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30 posts from June 2008

June 10, 2008

Sex Every Night

Sex Every Night

By Sarah

Let me start off by noting that today is our wedding anniversary. Nineteenth, in fact. Nothing compared to Nancy's love affair with Jeff, but respectable considering the many obstacles in the modern world to a happy marriage. And, luckily, I am happily married. Though it ain't been easy.

Sex_bed Which brings me to the subject of today's post: sex every day. Would you do it with your spouse? Even if the spirit were willing but the flesh were weak, could you do it with your spouse? And if you could or would, what would be the point? I mean, we all get tired. We all have off days and no one wants to turn sex into a nightly chore like washing the dishes or taking out the dogs. And yet....

Two couples have done just that. Charla and Brad Muller, Christian Fundamentalists, have written a book, "365 Nights" about their efforts to have sex every night. On the opposite side of the political spectrum, so Just_do_it have the more liberal Annie and Douglas Brown in "Just Do It." As you might have guessed, the Mullers' book is more discreet while the Browns go into explicit detail. At least, that's according to the New York Times which did a story on the subject, the most emailed story in the past five days.

As always at the Lipstick Chronicles, our job is not to judge, but to analyze, synthesize and distill current trends and bring them to you, our beloved readers, in easy to swallow sound bites. No pun intended. Therefore, we're not advocating nightly (daily for you renegades) sex, but simply throwing out the question - what if?

365_nights Personally, I'm fascinated. And as someone who's admitted to reneging on the tacit promise that blow jobs would be a daily, nay an hourly, event in my husband's life (Please, my ribs still hurt from laughing.) I can honestly say that I am not joking when I promise to Charlie that my anniversary gift will be sex (in whatever form) every night for at least 100 nights.

Crazy? Possibly. Sore? Most likely. But what intrigues me about this project is the existential notion that existence precedes essence. Perhaps after nineteen years of marriage neither of us feels like we did in our 20's when we couldn't WAIT to do it. However, what if we faked it? What if we went through the motions Kierkegaard first - would the "e"motions follow? According to the couples cited in the New York Times (couples who have books to sell) the answer is - yes.

One couple described it thusly - that when engaging in sex every night, an intimacy develops such that one instinctively knows exactly where the other is at any point. Really? I find that hard to believe.

And, yet, consider the times you've been with your spouse on a romantic weekend and have come home to a house of chaos. Is it not true that there is a moment where you catch each other's glance and a knowing passes between you and, suddenly, you and he or you and she are an island in the chaos? This is the point of romantic weekends, no?

Yarn_over So that's my latest project, like writing a more character driven novel or learning how to finally do yarn overs the right way in knitting, my pledge is to have sex every night for a hundred nights.

Am I nuts? Tell me now because Charlie won't know until tonight!

Sarah

PS - I keep forgetting to promote myself. (Fake modesty alert!) But SWEET LOVE comes out a week from Thursday on June 19. So if you have absolutely nothing to do and find yourself flush with a fewSweetlovephoto  bucks and struck by a moment of insanity, why not mosey over to your local bookstore and pick up a copy. A long-lost love, a mother tryng to make amends before she dies and balsamic peach cobbler. How can you resist? (Wait - don't answer that.)

June 09, 2008

The "V" Word

The “V” word
by Harley

Last week I realized something. I’ve never really talked here about the “V” word.

Granted, it’s not something you discuss with just anyone. My grandmother, I guarantee, wouldn’t stand for it. But Grandma died in 1968 and this is The Lipstick Chronicles.

So here goes. My name is Harley and I am a vegetarian.

It wasn’t always thus. I grew up in Nebraska in a family like Sarah’s, with pot roast, pork chops, and meatballs (except on Tuna Casserole Fridays), then moved to New York, my palate expanding to embrace lobster, sushi and Crispy Duck.

But one night, and yes, there may have been marijuana involved, I was sawing away at a particularly bloody filet mignon and I thought, “God, that looks like somebody’s muscle.” And realized I was eating a cow.

You wouldn’t think this would come as news to a farm girl who could see cattle out the kitchen window while chowing down on cheeseburgers. Why, at 22, did I make the visceral connection between cow and beef?

Who knows? But that was my last steak.

A year later it happened with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Mid-bite, I thought, “Holy cow, I’m eating fried bird.” And that was my last drumstick.

And so it went. Bacon became pig. Escargot became snails. Lamb, lamb.

I kept eating fish, even in Italy, where they serve them with heads. Fish were not human to me. Not warm and fuzzy, outside of FINDING NEMO. I even owned two goldfish briefly, known collectively as Fred, but I shed no tears at Fred's demise. I called myself a pescatarian.

Then came Duluth, summer of 2003. My sister Joanie was talking about mercury levels and something snapped. And now I have a fish tank in the kitchen and I could no more contemplate Molly, Polly, Jack, Dylan, Jacqueline, Sit and Tetras 1, 2, 3, 4 with a side of tartar sauce than I could eat my dogs.

I’m not a militant, I’ve just wandered in off the street. I don’t practice out of religious zeal or enviro-political convictions—in fact, I don’t practice at all. I’m a Bambi vegetarian, propelled by a weak stomach and cheap sentiment. I wear leather, I don’t belong to PETA, I’m simply a mild nuisance at dinner parties and a wet blanket at a pig roast. And God knows it’s not about health. I can eat—and William will back me up here—boxes of Oreos, like a horse in a grassy meadow, until someone leads me away. I have survived more than one Romantic Times convention on the free chocolates on Author’s Alley.

