Sunday, February 28, 2010

Today, the New York Times had a retrospective about Jeff Bridges' career. Whether anticipating an Oscar win for the actor or not, it was an interesting look at one of my faves. Not that I'm a Big Lebowski fan--I think you have to be a lot younger, not to mention a different gender to get on that bandwagon--but I can't think of a movie Bridges has done that I didn't like.

What got me about the article, though, was its lack of attention to one of his best films, so I thought I'd revisit it here, since there's definitely a place for it in our diner.

The film, of course, is Starman.

If you've never seen it, get thee to a video store! Briefly, it's the story of an alien explorer who is forced to crash land on Earth, destroying his ship in the process. To survive until his rescue, he takes the form of a deceased man ("cloning" him from a lock of hair) and obtains the help of his beautiful, grieving widow (Karen Allen).

Bridges was nominated for another Oscar for his performance, and he deserved it. Watching the starman become both human and alien at the same time was amazing. Even as the character got used to his human body Bridges never lost the look that reminded us he wasn't human. It was an incredible performance.

But the movie, and Bridges' role in it, rarely gets mentioned. More sci-fi antipathy? Possibly. But enjoy it anyway. In fact, I'm going to watch it again tonight. And if I ever get the chance to meet Mr. Bridges, I'll be quoting the "man" not the "dude."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Look Inside Samhain Publishing

They say a thin, but vast, veil separates the two realms.
The veil I’m talking about separates the unpublished from the published author.
Ever wonder what’s on the other side? Want to peel back the veil for a peek? Or to actually speak to someone who has crossed over?
Now you can. I’ve lined up talented friends to talk about their experiences in getting stories published.

Renee Wildes’ many books with Samhain Publishing are receiving rave reviews and I, for one, can see why. Even though her characters are dragons, trolls, fairies and the like, they are so authentic and real that a reader feels she knows them. Renee’s descriptions make it possible for the reader to escape into the worlds she creates. Her stories bring the fantastic to life.
Renee agreed to answer my publishing questions which, I’m hoping, are yours, too.

Header by Samulli

1. How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve been a writer my entire life – I wrote horse stories when I was six, and was the only grade school kid w/a MAXIMUM word/page count. I’ve been writing professionally since 2002, when I joined RWA. I entered my first finished manuscript “Second Chances” in the NJ RWA “PYHIAB” Contest, it finaled, and final judge Suzanne Brockmann said she loved my child character, Alastair. Her encouragement made me determined to someday succeed.

2. Getting The Call is the moment many unpublished authors fantasize about. It’s that moment when authors hear that a publisher wants her work. Can you describe your experience?
I pitched Duality (Cinderella-themed fantasy romance) to Angela James from Samhain at the 2007 NJ RWA PYHIAB Conference. (Funny, I’m a WI writer but NJ seems to be my good-luck charm…) She asked me to submit the full. I was very excited, because I really don’t write for the NY “box” and Samhain’s done well specializing in “out of the box.” So I submitted it – twice. (This is the story of nightmares.) I was halfway done w/my query letter email, no signature or attachments yet, when my cat walked across my keyboard and sent it. UGH! Had to retype the thing, sign it, attach the actual manuscript, and REsend it. I wanted to cry – and kill the cat. I figured I was dead. It was beyond embarrassing. (Now I know the LAST thing I put in an email is the addy of the person it’s going to!) But two weeks later Linda Ingmanson got back to me with the following:

Dear Renee:
Thank you for sending Duality for consideration for publishing. I think it's a terrific book, really well written, with great characters and an interesting story line. I would like to offer you a contract.
The only caveat is that I probably won't be able to schedule the release for any earlier than late summer/early fall next year. If you don't mind a bit of a wait, then I'll go ahead and put in for the contract. Please let me know.
Thank you-
Linda Ingmanson, Editor
Samhain Publishing

I was so used to people taking MONTHS to get back to me that my first reaction was “Gosh, did she have time to read it?” and then my second reaction was to finally notice the word CONTRACT and scream so loud I darn near scared the cat right out of her furry calico pajamas. Bought a bottle of champagne – my husband bought my flowers and a little card that reads “A little fanfare from your biggest fan.”

