Monday, November 28, 2011

Inquiring Minds Want to Know!

I was standing in the grocery checkout line yesterday and the headline on all the tabloids read "Kate Pregnant".In Touch Magazine actually "confirmed" the rumor, although no word has come from the Palace. This is what the magazine said: ""Since before they even got married, it's been made clear to William and Kate that having children should be their number-one priority," the magazine's source disclosed. "Queen Elizabeth II, in particular, has been dropping so many hints about wanting a great-grandchild - and an heir to the throne - that Kate feared she wouldn't be able to face her without baby news," the insider added." And to add fuel to this rumor the magazine showed pictures of Kate with her hand on her stomach, although I think this just proves she's holding her coat closed!

Obviously Brits want to know when there might be an heir to the throne (especially if it's a girl, a future queen!) but why this fascination around the world? And why this fascination with preganncy in general? If any movie star reaches iconic status the headlines will always debate whether she is pregnant, wants to become pregnant, has been pregnant etc etc.

And all those photos of stars exposing big bellies--why are we suddenly so fascinated? Pregnancy used to be a private time. It was not done even to mention it. Remember those maternity clothes that were so voluminous one could invite an army to come and camp inside them? As if they fooled anybody--we all knew there was a large belly somewhere under those folds and gussets. We just didn't want to look at it.

In a world in which many countries are witnessing zero or negative population growth, why are we then so fascinated with those about to give birth. What springs to mind is Margaret Attwod's The Handmaid's Tale! We want the population to continue--we just don't want to do it ourselves. So any pyschiatrists or pyschologists out there--why do we want to look at pregnant bellies these days?

Poor Kate. When she actually does become pregnant, she'll be photographed at every stage. She'll be observed to see what she eats and drinks, whether she's off her food or eating for two. I hope she stays in Wales, out of the public eye!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday shopping Song

Will you be standing outside a store at 4 a.m. tomorrow? Not me. There is no item in the universe that is important enough to me to make me do that. In fact more and more lately I've been doing my Christmas shopping online. And last year I wrote a song about it, that I'd like to share with you again today as you rush from store to store:

Dashing through the web,
 googling sites like mad
Christmas time is here again,
bargains to be had
Click click here, click click there,
buy it all online
Overstock and Amazon.
Christmas will be fine.

Click Click here, click click there
Bought it all online
Presents bought and wrapped and shipped
Have a glass of wine!

Happy Black Friday to all!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Small Blessings

Since it's Thanksgiving week and nobody will have much time to think about anything except turkey and pumpkin pies, I thought I'd concentrate on the small things that make life worth living. Obviously I'm thankful for health and family but this is a good time to reflect on what really makes me happy.

Here are some of the things I've come up with:
A roaring fire on a cold winter night, and a hot chocolate and a cat on my lap... and a good book.
A long hot bath with a citrus scented scrub.
The sound of splashing water on a summer's day.
The sound of children playing in water on a summer's day.
Time to watch the clouds floating by or a good sunset.
An evening walk with time to talk.
Hiking with my friends.
Laughter around the table.

And you know what? None of those things cost a penny (apart from the hot water in the bath) How strange our society has become that we equate happiness with spending (buy Mom a Lexus for Christmas) .
My sisters at Jungle Red Writers are going to be talking about gratitude later this week and suggested starting a gratitude journal. I think that's a fine idea. So I'll start right now. I'm grateful that I'm sitting with my patio door open and warm sun streaming in and that my fingers all work properly to type, and that I have so many online friends who communicate with me and enjoy my posts.
Life is good, friends. Make the most of it. Make every moment special. We are the only species on earth who doesn't live in the moment, but worries about the future and broods over the past.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, won't you, and if you have time, then share your list of small blessings.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sticks and Stones

Remember that old rhyme "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me?"
We used to chant it in school when someone insulted us. It never really made us feel better, of course.

And I feel the same way about reviews. I just read one in which the reviewer clearly didn't GET the book. It was Royal Blood, that is supposed to be a comedy spoof on vampires. The reviewer blasts my heroine for being stupid enough to believe in vampires. Well, I guess that reviewer has never been in a castle in Transylvania at night, with no electricity, during a snowstorm. If the situation is right, one starts to believe in anything. I have stayed at various old castles and houses in Europe and trust me, if you hear a strange noise in the night or see something moving that you can't identify, even the most rational of us can begin to believe in ghosts, ghouls, vampires etc.

So why should I feel so upset about one review? It's just one person's opinion, after all, and there are people in the world who actually like Lady Gaga. I don't think most people realize how fragile most writers' egos are. We never believe what we have written is any good until our agents and editors tell us so. As we write we go through pockets of despair in which we tell ourselves that we are writing rubbish and will never write anything of consequence again and all our fans will leave us and the publisher will drop us. Then we get an email from our editor saying "This was fabulous" and we dance around for a few days saying "It's fabulous. I always knew it."

Some writer friends have made a pact never to read reviews. I should learn to follow that advice, but I love reading the glowing kind and I have to say that before online bloggers I always got only good reviews from the traditional sources, PW, Kirkus, Booklist etc. They have all given me starred reviews. RT Reviews always makes me a top pick. So I have to remind myself that online reviewers are not pros. They give a personal rather than an unbiased reaction to what they read.

Sometimes I'm tempted to respond and explain where the reviewer didn't quite understand what I wanted to achieve, but that's not a good idea. And besides, if one person didn't GET my book, then I still have improvements to make in my writing. So it's back to work, I guess.