So I’m an accidental vegetarian, but out of control nevertheless. Honorary Tart Laurie R. King explained rennet to me recently, so my Cheese Days are numbered. I’m off Jello too, because I had a Visitation last year involving cow’s hooves. And each time I crack an egg I think, “you’re next.”

But I’m in interesting company. Albert Einstein and Ally Sheedy, Adam Ant and Aristotle, Barry White, Billy Idol, Bob Barker, Buddha, Carmen Miranda, Dennis Kucinich, Doris Day, Epicurus, Ghandi, HG Wells, JD Salinger, Jesus, Pamela Anderson—

Whoa. Back up. Jesus? Really? What about the loaves and the fishes?

Well, apparently that “fish” word in Aramaic had other meanings and there’s a chance we got a substandard translation. To check out THAT theory, see https://www.happycow.net/famous_vegetarians.html -- but beware: some people are hopping mad at the notion that their Savior ate tofu. Better yet, visit the Vegetarians Are Evil website and discover why Soy is Making Our Children Gay. That should put you off your feed.

Happy Monday!
Harley

June 08, 2008

Playing Cops and Robbers

Playing Cops and Robbers

By Annette Dashofy

Today, TLC is delighted to have another guest from our backblog - our wonderful Annette was nice enough to agree to tell us about her recent experience at Police Citizen's Academy - really good stuff! And be sure to check out her links at the end, too.

When I was a kid, like most of us, I read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. After a while, I graduated to Mary Higgins Clark and Phyllis Whitney. As for television, I never missed Adam-12. Then came Starsky and Hutch. And Charlie’s Angels.

I wrote my first “police procedural” when I was in senior high. Inspired by a real-life string of murders of girls my own age, my two female protagonist cops succeeded in solving the crime when in reality the case remains open over thirty years later.

Cagney and Lacey hit the air shortly after I finished my book. Honest. Mine came first! And, in case you’re wondering, that faded manuscript still sits in my mom’s basement. I think she’s holding onto as blackmail material.

My fascination with mysteries and police never dimmed over the years, although television has provided a slightly—okay, HUGELY—skewed version on reality. I never seriously considered becoming a cop. I’m a wimp. But when the opportunity arose last winter to take the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Citizens’ Academy, I jumped on it. I claimed it was strictly a source of research for my yet-unpublished novels. But we’re all friends here, so I can share my secret: I just wanted to play cops and robbers grown-up style.

After fifteen weeks, we never once had a pretend shoot ‘em up. The research aspect of the experience was phenomenal. I’ve been posting about it every Wednesday over on Working Stiffs, hoping to share some of my a-ha moments with fellow crime writers. But today, I thought I’d share the part of the course that played on my Starsky and Hutch mentality.

The first two weeks were mostly lectures. Interesting stuff and necessary to build a good educational foundation for the rest of the course, but the fun started on week three when Officer Dave Wright came in to talk about use of force and showed a film of a real arrest gone horribly bad. Sobering stuff. On a lighter note, he demonstrated some interesting holds on one of the younger members of our class. I was immensely relieved that it wasn’t me. Wimp, remember?

In week four I learned that I really like guns.

Have I mentioned that I’m a yoga instructor when I’m not writing? I’m supposed to be a pacifist. Breathe in peace, breathe out tension.

Then I held my first Glock. (cue evil laughter) It wasn’t an operable weapon. Wisely, Officer Rob Harrison had one with the firing pin removed. Hey, I only wanted to PLAY cops and robbers anyway, so it didn’t need to hold live ammo. Officer Rob demonstrated how he trains recruits to keep the gun steady when firing multiple rounds. I bounced home with my new-found knowledge, excited to share it with my hubby…who has been hunting since he was twelve and was not impressed. Sigh.

Blog_annette_swatFast forward to week eight. The SWAT team arrived. I didn’t mention it earlier, but S.W.A.T. was another one of my favorite shows. Mark Shera was a babe. But I digress. The SWAT guys (the real ones) not only let us handle a Glock (a REAL one, but unloaded), but they also passed around an assault rifle. Blog_annette_guns
I want one. Even previously unimpressed Hubby admitted that he’d never handled one of those.

We also played with some spy cams including a baseball-sized “eye ball cam” that you could toss down a hallway. Then just sit back and watch the monitor screen to see what’s there. We all wanted one of the pole cams, great for peeking into second story windows. But at $19,000 a pop, we decided inquiring minds didn’t really want to know THAT badly.

Most of the classes took place in the basement of a church in Hazelwood, but we did venture out on a few field trips. The first one took us to the Emergency Operations Center, otherwise known as 9-1-1. Years ago, I did a little dispatching back in the days when I worked on our local, rural ambulance service (Emergency! was another of those TV shows I liked so much). In those prehistoric days, I used a phone, a notepad, and one radio. Things have changed a little. Multiple computer screens and keyboards at each of a large roomful of work stations make the 9-1-1 center look like slightly smaller version of NASA. Some interesting sounding calls came in while we were there, too, but our guides kept herding us along when what we really wanted to do was pull up a chair and eavesdrop.

Another field trip took us to the Training Academy where we watched the Police K-9s in action. Word to the wise: if you are ever confronted with one of these dogs, DO NOT RUN. Do not shout, do not move. While the canines are considered non-lethal force, I’ve seen some of the bruises on those guys after one of the dogs chomped down on their arms. And they had on those suits that made them look like Michelin Men.

