Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Early Contra-what?

I love history!  Scouring history books often leads to the discovery of fascinating information, which can legitimize ideas, flesh out characters or provide plot inspiration.  And sometimes... well, sometimes you simply learn the darndest things whether you want to or not.

Take yesterday, for instance.  I found a great book at Cosco, The Book of Amazing History by Publications International, Ltd. 


You can find it here: Amazon.com

Of course, I couldn't resist tapping into this resource for historical insight.  After flipping through several pages, I landed on this topic: Early Contraception.

Sex and contraception are topics romance writers juggle every day, not to mention the fact that billions of people deal with this very issue on a daily basis.  It appears preventing pregnancy has always been big business.  Check out the amazing things I learned about this topic.  I think you'll find them v.e.r.y. interesting.  ;)

Did you know:

In ancient Greece, women who wanted to conceive were told to jump backwards 7 times after intercourse?  As opposed to tying a bag of cat's liver to your left foot or spitting into a frog's mouth to prevent pregnancy.  (Was this the ancient way of snagging a prince?)

Barriers used in ancient times?  Yes!  Pebbles, lemon halves, dried elephant or crocodile dung were used.  (A new perspective to skipping stones, making lemonade out of lemons, and trailing behind Big AL or Crocodile Dundee.)

In 1550 B.C. a mix of ground dates, acacia tree bark, and honey were applied to a woman's, dare I say it, lovenest.  High in lactic acid, the acacia plant provided a perfect source for stablizing PH balance.  (Or attracting bees.) 

Aborginis in Eastern Canada believed tea brewed with beaver testicles would prevent pregnancy.  (Tea time must have meant something completely different in those days.  Don't tell the ladies at Downton Abbey!  In the meantime, I'll try not to think about it when I drink tea in the mid-afternoon.)

In 17th Cent. B.C., silphium was discovered in the Libyan mountains.  The plant, part of the fennel genus, was cultivated to work like a morning after pill and was extremely successful.  Unfortunately, it could only be found in Libya and was harvested into extinction by the 2nd Cent.

Men have been using shealths since 1,000 B.C.  Romans and 17th Cent. British used animal intestine.  (Was there a reference to pigskin before this or is this where the diddy "little pig, little pig, let me come in" came from?) 

Fabric soaked in spermicidal liquid was used by Egyptians and Italians until vulcanized rubber bounced onto the scene in 1844.  To this day, the shealth remains the primary contraceptive used around the world.

Now I don't know about you, but I'm surprised any of these people still wanted to have sex! 

As they say in Jurasic Park, "Nature found a way."

I've heard debates on how much emphasis should be given to contraceptives in romance novels.  What are your thoughts?  Are romance authors accountable for promoting contraceptives?  Or is this something left to the reader's imagination?




Monday, January 30, 2012

Oh, No You Didn't!

I am a hypocrite. I try not to be, but doesn't everyone? No one gets up in the morning and says, "Boy, I have got to have a break from being non-hypocritical. I am going to give myself permission to be as hypocritical as I want this weekend. I'll get right back on the non-hypocritical program first thing Monday morning."

There are two things in particular that I am a little ashamed of. It's only a little because I don't break the law and I'm polite in my hypocrisy—though I am thankful people can't hear what's going on in my head. You should all be thankful too. It's not always unicorns and lemon icebox pie in there.

Anyway.

First, there's that YouTube Business. I don't like for people to make me watch YouTube videos. I especially don't like to have a cell phone shoved in my face, as someone says, "Watch this! It's so funny!" Then inevitably, I've got to watch a baby dancing or a dog dressed up like a clown.

Yet, I do it to other people. All the time. Not the cell phone part. If you know anything about me, you know I don't have a smart phone.

I do, however, have a tablet. Better still, my big football watching TV has the ability to broadcast YouTube. If you are in my upstairs sitting room, you are at my mercy. I know I should not do this, especially given my aversion to watching lizards molt to the tune something by Pink Floyd. I suppose, in those moments, I think I am The One who should be in charge of choosing entertainment for the world at large.