3. How long was it from the initial publisher’s request to see your manuscript until it reached published form?
October 2007 conference pitch to October 2008 ebook release to August 2009 print release.

4. What steps were involved to elevate your manuscript from a submission to a published novel?
MANY MANY levels of edits and P.S./P.S.S. emails. I’m a pretty clean writer, so there’s not a lot of grammar/punctuation stuff, but we worked hard on getting the “thee/thou” grammar consistent. Samhain’s known for pretty hot stories, so on top of the usual “expand here, cut there” stuff we worked on getting Dara and Loren together more, and increasing the level of sensuality. There was a lot of talk about trying to shorten the book, and about cutting characters. We didn’t lose any characters, and the broad tapestry remains. Once Linda and I had worked it to death through three official rounds of edits, they bring in a line editor. Angel’s fresh eyes ensured we didn’t miss anything embarrassing before it went to final galleys. We’ve all seen glaring errors in published books, and Samhain works really hard to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.

5. What surprised you most about being published?

It’s a lot more work. There’s no “I’ve arrived.” You’re marketing one (or more) book that’s out there, editing another under contract, and hopefully working on the next and plotting the next ten behind that one. There’s Yahoo group chats, blogs, reviews and awards. Suddenly everyone’s inviting you to judge a contest or teach a class. Funny how much of being a “writer” doesn’t involve actual WRITING. And that doesn’t include the day job – or kids.

6. What advice would you give other unpublished authors who hope to interest your publishing house in their manuscript?
Samhain specializes in hot and/or “out of the box.” They do a lot of GLBDT, ménage, and new twists on old classics. They do a lot more in paranormal than vampires and werewolves. There have been remade fairy tales, gargoyles, ghosts, selkies, Phoenixes, raven shapeshifters. If you’ve got something truly “out of the box,” make it hot and send it in. They do a lot of contemporary, too, I’m just more familiar with the paranormal end of the spectrum as it were. Watch for contests and anthology “calls for submissions.” The do all lengths from red-hot shorts to “plus” novels like Duality. Don’t forget they publish for both the ebook and print markets, so you get double the audience.

7. What reasons would you give an unpublished author for sending his or her manuscript to Samhain Publishing? In other words, what do you particularly like about your publisher?

They’re professional, on the cutting edge of publishing technology, and work incredibly hard to make a story sing and shine. They have amazing cover artists. Authors have a lot of say throughout the creative process. And the best thing is if there’s a problem, there’s open communication. They really work with you to get a question answered or an issue resolved. There are a lot of marketing tools, including a stellar website they’re always updating and a huge readership “Café” (Yahoo Group). They have a good working relationship with several major review sites and have a presence at all the major conferences.

8. How has your life changed since being published?
It’s gotten a lot busier, but my name’s slowly getting out there. It was very odd to get asked to do an interview for a newspaper feature article, and then have someone stop you in the grocery store and go, “You’re that writer, aren’t you?” (Okay, I live in a small town, but still!) People at work ask how the book’s coming. Some of them have brought me books to sign.

9. Typically, how long does it take you to write a book? What’s your writing schedule?
I’m slow. I write a book a year, even though each book has been getting progressively shorter. Honestly – SLOW. That’s around two kids and a day job. (Today, for example, I’m making swords and daggers with my son for social studies “Greek Week.”) I usually check my emails/do marketing stuff in the morning while the kids get ready for school, and then write after they go to school & before I have to go to work, and then at night after they go to bed. I tend to do a lot of writing on weekends & holidays. My biggest challenge is time management and remembering things – I’ve gotten dates confused and missed an occasional chat or writer’s meeting b/c I had the wrong day. I write it down – and then lose the paper. My daughter tells me I have the memory of a goldfish. My son’s kinder – he compares me to a hamster, which has a slightly bigger brain. There’s no “famous author” in our house, there’s just “forgetful Mom.”

10. How do you generate ideas for your stories?
I watch old sword/sorcery or fantasy movies for inspiration, read mythology. I’m deep enough into my series now that a minor character in one book can usually be developed into their own story. I like taking one culture and putting it into a foreign setting – like a Dark Ages werewolf in a colonial fishing village (Lycan Tides) or a mountaintop faerie in underground goblin caves (upcoming Dust of Dreams) or Spartans in Iceland (my current WIP, Riever’s Heart). I’m becoming known for taking something sort of similar to what’s out there and then standing it on its ear.

