laurielikesbooks.blog-city.com — February 2003
Misc. Musings about Insomnia, Being Sick, Watching TV, and Birthdays
Everyone goes through bouts of sleeplessness in their lives; as a chronic sufferer of sinus and bronchial infections, I've been on more heart-pounding, bounce-off-the-walls medications than I care to remember, but not sleeping for ten months is a vastly different experience. It's pretty bad when you take actual prescription sleeping pills and still can't sleep. Which is why when a neighbor who hadn't slept more than a couple of hours a night in almost 20 years introduced me to another neighbor, I almost dropped to my knees and kissed his feet. This other neighbor? The doctor who ran a sleep clinic at a nearby hospital.
After wearing a contraption for days that was able to determine by body movements when a person is actually sleeping, we determined that unlike some insomniacs who actually get more sleep than they imagine, I did not. And because traditional sleeping medications didn't work, the doctor prescribed something else for me to take, something that is not generally given for sleep disorders. It worked on the very first night, and for years I continued to take it, albeit in smaller doses to minimize any side effects.
A couple of years ago I decided to take myself off the medication and fooled myself into believing it would work, but within a week or so, I was either up all night or would wake in the middle of the night and be unable to go back to sleep. My original doctor/neighbor had since moved on and I went to another doctor, who told me he didn't like the medication I'd been taking, and gave me something else to try. It didn't work, so I went back to the original prescription, but now I needed more of it than I'd been taking before I stopped. Oy.
Convinced this original RX was not a good thing to be on, my doctor has me taking a small amount of it but is also giving me something else in an attempt to wean me off pill #1 and onto pill #2, which he believes is safe to take permanently. It too is not a traditional sleeping medication, but the chemicals in my brain seem to like it for sleeping. I've been advised not to try to sleep without anything because clearly there's an imbalance that can't self-correct. My doctor says, "You need corrective lenses to see, why not accept you need a pill to sleep?"
As I mentioned earlier, not being able to sleep becomes a vicious cycle. You worry so much about not sleeping that in itself, the worry makes the problem worse. On the other hand, you become used to existing on less sleep than normal people get. That's important for me in terms of writing and running a web site, because often inspiration will strike late at night and I'll work into the wee hours of the morning. But when I'm finished and ready to crash, I'm often too hyper to do so, which means that every so often I'll have to close the door to my study every night at ten and simply force myself not to get out of my bed after that time.
It was extremely difficult for me to write my segments in the current ATBF column. Since for some reason I lost all personal discipline in writing the segment I'd assigned myself the week before, I got all caught up in another segment that unfortunately took me two days to put together. Which meant the original assignment was still being written at a time when I'm usually posting the finished product, and all the other things that needed to be done for a first of the month update weren't done either. Instead of the column being ready to go (well) before bedtime on the 31st, it wasn't finalized and everything else complete until nearly noon on the 1st. I hate that. I'd gotten off my sleep schedule because of being blocked, and now would now race against the clock to finish before my daughter's friend went home so I could devote myself to her on her birthday. We had a blast surprising her with her presents, which I'll talk about later.
Staying up late does give me the opportunity, while I'm trying to unwind and fall asleep, to watch some pretty funky television. Conan O'Brien, for instance, is sometimes hilarious, and I've discovered that Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour runs an episode at 11 on Friday nights. I've talked about Bourdain before, and both my husband and I enjoy A Cook's Tour. This past Friday night was an episode I'd not seen before, when Bourdain visited French Laundry, a northern California restaurant, with some of his chef buddies. The chef/owner of this restaurant is like a god to other chefs, and this particular show featured more than 20 courses from the tasting menu that shocked and delighted Tony. I'm not a good cook, nor am I all that brave when it comes to trying food that's "out there," but this was fun to watch.
But not nearly as fun as watching the new Jimmy Kimmel show on ABC at 11:30. I don't know that I like Kimmel all that much, but who knew that Snoop Dogg was so funny? He co-hosted the show last week, and on Friday night presented a videotape of himself shopping for clothes and accessories for Kimmel at a local swapmeet. I'm sure the Dogg was not stone cold sober during the live show, but I sure was, and I thought it was hilarious.
