Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kill me now...

After a week of barfalicious togetherness, I was all set to send my herd of brats to school today. Because no matter how much I love them, a week of whining, moaning, vomiting, hacking, nose-blowing, feverish quality time is enough for any mother.

The alarm went off at 7:30, I lurched up the stairs. Looked at my coffee-maker. Looked at it some more. Poured myself some iced tea and washed down a handful of pills. Then I stumbled back downstairs and crawled back into bed.

I feel like I've been hit by a truck. Fever, joint and muscle aches, chills. Only good thing is my cough seems to have improved and I'm not walking around with a wadded kleenex shoved up each nostril. But holy crapping damn, my body HURTS all over. No way could I have stayed upright long enough to get my monsters to school. Driving? Not a freaking chance. Only reason my fingers are obeying me so I can type this is because I've just had another handful of T-1s.

Does this make me a bad mom? I don't care. One more day off school will not doom them to failure come report card time.

For me, I'm just gonna go lie in the middle of the street and hope some kindly passing motorist runs me over. Blurgh.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Norwalk, that most vile of viral stalkers, has infiltrated my happy home. As always seems to be the case, my 13 y/o daughter was the first of its victims. She'd been planning a sleepover with two friends Saturday night, but when she curled up in a fetal position at 8:00 PM, insisting she felt like she was dying, I was forced to drive her disappointed buddies home. What followed was a puke-fest of epic proportions. I tell you, that girl barfs like a howler monkey--animals on the other side of the jungle run for cover at the noise she makes.


Right now, she's stretched out on a row of kitchen chairs in my living room, drinking gatorade and watching women giving birth on TLC, while my 14 y/o son languishes on the sofa. If he isn't sick, he's faking it well--most notably by his lack of protest at having to watch women giving birth on TLC.

And me? I've managed not to succumb--yet. Mostly due to scrubbing myself from head to toe with lye and a wire brush every time I've had to come within three feet of my kids. Unfortunately, I did manage to acquire some hideous sinus thing this weekend that had me feeling serously bagged by Sunday evening.

But the weekend wasn't ALL bad. On the dubiously bright side, I discovered at work on Saturday night that one of my regular customers had a print copy of Crossing Swords. His wife bought it for him for Valentine's Day (awwww), and when I cringed and said, "But...but, you aren't actually reading it, are you?" he grinned and replied, "I'm on chapter five and enjoying it so far. Boy, that's some imagination you've got! Can I get it signed?"

Which is kinda embarrassing, and yet kinda cool as well. And it makes me wonder if what will bring more men over to romance is not an engaging subplot or tons of action, but the kind of graphic, blunt, no-holds-barred sex to be found in erotic romance. Although I'm sure the bloodbath at the end of Crossing Swords probably helps it appeal to a male readership, too.

And when the guy's brother gave me THE LOOK, complete with eyebrow waggle, and asked if my book was based on "personal experience", I just smiled and replied "Of course! I mean, you can't write convincingly about how it feels to slit a man's carotid artery and windpipe, or what it's like to drag your sword out from between someone's ribs unless you've actually...what? Ohhhh, you mean the sex? Nah, I don't do any of that."

I'm guessing in the next few weeks, I'll be signing a copy for him, too. Which is okay. If I'm running out of people I can look in the eye in this town, I at least want to feel like I've earned it. :D

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Romance's Impossible Standard

I was swirling around The Toilet Bowl (aka, Mrs. Giggles' blog) today, and found a post there about romance heroines that really resonated with me. For those of you with clickthruaphobia, the gist of it was: Why do we demand effortless perfection in our heroines? Why must a romance heroine be (naturally) large-busted, (naturally) slim yet curvy, and (naturally, effortlessly) gorgeous? Why is a heroine villified if she (god forbid!) gets breast implants to have that large bust, or (heaven forefend!) diets to achieve that perfect body, or (gasp!) wears make up to enhance her beauty?

Well, the indoctrination starts early, my friends. You can see it in Disney movies like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella: there's the heroine, perfect and pristine in her natural beauty and purity (even when she's dressed like a shlump), while the villainess is a heavily made-up, corset-wearing, updo-sporting nasty. And the villainess--even the fat, ugly Sea Witch, Ursula--comes off as more clever, overtly powerul, even sexual, than the sweet, innocent, gullible heroine, who triumphs not by wit or fortitude, but a combination of luck, blind faith and deus ex machina. It's no wonder that the villainess usually seems (to me, anyway) more complex, meaty and interesting as a character, while the heroine often has all the dynamic flavor and compelling texture of a Twinkie.

We're bombarded all through our childhood with the idea that for females, innocence and simplicity (even to the point of stupidity--I mean, the apple is freaking poisoned, duh) is good. Whereas a woman comfortable in her sexuality is evil. A woman who cares about how she looks is evil. A smart woman who knows what she wants and sets out to get it is--you guessed it--evil. A little lipstick, a push-up bra and a take-charge attitude can take a potential heroine from virtue to vice in less than 60 seconds.

But the times, they are a-changing. In romance novels these days, we increasingly demand a heroine who is smart, beautiful, sexy and competent, yet the moment the heroine appears to be aware of the fact that she's smart, beautiful, sexy and competent, she loses her lustre in the eyes of many readers. We're mired in that uneasy null-space between a woman's traditional role and women's liberation. Torn between the madonna and the whore.

