Monday, January 30, 2012


Yesterday my husband drove me to the airport with the top down on my car. The weather in Houston was 65° and sunny. I boarded a flight for Minneapolis where the weather is 10° and partly cloudy. I did this voluntarily. Why? I was invited to go ice fishing. So here I am at dawn, about to get onto a bus for a two hour ride to a wilderness lodge on a frozen lake, pulse pounding with anticipation. Okay, scratch the pulse bit, I need more caffeine.

It’s not that ice fishing was ever on my Bucket List. So why leave the balmy temperatures for snow and cold? Because it’s something I’ve never done before and it sounded like fun.

Many years ago an older woman (she was probably not all that old, I was just very young) said to me, “I wish I’d had the chance to scuba dive and live on a tropical island when I was your age. But I had too many responsibilities and now it’s too late.” Then and there I made a promise to myself—when I was old I’d only regret what I’d done, not what I hadn’t done.

Over the years I’ve made a lot of mistakes through selfishness, lack of experience and just plain stupidity. Those I regret and hope I’ve learned from them. But whenever an opportunity to try something new or have an adventure has arisen, if time and finances have allowed, I’ve almost always said YES!!

Not all of these adventures turned out well—the snowmobile trip from hell, an arrest for piracy (I was innocent, of course!), and an infamous dive that ended with the bends come to mind—but once over, even the worst calamity evolved into a great story over time.

So ice fishing I go today. I’ve got my silk long underwear, cashmere socks, warm boots, scarf, coat  and gloves, and I’ve heard the cabin will be stocked with hot coffee and bourbon. Maybe not a death-defying extreme sport, but who knows what lurks under the frozen lake. Hmmmm, I feel a paranormal plot coming on. Let you know on Friday how it goes. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

When Is a Haiku Like a Potato?

The Blogosphere's big.
New posts pass by so quickly,
I can not catch them

My haiku's lame, but the sentiment's real; I can't keep up with the blogs I want to follow and know I miss good posts.

We have little time
To read. Attention splinters.
Thank God for mash-ups.

In the blogosphere, a mash-up offers links to posts the mash-up's writer considers important in some way: funny, heartfelt, thought-provoking, or irritatingly true. This one links to posts I've caught myself thinking about hours and days after reading them. If you missed these essays the first time around, give them a look now.

At Savor the Storm, August McLaughlin is doing a series of articles labeled Lifesaving Resolutions. The most recent is about trusting one's instincts. It features a gripping, real-life incident that will make you pause and look behind you before you board the next elevator. The other posts in McLaughlin's series are must-reads, too, as is her essay about battling anorexia.

Ginger Calem, I Am Blogger—Hear Me Tweet, continues her Writer's Butt exercise and healthy-living tips. Oh, mama! Calem's a tough but funny taskmaster. Her latest post offers the possibility of sleep--but we have to earn it.

At Occasional Epiphanies, Emma Burcart sets a ground rule for friends who insist on fixing her up with eligible men: she doesn’t do dumb and boring. All the single ladies should read and heed Burcart's advice.

Gene Lempp's blog, Unearthing the Future, offers at least two gem-like posts per week. One of them, "Designing from Bones," uses archeology as a springboard for story ideas. Are you muttering that archeology has nothing to do with your contemporary romance? Think again. Find Lempp's latest DFB post here.

Smart comic relief hangs out at Coleen Patrick's blog, Read. Write. Repeat. Could you write your life's story in six words? She did: Making it up as I go. Now write your own super-short memoir.

I missed superb posts
That you, I hope, caught and read.
Do a mash-up, please.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

THE HELP – The Long and Winding Road to Publication

With movie version of THE HELP highly visible during this awards season, I thought about its road to publication. When I read Kathryn Stockett’s story of writing THE HELP  and finding an agent, I was awed by her tenacity and faith in her story. My own luck in connecting with my wonderful agent seemed miraculous by comparison. As I read, however, I was struck one paragraph in particular:

“After rejection number 40, I started lying to my friends about what I did on the weekends. They were amazed by how many times a person could repaint her apartment. The truth was, I was embarrassed for my friends and family to know I was still working on the same story, the one nobody apparently wanted to read.”

