Monthly Archives: July 2011

Gladiator

I took a class a few months ago and the teacher asked us to write down 100 words to describe ourselves.  I thought that was ridiculous.  I’d never be able to come up with 100 words that would tell a casual observer about the “inner me”.  Well, I was wrong.  It wasn’t hard at all.  For example, one of your words might be “chocolate” or “pink” or “New York”.  You get my drift.

One of my “like” words was Russell Crowe.  (Remember, one of the key words in Women Unplugged is “men”.)  Several years back, a friend of mine told me I should watch the movie “Gladiator”.  The film had won an Academy Award for best picture, and some guy named Russell Crowe had won an Oscar for Best Actor.  To put it simply, I wasn’t prepared.  When RC came onto the screen wearing what looked like an ancient version of a man’s skirt, my mouth dropped open.  I thought, Who the Sam Hill is that?  Could anyone other than RC put on a heavy silver armor dress with chain mail head gear and look sexy as hell?  I think not.

It was obvious (at least to me and to the Academy) why this guy won a Best Actor award.  He did a fantastic job portraying a slave forced to fight other gladiators, condemned criminals, and wild animals in front of a barbaric (to say the least) audience.  Gladiators were celebrated for their value as entertainers and commemorated throughout the Roman world.

I was certainly entertained.

Who’s your favorite actor?

For The Love Of Reading

Sheila Seabrook

I inherited my nose from my dad. I also inherited his calves, his easy going personality and his love of reading. He died in 2009 but my all time favourite picture of him shows him sitting on the beach in a lawn chair, a book in his hands with the sun shining down on his head.

The first book I remember holding was a beautiful hardcover copy of Cinderella, filled with strange words I couldn’t read and beautiful pictures I adored. Once I learned to read, I worked my way through Dick and Jane, on to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and in between, the back of every cereal box my mom ever bought.

When I ran out of reading material, I would sneak into my dad’s book stash, which he wisely kept in the garage, and read his Harlequin romances. He also had some racier novels there, stories with – gasp! – sex, and if my mom knew I was reading those books – heck, if she knew my dad was reading those books – she would have banned them from our reading material.

These days I’m allowed to read whatever I want and I want to read a lot. In fact, I want to read more than I have time for. Favourite authors include Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Barbara Samuel (O’Neal), Ann Voss Peterson, Linda Style, Susan Vaughan, Virginia Kelly, Joshilyn Jackson, and Lisa Lutz, just to name a few.  And with the arrival of the e-reader, not only is my to-be-read pile contained within one small device instead of all over the office floor, but I’ve discovered indie authors like our own Women Unplugged bloggers Dianne Venetta and Christy Hayes. If you haven’t read their books yet, run to your nearest e-reader and download them now. I’ll wait ….

My DadShortly before my dad died, he gave me the book Volcano by Richard Doyle. When he told me I had to read this book, there was a tone in his voice that I recognized so well. It was awe and wonder for a can’t-put-it-down story, emotions I too experience whenever I fall in love with a story or an author’s voice. Although I have yet to read the book – I’ve become more of a love-to-laugh-out-loud reader – Volcano will forever remain on my keeper shelf because it was the last time my dad shared his love of reading with me.

This is how I will always remember my dad, with a book in his hands and another waiting to be read. This is, hopefully, how my children will remember me, too.

So who did you inherit your reading gene from? Who are some of your favourite authors and books? And if you had to choose, would you rather spend your hard earned money on books or food and clothes?

The Power of ‘What if…”

Last week, my husband and I traveled across the country with a pull-behind U-Haul. At one point in our journey, he almost ran into the back of another vehicle (shocking considering he’d been reading emails on his blackberry) and we pulled over a short time later to check on the stuff we’d packed in the trailer.

I stayed in the car with our two dogs while he got out to inspect our cargo. He left the car running (it was nearly 100 degrees outside) and I filled his ten minute absence by reading. When he got back in the car, he told me that a police officer had approached him and advised him he wasn’t in the best neighborhood to have his back turned inside a U-Haul. The cop stayed right by our car until my husband was finished and we were on our way a few minutes later.

Needless to say, I was shocked. I’d imagined all sorts of disasters before we left for our adventure, but never once did I dream we might get robbed or killed at gunpoint in broad daylight along a busy stretch of highway for the crap we’d packed inside the U-haul. We discussed the incident for a few minutes and then my husband didn’t think another thing about it for the remainder of our trip.  But I’m not built that way, so our brush with fate spurred a series of “what if” questions so familiar to writers.

Here is just a sampling of the things that went through my mind: what if the hero of my imaginary story had been killed on a cross country trip while his wife sat innocently in the car? What if the hero had only been wounded and the wife kidnapped?  What if the dogs had been children and the heroine and the kids had been kidnapped?  What if the couple were on the verge of divorce? What if the hero were a cop? What if the hero and heroine weren’t married, but had only been dating a few weeks? What if they were brother and sister? What if their attacker wasn’t a bad guy at all, but someone looking for a quick escape from trouble? What if he were a cop? What if the U-haul had been filled with stolen goods or the secret cure to an epidemic or a dead body? What if…what if…what if…

“What if” has led to every novel I’ve ever written and the ideas for all the novels I have yet to write. Some days I envy people who don’t have a thousand “what if” questions running through their heads, but mostly I wonder what would fill my mind if all the “what if” questions went away.

What about you? If you’re a writer, are you plagued by “what if” questions throughout your day?  And if you’re not a writer and you do experience “what if” moments, have you ever thought of penning your thoughts? Let me know, if only to make me feel better about all the questions floating around my head 🙂

The Muse Is In the Music

Hi there! I’m Tracy and this is my first foray into the world of  blogging.