I want EVERYBODY to watch:

I deserve to be ashamed. You will notice that I have given you the links. I could not stop myself.

The second thing in my Hypocrisy Hall of Fame: I dislike overused phrases only a little less than watching (on a cell phone) a groom split his pants as he kneels at the altar. But I am guilty, guilty, guilty. I am not going to enumerate the phrases I dislike, since this is confession day.

These are things I say over and over and over again to the tenth degree and beyond:

  • "At the end of day. . . "
  • "I see no future in trying to rise above it."
  • "I'll tell you this for nothing."
  • "I thought my head was going to leave my body."
  • "Oh my dear God in heaven."
  • "It's okay with me if it's okay with her."
  • "He doesn’t know whether to s**t or go blind.

Yeah. I am especially proud of that last one—yet it rolls off my tongue on a regular basis.

Is there anything you are hypocritical about? What overused phrase do you dislike? YouTube? Love or hate it?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sending LoVe......

I know. I know. Isn’t it a little early for talk of Valentine’s Day? Well…not if you’re thinking what I’m thinking. See, every year I try to find a different United States Post Office to send my special greetings to for request of their own personalized post mark for the holiday of LoVe. It’s really kind of fun anticipating the thrill of recognition from the recipients that the card went through a special place designated to stamp their approval of love on the cover of the envelope.

You can google to find a list of participating post offices. Some of the regulars are Loveland Colorado, Romeo Michigan, Loving, Mexico, and Bliss, New York. My personal favorite is Valentine, Texas for the way they go about choosing their stamp. See, they host an annual contest with school kids (7th-12th grades) to see who can come up with the best design. Once the winner is chosen, they make an official Valentine’s Day Post Mark Stamp and utilize it for sending out all those special LoVe requests. Isn’t that great?

Just to make it easy for you, here are a few handy links of LoVe lists…

http://www.squidoo.com/romantic-postmark-valentines-day

http://www.celebratelove.com/valpostmark.htm

http://www.listmyfive.com/d680d127/The-Top-Five-Valentines-Day-Postmarks

I’ve been doing this for years and have sent cards through most all of the ones with special stamps. I’ve sent through Valentine, Texas many times for their annually updated services. But I truly think there needs to be more out there. I mean, let’s face it. LoVe is BIG business, right? Everyone loves LoVe!

So, after consulting http://info.alabama.gov/directory_city_1.aspx , I have determined that Alabama needs to join the ranks of LoVe postmarks and here’s the list I’ve come up with for possibilities. Mind you, this list is not complete…the possibilities are many! And what more fun can be had than offering a contest to the community for a little LoVe action! : D

Gurley, AL for the feminine LoVe expression.
Mentone, AL for some kind of manly LoVe….or man candy! Yum!
Shakespeare, AL…for the poetic LoVe
Dixie, AL… since we ARE the HEART of Dixie!
Hatcheehubbee, AL because…..it’s FUN! They could host a man auction, too!
Sims Chapel, AL or White's Chapel, AL for the wedding bound LoVe!
Hopewell, AL…for the anticipation of LoVe
Ohatchee, AL for the expecting LoVe.
Oneonta, AL or Lenox, AL…again for the wedding bound LoVe.
Excel, AL for the forward thinking LoVeR!
Taledega, AL… for the fast and reckless LoVe!
Wedowee, AL ….for the together LoVe

And my personal favorite is…Choccolocca, AL…for the romantic LoVe we all share!

So what do you think? Will you be sending special LoVe this year? What are your favorite postmarks in the US or internationally? Does Alabama need a LoVe postmark? Which Alabama location would get your vote?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Guest Blogger Kira Sinclair

Please join us as we welcome our friend and Heart of Dixie chapter-mate, Kira Sinclair. She is going to visit with us and chat about her February release!

Out of Disaster

Have you ever had a nightmare turn into a wonderful dream? I'm not talking about a literal nightmare, but the kind of gut twisting situation that left you reeling. Maybe it was an embarrassing situation that happened in high school. Or a relationship that fell apart. Or a job you lost. Something that left you feeling disappointed, upset and probably emotionally drained.

