Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guilt and Duty Wear by Jeannie Watt

I had a great summer. Instead of traveling or having fun vacationing, my husband and I stayed home and painted everything that didn’t move—if you don’t count the dog. She did get painted a few times, but only because she’s overly curious. We painted the house, the shop, the barn. It was an accomplishment, but I managed an even greater accomplishment this summer…I finally got rid of my guilt and duty clothes.

Surely you’re familiar with guilt and duty wear—the not-quite-right items of clothing that someone you love gave to you as a gift. The clothes that looked great on you in the store in front of those deceptive skinny mirrors, but not so great when you got home and faced reality mirrors—or your husband, who gave you that strained “okay-y-y-y” look. The clothes that you’re going to diet down into. The perfectly good clothing you wear, because, well, it’s perfectly good, even though you feel dowdy when you wear it. The expensive mistakes, the cheap mistakes, the I’m-sure-gigantic-flange-sleeves-with-shoulder-pads-will-come-back-into-style mistakes. (They never did, although I waited for a good twenty years.)

Why did I hang onto guilt and duty for so long? Because I’m frugal. Because I might have needed those things someday. (Halloween? A branding?) Because, even though pale beige makes me look like a plague victim, the jacket in question is beautifully made and was purchased at a spectacular savings. And I might need it someday. It’s so difficult for me to move past that one.

But I have. I’m free. Now I can start accumulating new guilt and duty wear…just kidding. I’ve finally convinced myself that wearing mistakes or letting them hang in my closet will not give me my money back. It’ll only remind me that I wasted the money. Out of sight, out of mind.  But I did discover one good use for a few of my guilt and duty items before I sent the rest away to charity—they make excellent painting clothes.

Do you have things you keep out of G&D? (Guilt and duty?)  Or are you one of the lucky ones who can purge freely? My daughter donates one item of clothing for each new item she buys—the price of living in a studio apartment. I haven’t quite reached that stage yet, but I’m getting just a wee bit closer. How about you?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Healing Sex

As an adolescent listening to Marvin Gaye sing "Sexual Healing" I must admit I was clueless as to the power of sex as a healing tool. After 25 years of marriage, surviving several military deployments (at least one during wartime), raising teens--I know that a healthy sex life has its place in any relationship.
I've just turned in my latest Superromance to my editor (June 2012 release). It takes place on Whidbey Island, Washington, and involves a Navy pilot hero who is in need of healing--as is the Navy widow heroine. As I wrote the book and the characters took on their own life, it became clear very quickly that the emotional bond between the hero and heroine required a sexual tension not only unique to them, but hot and urgent, like their need to break through their wounds and arrive in today, fully alive and ready to love again.
There have been a lot of changes in the Krotow household this summer. Besides making a move from Russia to the States and accepting that we're hopefully done moving for a long while, our babies are growing up. I take the oldest to college next week. Youngest is getting more independent as high school marches on. Decisions have to be made about jobs, income, etc. It can be too much, too loud, too scary.
Maybe I need only tap my dh (dear hubby) on the shoulder.
If you leave a comment you're automatically entered to win a copy of my first HarlequinEverlasting Novel, A Rendezvous to Remember.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Questionable Family Heirlooms by Jeannie Watt

My husband and I met and married during college. We were both geology students and although we’d attended the same classes for a couple years, it wasn’t until he left and came back a year later as a grad student that we started dating. We were both on strict budgets, so for our second date, we went to his house for dinner. I hadn’t been there very long when he said to me, “Hey, want to see a great ass?”

Well, who doesn’t? However, this was only our second date and his roommate was at home. I was a bit shocked… and curious. Curiosity won and I said, “Okay…”

He stepped over to his bedroom door, opened it with a flourish and there, on the wall above his bed, was the great ass. Little did I know that this painting was going to become a permanent part of my life. When you marry the owner of a great ass, it becomes community property.

Like most asses, this one is not small. It’s three feet wide and four feet high. Despite its hefty size, the painting went where we went throughout our married life. It hung on the wall if we had room in an appropriate out-of-the-way place. I was not raised in a family where we displayed body parts on the wall—even tastefully rendered ones—but I love the painting. It represents my courtship with my husband and our more carefree years—you know, when you think you have all the time in the world to accomplish whatever you want? The painting makes me feel good.

When we moved to our current home many years ago, we didn’t have room for the painting upstairs in a place where  it wouldn’t give the UPS guy the wrong idea about us.  I finally hung it in the basement, next to my sewing machine and in front of the ski machine to inspire me while I skied. One day about a year ago, I went down to the basement to sew for the first time in months and noticed that the painting was gone!
I went upstairs and told my husband the artwork was missing. He handed me the phone and I called the only person who might know something about this (after all—no one robs a house and steals only an ass painting)—my twenty-three-year-old son, who was at college, two hundred miles away.
The conversation went like this--
            “Have you seen the ass?”
            “I have it hanging in my room here. I, uh, didn't think you'd miss it."
Not miss it? It's three feet by four feet and left a healthy bit of blank wall once it left the house.  I took a breath then as a deep truth hit home. It was time to pass the torch—er, ass. It belonged at college and it would now represent someone else’s more carefree days. I swallowed a lump in my throat. “All right. You can keep it--if you take a solemn vow to only use it for the forces of good, never evil.”
            “I promise.”
            He even sounded like he meant it. And somewhere out in this wide world is a woman. A woman who doesn’t yet know it, but who will someday have joint custody of a great ass painting. Because I can’t imagine my son marrying anyone who wouldn’t appreciate and treasure such a meaningful work of art.