11. What excites you about your current work in progress?
I’ve wanted to do Verdeen’s story since she was Dara’s starry-eyed lady’s maid in Duality. She became the first girl to enter the elven military academy, and graduate top of her class. She’s the ultimate tomboy, and it’s fun reminding her she’s a girl. I took Eowyn from LOTR and paired her w/Stelios from 300. (Miranda Otto & Michael Fassbender) Verdeen gets assigned to be Prince Aryk’s bodyguard, which is a fun role-reversal.

12. Could you share an excerpt from your books?
This is a snippet from my EPIC Finalist, Hedda’s Sword:
Tzigana stepped forward. “Go in peace. There are better days ahead, for us all.” She led the way back down the stairs. In the throne room, she turned to Maleta. “I found something that belongs to you. Wait here.”
Wolf gave a slight nod of encouragement. Tzigana disappeared into a side room, returning minutes later with her hands behind her back. “Sunniva kept her most prized trophies of conquest in that room,” Wolf said, his voice grim. “Where we found my standard, among others. It’s where we found this.”
Tzigana brought forth a folded green cloth. Unfurled, it revealed a leaping brown stag against a green background, all surrounded by a border of white interlocking knotwork. She handed it to Maleta. “Yours.”
Maleta stared at the standard of Kunigonde, the symbol of her family, her father, clutched in her hands. A great yawning chasm of pain opened, and she dropped to her knees, burying her face in the stiff cloth. She fought tears. What use were they now
? ’Twas a miracle anything of hers, of her family’s, survived, and she was more grateful than she could ever express to Tzigana. Mayhaps Wolf alone understood the conflict in her heart. She might well have tried to hold back the sea as her own tears. She strangled on them until she could barely breathe.
A pair of hands clasped her shaking shoulders, pulling her back against a warm, masculine chest. Cianan, as always, offering his support and love despite her earlier rejection of him. She leaned back against him, accepting the comfort he gave as Tzigana and Wolf knelt afore her. “It deserves to fly over its own once more,” Wolf stated. “Take it home, Van Marete. Fly it with pride and with honor in your family’s name.”
She raised her gaze to Wolf’s. His eyes reflected her own pain and sorrow. “And you and yours?” she whispered hoarsely.
He nodded. “Aye, and me and mine.” Tzigana slipped her arm around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. She looked up at Wolf, and their gazes met for a moment. They shared a gentle smile afore he turned his gaze back to Maleta. “At long last, we all fly free.”

13. Where can readers find you on the Web? (Twitter, blog, Facebook, Website)?
Samhain Author Page:
Yahoo Group:

Here are just a few of the awards Renee's work has won.
We hope you’ve found Renee’s interview interesting. We appreciate your questions or comments.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guidelines for World Building

Because I'm up to my eyeballs in contest entries (2 contests to judge and 1 I'm coordinator of), I decided to dust off one of my older posts for those of you who may not have seen it the first time around.

Suspension of disbelief is the willingness of the reader to accept the premise of a work of fiction, even if it is fantastic or impossible. That’s never truer than in paranormal fiction, because you’re asking the reader to throw away many of their established notions of the world as it is and step into a world they’re not familiar with.

So as writers how do we do this? For starters, just as with any other fictional world, we use setting and description to establish rules for our paranormal characters and the paranormal world they live in. Rules, you ask? Wait a minute--there are rules? Well, to paraphrase Captain Barbossa, “they’re more what you'd call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” Really? Well, yes and no. Maybe it’s true for the Pirates of the Caribbean, but for authors dealing with the paranormal realm, you need to set up some pretty solid ground rules for your world and stick to them.

But author beware: when world building, avoid a huge info dump in the beginning. Nothing bores a reader more than page after page of setup, so try to filter it in with action and dialogue as much as you can. And don’t over do it! Avoid unnecessary lectures about your world, its history and your character’s society. Once established, you don’t need to beat the reader over the head with all the minutiae of your world. Trust them to get it the first time. Paranormal readers are a smart bunch. They pick up on the aspects of alternate realities pretty fast because it occurs in almost every paranormal book they read. As long as it’s not too far fetched, they tend accept it and move on.

