Sunday, November 10, 2013

Perchance To Dream

I'm a dreamer.  And when I say that, I mean it literally.  I'm one of those who dreams at night, and often remembers the dreams when I wake.  Not that they make sense.  My dreams, for the most part, are fairly obvious ones plucked from my psyche - such as the recurring one I have every five or six years. The dream where I'm living in one of my childhood homes, the one that it hurt to move from, a thirteen room Victorian where we left behind many possessions and what we thought our family would be, for a three bedroom apartment and a new way forward.  Those dreams bring in people from my present, long deceased pets, and long forgotten relics of my childhood.

The dreams's meaning is clear, the issues not even unresolved anymore.  Now the dream visits me in a nostalgic glow.  Now and then I have a nightmare and scare my husband awake with a cry in the night, or worse, only wake myself, and I lie next to him, tense and frightened, wishing he might stop snoring and hold me. Other dreams are just plain weird, random bits of my day pulled from the miscellaneous file of my subconscious.

But this morning I awoke from the type of dream I've always wanted to have.  I dreamt a story.  A story I wanted to write, plot rolling out from my mind as I lay in that semi-conscious state, characters, if not fully formed, at least made of enough flesh and heart for me to carry them forward into the light of day.

Most mornings, I am cursing my alarm clock, turning away from the sunlight peeking in my window, reaching for a few last minutes, even seconds, of sleep.  And then I'm up, no time for writing as I start my weekday routine of eat, drive, work, drive, eat, sleep, with tiny pockets of writing snuck in random pockets of my day.

Not this morning.  Okay, it helped that it's a weekend, but even so, I was up and eager, not for breakfast, but for my keyboard.  I knew I wouldn't write the story today, but I had to capture the bones.  Because I'm becoming another sort of dreamer, the kind that sees a dream she wants to achieve.  Writing started as a hobby, a way to inject a little creativity into daily life.  I dabbled, leaving it behind for months, even years, and then pulling up the old stuff and cringing.

Not so anymore.  I can't write every day, but I want to.  And during that commute, or other quiet times I eke out of my day, and okay, maybe even at a business meeting or while my spouse is talking about something, my brain composes stories in my head, creating people and places, adventures, heartache, love, all just waiting to flow, like mud or water, from my fingertips to the screen.

And when I read older work, I no longer cringe.  I study weaknesses, and more often delight in the fact that it's better than I recalled.  That I may possess a smidgen of skill and talent for this craft.  I still don't have enough time to write.  I still have a tendency to move to a new story when my plot bogs down, rather than pushing through to the end.  And I've not learned enough about the business of sharing my writing, be it traditional or self-publishing.  Not to mention I've not updated this blog in close to a year.

But I dreamed a story last night, strands of characters and events weaving together while I slept.  And when I awoke, I continued to spin it out in my mind.  I'll take that dream over the miscellaneous file any day.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It makes my heart sing!

In honor of Valentine's day this month, and because I did indeed marry my brother's best friend, I'm whipped up some new lyrics to the Sound of Music's "My Favorite Things", to celebrate some of my favorite steamy romance novel tropes.

Everyone sing along...with apologies to singing nuns everywhere.

Sharp-pointed canines and whiskers on shifters
Billionaire playboys built like pro weight lifters
Rodeo cowboys tying her up with ropes
These are a few of my favorite tropes!

Arrogant athletes who usually date models
Fall for curvy divorcees with children who toddle
A soft-hearted woman tames a hard-bitten man
I use these great tropes whenever I can!

When the vamp bites, or rockstar sings
Messing with her head,
She goes to the bar with  
girlfriends for drinking
and she wakes up with him instead!

The boy she grew up with, her hopes he still dashes
Her brother’s best friend, now a dom who gives lashes
Submissive sweetheart who marries the king
These romance tropes are my favorite things!

When the vamp bites, or rockstar sings
Messing with her head,
She goes to the bar with 
girlfriends for drinking
and she wakes up with him instead!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How's the view?

