Monday, January 31, 2011

Of Sequels and Series and the characters we love

Today I finally finished watching a movie which I  began to watch so many years ago that I've forgotten just how long it was.  I'd never forgotten it, nor how fascinated I was with it, and how much I wanted to see what happened, but you know how that works - life just sort of gets in the way and time passes.  Until recently, most people whom I would talk to about this movie would say never heard of it.  But now, thanks to the power of the sequel, even one that was twenty-eight years in the making, most people would know exactly what I am talking about.

Yes, it was Tron, the 1982 film which has finally gotten its sequel.  Needless to say I haven't seen that yet.  Was the original as good as I had built it up in my mind to be over the years?  Absolutely.  Loved every minutes of it.  And I know I'll love the sequel, just having seen the trailers. I think it's great that Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner are back in their original roles, and saddened that David Warner is not (although I did notice on IMDB that Cilian Murphy plays his character but is uncredited for it).  David Warner was chillingly effective as E. Dillinger, the man who stole Flynn's programs to begin with.  If you want to know more, watch it.  And if you want to see David at his sexiest most evil self, catch him in Time After Time, against a totally cute Malcolm McDowell.  For those who enjoy time travel and romance, Time After Time more than fills the bill.

Watching Tron, I couldn't help but think about sequels.  Sequels are funny things.  It took them twenty-eight years to bring this one to life?  Why?  I have no idea.  Perhaps it took that long for someone to finally push the idea into being.  Maybe it was a lack of a good script.  I don't know, but I do know that often sequels pale significantly beside their originals for many reasons.  But not always.  In fact, there are instances where the sequel is better than the original.  For example, Star Trek.  Personally, I didn't care for the first movie very much.  It seemed sophomoric, and substandard by Star Trek standards and just not that interesting.  So when the next one came out, I was less than interested.  Until I found out which Star Trek TOS episode it was based upon, at which point my interest meter fell off the charts.

It was based on an episode entitled Space Seed, in which we meet the genetically created ├╝bermensch Khan, played magnificently by the late Ricardo Montalban - which just happens to be my all-time favorite episode ever.  I still consider that movie the best in the entire series.  Sadly the next two did not come close to its greatness.  Not by a longshot.

Turning to Star Wars, although the first movie was great, the second exceeded it, and the third was excellent too.  I actually saw The Empire Strikes Back before I saw the original, didn't make any difference whatsoever.  I was still able to watch and enjoy.  That brings up another question for sequels - how dependent should they be on the original?  Doesn't common sense say you should watch the first before the second?  Or should the writer make them so user friendly that you can jump in at any point in the series?  Granted, there were nuances I didn't get in ESB til I'd seen SW.  Personally, I'm a believer in doing things in order.  You build a proper foundation before you attempt to add a second story.

We all know of films that had sequels that sucked ass.  Films that made you cringe and ask why?  Even good series can become watered down thinly veiled pleas for money by the time  you get to the eighth, ninth and tenth in the series.  What keeps people going to see them?  Why are they even made?  First, because someone wants to make money, that's a given.  But secondly, because people have become fond of the characters in them, and want to see more of them.  Even in the case of Saw, where I'm sure someone will say there are no likable characters, consumer interested is inflamed by the ghastly premise and the morbid desire to see what comes next, but I disagree - I happen to think John Kramer is a not unsympathetic character with actual motivation for what he does, whether you agree with him or not.

So this brings me to series, more specifically book series.  It seems that most authors, or at least a number of authors, these days are writing their characters into series.  There are obvious reasons for this, of course, and monetary reward is certainly not the least of it, don't let's kid ourselves.   But I don't mean that in a bad way, nor do I find that a bad thing.  Except in the case of bad series.  Do I think there are bad series out there?  Of course I do.  I've read excerpts from them and cringed.  Are any of them successful?  Of course they are, because somebody likes them.  My tastes aren't everyone's tastes and I don't expect them to be.  I happen to like Saw, not everyone does.  So what other reasons are there for series?

