Friday, September 25, 2009

12-Step Program for the Bookaholic (Who Has No Desire to be “Cured!”)

1. Visit the book club boards at no more than five times a day. Ten at most.

2. Talk about books (or to authors) on Twitter no more than five times a day. Ten at most.

3. Talk about books (or to authors) on Facebook no more than an hour a day. Five at most.

4. Go to bookstores no more than twice a week. (Used bookstores don’t count.)

5. Order books online no more than five times per week. (Combined orders and pre-orders don’t count.)

6. Remember to check pre-orders before ordering a new release. (Think of all the duplicate books you’ve received because you forgot to do this!)

7. Just because you love the author’s new book, this does not necessitate buying every book on this author’s backlist. (Recent releases are enough – for now.)

8. Do not let friends who read only literature make you defensive about whatever genre you are currently reading. All reading improves the mind. (And books in the romance genre have added benefits!)

9. Remember that buying books written by authors who are friends doesn’t count.

10. And buying books written by RWA chapter members is sort of a business expense.

11. In fact, for writers, all books should count as business expenses – it’s research, after all. Someone should talk to the IRS about this flaw in their regulations.

12. Visit no more than five author blogs a day. Ten at the most. You’re only enabling them – they should be working on their next book, not talking to people like you!

The lovely illustration comes from this site:

I hope they don't mind me borrowing it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Birthday Madness

I admit it: I go a little nuts over birthdays. Not my own, God forbid -- I'd just as soon forget those.

And not my husband's, either -- I've learned my lesson after two surprise parties. They were fun for everyone except the birthday boy, who would, if his life had turned out differently, have chosen to live as a monk in a cave somewhere.

But with my kids, all bets were off. I'd put up banners, tape their birthday cards to the door, get party plates and napkins, silly hats and horns and "I'm the Birthday Boy/Girl" badges. And that was only the beginning.

Birthdays were always events -- the kids didn't just have parties, they had theme parties. (I know, I know.) Clown parties. Magician parties. Decorate-the-sun-visor parties. Roller-rink parties, parties at the gymnastics center, Chuck-E-Cheese, Q-Zar, the Family Fun Center, slumber parties, surprise parties -- you name it, we did it.

Several of my daughter's birthdays stand out: on her second birthday, we had just moved to New Jersey and were living in a Sheraton hotel until the movers arrived with our furniture. While I was on the phone with the moving company, Jessica wrote all over her body with a pen -- I do mean ALL OVER. She looked like the Tattooed Baby -- I worried about her getting ink poisoning!

Then there was her 11th birthday, where I let her invite 11 friends for a sleepover (I think my hair started to turn white that night). The year she turned 13, Jessica had a pen pal who lived in New York City. After much begging on her part and much angst on mine, we flew to New York the weekend of her birthday. We met her friend Thyrza -- who turned out to be very sweet -- and visited Tower Records, a retro record store in Greenwich Village, Strawberry Fields and Times Square. We saw "Grease" and went to an Ani DiFranco concert in Central Park. In other words, we had a blast.

Jonathan had several memorable birthdays, too. Around the time of his 11th birthday, he was into challenges and puzzles, so I wrapped several gifts and hid them around the house. Then I made up riddles that he had to decipher in order to find them. I kept a copy of the list -- and the answers -- for myself, remembering how we'd lost a few Easter eggs that way. When we found them, months later, it wasn't pleasant.

His first birthday was memorable, too. My sister was about to move into a new house -- they had closed on the old house, but the new one wasn't quite ready. In the meantime, my husband and I, our two kids and two cats shared the house with my sister and her husband, their three girls and their dog.

And then her kids got chicken pox. Somehow, my kids -- who were sharing beds/cribs with their cousins -- didn't get sick, but Jonathan was still colicky and cried a lot at night. NONE of us got much sleep. My main memory of his first birthday was four adults in zombie-mode, surrounded by a gaggle of kids and animals. It was a memorable birthday, even if it passed in a blur.

The first time my kids spent their birthdays away from home, I felt a little lost. Today is my daughter's 26th birthday, and she's spending it in New York City with her boyfriend. My son came home for the weekend closest to his birthday to keep my husband company while I was at RWA National, and we went out for birthday dinner on our way back from the airport on my return. Right after dinner, he headed back to Chicago and spent his actual birthday partying with friends three days later.