And tell me--are you ever influenced by reviews? Do you read the Amazon reviews before you buy? I confess to doing that before purchasing something eletronic and if a book got all 1 stars I don't think I'd try it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Royal Gossip Mondays--Will and Kate to separate!

This is the kind of headline you'd expect to see on a supermarket tabloid but it's true. In the new year Will and Kate will be eight thousand miles apart. Not from choice. He is being deployed for helicopter search and rescue training in the Falkland Islands. And if case you don't know where they are, they are tiny bleak islands in the South Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Argentina. They have been settled by the British for more than a hundred years, but Argentina still claims them--hence the Falklands war about twenty five years ago. It was a short, bloody conflict in which a lot of badly trained Argentinian troops faced crack British units with inevitable results. So maybe it's not the smartest thing to send Prince William there to bring world focus to that region and stir up old wounds. In fact there have already been mutterings of an "Act of agression" from certain Argentinians--especially now that oil has been discovered nearby. Stay tunes!

It won't be any beach jaunt for Wills--unpredictable weather and absolutely nothing to do in the evenings, literally stuck at the end of the Earth. Rough terrain with sheep. And really tough flying conditions. That's what William will be facing for eight weeks.  A lot like Angelsey in winter, actually. And poor Kate will be getting all the scrutiny, not to mention the ongoing speculation as to whether she's pregnant.

The pregnancy rumor started when she wouldn't eat something that contained peanuts the other day. I suspect she won't remain alone at the farmhouse in Anglesey while Wills is away. Maybe go home to her parents (or the in-laws?) as their future apartment at Kensington Palace isn't quite ready for them yet.
One thing that's clear--they will miss each other desperately. They haven't been apart since the wedding and still have that radiant happiness.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Who am I writing for?

I'm about to start thinking about a new Molly Murphy mystery and also to come up proposals for the next three Lady Georgie books and I realize this is becoming harder than it was before. Not because I'm running out of ideas--far from it. I keep coming up with fun little twists and interesting plotlines for both series. The problem is that I am now so engaged in social media that I am in constant contact with several thousand fans. And they tell me what they like. I heard a lot of griping because Darcy did not figure prominently in Naughty in Nice. Of course there was the dashing and sexy Jean Paul de Ronchard instead but for keen fans of the series it just wasn't the same.

When I started writing mysteries I literally wrote for myself. I didn't think what might sell, what might make the NYT bestseller list or what might win an award. I knew what story I wanted to read and I couldn't find it on the shelf, so I wrote it. Now I feel all kinds of pressures--good reviews, bestseller lists, and above all pleasing my readers. It's got to be fun and sexy and dramatic and a good story but most readers want the story to be a personal one for Molly and Georgie. They want romance and heartbreak. They want their emotions involved.

This is now mmore of a challenge with the next Molly book because if you read Bless the Bride you'd know that Molly is now married. No more of that lovely romantic tension or the will they, won't they. So I have to think long and hard about where I want to go with that series. Children of her own to worry about, I'm sure. Daniel in danger. Cases that involve her personal life. So.... any suggestions as to what you'd want Molly to do next?

This raises an interesting point: should a writer keep her readership in mind when she writes, especially in a popular series. If the publishers had their way, we'd write the same book, over and over. Find a popular concept and stick with it. Look at Patricia Cornwell--that's exactly what she's done. Until now I've gone where I want to with my heroines, tried new things (like Molly meeting Houdini) and different tones for the books. But now I'm increasingly aware that my readers expect a certain kind of book when they see my name. Added pressure to perform and to please.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Should a writer write to please her readers? Should a series be consistent in tone and darkness so that the reader knows what to expect?  Do you get bored and lose interest if the stories are too similar or annoyed if they are too different? I guess I'm trying to please everyone and in the end the only person I can please is myself.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Long Live Queen Kylie!

Rhys here with my royal gossip Mondays:

It's finally official: parliament has voted and Will and Kate's daughter will be queen, if they have a female child first. This is quite a departure from tradition in which the male always inherited the title--which still holds true for dukes, earls and lesser nobles, as far as I can tell. I can't see that peers would want this to change, as the property always goes with the title and a woman always takes her husband's name. So that would mean that if a duchess inherited the stately home, it might then become the property of her husband's family--or at least that family name. So no, that wouldn't work, would it?

But European royal families have been allowing the oldest child to inherit the throne for ages--ever since kings were not supposed to lead armies, I expect. So the Netherlands and some Skandanavian countries have had queens. And queens, I have to point out, are not a bad idea. Britain rose to heights of great glory under Elizabeth I. Brtain achieved an enormous empire under Victoria and Queen Elizabeth has been universally admired throughout her long life. Even the conquest of Everest happened on her coronation day, which was a good omen. Queens also seem to live longer. Victoria had her diamond jubilee on the throne, and so has Elizabeth. So the country doesn't have to go to the expense of a coronation too frequently!

So hooray for queen Vicki or Lizzie or whatever Will and Kate call their oldest child (let's just hope it's not Queen Tracy or Kylie. I don't think so. Kate has worked hard to fit in to the royal mode, even taking eloqution lessons for months before the wedding so that any trace of a lower class accent was stamped out. It seems that Will and Kate are trying hard not to make waves, to fit in, to be sensitive to their future roles. So I'd be betting on a Victoria II or even an Elizabeth III. That is if they have a girl. The royal family has done rather well in producing heirs and spares recently.