Last night I started Sue Margolis' Apocalipstick, and am enjoying it thus far. Whether it'll be as good as Neurotica remains to be seen. I've also got to get started on Catherine Anderson's upcoming Only by Your Touch. After skimming parts it looks like more of the same from her, which means another abused heroine and another too-good-to-be-true hero. The one Anderson romance I truly enjoyed was Phantom Waltz, but if this upcoming book is anything like Baby Love or some of her other titles I know about, I'll conclude that she relies on certain themes too often. Oh well.
And now to talk about our daughter's birthday. We're pretty miserly during the year and limit presents, for the most part, to Hannukah and her birthday. Since she has made so many changes for the better in her life in the last year, we wanted to reward her. She got over her illness, she mainstreamed to a very tough prep school environment, made new friends, and achieved academically more than we could have hoped for in her first semester. She hasn't a clue that as long as she was accepted socially at this new school, we frankly didn't care if she came home with all C's; we simply wanted her to acclimate. The all A's and B's were a wonderful confidence booster, and we wanted to reinforce the idea that good work, good behavior, and being a good person can only lead to more good things. And so we gave her a shopping spree for her birthday.
I'd dutifully written down all the things she'd asked for during the last several months and suggested to my husband that we take her to the stores selling those items to get them all for her. He agreed, and yesterday, after her friend went home, we got in the car and drove to the shopping center that had the two stores we needed. After we went to the correct aisle for the first thing on the list and picked it out, she started walking toward the cash registers, thinking she was done. We stopped her and told her we weren't. As we continued through that first store, and then onto the second, we all got caught up in the excitement of the experience, and by the time we went back to the car, we had three shopping bags filled with the several items on my list.
We perhaps spent somewhat more than we would have otherwise, but not by much, and since her birthday party is going to be small because it's a slumber party for just a handful of girls, it pretty well evens out. Even if that's not precisely the case, sometimes a kid just deserves something special If you're ever looking for an extra special surprise for someone in your life, I highly recommend a surprise shopping spree.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Is this de rigueur?
I'm still working on that upcoming romance by Catherine Anderson; I should be able to blog about it tomorrow, but I wanted to talk for a minute about something in another book I'm reading. I won't be finished with that book until tomorrow either, but something just happened in the book that bugged me. It's something I've written about before, in at least one column segment, and it's that too many romance novel heroes, particularly in series romance, get very physical very quickly with the heroines. Perhaps I've been out of the dating scene too long, but is it de rigueur for first kisses to also involve breastal action?
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
What a Nut!
I couldn't help myself last night and watched both 20/20 and Primetime Live last night. The former devoted itself to a 2-hour documentary on Michael Jackson while the latter included both an interviewer with the documentarian and a consultation with a plastic surgeon who detailed the surgeries she believes he's had. Is he a nut, or what?
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
"BA," Midnight, Moonlight & Miracles, and my "Dinner Party" analogy
Southwick wrote two Western historicals in the mid-1990's that I truly enjoyed, and given that Westerns aren't generally my cup of tea, that's saying something. Winter Bride earned a B from me when it was released. Blackstone's Bride earned a B- when I read it in June of 2000. I'm going to look for her other historicals at the UBS, but wasn't at all sure whether MM&M was something I should even try because shortly after I read BB in 2000, I tried two of her Silhouette Romances - And Then He Kissed Me and With a Little T.L.C. - and hated both. Oddly enough, considering my problem with her new release, the reason was that they were so asexual that they could have been YA books.
It wasn't until after I read both of these Silhouette Romances that I determined the lack of anything but one or two kisses before marriage was proposed had more to do with the SR line than Southwick's ability to write good chemistry because those two Westerns had been good reads. Which is ultimately why I gave MM&M a chance and would encourage anyone looking for a series title with good characterization and some depth to consider reading it as well.