Blog_annette_labOur final field trip took us Police Headquarters where we toured a real crime lab. Have you ever seen those glistening, high-tech sets on CSI or NCIS? The real thing looked more like the outdated, unkempt kitchen in a long-abandoned restaurant. AFIS, that cool computer system that matches fingerprints with a name and photo in a matter of seconds on TV? While it really is cool, it doesn’t work anything like that.

As part of that class on crime scene investigation, we had the option to stay or leave when they showed a series of crime scene photos complete with maggots and decomp. I stayed. We were warned that we would be affected by what we were about to see for days, possibly weeks to come.

I’m not sure what it says about me, but they didn’t bother me a bit. I’m still trying to figure this out. Because I know full well that if they had been pictures of animals, I’d have been devastated. I can’t even sit through a movie where a dog, cat, or horse is killed or injured. I weep uncontrollably for hours. The disclaimer at the end about no animals being injuring during the filming of the movie doesn’t help.

I absolutely cannot watch Animal Planet’s Animal Cops. Nope. Uh-uh. Can’t do it.

Getting back to the HUMAN cops…
Well, they weren’t all human. And I’m not talking about the K-9s. One of the highlights of the academy was a visit from the bomb squad and their robot named BULLDOG. The odd-looking creature with one arm and a hand that looked like a metallic lobster claw rolled in and parked in the church basement. The officer handling the creature asked for a volunteer to feel how strong a grip the lobster-claw hand had. One of my fellow students pointed to me while stepping backward. I tried to point out that “volunteering” was something you did yourself, not had done TO you. Nevertheless, I found myself making a fist and letting the robot clamp down on it. Another “helpful” student pointed out that since I was a writer, I should use my left hand. I responded that I use a computer. I NEED BOTH HANDS.

The officer meant to demonstrate that the robot’s grip wasn’t all the strong. My yelp of pain probably didn’t help his cause. Lesson learned: do not shake hands with a robot.

The evening ended with our group being put into a “kill room” with several “explosive” devices. We were told to identify the threats. Had the devices been real, I think we’d have only been killed twice.

Tomorrow evening, our little Citizens’ Police Academy class graduates. I’ve come to be friends with many of my fellow students (even Pearl, who volunteered me for the robot handshake) and with Lieutenant Jennifer Beidle who runs the Citizens’ Academy. I hate to see it coming to an end.

And my formerly favorite TV shows lack their previous appeal now that I know how far off track they really are.

(Annette Dashofy has written a number of short stories, one of which was a finalist for a 2007 Derringer Award. Her agent is currently seeking a publisher for her two mystery novels. She invites you to check out her website at Annette's Website and visit her every Wednesday at Working Stiffs Working Stiffs Blog

June 07, 2008

Joyce Tremel Guest Blogs

Joyce Tremel Guest Blogs

A great, big TLC welcome to one of our regulars from the backblog. If you've ever met her, you know she's terrific - and if you haven't, well, you have something to look forward to! She's got a terrific job when it comes to mysteries - you can read all about it.

When the One and Only Kathy Sweeney asked me if I wanted to do a guest blog, my first reaction was “Moi?” The second was “Ack!” and the third was “What the hell am I going to write about?”

I could write about the piano we just bought that takes up half of our living room and I don’t even play piano. I could write about my search for another agent after the first one sat on my manuscript for months. I could write about spending way too much time blogging instead of working on the next manuscript.

Then it hit me. I should write about my job. Not the writing one that doesn’t pay anything yet. The day job that at least pays enough to buy groceries. Or a year’s college tuition.

I spend my daylight hours, four days a week, behind a bullet proof glass window, but not as a crime fighter. It’s much more exciting than that. I’m a police secretary.

How many of you knew there was such a thing as a police secretary? Come on. Hold up your hands. Uh-huh. Thought so. We are so under appreciated. You never see us on Law and Order or CSI. One more thing they get wrong!

So, what does a police secretary do? The simple answer is pretty much anything. I work for the Shaler Township Police Department in Pennsylvania. Shaler Township is a suburb of Pittsburgh. Our population is around 30,000 people. To get an idea of the calls we get look here: Joyce's Blog We have 27 sworn officers—this includes the Chief, two Lieutenants, one Sergeant, two Detectives, one Officer who handles juvenile cases, and the rest are Patrolmen. The two civilians are an administrative assistant, who acts as the Chief’s secretary and does, well, administrative things, and myself.

Blog_joyces_officeI have my own office which consists of my computer station, a desk and file cabinets. I have a bullet proof glass window that looks out onto the reception area. If someone needs a copy of their accident report, etc, I pass it through the slot at the bottom. After they pay the $15.00 fee for a copy of the report, that is.

One of my main duties is answering the phone. All the municipalities in Allegheny County, PA have a single 911 dispatch center so I don’t dispatch any calls. The calls that come into the office are usually people who want to talk to a police officer, or want a copy of an accident report, or people filing a complaint by phone. I also get a lot of calls from people who need to see an officer but didn’t want to call 911. I have to tell them if it’s important enough to dispatch an officer, they should hang up and dial 911. If there happens to be an officer in the station, I’ll give him the call, but they’re supposed to stay out on the road unless they’re writing up their reports. Many times, I’m the only one in the station. And frankly, that’s the way I like it. We do get walk ins (or 10-12s as we call them) and then I’ll get on the squad room radio and ask someone to “10-19 for a 10-12,” which translates to “get your ass in here and talk to this person.” Not literally, but you get the idea.

My most important duty is entering the police reports into the computer. We use a software program called “The Informer.” The officers write a report for every call they get and turn over all the handwritten reports to me the next day. I then make sure that none are missing and spend most of the day typing. We average about 10,000 calls a year, and a report must be filed for all of them.