One author's comment on Mrs. Giggles' post indicated that for her, the answer lies in m/m romance. That men are simply more dynamic, more powerful, more interesting (and hotter) romantic protagonists than women. Which leads me to ask: Why must we turn to men for characters that engage us? If it's possible to write a strong, complex and intiguing male, why is it so much less possible to write those same qualities into a female character?

I've written many heroines in my twenty-odd years of writing:

The six-foot-tall warrior/slave who lives for vengeance.
The coltish, breech-clad tomboy bastard.
The tavern girl who's lost count of the number of men she's been with.
The whore with the red-painted lips, who loves everything to do with sex.
The cross-dressing, unabashedly bisexual killer for hire with a death wish.
The daughter of a goddess who isn't afraid to use sex to get what she wants.
The traumatized rape victim who learns to love her body again.
The high-class rent girl with a financial plan that will get her off her back.
The queen who marries a man half her age and enjoys every second in their marriage bed.
The courtesan who sleeps her way to a chance at revenge.
The bisexual metallurgist who uses her psychic gifts for voyeurism.
Her lesbian companion who isn't past inviting a man into their bed to please her lover.
The child sexual abuse survivor and freedom fighter who is willing to die for her cause.
And four guilt-ridden immortals who ambush one poor sap into a polyamorous marriage.

These women are all beautiful, though not always (or even usually) traditionally so. Some are aware of their beauty, some aren't, and some don't much care one way or the other. Only two are virgins at the beginning of their stories (and none by the end, heh). They are all sexy, honorable, flawed, strong, intelligent, vulnerable, determined, complex women who are every bit as dynamic as any man.

There is beauty to be found in simplicity--if you're talking about a lamp or a vase or a china pattern. Sweetness is all very nice, but too much of it makes my teeth hurt. I'm not interested in Snow White. She bores the everloving crap out of me. Cinderella's passivity and martyrdom doesn't impress me--it makes me want to smack her upside the head. But the answer, for me, is not to stop writing women altogether. It's to write the kind of women I'd like to know, the kind of women I can respect.

Even if they wear lipstick.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Romance and Valentine's Day

I've always been kind of indifferent to Valentine's Day. Part of it is my general lack of sentimentality for "special" days--especially those arbitrated by the greeting card and floral industries. Part stems from a (now ended) 15-year marriage to a man with similar deficiencies regarding overt demontrations of romantic feeling, which enabled me in my continuing ambivalence toward the hearts/flowers/candy trappings of V-day. To me, Valentine's day means little more than a busier-than-usual night at work. Simply put, I'm just not a member of the day's target demographic.

Don't get me wrong. I have a strong romantic streak. I do write romance, after all (even if there is a surplus of hot sexx0ring in it). Even way back when I was writing straight fantasy, my characters had a habit of falling hard for one another and I was all too happy to oblige them. But romance, to me, is less about dinner under candlelight, slow dancing (unless you're talking the horizontal variety, heh) and a dozen red roses, than it is about simply being with someone you love. Snuggles on the couch while watching a good action movie (I don't really do rom-com, either, lol), a pair of arms surrounding you while you stand at the sink washing dishes, a kiss when you need it, or even when you don't. If you don't have those things, no amount of flowers and heart-shaped chocolates once a year is ever going to make up for them.

I'll be spending this Valentine's Day without anyone special to share it with. That's cool, though. As I told my buddy Leah, my heart has everything it needs right now--kids, friends, family and a general happiness with my life and the person I've become. There's no shortage of love in my life, even if the romantic side of things is currently on pause.

I hope you all have a great Valentine's Day, whether you adore the assorted accouterments of the day, or are indifferent to them. Whether you're one half of a couple or in between relationships or a confirmed single. Love is love, and chocolates--even ones that aren't heart-shaped--still taste pretty darn good.

And for all of you who could use a laugh, I stole this from JenB's blog:

Happy V-Day! *mwah!*

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My new dog is a freak... she fits right in around here.

Last week, my family adopted a friend's dog--a 3 y/o papillon/bichon frise/border collie cross. Just the right size (not small enough to be yippy, not big enough to hog the bed), not too bright but well-behaved, and cute as a button. My kids love her already, and so far she hasn't bit anyone, no matter how much they might deserve it. Thought I would post a couple of pics:

Here we have George about to get a nasty surprise from my 6 y/o son, Blammo. Note her benignly oblivious expression even as a hockey-mask-wearing, machete-wielding maniac bent on mayhem creeps up behind her. As I said, not too bright.

After her close call, she understandably felt the need to suck on her bunny for a while. She was separated from her mother at just 3 or 4 weeks old. Never having been properly weaned, she still feels the urge to suck, so we have a couple of stuffed bunnies she can go to town on. She'll suck them for half an hour sometimes, and fall asleep with the thing in her mouth. Cute and disgusting at the same time.
Ugh, looking at that picture, I can't help but note the hideously untidy state of my house. But never fear. Soon as I win the lottery, I plan to hire a maid. Until then, I'm content to live in total disarray.

Monday, February 2, 2009


All right, I applied the most random and scientific method available to me (asking my 6 y/o to pick a number between 1 and 23).

He said 12. Well, first he said 50, then he said 12.

And that means the lucky recipient of a signed copy of this baby right here----------->

is Tiah!!!

Tiah, if you'd be so kind as to email me with your info, I will shoot your copy off to you ASAP (as soon as plausible, which for me, could be a week or two). My addie is kirstensaell(AT)yahoo(DOT)com.

Thanks to everyone for commenting and sharing their thoughts on a little down-home, wholesome, old-fashioned revenging.

Hugs and smooches. *mwah!*