I’ve been working on a manuscript for over four years. Sure, it’s been out on submission for a few months, but I re-wrote the story three times and revised extensively many, many more. I don’t even count the initial drafts or all the editing along the way. When I signed with my agent two years ago, I never imagined I had two major re-writes and a lot of revising to do before she was confident it was ready for submission. And all that time my friends and family kept asking if I’d sold my book yet. Even the other writers in the local RWA chapters looked at me askance when I said I was still re-writing.

While I didn’t go so far as to lie to my husband and sneak off to write, I was embarrassed that I was still working on That Story. As much as I believe in what I wrote, I avoided talking about it with everyone except my critique partner and my husband because I was sure the world was bored hearing about a novel that never seemed to be finished. It didn’t matter that it was “finished” in my mind a half dozen times. I understood that until it sold, my writing would never be more than a time-consuming hobby to my friends and family.

Kathryn Stockett’s success is an inspiration to any aspiring author. But for me, the feelings she had and the long, lonely journey she was willing to make—and share with the world—reassure me that the only failure is giving up on something you truly believe in and love. I'm not giving up on my writing and one of these days I may even mention to friends that I’m working on a follow-up story. Or maybe not.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I'm planning a trip. The journey's months away, details have yet to be hammered out, but we—me, husband, and daughters--are going.

The anticipation's delicious.

Cloudless skies, intriguing cities, and charming towns await us.

But only if we thwart missed connections, pickpockets, and food poisoning.

Kecia Adams recently returned from a family ski vacation. It prompted her to write about expectations versus reality.

I don't want to set myself up for disappointment, so every third time I squee with excitement about the upcoming trip, I make myself envision a hitch. This isn't hard as past family vacations are littered with them.

In New Orleans, as we crossed the street amidst a throng of tourists heading for the Café du Monde, my younger daughter became separated from the rest of us. I thought she was holding my husband's hand; he thought she was holding mine. We didn't realize our child was missing until we settled in chairs at the café. Twenty-odd years later, my throat tightens when I remember how we lurched toward the street calling our little girl's name. A lady clown approached, hand-in-hand with our daughter. "I asked her where her parents were, and she said 'Beignets,'" the clown told us.

My older daughter was in her terrible teens when we took a trip to Big Bend National Park. OD didn't just refuse to hike, she refused to get out of the car.

On a trip to Germany, my younger daughter lost her passport.

The New York City sight seared in my family's memory isn’t the Statue of Liberty, and it's not the Empire State Building. Instead, it's a rat rooting around the subway tracks. The upside is that now we know what David Letterman's talking about when he rants against rats in his monologues.

We've learned from the big and small hitches and know our trip won't be perfect. So what? We'll see places we haven't seen before--and we'll learn things about ourselves and each other.

I'm planning a trip.

Friday, January 20, 2012


We're delighted to welcome my good friend and critique partner, Sarah Andre, as our guest blogger today. Sarah began writing contemporary romantic suspense novels in 2005 and joined RWA in 2006. She has been a finalist in multiple contests including Lone Star, Fab Five, Sheila, Finally a Bride and 2011 Golden Heart. In 2009 Sarah signed with a NY Literary Agent who is currently shopping her manuscript" "Locked, Loaded and Lying." 

1/1/12: This year I swear I will exercise EVERY day! Off to walk my neighborhood…
1/2/12: Yippee, went to the gym and did 20 min treadmill, 20 min elliptical and 20 min stationary bike. Whew! I’m exhausted but I am a goddess!!
1/3/12: Unbelievably tired today and too busy at work…and I still have a bunch of errands to do on the way home. I swear I’ll do twice as much tomorrow to make up for skipping today…
Sound familiar? That New Year’s Resolution scenario could have come right out of my January, Any-Year journal (if I kept one!) I’ve had exercise-buddies, hired countless personal trainers, tried Jane Fonda videos, step-aerobic classes, Tae Bo dvds, you name it—I paid the money, gleefully convinced that this would be thing to finally motivate me forever.

Well honey, I’ve been a January Flame Out most of my adult life. I could write a book on my failures, my excuses and my newest Fad Diet (but that’s another rambling blog entirely!) My Point: I was born to curl up on the sofa with a novel. The End.

And then ten years ago the oddest thing happened. A personal trainer uttered four little words that ended up shattering my couch potato mentality.
(Dreamy music and blurry lines here to signify a flashback)

I happened to be over 200 pounds and was lamely following her kickboxing instructions: jab, cross, hook, uppercut. (I had boxing gloves on and she held padded mitts.) I threw a right jab, thwap! Connected solidly with those mitts, yes!