Blog_joyces_deskSomeone asked me once why the officers don’t enter their own reports. The most important reason is they have to be entered correctly. As much as I like the guys I work with, most of them are not brain surgeon material, if you know what I mean. For reporting purposes, there are certain things that have to be on the reports. Sometimes what they have written as the type of call is nothing like what it really is. For example, the officer might put “harassment” down where it says type of call, but it’s really a dispute between neighbors. Another reason the officers don’t enter their own reports is time. They would need to be sitting at a computer for hours instead of out patrolling. Even if they could do it from the patrol car, people would complain that the officers are loafing if they see the car parked somewhere.

I enter all the traffic and non-traffic citations into the Informer, too. Really, really boring. I also process requests from insurance companies for accident and police reports. They mail in a check and I record it and send them the report. Sometimes I get requests from attorneys for the same thing. I really like it when an attorney asks for a report because his client is suing the other party and it turns out his client is the one at fault. Or someone is suing for injuries and the report clearly states there weren’t any. Now that really amuses me.

I’ve also done things that aren’t in the job description. I’ve fingerprinted people who needed them done for their jobs when the detective who usually does them was out. I’ve done pat-down searches on females who have been arrested. I’ve watched lost children and lost dogs. I babysat an arrestee when everyone had to leave on an emergency. I stayed over and helped out when we had a major flood after Hurricane Ivan. I did the same after 9-11 when we were in “lockdown.”

So, that about sums up the glamorous life of a police secretary. At least in Shaler Township. And Margie, none of the guys I work with look all that good in a uniform. Disappointing, I know.

In addition to her day job, Joyce writes and blogs at Working Stiffs Blog on Thursdays.

June 05, 2008

Margie Interviews Bobbie Faye

Margie Interviews Bobbie Faye

Today, you get a two-fer. I decided to interview my friend Bobbie Faye - we think we might be cousins. More on that later. Bobbie Faye has two books - the second one came out last week, and I loved it. So I invited her in for an interview and tequila shots. Good thing I wrote everything down at the beginning.

Blog_family_jewelsWelcome to TLC, Bobbie Faye. I know you have a new book out, so let's plug that first. It's called "Bobbie Faye's (kinda sorta, not exactly) Family Jewels", and you can buy it at Rebecca/Kathy's favorite bookstore here: Bobbie Faye's New Book. It's a great book and one of Margie's Top Picks for the summer, along with Sarah's Sweet Love, which you can also buy here: Sweet Love. And if you haven't picked up Elaine's new one, you should totally just buy all of these books at the same time - you get free shipping and everything. Clubbed to Death

Okay, now the interview, which went something like this.

Me, Margie: Your ex is hot - why did you dump him? Couldn't he be trained? Did you filch his handcuffs at least?

Bobbie Faye: Is that what he said? That I dumped him? Geez. Blow up one little oil rig, and they get all testy and bossy and try to take over your life and rant about calming-the-hell-down and then they go and arrest your sister and before I know what happened, we were practically a deep fried reality TV show over here.

Filch his handcuffs? No. Freaking. Way. (I do what every good southern woman does: I buy my own.)

Me, Margie: Fine. At least tell me who kisses better. (And what's your exes address?)

Bobbie Faye: You're trying to get me killed, aren't you?

Me, Margie: Hah. Speaking of which, I need to start carrying a gun. What's small but powerful (like us)?

Bobbie Faye: Wait. I'm sorry. My head just exploded at the thought of You, Margie, with a LOADED AND DEADLY WEAPON. I have SEEN you pissed off. The COPS have seen you pissed off. The FBI has seen you pissed off. I run a gun counter and we have your photo with a BIG RED CIRCLE AND A SLASH THROUGH IT from HOMELAND SECURITY. I am not entirely sure that you being ARMED is the best possible decision here.

Me, Margie: Very funny. But seriously - is it a good photo? Never mind about the gun. I can just ask my cousins, y'know. I have people. Next question: When you say 'family jewels' - which kind do you mean?

Bobbie Faye: Ha. Because "Diamonds That My Crazy Aunt Stole From Her Ex Who Now Has Put A Hit Out On Her" was too long a title for the freaking book. NOT THAT I DIDN'T TRY. They are picky about the titles being short enough to actually include that author chick's name. Which is freaking annoying because all she did was follow me around. Did SHE get SHOT AT? No. Did SHE almost get eaten by a BEAR? No. (no, that is not a euphemism, hush)

Me, Margie: Good answer. And does this mean you'll be at the Furry Con this summer? Never mind. They told me not to talk about that. Let's talk about the books - because people not only come here for the sex - but also for the books. I like your website, and you have a VERY cool book trailer. Here it is: Bobbie Fay's Book Trailer Most book trailers? They suck. No offense. So how did you do it?

Bobbie Faye: First, I hired a really hot actor to play Cam.

Me, Margie: No shit - did you, like, have a couch and everything for auditions?

Bobbie Faye: Right. Like I'm going to tell everyone. That's off the record. But pass the tequila, will ya?

Me, Margie: Good stuff, huh? I knew you'd like it - one of my cousins makes it in a swamp still down in your neck of the woods.

Bobbie Faye: I should have known. I'll bet somebody in my family knows your cousin - we get a lot of people from other places who end up down here with different names.

Me, Margie: Uh-huh. That's another topic for later - but I'll bet we're related. I mean, we both have major pirates in our family trees, right? There has to be a connection. Pirates are a fertile bunch. Just saying. But back to the book trailer - after the whole casting thing, what did you do?