I survived and thrived through NaNoWriMo - a 66,000+ winner - and took a break from my novel to enter into Mysti Parker's wonderful Christmas Flash Fiction Contest.  Mysti always runs great contests and she's posted several Christmas gems already.  Thanks for the gift of your blog, Mysti and to anyone else, check her great Tallenmere books!

Click here to read my entry!

My submission got me thinking about Point of View.  Sometimes it seems that only one character's voice can tell the story.  But more often, I prefer to entertain multiple viewpoints.  It a great way to build drama and conflict for the reader, and helps the writer free all the voices in their head.

So while Mysti posts the flash fiction I sent her from the Robert point of view, I'm sharing a peek into Ljuba's head.


A Good Story (Take 2) (c) 2012

“Night, Looby-loo.  Sure you don’t want to come with? You shouldn’t be alone on Christmas Eve.”  Jeanette gave Ljuba the puppy eyes treatment.

Ljuba airkissed Jeanette and waved to Jeanette’s husband, Daniel, who was already half-way to the door.  “Hello, ham dinner?  Jew?  Thanks sweetie, but I’ve got Kung Pao Chicken to prep and cozy flannel sheets to snuggle in.  Now scoot home to that wonderful family.”

Ljuba sighed with relief as Jeanette weaved through the remaining stalwarts still enjoying the office Christmas party.  Technically it was a Holiday party – cue the air quotes - but the company held it on Christmas Eve each year, never one of the eight nights of Hanukah.

Which was fine.  Holding it on Hanukah would mean Ljuba would be asked ad nauseum to explain the holiday.  And some idiot would make a joke about bacon or being cheap and she’d want to punch them - which wasn’t in keeping with the holiday spirit.  Besides, she liked Christmas Carols.  There were only so many times you could hear ‘Dreidel, Dreidel’ and not go mad.

The bar emptied.  That’s when she saw him.  Elevator guy.  He always got on the elevator smiling, with his Yankees travel mug and a friendly good morning to the other riders.  She liked that.  Most people just avoided eye contact.

He was so her type.  Despite his friendliness, he seemed a bit shy, blondish hair flopping over his forehead to hide his eyes.  He was yummily tall. His suits fit him like he was an athlete, his muscles showing off the cut, rather than fabric hiding some flab.

She watched him watch the TV, seemingly mesmerized by that silly Santa GPS thing they aired every year.  The bartender spoke to him for a few moments, then walked to the bottles in front of her, the ones filled with manly drinks, like bourbon or scotch. 

“Hey, is that for him?” Ljuba inclined her head towards Elevator Guy.

“Yeah.  You want one?”  The bartender poured the drink, giving her a quick grin.

Ljuba fished out a ten as she wrinkled her nose.  “Ugh.  No.  But tell him that one’s compliments of me.”

The man winked as he made change.  “No problem.”

Ljuba watched the delivery as nerves danced a cha-cha in her stomach.

Elevator guy raised his glass to her.  She lifted the martini glass holding the remnants of the Cosmo she'd nursed all evening.  After a moment, he strolled over, that killer smile on his face.  She kicked out the closest stool.

He extended his hand.  “Thank you. I’m Robert.”

“I’m Looba.  L-j-u-b-a.  You’re welcome.  We’re elevator buddies.”  She shook his hand, enjoying his firm grip before letting go.  He was even taller up close, his shoulders broad.  She felt like a munchkin.  Or maybe an elf, ha-ha.  

He smiled with his eyes. “So we are. So, Ljuba, no Christmas Eve plans?”  He frowned, but it didn’t seem directed at her. 

“I’m Jewish.  Hanukah’s over - got my eight gifts, plus a dollop of guilt served with latkes.”  Ljuba wet her mouth with an icy sip of Cosmo.

“All that’s left is the Chinese take-out, right?” Robert’s eyes went all deer in the headlights the instant the words left his mouth.   

His panic charmed her, the comment more gauche than offensive.  A snort of laughter escaped her nose.  “Chinese food’s tomorrow.  I had a few invites tonight, but -”

He grinned, his relief obvious as he finished her sentence.  “- you’re not interested in being the party orphan.”

Ljuba smirked.  “Exactly.  What about you? No plans?”