There are two reasons I’ve been reluctant to blog.  One, I am severely technologically challenged.  Just ask our brilliant site administrator!  And two, I really didn’t think I had anything important to say.  So say my teenagers anyway.  But, with encouragement from the five talented authors who share this spot, I’m taking baby steps on to the Web.  After all, I’m a writer, how hard can this be?  I might even be inspired to fire up a website!

Or course, next comes the little problem of figuring out WHAT to blog about.

Staring at that blank computer screen makes me want to run for my daughter’s sock draw.  It’s a poor mother who lets her child wear mismatched socks to school, even if the little diva insists it’s the latest fashion.  At this point, I hope my inner muse will kick in.   Except I haven’t ever been able to get in touch with my inner muse.  Not for lack of trying.  Every writing conference I attend, I promptly seek out the workshop promising to help authors find the elusive creature.  Locating a comfortable chair, I pick up my pencil and paper, anxiously waiting to glean the secret to writing success.

And then I doze off.  I’d like to think it’s because these sessions are held after lunch or cocktails, but I think it’s because I’m not a big believer in the muse concept.  Probably why mine doesn’t talk to me.

Seriously, my secret to jump starting whatever I happen to be writing can be found in my iPod.  Whenever I’m stuck, I lace up my sneakers, pop in those ear buds and hit the treadmill.  No, I’m NOT one of those authors who strap their laptops to the treadmill so they can bang out a few chapters while they exercise.  My coordination is about as developed as my computer skills.  But, I do use the time to craft the heart of the article or novel I’m working on.  The music helps me tune out whatever else is happening around me—remember those teenagers?—allowing my imagination to do wonderful things with my characters.

It’s a method that’s always worked for me.  And for years, the soundtrack to my creative writing has been provided by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  Just ask my college roommates.  They used to watch me pound out a term paper or newspaper article while hunkered down in front of my faithful Springsteen poster, Thunder Road blaring through my headphones.  That battered poster made it all the way to my cubicle in a crowded Capitol Hill annex building, hanging as a sentry while I crafted thousands of pages of reports and testimony, the E Street band rocking out over my Walkman.

For those of us die hard Springsteen fans, this summer has been a sad one.  On June 18, the Boss’s sidekick, Clarence Clemons, died at the age of 69 from complications resulting from a stroke.  Affectionately known by fans as The Big Man, the six foot four, 250 pound Clemons served as Springsteen’s saxophonist and wing man for nearly four decades.  He brought the muscle to the band with his tenor sax and big smile.   Whether his melodic saxophone riffs were wailing on Jungleland and Tenth Avenue Freeze Out or sending us happily off in Waiting for a Sunny Day, Clemons was integral to Springsteen’s magic of telling stories through music.   New generations of fans were just getting turned on to Clemons as he leant his talents to other recordings, most recently performing on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. 

Clarence Clemons died too young.  Fortunately, his music lives on to prod me out of my writer’s block each day.  Hey, I guess I do have a muse after all!  Thanks Clarence.

Love, Ghosts, and Lizards… (don’t you just have to know?)

Hi!  I’m Sharla.

Welcome to our little world, where we love to talk about anything!  I am blessed to have found such an awesome group of women to sit around the table with.  Nothing like six creative women in one place.  🙂

Since it’s our debut week, I’ll tell you a little about what I write.  Next week could be all about the cockatiels in my backyard or what insane thing my teenage daughter did…because she’s at that alien stage, you know.  Sixteen…yeah, enough said.

I write what I call Romantic Women’s Fiction with light paranormal elements.  Whew…I know.  That’s a mouthful.  More about the woman’s journey with something in her life that’s jacking her around.  But there has to be a major romance…and there has to be something supernatural going on.  I’ve tried it without it, and the weird stuff keeps coming back in.   And I call it Paranormal Light (less filling!) because well—what do you think of when you hear “paranormal”?

Werewolves?  Witches?  Vampires? 

Yeah, I don’t do those.  I like them…but can’t write about them.   I’ll use TV shows to demonstrate the difference.  I love vampire shows like Vampire Diaries and Being Human.  But I don’t care for True Blood.  It’s too gory for me.  I love Haven for its mysterious mystical town, and the movie (and book) Practical Magic for its “no evil in the craft” witches.  

I love a love story.  But not just a love story.  What else is going on in the character’s life?  Does she have kids?  Does she have a secret—because I love secrets!!  And what if that secret is the bane of her existence…and what if it’s that she can see ghosts…and what if a certain hot ghost has been the love of her life that she can never have… and what if her daughter suddenly sprouts the same gift…

Okay, so you can see where my head goes.

I love magical mystical whimsy…  I love the tease of something just under the surface, but not quite clear so you have to keep digging to find the surprise.  Sometimes that surprise is finding out you have magical power, or the ability to see ghosts (can you tell I like that one?), or read someone’s mind.  Or sometimes it’s a house that subtly changes temperature with the moods of its inhabitants, or a pantry that seals itself when you want that midnight Twinkie fix.

I write light paranormal romantic women’s fiction because it encompasses everything I love in a story.  A woman’s journey to figure out something, search for something either physically or internally or both.  A romance—because who doesn’t love a little romance?  There’s always humor, because I can’t seem to keep my snarky sarcasm out of it.  And then there just has to be something odd in the mix.  That thing under the surface that you can’t quite put your finger on.   

My book, THE REASON IS YOU (April 2012, Berkley), is about a single mom with a teenage daughter, coming back to her home town to start over.  Which would be easier to swallow if the dead would quit chatting her up in public.  Feel free to click over on the Our Books tab to read more about it, and please keep coming back because you never know what we might be talking about!  Could be life-altering, and you’d miss it!  

Could be a picture of lizards doing the deed! 

You laugh, but I actually do have a picture of that.  It’s not all that.  I think they fell asleep.   🙂

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