Bobbie Faye: You have pirates in your family too? We should do one of those DNA things. For real. On the book trailer, um, it's all sort of fuzzy after the casting. I focused on that part.

Okay, that Toni chick did the real organizational / producing work. She got the crew and the cast, she wrote the script. Her director had done number one music videos before and had 30 years of TV / commercial experience and her DP -- director of photography -- is stellar and has 15 years as a DP/editor. There's some helpful technical stuff she learned, a lot of how-to and some what-she-would-do-different. You'll have to ask her. Man, that stuff has a real kick to it.

Me, Margie: I know, right? That's the beauty of it. You get a nice buzzy window before the real thing hits you. Which brings us to the end of the official interview. Thanks for visiting TLC!

We're Losers!

We're Losers!?!

by Nancy                   Go to fullsize image

I don't know about you, but I'm really steamed that The Lipstick Chronicles is not mentioned on the list of 100 best websites and blogs for writers.  The complete Writers Digest list is here. 

I mean, what do you need to be a great website for writers? Write yet another lame blog entitled How To Create Compelling Characters? Or How to Find The Best Agent For You? Or how about Sixteen Hundred Ways to Lose Your Shirt By Spending Your Advance on PR?

Because I don't think that's what being a writer is about.

I think it's stuff like this.

Really now, writing books is about finding great material and putting it to good use on the page.

In this case, the question is why men are afraid to get married. Actually, they're not afraid to marry as much as they're afraid of making a mistake.

A husband who's never made a mistake? Hahahahahahahaha! C'mon, people, we could come up with twenty ideas for books based on mistakes made the adored men in our lives. And we don't even need to count the blunder over the recycled engagement ring.

Have I told you about the time my dear Jeff climbed an aluminum ladder to snip the wires of the garage light with my gardening shears? Except he forgot to turn off the power? Boom! He woke up on the garage floor with the lights flickering. I still have the shears with the perfect circle burned into the blades.

So don't tell me he might have spent a few sleepless nights because he was afraid of making the mistake by marrying me if he can't remember to turn off the electricity.

Here's a whole webpage dedicated to the most common mistakes husbands make. Any one of them could be the first chapter of a really great book. Those pages would write themselves!  And whoa, for those WOCHFTS, here's a website dedicated to the most common mistakes husbands make in bed.  ("Don't force your tongue down her throat like you're trying to unclog a drainpipe.") Go ahead and read that one.  I'll wait.

(Insert Jeopardy! music here.)

What about this guy, who blows himself up?  That's a first chapter that would put any reader on the edge of her seat. Or cracking up with laughter.

Or this anchorman who loses control? (Okay, so this video has very little to do with today's outrage---er, topic, but it's hilarious.  Go ahead.  Try to watch it without busting a gut. You'll thank me.)

Which astronaut, exactly, broke the toilet in the first place?

And anyway, the Tarts decided at least a year ago that blogging for other writers was a losing proposition. Do writers buy books?  We're not so sure.  (Our own Harley has a policy that she can only read one book by each friend--she's a slow reader--or she'd go nuts. It strikes me--a writer who's constantly on deadline as the books pile up around my bed, my reading chair and the sofa in the living room--as a very sensible policy that I'll put to good use as soon as I finish Charlaine Harris's latest.) So now we're blogging to entertain you, our dear readers, and it's a hell of a lot more fun. Plus our hits are up.  And we're selling more books than ever.  Which has to be good.

Those Writers Digest people definitely made a mistake, though. The Lipstick Chronicles demands a recount!

Meanwhile, you loyal readers who don't care to hear any more tips on how to create a compelling character, you can tell us the most hilarious mistake your spouse has ever made. I'm looking for material. If you give us the good stuff--particularly mistakes he's made in bed--we'll steal it and immortalize him in print.  That's what writers do.

June 04, 2008

Did You Go or Stay Home?

Did You Go or Stay Home?

By Elaine Viets

You never get out of high school, but sometimes it comes back and gets you.

This year will be the fortieth reunion of my class of 1968 at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. That year graduated around 368 students. About 12 are dead and some have vanished. Most are successful business people with kids and grandkids. One became a motivational speaker and appeared on the "Gong Show."

At 58, we can’t even call ourselves middle-aged. Very few people live to be 116.

Right now, I’m probably not going to the reunion.

I have a book deadline, an excuse I never dreamed I’d be able to give 40 years ago. Our class can’t even meet at the old high school. It’s been torn down. One guy from my class told me he didn’t remember me back then, and I was relieved. It’s nice to know my nerdiness has faded.

I did nothing particularly memorable in high school, except hold the class record for the shortest broad jump – 3 feet, 5 inches. My stride is longer than that.

Mostly I spent my high school years cultivating the perfect flip, the most unnatural hair style since Marie Antoinette powdered her head. The hair on my crown was teased into a mound, and topped with a perky velvet bow. The lower half was supposed to fall into a "flip," a sort of hair gutter. Except my naturally curly hair wouldn’t cooperate.

I can’t describe the pain my best friend Sue Brandt and I endured for the perfect flip. We slept on pink sponge rollers. For important events such as school pictures, we slept with our heads off the edge of the bed to preserve that flip.

No matter how hard I tried, at least one curler would come lose during the night and the flip would flop. Frantic remedial work with hairspray and hairpins could not fix a busted flip. Sue’s flip was always perfect. At least that’s how I remember it.

There was no end to my nerdom during high school: I was also in the A track. (The other tracks were B and C.) The tracking system has since been abandoned as damaging to young psyches. It did me a lot of damage. I lived with the delusion that I was smarter than two-thirds of the class.