Yes, I went way too far with my kids' birthdays when they were young. Too many presents, too many parties, too much of everything. But my kids didn't turn out too badly and, you know, I'd probably do it again. Relatively speaking, there's only a short time when birthdays are fun, and you might as well make the most of it.

What about you -- your own birthdays, your husband/significant other's, your kids? Are you a party animal, or do you try to hide until the day is past? Do you tell the truth about your age when people ask? Or are your birthdays stuck at 29?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Put Up Your Dukes!

I've read Pride and Prejudice. Hell, I've even seen the movie. I love Jane Eyre, but prefer Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights to Emily Bronte's book. Still, until about a year and a half ago, I scorned historical romances.

Those books have had their revenge, because I seem to be hooked.

I blame Anna Campbell and Eloisa James. When I bought CLAIMING THE COURTESAN and AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS it was because I'd come across the authors at Barnes & Noble's website, and I was curious. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pretty sure the books would be filled with foppish men and fussily dressed women, dastardly dukes and blushing duchesses and priggish period language. You would have thought those book covers might have given me a clue, but no -- I was the prig with my preconceived ideas. The books, on the other hand, left me breathless and eager for more.

Anna, with her favorite historicals listed on her website, and Eloisa, who writes a monthly column for Barnes & Noble which always includes book recommendations, led me into temptation. How can I explain this? I thought I was immune. I read mysteries first, and, being a slow learner, it took me awhile to realize my favorite mysteries included a romance. Think Mary Stewart, Evelyn Anthony, Dorothy Eden, Victoria Holt. Romantic suspense, contemporary romance - that was one thing. Historicals? Too girly.

Even when I admitted my addiction to romance and began subscribing to Harlequin and Silhouette, I hid the covers when I read them on the train and in the break room at work. They were a secret pleasure. When I hit fifty, I stopped worrying what other people thought about my book choices, and gave myself up to the pleasure of reading whatever I damn well felt like. But I was still a little embarrassed about reading historicals. For some reason, I felt as if I was falling too far over onto the feminine side -- as if any minute I'd break out in corsets and petticoats.

Then Melanie Murray and the regulars at Barnes & Noble's Romantic Reads board keep urging me to read more historical authors, and I found it increasingly hard to refuse their suggestions. When I met affirmed historical addict Michelle Buonfiglio, that clinched it. My name is Becke and I have an addiction to historical romance . . .

Once I fell, I fell hard. I've discovered so many great authors, I can't begin to list them all -- Loretta Chase, Lorraine Heath, Joanna Bourne, Madeline Hunter, Eva Ibbotson, Lisa Kleypas, Connie Brockway, Christina Dodd, Anne Gracie, Donna MacMeans, Christine Wells, Victoria Dahl, Julia Quinn, Vanessa Kelly, Nicola Cornick, Mary Balogh, Tessa Dare, Carolyn Jewel, Lisa Valdez, Robyn DeHart, Jennifer Ashley, Jennifer Haymore, Teresa Medeiros, Jacquie D'Alessandro, Karen Hawkins, Kathryn Kennedy, Meredith Duran, Judith Ivory, Maya Rodale, Stephanie Laurens, Anne Stuart, Christine Merrill, Sophie Jordan, Sabrina Jeffries, Delilah Marvelle, Elizabeth Hoyt, Laura Lee Guhrke, Liz Carlyle, Suzanne Enoch, Julie Anne Long, Johanna Lindsey, Claudia Dain -- oh, I give up. Let's just say my to-be-read pile is now overflowing with historicals.

Damn those dukes, anyway. I'm all about the contemporary era -- I live in jeans and sandals, for Pete's sake! I would have hated to live in Regency England, or any time in the past. Except . . . there is something about a reformed rake.

Which reminds me -- I have a hundred pages to go in the story I'm reading. Regency England is calling and I must heed the call! But, all you authors of historical romances? If you're saying, "I told you so," you're right. I was wrong, and I'm here to admit it. Those books are wonderful, and I'm so glad I've discovered them, even if the TBR pile is a little scary these days. Now I have to go finish reading my book!