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23 posts from January 2006

January 17, 2006

Thinking of Getting Married? Take Our Quiz

By Sarah

I used to have an editor who wore a T-shirt that said something like "There Is No Greater Urge Than the Urge to Edit Someone Else's Copy." I know I totally screwed up that quote, which is supposed to be from Poe or Wordsworth or some other dead male writer. But it doesn't matter because he was wrong.

There is no greater urge than the urge to give your two cents to a young couple about to enter in the bonds of holy matrimony. Or even an old couple for that matter. The thing is, if you've been married more than five minutes already you are convinced that you have something vitally important to tell two idiots who decide to buck the 50 percent divorce rate and follow suit. Often this advice comes in the form of a question - the most devious form of advice-giving, ever.

Recently it came to my attention that a woman for whom I have the highest respect, in part because of her choice to remain blissfully single, is walking on what I perceive to be a dangerous path to wifehood. Had she known, as I do, the history of the wife she might tread more cautiously. We'll go into my vast knowledge about the history of marriage some other time. For now let me just leave you with two thoughts: cattle branding and public peep show.

But I digress.

Sensing the ominous signs - the stars in her eyes, the he's-so-perfect, we're just made for each other, it's freaky how well we get along comments - I dug out a modified version of a handy questionnaire an old friend had put together when I came to work one day suffering from the same illness 17 years ago. Not that her grilling did me any good. I was engaged after one month of dating - a full lunar cycle - and married six months later. Nine months to the day after our first anniversary I became a mother. From kisses in the snow to 3 a.m. diapers in a flash. Scary.

I remember the initial questions as being stupid. What was his name? What did he do for a living? How many siblings does he have? Those were the easy - but important - ones. Harder, though confusing, were the following:

Length of last relationship. How long ago? Girlfriend psycho? Or does he refer to her whimsically? Does he have pictures of her around his bedroom? Or does he politely pass her off as a "great kid, it just didn't work out"?
Intentions? (Your best guess.)
Criminal background? (You never know.)
Average age males live to be in his family:
Massive potential inheritance (10 points for this)
 
Holds the door open for you? Yes/No.
Fights fair?
Ability to take driving directions and acknowledge his weakness as a male in this area:
By the way, what kind of car does he drive? Does he care what kind of car he drives?
Since that questionnaire other issues have come to mind. Here's what I would add now, in hindsight.

How does he get along with his mother?

Does he truly enjoy his work or does he view work as nothing more than the stuff you do to pay the bills?

Does he dance?

Republican or Democrat? Or maybe apolitical?

How would he spend a free Sunday afternoon? On the links? Watching football? Weeding the garden with you? Insisting you go on a 30-mile bike ride? Getting wasted with his buddies?

How is his humor on a scale of 1-to-10. 1 being Dick Cheney, 10 being Jon Stewart .

Finally, will he watch Love, Actually (fill favorite chick flick in here) laughing and crying at the appropriate parts? Laughing at the crying parts = points off.

These are the kinds of questions that pop up long after the token piece of wedding cake has been accidentally tossed along with the old Breyer's in the back of the freezer. They're the kind of questions future brides find annoying and that old matrons like me find absurd delight in asking. We'd be interested to hear your questions,too. Hey, maybe we'll put together the ultimate premarital quiz. The Lipstick Chronicles So You Wanna Get Hitched Quiz.

Of course, in the best of circumstances we'll be fighting the most undefeatable of powers - love, or lust, if you prefer. Biology. The urge to buy appliances together and procreate, an urge that doesn't care if in five years he'll be spending every Saturday in the office or on the links. And that, I think now, is an even greater urge than the urge to change another's copy or dispense with marital advice.

As though that ever stopped me from shooting off my big mouth.

Stay warm, write well,

Sarah

January 16, 2006

Judicial Superbowl

JUDICIAL SUPERBOWL

By Harley

A few years back, I called my husband from the Burbank courthouse, where I’d been called for jury duty.

“So, did they ding you?” he asked.

(Ding: technical term, meaning reject prospective juror.)

“Yes,” I said. “The defense asked if I personally knew any lawyers and I said my husband’s a lawyer, my sister’s a lawyer, my father was a lawyer, my brother-in-law’s a lawyer, I have a bunch of lawyer friends and my father-in-law’s a federal judge. They thanked me and told me I could go.”

I never found out what made me so rejectable—had the ratty, yet happy-looking defendant burned down a law firm?—but I mention this to explain why I was glued to C-Span this week, the way Payton Manning’s family probably followed the NFL play-offs.

For those of you who don’t watch TV, read papers, or listen to radio, those who in fact depend upon The Lipstick Chronicles for hard news, this week we had the judicial confirmation hearings that will determine whether Samuel “Sam” Alito Jr. will or won’t make it onto the Supreme Court.

I’ll keep my vote (not that I have one) to myself, although the discerning among you will guess where I stand, especially if you’ve known me for longer than five minutes. God knows, if I can zip my political lip on major holidays and my mother-in-law’s birthday, I can do it on the blog.

