How Are They Not Blind?!?

Life lesson of the week: when you get a can of mace, do not test spray it inside the house. It’s a pretty simple rule. Just don’t do it.  Sure, the back of that package will say “test before using.” But don’t listen to them.  They just want to laugh at your pain. It’s a trick, my friend, a nasty, no good, evil trick.

See, this week my roommate and I celebrate her birthday with our heads sticking out the window of our NYC apartment coughing, crying, and feeling like our insides were on fire.  And all because we trusted the back of the mace can and “tested before use.”  Here’s what went down…

Cee–my roomie–had just received a birthday package from her family filled with b-day surprises.  One of those surprises was a can of “It’s Your Birthday” mace.  So after unwrapping the presents, joking about the gifts, and eating cake made with booze, we parted ways to spend apart time doing apart things.  I’m happily surfing the computer when I hear Cee call out my name from the kitchen asking if I wanted to watch her test spray her brand new mace.  Being a very lazy person, I promptly replied, “No thanks!”

Little did I know that staying in my room would not protect me from that evil product.

Oh no. Next thing I hear is: Spray. Exclamation. Cough. And then my roomie telling me not to go into the kitchen because the fumes from the mace–which she sprayed into the sink–are really strong.  Two minutes later I am coughing, crying, and feel like my throat is on fire.  Cee is suffering from similar symptoms.

We maced our house. The whole apartment was filled with mace fumes that were so bad that we were literally gasping for breath out the windows.

My question: how is it that in all of the freaking romances I read getting maced is like, “Oh mace. NBD”?  Are these people made of stone? Can they not feel? How are they not blind? Is this really a funny scene?!?

This seems like a proper response

It’s like my world has been turned upside down. So life lesson from me to you? Say no to indoor product testing. It’s a bad idea.

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September 11, 2011 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

Card Carrying Romance Lover

Everyone has their little addictions.  Some people are shopoholics.  Some–like my friend Amanda–are chocoholics.  Others are bookaholics.  Personally, I’m all three.  We all have those little obsessions that we just can’t get enough of.  But me…well, while I may love books, chocolate, and shopping…well, for me, I am a contest-aholic.

Well, hello, there Aidan

Yes, I am addicted to entering contests. And it is a problem.

When it comes to contests I look before I leap.  I’ll just be wasting some time on the internet, browsing some sites, and the next thing I know, I’ve entered some romance novel/blog contest.  This wouldn’t be a problem if

  1. I didn’t keep winning and
  2. I didn’t forget that I had entered them.

See the problem?  Winning is great.  I love winning, but when I forget what I entered to win, it becomes a problem.  For example, last week I was just sitting with my mother on one of my visits back home when my father hands me an envelope.  Apparently, I had mail.  I expected some junk or maybe some letter from a friend, but when I opened the flap I ended up with the most amazing surprise.

Romance novel trading cards!

the front...

and the back

Yeah, I know! They’re like baseball cards for romance novels.  Too cool.  I was so excited.  New addiction.  They are like Pokemon + baseball + sex, which = happy in my world! I think I have to collect them all.  Now, if only I can remember which contest I entered to get them so I can figure out how to get some more…

September 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm Leave a comment

These Are My Confessions

I used to hate to read.  Hated it. Like I simply Did. Not. Read. Ever. My mother was terrified that I would grow up to be functionally illiterate, something she laughs about now. But at the time—elementary school to be exact—she was sure that I was heading down a path that would lead to an early marriage, a gaggle of children, some sort of criminal record, and an inability to read or write.

Which sounds pretty dramatic now, but in her defense I think she had good reason to fear.  I would never pick a book up—unless I was stealing it from the teacher’s personal collection or the library—and I was quite popular with the little boys in my class. Yup, I was a little delinquent child headed down a path of book hatred. Luckily for all of our sakes, in sixth grade I had a teacher who changed everything:  Mrs. Passinteno.

Yada yada yada. I know what you’re thinking, “Okay now she’s going to go all Freedom Writers on us and talk about the power of one teacher in changing a life.”  But no, I’m not going to cue the dramatic “she can read!” music. I’m just going to say that Mrs. P gave me my first taste of romance.

Okay, so here’s the deal. Children grow up with fairytales, right? Right. They are in all the picture books, television shows, and movies.  Come on, I still have my Little Mermaid pillow case from when I was little. Now, what is the central element in a fairytale?