For Lena Fuller that moment comes when she faces her fiance at the altar and learns he cheated on her...with her cousin. In a few seconds the perfect life she envisioned for herself, and always thought she wanted, crumbles around her. Betrayal, anger, and pain accompany the chaos of discovery and all she wants is peace. A chance to escape and figure out what happens next.

The honeymoon at Escape, an exclusive adults-only Caribbean resort, sounds like the perfect haven. Especially when her best friend Colt Douglas - a globetrotting filmmaker she hasn't seen in awhile- agrees to go with her. Between moon drenched nights, romantic dinners and getting lost in the jungle together overnight, it doesn't take long for Lena to realize there's more to what she feels for Colt. And that she never would have been happy with her ex-fiance.

Out of the disappointment of losing what she thought she wanted, Lena finds something better.

Has that ever happen to you?

Kira

Kira Sinclair's first foray into writing romance was for a high school English assignment; not even being forced to read the Scotland set historical aloud to the class could dampen her enthusiasm, although it definitely made her blush. She sold her first book to Harlequin Blaze in 2007 and hasn't looked back. Her newest release, Bring it On, the first book in her Island Nights trilogy, hits shelves in February. It will be followed by Take It Down, in March and Rub It In in April. She loves to hear from readers! You can contact her at kira@kirasinclair.com or visit her website www.KiraSinclair.com

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More Butter Please...

I haven’t really been on my soap box lately, too much to do and not enough time to sit and cogitate over other people’s foibles. For some reason, last week’s attacks on Paula Deen irritated me. I don’t know the woman and have never really paid a lot of attention to her. I did eat one time at her buffet at the casino in Tunica, nothing special. I’ve never even bought one of her cookbooks. So I was surprised at the virulence of the attacks on her when she admitted she had diabetes.

First of all, she is a business woman, selling a product – her cooking style. You don’t have to buy it and you certainly don’t have to use her methods. I do admire her get up and go. She overcame a lot in her life: divorce; agoraphobia; and raising children. Her decision to teach the United States about Southern cooking was her way to make a living, nothing more. Southern cooking tastes good. I was raised on it. I certainly don’t use the butter or bacon grease any more and I have never eaten a fried Twinkie (that’s on her menu at her restaurant in Savannah). That was the way my grandmother cooked and I remember fondly how much better her food tasted than mine. But I made the choice to cut the salt, the butter, the bacon grease and, ick, lard. I MADE THE CHOICE. Me, myself and I.

Isn’t that what being an adult means? You make your choices about what you eat, what you do and how you act. You deal with the results of your choices, good or bad. I sat and listened to Dr. Nancy Snyderman say that Paula Deen’s actions were egregious. The doctor pounded Paula about not telling the United States three years ago that she suffered from Type-2 diabetes (mostly this is old-age onset – usually a result of heredity and diet). Okay, since when is something like that anyone’s business? Paula Deen had a product and she sold her product. She owes me no moral responsibility to educate me about how to eat. As a matter of fact, she owes me nothing. Have we become a nation of sheep to be told how to eat, how to sleep, what to wear, what to read and how to act? What happen to our choices? If you are stupid and sit and eat lard all day, you know the result. Dr. Snyderman, who is branding her own business of writing health books (instead of working in the trenches, treating patients and dealing with people), has no business judging someone about making a living doing something that Deen loves – cooking. I just thoughts the attacks were egregious.

Using my “monkey brain,” I can extrapolate such a reaction to everything we do. What I hear the most is the responsibility that romance writers have to be realistic and tell women that there is no fairy tale love. We’ve been told endlessly that we set impressionable women up for failure when it doesn’t happen. I disagree. We, as writers, have a story to tell and we hope that it is entertaining to others. It’s FICTION. I am not here to educate you on the dark side of life; I am here to entertain (and hopefully become the next Linda Howard or Norah Roberts…). Who wants to fail by telling you that Billy is not your knight in shining armor so get over it? Not me. I want to be successful.