Robert shrugged.  “Mom’s with Sis, in Seattle.  Grandkids trump a single son.  Plus, I’m working the 26th.”

Phew, he was single.  “Me too. I’m glad we finally met, closing down the bar. You headed home?”  She blushed.  He was staring at her mouth, a half-smile playing across his lips. 

Robert blinked.  “Um, I was thinking about going to a service.   My Dad was a pastor.  But he died a few years ago. I haven’t gone to church since - well, I just haven’t.” 

His voice cracked, melting her insides.  She touched his hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”

He gulped his drink, a far-off look on his face. When he didn’t respond, she said the first thing that popped in her head. “I’ve never been to a service. I love Carols.  I’d go, if you like.”

Holy Moses, did she just invite herself to church?

“Really? There’s a church nearby with an eleven o’clock candlelight service.”  His face lit up, but he bit his lip.    

“Perfect.”  Ljuba pulled out her phone.  “Do we need a cab?”

“We can walk, if you don’t mind the cold.”  Robert tossed a bill on the bar.  He helped her with her coat. 

“Merry Christmas, folks.”  The bartender waved as the cold outside air hit them.

Walking was a relief after the steamy, over-decorated bar.  Ljuba chattered about her family.  Robert didn’t say much, but he was attentive.

The church was crowded.  As they sat, a sweet-faced girl with unfortunate skin raised her trumpet.  The opening notes of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ rang out.

Robert held their book.  Ljuba almost jumped when he opened his mouth and a marvelous, deep bass issued forth. She couldn’t help but grin when he hit a low note.  She sang the alto part.  Their voices blended well.  She noticed a few folks peeking back to see who was singing.

The pastor, a woman, recited scripture: “…For the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out…”

Ljuba glanced at Robert.  He seemed enraptured.  She squeezed his hand.  He squeezed back and kept hold of hers.  She liked that.

Ljuba lost herself in the service.  She knew the basics - who didn’t - but it was different to hear it as worship, not just some trite retelling on an animated TV special.

The candle-lighting began after they took up a collection.  The flame passed through the pews.  When it reached them, Ljuba tipped her unlit wick into Robert’s candle flame.  The lights dimmed and Ljuba soaked in the quiet beauty of the softly lit faces .

The choir sang the first verse of ‘Silent Night’ in German.  The congregation joined in, as did Ljuba.  Her grandmother always flipped when Ljuba sang Carols - "those Nazi songs".  But it was beautiful, the moment so sublime even her Nonny would have sighed.

Robert’s voice faded. Ljuba looked up, her heart lurching again at the stricken look on his face. She acted on instinct, snaking her arm around him.  “Harmonize with me.”

He hesitated, then started singing.   He rushed them out ahead of the crowd.  It had started to snow at some point.  Ljuba lifted her face to let the flurries cool her skin. 

She sidestepped an icy patch of sidewalk.  “Was that hard?”

Robert tucked her arm in his.  “Yes, but…thank you.  You have a great voice.”

“You too.”  They’d reached the bar.  She’d ridden here with Jeanette.  She should probably call a taxi.

Robert exhaled a steamy breath.  “I’ll call you a cab.”

Ljuba appreciated that he didn't assume anything.  They moved out of the wind, close to the building.  Robert didn’t speak, but she didn’t mind.  It felt perfect, like the song.  A silent night.

Ljuba spied the cab, a few blocks up.  Robert cleared his throat.  “So…” 

“So… My Chinese is homemade.  My Kung Pao chicken will knock your socks off.” Ljuba peeked up, hoping he’d get the hint.

Robert grinned and tugged up his pant leg, exposing hilarious lime green socks with elves.  “You want to knock these socks off?”

Ljuba giggled.  “Definitely.  So, noon?”

The taxi pulled up.  Robert waved off the driver and opened her door. “Noon.  I’ll bring pie.” 

His hand touched her back as Ljuba got in.  She leaned out, wanting to thank him for what they’d just shared.  Wanting it not to end.  “It’s a good story, Robert.”

“What’s a good story?”  He quirked his head, all Jack Frost-like, dusted with snow.

