Sunday, July 29, 2012

What Ever Happened to Sexual Tension?

Like many Jane Austen fans, I was horrified to hear that there is now an erotic version of some of her books. As if the whole Pride and Prejudice and Zombies thing wasn't enough. Poor Miss Austen must be rolling over in her grave.

One of the virtues of Victorian literature (and the movies based on them) is the sexual tension between the main characters. The dialogue is outstanding - the facility with language is far beyond anything one might experience today. It never ceases to amaze me the way an Austen character can deliver an insult or proffer a challenge while being unfailingly polite. It certainly beats the base language we tend to resort to when we are annoyed or angry today.

But, beyond the dialogue, it is what goes unsaid that often has the most power. Supposedly, in the new version of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are ripping off their clothes at every opportunity. (Truly, I don't even know how this fits into the story, seeing as they don't get together until the end of the novel. Regardless, I'm not going to read the new version to find out.) This reminds me of most movies today. Boy meets girl. They kiss. In the next scene, they are in bed together. Leaving the large issue of morality out of it, what ever happened to anticipation? To longing? To something worth waiting for?

The Victorians had all the same desires as we do today, yet perhaps they knew something that we have seemingly lost in our culture. Namely, that there can be as much (if not more) electricity in a look or a gentle brush of a hand as in a genital thrust. Little things can mean so much,  and the subtext lingering behind a conversation can reveal as much as the conversation itself. The promise of potential sexual union is a powerful thing. Sexual tension can go a long way in keeping a relationship going. In literature, it can keep a reader interested. Both in life and in fiction, it seems we are giving too much away much too soon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: St. Anne's Day

St. Anne's Day
by Janice Lane Palko, 2012

Just in time for St. Anne's feastday (July 26th) comes "St. Anne's Day," a debut romance novel by Janice Lane Palko. Anne Lyons is a fiery-tempered twenty-nine year old nurse and has no interest in meeting a man when she is hired by handsome bar owner Gerry McMaster to care for his mother, Peg, who is recovering from triple-bypass surgery.

The older woman and Anne quickly bond and she encourages Anne to start praying to St. Anne, "Dear St. Anne, get me a man as fast as you can." She had prayed that prayer to find her own husband and trusts in its power. St. Anne seems to quickly get on the case as men start knocking on Anne's door. There is Luis, the cook at the bar, who flirts with her and even names a dish after her. There is Craig Love, a former classmate and plastic surgeon who comes back into the picture, and then there is womanizer Gerry, who is all wrong for her, but who dominates her thoughts.

This is a fun read - there were several times in which I was laughing out loud, especially at some of the things that come out of Peg's mouth. There are also several issues, such as abortion, dating abuse, premarital sex, and respect for those who are different, which are handled very well.  The only caveat I would offer is that there are some sexual innuendo and jokes in the book, which may offend some. Overall, however, I really enjoyed this story. It provided some great escapism and I was eager to see how St. Anne would help Anne find the right man for her. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Anti-EBook Company

A while back, I took advantage of an introductory offer and purchased a $5.95 version of Huckleberry Finn from Easton Press. The press is dedicated to creating high-quality leather bound books. Truly, they are the anti-ebook company.

These are books for people who love the feel and look of fine books lining a shelf. They offer a surprisingly wide variety of books, from the classics, art books, and histories that one might expect, to those one might not expect such as the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia or a signed copy of The Help. Truly, there is something for everyone.

Sadly, the prices are quite steep. I think that compiling any sort of collection of these is out of reach of most people, myself included. But, choosing one might make a great gift for the book lover in your life for a special occasion. In any event, their catalog is beautiful to look at, and it is comforting to know that such appealing books are still being made. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

An Audience of One

Most writers (myself included) dream of having a large audience reading one's work, and hopefully being impacted by it in some way. But at the end of the day, it is possible to impact the world with just one reader. I know this blog doesn't get a lot of followers and my novel hasn't sold a lot of copies, and my next novel probably won't either, but I am incredibly thankful to each and every person who has used some of his or her precious time on this earth to read something I have written. I hope it was worth it!

Every creative effort makes an impact on the world. If we bring the best we have to our efforts, that is all we can do. The rest is really out of our control. God will use our work as He wills, and we may never know how something we said or did changed someone's life.

Kris Radish wrote an article for the July/ August issue of Writer's Digest, "An Audience of One." Radish tells of a booksigning where there was only one person in the audience. She sat with the woman and talked about her novel and her life and then asked about her life:

"A year ago I was homeless and living behind the bookstore," she told me. "I was a drug user and I watched people coming into the bookstore and authors, just like you, and one day I told myself that I would get straight and come back and sit here like this."

