Friday, February 24, 2006

What were your favorite books as a kid? by Lori Wilde

Argh! Time flies when you’re doing taxes. I looked up from my stack of receipts, saw the calendar and realized it was my day to blog. I’m totally not prepared. But here goes...

My husband e-mailed me a picture of a little girl sitting in a tree reading a book. He wrote a caption that said, The next Lori Wilde? I got teary remembering how I used to climb up in my favorite tree to get away from my three younger brothers and sisters with a beloved book. It was my moment of peace when I wasn’t caretaking big sister anymore, as I was swept away in an adventure.

I’d hoist myself up in a Chinaberry tree that had a thick L-shaped branch perfect for reading. We lived on a ten acre farm surrounded by ranches and a creek ran under the Chinaberry tree so if it was summer and I got too hot, I could lay the book aside and swing down into the cool water.

Tom Sawyer was my favorite book in those days. I wanted so badly to be a boy because they had way cool adventures. (This was back in the day when girls weren’t encouraged to have adventures.) I carried a sling shot in my back pocket and I knew how to use it. In my front pocket I carried marbles, a pocketknife, an interesting rock or two I might have found. I’d read my book and pretend I was Tom Sawyer, rafting his way down the Mississippi.

Or I’d shift gears and read Laura Ingalls Wilder and I’d be out on the prairie, battling the elements and harsh frontier life.

Somewhere around thirteen I stopped climbing trees. I wasn’t interested in the pocketknives and the sling slots anymore. That was the years I got my own stereo for Christmas and it was all about Donny Osmond and David Cassidy. (Okay so I had crappy taste in music---I even liked Tony Orlando and Dawn. ) But on the reading front my taste was much better. I devoured Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney.

I put up that picture of the little girl in the tree reading not only to remind myself of how far I’ve come. How I’ve changed and grown, but of how the cycle goes on. It warms my heart to know that out there somewhere is a kid who is finding her thrill through reading.

How about you guys? What were your favorite books growing up? What are your favorite reading memories?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Angel, Thank You, by Megan Crane

I've had a thing about Gerard Butler for quite some time, so I've definitely been enjoying those posts. But Michelle asked a while ago, "how many guys could pull off platinum blonde hair and still be a bad-ass?" Presumably meaning Spike achieved this. To which I say:

You people are crazy.

It is

All.

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About.

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Angel. (David Boreanaz as Angel, to be precise.)



Yum.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Dear Frankie or Nice Guys Don't Always Finish Last by Diane Perkins

Okay. everyone, I’ve been doing my research. Since becoming a card-carrying Tart um... Gerard Butler fan -- purely for research, you understand (right, Robin?)-- I’ve watched Phantom of the Opera a dozen times, but I’ve also widened my horizons to include many many screenings of Dear Frankie, a totally different role for GB. I was very gratified to discover that he portrays another appealing hero, a hero who also seems important to study in order to craft that New York Times best-selling romance. Let’s face it, Ladies, who can resist The Stranger?


For you pre-GB obsessed folk who may not have seen this movie (currently playing on the Starz Cable channel), it is about a woman who for years has written letters to her son Frankie, pretending the letters are from his father, a fictitious sailor. When his ship docks at their town, she hires the Stranger to pretend to be Frankie's father for a day. Gerard Butler gives a truly wonderful, understated, perfect performance as the Stranger. In this role he looks like an ordinary man, talks like an ordinary man. Why do we fall in love with him? Because:

1. The Stranger is so good to the boy. The surest way to any woman’s heart is to love her children. You know from the first meeting that he has the boy’s best interests at heart and he never fails throughout the movie to keep the boy’s best interests at the forefront.

2. The Stranger places himself out of his comfort zone. You can tell he is uncomfortable throughout most of the day with Frankie--and through most of the second day with Lizzie. How can you not love a hero who does something for someone else, even when it makes him uncomfortable?

3. The Stranger is complicated. You don’t ever truly know his motivation, but there is a sense that there is a whole lot more going on with this guy than even he knows about. He seemed sad to me. Lonely. A lot like Frankie, actually. (and Gerry Butler’s real life history has strong parallels with Frankie’s) It is easy to imagine the Stranger needing Frankie and Lizzie as much as they need him. There are lots of feelings swimming around in this guy, shown with exquisite subtlety by GB. You can see the Stranger's feelings in his face, in his eyes, but he does not talk a lot.