“The Christmas story.  The baby, the stable.  The star.  It says the right things.  About love.  About being open to everyday miracles.” Ljuba flushed.  She shouldn't mention love on a first date.  Or a first whatever this was.

Robert didn't seem to mind.  His brown eyes warmed, cozier than her flannel sheets.  He leaned down.  She held her breath, tipping her face up.  His lips brushed hers, just a soft kiss, but the shiver that went through her had nothing to do with the weather. 

He smiled.  “Yeah.  It is a good story. Happy belated Hanukah, Ljuba.”

“Merry Christmas, Robert.”   

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NA-NOt ready to WRIte MOre

It's Halloween.  Tonight my neighborhood will be over run with all manner of spooks, ghouls, witches, vampires, ninjas and trade-marked characters, seeking, with zombie-esque single mindedness, the elusive favorite type of candy.

Dark clouds hung low in the sky this morning and bare trees served as haunting silhouettes as their leaves littered the roads, twirling into the air with a gust of wind, or passing car.  It's a perfect broody setting for the holiday, just waiting for me to set out the Jack-O-Lanterns with lighted candles.

But this Halloween I'm scared for another reason.  Halloween means only one thing to me.  One terrifying, looming, fright-filled fact.  It means I'm less than twenty-four hours away from starting NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month to those unfamiliar with the acronym.

Why the terror?  Why the blood-curdling B-Movie Horror queen shrieks?  I'm not ready.  And I should be ready.  But I'm not.  

I should be.  I've worked hard to align my NaNo stars.  I have three book ideas to choose from.  Two are reasonably well out-lined on paper and the third resides in my head, fully-fleshed out characters chattering away, just waiting patiently in the exit line.  

I've alerted friends and family about the upcoming month of shameless neglect.  They will ignore my warnings and whine, but I am prepared for that.  I will bend, but I will not yield.

And I'm not in this alone.  I'm taking my child with me into the tangled NaNo forest, my daughter signed up for the Young Writer's Program.  We have her characters named and the plot sketched out.  She's chosen a word count goal.  I've even drafted my mom as her back-up typist, so that I have time for my own writing.

Instead of my usual loitering on street corners, I've been hanging about the NaNo forums, interacting with the other crazies who plan to take on the WriMo challenge in 2012.  I have my dropbox account folder set-up, and a back-up memory stick to save, save, save against the dying of the machine.  I even have the T-Shirt.  Washed, dried, fluffed and folded.

Yep, so not ready.  

You see, for me, NaNoWriMo readiness is as much a state of mind as it is a well executed pre-launch check-list.  And my mind?  Totally not in NaNo State of Mind this year. It's more a questioning my sanity state of mind.

Am I really doing this again?  Really? Last year's 50,000 plus word disaster sits in the ether-sphere of the computer, unedited and mostly unread since 12/1/11 came around.  I barely wrote at all in 2012.  I've grown to enjoy a good night's sleep, which, given my day job and my unwillingness to completely throw my family to the wolves (if I decide to go with the Shifter novel), I'm not really sure how I'm going to average 1666.666  words per day.  That .666 looks ominous to me.

So why did I sign up again?  What was I smoking?  I've never been one for this type of challenge.  I don't get the whole vibe - the Mount Everest climbers, the marathon runners, the competitive eaters.  I don't get the whole 'because it's there and because I can' mindset.

Except maybe I do.  Lurking somewhere in the dark and deep recesses of my psyche is that slightly crazy person.  Because, despite my uneasy unreadiness, I'm still going to start typing away.  Tomorrow around noon, without fail, my lunch hour likely my first opportunity to start eating the word elephant named 50,000, one tap at a time.  I'm as ready as I'll be at this point and not ready at all.  

So I'll meet you at the NaNo site tomorrow, at a reasonable bed-time, to enter my word count for November 1st, no matter how below or above that 1666.666 mark I am.  And I'll post my WC here too.  Why?  Because it's there.  Because I can.  Because I already told enough people I'm doing it for it to be too late to weasel out this year.