A-track students didn’t have to take home economics, because we were "too smart." What did that say about our mothers, who were homemakers, and stayed home to care for us kids? As for smart, I never mastered how to fix a pot roast.

I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was, but the nuns had me figured out. They knew I was not suburban mom material and sensibly steered me into college, years before most women had careers.

Realizing I had no useful skills, they also decided I should be a writer.

I’d like to go back and thank those prescient women, but most are no longer with us. This year, I did see one terror of my high school life, my gym teacher, Miss Kaiser. She is now married and spends the winters in Florida. Miss Kaiser was fun to talk to, now that I am grown up and she can no longer make me play field hockey.

I have stayed in touch with some students from my high school years, including my friend Sue, who no longer wears the perfect flip. She’s also forgiven me for making her wear orange chiffon harem pants when she was my bridesmaid in 1971. (No, I’m posting a photo. She’s suffered enough.)

I’m sorry to say my memory of most of the students has faded. There were some jerks, including those girls who smoked in the john, but I’ve forgotten their names.

Do I want to see how much my classmates have aged? Do they want to see the much older me?

Here’s my question, dear readers: Did you go to your high school reunion? Was the experience fun, depressing, or unexpected?

Please let me know.

June 03, 2008

Need Inspiration? Meet Claire Cook

Note From The Tarts:

Mega bestselling author Claire Cook is a spunky wundergal who is proof that positive thinking and great writing Claire_2 can fulfill your dream at any age. A "late starter," Claire hit it big with MUST LOVE DOGS, a story about a woman who places a personal ad only to find the opposite of what she expected. Her books are delights, peppered with real (but funny) middle aged women, great characters and sparkling dialogue. They're the kind of books to read with friends and share at a beach house. Her newest, SUMMER BLOWOUT, follows that line and comes out...TODAY!

We are so fortunate to have her here to launch our summer. Please give a warm welcome to CLAIRE COOK!

What's YOUR Buried Dream?

By Claire Cook

A huge thanks to Sarah and the rest of the Book Tarts for letting me celebrate today's release of SUMMER BLOWOUT, my latest novel, by guest blogging here at The Lipstick Chronicles. Surely there is Summer_blow_2 no more appropriate place in all the world for me to be on publication day, since Summer Blowout is a story of a woman with a serious lipstick addiction.

Bella Shaughnessy is addicted to lipstick with names like My Chihuahua Bites and Kiss My Lips, an occupational hazard, since she's from a large faux-Italian family of Boston Irish hair salon owners. It's a close family, so close, in fact, that Bella's half sister has moved in on her husband.

The family also does hair and makeup for local television shows. When my second Mld_2novel, Must Love Dogs, was made into a movie starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, I found myself doing lots of television interviews for the first time. I made friends with some of the hair and makeup artists, because we were both traveling from show to show and I'm the kind of person who always ends up hanging out with the caterers at a party. One day I thought, What if they were a family? (The stylists, not the caterers.) A couple of books later, it just started coming together into a novel. I don't question these things - I just start writing.

Every novel gives its writer the opportunity to discover a new world, and I have to admit hair and makeup are not my things, so this one was a challenge. I spent a lot of time shadowing some very generous stylists while they were working, asking tons of questions like, If you were going to put highlights in a dog's fur, exactly how would you do it?

Anyway, I'll be hitting the road, both the paved and virtual varieties, for book tour today, and the best part for me is getting to share my own story with lots of women.Chicken

It's so great to be able to tell them, and you, that this is the career I almost didn't have. I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a little girl, but I totally chickened out. Decades passed, and one day I found myself in my forties, sitting outside my daughter's swim practice in my minivan at 5 AM. It just hit me: I might live my whole life without ever once going for it.

Steve Now, if I'd wanted to be a rock star, I probably would have been in serious trouble, especially since I can't sing, but the good news is, it's never too late to write your first book.

Long story short, I wrote my first novel in that minivan, and it was published when I was forty five. At fifty, my family and I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premier of the Must Love Dogs movie. My kids turned eighteen and twenty one that year, and for about two weeks there, I'mLifes_a_beach  pretty sure they thought I was almost cool. And now, my fifth novel, Life's a Beach, is just out in paperback, Summer Blowout is making its way into the world today, and I'm just so glad I FINALLY DID IT!

I think we all have that place where our urge to create and our ability intersect. For some, the trick is finding it. For others, like me, it's all about having the courage to live the dream.

I love the idea that someone reading this right now might take a minute to think about dusting off her own dream. Come on, if I can do it, you can do it!

To that end, More Magazine and my wonderful publisher, Voice Books, have partnered to send me on the road to teach some free workshops, part of a series called, Getting Better All the Time: Women and Writers in Conversation. If you, or anyone you know, are in Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey or Georgia, I hope you'll check out my book tour schedule at ClaireCook.com. And the rest of you can find me at voice.gather.com, where I'm teaching a free online workshop for aspiring writers - and anyone with a dream.

Thanks again, Tarts!

Claire

SleepingbeautyP.S....This is Sarah just checking in to say that THE SLEEPING BEAUTY PROPOSAL, a Romance Writers of America® (RWA) finalist for the 2008 RITA Awards® , comes out in paperback today. Please check out an excerpt here. Thanks...Uh, sorry to butt in, Claire.