4. The Stranger, in fact, is a man of few words. He is not even articulate when he does speak, as if he can’t quite put into words what he means. I loved this about him. I believe men (especially heroes) use words sparingly. I love it when a man has to wrench words out of himself in any meaningful conversation. The words are more powerful this way.

5. The Stranger is restrained. All the time. I love this! He only loosens for very brief, and therefore more poignant, moments. The kiss in Dear Frankie must be one of the most restrained kisses in cinematic history, but there is a tiny moment when you can see how hungry he is for it, and it is that tiny moment that gives the kiss its meaning.

6. The Stranger wears that black leather coat. Sigh. And does he ever look good in it!!! Seriously, though. This role could have been played with a sexy edge to it, or even a friendly, good-to-everybody edge and it would have lost its effectiveness. The subtlety and complexity made it a much more moving performance--and make the Stranger more compelling.

I don’t have any grand conclusions to these ramblings. Except that this entirely different character from The Phantom winds up lingering in the imagination just as long, the flip side of a dark and dangerous hero, the sort of solid man who would never fail you and yet needs you at the same time. Way to go, GB, for giving us these two characters!

Like any good researcher, I must seek more data! So I’ve ordered The Jury and Timeline and Reign of Fire and Dracula 2000 (so far)! Stay tuned...

Cheers!
Diane aka Romance Author Tart

Saturday, February 18, 2006

THE "HOT" FACTOR

In Robin's earlier post about her favorite hot guys, she included Kurt Russell as her lifetime idol (he's one of my favorites, too, Robin) but I suddenly realized that when I think of Kurt, I don't think of Kurt today as he is in his recent movie "The Dreamer" (which I recently watched with my grandchildren).  The Kurt Russell that flashes through my mind is Detective Nick Frescia in "Tequila Sunrise" - talk about HOT!  No grandchildren allowed!

Just out of curiosity, I couldn't resist checking to see how long it had been since that movie was released, and I was shocked.  "Tequila Sunrise" was released way back in 1988!  Am I really that old?  Well, yes, I am.  But that's beside the point.

And then I realized it was the same for all of the actors on my "hot" list, both past and present.  When I think of an actor, I always think of him in a specific character role.

For instance, these actors are oldies now, but thanks to the wonderful characters they've played in the past, they're perpetual hotties in my book.  Robert Redford will always be Hubbell in "The Way We Were" (1973).  Paul Newman will always be "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) which happens to be the year I graduated from high school and fell madly in love with him.  Sean Connery will be Bond, James Bond - ALWAYS.  And though I never really saw what all of the Clint Eastwood fuss was about, was the man ever hotter than he was in his role as Robert Kincaid in "The Bridges of Madison County" (1995)? 

Let's move on to the semi-seniors Mel, Kevin, and Richard.  Was Mel Gibson hot in "Braveheart" (1995) or what?  My heart will forever flutter thinking of Kevin Costner in his starched, white navy uniform in "No Way Out" (1987).  And for me, Richard Gere can star in leading roles until the day he dies, but he'll always be Zack Mayo in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982) to me.

Finally, moving forward to the just-now-showing-their-age generation.  Tom Cruise (despite the recent Katie madness) is forever branded in my memory as Maverick in "Top Gun" (1986).  And forget Mr. Smith, dude - the Brad Pitt I see when I close my eyes is Tristan riding up on a horse to say hello to Julia Ormond in "Legends of the Fall" (1994).  Big sigh here.  And a little hand waving in front of my face to cool myself off.

So, for me, I guess it's the character role that pushes my "hot" button factor, more than just the guy.  And I say this because I'm a HUGE Matthew McConaughey fan (Robin, we obviously have the same taste in men.)  I fell in love with him in John Grisham's "A Time to Kill" (1996).  I adored him in "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" (2003).  But I really didn't care for his character in his 2005 movie "Sahara."