And if you're hiding from the big bad NaNoWriMo monster too, look out.  Ready or not, here it comes!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Light and Shadow

A good writer reveals character and story by balancing  illumination and obscuration.  On a camping trip back on Memorial Day Weekend, in between slapping at black flies, I captured the patterns and shapes of light and shadow on the forest trail we hiked.  Here are some of my photos to inspire you to seek what the light reveals and what it hides in your path through the woods. (All Photos Cristina Rehn, (C) 2012).  If you'd rather not meander down the page, click on a picture to view in larger format as a slideshow.







Thursday, July 5, 2012

Literary Roadkill

Writers are miners and scavengers.  We dig into our own and others' pasts for good stories and we scour our present for usable material.

While there are current-day Hemingways out there, living grand adventures at sea or in exotic locales, personally I inhabit a more mundane world.  My daily dramas consist of my righteous anger at that driver who cut me off, or the despair over the old van that, yet again, needs repair.  Or perhaps you'd like to read about my epic struggle against the hordes of Sunday shoppers at the grocery store?

Yes, it's the stuff of, not.  Alas, my commute and daily chores aren't particularly literary award-worthy.  Or publishable.  So when something out of the ordinary crops up in my pedestrian existence, well, I immediately check see if it's rich vein or a dead-end.

Imagine my excitement, then, when this week I faced a monumental battle in the realm of motherhood.  My child was diagnosed with...head lice.

(Pausing so you can scratch your head and give into that convulsive shudder).

Anyone who's dealt with these pernicious critters knows that my daughter's contagion meant all out war.  Armed with prescriptions and sprays and lice combs and laundry detergent, we marshalled all household forces and forged into battle.

After our initial charge of stripping bedding, spraying and vacuuming carpets and upholstery and treating the infested head, I quickly discovered the demoralizing truth.  Defeating the enemy requires both a head-on attack and a siege.

Here's a little peek at the characters in my war story:

My daughter and her hair:  A nine year old, mercifully compliant and a reader able to sit still for long periods of time.  The hair is long, thick, wavy and prone to snarling.  As was my daughter by day three.

Her cousins:  We'd just ended a visit with them when the diagnosis came.  The one cousin who stayed with us all week, was, of course, the girl with the long, thick hair (but straight, thank goodness).  We sent them back to Texas, potentially carrying the enemy with them across many borders.  Fortunately their dad, my brother, is a seasoned veteran in the Pediculousean Wars, and sent many reassuring text missives.  But no cookies.

Me, Commander Mama: I am patient (mostly) and armed with good bifocals and long fingernails.  Plus I work with public health professionals, with access to good generals to choose my weapons and guide my strategy of attack. 

My husband and mother, the infantry:  Willing to pitch in, they fought brave struggles against the Sisyphian mounds of laundry, and carried fresh containers of soapy water to me (and the occasional adult beverage of my choice) to aid me in my siege.

Mine enemy, the louse:  The adult louse is yucky and fast, but susceptible to chemical warfare.  When louse becomes lice, expect a protracted engagement.

The Nits, aka, the secret weapon: Unfortunately, even when you've vanquished the foe, he and she leave behind sleeper cells, the tiny nits that hide in the dark depths of the hair, like pod-people waiting to hatch a new round of soldiers.

As for the initial battle, well, the term nit-pick took on a whole new meaning.  Imagine something less than the size of a head of a pin, clinging to a single shaft of hair, that needs to be tightly grasped and dragged down the length of the strand to detach it.  Trust me, if you find this enemy, tremble in fear and prepare for tedium.

We came, we combed, and hopefully we conquered.  Alas, the war is not yet over, as I must return to the siege daily to find soldiers that remain behind our lines, waiting to hatch their evil plans to bring forth a second wave of destruction in seven to ten days.

Are you still with me?  God bless you if you are. 

I'm pretty sure there's no gold here, just roadkill.  It's gross, but it's not gripping (well, except for the nits, which grip and grip and grip.), and you'll wish you hadn't looked.