From the author's point of view, it's a chance to keep playing with the characters you love to play with, to continue telling their stories, to keep them alive for readers to enjoy.  Not to mention, the more you write of them - at least in theory - the more familiar you are with the world you're building, which should make the process even more exciting and interesting, as you add to your story. From the reader's point of view, they get to keep their relationship with their favorite characters alive.  You lose their interest, you'll probably lose the series, at least insofar as getting it published is concerned, because numbers talk, right?  Although poor numbers aren't always the author's fault, there are reasons for everything.  Sometimes a book needs to find its niche, its target audience, if you will.  That is very much something the publisher needs to address, and it's all too easy to blame poor sales on anyone but yourself.  Which isn't to say that authors don't need to promote themselves, they do.  The trend toward self-promotion has certainly grown as the publishing industry has changed over the past few years, with the advent of the e-reader.  Traditional ways of doing things are going by the wayside.  Sadly, hardback books are becoming obsolete - I'm not saying they'll entirely disappear, but they'll never be what they once were, especially with the absurd prices publishers are charging for them.  I don't remember the last time I bought a hardback book, although at one time they were my preferred format of choice.  Paperbacks are what I turn to now.  And no, I don't have an e-reader.  I'm still old-fashioned enough to like holding my books in my hands.  Which isn't to say that won't change some day too.

Because of the rise of e-publishing, these publishers have set the standards for what is happening, but at a price.  They are publishing authors who could not get a foot in the door of traditional publishers (and many for good reason), authors who are so grateful to see their works in print that they are willing to take over the responsibilities that should belong to a publisher or agent and do it themselves.  The trouble with that is you end up spending time doing that when you should be writing.  And not everyone has a knack for self-promotion.  We're not all social butterflies with the gift of gab.  In time, and a time that is rapidly approaching, the older traditional publishers are going to have to step into the game, or lose out.  When they do, and when they bring their more traditional, successful best-selling authors with them into this new world, what happens to the ones that are being e-published now.  Will they be pushed aside in favor of these others, who outweighed and outsold them hands down before?  Or will they have accumulated enough reader support, series interest and general clout to take them on?  Remains to be seen, but it should be interesting.

I'm not knocking series, not at all.  I have some myself.  I enjoy them, especially playing with my characters in new situations, watching them - hopefully - grow and develop.  The nice thing about them, too, is that if  you ever have enough, or you think the series has lost your interest, or lost its edge, or gone one too long - you just stop reading it, watching it, or whatever.  The author can continue pumping them out for the ones that are still interested, no sweat off your nose, so why not?

Do I ever grown when I see promos for certain series, and wonder how in the hell that one is still going, when it's so craptastic?  Of course.  But to be fair, people might ask that when they see I've written a sequel.  It's all a matter of taste, and everyone's is different.  As for my Max series, I plan to write it until I die, published or not, because I love writing Max that much.  Would I prefer to see the books published as opposed to not?  Of course, because that is the way I hope to support myself, in order to keep writing more Max, as well as my other characters.It's what most of us want, isn't it, those that write?

So for every sequel like Grease II, that makes you ask yourself why, remember there are others, like Wrath of Khan and Empire Strikes Back that make you cry YES, can I have some more please, sir?

What do you think about sequels and series?  I'd love to hear!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Our Gay Heroes - they come in all sorts of shapes and we love them all

Although many current m/m romance novels were inspired by both by fanfiction and yaoi manga, many of the novelists who write them have taken the often basic idea of the uke and seme and run with it, with the result that there are a large variety of gay heroes for our delectation and edification and great enjoyment, although the stereotypes still exist, of course.

Many young women adore the idea of the uke and seme.  If you are unfamiliar with these terms, simply put the uke bottoms and the seme tops.  In most mangas, at least the ones I've seen and I've seen quite a few, these truisms are more or less written in stone - while the characters of the uke/seme change, their positions seldom do.  Once a uke, always a uke, and also with the seme.  Also in many of these stylized pairings, the uke is a rather waif faced youthful-looking almost feminine boy, even though he and the seme may be the same age, or not very much difference between them.  Almost like taking a girl and removing her breasts, and calling her a boy.  Some are worse than others.  Even though the mangakas take great pains to let you know everyone involved is of legal age (except when they're not, but I'm not going to get into shota, at least not here and now), they look like children, and sometimes what they do has the appearance, if not the reality, of pedophilia.  A problem which, of course, does not appear in m/m romance novels, as you aren't bombarded with images of the legal-age feminine looking child-toy.