She yelled “Harder!”
What?? That was as hard as I hit. Well, I mentally shrugged, Okay. I reared back and swung a slamming left cross. Thwap!!
She screamed, “Hit me harder!

Is she insane? I’d punched her mitts with everything I had that time. Another thwap, another goading: “You can hit harder than that!” I was done.
“No,” I gasped, “I really can’t.”
And then came the four words: “Tap into your anger.”

I danced back on the balls of my feet in confusion (and secretly to catch my breath.)
“I’m not angry,” I said, in my most polite tone.
“Oh yes, you are,” she spat. “Reach deep and let it out.”

Really folks, I wasn’t angry! But now I was so frustrated with the whole session, embarrassed by my jiggling fat, sick of being yelled at when I was punching as hard as I could and who was she to tell me I’m angry? …I grit my teeth, swung my arm and slammed that mitt with all those emotions. THWAP!!!!
It was such a mammoth, fury-driven hit that I actually grunted on impact. She staggered back and dropped her hands. “Yes,” she said quietly. “There’s your anger.”
And I stood there quivering and alive…and I don’t mean with adrenalin but pure rage. Pouring out of me like Niagara Falls. I felt invincible and powerful and…happy.
“Let’s go again,” I said. (And then looked around to see who said that.)

I’d like to tell you that watershed moment immediately changed my life, but it still took years to keep me motivated. (And she left for Paris months later, picture an enormous backslide in my weight loss.)

But those four words stayed with me and once in awhile I found ways to “tap” into anger during workouts, and guess what? Those sessions would be hugely exhilarating and productive. And I felt light-hearted and free afterwards, which I don’t think was all adrenalin-related. It was shedding that ugly emotion that we were taught as youngsters to stuff down and ignore because to express it is inappropriate and unfeminine.

Beyoncé named her brazenly sexy alter-ego Sasha Fierce, whom she ‘turns into’ the second she puts on her glittering dress. She becomes that person; it’s all-consuming, it’s not an act. Well, I’m here to tell you that alter-ego’s work, and mine is also called Fierce and she exercises like a demented fool. In fact Fierce is so real that I have to be very, very careful to keep my worlds separate!

You, dear reader, know me as Sarah: a pleasant, friendly romance writer. Ask anyone at my gym or passing me at Memorial Park…Fierce is a snarling, focused terror-to-behold.  I found a trainer who instinctively knew this was my motivation and each day, within two sentences of greeting me he can set me off.  We spar verbally, escalating to just this side of a UFC Smackdown. Hour’s up, we high-five and part great friends.

Sensory depravation helps me stay in my world of wrath. I don’t make eye contact (and if I do it’s a lethal stare), my music is so loud it covers my asthmatic breathing and I don’t speak to anyone. Unlike Beyoncé’s gowns, I wear rude T-Shirts (“Yet, despite the look on my face you’re still talking” or “I’m not mean, you’re just a sissy.”) My iPod is divided into two categories: soothing music I garden and daydream to, and a loooong playlist labeled ‘Exercise.’ (Wish there was a lightning bolt icon!) In this playlist I listen to some of the most god awful lyrics ever put to music. And to get a spot on that playlist each song must be sung/screamed with intense rage. The angrier the singer, the faster, longer and more determined I run. I would be ashamed to even throw in one iTune link here…THAT’S how much I don’t want you to catch a glimpse of Fierce.

It’s twisted, I get it. And yet, here I am— six years later and 70+ pounds lighter to tell you: Anger works. Any anger. Could be an immediate, one-time event: the driver that cut you off on the way to the gym. Run the treadmill and think of all the ugly remarks you secretly wanted to shout in his face. Could be chronic: your @#$% boss or in-law-from-hell. Could even be petty, envy-related: the fact that you have to exercise until you wheeze while cutie-pie, 20-something strolling on the treadmill next to you, chatting on her cell has the metabolism of a gazelle. Grrr.