June 02, 2008

Dreams of Faraway Lands

Dreams of Faraway Lands

by Michele                               

Just at the moment when air travel most sucks, the dollar isn't worth the paper it's printed on and the world is more dangerous than at any other moment in my lifetime, wouldn't you know -- I've been bitten by the travel bug again.  This is not the first time this has happened to me.  I grew up in a family that didn't have the resources to travel much.  My childhood memories of airplanes and hotels (and room service; what kid doesn't love room service?) are few and far between, and very precious for all that.  So by the time I got to college, I was ready.  I was doing that post-graduation Eurailpass backpacking adventure thing, no matter what it took to pay for it.  (It didn't end up being anything sordid, folks; just a lot of boring secretarial work.)

Is there anything like that first taste of faraway places?   Do you remember yours -- whether it was the next state over or halfway around the world?  For me, I spent a little over three months seeing the sights of Europe, and I think I did it all for under a thousand bucks including airfare. The places I stayed were -- uh, let's call them gritty, and there was no such thing as a taxi, not even once.  And yet those little pensiones and youth hostels with the people having loud sex on the other side of the wall and the stale rolls for breakfast seemed oh so romantic at the time.  I remember the smell of the orange trees in Granada, the taste of the crepes in Paris.  I visited a chapel in Portugal constructed entirely of human bones.  I saw England, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, and then the money ran out and it was time to go home.

I understand that some people don't see the appeal of this at all.  The hassle of finding your way around, the stress of not speaking the language, the bother of the crowds at the tourist sights -- it's too much.  And they'll tell you meaningful interaction isn't possible anyway when you're a tourist.  Who knows, maybe they're right, although I certainly didn't believe that at 21.  My Spanish was never better than during political discussions at midnight with friends of friends who put me up in Madrid.  I learned a lot. Even back in 1985, the anti-Americanism was eye-opening, and worth hearing about close up. 

I got the bug again during law school.  This time my traveling was disguised as an externship that I actually got course credit for.  What a racket -- I lived in London, in a mansion on a student budget because the dollar was so strong.  The externship was supposedly . . . hmm, where?  Manchester, which I visited once.  I researched at the British Library during the week and spent my weekends traveling.  In the fall in Europe,  wherever I went, it rained.  But Paris in a downpour is still beautiful, as is Bruges.  And I saw Stonehenge, one of the eeriest and most magnificent places on earth, I'm certain.  I wasn't at all surprised by reports last week saying they've figured out it was an ancient burial ground. Anybody who's been there has already felt those spirits.

Other amazing places I visited during that time of my life?  Egypt ranks pretty high.  Again, eye-opening in many ways.  As a woman two decades ago I was not comfortable eating in a local restaurant in Cairo, even accompanied by my boyfriend, because there were simply no women on the streets. People shouted "Jew" at my boyfriend because, hey, he was American and looked Jewish.  And yet, we would routinely get surrounded by people saying, "American?  I love America.  Welcome to Egypt," and I met some of the kindest people I've ever met anywhere.  Not to mention that the 5000 year-old temples constructed before the wheel and mortar are more beautiful and sophisticated than any building in New York.  Morocco was similarly amazing.  Oh, and Thailand of course, which has the best food and the nicest people on the planet, not to mention the most serene religious places.

Then my kids came along and I didn't go anywhere exotic for over a decade.  They're old enough, finally, to travel now.  They can handle long plane flights and walking for a couple of hours on a hot afternoon if that's the best way to see the sights.  And not a moment too soon, because there are so many places to see and only -- hopefully! -- another 50 years or so to see them in. 

So here's what's on my list (a partial list) of places to see before I die -- Angkor Wat, the Parthenon, Machu Picchu, the Serengeti, Victoria Falls, Easter Island, Patagonia, Antarctica, Pompeii, Ephesus, Petra, Fiji, the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall, India (if only for the food!), Vietnam (same reason!), the towers of Hong Kong, Dubai, the Cote d'Azur, the fjords of Norway, St. Petersburg, Vienna, the whales calving in Baja California, and on and on.  What's on yours?

June 01, 2008

Margie's War Story

Margie's War Story

by Me, Margie

Yeah, it's Me again even though I just posted on Friday. A double-shot of Me, Margie. Why? Because I can't keep quiet any more, and since I'm posting this on a Sunday, the rest of the clan will get in less trouble, because most people don't check the blog on Sunday. I never stop thinking, and don't you forget it.

Sometimes, you have tell it like it is. Yeah, I know that nobody wants to talk about it. But that is precisely the time for storytellers and tellers of truth, like Me, Margie, to step up. Oh - and I speak only for myself here - not the rest of the Book Tarts, or the official TLC blog, or anything. So if you don't like what I have to say - you come at me, and me only. If I couldn't take it, I wouldn't have said it. Oh - and I know this is a long story. It was supposed to be a very short story. But then, shit happened. So?


Once upon a time, there was bad wizard. As any one who has ever listened to Hagrid will confirm, not all wizards are good. This wizard took on many forms over the course of the history of the world. Most recently, he took the shape of a two-headed beast we'll call Donald Dick. (Don't get excited, it's a bad kind of dick.) So clever was the wizard that most people saw him as just a small group of men.

Donald Dick loved to make wars. It was his favorite. He always started the same way. In his many faces, he started telling people that the war was necessary. Some people, for whatever reason, jumped in right away. "Yes! A War! Great idea!" They said. I think those people had to pay for sex and had major over-compensation issues, but that's just my theory.

But some people were appalled. They said things like: "Hey - you can't just make that decision! You need facts. You need Intelligence." (As for Me, Margie, I think you could capitalize that word or leave it lower case - because these whacks had neither.) Some people even said: "War is not the first choice - it's the last choice. Got get a sports car or something, for god's sake." Those people were fired or just told to shut up.