There are m/m romance novels that do feed the stereotype, and if that's what you like, that's fine, but if you like your men more manly, there is no dearth of that either.  And they come in all shapes, sizes, and supernatural abilities.  There is a growing trend toward gay men who are vampires, werewolves, and shifters, and there must be a huge audience for it.  Vampires were first, I think followed by werewolves, and then shifters who could change themselves into anything from a cat to a tiger, and a lot of stuff in between.  I remember reading an excerpt from a novel involving tree-shifters.  I kid you not!  And from what I read recently, the shifter trend is changing too, and dragons are becoming the new shifters.  That should be interesting to watch.

If you like your gay men with powers, there are a lot of series out there.  One that comes to mind is Mimi Riser's Sylver and Steele.  From the little I've read of them, they are most excellent reads, filled with humor and heat.  I have a friend who is writing a gargoyle series - don't count them out, cause I'm telling you, they can be pretty hot.  Whodathunkit?  Vampires have been erotic ever since Bram Stoker took pen in hand and gave us Dracula, but today's writers have given the genre a decided homoerotic slant.  And if  you like your men with a little fur, Andrew Grey has a satyr series you might like to check out.

On the other hand, if you like your men a little more down to earth, there are a lot of those out there to choose from, and they run the gamut from unbelievably hunky to incredibly twinky and everything in between. One series that comes to mind is Marie Sexton's Coda series - her men are men, not stereotypes.  Even her fabulously gay Cole Fenton, who is way out there and truly shines in Strawberries for Dessert, has depth to his character which removes him from the realm of cookie-cutter gay men.  Matt, whom we meet in her first book, Promises, isn't gay, he just happens to fall in love with someone, Jared, who just happens to be a guy, a gay for you situation which is being seen more and more.  Her men are good-looking gay men, without a doubt, but they are also guys we could really meet and know.

A recent novel I read which certainly tore apart the mythos of the typical gay male, was Bernard: Diary of a 46 Year Old Bellhop, by S.L.Danielson.  The hero here is 46, very overweight, and very much unhappy with his life and himself, not your usual choice for a hero of a romance novel.  But Bernard is undoubtedly the hero,  as we watch him grow and develop through the course of the novel, taking his shot at finding true love with a handsome doctor.

If you like your men living in the past, there are writers who are glad to provide them.  Some ignore the mores of the times their men live in, and perhaps present slightly unrealistic views of their lives, especially in relation to the society they live in.  On the other hand, in Counterpoint, by Ruth Sims, there is no doubt that her young hero Dylan is aware that such behavior is frowned upon by not only society but his family, and that does not prevent his falling in love with Laurence, in a very well-written moving novel of a time when two men were far from free to be together.  Other historical authors that come to mind include Erases, Christie Gordon and Alex Beecroft.

Our gay men definitely come in all shapes and sizes and personalities - with or without powers, contemporary or historical.  They all have one thing in common - they are gay and we love them.  Do you have a favorite type of gay man?  If so, tell me what it is, and what book you think best typifies him?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding the perfect picture to fit your perfect character

Some people can get an image of their characters in their mind, hold on to it carefully, and describe them, bit by bit, in such a way that you too can see them. I am not one of those writers.

Descriptions in general don't come easily to me, and people portraits least of all. I got away with that in To The Max cause Max is telling the story, and he isn't the kind to describe himself. He describes Richard, but in simple terms - long lemon blond hair, and midnight blue eyes. I had to do better than that for the cover artist, and believe me, it wasn't easy.

But I've discovered a way in which to improve on my descriptions, a method which I know other authors use - before we begin, we do a character photo search on the Intenet, looking for guys that match our image of our heroes, and then it becomes easier to describe them, cause you're looking at a model!