Romance.

Prince, princess, evil something, love. That’s the plotline of all of these stories.  And yet, all of the books my teachers tried to make me read growing up were about Girls in America and Boys that are Hardy.  Silly stupid plots about children being children that just were not interesting.  Reason? They were “age appropriate.”

Screw that. If you’re gonna let a little girl watch all the Disney films then give her a break and write some age appropriate children’s books with romance.  Sweet young love.

So when I finally got into Mrs. P’s class and she gave me my first Ann Rinaldi book, I realized something important: book didn’t necessarily have to be boring. Shocker. They could be fun and dramatic. Their stories could be like the stories that I loved on TV–visual, emotional, engaging…romantic.  From the first moment I opened that worn, used, falling apart paperback copy of A Break with Charity during one of our class’ reading periods, everything changed.  Books were not for stealing anymore, they were for savoring.  I devoured every single one of Ann Rinaldi’s books—up to that point–in a month and then moved onto other classics like Garth Nix, Phillip Pullman, Robin McKinley.  These authors understood my desire for a touch, a hint, of love and affection  in my books.  Genius.

So yeah. Romantic plots are the reason why I am not the very thing my mother feared I would become. A grand book thief with huge library fines.  By seventh grade I was reading other romantic plotlines — less age appropriate– with Mary Higgins Clark, Iris Johansen, and Elizabeth Peters, but I think my mother is eternally grateful to Mrs. Passinteno anyway.  She laughs about how once I started reading, I couldn’t be stopped, skipping the normal young adult books and heading straight to adult fiction before sixth grade was even finished.  My question: if Barbie has her Ken, Cinderella has her Prince, and Cory has his Topanga, then why do people insist that books should be romance free? Nothing else in our culture is. . .

September 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm Leave a comment

I’m Addicted to Love

I have this theory that so far has proven to be quite possible that Iris Johansen is actually a gateway drug to the amazing and life-altering addiction that is the romance genre.

It’s a bold statement, I know.  One, I am saying romances are addicting.  Two, I am blaming Iris Johansen, but again I want to stress that this is just a working theory.  See, you pick up a Johansen book thinking everything is innocent enough–after all she writes mysteries, you say. Mysteries are a completely legitimate form of literature.  Agatha Christie wrote mysteries. Yes, you should be perfectly fine.  What could happen? I mean it’s just reading for goodness sake.

Wrong.

The next thing you know Iris Johansen leads to Linda Howard and Linda Howard leads to Nora Roberts and Nora Roberts leads to Julie Garwood in a chain of increasingly romantic plots.  They start out mysteries and end up romantic suspense.  And after a while you start to crave the passion, the romance, the fire, the possession.  You need a new book, a new author, a new hit, and so you slowly begin to fall deeper and deeper into the romance culture.

Look both ways before crossing the aisle

By the time you get to Garwood, there’s no going back.  Julie Garwood’s romantic suspense novels really hook you in. Her great mysteries keep you craving more, so you start on her backlist, but as you move further and further down that list, you realize that you are also moving genres.  Romantic suspenses slowly become historical romances.  And you find yourself walking past the mystery aisle in the bookstore.  Creeping furtively towards that shrouded back section—lured there by your own addictive need for more passion, danger, love and those brightly colored covers, dangerous men and spitfire women. One day you are safe and sound in mystery, the next you are in romance.  And as anyone who has ever been hooked knows: you never recover from the romance genre.

Within the historical romance subgenre you move from medievals to Regencies to Victorians.  Scottish lairds, dashing dukes, innocent ladies, and compelling hoydens.   Next thing you know you are reading contemporary: Crusie, Phillips, and Gibbson.  From there it is only a short fall into category romances. Harlequin Blaze titles like Slow Hands appear on your bookshelf along with classics like Pregnant by the Boss! and Secretary by Day, Mistress by Night.  By then you are good and hooked, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Moreover, there is nothing you want to do about it or even should do about it.