I have to tell you, though, I’m still wondering how he got that mo-honker painting to school in the cab of a 1994 Mazda pickup.

Do any of you have interesting family treasures that you can’t get rid of because they remind you of a time, a place, a person? Something that other people may not understand but that you cherish? Or something your significant other cherishes and you just don’t get? Let me know about it and I’ll put you in the drawing for a download of the SuperRomance of you choice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Signed by Author: The Pen Is Sloppier

The day I got The Call, there was a distant cry of distress somewhere in the back of my mind as I faintly realized that sooner or later, I was going to have to sign my book for someone.

This prospect might delight some; who wouldn’t want to put their John Hancock on the book they slaved months or possibly years over? Who wouldn’t want to brand their masterwork with their autograph?

Here’s my confession: I can’t sign my name for nuts. Not even my real name. In fact, the government office that issues my driver’s license and health card commanded me to return twice to re-sign my name because my signature was “too easy to forge.” I ended up scribbling something that looked nothing like my original signature, and now I can’t reproduce it. If a police officer ever pulls me over and asks me to walk a painted line, touch my nose, then sign my name, there’s a 33% chance I might end up in the slammer.

So now I face the challenge of signing my pen name a dozen, or a hundred, or maybe—if I’m lucky enough—a thousand times over. And a big fat X isn’t going to cut it.

Like any good researcher, I went to that most reliable of internet forums, Yahoo! Answers, seeking a solution to my dilemma. Legibility, style, character and an inability to forge the signature were the top discussed attributes. I thought a happy face might suffice—apparently not.

I took one responder’s advice and started by practicing my name in cursive. I quickly realized that after decades of being glued to my keyboard, I’ve forgotten how to do curly script. (Lowercase B continues to be my least favourite letter.)

I tried to write my name out fast and with my eyes closed. I figured I should be able to do it by feel rather than by sight. Besides, if I have hundreds of people lined up to see me, I’m going to have to do things fast, right?

Wrong. I ended up with a page that looked like something from a college notebook at auctioneer school. And it was pretty clear with every ill-placed stroke that I couldn’t remember what my name was.

No matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t reproduce the same signature twice in a row. I tried giving it more style, with big letters and squigglies. Then no letters, and just random peaks and curves, as if my hand were a seismograph measuring a tremor in Los Angeles beneath a highway underpass. Nothing worked for me.

So I sought the guidance of the pros, and started laying out all the signed books I owned. The signatures ranged from simple (Tamora Pierce) to deluxe flourished (Heather Graham). Both seemed natural, and I assumed they were consistent, too. I had to be confident that my autograph would come with the same organic ease. Practice--even if it's of a scribble--would make perfect, right?

And then I realized that in order to make up for my terrible penmanship, I would have to personalize every signing in some way. My spirits sank to a new low.

In my signed book collection, some variation of “All the Best” seemed to be popular, but I wanted something that said “This is Vicki, and she’s sorry her handwriting looks like chicken scratch.” I looked up other celebrity autographs: Tina Fey signed her book, Bossypants, with “Help, I’m stuck in a Korean Tina Fey autograph factory.” In a friend’s account, author Neil Gaiman signed The Graveyard Book for each of his fans by drawing a little tombstone with their name on it.

So special! So memorable! So perfectly suited to their personalities and books! I wanted to do the same. I wanted to wow. Or at least make sure people were walking away with some kind of impression apart from “I can’t read her name at all. And how come your autograph looks totally different from mine?”

I started coming up with a rotating list of endearments, but it soon became apparent that, despite being a writer, I was no good with succinct platitudes. Thinking back, most of my high school yearbook epigraphs described my morning routine. And those inscriptions were to my closest friends.

Since my book is about mixed martial arts, I tried to go with that theme. Unfortunately, “I hope this book is like Superman punch to your heart!” and “Enjoy this book like a kick to the head!” aren’t quite the sentiments I wanted to convey.

Maybe I should forget about signing books and just stick to just writing them.

Vicki Essex will be signing her debut book, Her Son’s Hero, alongside author Mary Sullivan July 16 at Coles Bookstore at Cloverdale Mall (Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada), and at the World’s Biggest Bookstore (Toronto, Canada) on July 23. Check out for more details.

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of Her Son’s Hero. I might even sign it with something legible! Draw will take place on Saturday, June 11, 9 p.m. EST.
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