But even if it's just fool's gold, I decided I could still try to cash in on my little personal Public Health hell, perhaps with a moralistic song for the kiddie set - think The Wiggles(TM), with wiggly bugs:

(cue banjo and tissue covered comb)

Pickin' cooties with my mama
While I sit in my pajamas
patiently beneath the morning light

Though she's using all her fingers
Still those buggies they do linger
I suspect we'll be here
till a long hair past midnight

What?!  What do you mean you're not buying my album?  I'm crushed.


Okay, how about a simple Seussian tale:

There's a louse in my house
And he's leaping on my head
Hoping to make it his new bed

If it's warm, he'll call the swarm
And tell them that it's nice
And then my lonely louse will turn into lice

Do you like nit eggs in hair?
Do you like them everywhere?
I do not like them, mother dear.
I do not want them here or there.

Can we get them with a comb?
Have they made your head their home?
Mother dear, this rhyme is sick
And you are making me go 'ick'!

(Sigh.  Deeper sigh.  Long, drawn out sigh of surrender.)

Yes, fellow artists, there are some itches you just shouldn't scratch.  So I leave my lousy drama on the side of the road, hoping that it doesn't hitch a ride with you.

   But don't worry about me.  I'm going to a conference next week.  Between flight delays and long hours of meetings, I'm sure I'll strike gold yet!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

He laves me, he laves me not?

credit: Ince
I've been brooding and nibbling at my lush pouty lips over the idea of writing a romance novel.  Though not a regular romance reader, I've recently immersed myself in the strong men, lusty women (or vice versa) world to familiarize myself with the genre. Plus the advent of the e-reader makes it so much easier to read them on the down-low.

Like Sci-fi, Mystery and similar serial-type genres, Romance operates under certain set conventions, with the Happily-Ever-After or HEA as the prime directive.  I'm happy with HEAs.  We like to get what we expect - that's why chain businesses are so successful.

Romance novels characters tend to exhibit a stock set of traits:

1) The heroine is (pick one or more):

a. a spunky spitfire from the wrong side of town, or the right side of town, family either tyrannical/abusive/interfering or perfect
b. innocent and unaware of her beauty
c. experienced, with a broken heart in need of healing
d. secretly yearning to be dominated
e. a supernatural being who may or may not know her own power
f. a cowgirl

2) The hero is (again, one or more):

a. fabulously wealthy and powerful, but his life is empty
b. the epitome of male strength and beauty
c. dominant, alpha male who is a player, until he meets the right woman
d. dominant alpha male in need of healing
e. a supernatural, all powerful being, who can be tamed by the right woman
f. a cowboy

After you stir the heroine and hero together in a good stew of a plot, be it gumbo or beef bourgignon, all romance boils down to a handful of fantasy themes.   The heroine changes the man for the better, the heroine gains protection/care from the hero, and/or the hero and heroine alike are loved for their own special selves.  Oh, and the sex is always earth-shattering, vanilla or otherwise.

Again, this is all gravy to me, even if my own feminist sensibilities make me a poor heroine candidate.  Romance novels are works of fiction and, when well-written, I suspend my disbelief to 'The End'.

Where I struggle as a reader and potential writer of romance, is in the down and dirty descriptions.  Romance writers work hard to stroke all our senses, but certain words or phrases pop up so frequently that they feel more like assault and battery.  Here's my list of top offenders:

1) Let's start with laving.  There's a lot of laving in romance novels.  Now I'm happy to be both laver or lavee in real life, but I struggle with the word itself, because it is a writing only word.  The dictionary meaning is to wash or bathe, but in romance novels it seems to be a stand-in for the word "lick".  It's possible that I don't hang with the right water-cooler crowd, but no one uses lave in conversation when I'm around.  You never hear anyone say "Sweetie, lave the edge of your ice cream cone, or you'll get chocolate all over your shirt."  So can we agree to consign lave back to it's archaic origins, except, perhaps, for cats cleaning their fur*?

*Allowable in feline shifter novels, natch!

2) My nose is twitching over my next bugaboo, smells.  Heroines give off a stock stable of aromas, usually peaches, vanilla, or strawberries, or some combination thereof, with roses and honey glopped on every now and then.   These odors pose an irresistible draw to the male, particularly if he is a supernatural being with a heightened sense of smell.

