Tag Archives: passion

THE POWER OF A “GOOD READ”


I have been on a reading kick lately and quite productive. More so than my writing, I must confess. Picking up a great book is akin to finding a great love – but it’s an affair – not a lasting soul-mate. I have been a bit fickle with my choices, a little romance, a little mystery, a little mainstream. I read a great old traditional Iris Johansen novel a few weeks ago, entitled White Satin, and I felt transcended into my past. Flash back to the old Loveswept series sold in the supermarkets and read in a heated, fervor evening of passion. Sighing over alpha males and maddening conflict in true roller coaster ride fashion.  Taken away from my daily problems of boys and dating and awkwardness – those books gave me something to hope and dream about. Unfortunately, too many critics cite the traditional romance as giving women false expectations. So untrue. They gave me something to escape from – I knew reality better than anyone and was under no false expectations.  But they certainly made my world a bit prettier for a while, and that is something quite special in this life.

I moved on to the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series. I confess I refused to read them in the height of the series popularity over the summer. Every beach bum had a copy in hand and I don’t like to rush head first into trends. I wait and bide my time. When the fervor begins to die down, I circle the book like a predator and think before I commit. So, I committed and though I found the first book slow for the first quarter – the lure of the heroine overcame any weakness. Damaged, brilliant, vengeful and interesting – there hasn’t been such a complicated, intriguing heroine in a long time. She had me at hello, so I tore through the rest of the series like a weekend fling and came out panting and satisfied.

Then Susan Elizabeth Phillips, my idol. Call Me Irresistible was the perfect complement to the darkness of the Tattoo series. This was the first book we didn’t get the hero’s viewpoint, and the master of the humorous romance used this to her sweet advantage. Not knowing what he was thinking drove me and the heroine crazy. I laughed out loud at the small town antics and adored the impulsive, headstrong heroine who was not classically beautiful and and had to clean toilets to survive. Again, I was transported into another time and place, where great sex rules, and that first falling in love experience was mine all over again. And I wasn’t even technically cheating on my fantastic husband. HOW COOL IS THAT?

I am currently reading Emily Griffin’s  Heart of the Matter. I like her as an author – some of her books much better than others, but I was immediately engulfed in the two main character’s lives. The author grabbed me by the throat and has not let go. I completely identify with the character who quit her job as a lawyer to spend time with her children, then found it not what she expected. Swamped in mundane tasks, she drifts from her husband, who is a famous plastic surgeon. Her mother warns her to keep her job or she will lose her husband because she will not be interesting anymore. I found I was a very bad mommy today for personal reasons. I could not put this book down. It’s like watching a train wreck happening in front of you (forgive the cliché) and I found myself getting frustrated, slamming the book down and stamping around the kitchen as I yelled at my husband. “If you even think of cheating on me, you know what I’ll cut off, right!”

The poor man knows me well enough to sigh and look me directly in the eye. “What are you reading, honey?”

I stomped off. “Never mind!”

I will finish the book today but I won’t share what happens.

Let’s not forget whatever lovers you seek, whether it be romance or mystery or horror, are there to make our lives more beautiful, more intense, more present.

God, I love being a writer. To contribute to that world just a little bit. Well, that’s enough for me.

Happy reading.

SECRETARIAT – SOME THOUGHTS ON THE WINNER’S CIRCLE


I LOVE horse racing.

I know – odd type of hobby. This came from my dad, who back in the day, drove a cab, drank heavily, and spent every Sunday betting the ponies. I only saw him on weekends since my parents were divorced, and I tagged along for some quality father/daughter time.

Our day usually consisted of chain smoking in OTB (yes, you were able to smoke INSIDE then!). Pencils tucked behind the ear, racing booklets underneath our arms, he taught me the basic principles of horse racing and horse betting. Glamorous, no. Fascinating, YES.

I learned about breeding, jockeys and trainers. I learned the differences between tracks, turf or dirt, and could narrow down the odds of who would win on a sloppy track in the rain. I learned to trust my gut if I saw a horse I liked, and if a family name came up on the list, I always bet it. Every August, we travelled to Saratoga Springs and immersed ourselves in the sport. As onlookers strode by dressed up with pretty hats, munching on the variety of food offered, my father and I sat on a hard bench by the rail in the hot sun and shared a pretzel and lemonade for our only meal. All of our concentration, time and energy was taken up by plotting and betting on the next race.

I learned many important things on those Sundays by listening to my father.  But the most valuable lesson was simple.

It’s all about heart.

Handicappers can plot a race by using a number of statistics – mostly from the breeding. But a horse with a heart and soul longing to win will always beat the numbers.

The story of Secretariat was inspiring on many different levels. First, the horse itself had the heart of a champion. He loved to run, needed to win, and this quality was bred deep into his soul. Second, his owner was a woman who had the same heart. A housewife with children, she stepped away from society’s expectations to follow her dream. She never apologized for it. She felt guilty, I know as a fellow mom how guilty she probably felt all the time, but she believed her horse was special and could win. She hoped her family would back her, but took the chance they wouldn’t. Every man told her it was impossible. With millions of dollars at stake, she went toe to toe with the elite circle of men who controlled the industry.

But they couldn’t control her.

And they couldn’t control Secretariat.

Is this a post about hear me roar, I am woman? No, not this time. This is simply the acknowledgement of our need to pursue our dreams and follow our gut, despite the odds. Despite hearing everyone say “You can’t do that!” To learn to dig deep within our souls and push for more – to pursue greatness.  Will we get there? The odds say no. But sometimes you beat the odds and you never know until you go for it.

Secretariat went on to win the Triple Crown and still holds the record for time in the Belmont.

We need to hold to this principle: as writers, as moms, as individuals.