Often, I have a hazy idea of what type I'm looking for - say a blond, brunet or redhead, approximate age, stuff like that. Then I google some or part of that, and see what comes up. If you go that route, be prepared for a lot of pictures of totally extraneous and unrelated items (especially if you keep safe search off, as I do. I once wanted a picture of a champagne bottle. Simple enough, yes? Well, I ended up with a picture of a woman, with two bottles, placed in certain orifices, and I was like wtf? Seriously?

Yes, seriously. So be prepared for sights you may not want to see, just because they're tagged that way.

Another place to look is on model sites - you can google those too. Model agencies such as Nass, among others. I found my Avery of my Captivations series by the other method, and I'd never heard of the model I found, but he was perfect - turns out he's like the top model in the world or something. Who knew? What do I know about Dolce & Gabbana? Zilch! But I know a handsome man when I see one, so let me show you my idea of what Avery Deacon looks like:

I have to say it makes me want to find a man that dresses in Dolce & Gabbana!

It's fun to look for guys this way, and very rewarding when you do so. Of course I can't use David Gandy's picture on my novel - I'd hate to think what that would cost. But I did get Jimmy Thomas, who is incredibly awesome and very sexy! In fact he's on two of my covers so far, and I know he'll be on at least another one, just not sure when. I picked out the pic myself, and my lovely editor bought it! Let me show you those covers:

Right now, I'm currently searching for someone, and having a hard time doing it, so I'm going to throw it out there, in case anyone is interested in helping me in my search: I'm trying to find a forty-ish guy who looks like Robert Plant (long waved blond hair, rugged looks) but isn't Robert Plant. Any help in this quest would be appreciated!

Tell me about your experiences in finding your picture perfect guy! I'd love to hear them!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Finder Series 2: Cage in the Finder

Akihito is doing his thing as a photographer when he is approached by a policeman with questions – about Asami. Akihito plays it cool, denies knowing the mysterious businessman, and says he knows nothing about Asami having broken into Chinese mafia headquarters in order to save a man. The cop tells Akihito that he has something useful – a membership card to Asami’s club Cyon – so why don’t they go there and get something to drink? Why not indeed.

At the club his companion disappears, as Akihito looks around him, his eyes unable to keep from searching for Asami. Snooping around, his usual m.o., he discovers the control room for the club, and he sees some interesting things – including Asami, who comes up behind him. One thing leads to another, and their lips become tangled again, as well as their emotions, as Asami stamps Akihito with his ownership once again.

Meanwhile back in Hong Kong, Fei Long Liu returns home after a busy day, and his mind turns to a day seven years before – the day when he first met Asami. Fei is at loggerheads with his brother, Yan Tsi Liu. They both work for their father, the head of a Chinese mafia family. Fei is not his actual son, but was adopted, a fact that Yan is not hesitant to rub into his brother’s face. Their father is very ill, and his sons spend what time they can at his bedside, but Fei wonders if his father even sees him.

Fei is sent to deal with the emissary of a rival mafia family, the Toh, which is how he meets Asami. Fei has never met anyone quite like Asami. Together, the two men are volatile. Asami has the capacity to be both violent and tender – it’s really quite confusing. He gives Fei advice concerning the Toh, and dealing with them, but when Fei tries to tell his brother, he is accused to caring more for this stranger than his own family. When Yan tries to force himself on Fei, his reaction brings about Fei’s estrangement from his family, and the furtherance of his relationship with Asami.

Yan tries to get Fei to return home, but he holds out, until he realizes that if he doesn’t go back now, he may never see his father alive again, even knowing that he is undoubtedly walking into a trap. But what choice does he have, even against the sage advice which Asami offers? Can he trust what Asami says, and how does he really feel about him?

You can read my complete review at Yaoi Radius!

Where am I today?

While Carrie has taken over my blog today, I am at SL Danielson's, and today I'm talking about my love affair with the Moulin Rouge!

Guest Blogger: Carrie Lalande!

Today, I am pleased to have my friend Carrie as Guest Blogger, she's going to talk about some of the passions in her life. Thanks for being here, Carrie!