Are we responsible for our choices? I think so. We choose what to eat, what to read and everything else because it makes us happy. As with anything, we know that moderation is the key. I cannot sit all day and read, daydreaming about Adrian Paul coming to take me away – it isn’t healthy. Neither is cooking all the time like the recipes in Paula Deen’s cookbooks. I don’t stop at McDonald’s and grab a Big Mac for lunch every day ( I love Big Macs) because I know it isn’t healthy to eat that much fat even if it does taste good. I am an adult and I decide. I am responsible for me; Paula Deen and Ronald McDonald aren’t.

So, do you think that we need people to tell us how to eat, what to read, what to write, and how to act? Do you think that celebrities have a moral responsibility to tell us how to behave? Seriously, do you think that because they are celebrities that they are any smarter than you? That they are experts? Let me know your opinion.

Just thought this was funny...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hard Work Takes Care of Itself



"To find a career to which you are
adapted by nature,
and then to work hard at it,
is about as near to a formula
for success and happiness
as the world provides.
One of the fortunate aspects
of this formula is that,
granted the right career has been found,
the hard work takes care of itself.
Then hard work is not hard work at all."

Mark Sullivan
(Thoughts on Success, Thoughts And Reflections From History's Great Thinkers)

I'm a writer. That's the career path I've chosen. Or was it the path that chose me? This is what I'm pondering today. How much of who we are as a person is wrapped up in our career choices?

In the process of cleaning out my study and reorganizing my bookcases, I've discovered interesting things about my journey as a writer. Years ago, I was hungry. I read everything there was to know about being a writer and took a great number of online courses to better educate myself on the in's and out's of writing. You see, I've always believed there was a formula for success. All one had to do was discover the basis for that formula, act upon it, and then... voila!

Mark Sullivan's quote offers truth to my theory, with a twist. The formula isn't how to, it's why.

Why do writers write?  Is it the instant gratification?  No.  Illusions of grandeur?  No.  Writers write because they have to. Characters and stories refuse to be silenced. They clammor to be written and fleshed out onto the page. Fully formed images ride a writer's psyche until the writer is broken like a bucking Bronco, sits in front of a computer or a pad of paper, and attempts to do the work needed to bring them to life.  It's easy to understand why some writers have become tortured souls. Hemmingway and Edgar Allan Poe anyone?

Being a writer also means embracing solitude. For introverts, that's easy. For others, those wonderful extroverts, not so much. The job is a lonely one, often only visited upon by invisible friends and interrupted by unwelcome telemarketer phone calls.  The quest for perfection is an endless task. But oh! how real and tangible those friends can be when the writing flows and the story reveals itself!

As my office evolves into a place I can go to for quiet reflection and communing with the muse, I'm not only seeing a more organized space, I'm privy to the growth I've made as a writer. Many successful writers say that to be a good writer, you must write a million words.  A million words!  Sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn't it?

Sullivan says, hard work is not hard work at all when you love what you're doing.

Do you love what you're doing?  What career path have you chosen?  And has the hard work been worth it?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Creepy Monkey Business

We all have things that creep us out. For me it's ocean liners with big anchors, giant insects, and images of people—be it dolls, pictures, or little knickknacks—without faces. Especially eyes. I can't explain it, especially the ocean liners. I've never even been on one. I have to look away if I see one on television.

Anyway. My friend, Mr. Precious, can't stand pictures of animals wearing clothes. And he's a tough guy. He hunts panthers with his bare teeth and a fork. But heaven help him if he ever runs up on a panther wearing a turtleneck.

I love monkeys. (This is not as much of a subject change as it seems. It's back story, something I am not usually allowed to have.) The monkeys I love are not the diaper wearing, I Am Going To Live With You Until I Decide to Eat Your Face variety. The monkeys I love are in the form of artwork and they wear clothes. Ironically, I bought them from Precious when she owned a decorator art shop. She helped me hang them in my living room. She told me enough was enough, and three was enough. She's a good friend. But when Mr. Precious comes in my living room, he has to avert his eyes.