Now, not every writer’s paranormal society is going to live by the same rules. One author will have the commonly accepted silver bullet kills the werewolf or the vampire is turned away by a silver cross, while another author will have her creatures laugh at a human character’s attempt to use these clichéd items against them. But if you’re going against pre-established rules made by other authors, written years or even centuries ago (Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Ann Rice’s vampire series), then you need explain the rules you’re breaking and why.

For the most part (from popular movies, TV and books), we all expect certain paranormal creatures to behave a certain way:

• They're allergic to silver bullets
• They only turn at the full moon. That means they only get furry once a month. You have to be careful in your story -- you can’t have them change when they want to or when they get angry ala the Incredible Hulk.
• But if you want them to be able to change when they want to or as a result of extreme emotional stress, establish that rule early on and stick to it.

• They're allergic to daylight, crosses, holy water, and such
• They drink blood
• They don’t show a reflection in mirrors
• They sleep in coffins
• A stake through the heart is the common method of doing away with them

Example of an author who broke the well-known vampire rules and it worked:
Susan Sizemore created a vampire series and in her paranormal world, they have come up with a medication that allows the vampires to handle sunlight for limited amounts of time. She set it up well, made it believable and it worked for me. On with the story.

Example that doesn’t work:
I once read a bestselling author (who shall remain nameless) who broke her own rules and jerked me right out of the story. What happened, you ask? This author created a vampire society and she established early on that the vampires do not drink human blood, they drink from each other. All right. Not the usual vampire lore but I’ll go along with it. So then what did she do? She had the villain use human bait to draw out a vampire with the scent of human blood. Which it does--the vampire pounces on the body like a starving dog. But wait a minute . . . didn’t the author have as one of the rules for her vampire society that they didn’t drink human blood? So why would the villain use human blood for the trap and why would the vampire fall for it? This author broke one of her ground rules and in doing so, broke my suspension of disbelief in her world. If the author expects me to believe in her paranormal world, she can’t decide to break her own rules later to suit her plot. Needless to say, I haven’t read her again.

To recap:
• If you jar the reader by breaking their disbelief and pull them out of the story, then you’re broken that connection and it’s very hard to get it back.
• Don’t establish rules for your world in chapter 2 and then break them later in chapter 17 just because you’ve painted yourself in a corner with your plot and it makes it easier to get out of.
• Be conscious of the boundaries you establish and you (the writer) and your characters need to stay within them.
• If your characters need to step outside the boundaries, you better make darn sure you come up with a good reason why and/or how they can break the rules and make it believable to the reader.

So yes, there are ‘guidelines’ for world building, but don’t bend them so far that they break.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Tunes of Your Life

Have you ever noticed how music affects your mood? Right now I’m listening to an upbeat pop song. The sun’s out, the day’s warm for once (Yay!) and I’m putting the finishing touches on a crochet project that I’ve been working on for probably a year (I got myself in over my head, okay. But I finally figured it out). Anyway, I had originally turned on a funkier, mostly instrumental CD. That just didn’t suit my mood. So I turned on the radio to an 80’s-to-today pop station. The upbeat songs fit the sunny afternoon perfectly.

Sometimes I almost feel like there’s a musical background to my life. Like a movie. If there’s no music audible, then my head tends to fill in the blank. Sometimes it’s an annoying tune, but sometimes it’s a perfect fit to my day, or mood, or whatever is happening in my life.

Then there are the songs that my head plays when I wake up in the morning. Like the remnant of a dream, I frequently realize there’s a song in my head about the time I’m making coffee. Many times it’s obvious why that particular song is rambling around in my head. Maybe I heard it the night before, or it was a theme song from a movie or TV show I’d been thinking or talking about. But sometimes there’s a message in the song. Like when I went to bed feeling frustrated and completely overwhelmed. I woke up the next morning with, “Sooner or later, it’ll all fall in line, if we take it one heartbeat at a time.” That one line is all I know of the song — and I’m not completely sure I even got the words right. The point is that it was a message telling me to slow down and take things a little at a time. Now every time I start to feel overwhelmed, I think “one heartbeat at a time.” Yeah, I know. “One day at a time” has been around forever. I guess I needed to hear the idea in another form. Or maybe I needed the idea attached to music.

