The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Surprise!

A little over a week ago I experienced one of those sweet, wonderful moments in life. My beautiful, amazing, fantabulous husband threw me a surprise party. The sweetie had been planning it since early December in order to celebrate my first successes in publishing.

Now, I am a hard woman to surprise. He's tried a party before for my thirtieth, but called off the surprise attempt when I put up too many roadblocks. Inadvertently of course. There's a disadvantage to being the one holding the reins on the family schedule. Any attempts to change that schedule are suspect. But the big lug pulled it off this time. I swore like an inspired sailor when my guests all showed up in one big lump outside my door as I innocently answered the knock, but I think they forgave me.

The party got me thinking about the nature of surprises. They come in all shapes and sizes. I am a plotter by nature (big shock given that tight rein I mentioned earlier). Unless I know where a story is going, I can't begin to write. That being said, age has mellowed this approach. As long as I'm relatively secure in my direction, I can become pleasantly surprised when a new twist leaps into my stories via my muse. It happened to me recently as I neared the end of my current work in progress. I thought the story would end at one point, and then an avalanche of ideas buried me with ways to take the final action scene farther. Once I learned to trust enough in my stories I opened to the surprises along the way. This allows for richer stories and greater satisfaction as my mind makes unexpected connections that add depth to my books.

I believe that same process is what made it possible for my husband to plan the party successfully. Although my general nature remains the same, I've mellowed into my life, creating room for fun in new wild and wacky combinations. Having successfully maneuvered the big question marks of my youth and established a general tempo for the middle years of my life, I feel safe enough to appreciate a divergence from that tempo. So maybe I still look before I leap, but at least I leap more often.

How is everyone else with surprises? Are you open to them? Can you relax into them when they arrive? (In this case I mean the positive surprises. The unpleasant ones are the subject of another post.) Has maturing affected your view of them? And if you are a writer, do you surprise yourself in your stories?

Let me know.

Michelle




Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Goodbye, My Friend

I got some horrible news today. It came in the form of an email, from the husband of a friend I had made online. My friend had passed away last Sat. after being diagnosed with lung cancer a mere 6 days prior. Her husband faced the daunting task of going through her computer to notify her friends who may not have heard.

Claudia was a wonderful woman I "met" on a stay at home mom's chat on Compuserve. Yeah, that long ago! I think the twins were about 2. It started out simply sharing recipes, child-rearing issues (she was ahead of me on that one), and whatever anyone wanted to talk about during our hour in the chat room. Other members came and went, but always showed up, every Wed, and we soon realized it was because we liked to talk to each other. We started emailing directly, made phone calls, shared more recipes, and both the ups and downs of life over the next 13 years.

Somewhere during that time, I mentioned that I wanted to write a romance. Claudia was so excited, and so encouraging, that I actually sent her the first drafts of my first 3 books. She even had a namesake in number 3. Those didn't sell, and it was before I discovered erotica, but she was damn supportive of that move, too.

I do have one favorite memory above all others. She had a great long-term marriage and one thing she always said was to make sure to set aside a bit of couple time at the holidays by making love under the Xmas tree. She referred to it as "getting tinsel up the nose". One year, as the holidays rapidly approached, I got a manila envelope in the mail from Claudia. I opened it up and couldn't stop laughing. It was stuffed with tinsel.

You'll be greatly missed, my friend.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Another Rare Character: The American Curler

So, as Sam was discussing with our poor, much maligned New England Meteorologist, I've discovered another rare and interesting character. What brings this on, you ask? Well, because I AM that rare and interesting character: An American Curler.

Now, the really sad thing is that around here, no one actually cares about this character or curling for 42 month at a stretch, then the Winter Olympics hit and the once again the US becomes fascinated. I admit, I began curling 8 years ago when after watching the Olympics I was chatting with a friend who curls and she suggested I give it a try. As it turns out, the very first team I ever played on had this nifty guy named Dan on it - he was also a newbie - and we both fell in love. With curling, and with each other.

So since this precious time, an interesting cycle has begun in my life. Every four years, I go from people looking at me and asking, "you do what exactly?", to a line of people (literally a LINE of people this morning) outside my office door, all eager to ask, "why would you blank an end?", and "what are ends?", and "does everyone sweep?" and "do you fall down a lot?". And I patiently answer with diagrams all over my whiteboard and office notes, with physical demonstations in the hallway and a department-wide search for a 42 lb object to simulate lifting a stone.