And now, on to something completely different. AAR runs two discussion lists - AARList, for readers and authors, and canwetalk, a readers-only list. I consider AAR and its lists to be a huge dinner party hosted by AAR, and am always amazed when somebody who doesn't care for AAR's style comes to the party solely for the purpose of complaining about the food. An author who periodically does just that did so again beginning earlier this week. My questions as a result of following the thread are these: is it possible that there are some people who don't make the "connect" between AAR and AARList? Not this author in particular, but some AARList members? Why would anyone join AARList if they don't like AAR, particularly when they state a moral argument against AAR's "meanness?" Does this make them hypocrites, that they only joined to promote themselves, or what? Why are so many of RT's staff members on AARList, and why do so many frequent AAR?
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Just this morning, before my daughter's friends went home from the slumber party, they were singing along with the radio, which was playing Eminem's Superman. I guess we haven't gotten that far on the CD yet, because I'd never heard it before, and from hearing them sing, I didn't think anything of it.
Later I was driving to the bookstore when the song came on the radio, and I was appalled. Clearly these girls haven't got a clue what the song's really about, but every "bad" word eliminated from the "clean" version is very easy to hear from an adult perspective. As my daughter says, "Eminem can rhyme anything," but that doesn't change the fact, as far as I'm concerned, that the man's just mean. Even if I do like the theme song from 8 Mile (which has nothing to do with bragging rights on the size of Eminem's penis, as one ludicrous anti-Eminem page I saw last month posted), even if he is talented, I'm so over him.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
A Big Fat "F"
The book is clumsy, juvenile, and when the heroine - about to have sex with the hero - feels as though she needs to justify why she's on the pill (she's finishing out the prescription she had from her relationship with the man who done her wrong), I wanted to pitch the book against the wall. I can't tell you how much that last bothered me. In my experience, it's only in romance land that women are worried about seeming "fast" because they take birth control.
When I criticize the book for being clumsy, it's not because of the writing - it's because of the characterization and the actual telling of the story, particularly when a note that's supposed to be delivered from the hero to the heroine is passed through the hands of the spoiled, spiteful, and jealous blond Texan bombshell who... well, do you think she delivers it? As for it being juvenile, that too goes to characterization. First there's the blond, and then there's the heroine, whose past hurt has so colored her viewpoint on men that she's totally off-the-mark. How anyone could believe a man utterly devoted to the saving of life could be a total jerk is beyond me; her behavior through most of the book reminded me of a petulant teen more than a 25-year-old woman.
This one earns a big, fat F from me, my first F in over a year.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
How it Feels when the Floor Drops Out
I reported in my blogging for December 4th that the editor of RWA's RWR Newsletter would accept my letter regarding an article appearing in the December issue of the newsletter. Charis Calhoon, the newsletter's editor, wrote at that time, "We would welcome your comments as a Letter to the Editor. If you send your comments THIS WEEK, that letter can appear in the February issue, which is our next issue under production...Many thanks; we look forward to printing your letter."
I worked tremendously hard to write a timely letter that addressed my concerns while meeting the 350-word word count allotted to me, and after faxing it in, assumed all I had to do was sit back and wait for it to be published. Imagine my surprise to learn that it was not included in the February issue - as a matter of fact, no letters were a part of that edition of the newsletter. Silly me, I started to get paranoid. Did they not include any letters because they didn't want to include mine?
Late last week I sent an email to Charis Calhoon asking what had happened, and just now received a response from Shirley Hailstock, president of RWA. I'm pasting her email verbatim, and following her email will be my letter to the editor, which I'd promised in December that I'd reprint here after it appeared in the newsletter. Since it'll never see the light of day now, all the more reason to share it with you.
Shirley Hailstock's email:
Dear Ms. Gold,
The Romance Writers Report is a trade magazine for members of Romance Writers of America. The magazine is distributed only to RWA members and selected publishing professionals. The only letters to the editor published in the RWR are from individuals who pay dues or publishing professionals affiliated with recognized publishers and literary agencies.
Since you are not a member, and you are not affiliated with a publisher or literary agency, your letter was not accepted for publication in the RWR.
President, Romance Writers of America
My letter to the editor:
In April CherÃ© Coen questioned me for an RWR article. Her email stated she was "looking at the pros and cons of news/rumors/gossip that spreads through the Internet via message board(s), using your message boardsâ€¦specifically on the Robin Lee Hatcher hoopla." Ms. Coen never identified herself other than as "CherÃ© Coen, Variety.com." Only when I read the article in the December RWR did I learn she is Cherie Claire, historical romance author.