Writers get rejected on a consistent basis. We are told the project we put our blood and guts into is not good enough. We keep writing and try again. And again. Always with the possibility of greatness.

Mothers grow an actual human being in their bodies, push them out and into the world, and are expected to do everything right with raising this child. We will make many mistakes. We will hurt our children, not meaning to. We will mess up and feel hopeless and struggle with our constant mantra: “Are we failures?” Yes, we get up every day and make them breakfast, and dry their tears, dress them and bathe them and tuck them in at night. We look for joy in the endless details of child rearing. The job will never end and we will rarely be told how good we are at it. But we persevere and go for the gold.  And sometimes we do it again. And again.

I rather regret the things I tried and failed at. I rather be like Secretariat and end up in the winner’s circle.

Wouldn’t you?

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ROMANCE…


I write romance novels.

Most of you know that. Normally, romance novelists evoke various reactions, such as the raised eyebrow, the wonder regarding those sex scenes,  or the disdain of cliché writing. The basic theory most believe is that romance writers know all about romance.

When I was dating my husband, his best friend warned him away from me. “Don’t date her, man,” he said, shaking his head. “She’ll expect roses and pretty words and you’ll never live up to her expectations. She writes romance for God’s sake. Get rid of her before it’s too late.”

Of course, he ate those words when he gave his best man speech at our wedding.

But the philosophy was certainly interesting to me. I had different views on romance. When I was younger and single, I voraciously read every Silhouette and Harlequin book I could get my hands on. I was dazzled by the intense experience of that first kiss, the endless possibilities stretched ahead, the push/pull of attraction between a new couple excited me. I loved men who opened doors and talked about their feelings and whose touch could put me in a frenzy. I trembled at the thought of alpha males and dated my share of brooding, starved artistis. As I matured, I started looking for more values I cherished in a mate, such as respect for my individuality, a sense of humor, and interests that matched my own. Romance was courting, and great sex; meeting friends and family and not being able to keep our hands off of one another. It was drinking all night and eating cheeseburgers at 5:00am at the local diner.

There were some traits about my husband I was disappointed in. We danced horribly together. I would watch  couples glide on the dance floor, melded as one, sharing whispers of endearments and I would get jealous. My husband and I bumped along a few steps, he looked awkward and ready to be anywhere but in my arms, and usually had nothing to say while we danced.

He always walked ahead of me, which I always thought of as rude. He says I walk too slow for him. So I trot along behind him like a lost puppy while other couples stroll in the moonlight hand in hand. He is not affectionate in public, and even in our home, prefers to stay on his own couch, on his own side of the bed, and will drop me like a hot potato at a wedding, choosing the company of his buddies over me. But all of that was negotiable, and not enough for a deal breaker, so we fell in love and made a commitment to each other.

When my husband and I got married, later in life than most, we delved immediately into the domestic bliss of baby and house.  Our lives veered off course rather quickly, and my views of romance went with it. I found myself steeped in baby books, and became fascinated with anything to do with motherhood. Romance morphed into appreciation for a cooked meal, an extra sleeping shift, or the occasional night out with a girlfriend. My husband and I lost a bit of each other through this journey in order to gain the necessity of partnering to take care of a new life. We became a tag team, close friends, and fell asleep exhausted at the end of the day. Romance to me, at that time, was no sex. Just sleep.

Since the boys are now 3 and 5, I surprised him with a cruise for his fortieth birthday. I wanted to re-connect and be able to finish a conversation without young children interrupting. I was deathly afraid of missing the kids, so I booked a five night cruise and made plans for both sets of grandparents to watch them in shifts for the week.

The cruise was simply amazing. Even the flight to Florida was relaxing. I watched what I wanted, listened to music on my Ipod, and drank coffee. On the ship, we passed masses of families with young children while we happily skipped past, not needing to take care of anyone but ourselves. The sense of freedom was exhilarating. We ate five star dinners every night and drank cocktails all day long. We gambled in the casino, watched live shows, and did Karaoke. We watched bellyflopping contests and danced in the nightclub to seventies music without feeling silly and without needing alcohol for courage. We had sex in the middle of the day. We went horseback riding on the beach of Grand Caymans, drove mini jeeps through the jungles of Cozumel, and snorkeled on the coral reef hand in hand.

I re-discovered romance with my husband. Catching a glimpse of our old selves, we cherished the experiences and talked again like adults. The main highlight of the trip came in the Caymans. We were in a jewelry store which specialized in diamonds called the Crown of Light. The salesperson put one on my finger and the way it sparkled and caught the light made me literally gasp in wonder. I had never seen anything as beautiful as this ring. When the salesperson asked me if I wanted it, I laughed aloud and said it was impossible. She said nothing was impossible. I snickered and turned to my husband, who I assumed would pry the ring off my finger in three seconds and march me out the door before I got any of my impulsive ideas. And boy, am I impulsive. I am the type to spend all of our savings on a trip instead of the kids college fund and hope for the best.

Ray shrugged his shoulders and glanced down at the ring. “Do you love it?” he asked.

Wordlessly, I nodded my head.

“Then let’s talk price.”

My mouth hung open. I had a small fortune on my finger. “We can’t,” I said.

“Do you love it?” he asked again.

“Yes, but—“

“Then let’s see what we can do.” Matter of factly, he spoke with the store manager, who came to an agreement and then broke open a bottle of champagne. We drank three glasses and walked out with the Crown of Light on my finger. When I asked him why on earth he did this, he said simply, “Because I love you.”

God, that is romance. The ups and downs and middles.  We may have sucked at ballroom dancing, and he still drops me at weddings, but my partner in this lifetime is a different kind of hero than the ones I write about. And that’s fine for me.

This one is for you, honey.