Go figure.  As much as I adore Matt, the "hot" factor just wasn't there for me because I didn't like the action hero he played.

So?  What say you guys?  Is it the character role, or the guy himself that delivers the "hot" factor for you?

And Diane, I can't wait for your post on the 20th about "Dear Frankie" because I LOVED GB in that character role!

Okay, readers, please jump in here!  We Warner women would love to hear your opinions about the types of hotties you like to see on the silver screen, and the types of hotties you like to read about in the romances we write.

Candy Halliday - off to take a cold shower now.

Friday, February 17, 2006

As Promised

All righty, I promised to post.  I've been a very, very bad girl for the past few months.  It's not that I don't want to participate -- I honestly can't remember what day it is.  I know I'm no busier than any of the rest of you, but by golly, I must be much more disorganized!  Under the pressure to come up with an idea to post has had me like a deer in the headlights for the past two days.  Everyone has been posting such witty and clever topics.  But me, I'm just going to complain about my cell phone.
 
A person would think any cell phone offered at the Verizon place would be adequate.  I don't need a camera.  I don't need music videos.  I don't need it to forecast the weather or write my next synopsis.  I just need it to conduct a clear, uninterrupted call.  I didn't go ultra cheap and get the basic.  I went a grade up, flip phone, supposedly the same level as my last phone (which was perfectly fine ... until the "great echo" began a few weeks ago.  Naturally, there is no fix for this problem.  So I go for the new phone, the solution to all of my calling frustration.
 
Unfortunately, this phone behaves something like a voice activated walkie talkie -- complete dead air, as if disconnected if no one is actually talking.  It kicks in when someone speaks, but it cuts off at least the first syllable of what they're saying.  This makes me, the listener who didn't catch the first of the sentence, seem like I'm either half-deaf, ignoring them, or stupid.  None of which are characteristics (even if they might be true) that I want just any old caller to suspect.
 
So, I'm putting on my battle gear and heading back to the store.  I imagine I'll get a lovely smile and the offer to allow me to purchase a new, higher-level phone (perhaps I'd like to donate my old "new" phone to charity?).
 
Grrrrrrrrrrr.
 
Susan Crandall

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Kiss-Off by Annie Solomon

Yesterday being Valentine’s Day, I decided to celebrate all things romance by watching one of my favorite movies…French Kiss. Not only is it a perfect Valentine’s Day love story, it has one of the best screen kisses of all time. It’s the final scene of the movie and doesn’t last long. It’s shot long, too, so we don’t get a close-up of either Kate or Luc, the movie’s protagonists. What we do see is the two of them against a wide expanse of green vineyard--the symbol of their future together. We see Kate’s back as Luc kisses her, crushing her dress as if he’ll never let her go. So much said with so little.

Gotta be my top screen kiss.

Coming in for a close second, the kiss between Cora and Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans. Set in the midst of a losing battle in a fort under siege, it’s one of the few moments of peace in the whole movie, yet is as intense as the cannon fire in the background. Unlike the kiss Kate and Luc share, the focus here is close up, tight on Cora’s face as she clings to Hawkeye. We get the sense that she’s discovering what passion means, what respect means, what love means. And the discovery is life altering.

My list kind of blurs after that, but another favorite is from a small, but wonderful movie called The Outsider (based, by the way, on a Penelope Williamson romance). It’s Amish widow and gunslinger, not terribly original, but when Tim Daly takes Naomi Watts in his arms--in a corral full of sheep, no less--it says everything about yearning and the redemptive power of love.

As I was thinking about this last night, it occurred to me that what makes all these moments work is the hard-fought battle the hero and heroine wage to get there. Sometimes the battle involves realizing you don’t want what you think you did (French Kiss). Sometimes it means that in a violent world, love is the one thing worth dying for (Last of the Mohicans). Or that love is worth risking everything and everyone you know (The Outsider). But in order for the kiss to have real impact, the characters have to suffer for it. They have to struggle with themselves, or with those around them, or with each other. Or all three. Otherwise, who cares?