I took her hands and held them as she cried and told me how this moment, me taking time to sit with her, was the most remarkable think that had ever happened to her. I cried too as she told me about her new life plans.

Because she left her ego at the door, Radish was able to make a profound difference in that woman's life, and that woman left a lasting imprint on her as well. Each interaction matters. An audience of one. Sometimes that is all we need.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Reader's Favorite Review of Through the Open Window

A while back, I saw an ad (maybe on Facebook?) for Reader's Favorite, which offered to review books. All you had to do was send a copy. You could pay for a quick turnaround - the free service took about 12 weeks. There is no guarantee of a good review, only a review. The service seemed valid, and I had nothing to lose, so I submitted a copy of my book. I was very pleasantly surprised when I received the following review this week:

"Through the Open Window" is a heartfelt romance with all the ingredients to make it a wonderful tale. Doubts, uncertainty, attractions, and the exes are all well played out in this intelligent plot. It is a sweet romance that is worth your time and money. I was attracted to the sensible plot and characters from the beginning and loved it all the way to the end. Mike Duncan and Lucy had had their hearts broken before when those whom they loved had left them. The last thing they want is to find someone to complicate their present circumstances. So it comes as a surprise to them, when they meet each other in a NANOWRIMO meeting, how much they are attracted to each other. With the thought of not being ready for a new relationship firmly in their minds, they start a friendship that develops to becoming confidants and very dear in no time. Complications happen when Lucy finds out that her mom has terminal cancer about which she didn’t want her to know. Once before Lucy had left her studies to see her battle and win breast cancer. Now, a few years later, once again she leaves her dream job, her new home, and Mike, to take care of her. With the uncertainty of when, if ever, to come back, she dedicates herself to her mother’s needs and leaves her future in limbo for a time.

The story is nicely written. "Through the Open Window" will be liked by many, be it young adults or adults. Anne does a great job on this clean piece of romance entwined with great character development. It is really a fantastic light read for summer, or to cozy up with on a cold winter night. -
Anna D. for Reader's Favorite.

Become a Docent at the Springfield (MA) Museums

My hometown of Springfield, MA, has a wonderful treasure in its museums. We are fortunate to have two art museums, a science museum, history museum, and Dr. Suess sculpture garden, all located in one central area in downtown. I was there just recently and enjoyed two special exhibits - a LEGO castle exhibit and one featuring breathtaking Tiffany glass lamps and windows.

For those who want to volunteer giving tours in these museums, they have a wonderful docent training program. For free, you can get a great education in the items held in the Springfield collections. The museums are currently recruiting new docents. For more information, please visit the Museum website at Docent Programs.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Catholic Writers to Hold Conference in Arlington, Texas

The fourth annual Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE will take place August 29-31, 2012, at the Arlington Convention Center in Arlington, TX. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), and held in conjunction with CMN’s annual retailer trade show, the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE provides Catholic authors with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe.

The conference will offer “pitch sessions,” allowing authors an opportunity to meet personally with publishing professionals and pitch their writing projects. In addition, attendees have the opportunity to sign up for critique with professional editors and writers. Some participating publishers are Ignatius Press, Ave Maria Press, Christus Publishing, Tuscany Press, Ascension Press and Servant Books. Information for this event can be found on the conference web site.

This year's conference will focus on “Writing and the New Evangelization.” Speakers include EWTN personalities Teresa Tomeo and Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR, authors Ellen Hrkach (In NAME ONLY) and Patti Armstrong (STORIES FOR THE HOMESCHOOL HEART), Ann Margaret Lewis (MURDER IN THE VATICAN: THE CHURCH MYSTERIES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES), and author and blogger Sarah Reinhard (A CATHOLIC MOTHER’S COMPANION TO PREGNANCY: WALKING WITH MARY FROM CONCEPTION TO BAPTISM). More excellent speakers are still being confirmed.

In partnership with the Catholic New Media Conference, also taking place in the convention center, conference attendees will be able to attend a special track on blogging for $25. Information on this opportunity will be made to attendees upon registration.

“It's not just writing, it's not just fellowship, it's inspiration, too!” says 2011 Conference presenter Sarah Reinhard. “It was great to share the Eucharist and evening meals in person with writers who inspire me, encourage me, and motivate me the rest of the year.”

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization affiliated with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis sponsors both this live conference in August and an online conference in February to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. Says CWG President Ann Lewis, “These events are integral to our mission of ‘creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”

Registration costs $70 for CWG members, $75 for non-members and $40 for students. There's also a discounted combined membership. To register or for more information, go to