When you wake up in the morning, see what song is running through your head. Is there a message?

May all your songs be upbeat ones, and have a great rest of the weekend.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Research is Fun!

Lately I've been doing a lot of research for my WIP, and if you're anything like me, you can get so sidetracked by the research that you forget to write! One of my favorite things to do is research geographic areas and travel destinations. One of my latest spots on the map to visit virtually is Nome, Alaska, clearly chosen because of the gnomes in my second novel with Samhain, Survival of the Fairest. Here are 13 fun facts about Nome.

1) Nome houses what is arguably the world's largest gold pan, upon which its welcome sign resides.

2) There are no roads to Nome! Not cross country roads, at any rate. If you want to get there, you have to hop a plane, a boat or a dog sled, I guess. The Nome area does have some gravel highways that lead to surrounding cities but nothing connects to the rest of the world.

3) Nome is the end point of the annual Iditarod dogsled race, which commemorates a desperate race across Alaska to bring serum to combat a diptheria epidemic in 1925.

4) The best page of Nome photos I've seen belongs to a very nice man named Tom: . Tom is a fellow writer who's written four Nome-set novels, per his website.

5) In Nome, due to the weather, the road situation, and so on, large or unwanted "garbage" has a way of lingering. Within a couple miles you can find old trains in the middle of nowhere, abandoned receivers/towers that were once part of our Early Warning System, old dredges, and road houses or miner's shacks.

6) People and a company or two still mine the Nome area for gold, including various contraptions along the beaches.

7) Even though it only has about 3500 residents or thereabouts, Nome is considered to be the commercial hub of northwest Alaska.

8) Because everything has to be flown or boated in, groceries and staples can be very expensive in Nome. On the visitor's site, prices include $4.49 for a dozen eggs and $7.29 for a gallon of milk.

9) Wyatt Earp lived in Nome for a while during their big gold boom from 1897-1901 and operated a saloon.

10) Nome is home to Alaska's oldest newspaper, the Nome Nugget.

11) The movie "The Fourth Kind" about alien abductions is set in Nome--but oddly wasn't filmed there. Imagine that!

12) In March, golfers can play in a tournament ON the frozen Bering Sea with sled dogs as caddies in the Bering Sea Ice Golf Classic.

13) Nome boasts some 200+ species of Arctic wildflowers -- but only at certain times of the year. The rest of the time they're permafrosted to the gills.

What are your favorite things to research for your books (besides the sex scenes!) Got any fun facts to share?

Jody W.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Workshop on Paranormal Forensics

************ Permission to forward***** ********* **
KOD's Coffin Proudly presents March workshop:
Murder One - March
Title: Paranormal Forensics
Instructor: Katherine Ramsland
Class Description: In 1961, a cop attempted to fingerprint a ghost, and
there's even been paranormal evidence in the courtroom. Many murder sites
around the world yield ghostly tales, which makes the incidents themselves
more chilling. Ghost hunters today believe that with the latest cutting-edge
technology they can access the "other side" to shed light on both active and
unsolved cold cases, and among them is the belief that murder victims
linger to see justice done. It's CSI meets Ghost Hunters when Katherine
Ramsland, author of Ghost: Investigating the Other Side and numerous books on
forensics, combines these disciplines. Sometimes she reports others'
investigations, but often she has explored a crime scene herself. In this class,
she'll offer factual background of several crimes and their investigations, as
well as reveal the reports of paranormal events involved. During the course,
she will analyze a murder incident with tools from both worlds.
Instructor Bio: Dr. Katherine Ramsland counts a master's in forensic
psychology from the John Jay College of Forensic Science among her graduate
degrees and currently chairs the Social Sciences Department at DeSales
University , where she teaches forensic psychology and criminal justice. She has
been writing about forensics for over a decade, including books with former
FBI profilers. Among her 37 books are Ghost, The Forensic Science of CSI,
The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, The Real World of a Forensic
Scientist (with Henry C. Lee), A Voice for the Dead (about exhumations) , and The
Devil's Dozen: How Cutting Edge Forensics Took Down 12 Notorious Serial
Killers. With a local coroner, she has documented cold cases where she lives
that also have paranormal components.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Upcoming release - Whirlwind Affair