So here are Harley’s non-partisan notes from C-Span:

1. A lot of senators are as crabby as . . . well, me, when I’m feeling fat, or on the phone to a telemarketer.
2. Some senators must’ve run in uncontested races, or against dead opponents, because they wouldn’t have been elected class treasurer in my high school. Even assuming they had better hair in the 70’s.
3. Some senators ask interesting questions.
4. Some of those questions, and the subsequent answers, required translation by pundits, because even for a viewer raised on Perry Mason, incomprehensibility abounds.
5. Some people have nothing to say, and will happily take a really long time to say it.
6. Think twice about playing poker with Sam Alito, a guy who’s not likely to start break-dancing when he’s holding an ace-high straight.

But my jaundiced attitude fell away on Thursday afternoon. That’s when my father-in-law testified. Even though I was expecting this, had heard several drafts of Pop’s 5-minute speech over Christmas week, I was excited beyond reason, causing the dogs to bark, thinking we were under attack. “Look!” I yelled to my 3-year old, home from preschool with a cold. “Look who it is!”

“Grandpop,” she croaked.

Was he fabulous? He was. Nervous? Nope. He was articulate, dramatic, and funny. Plus, he looked great.  So did my lovely Ma-in-law, in the background, a Capitol Hill natural. Was I proud? I was bustin’ buttons.

On the other hand . . .

I think of my children, and the way the political landscape will have changed by the time they’re grown.  And I worry. I worry like the other side worries about their children, only our worst-case scenarios are different.

Back to the first hand. I think of my children, and how they’re descended from this guy, who not only dotes on them, but who was part of something historic this week, and at no small cost to himself, personally or politically. This guy, who at 86, got to play in the judicial Superbowl. And I think, that is pretty great. That, for the moment, trumps my existential anxiety.

In fact, for a family of transplanted Pennsylvanians, there’s only one thing better . . .

The Steelers won.

Happy Monday!
Harley

January 12, 2006

Dick Clark

by Nancy       Go to fullsize image

The Book Tarts have been told The Lipstick Chronicles is one of the most popular writer blogs around .  We get lots of hits every day and we each receive plenty of traffic that clicks from the blog to our websites, which are apparently two measures of internet popularity. We get a zillion hits if we include key words that get Googled a lot such as “porn goddess,” “Kelly Ripa + anorexia,” "how can I get my manuscript published,” anything “Evanovich” and “does Stephen King ever write about sex?”  (Okay, I made up the Stephen King thing, but I thought I’d see how many people are curious about Steve today.)

The Tarts are grateful to find ourselves so well-read, and we recognize that we’re a favorite among lots of people because for a foursome of white chicks, we’re very diverse. We don’t plug our books all the time. (Occasionally it's good, though, to remind you why we’ve lured you here.) We vary our material and our style nearly every day, and by now everybody knows that content rules the internet.  We generate a lot of content here at TLC.

But now we’re all writing like mad. Our books, that is. Well, except for Sarah who finished her revisions and is now presumably doing the things all writers do once the manuscript is in the mail:  Taking her first shower in a week, paying the bills so the power company doesn’t turn off her heat, throwing away all those pizza boxes Go to fullsize image  that have stacked up so her family didn’t starve, maybe even flossing---the usual.  Anyway, we’re all pretty busy and it’s hard to make time for blogging.

We were lucky that the Frey scandal hit the fan this week. It provided good fodder. But now it feels sorta over (the speed of the internet doesn’t let us fume for long, does it?) so today I’m finding it especially challenging to write something meaningful or hilarious or with a meaty, thought-provoking metaphor that will make people mull over the state of their lives or their own writing or at the very least goose you into rushing out to buy one of my books.

Metaphor, of course, is perhaps the element that separates good writing from bad. (For those of you tip-toeing into Writing 101 for the first time, I’m not talking about a metaphor of language—He was an oak tree—but the artful and intentional confluence of character, story and theme created by the writer. A reader who can’t see past your surface story to the metaphor is like one of those nuts who moves his family of 9 children into an abandoned bus and forces his wife to home school, can all their food and push out a new baby every year—the guy who takes every word of the Bible literally instead of reading the metaphors to gain insight into the nature of Higher Power. Maybe we should all strive to write for his wife in the hope that she’ll pull herself together and get the kids to a safe place.) I'm getting better at it.  I'm still learning.

The quote that most chilled me this week:  The Afghan tribal leader who said, “Killing one educated person is as effective as killing dozens of ordinary people.”

Anyway, post-Frey, I cast around for a metaphor.

In the end, I decided to blog about my mother being offered a job this week.

Mother is 78 years old, 5’2” on a good day, weighing in at 120 pounds, tops.  She’s been active all her life—golf, tennis, swimming--but this summer had a hip replacement that didn’t go very well, so she’s been forced to give up walking (even with a bad hip, a year ago she was walking briskly a couple of hours every day) and must cut her usual hour of morning yoga by half.  She uses a cane right now, which—okay, I’d never use this word in her presences, but it pisses her off.

So imagine her surprise yesterday when she hobbled into her local YMCA—one of her regular haunts, of course---and the Y director rushed up and begged her to go on the payroll. 