It starts so innocently.  One day you pick up a mystery, and the next you are deeply involved in the romance subculture, which is why when you, my sweet, innocent friend, ask me for a book recommendation, I tell you to try reading Iris Johansen’s The Ugly Duckling.  It was my gateway into the best thing that has ever happened to me—despite my previous drug metaphor—and it really is a gateway into romance for the romance-illiterate.  The plot is suspenseful, the tale of a vengeful mother on a quest to bring down the men who took everything away from her: her husband, her daughter, her identity, her security, and even her face.  Readers emphasize with Nell Calder, relate to her and her pain and burning desire for revenge, and in this emotionally and thrilling plot of danger and intrigue, Johansen cleverly weaves romance.   The Ugly Duckling doesn’t start out as a romance, but by the end, you mainly remember the narrative’s searing, possessive, passionate, steamy, uncontrollable, shudder-inducing romance between dangerous Alpha hero Nicholas and determined Nell.

I have recommended The Ugly Duckling to six people in the past four years—numerous others in the nine years since I first picked the book up in middle school.  Of those six people, four of them have actually read it, and out of those four, three friends now read romance novels exclusively.  I blame—or credit—Johansen with their addiction to romance.  She manages to include the best of both mystery and romance in her novels, tempting unsuspecting readers into one of the biggest genres in publishing and tricking narrow-minded readers into accepting a romantic plot.

When I first started The Ugly Duckling, I laughed at the thought of reading romances.  They were low, embarrassing, bad.  I scoffed at the notion that intelligent people would read such trash.  Johansen’s book led me down a path that changed my mind and now my life.  Therefore, I suggest The Ugly Duckling to you.  I go by the old phrase, “the more the merrier,” especially when it comes to people reading romance novels, and I won’t ever underestimate the power Johansen has as a gateway drug again.  Maybe it will lead you down a similar path to the best addiction of your life.

September 2, 2011 at 8:04 am 2 comments

Letters to an Unknown Fairy Godmother

Remember how I recently found a whole stash of my childhood diaries? And remember how I exposed some of my embarrassing childhood moments to you online where they will now live forever? Well, I have another confession:

For the longest time I believed in some faceless, nameless, anonymous fairy godmother. Way past the point where it was socially acceptable.

A good point....

Yes, apparently, I have been blogging about my random life long before “blogging” was a word–my sister recently confessed to reading every entry– and there nestled within my  journals were pages and pages of letters spanning back in time starting when I was 6 and going all the way up until I was 13.  Letters upon letters, upon letters.  All addressed to my Fairy Godmother.

My Fairy Godmother was not a slut. Just saying.

They talked about my life, my wishes, my worries about my future.  They were misspelled and random.  Some were about my dream playhouse. Some were about boys. Then there were the letters during my environmental phase when I was 9 where I asked my Fairy Godmother for fewer cars and that “animals not be hunt down and killed for their fur.”  Those letters were then followed by my Born Again Christian phase where I somehow managed combine Christianity with fairytale beliefs in magic when I asked my “F.G.” –cause by that point I was too cool to say Fairy Godmother– for the salvation of mankind.  I was 10.  Good times.

But despite my different phases and interests, the letters to my F.G. never stopped.  They lasted all the way up until high school, and always included not just my wishes but also all of the things happening in my life that I though she should be aware of.  When 9/11 hit, I wrote F.G a letter–just in case she missed it–and when I changed schools when I was 10–I wrote her a letter about that too.  She was like my imaginary, magical friend straight out of reading too many fairytales.  And each letter would end with some random wish.

I don’t really know if I honestly expected my F.G. to grant me my wish or write me back–most of my letters included inquires about her own well-being–but I do know that I must have felt there was some benefit in writing them. I guess I’ve always been a fanciful person, as my F.G. could probably tell you if you ever manage to locate her. And not looking back at all those letters, I realize that the magic of fairytales has always tickled my imagination.

So in honor of my box of letters to an unknown Fairy Godmother, I give you my latest review for RT BOOKREVIEWS. A sexy, modern take on a classic Cinderella tale. Enjoy!

August 31, 2011 at 8:22 am Leave a comment

The Diary of Lizzie P.

I was recently packing up my childhood room in one of those symbolic, “graduated college and now moving away to the Big Bad City” kind of moves, and while packing up clothes and books and more books and then some more books, I found an old box under my bed where I kept all my old diaries and journals.  Can you say Memory Lane?

Well, I can! And while reading those entries–dated from age 6 all the way up to high school–I learned three things.