The point is, once you admit Anger really is there, unbelievably deep within you and must get out, and once you learn to let it out in controlled, short intervals I guarantee you will look forward to your exercise time. It’s now a recognized toxicity I need to relieve daily or the sludge just builds. I still don’t LIKE to exercise. I still secretly revel in missing a day or two, but guess what happens? I begin to feel like a big, fat Ick. I get snarky at my loved ones. I reach for sweets and junk food. Any of this sound familiar?

If you’ve tried everything under the sun to stay motivated and exercise more often but nothing’s worked, well then…you have nothing to lose…try my bizarre, twisted approach.
Tap into your anger.

Posted by Sarah Andre

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Yesterday NPR aired an interview with the 90 year old Rosamond Bernier about her memoir entitled Some of my Lives. What struck me about the piece wasn’t the obvious privilege that put her in the position to meet some of the greatest figures of the 20th century, but the spirit that embraced her opportunities with curiosity and enthusiasm. The NPR article online begins: 
“In 1947, Vogue magazine sent Rosamond Bernier to Paris to cover European cultural life as it recovered after World War II. She met everyone who was anybody — Pablo Picasso befriended her, Henri Matisse gave her fashion tips, Alice B. Toklas baked for her. Bernier's memoir Some of My Lives is a lively compendium of this movable feast of art and genius — and of the author's own considerable charm.” 
It’s hard not to envy the opportunities Ms. Bernier’s circumstances afforded her and yet how many other wealthy young women of her time sat on the sidelines and never took advantage of the world their position opened to them? Many young women are charming, but Ms. Bernier’s curiosity and willingness to put herself out there endeared her to the creative geniuses of her time in a way no amount of money or parental influence could do.
 As I listened to the piece, I couldn’t help but think about my favorite movie of 2011, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, where Gil (Owen Wilson) travels back in time and is befriended by literary legends Hemmingway, Stein, and the Fitzgeralds. Gill had Woody Allen and a great script to fulfill his dream but he also had a joie de vivre that opened him to new experiences. 
I realized that joy is something anyone can have and interesting connections can be made no matter who or where you are. I’m lucky to live in a big city, so why don’t I go to art galleries, museums, concerts on a regular basis? Every week there are author signings at bookstores around the city, cultural events, speakers on all kinds of fascinating topics. Our universities, community colleges and specialty schools offer continuing education classes in everything from languages to ancient philosophy to wine tasting. And hundreds of special interest organizations welcome interested newcomers. There are sporting events, fairs, arboretums, parks. The sad truth is I get too busy with my day to day routine and don’t make time for these adventures and the interesting people I wouldn’t meet otherwise. 
If I want to live my own charmed life, I need to embrace more of the wonderful experiences my world has to offer. As of today, I plan to do something that enriches my life at least once a week. Can’t wait to research all the choices I have for this weekend! 
What is it that makes you feel alive and happy? If you defined a your own version of a Charmed Life, what would it be?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Downton, Everything's Waiting for You

©2012 WGBH Educational Foundation

Roughly fifty years separates "Downtown," a 1960’s song that became a surprise hit for singer Petula Clark and the circa World War I setting of Downton Abbey, a costume drama that’s been a surprise hit in Great Britain and in around the world.

We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares and go
Downtown . . . .

Nowadays, we've watched our savings dwindle and cope with pay freezes. We've seen friends lose homes to foreclosure and worry about soldiers in Afghanistan and school kids in crowded classrooms.

We do not, however, curtsy or bow our heads. We choose when and whom we'll marry, our daughters may inherit whatever we choose to leave them, and class is not destiny.

When we switch on the television to the second season of Masterpiece Theater's Downton Abbey, we can forget our troubles and immerse ourselves in the lives of characters strait-jacketed by their birthrights--or lack thereof. We watch as war and small, private rebellions loosen the “rules” that once governed behavior upstairs and downstairs. The old order is changing before our eyes.

Here, in the U.S., Wall Street may still hand out bonuses, but, at Downton, the aristocracy is in eclipse. Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, is powerless to stop the family seat from being converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers and can’t prevent her granddaughter from inviting a man in trade—a newspaper publisher—to visit the family home,.

While military service now is voluntary in most parts of the world, in Downton Abbey's era, class didn’t insulate the titled from war. Matthew Crawley, the heir, goes off to fight, and Robert, Lord Grantham, a veteran of the Boer War, is disappointed when he's deemed ineligible for active military service. He, his wife, and daughters do their part. Indeed, the Crawleys show what's meant by noblesse oblige. Lady Edith betrayed her own sister in season one, but the Crawleys look out for those who rely on them for a livelihood.