The sport of curling (and it is a sport and anyone who says it's not hasn't tried it) is fun because, like golf, you can learn all the physical basics you need in the space of a 30 minute open house at your local curling club. And like golf, you'll have days, even fairly early in your career as a curler, where you will feel like Tiger Woods (the exceptional golf player, not the philandering sex addict), and then the very next day, you'll play the worst game of your life and will spend the rest of the season chasing the moment of perfection. It's a game where anyone of any age, body type, gender and flexibility can find a way to do it well. Bad knees, spare tires, decades of desk surfing won't stop you from playing a decent game and enjoying the heck out of it.

Add to that the second half of the sport, that which you have to learn - the strategy. It's not a requirement, but I would contend that it takes some brains to do this well. And because of it, I'll bet you too will find that curlers are an interesting and thoughtful bunch.

Which brings us to, perhaps, the best part of all. When the game is over, you and your opponents engage in the age-old tradition of "broom stacking", where the winners buy the losers a drink and you settle down in the warm room to enjoy good company.

So I encourage you all to watch curling. To go out and congratulate the curlers you know, particularly if they live in the US, and to ask them all the questions you have. Heck, ask me all your questions and I will do my level best to answer them all. Even better - see if you have a local curling club and give it a whirl - you're going to like it a lot more than you think. Trust me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Best Thing about Winter...Reading!

So I have to admit, this year, I'm so not into winter – at all. It has never been my favorite time of year. I don’t ski, I don’t ice skate, I don’t sled, and I shovel only out of necessity.


Quite soon after New Year's rolls by, I'm ready for spring, for tulips and daffodils and the smell of the Earth renewing itself, but usually I can grin and bear it until April like most good New Englanders.

Unfortunately, this winter has been rife with peril for me. I’m struggling with all of my New Year’s resolutions – most are blown, but I refuse to give up completely yet. I’m stubborn that way. There is a lot going on in my personal and professional life – some good, some not so good, but all stressful.

My usual contented ritual of hibernation has turned into a bad case of the winter blahs. And it’s only the middle of February. Yuck! What to do between now and late March? How do I make sure I don’t lose my marbles while I wait for 60 degree or better weather?

Read, read and then read some more.

This winter I have gone back to basics – to Harlequin romances like the ones I first read as a teenager. Some shrug their shoulders at romance novels, even more shrug at the thought of Harlequin romances. Quick reads with funny titles and clinched covers are outdated and not worth the time, right?

WRONG.

Can you read them quickly – yes, do they have goofy titles and covers – usually, but they are pure, escapist fun meant to entertain. There is something intrinsically comforting about knowing exactly what you are getting once you start reading. It does not matter I know how the story will end – I can simply enjoy the ride.

Men watch sports for the same reasons. It’s a game, with set rules, two opponents, and though there are twists and turns along the way, one team will win and one team will lose. With romance novels, its boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy loses girl, and then boy and girl triumph over adversity and live happily ever after. It’s controlled escapism in a chaotic world. How can that be a bad thing?

So off I go, curled up under a blanket with a cup of hot tea by my side, ready to go headlong into another romance novel. Happy reading! See you in the springtime.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Character Idea: Meteorologist

So this morning I woke up and immediately looked out the window, ready to see the wreckage brought by the epic blizzard that was to have raged all night long here in the Boston area. As I looked out across my green and utterly snow-less lawn, I had the idea for a great character: The New England Meteorologist (a word, it turns out, i cannot type without looking at my fingers).

Who is this man? And does he have ANY self esteem? I mean, in the big picture, with years of New England weather forecasting experience under my belt, this was absolutely an EPIC FAIL. I had been promise (and dreaded) as many as 10 inches of snow! And I'm a good New Englander. I know that a 10" forecast means anything from 5 to 15. But less than 1? Come on now. Really? All that fancy software and modeling logorithms and god knows what, and my grandfather could have more accurately determined the outcome based on how stiff his knee was the day before yesterday.

So my next hero is going to be the man who questions himself constantly. That's worried about not delivering on his promises. He's going to be a man that has to stand up in front of everyone and predict the future and be wrong 75% of the time.

He's going to be a New England Meteorologist.

The next question is, who would fall for this guy?


Monday, February 8, 2010

Quirkies' Favorite Valentines


Valentine's Day is right around the corner! I just mailed some cool Victorian Valentine postcards to Mom and Dad, my daughter Natty is dreaming about chocolate every night (well, actually, she pretty much dreams about chocolate 365 nights a year!), and I'm expecting a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from hubby dearest. The best part of this lovely holiday? Reading a lusty, heart-wrenching, super romantic tale. Here are some of The Quirky Ladies' favorite Valentines....