As a lifeguard.  Go to fullsize image

“Are you blind?” my mother asked, laughing as she waved her cane in his face. What qualities did he see that made him think her capable of rescuing someone from the bottom of the swimming pool?

She was secretly pleased, of course.  It’s a nice party to be invited to at the age of 78.  Clearly, somebody thinks the old girl still has a lot of kick left.  It was a great affirmation.

Did you watch television on New Year’s Eve?  Specifically Dick Clark?

Of course you did.  The network set up the story, built the suspense, all but asked the blunt question out loud:  How bad was Dick going to look when they finally parked him in front of the camera and turned on the lights? 

Did

America

gasp in horror at his appearance?  Were we all shocked by his halting speech?  Did his motionless hand give us all the right shiver of pity?  Just in case we missed it the first time, all the morning “news” shows re-ran the tape so everybody could comment on poor Dick’s sorry appearance.

Which really ticked me off.  I guess you need to have a family member who’s had a stroke to realize that Dick Clark looked FABULOUS.  I know how hard he worked this year.  I can imagine the long hours of rehab, the channeling of extreme frustration into the determination to get those motor skills back.  He spent tedious hours every day working on his speech.  If your dad has had a stroke like Dick’s, wouldn’t you be overjoyed to see him looking so alert? So mentally with it? So unbelievably cheerful despite all that relentless hard work?   

I think we were all supposed to be shocked by his appearance because…well, Dick hadn’t changed at all since those American Bandstand days.  Maybe it was natural, but I have to assume nature didn’t entirely stop those hands of time, but that Dick installed a few software updates along the way.  He didn’t allow the natural changes to show.

Which, I’m thinking, is probably a mistake. Nothing good stays the same. We have to let change occur.  Or we must initiate the changes. Do you think General Motors could stay alive if they didn’t create new designs every . . . okay, bad example. I think it might have been more compelling (and humane) to see Dick fight his long battle for success than allow the media to slap us in the face with his altered appearance. 

Today I found myself thinking that to enjoy any success—in publishing, in blogging, in democracy, in life---I need to embrace change.

Last week we were talking New Year’s resolutions.  Mostly, we were joking around. This week I took another look and decided I needed to make some real revisions in my life.  In the shallow end of my personal pool: One resolution is to waste less time clicking around the internet. (It’s called screen sucking, did you know?  If I encouraged everyone to stop screen sucking, I suppose we’d get fewer hits here at TLC, but maybe it’s better for all of us to stop gulping down useless information like whether or not Angelina Jolie is pregnant.) Another is to spend more time heightening my creativity. (It’s a skill after all, not a bolt of serendipitous lightning. It requires nurturing and hard work every day.  If you’re still into screen sucking, check out Time magazine’s special report.)  Mainly, I want somebody to look at me when I'm 78 and think, "Hey, that's a lady I need on my payroll!"  Which means I must keep changing, growing, evolving, learning.

Meanwhile, I think we’ve resolved to keep things popping here at TLC.  As we've seen this week, blogs can be instruments of change. Thanks for your input.  Our greatest pleasure is getting to know everybody who stops by. It’s you who kick starts the content and takes it somewhere else.

January 11, 2006

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Everything But the Truth

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Everything But the Truth

A Fictional Interview with a 100-Proof Poser by Susan

In light of Harley's blog on Monday about government conspiracies and Sarah’s column yesterday on a bestselling nonfiction writer making-up or exaggerating a hunka-hunka stories in his book, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to chat with an acquaintance of mine, a figment of my fertile imagination, Ms. Lya-Lya Pansonfiah.  Lya is a familiar face on the publishing scene, doing panels, giving workshops, and gabbing with Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer regarding her expertise in the areas of writing and mental health.  Lya has yet to pen a book and has no degree in psychology, but poking fun at her not-quite-real life makes for a fascinating discussion. I considered having Hazel or Margie conduct the Q&A, but I thought that would feel so--I don't know--fake?

Susan:  Welcome to TLC, Lya.  It’s a pleasure to have someone of your caliber here, whatever that is. 

Lya:  Thanks, SuSu.  It’s a .38 Special, if you must know.  I keep it in the pocket of my velvet Vera Wang blazer at all times, considering Pat Robertson called for my assassination while lunching with his bosom-buddy, the president of Venezula.  That 700-Club is really a covert branch of the CIA, did you know?  And don’t get me started on the Promise Keepers.

Susan:  Hmm, no, I wasn’t aware of that, but thanks for the info.  As a writer, I’m used to making up stories, which end up in things I call “novels.”  But I’m not sure what to call what you do.  Are you a nonfiction storyteller?  A pseudo-expert on psychology?  A wannabe-writer who masquerades as an author? 

Lya:  Just call me a Renaissance Woman, because that’s what I am.  Nothing is beyond my reach, and, if it is, I’ll just make myself a stepladder out of milk crates and climb on up.  That’s how I am.  Unfazed by obstacles.

Susan:  That would include truth, I’d wager.

Lya:  Truth schmooth.  What is it anyway but a person’s perception of reality?