The character of Lady Mary has softened as she’s acknowledged her mistakes and realized, too late, she cares for Matthew. Love, meanwhile, has emboldened head housemaid Anna Smith who is willing to risk her job and reputation for Bates, Lord Grantham’s former valet. Who knows how Lady Sybil's affair with Irish chauffeur Tom Branson will end? The fact it started and still simmers signals the social changes to come.

Part of Downtown Abbey's appeal is the glimpse it offers of a long-gone lifestyle. We admire aspects of it while thanking our lucky stars we weren't born into that era. The Edwardian period makes our own look better.

Downton Abbey has inspired a line of gift items, ranging from books to tea sets and replicas of jewelry worn on the show. Fans of the show tweet using the hashtag #DowntonPBS, and viewers can vote on characters' “likeability” here.

So, maybe I'll see you there
We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares and go
Downtown . . . .

Friday, January 13, 2012

VOICE or What happened to Sleepy, Grumpy and Doc?

I recently heard a new writer say, “I’m not querying agents or editors. My story is so original, I wouldn’t want anyone to steal it.” She went on to explain she was planning to self-publish because this book was going to be so big, she wanted to make all the money herself.  Now I’m not saying her premise isn’t groundbreaking, her writing isn’t brilliant or her e-book won’t make a gizillion dollars. JK Rowling, Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyers have proved that all things are possible in the writing world. I will argue on one point—no one else can write her book even using her premise and a stolen plot outline. Not even close. Each writer has his or her own voice and that’s why the same stories can be told over and over and still be fresh and interesting.   
Many times agents’ and editors’ response to queries include something like, “I love your voice,” or “I didn’t respond to your voice,” and new writers often wonder what the hell they’re talking about. So what is voice? I once heard Jayne Ann Krentz  say that voice was more than just prose style, that it was tone, theme and values as well. I'm certainly not on her level, but bear with me as I try to show-not-tell what I think it is. 
Last fall two movie versions of the Snow White story were released about the same time. You know the basics—beautiful young princess, evil queen, seven little people—all male—and a handsome prince/love interest. I thought the idea of making Snow White movies at all was shaky, and two at once was just absurd. Then I saw clips of each and (shameful confession) was tempted to go see them. The trailers for these two movies dramatically point out how differently two voices can tell the same story. You may respond to one more than the other, or to both in different ways. But all the elements—dialogue, action, cast, photography, special effects, costumes—working together to create a film that communicates a vision is its makers’ voice

In Snow White and the Huntsman, Charlize Theron plays an evil queen who is so obsessed with eternal youth, she sends a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth…yep, as in THOR) to find Snow White so she can inhale her essence and gain immortality. Dark and violent, this isn’t your Disney cartoon story.

The other flick, MIRROR, MIRROR stars Julia Roberts as the conniving queen who banishes Snow White and tries to trick Prince Charming (Armie Hammer) into marrying her because she’s broke. Add Nathan Lane as the queen’s servant and you’ve probably figured out this clip has a completely different tone.

So that's my take on voice. I'd love to hear what you think.  Are there any authors you would know just by reading a paragraph or page of their writing? Directors you recognize by their style?  If you’re a writer, how do you see your own voice?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kick Like No One's Watching

We don't need enemies or frenemies, or things that go bump in the night. We have ourselves— saboteurs of plans and smashers of hope.

The person muttering under her breath that I won't be able to do something and am foolish to try is me. So's the woman who declares my work derivative, compares my butt to urban sprawl, and hints my cats have fleas.

I'm not alone. At The Fearful Adventurer blog, Torre DeRoche takes down her biggest and baddest critic via an essay: "What If Your Biggest Naysayer Is You." Read it. Now.

Did you laugh at the line "I look like a douche when I do yoga!" For years, I refused to join an exercise class for fear others would smirk and point their fingers when they noticed my sense of rhythm is missing in action.

When I finally signed up, a fellow exerciser showed me how foolish I'd been. She might dress in don't-look-at-me colors like gray and beige, but when the music starts, she jumps, kicks, and throws punches like a ninja.

