Romantic Life Lessons

Intimidation Motivation

In olden times, before a date I cared about, I took three hours to prepare hair, makeup, clothes, agenda. This ensured failure, but still old dogs. Now I over-prepare to hang out with intimidating people and it is a joy. Intimidation makes me work harder, though the intimidator immediately senses my desperation.

Over the weekend, Sam and I went to visit two spectacular beings. He can vouch for my three-plus hours of hair, makeup, outfit preparation, though he was asleep until five minutes before we left. Half a century has cured me of expecting celestial bonds, talking till all hours about lifetimes past, present, and future, our own TV talk show. Now I do my best to see an intimidating person as someone who also spends three hours to prepare hair, clothes, and agenda. As my brother says, “It’s all about making friends.” Then you have some fun. I did not even spill coffee on the couch.

Other moments from my week:

While looking for non-violent content and came across Gary Gulman’s The Great Depresh on HBO. I could relate to growing up super-tall and skilled at basketball in the 70s and 80s–and also the journey with depresh. Very worth watching and moving.

If you need something to counteract any endorphins, I recommend ordering A Warning by Anonymous. Because we need more books about that person. My tolerance of prose re: this administration lessens with each tweet and book. Who is ready for a good primal scream until he is out?

But I’m grateful for the unique voices that have come forward this week. Here is one (Sam and I are big fans). Was inspired by some of the courageous witnesses in the impeachment hearings. The great Dr. Hill! Now she is someone I would have to prepare at least a day to meet. Intimidating in the best possible way.

Writing Tips

Easy Romance Writing Tips

In the last week, I read 40+ submissions. You may not believe this, but I love reading slush! It’s not fun to walk in when you’re wearing new shoes, but slush is an oft-tarnished term that means a submission from the publisher’s general pile. What’s wrong with that? Publishers need submissions to survive, end of story.

As I was reading, I noticed once again (as I do with non-slush pile submissions) easy fixes for those about to submit. So, before I forget, here are items you can revise in your sleep.

Clean up your synopsis. Let’s get out of the way that you can’t write a synopsis to save your life. We know that already–though some of you are pros at crafting a summary of your book. One tip is to be aware of how many times you begin a clause with “When”. Vary your sentences. Even if you can’t write a synopsis, do try to write a good one. 🙂

A comma of direct address sets you apart. Pet peeve alert! In the last ten years, maybe more, the comma of direct address has disappeared from many submissions. I don’t understand this. Or I do, but it’s still infuriating. For love of the English language, throw in that comma. I won’t say that leaving it out will make me reject a story, but…

Open your story in the right place. Often, there is an abundance of setup in the first few pages, which bogs down the pacing. I’m more interested in the voice, the character’s point of view as he or she experiences a remarkable event. I don’t care that she’s driving to a scene or getting ready for a party. I don’t need to know what she’s thinking as she goes up the hill in her Honda Civic, wondering if she’ll encounter her mean ex. I want her to be examining the zombie’s body and realizing it’s her lost husband. Some good examples of openings: The Morning Show, Mission Impossible 2, and The Bodyguard (the one on Netflix, not the Whitney Houston one).

Monitor your use of And, But, Actually, Apparently, especially at the beginning of sentences and paragraphs. Even with writers I’ve worked with for decades, I have to strike sentence misfires. It is so easy to start a sentence with And or But or He or She. And it adds to the flow of your paragraph. But it winds up sounding repetitive. And lazy! And did I say repetitive? At some point, you will need to go over every single word in your manuscript (don’t leave it to the editors). Be brave in getting rid of those easy words or at least use them sparingly.

So your villain calls your heroine a bitch. Do you envision a man with a twisty mustache, too? Since I first began reading romance novels, I encountered this same bad person. Forty years later, bitch is stale and dated. In the real world, don’t you think your villain would call her something…I don’t know…hard-hitting? Better yet, give your evil mastermind a creative way to insult the heroine. Think of Hannibal, who knew exactly how to push Clarice’s buttons without name-calling.

That’s all I’ve got on this Sunday. Happy Writing and those who are Nanowrimo-ing, keep on rocking those words! You can do it.

Shameless Promotion

Catch and Kill and The Morning Show

If you find yourself utterly demotivated and remembering sad, quiet stories, may I suggest a double dose of just desserts with Catch and Kill and The Morning Show. Not only do both feature journalists working hard, but they also offer solid fuck yous to corrupt establishments that have gagged victims and those shepherding their important stories to the public.

Catch and Kill is a formidable account of a network’s not airing a story about a notorious predator’s (I won’t mention his name because he sucks) reign of terror. The Morning Show stars Jennifer Aniston, who, in my opinion, makes everything better.

But seriously…first I raced through Catch and Kill, appreciating its sober tone as Ronan Farrow details his experience of reporting a story that would have put me in the hospital in the first week. I have his other “foreign policy” book buried under other such books (three issues of Vanity Fair).

Over the last thirty years, I’ve read shelves of books about sexual assault and I was expecting something different from Catch and Kill, i.e. a bigger focus on the victims individual stories. Then I realized that these stories were not totally his to tell. In Farrow’s writing, there is this respectful space between victim and journalist, where he reports what is there, what is told, but he doesn’t assume the victim’s story or take it on as his. His story is about the behind the scenes of bringing forward his bombshell findings. He reveals the sick culture where he worked and the levels of treachery those above him fought to cover up.

While Catch and Kill may be a trigger for some, for me, it wasn’t. I admire journalists even more, especially the work that goes into writing the truth–and the danger. If you can’t tell your story, there are those who will go to ugly places with you and on your behalf.

On a sudsier note, there is little ugliness in The Morning Show, except for what beloved co-anchor Steve Carrell does to more than one accuser. Obviously, his role is inspired by a real anchor who was fired for bad behavior (that real anchor also sucks). “Asleep at the wheel” Jennifer Aniston is left co-anchorless and the male vultures (including the sociopathic Billy Crudup with his evil, twinkly eyes) want to pick her apart and leave her 50-something bones on the curb. We know from Friends that Jen does tantrum like no other. And so does Reese Witherspoon, whose outrage over lack of truth will buoy viewers.

While I’m only done with three episodes, I already know The Morning Show is the female empowerment pill that I need. It–along with Catch and Kill–gives me hope that the stories will come out, the good will win, the bad will go away (lose all their money and go directly to jail), and there will be no more coworkers who squeeze our shoulders and say, “Oh, I guess I shouldn’t touch you because of Anita Hill, right?” or much worse and lame.

I’d like to put aside every decade I spent looking over my shoulder and be excited for a healthier environment for everyone. Everyone. A few obvious things would have to happen first and I’ll give you three guesses as to what I’m thinking.

Here’s hoping you find inspiration in the books or shows you’re checking out these days.