Susan:  Wow, intriguing take on the subject.  Might I ask about your education?  On the CV you faxed, I can’t quite make out the name of your college.  It looks like, “Skank University”?

Lya:  My God, girl, you need glasses.  I earned my credentials at the most difficult institution on the planet, even tougher than Harvard and Yale combined.  It’s called the School of Hard Knocks, which is a highly accredited online university offering reality-based classes for adults who have no time for classroom study.  They recently bestowed an honorary doctorate upon me, did you know that?  So now I’m officially “Dr. Lya-Lya Pansonfiah.” 

Susan:  Well, congratulations.  I’m sure you’re worthy of that title and more.

Lya:  Speaking of titles, you do realize I was crowned Miss America , Miss Universe, and Miss Galaxy all in one fell swoop?  It was the largest pageant ever, held at Trump’s casino in Vegas, and Oprah sang the National Anthem.  I’ve never heard such a beautiful voice. She could easily do Verdi at the Met. I did that once, of course, and got a standing O, which makes Ms. O very jealous.

Susan:  I'll bet it does. How about some insight into your prison stint, as you claim to have served time at Folsom with Johnny Cash.  I didn't realize they put women in cells with dudes. What happened?

Lya:  Honey, didn't you see "Boys Don't Cry"? Based on my life, I tell you. As for my crime, hell, I shot a man, just to watch him die.  Everyone knows that!  I also shot the sheriff, and narrowly escaped prosecution in Georgia when the lights went out and they hung an innocent man.

Susan:  I can name those tunes in five notes.

Lya:  Are you questioning my veracity, Suzie-Q?  Are you calling me a poser?

Susan:  Um, yeah.  Didn’t you see the title of this interview?

Lya:  You wouldn’t believe how many people believe every word I say.

Susan:  Sadly, I would.

Lya:  And those who know better, I call “liars,” because it’s better to strike first, you know, then risk them spilling the truth about me and even one person buying that I’m full of hot air.

Susan:  Good plan.

Lya:  It’s something I developed while heading the Global War Tribunal at the Pentagon, working side by side with Rummy.  It’s called “Don’t Ask, Don't Ever Frigging Tell the Truth.” 

Susan:  Nice policy.

Lya:  It trumps that 12-Step stuff every time.  Which reminds me, did I tell you about my recovery from mainlining Hostess Cupcakes?  Spent the better part of junior high drying out with some of Hollywood ’s most notable bulimics.

Susan:  We’ll save that for next-time.

Lya:  Just be sure I'm out of court, okay? I'm suing Hilary Clinton.

Susan:  Isn't everyone?

(In the interest of journalistic integrity, it should be noted that Dr. Lya-Lya Pansonfiah is not a real person, but an amalgam of actual and artificial sociopaths descended from a long lost nondenominational tribe once ruled by Chief Sitting Bullshit.  Seriously.  Would I make something like that up?)

January 10, 2006

A Million Little Pieces of ... Advice

UPDATE: Okay, I totally take it back. After doing some more research, between bleary-eyed editings, my impression of what Jim Frey did was more than blur the edges of reality for dramatic effect. I see now that he wholly invented a very dramatic story and tried to pass it off as truth. You can read it all at http://www.thesmokinggun.com., as our respondents have noted. I think the clincher for me was getting the manuscript rejected 17 times as fiction. He could only sell it as nonfiction. Hmmm.

By the way - thanks for everyone's honest and passionate response about the need for truth. You've restored my faith!

Sarah

By Sarah

Bear with me, please. The revisions on The Cinderella Pact were due yesterday which means that I have stayed up all night trying to read the print out of what I've written while trying to keep in mind necessary details such as my name, how many children I have and whether or not I've showered in the past 24 hours. I know you understand.

When I haven't been thinking about revisions or the sorry state of my post-holiday refrigerator, I've been mulling over Jim Frey whose book, A Million Little Pieces, is being hacked into, well, a million little pieces. A Million Little Pieces - which I've skimmed but haven't read, admittedly - is about Frey's struggle with addiction and troubles with the law and ultimately sobriety.

It is also an Oprah book, a big time Oprah book. Oprah couldn't say enough about it, how "raw" and "real" it was, right down to Frey's description of a root canal without anesthesia. As we all know from the Marathon Man and Compromising Positions, dental work can be scary.

Aside from dubious dental details there a few other problems, such as whether Frey spent three months in jail or a night. I call this the Johnny Cash syndrome. Johnny Cash made a career out of turning a night in the tank into a stint at Folsom Prison, including a concert. I forgive him just like I forgive Jim Frey. In my opinion, truth is highly overrated.

This is my conclusion after more than 20 years in journalism and after growing up in a family of journalists who were congenitally the most inveterate liars on the planet. It is almost impossible to get at the real truth, especially when you're writing about your own experiences. Psychologists know this. So do trial lawyers who make their money and reputations on playing with our human truth frailty. Consider a cross examination of a witness: Did you see the man take the woman's purse? Yessir. What color coat was he wearing? Yellow. Are you certain it was yellow? I know it was yellow as well as I know my own mother. I present Exhibit A - the coat that is, actually, orange.