Not all her punches are synchronized to the music and her kicks don't reach the height of the Rockettes', but she's moving her body, gaining the health benefits of exercise, and, judging by her ferocity, she takes out an army of enemies and frenemies every morning. Before breakfast.

Most importantly, no one cares what she looks like. Remember Lark Howard's post of January 9 and the advice she got from a friend? "Nobody cares what you’re wearing, they care what they’re wearing. Unless you look fabulous or horrible, nobody notices." That advice applies to more than clothes. In fact, it applies to almost everything in life. No one cares about how you look when you do squats or your skills as a teacher, insurance adjustor, travel agent, or writer unless you screw up or are so skilled you inspire teeth-gnashing envy.

It's liberating to know we operate under the radar. Sure, our mothers and friends might know of our progress—or lack thereof, but most people don't notice and don't care.

We're the ones scaring ourselves, and we have to quit it. At the end of his post listing twenty-five things writers should stop doing, Chuck Wendig offers this advice:
"Fear will kill you dead. You’ve nothing to be afraid of that a little preparation and pragmatism cannot kill. Everybody who wanted to be a writer and didn’t become one failed based on one of two critical reasons: one, they were lazy, or two, they were afraid. Let’s take for granted you’re not lazy. That means you’re afraid. Fear is nonsense. What do you think is going to happen? You’re going to be eaten by tigers?"

The tigers we invent are the fiercest, most intimidating of all. To defeat them, we have to jump, kick, and throw punches like ninjas. A lady I know manages that without a lot of coordination, rhythm, or brute force.

She's unself-conscious and fearless. She's awesome.

We can be, too.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. - Mark Twain
January is a dangerous time of year for me. In two words: Winter Sales. This year is worse than usual since I pretty much needed an entire new wardrobe after losing some weight. I see you nodding in sympathy. So with renewed enthusiasm, I go into my newly replenished closet each morning and assemble an ensemble, then look in the mirror with uncertainty until I get the thumbs up or thumbs down from my husband, a designer with impeccable taste in EVERYTHING.
I come by my insecurities honestly. Growing up I never left the house without hearing, “Oh, are you wearing THAT?” “No, mother,” I’d reply. “I just spent an hour getting dressed because I plan to wear something else.” Even now when I visit, I brace myself for The Question. I’m rarely disappointed.
I could point out that my mother has no fashion sense, but that’s irrelevant. The seed was planted, watered and grew until as an adult I met a very fashion-savvy young woman who shared a secret with me that I’m going to pass on right now. Ready?
Nobody cares what you’re wearing, they care what they’re wearing. Unless you look fabulous or horrible, nobody notices.
To prove her point she dressed me in her clothes (at the time I had just moved to Houston from the Virgin Islands and had nothing appropriate of my own) and took me to a season of chic parties where we observed the wealthy socialites in their designer outfits. Someone always looked stunning, while some poor creature…let’s just say, expensive can also be tragic. Very tragic.  And my friend was right. We were nicely put together, acceptable and no one paid the slightest attention to what we were wearing.
My friend’s secret was liberating—freeing me of years of maternal disapproval. It also says a lot about human nature. Other people don’t see those little flaws in your figure, care if you wear comfy shoes or notice that little black dress is the same one you always wear to the company Christmas party. So relax and enjoy yourself, you look just fine.…although you might rethink the temptation to buy that Versace leopard-print lycra catsuit. Just saying.
What about you--love clothes, see them a purely utilitarian or something in between? 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Oh, the Publisher and the Library Should Be Friends

When I got my library card, that's when my life began. ~Rita Mae Brown

As a kid, I looked forward to the arrival of the bookmobile. It was RV-sized and crammed with books. Every other week, I'd climb aboard, return the books I’d read and browse for more. Two librarians manned the vehicle—one drove, and the other kept the stock from falling. Both excelled at divining what a girl who'd loved Little Women might like to read next.

Throughout my high school years, I loved wandering the stacks of my town library, picking up books and scanning first pages and author bios. Back then, hardcovers were luxuries to average families, but the library put them in my hands week after week.

I wondered about the authors of the books I read, but did I think about the publishers? Doubtful, but I must have assumed they were happy to send their products to places where they'd be checked out by readers. I thought publishers and libraries were, excuse the pun, on the same page.

Either I was wrong or things have changed. Apparently, publishers don't like libraries' policy of lend-lend-lend. I wouldn't have known this if not for some publishers' refusal to make their e-books available to libraries.