Number 1: I have always been “wored about my futur” which since I couldn’t spell at all apparently translated as “worried about my future.”  Yes, once upon a time a little 8 year-old Lizzie poured out her heart into the pages of her diaries and along with wishes for a boyfriend and a playhouse–one she got and one her parents still refuse to give her–there were numerous mentioned of how she was “worried about her future.”  Because what would she do career-wise? What about college? Yes, college was a huge concern for me.  When I was 12, I confessed in another diary that I was very concerned about what school I would attend, my GPA, and whether I had the grades after all “college is only 5 years away.”

Number 2: I do not have a future as a children’s book author or a Spelling Bee champ. Oh man, I found a collection of stories written for class projects.  And they were…yeah.  One was about a missing cat,  just look at that picture to the left. That should say, “I bet he may be upstairs in the bathroom.  That’s where he always hides. No he is not there but I did find my…”  The other image is from my original picture book, The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Butcher because apparently, I thought the butcher was the new wolf. And a great idea for a children’s book.

Number 3: I really wanted two things: a play house and a boyfriend. Almost every other entry was about either some crush I had at school or my ever-present desire for a place of my own. I wanted my own crib and a man to go with it. Or well, boy in this case.  First I loved Lee, then I loved Chad, and then I loved Everett, and the lists went on and on about how cute they were and how awesome and how funny.  And to combine #1, 2, and 3 by the time I reached 13, I started writing about how worried I was because I liked the same boy as my BFF.  I actually commented that I knew “it was just a crush and nothing serous like love (bec I don’t think I have the maturty for love yet) but still.”  Even if I couldn’t spell it at least I recognized my age and “maturty” level!

So in honor of my walk down memory lane, my worries about my future, and the most unlikely children’s books ever, I give you my list of 5 Essential Childhood Reads.  The five books that I read over and over and over again from 6-13–discounting the whole HP series because that’s really not fair. I think you may understand why I was so strange after reading this list.

  1. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. What little girl doesn’t love a fairytale? Apparently, I thought they were true.
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien .  These book were so worn out by the time I reached high school that I had to buy a new set.
  3. Anna and the Duke by Kathryn Smith. In my defense, this romance novel was cleaned-up and meant for teens. Or in my case pre-teens.
  4. Moonlight Becomes You by Mary Higgins Clark. I really wasn’t a fan of picture books so by the time I was 11, it was like Adult Fiction here I come.
  5. Sabriel by Garth Nix.  I still read this every year. Sometimes more than once. Necromancy is so fascinating.

August 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm Leave a comment

It’s a Love/Hate Kinda Thing

There are very few things I actually hate in life. Honestly, the list is pretty short… seaweed, mushrooms, that guy from that class that time who thought just because my hair was blond–at the time–that I was like some kind of like idiot or something. Yeah, I do hate all of those things, but really that’s not a whole lotta hate going on there. I dislike yellow jackets–both the bugs that sting you and make you cry and the kind people wear that just aren’t cool–and I don’t care for Vince Vaughn because his characters are always assholes, but I don’t hate him. Yet.

So when I was talking to a friend the other day and I mentioned how much I just loathed, hated, despised this one person who I had been going on and on and on about–and no it was not That Guy from the first hate list–she looked at me and asked, “Really? There’s a thin line between love and hate.” Good point, my friend, good point.

But no, wrong.

I do not love said individual who is honestly a huge jerk, but it got me a thinkin. Is there a fine line between love and hate?  Looking at romance novels, it sure seems so. Heroine hates hero. Hero hates heroine. Misunderstandings. Passion. Boom, an epic event. Sex. Love. Some more sex. The End.

This baby scares me

Hmmm….it makes you wonder. Could my new nemesis The Jerk be my One True Love without me knowing? Could our arguments, snippy comments, and general dislike actually be the basis of Love?

Probably not. Cause while I am not a fan of The Jerk, I realized that I really don’t actually hate him, I just think he’s a bit of a jerk.  But maybe there’s something to Hate/Love relationships.  They do tend to involve Great Passion.

Looking for a story with a lotta sexy Hate turned to Love sizzle?

Try Iris Johansen’s romantic suspense The SearchSearch and rescue worker, Sarah Patrick is sure she hates John Logan, the wealthy, conceited, arrogant millionaire that seems to bulldoze his very way into her life and blackmails her into working for him on a project, but when a determined killer targets Sarah as his next victim, she just may find that her hate is a lot closer to love.

Romantic Question: Do you think there’s a fine line between love and hate? And what about in your books, do you like a little turbulence?

August 23, 2011 at 8:04 pm Leave a comment

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