That Stephen Colbert's brilliant invented word "truthiness" was the word of 2005 is not surprising. WIthout stepping too much into politics, let me just say that we as citizens are becomming accustomed to measuring the "truthiness" of what our government tells us, instead of accepting as gospel what comes out of Washington. This is dangerous, I suppose, but so are fake journalists and, worse, real journalists who continue to labor under the protection of the First Amendment while undermining its core structure. I'm talking, of course, about the New York Times.

Okay. Done. Off my soapbox.

So is it really so awful that Jim Frey took his own experiences and with the grace of talented writing dramatized them? Sure, it's nonfiction. But it's nonfiction about himself. That's kind of mini nonfiction. It doesn't really count, does it? After all he's not claming Lincoln had a homosexual affair (which, according to one nonfiction account released a few years ago, he did.) He's just telling a tall tale. A fish story. And isn't that what entertaining writers do?

Or is it that Frey is suffering the blessing of being picked by Oprah. Considering the level of jealousy out there among frustrated writers who can't even imagine Frey's royalty statements, Frey's lucky to get off with just a bunch of bad publicity. Anyway, my bet is that this week's brouhaha will only spike his book sales. Either that, or Oprah will announce she's going back to dead guys.

To the revisions!...Stay warm!

Sarah

January 09, 2006

Just Another Government Conspiracy

JUST ANOTHER GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY
By Harley

When my mother died, she left behind several million slides and photos, most of them in boxes, a large number featuring parades, marching bands, and canoe trips. My sister Ann periodically tried to organize them, but ended up on medication, because when it comes to bodies of water and drum majorettes, you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen ‘em all.

Which is why, for the last two years, my own photos have awakened me in the night, whispering, "Put us into albums. Now. Before you die.”

In the olden days, my snapshots lived in chronological order, in a series of matching leather books, embossed with the year. Then, two events occurred, producing a Perfect Storm of procrastination: my first book came out. And I went digital.

I did not immediately see what a Faustian bargain those tiny cameras are. It was all so seductive: click, delete, click, click, click, plug camera into computer, hit “print.” No more trips to Rite-Aid, no envelopes to fill out, no negatives to squint at. And then the worm turned. I woke up one morning with two thousand photos, and a printer so slow it’s like watching snow melt in Minneapolis. So the photos stayed in my computer, awaiting that magical day—well, month—when I’d have no deadlines to meet or dinner to cook.  You know, like in a parallel universe.

But two weeks, ago, A Miracle occurred: the photos disappeared.

One minute i-photo was bulging with pictures, and the next it was nearly cleaned out. Yup. From over two thousand photos, to . . . sixty-three. And those 63 are from early 2004. The twins are still bald, the cat has not yet been eaten by coyotes, and I’m still writing DATING IS MURDER. That’s where our photo collection stops.

My first reaction was disbelief. My second was relief. A clear conscience and I didn’t even have to live through tsunami, brush fire, or hurricane to acquire it. I can’t be held responsible for photos that got eaten by my computer. Plus, I have a few favorites backed up on my laptop, a manageable number that I can someday organize without requiring an extended period of bed rest.

Which leaves only one question – where did the missing photos go?

The only other person to use my computer is Jenni, our au pair. Compared to me, Jenni’s a rocket scientist. (I’m still using dial-up. There. I said it.) If Jenni says she didn’t delete them, she didn’t delete them. And I know I didn’t, because deleting takes forever. This leaves three other possibilities:

#1: it’s the work of the Computer Fairies, who work through the night.
#2: one of my preschoolers is a technological savant, systematically freeing up RAM while I’m folding laundry and thinking he/she is playing with Lincoln Logs.
#3: Espionage. This is the right answer. I know it. I feel it. Remember Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION? Or Antonioni’s BLOW UP? At one of the Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties we always seem to find ourselves at, I must’ve taken a photo, and in the background was a U.S. spy making contact with a Soviet agent providing information to Mossad, and in the interest of national security, our government entered my house, fed the dogs raw meat laced with Rohypnol, and wiped out my i-photo, all the way back to March of 2004.

If you have an alternative theory, weigh in. But you know what? If I’m right, if this is how Uncle Sam is using my tax dollars, I say it’s money well-spent.

Happy Monday!

Harley

January 08, 2006

Blatant PW Review Plug...and Happy Birthday, Elvis!