After hearing from RWA members who read the article and found it biased against All About Romance, I read it for myself. Then I checked and discovered we had negatively reviewed one of Claire's books in mid-1999. Had I been told before agreeing to participate that CherÃ© Coen was Cherie Claire, I would have declined participation.
Claire's article begins with a story of how a small business was nearly destroyed as a result of a false rumor, then segues into an episode involving Robin Lee Hatcher and an interview she did with the Gannett-owned Idaho Statesman. AAR's involvement had nothing to do with rumor; we linked to the article and allowed people - including Ms Hatcher herself, an author with some excellent reviews from AAR - to comment on it. We also contacted the newspaper, which neither printed a retraction nor any letter from Hatcher. All of this is detailed in an editorial (http://www.likesbooks.com/editorial.html) I wrote afterward, which links to every post made - including those supporting Ms Hatcher.
I see no real attempt on Claire's part to present the conflict as it unfolded. She seems to accept Hatcher's view that AAR was out to do her harm because we accepted as legitimate reporting comments she made to a respectable newspaper. That Natasha Kern is quoted in the article without mentioning that she is also Hatcher's agent represents sloppy reporting.
Rather than presenting a fair analysis of the situation, I believe Claire's article provides past-RWA president Hatcher an opportunity to blame someone else for things she said and, as a result, paints an unflattering portrait of AAR - who simply provided readers a link to the original article.
Because I never made the RWA article part of any "official" discussion at AAR, I don't think I can turn around now and make an issue of the fact that they won't be printing my letter, but I'm incredibly angry about how they decided to handle things. I'm still mulling it over and may in fact bring the thing to light at AAR.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Just Checking In
As for me, I'd planned to blog about two bo
As for me, I'd planned to blog about two books today, but my bronchitis from last year/this year has now moved into this month and I'm suffering from asthma-like symptoms. So I'm on bed rest until tomorrow, at which point I'll blog about a traditional Regency I quite enjoyed (our AAR Reviewer did not) and the upcoming release of the fourth in the Louise Rennison YA series that so captivated me last year.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
A Spinster's Luck, Dancing in my Nuddy-Pants, and The Playboy & Plain Jane
First up is A Spinster's Luck, the debut romance (it's a traditional Regency) for Rhonda Woodward. Though I've had some good luck matching at least partly with AAR Reviewer Megan Frampton, I've got to disagree with her on this one, which she gave a grade of D. It was a B- for me, and the book would have gotten an even higher grade had it been better explained why the heroine was so upset at the hero for so many years. When she's a 16-year-old girl she overhears something he says and misinterprets it. The reader isn't privy to the misinterpretation until very late in the story, so it doesn't make a whole lot of sense why she feels the antipathy she does, but the rest of the book worked so well for me that I was surprised it was such a dud for Megan. Readers who enjoy cocoons turning into beautiful butterflies should enjoy this book, and the bitchy villainess for some reason doesn't seem the caricature this character type is often portrayed as. She's particularly effective in creating problems for the hero and heroine, and there's a poignancy to the story that makes it linger in my mind.
Next is Dancing in my Nuddy-Pants, the fourth in Lousie Rennison's hilarious YA/Chick Lit for Teens Georgia Nicolson series that both my daughter and I fell in love with last year. It took me a while to get back into the rhythm of the narrative, and perhaps the author over-dosed on the "osity" of too many words, but it's still a very fun read and I actually hope she stops the series at this point, because the ending perfectly fits the book (and the series). 14-year-old Georgia, madly in love with Robbie the Sex God, is perplexed by the "red-bottomosity" she feels for Dave the Laugh. She must deal with her nunga-nungas and oversized nose, the latter of which doesn't seem to be a problem for her growing girl-power over the opposite sex. Angus the cat is back in full force, and Georgia's sweet relationship with her baby sister is as fun as ever. 11, 14, or 40 - "girls" of all ages will enjoy this B read.