These are evocative scents, likely chosen because they are familiar to a broad audience.  But are they really the types of odors to attract our domineering beast of a man?  I conducted extensive mental research, seeking alternative colognes.  I whiffed and sniffed through other fruits first:  mango, kiwi, cherry, banana, apple, coconut.  All perfectly pleasant bouquets, but I'm not sure they have that necessary alluring impact.  Well, the banana and coconuts combo could work for tropical beach settings, if it weren't so Freudian.

I did the same for flowers, but neither fruit nor flower seemed to truly capture the essential perfume guaranteed to attract men.   I decided to go a primary source, my husband:

Me: "Honey, what's the best smell ever?"

Hubby: "Bacon."

Bacon?  BACON!  Yum.  You-reek-ahh!  The man is a genius.  No predator could resist bacon.  Let's see how it works:

source: Andreas Gradin
"Her scent filled the air, redolent of smokehouses and morning after lie-ins at bed and breakfasts.  It tantalized his nose, crackling and popping through every nerve in his body.  His mouth watered as he drew closer and breathed in the porky aroma emanating from the curve of her neck, longing to sink his teeth into her sinew."

Erm, uh-uh.  No.  Evocative?  Yeah. Romantic? Bleah.  I flung my bucket at hubby's well of male knowledge again.

Me: "Okay, what smell turns you on?"

Hubby: "Nachos and Beer."

Me: "Nachos and Beer?"

Hubby: "Yeah.  Reminds me of date night."

I decided that Hubby is an unreliable source.  Plus, we are clearly in a rut and I am wasting money on scented body products.  I suppose I must reject Bacon, Nachos and Beer, at least as aphrodisiac scents, but let's agree to expand beyond roses, strawberries and their over-used compatriots.

3) In the realm of sound, I only have one small quibble.  Too often, in the midst of their passionate nookie, the heroine performs some sort of move that causes the hero to make a "nonsensical sound."

At the risk of exposing the limits of either my imagination or experience, I confess, when I read the phrase "nonsensical sound", the soundtrack from a Three Stooges movie starts running through my brain, all nyuck,nyuck,nyuck.  Then the heroine falls off the bed in a fit of uncontrollable laughter, never to share a  booty call with our poor hero again - though she will dine out for years on the nyuck-nyuck story with her BFFs.  I vote we stick with the usual snarls, growls, groans and moans and relegate the nonsensical sounds to the Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and kiddie lit.

4) Cup size.  I'm not talking about Grande vs. Venti here.  Let's just say that some authors repeatedly feature heroines who bemoan that they must do more with less, while others prefer to cast the same buxom lass with the bodacious ta-tas.  Here's the problem:  When I read multiple books by the author whose heroines always display that barely a B-cup, or overflowing double DDs bosom, I assume that the author's sporting similar-sized lingerie and is working through her own body image issues.  And that's TMI.  Change up the girls, girlfriend!

credit:© Cathy Keifer
5) Last on my list of poetic peeves comes romance novel lip action.  I want to keep this PG, but too often in books, the hero starts thrusting his tongue in the heroine's mouth to "mimic", um, lower thrusting activities.  While it's possible that hubby and I don't possess the right skill set to pull this move off successfully, when I read this, all I think is "Ewww."  Then I think about that boy from that week at summer camp, whose name I've mercifully forgotten, who lives on in my memory only as "Lizard Tongue."  There's also a whole lot of biting going on in Romance novels.  I'm all for the occasional nibble or nip, and I concede its necessity when it comes to the supernatural set, but otherwise, isn't that a habit we actively discourage from toddler-age on? Keep the teeth for the nachos and bacon our lovers consume in their pre- or post-coital munchies periods, or someone's gonna get hurt.

So Alpha males and Spunky gals, let's recap our new romance rules:

1)  Limit laving - one lave per novel, please!
2) Start sniffing around for new scents.
3) Nonsensical sounds are nonsensical, unless your name is Curly or Moe, or you're the Toon dating Jessica Rabbit.
4) Women come in all shapes and sizes and so should your leading ladies.
5) Less tongue is more and sheath your teeth at the door.

Happily Ever After Writing!