Blatant PW Review Plug...and Happy Birthday, Elvis!

by Susan, Who Was In the Building With Elvis Last Night

One of the fun things about waking up on a Sunday morning after seeing Elvis in concert  (more on that in a minute) and tooling around the Web is stumbling upon a good review of your forthcoming book.  Which is what happened to me, when I ambled over to Amazon.  I found this wonderful review of THE LONE STAR LONELY HEARTS CLUB:

From Publishers Weekly
In the delightful third installment in McBride's Debutante Dropout mystery series (Blue Blood, etc.), Andrea Kendricks, the self-deprecating Texas trust-fund baby whose amateur sleuthing usually takes center stage, turns the spotlight on her classy, lovable 60-something mother, Cissy. When two of Cissy's friends drop dead, she refuses to believe it was natural causes; both were residents at Belle Meade, the swankiest retirement community in Texas, and Cissy suspects "something funny's afoot." Against Andrea's wishes, Cissy goes undercover at Belle Meade, determined to prove that a killer exterminated her friends "before their expiration date." Disguised in rhinestones and animal prints, Cissy uncovers pending lawsuits, missing medication and the discreet services of an exclusive matchmaking club for "discerning women over sixty." Soon, nearly everyone at Belle Meade is a suspect, and Andrea must overcome her skepticism before her mom finds out too much for her own good. Chatty, colorful and très Texas, McBride's latest cozy is a pleasure. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Might I say, "Yippee skippy"?  Now if I could just get NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEB turned in before January 31 when LONELY HEARTS comes out.  Must write faster.  (Mark, where's that bribe you promised me?)

As for Elvis...well, yes.  I did see him last night.  He performed with his band and backup singers at The Pageant here in St. Louis.  My sister, in fact, is one of the Elvisettes, and, man, can she move!  Okay, so it wasn't the real Elvis (I know that'll surprise you), but Steve "Elvis" Davis, probably the most renowned impersonator of The King in all the metro area.  Pretty impressive, yes, indeedy.  They put on quite a show to a packed house of 4,000...dispersed numerous sweaty scarves to swooning women with teased hair a la Priscilla in her glory days...endured the tossing of panties onto the stage (some tiny thongs and others large enough for King Kong to wear comfortably).  Since today is Elvis's birthday, I think we should all honor him by repeating several times throughout the afternoon:  "Thank you.  Thank you very much."  Hey, it can't hurt.

Enjoy your Sunday,

Susan

January 06, 2006

Your Resolutions?

Margie here!  Let the good times roll!  Go to fullsize image

If you're a regular reader of The Lipstick Chronicles, you know that Fridays are sacred. 

It's the day I do my nails and maybe run the Swiffer around the bookshelves if I need to look busy.  I check out my stash in the mini fridge and I pretty much ignore the phone except if Randy calls to finalize our plans for tonight. (The man looks better in jeans than anybody on the planet except maybe Jon Bon Jovi, you know what I mean? I'm looking forward to his Tim McGraw imitation this evening---it's Karaoke Night!) We're thinking of hitting happy hour this afternoon over at the Dew Drop Inn to get a head start on the weekend.

Friday is also the day when the Tarts lock their office doors and bang out pages of their books because they've been hanging around the water cooler all week instead of getting their quotas done.  Today they're all working like there's no tomorrow except one--ahem!--who hasn't come in yet.  (Wonder why she's sleeping late today??)

Anyway, if you've stopped by on a Friday looking for entertainment, I'm guessing you, dear reader, are a coinnoisseur of good procrastination techniques. Go to fullsize image

For your convenience, today I'm supplying you with an entirely worthless link that should fit your procrastination needs for a few more minutes.  Report back, will you?

If you're too lazy to come up with your own New Year's Resolution like me, go here:

http://resolution.geek-foo.net/

Oops, phone's ringing----and I think it's Randy!

January 05, 2006

Why Writers Love Mickey Mouse (Or Not)

by Nancy

Over Christmas, I went to Go to fullsize image

Florida, the amusement park capital of the world,

with my husband and my daughter Sarah. We've been there before, of course.  We took our kids when they were little.  Several times.  Between Sarah and me, the plan this time was to see if we could stamp out my husband’s love of Disney World once and for all.

It’s my observation that the only person really having fun in the

Magic

 

Kingdom

is Dad, so maybe our mission was wrong-minded from the get-go.  The men are having a wonderful time, and why spoil that?

The teenagers, on the other hand, are mortified at being seen in public with their blood relatives.  Small children are either delirious happy or weeping with exhaustion. The honeymooners are busy necking in public.  (Why didn't they just get a room and stay there?) And the elderly folks are drag racing their motorized scooters to get into lines faster.  (Somebody should give speeding tickets.) And Mom?  Well, she’s too busy facilitating everyone else’s good time to enjoy much of anything except maybe going to sleep on that comfy mattress at the Marriott at the end of a long day.

But Dad—he’s in heaven.  Where else can a middle-aged man indulge in unlimited fast food and mindless entertainment all while wearing his most comfortable shorts and a t-shirt from the year he coached the kids’ Little League team, plus he can hide behind his sunglasses while looking at pretty young women in skimpy outfits, too?  Once he surrenders his credit card—and maybe that’s the extreme break with reality necessary to truly propel him into Fantasyland--he’s free to enjoy himself.  It’s actually heartening to see the American Male completely content---grabbing a hot pretzel as he bounds out of one thrill ride and heads for another roller coaster with the kids pounding on his heels like he’s truly Peter Pan.