So, there you have it. My top three screen kisses. I’m sure I left out a whole bunch of good ones. Anyone out there got a fave?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Jumping on the GB Fanwagon



Michelle – love your list of heroes – my favorites from that list are Gerard, Hugh and James Marsters. I’d have to add Matthew McConaughy ... you can see why ... to my personal list of hotties - as well as Johnny Depp (in his Pirates image) and of course, my lifelong idol – Kurt Russell, whether he's the computer wearing tennis shoes or Snake saving the president.

I have to admit, though, that Gerard Butler is the actor who most intrigues me. He's just so versatile - and good at every role he plays. I’ve listened to several of the Operatic versions of The Phantom of the Opera and the soundtrack from the movie remains my favorite simply because Gerard not only sounds more “manly” as the Phantom, but because he puts so much emotion into his singing.

Another favorite GB role of mine is when he plays Dracula in Dracula 2000. I don’t think we’re supposed to be cheering for the bad guy to win, but how can you not when Gerard makes the bad guy so damn sexy and so sympathetic? He did that with the Phantom role too – you just wanted the Phantom to win – who cares if he killed all those innocent people. He was tortured and they probably deserved it, right? I tend to think that casting directors shouldn't use GB as their bad guy if they really want the audience to bond with the hero - on the other hand, would those movies have been as dynamic as they were had some other actor played the villian? So GB, I don't care who wins the official award, you have my vote for Best Actor.

James Marsters, as Spike, is another favorate villain actor because he does the same thing GB does. He gave the character of Spike so much depth, you just wanted Buffy to get over herself and admit that she loved him.

Okay – enough from me. I missed my regularly scheduled blog date, so shouldn't hog this one. Just wanted to include myself in the list of GB fans. Wish I’d been with Cathy G. and the rest of GB’s Tarts when they went to Scotland – how fun that must have been!

Robin T. Popp

Sunday, February 12, 2006

From Sarah McKerrigan...

2/12/06
 
I LOVE the movies.  Maybe it’s because I’m a third-generation California girl.  Maybe it’s because I relish the cool dark hush of the theater.  Or maybe it’s because I can completely escape into films.
 
When I was a little girl, I used to live and breathe the characters for days after I saw a movie.  After “Sleeping Beauty,” I WAS Princess Aurora, dancing in the forest (never mind that she was a cartoon).  After “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” my mom made me a nightgown that looked like biblical robes, and I slept in it every night for weeks.  After “The Great Escape,” I sat in the driveway, tossing a baseball endlessly against the garage door.  Even now, if I see a particularly powerful film, I sometimes feel as if I’m seeing the world through the hero’s eyes for a while afterwards.
 
Watching movies at home isn’t the same, and it’s not just because I have a measly 25-inch TV in a world full of six-foot flatscreens.  It has more to do with the lack of interruptions, like the dog wanting on my lap, or the kids wanting dinner, or that cobweb in the corner that really needs to come down.  And there’s nothing like that lovely ambience of the theater, the grandiosity of the music, the immensity of the images, and yes, even the intoxicating scent of buttered popcorn.
 
I don’t eat popcorn at movies myself.  It’s overpriced.  I’m one of those premeditating snackers who buys my movie treats ahead of time, usually at the drugstore, where they’re three for a dollar, and sneaks them in in my purse.  If I feel a little guilty about it, I buy a water at the snack bar’s inflated prices to wash down my clandestine candy.
 
When people ask me what my favorite movie is, I always have to name at least three, since my tastes are so disparate.  Currently I like “Lord of the Rings,” “Terminator 2,” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”  See what I mean?  But I’d never want to see them on the same day.  Can you imagine how hard it would be to channel Arnold Schwarzenegger and Audrey Hepburn at the same time?
 
I hope someone makes a movie out of one of my books someday.  THAT would be sublime.
 
Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night.
LADY DANGER
Riding to the rescue April 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Michelle's Inspiration

I'd like to introduce you to a couple of my boyfriends. Well, I don't actually know them in real life, but they have helped me to develop my heroes. Different heroes call for different types of men, and all I can say is: Hooray for Hollywood!