I'm really excited! Ellora's Cave Publishing offered me a contract on a novella called Whirlwind Affair. It's the second story in the fun new Red Stilettos series. The first book is called Head Over Heels by Paris Brandon and it released YESTERDAY. My book, Whirlwind Affair will release March 3, 2010. The third book in the series is Dear Sexy Lexie by Ashlyn Chase. It will release March 17, 2010 and the fourth and final book in the series is Bad, Bad Girlfriend by Delilah Devlin which will release March 24, 2010.

I don't have a cover yet but here's a teaser:

Whirlwind Affair by Francesca Hawley

Erika Bergstrom is shopping in an upscale adult boutique when handsome Rodrigo Torbellino asks for help finding a gift. Just her luck! As he flirts with her, she discovers he’s shopping for a bridal shower gift for a friend, not a lover. So when he asks her to model a beautiful negligee then seduces her in the dressing room, Erika gives in to her urge for a wild new experience…a one-night stand.

The next morning, Erika’s body is sated from pleasure. Rigo obtains a promise she’ll call him and tells her that if she doesn’t call him, he’ll find her. She’s intrigued and thrilled with his obvious interest until she discovers Rigo is the head of the company her brother wants the family to partner with, so she doesn’t contact him. A month passes. When they meet again the fire between them burns just as bright as ever, but does Rigo want the business deal or her?

Can the red stilettos live up to their legend to provide the wearer with her heart’s desire?

Read a hot and sexy excerpt here...

Monday, February 8, 2010


I blogged last Monday when I wasn't supposed to (I can never keep the schedule straight), so now it's my turn to post a blog again. My brain is not functioning well today, so this is a non-writerly blog. Let me explain why:

1 Super Bowl party
50 people in my house
-- 30 adults suffering from cabin fever
-- 20 sugared-up children
-- all tracking in the 11 inches of snow from outside
4 TVs set up in 4 different rooms
4 batches of hot wings
3 coolers of beer
2 huge pots of chili
2 stressed-out dogs banned to the garage
1 tired and brain dead blogger

'nuff said

Friday, February 5, 2010

Werelions, weretigers, wearbears, oh my?

Readers of popular paranormal romantic fiction have likely noticed a shift (if you'll pardon the pun) in the genre. While vampires are still hot, they are sharing the spotlight more and more with their counterpart, the werewolf. And it's not just werewolves. All variety of werecreatures are claiming their share of page time in recent releases. Weretigers, werepanthers, even werefoxes have been introduced into popular fiction.

Sometimes, the character is a "true were", a creature that can only change from human form to one particular animal form, like Faythe, the main character and werecat in Rachel Vincent's Shifter series. In other instances, the character is a "shifter", a creature that can change from human form into any other animal form of their choosing, like Sam Merlotte in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series.

In all of the were and shifter books that I've read, one theme seems constant. No matter what animal (or animals) the shape shifting character can turn in to, the characteristics generally associated with that animal are true of the character in their human form as well. Sam Merlotte, for example, is a loyal, steadfast man who is devoted to those he cares about. The form he takes most frequently (though he can adopt any form) is a dog. Not just any dog, but a collie. The favored animal form represents the man seamlessly.

Above: Sam the man
Below: Sam the dog. Notice, he's still wearing flannel

So, I pose a chicken-or-the-egg type question. In stories of weres and shifters, do you think the human character subconsciously adopts the traits most associated with their animal form, or do you think that the animal form is a manifestation of qualities the human poses? If you suddenly found out you had the ability to shift, what animal would you become?