Toward the end of our 14-hour Disney marathon (we covered 3 parks in one day, and I have blisters to prove it) I sent Jeff and Sarah off by themselves to enjoy the NASCAR speedway while I sat down at a table with a bowl—I kid you not—of chicken noodle soup. (I was desperately in need of some comfort food.)  After slurping my soup, I sat back to observe the noise, the smells, the kaleidoscopic world around me.  I had nabbed one of 6 small tables located in a kind of amusement park vortex between the Mad Hatter teacup ride full of shrieking toddlers and the eardrum-endangering roar of the NASCAR Experience.  Around me at the other tables sat various middle-aged dads—sans family who were probably all standing in the line for the bathroom under Mom’s care or maybe upchucking on Mickey’s shoes in whatever that neon hellhole across the sidewalk was.  To a man, the guys around me were talking on their cell phones.  Maybe making last minute stock purchases, you ask?  Nope.  The man next to me was talking to his mother.  Telling her about what a fantastic day he’d had. 

It was maybe the most adorable thing I’d seen all day.

Other random vacation observations:

1.  You can wear anything in public today and nobody objects.  ANYTHING.  Unless you put on a pair of white ankle socks with your sneakers.  Then your 24-year-old daughter reacts as if you’ve proposed entering the

Magic

 

Kingdom

stark naked.  “OMIGOD MOTHER, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO WEAR THOSE, ARE YOU?”  Go to fullsize image Well . . . I guess not.  She lent me a pair of socks that disappear down into your sneakers, thereby causing the aforesaid blisters but saving us both from a fate worse than death--public wardrobe humiliation.

2.  Shirts printed with clever phrases are nearly always worn by people who are wishful thinkers.  Examples:  The 50-something white guy wearing the “Sean John Jeans” t-shirt in the airport security line obviously wished he was not a candidate for gastric bypass surgery who wore orthopedic shoes and a fanny pack, I’m not kidding. “Give Blood, Play Rugby” was worn by a doughy 20-something kid whose sport of choice was surely not rugby but Dungeons and Dragons or whatever is popular on the X Box right now. “Play Hard, Hit Hard or Go Home,” was sported by an 80 pound 12-year old girl who also wore a Minnie Mouse tiara.   “Kissable” was the shirt of choice for a girl who wasn’t going to be kissed by anybody as long as she had all that hardware pierced through her face, and she definitely needed some guidance on hygiene, too. And “Princess” was the shirt of a woman older, larger and even more self-deluded than yours truly.

My favorite was perhaps the shirt worn by a skinny 8-year old Ritalin-needy girl who dashed ahead of her family, knocking aside an elderly woman with a cane and screaming, “MOMMY COME SEE THIS!” every 15 seconds.  Her shirt said, “Home Schooled and Loven (sic) It.”  Which just sums up so much for me, the former public school teacher who firmly believes that one of the primary lessons to be learned in a public school is Good Citizenry. Not to mention spelling. If we’d spent another half hour in that kid’s proximity, she was going to learn an unforgettable lesson about mob rule, too.

4. The girls named Britney who stood behind us at the Muppet show and actually smelled like bubblegum (is there a perfume?  Because surely it’s not possible to chew enough gum to smell so thoroughly of it!) should have their mouths washed out with soap.  Okay, I’ve been known to cuss in moments of duress, but adorable girls who are 13 and wear shiny lipstick, sparkly crucifixes around their necks and t-shirts that advertise their church, but who talk like felons should be locked up and given 150 books to read before they’re released.  I don’t care what the books are, except nothing by that Narnia guy. They need to throw away their copies of Marie Claire and learn something for godsake.

5. Popcorn always smells wonderful.

6.I definitely live in a white bread world.  And it’s time all of us learned some Spanish if for no other reason than it’s just good manners for when we leave our own comfortable neighborhoods.

7.  No matter what the theme restaurant is---

Caribbean

, Tom Sawyer, Moroccan, or whatever---all people really want to eat is some form of chicken finger. With a really gooey sauce, of course. 

8. Amusement parks are great American institutions.  They should make you proud enough to salute the red, white and blue, in fact.  There’s so much junk that’s being consumed there.  So many egos demanding to be fed.  If you’re smart enough, you can use the

Fast

 

Pass

system to avoid standing in long lines.  If you’re wealthy--or self-involved--enough, you can pay to ride in the fancy cars at the beginning of the Disney parades—with your names printed on placards carried by strolling harem girls and you and your loved ones sitting up on the back seat waving like World Series winners. In amusement parks, you can wear the name of your city printed across your chest so complete strangers can rush up to you and behave like they’re your neighbors at a block party. Amusement parks are microcosms of these

United States

.  If there’s a way to experience it better than everyone else, somebody will think of it and be proud of the accomplishment, too. I did see a few genuine family moments, though. Even among my own family members. It's enforced togetherness, a time to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your loved ones. It's amazing to recognize what your daughter has learned when you weren't looking.

9. You can check your brain at the gate.  Honestly, the Disney “Imagineers” have brilliantly conceived the whole experience so that you don’t need to engage your own imagination in the slightest. (Or travel anywhere else. I was astonished at the set design of the

Asia

part of Animal Kingdom. It was fantastic.  Surely I never need to go to

India

.) In the

Africa

exhibit, we piled into safari-like trucks to see an amazing array of animals, which would have been an astounding experience in itself.  But the park creators felt the need to include a hokey story about chasing animal poachers and rescuing a baby elephant (the mother was shot and presumably killed.—Hey, it’s Disney, remember?) rather than allowing us to absorb the wonder of giraffes just a couple of yards away from the truck.