Hugh Jackman doesn't know it, but I would consider marrying him. If it just wasn't for that pesky wife of his, and the fact he has no idea who the hell I am. But I digress. Hugh is perfect for the broody type. Even though he does his song-and-dance thing, he is my broody, sullen hero who needs the heroine to infuse his life with some light and laughter. Hugh can also cross over into Historicals, picturing his character from Kate & Leopold. Really, Hugh is the all-around perfect inspiration for any hero.



I first noticed Gerard Butler in the preview for Dear Frankie...and I thought: "Hello handsome!" He is also versitile (and hot) enough to play anything from your vampire hero to a historical character. He has an edge to him that speaks of hidden depths, perhaps villainy... redeemable, of course! And, like my husband Hugh Jackman, the boy can sing!



Jude Law is the perfect example of the bad boy/pretty boy mix. If you want your heroine's jaw to drop and to fall in love at first sight, you could use Jude as your hero inspiration.



Josh Holloway, the Southern hottie on Lost is a good example of a bad boy with major edge. This guy will use me, abuse me, and I'll come running back for more because I know he only hates himself. Err... I mean "your character", not "me."

Anyhow...



James Marsters as Spike is totally hot, and layered, mad, bad, and dangerous to know. And, come on, how many guys could pull of platinum blonde hair and still be a bad-ass? Don't listen to Megan Crane. Spike was a fabulous character with hotness to spare. So there.

And wait... there's more!



Julian McMahon is the perfect inspiration for the billionnaire bad boy character who's had a thousand women, but has never truly been in love.

And last, but certainly not least...



David Duchovny who can be your brainy, misunderstood, but still ridiculously handsome hero.

I know I missed a lot of perfect heroes, so tell me... Who is your Hollywood boyfriend? Who'd make the perfect character in your favorite novel?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Like a root canal without Novacaine... by Karen Rose

I have sunk to a new low.  I have contemplated grand theft auto.  Of course I would never do this.  I would never even have thought about this heinous act, except for an Inciting Incident.

 

So what was my Inciting Incident?  I have to buy a car.  I don’t want to buy a car.  I liked our old car. 

 

Now our old car wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, even my imagination.  First, it was a minivan.  I don’t like minivans.  They are too big for me, but my husband says they are practical and on long trips we could isolate our two daughters in separate areas so they didn’t whine and fight or even breathe each other’s air. 

 

Our van had 150,000+ miles, no a/c (in Florida this is a honkin’ big deal), and was on its fifth transmission (yes, its fifth).  It had sand on the carpet in the very back and smelled faintly of dead fish as my husband used it when he went fishing.   On the plus side, the power windows and radio still worked well.  This was a benefit as my husband sat stranded on the highway for 3 hours last week waiting for a tow truck.  (I was out of town, of course.)

 

More on the plus side, the van was paid for.  And ours.  Now it’s dead, victim of old age and [arguably] bad engineering.  I will mention no car manufacturer names, although I should.  Five transmissions is just plain shameful.

 

So now we must buy another minivan.  Which means dealing with car salesmen.  I’d rather do the first two weeks of the South Beach Diet again.  (Which again, is a honkin’ big deal.)

 

Now, if you are a car salesperson or married or otherwise involved with a car sales person, this doesn’t include you.  Because I’m sure you are a nice person.   You would not be sleazy or manipulative or just a general jerk.

 

Like the salesmen I have dealt with.  If you commit grand theft auto, you don’t have to deal with car salesmen.  Let’s see… fifteen years in the penitentiary surrounded by bullies named Bubba who want to be my best buddy or two hours in the company of one of the car salesmen that have wasted my time recently.  I think it’s a hard choice.

 

I find myself thinking back to the last time I bought a car myself (the minivan is all my husband’s doing, you understand).  It was 1995.  My youngest was still in Pampers.  I still worked for the Pampers company (aka P&G).  I was 32 years old.  Hot flashes were still in my distant future.  Gas was still a buck fifty a gallon, my cell phone was huge, and the Internet still charged by the minute and was primarily frequented by Star Trek geeks (oops, wait, that was me).  My writing career wasn’t even a dream then, just a hobby that kept me out of trouble when I traveled the world for my engineering job.  Yikes, I hadn’t even discovered Law & Order yet.  We won’t even talk about what size I wore then.  I’m depressed enough as it is.