My monkey pictures might be tacky. They might not be. But here's the thing: I do not care. They make me happy.

Meet My Monkeys

This is Dixie. I bought her one night after my book club girls and I ate tapas and then had wine at Precious's shop. If I remember correctly, Dr. Great Smile named her. Dixie lives on a sugar plantation in Barbados and she was left at the altar, broken hearted and humiliated, by Earl. She considered joining a convent for non Homo sapiens primates, but, instead, made a sweet business deal with the heir to a Rum manufacturer. It is rumored that she became a voodoo queen.

This is Daisy. Earl cheated on Dixie with Daisy, thus producing a love child. Earl would have married her if not for Carmelita's daddy. I don't know why that baby has feathers on his head. He hasn't told me yet.

This is Earl and Carmelita on their wedding day—with the baby Carmelita claims is Earl's. Earl knows better but Carmelita's daddy owns a machete, which is rare among monkeys. Earl could either keep his mouth shut and marry Carmelita and claim that child, or be relieved of his head. The father of the baby is really Roderick, who is otherwise engaged playing cards in another picture. I do not own that picture. Nor was it for sale in Precious's shop.

What creeps you out?

Or if you don't like that question, why do you think that baby has feathers on his head? Also--those babies haven't told me their names. If they tell you, let me know.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cold or Not, Quilts Warm My Soul

Southern Januarys often mean a wide range of temperatures. It could be 28 one day and 68 the next. And regardless of the temperature, I tend to be cold anyway. No matter, a good old fashioned quilt is what’s for comfort. Why, you ask? Cotton, of course. It breathes. Thankfully, my Grannie kindly instilled in me a great love for handmade quilts.

When I went off to college (a great 70.3 miles away from home!), Grannie packed me a care package that she said would comfort me when I needed it. Unlike most girls my age, my box was a little different, containing a set of someone’s leftover Old Britain Castles-Brown, Johnson Brothers dishes with teapot included (not so pretty as the Peaches and Blossoms which I would’ve loved) and a passed down homemade double wedding ring quilt. One has to wonder if there was a hidden agenda to that box!

Maybe we’ll talk about dishes another day. But today let me tell you about my love for quilts. That first quilt was bubblegum pink and ivory with flecks of green, soft and worn so as to drape around you when you pulled it close. But the thing weighed as much as an Army tank! And that cotton compilation was the heaviest, most comforting thing around. At night, I would pull it close and it would warm me right to the very marrow of my bones.

I’m not sure when the transition was made from cotton batting to synthetic in quilt making (I am not and do not claim to be a quilt expert), but to my southern soul it was a move away from what’s right. And sadly, even Grannie went that newfangled way of thinking. She got it in her head sometime in her 90s that she would make all the grandkids a quilt. And she did. All 36 of them! And bless her heart, every last one of ‘em was filled with synthetic batting. Mine is the ugliest brown collage of uncle’s shirts (To match those before mentioned dishes, I’m sure. Sigh.). But ugly as it might be, it’s the most desired quilt in the house even today. And it has her signature in the bottom right hand corner, embroidered by my Aunt Mary for long recognition (in neon orange to match the color-blinded-earthiness of the brown fabrics, no less).

I saw a quilt show at the Huntsville Museum of Art a while back that gave me pause….to reflect, to reconsider and to think on the special qualities I was given in my quilts. The love and care that went into them without words or notes, just love transferred in fabrics and threads by the giver. Though the quilts at the museum were beautiful… some infused with gold threads, some of landscape scenes, all of ordered composition… they lacked the love my Grannie Quilt has.

I tell myself that someday I’ll make a new quilt, infused with cotton only. Maybe it’ll match itself, maybe not. Maybe by use of a pattern, maybe not. But today, I’ll stay toasty warm under my Grannie Quilt and be thankful for the warmth and love and happy memories it provides. And if it gets colder out, I may add on the Blue Daisies Quilt, or the Patriotic Star Quilt, or the myriad of others around the house….just for comfort, mind you!

So how do you stay warm on a January day, cold or not? What comforts the marrow of your bones?