, along with 10 screenplays?
  • Laziness is good for weekends but not a daily virtue.
  • You may be sick and tired. That won’t change if you stay where you are.
  • If she can be questioned for eleven hours by people who hate her, surely, you can run three miles a few times a week. Maybe even more.

That is all.

*Forgive me, I am re-watching Dexter.