And then there's The Playboy and Plain Jane by Leanne Banks, which starts off a Silhouette mini-series. Banks has written the hunky single father and seemingly plain Jane nanny before, and does it well. This book works for the most part, but some of the series romance conventions included in this book are a bit much. The book earns a B- from me and would have been a straight B had the final conflict between the hero and heroine been expanded and more fully explored. Banks is a comfort read author for me, and those for whom she isn't a comfort-read author may find my grade higher than theirs.
I say this because the Rennison book did earn a straight B and it's clearly a more original and better book than the Banks, and would still be better had Banks expanded that final conflict. It's a good thing I no longer officially review online, because grading isn't always precise, and my reasons for the final grades of all three books mentioned today are equally imprecise. But there you have it anyway.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
I Can't Report "There's No News Like Good News"
I've been on two antibiotics (at once), prednisone, two nasal inhalers, a bronchial inhaler, antihistimine, decongestant, cough suppressant (w/codeine), and no relief. And - and I'm sorry to gross you out - but as someone who has suffered from horrendous coughing since adolescence, I must add that when I cough, it invokes a gag reflex and makes me sick. Most people have nasal problems with allergies - my nose is always clogged, but it's the coughing that's a major issue for me and always has been. It's no fun to need to walk around w/a plastic bag, if you know what I mean. I'm sure my daughter is convinced I'm dying, because she gets really quiet when I have a particularly bad bout of coughing and reach in desperation for something to....
Well, Friday evening things took a turn for the better in one way but a turn for the worse in another. By juggling the medicines, I finally got my first real relief from coughing and wheezing in nearly two weeks, but broke a rib in the process. By Friday late night I was coughing about 50% less, and now am 95% cough free. Unfortunately, I'm in agony from the broken rib. Sleeping is nearly impossible because I can't find a position that doesn't hurt, and rolling over almost makes me want to cry. I understand it takes about three weeks to heal, so tomorrow I'll be calling for some night time pain medication - I refuse to take it during the day because I can't stand the thought of sleeping since I've been doing so much of it lately.
Oh, and though I've started to catch up slightly at the site, it turns out that several of the emails I sent to authors who had won in our annual reader poll didn't get through. When I sent a second batch today, I heard from two authors - both on aol - who never received the first emails. Generally I hear back from everyone in a day or two. I sent the original emails on Sunday right after our pollster, Shelley Dodge, and I finalized the poll results, late because she's been sick and injured, and now I might not have the responses in time to post them on March 1st. Given that it's the 7th anniversary of my column, I'd hate to miss my self-imposed publishing date, but given that I haven't heard back from most authors yet, I may not have a choice.
Hopefully I'll be able to catch you all up on the books I've been reading tomorrow or so.
Before I'm done bitching, though, I'll share some more news about the site. We've had major technical problems since last week. Just as we were to go online w/our annual cover poll, we discovered a delay in the server's ability to accept the ballot forms. When I talked to tech help, they discovered a server-wide problem that took hours to resolve, and if I hadn't brought it to their attention, goodness knows when they would have resolved it. That problem, though, manifested itself in two additional ways, one of which has yet to be resolved - our in-house message boards (Reader to Reader and Writer's News). Since Friday the ability to post and/or read messages on these boards has diminished to close to 0%, and though tech help is usually good at resolving things, they thought they had it fixed before they went home for the weekend Friday and in fact it was not fixed, was not fixed throughout the weekend, and continues not to work as of tonight - Monday night at 10:30. This kind of thing used to make me absolutely crazy and stressed out, but I can't make it work and am trying not to blow a fuse over it.
I'd like to say I'll be going to sleep now, but prednisone makes me wired and I probably won't be asleep until two or so. At least I won't have to get up at 6:30 to fix breakfast and take my daughter to school, but we had an ice day today and school is cancelled for tomorrow as well. I'm assuming the steering committee meeting I was supposed to attend at the school tomorrow at 5:30 is also cancelled. I hope the sun comes out tomorrow and warms things up enough for some of the ice to melt so that my husband can get the car out of the garage, out of the alley, and to the pharmacy for drugs and the grocery store for food. And to think that on Saturday it was 70 degrees. But that's Texas for you.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books