I don't have an answer for the first question, though I'd love to hear some theories. As for the second, if I were to suddenly find myself with the ability to shape shift, I would definitely be a cat. Not a big, exotic cat, sadly. No, I'd be a common house cat. I like to be pampered, but only when I want the attention. I'm finicky. I'm not particularly fond of water. I have moments of crazed activity followed by hours of napping in the sunlight. I can amuse myself for hours on end with nonsensical stuff. And, I'm secretly bent on world domination. ;)

What would you be?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Sweet Treat and a Surprising “Best-Selling” Author

Do you have a favorite candy? I do. Conversation Hearts are my favorite and this is their season. To celebrate, I’ve opened a bag of sweet treats and – to pass along the good times – I’d like to share 13 of the sayings that caught my eye.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Before trying to melt your heart, here are few facts I’ve discovered about those candy hearts. Until 2000 or so, Walter Marshall worked at NECCO, a New England Confectionery Company and one of his duties was to select the sayings that adorn the 8 billion candy hearts NECCO sells each year.

Just think, his words were read by billions of people. Amazing!

Actually, candy conversation hearts have been around much longer than Mr. Marshall. The sayings: “Be Mine,” “Be Good,” “Be True,” “Kiss Me” and “Sweet Talk” have appeared on candy hearts for better than a century -- since 1902.
Newer sayings have joined their ranks, including “Tweet Me,” “Girl Power,” “Top Dog” and, of course, “Melt My Heart.”
And, guess what? There are candy companies that will put your comments on those precious hearts. If you go to you can put your words on a virtual heart. (A less fattening and fun way to convey your messages.) I drew up a few comments of my own before I munched on my bag of Brach’s Conversation Hearts.
Well, you’ve waited long enough. Here are 13 of the messages found in that bag:

1. “You Rule”
2. “Cupcake”
3. “Dare Ya”
4. “First Kiss”
5. “Mad 4 U”
6. “Be True”
7. “E-Mail Me”
8. “My Cutie”
9. “See Ya”
10. “Good Bye”
11. “My Boy”
12. “My Girl”
13. “Be Mine”

Have a great Valentine’s Day! And if you have a favorite candy, please share it with me. It’s always fun to try something new.


Monday, February 1, 2010

You either get it . . . or you don’t.

It was a bleak, snowy weekend here in Virginia. Twelve inches of the powdery white stuff and a bone chilling twenty-eight degrees to keep any of it from melting any time soon. The kids were outside having a ball with all their neighborhood friends. It should have been a perfect time for me to write, all curled up by the fire with my laptop and a cup of hot tea. But that’s not what I did . . . exactly. Oh, I had the laptop and the hot tea, but instead of writing I was watching a marathon of LOST episodes online so that I could get caught up for the final season that starts tomorrow.

As I finished the last episode of season 5, I had to wonder to myself why I even like the show. Mind you, I don’t watch much TV to begin with. Between my husband and son with ESPN and my daughter with the Animal Planet, I seldom get a chance at the remote in my house. But LOST was the one show I started watching from the beginning and stayed faithfully with for the last 4 seasons. I don’t know what happened to season 5. Somehow I got behind and never had the chance to catch up until now.

But back to why I love LOST. To be honest, I haven’t the foggiest idea. By all rights, the show should have driven me crazy with its smoke monster, talking dead people, conspiracies on the island and off, time traveling Losties, and all those subliminal secret clues that if you blinked you missed them. But I kept watching and I’ll watch the final season religiously too. There’s just something about the show that pulls me in and keeps me coming back. Judging by the show’s high ratings and rabid fans, there are lots of folks out there just like me. But there are also just as many who don’t get it, never got it, and quite frankly can’t understand anybody who does.

The same thing happens with books. I don’t have a lot of time to waste on poorly written books so I usually pick novels that have won awards (RITAs or RT Reviewer’s Choice) or I hear praises for from friends I trust or that receive 5 star ratings from dozens of readers on Amazon. If a book meets one or more of those criteria, I can usually be assured that I will enjoy the book. And most times I do. But sometimes I have to wonder how the heck a particular book won that award or got all those rave reviews or got published in the first place because I can’t for the life of me force myself to finish it. Like the anti-LOST contingent, I don’t get it and quite frankly don’t understand anybody who does.

As we all know, it all comes down to taste, whether it be a romance novel or a mind-boggling TV show. You either get it . . . or you don’t.