Some people simply ignored Donald Dick and his war men, thinking - there is no way in hell these liars and dumbasses are going to get anyone to believe this shit. Let them get together and circle up and play spin the jagoff or whatever they do to get off when they don't have hookers or pages around, and eventually they'll move on to some other lame brain idea. Which might have worked, but Donald Dick was a very determined and evil wizard who didn't even care about hookers or cars.

Donald Dick and his war men got pissed off because they realized The People (we all remember 'We the People', right? Anyone? Bueller?) expected facts. "Facts?!" the war men said to each other. "We don't need no stinking facts! We are the MEN IN CHARGE". But Donald Dick used one of his voices and said - "No big. They want facts? We'll give them facts." So they made them up. That's right. They just fucking made them up, and then they had one of their little hamster-like pals call the newspaper and say: "Guess what I heard? The people we want to war with have really bad stuff." Then the paper put it on the front page, and then the war men - and one woman, I am very sorry to say - would cite the news story as if it were something, you know, like real news. And so on and so on. It's like an echo, but it gets louder instead of softer.

And then they got other spineless stooges to put this crap on official war men government agency letterhead, as if that made it the truth. But it didn't really matter, because no one in the legislature really read the stuff anyway. Because reading, if you are in the government, is just too hard, especially the footnotes. I mean, who has time, what with all the fundraising and trysts and bathroom shenanigans and other critical scheduling conflicts, right?

By the time they were done, Donald Dick and the war men even convinced some good people to go along with them. We don't know why, but they did. This is how powerful lies can be. Good people can believe them, and stake their entire careers and credibility on them. Which is how good people come to spend the rest of their lives filled with regret. Which is very sad.

And so it came to pass that the whole country went to war, even though there never really was a good reason. To make matters even worse, there wasn't even any cake. Of all the dirty tricks, that one was the dirtiest. You don't promise people like Me, Margie, cake, and then bail on the delivery. Seriously. Not even a wizard can pull that and get away with it. And hence the people started to get angry.

Because if you are going to lie about cake, you will lie about anything, and everyone with half an ounce of sense, or vanilla extract, knows that. Donald Dick couldn't have cared less. He and the war men just kept doing whatever they wanted - and some of it was really, really bad. Like torture.

So the people rose up and said -- "Hey! We have elections coming up! We want out of this war!" Then far and wide, candidates promised "Vote for us! We will stop the evil war!" Do you think Donald Dick was nervous? Hell no. Because that wizard knows that most people, especially elected ones, have no balls. And he was right.

The new Anti-War Men and Women did nothing. In fact, they sent more young men and women to die, and otherwise just stood there with their thumbs up their asses while the war men and women started shredding the Constitution, which is an extraordinarily wicked thing, not that anyone seemed to notice.

And even the news people stopped talking about the war, because it was too much of a downer, bad for ratings, and besides, both J. Lo and Brangelina were having twins!

So the war went on and on. And soon the Donald Dick and the war men realized they needed more people to go fight and die, because the ones they started with were getting hurt or coming home in coffins, which they wouldn't let anyone see. Know why? Because there is no way to bullshit your way out of a planeload of coffins. You can spin your way to professional dervish, and you've still got to account to the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives and CHILDREN of the dead heroes in those boxes. So they don't let anyone see.

How do you get more people to fight in a war? Easy, said the war men, as Donald Dick whispered in their ears. Institute a Draft. A Draft is where you have to go kill people in someone else's war even if you don't want to. And if you are too old to go, then they will take your sons and daughters. And the war men don't give a damn because they didn't care about the first death, or the 4,000th or the 10,000th. They only care about their war, which justifies it all. Because it's pretty easy to say it's all worth it when none of your kids are being shot at or blown up.

And suddenly, the regular people were furious! "How dare someone come for MY family?!" The people cried. In the streets, and in the grocery store, they ranted and raved, and when one of their neighbors said: "But my daughter died in that war years ago, and you didn't seem upset at that point, did you?" the people ignored their neighbors. Because that is what people do. They don't give a shit until it's visited upon their house.

And then the peace demonstrations, which had dwindled down to about twenty people on the street corner once every six months, became huge and powerful, so Donald Dick and the war men called them "treasonous riots". Someone overheard Donald Dick call out for his four horses and his hired guns, and the people were silenced by whatever means necessary.

Which is how the real enemy showed itself to the people. They finally realized that neither Donald Dick nor the war men were just interested in war. They were interested in absolute power.

This was what Donald Dick had been waiting for. So he and his war men didn't stop at one war. They instituted curfews and martial law. And they called the Bill of Rights "Quaint" - just like the Geneva Conventions. And they killed or locked up everyone who dared disagree with them. And when the people came after Donald Dick with torches and pitchforks and uzis and rocks, he threw his multiple heads back and laughed, and then he disappeared, because his work was done.

Then, as always happened when Donald Dick spread ruin and misery and death and destruction, the people who just wanted freedom and peace looked for a new place to live so they could declare their independence. But you know what? They had no where to go, because that space had already been taken.

And no one lived happily ever after.

***

You know what you always put at the end of a story, right? "The end." Well, I am not putting that. Because we can change our story. Damn straight we can. But we have to stand up. We have to talk. Even when we don't want to. Hell, most of us talk all the time anyway. So throw in some words about the war. Get someone else talking. Please? Wait a minute - screw PLEASE - this is Me, Margie talking to you damnit- just DO IT.