People love it, though.  My husband was so taken with the Men in Black shoot-em-up fun at Universal Studios that he wanted to do it a third time.  It was exactly the same sequence of events, but he wanted to do it again and again and again.  People want to repeat those entertaining experiences.  Which I’m not complaining about because I write a series in which the same characters do pretty much the same thing in every book, and people keep coming back for more. Readers beg me to write faster.  So it’s a human need, maybe.  To repeat what we enjoy. It's a lesson I must remind myself of constantly. Do it again, Nancy!

10. There are actually people who talk on cell phones on roller coasters.  During the Jaws boat ride--which includes explosions loud enough to rattle your fillings--one guy was going over the closing costs of his new mortgage. Do you think he sleeps with his cell phone?  Takes it into the shower with him?  There was a man checking his email on a Palm Pilot in line at the

Haunted

 

Mansion, too

. And only for ten seconds did I wish I could do the same thing. Okay, maybe thirty seconds.

My conclusion?  Oh, hell, if my husband loves Disney World for no other reason than it lets him spend a day completely forgetting about making a living, paying tuitions and gas bills without complaint, not to mention coping with a somewhat eccentric, forgetful, half-blind wife who might have gotten wrong the time of our departing flight by just a couple or three hours, that’s okay by me.  A responsible, middle-aged dad deserves a break now and then.

After a stimulating and surprisingly relaxing vacation, I’m back in my office and ready to write. That's what vacations are for, correct?  But I definitely need some ideas for next year.  Because I've had enough Disney Magic.  I want to make some of our own.

January 04, 2006

Lost & Found

Lost & Found

by Susan, Who Feels Lost at Least Once a Day

Occasionally, just for fun, I'll get into Typepad and look at the stats.  Not so much to check on the volume of traffic, but to see where it's coming from.  Which is where the "lost" part comes in.  Seems like plenty of folks stumble onto us when they're looking for something else...or, maybe, have no clue what it is they're really looking for.  Just in the past 24-hours, we've had many lost souls, searching the Web for, um, the oddest things and, somehow, ending up in the comforting bosom(s) of The Lipstick Chronicles.

For example, a few peeps found Nancy's piece on "Face-Time With the Rottweiler" after sticking these words into a search engine:  "Hungarian Puli for Sale California" and "Labrador Eye Boogers."  It's the labrador eye boogers that particularly interest me.  What was this person really needing to know?  The origin of doggie eye boogers?  What to do with them?  Recipes involving them?  I'm curious, I must confess.

A Googler seeking "bad lipo jobs" ended up at Harley's "Lipo, Lipo, Lipo" piece, and several folks looking for very different things--"William Petersen wedding photo" and "pictures from St. Louis Magazine Singles Bash"--dropped in on my column about "The Unreal World."

This one confused me.  The "Books That Changed Our Lives" blog drew in a reader who'd entered the search terms "sissy caught lipstick."  Hmmm.  What does that mean?  Is it a code?  A secret message?  Do we need to send a rescue team to free the lipstick from Sissy's evil clutches?  It's enough to drive a mystery author bonkers, trying to solve the riddle.

Sarah's bit on "Mothers I'd Like to Throttle" sucked in someone who had a desire to investigate "mothers I'd like to"...er, f**k.  Yes, I'm serious.  Though perhaps that'll be Sarah's follow-up blog, after she and Josh hit Studland in England and get those nekked pictures on the beach with the nudist camp regulars.

Harley's take on her "Family Wedding" caught the eye of a woman (and I'm assuming it's a woman) wanting to know about "wedding mints" and "calories."  How many calories are there in wedding mints, Harley?  Did you address that question?  Obviously, one inquiring mind wants to know.

I wrote about being photographed for my new author photos in "Mirror, Mirror," and a couple people wondering about "Kelly Ripa lost pounds" and "writing lipstick mirror" clicked onto my essay.  I understand the former, but the latter?  What is a "writing lipstick mirror"?  Does it type and enable you to precisely apply your Coco Red Chanel at the same time?  If so, I'd like one, please.

Folks checking out "2 million dollar jeans by sweetface" and "jlo jeans 17 carat diamond" detoured to Tiffany Van Cleef Arpel's ode to simple gifts for the holidays (aka, "All I Want for Christmas Is Swarovski Crystal Jeans").  Does J-Lo really make two million dollar jeans?  Are you putting me on?  Did anyone buy a pair?  That seems a little steep, even for Daisy.

Now I'm wondering who'll turn up at "Lost & Found" after this goes up on the blog.  Maybe that guy who left a glove in the parking lot and got home, only to reach in his pockets and say, "Damn, where did my right one go?"  Or Jessica Simpson might come searching for her brain.  Surely, it'll turn up somewhere.  I hope.  Perhaps in Harley's next essay.

Cheers,

Susan