 

I bought a Honda back in 1995, which by the way, still runs (knock on wood).  My Honda also has 155,000 miles, many dings and dents, but it runs well AND there ain’t nothing wrong with the radio.  I love my Honda.  I remember the day I bought it.  It was all very civilized.  I called the dealer, a printout of their costs in my hand.  (Getting dealer cost was one of the benefits P&G offered back then.)  I said, “I’ll give you $1000 profit. I want a hunter green Honda Accord, V6, beige interior, four door.  Please have it ready at 5:00 tomorrow afternoon with the papers drawn up.”  I walked in promptly at 5:00 the next day and was driving home in my new Honda by 5:25.  This is absolute truth.  My blood pressure remained constant, I was happy.  It was car buying at its best.

 

Now I’m so totally annoyed I could spit.  My husband went van shopping this weekend. (I was out of town again.  I don’t go out of town at times like this on purpose, but it worked for me this time.)  He calls me with the options.  He’s found 3 used minivans in our price range.  He wants me to see them. 

 

I really don’t want to.  But I love him, so when I get home I say yes, I’ll go to the dreaded dealer for him.  We go to the first dealer.  This is a 4 year old minivan with 20,000 miles.  It looks brand new.  I am suspicious.  I come up with a dozen different scenarios as to why it’s in such good shape.  I am suspicious by nature.  I like to think of it as a career strength at this stage of my life.

 

The sales dude (ack, he was like 23 or something) says to my husband, “Hey, you’re back!  You’re lucky.  A lady wanted to buy that minivan today, but I held onto for you.”  Indicating that we should fall down at his feet with gratitude bursting from our hearts.

 

Now, do I look STUPID?  For the benefit of those who’ve never met me, no I do not.  I am a woman of relative intelligence, but not much patience with little boys who think I’m STUPID.  My body language took over, arms crossed, face frowny.   The sales dude tried to make conversation.  I merely grunted back and told him I was way too old to be playing games like this and to stop pushing me with ludicrous sales ploys.  We ended up leaving for this and other reasons I will spare you. 

 

This is the part I love.  We were walking out the door and my sweet husband says to me, “Wow you were so good in there.  What a great grouchy act!  What a team we make!”

 

I love my husband.  He always sees the best in me.  I’m thinking that he’d even bring me a cake with a file in it should I give in to my cowardly instinct and avoid the whole car-buying-exercise altogether.

 

Which I won’t, of course.  But I can dream, can’t I?  And while I’m at it, I’ll just dream about the size I wore back in 1995…

 

So, what’s your car-buying experience and what size did you wear in 1995?  No, wait.  Nix on the size thing.  Like I said, I’m depressed enough as it is.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Will someone love me?

Okay, I'm an author. I know reviews are out there. I've gotten my share of bad ones (like the one that said the only good thing about my book was that it was short), and I get some good ones. But I always claim that I don't really care. They don't mean anything. They aren't indicative of a book's future or anything like that. All that matters is numbers.

I am a mature author.
I am above reviews.

Um, apparently not.

Today, I saw my first review for my book, DATE ME, BABY, ONE MORE TIME, a paranormal romantic comedy that is coming out in May. The reviewer loved it! And you know what? I'm dancing around the room like an idiot, chanting to myself how someone loved me!

Why do we care? Why do we let ourselves get high on the good reviews and down on the bad ones? Shouldn't we all be secure enough in ourselves not to need external validation?

Yeah, we should.

But's not that easy to do.

I'm human. I put my heart and soul into that book. And I care what people think. Today it's a good review. Next week or next month it'll be a bad one. Maybe even a mean-spirited one. And I'll have to tell myself not to care. Not to give it any validity.

But it won't be easy, because deep down inside of all of us, I believe there is a human need to be liked. This writing biz challenges that part of the human soul, to be sure, but this is the career I've chosen, and with it comes laying my hard work out to the public to be exposed. So, I shall just grit my teeth and go forward. And I'm going to let myself get high on the highs, and I'm going to do everything my power not to care about the lows.

So today is about dancing, and I'm going to let myself dance.

Stephanie Rowe
DATE ME, BABY, ONE MORE TIME 5/06