Victoria Morgan: The Reef by Nora Roberts still tops my favorite list after all these years. It's like two wonderful love stories in one. We follow Tate Beaumont and Matthew Lassiter's story as they first fall in love in their young twenties, and after tragedy separates them, we get to see them come together again when they are older and more mature. It also has adventure, treasure hunting, hot sex and Nora's great dialogue to keep the pages turning.

(Woa, Vick, this sounds great. Thanks for the hot tip.--Penny)

Tara Truesdale: I'm going with Angel Falls by Kristin Hannah. You jump into the story of Liam and Michaela "Mike" after they have been married a few years and are raising their daughter and son. Mike has an accident that leaves her in a coma, and Liam, a small town doctor, is a gentle, strong hero who nurses her back to health only to have her wake up with retrograde amnesia. She thinks she is still in love with her first husband, the complete antithesis of Liam, and the story unfolds with Mike picking up the pieces of her life, realizing that Liam is her true love, memory or no memory.

You know me...I love soap opera type books. I was a Days of Our Lives junkie for decades.

(That sounds angsty. I was a General Hospital fan myself....go Luke and Laura!--Penny)

Dalton Diaz: Brace yourself for a surprise: LaVyrle Spencer, Twice Loved. The love, the history (both physical and emotional), the angst...this book has it all, and it's so beautifully written. Sweet Memories, Home Song and Bygones do it for me, too, but Twice Loved is the winner by a nose.

(Ha! Our naughty Quirk has a secret love for true romance. I knew it!--Penny)

Sam Wayland: I'm going to choose Gaps In Your Soul by Shayla Kersten. It's just a Quickie Erotica, but in 55 pages, the author manages to make you fall in love with not one but two men, so that in the end, you genuinely believe they fill the gaps in each other's souls. Oh, and it's smoking hot. :)

(Soul mate sex. Doesn't get better than that, baby.--Penny)

Michelle Polaris: My choice is Rough Canvas by Joey W. Hill. I love this book because the heroes are so in love with one another it hurts down in their souls. And although they each carry terrible personal burdens, it's clear from almost the first page that they complete one another and if they can only find a way to fit together the love will be everything for ever and ever.

(Ohhhh, Michelle. That sounds incredibly romantic! And I love Joey Hill.--Penny)

Kate Macarthur: I just read If He's Sinful by Hannah Howell and I loved it! It's got fabulous characters in tough situations that you desperately want them to conquer so they can be together. And all that with a little paranormal thrown in to keep things fun and even more interesting.

(A pinch of paranormal is always welcome in a romance novel.--Penny)

Penny Watson: I was just thinking about the most romantic scenes I've read, and one stands out. When Zsadist, the big hulking, horribly tortured hero of Lover Awakened (JR Ward) shyly shows Bella that he has learned to read and write, and he scribbles "I love you" in a childlike scrawl for her to see, I am moved to tears. I've read that scene many, many times, and I still cry. It is such a romantic gesture from this scary-looking vampire, I just love it!

We'd love to hear about your favorite romance novels and Valentine traditions. Let us know!

Happy Valentine's Day to All!
Love, The Quirky Ladies

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Can someone please shave that nasty thing off Brad Pitt's face?

Brad's Current Look:

Really? Are those braids? Because while I can repect Penny's fascnination with facial hair and the men that wear it well, I consider this "plaited" thing to be over the line. I mean, how much food gets stuck in there? And how long would it take to find it? Why not cornrows instead?

When, oh when will I be able to enjoy indulging in People Magazine again without being in constant fear of turning the page and seeing THIS? (Can you tell I had a bad incident at the gym today?)

Now, let's take a moment to enjoy what Brad's look was BEFORE:














Sigh. Enough said.
(Penny, in deference to you and your love of the beard, I chose a picture where he's got some of that yummy scruff going on)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!


I used to roll my eyes when women said they were turning 29…again. Then I turned 29 for real. Er, quite some time ago.

I spent a few years in denial. A few more hating every birthday. Then I realized two very important, undeniable facts:

1. There is only one alternative to aging.
2. You couldn’t pay me to go back to being young.

Life is good. I’d rather live it than worry about it. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to admit my age anytime soon.

So happy birthday to me. I’ll be celebrating with my family over a sushi boat at my favorite restaurant as I turn 29…again.