As I wrote in a column for the women's fiction chapter of Romance Writers of America, we associate "friction" with politics and rubbing two sticks together to make fire, but Maja Thomas, a senior vice president of the Hachettte Book Group, uses the word to explain why Hachette, a "big six" publisher, won't make its ebooks available to libraries for lending. “Selling one copy that could be lent out an infinite number of times with no friction is not a sustainable business model for us,” she told Randall Stross of the New York Times.

Of the big-six publishers, only Random House, Penguin and HarperCollins make their e-books available to libraries. Penguin recently stopped making its new titles available and HarperCollins only allows an e-book to be borrowed 26 times before a library must purchase a new copy. When Laura Hazard Owen of compared the list of most downloaded e-books from libraries with the New York Times' best-seller lists, she found some notable differences. For example, forget about borrowing NYT bestseller 11/22/63 by Stephen King from the library as an e-book because its publisher, Simon & Schuster, won't allow it to be lent out.

Owens notes that publishers are not restricting downloadable audiobooks in libraries in the same way that they are restricting e-books. Alas, that, too, may change. Yesterday, Jane at Dear Author reported that Brilliance Audio, owned by Amazon, is pulling its e-book titles from the library market. (Scroll down to the fourth item Jane wrote.)

A song from the musical Oklahoma runs through my head. The first line's "Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends," and the chorus begins with "Territory folks should stick together." Publishers and libraries are mutually dependent. That may not be the best basis for friendship, but isn't it a reasonable foundation for alliance? Meanwhile, book lovers—authors, publishers, booksellers, libraries, and readers should stick together to foster reading in this generation and the next. Readers borrow books from libraries, swap them with friends, and grow up to buy them.

Towns and cities have slashed libraries' hours and cut librarians' book-buying budgets. That makes it doubly disappointing that some publishers won't allow library-lending of their e-books.

I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself. — I, Asimov. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Isaac ASIMOV

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


The New Year is a time of contemplation and resolutions, endings and new beginnings. I’ve read some profound blogs lately—Pat’s posts and links have been especially inspiring—and appreciate all the food for thought generously offered.
Today, however, I’m out of wisdom and insight and simply offer a bit of humor. For those of us in the romance novel world, handsome men are often the protagonists of the books we read and write. Who knew they had a club? Hope you enjoy this clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Bright, Shiny New Year

A family from Denmark recently moved onto my street. A couple of weeks ago, they strung up white Christmas lights along the eaves of the house and, to my surprise, have kept those lights illuminated all night, night after night.

I don't know whether that's a Danish tradition—to make bright in a winter of short days and long nights--or a far-from-home family's way to cope with a new country and city. Either way, I've enjoyed the glow.

In 2012, I crave light. How am I going to get it? I'll burn gift candles rather than save them for special occasions. I'll turn on the porch light a little earlier and keep my desk lamp on a bit longer. I'm not advocating we waste electricity but want a beacon to guide me and a nightlight for security in this as-yet-unfamilar year.

More importantly, I'll pay attention to the people of bright hearts and minds who prod me to appreciate, think, and re-evaluate. Some recent blog posts stand out for me.

Before we flap our mouths, wave our hands, and make resolutions we'll accomplish reluctantly--if at all, writer and therapist Louise Behiel suggests we ask ourselves ten questions. They're the kind we usually don't face unless it's three in the morning and sleep's impossible. Here's her number eight: "What am I afraid of?" Her number nine: "What am I afraid of losing?" Number ten: "What am I afraid of gaining? What happens if my deepest desires become true? What will it cost me?" Save yourself big bucks in therapy and read Louise's post.

Emma Burcart made only one resolution for 2012, and it's one we should copy: she's going to be kinder—to herself. (Why, oh why are we women so merciless to ourselves?) Here's part of Emma's new vow: "I’m going to be like that great line from Jackie on That Seventies Show. I’m going to run down the beach into my own arms. Figuratively."

From Diane Holmes, founder of Pitch University, comes a New Year's Resolution for those of us who do not remember 2011 fondly.

In an example of the universe's synchronicity, yesterday, Jink Willis posted this quote by Susan Skye on Facebook: "You can't punish yourself into change. You can't whip yourself into shape. But you can love yourself into well-being."

Happy New Year!