Thanks so much Julie for letting me on your Blog. I don’t know if you’ll have many people reading your blog after this but hey I’ll give it a shot.

I guess I’ll start off with a bit about myself. I’m Carrie, 31, from Canada, mother of one active little six year old. He is a handful. Wife to a wonderfully amazing man who loves me even with all my issues.

So when Julie asked me to be a guest blogger I wasn’t really sure about it. Mostly cause I wasn’t sure what I’d blog about. I mean I’m not anything special. Not an author, not a big hot shot equestrian, or even a photographer for that matter, (yes I love both of those things.) Had just started writing again after having not been writing for awhile, ok since I got out of high school, and that includes when I went back to upgrade( not that it did much good. I haven’t done anything with it. ) But Julie said to talk about whatever so that’s what I’m going to do. I apologize now that I may ramble on about some things and it may not make any sense at times. You may even want to stop reading if it really gets to you. I won’t mind.

Anyway my topics of choice are-drum roll please- HORSES and PHOTOGRAPHY. Now I wouldn’t say I’m very good at either, of course I’m my own worst critic. I got a new camera just two months before Christmas. I consider it another child of mine. It’s my baby.

I have always loved taking pictures of, manly horses, but I do prefer to be behind the camera instead of in front. (Yet I love Drama, weird.) I’ve taken a few online Photography courses and I love getting out there just to snap pictures of whatever. Some different courses I’ve taken are Horses and Humans, Horse Head Shots, Holiday Lights and Decorations, just to name a few. They were all great fun.

So far I’ve mostly shot my friends riding their horses, my number one passion coming back again, in horse shows this summer. Well up until I injured myself and couldn’t drive for at least two months. They were all eager to get pics of their ponies.

As far as anything special going on with my photography, nada, zilch, zip. Nothing is going on with it at the moment. Though it’s been too darn cold to get out and do any shooting. Hopefully winter will leave and I can get out to do more. Though we did have a mild fall and I was able to get out and play around with the camera a bit on some of those warmer days.

Those are just a few of the examples of some pictures I’ve taken. And now onto the things I think are the best thing in the world. Horses, are my true passion. Photography, writing, music-I play piano and Violin- those are just something to keep me so so when I don’t have the horses. Granted I have found a way to combine photography and horses together so that’s just an added bonus.

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved horses, I was your typical girl playing with My Little Ponies, dreaming of having a white Andalusian Stallion, little did I know then that Stallions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong. Stallions are amazing, but it takes a certain kind of person to handle them. Trust me, I’ve handled them before. I grew up begging my parents to let me give something up in exchange for riding. It never worked. I always got told “You don’t have a horse, there’s no sense”. I got so tired of hearing it I stopped asking for riding altogether. Eventually I was able to pay for it myself and so I did. It didn’t last long cause I lost my job but the point is I worked hard for it. I work hard even to this day to be able to ride. And I get really down when I can’t ride, like now. I’ve been dealing with depression since 2003, horses, amongst the photography and music, are my therapy. They’re my number one therapy. Yeah I take the anti-depressants, but if I had a choice I wouldn’t be on them. I don’t have that choice ‘cause I know that my depression is really bad.

Since meeting my husband he’s always been very supportive of me, even after breaking three bones due to falls, from horses. And I love that he is. He’s never asked me to work, though I know that he can’t afford to pay for me for riding lessons. He’ll come out and watch me, once in awhile, when I am taking lessons. He’s sort of become a horseperson by marriage. He’s found himself doing things that he’d never done before. And he doesn’t gag when he walks into a barn.

Told you I’d probably ramble. Getting back to talking about horses.

I love how they can honestly help you, and sense when you’re feeling down. I was at a show once where I’d asked my dad to come. He didn’t show up. I was literally in the horse trailer, minutes before my class crying into my mare’s neck and she just stood there. By the time I got into the ring to do my class, I’d calmed down again enough to concentrate.

I love how they can do so many things, and mean so much to people. I think back on all the different horses I’ve ridden and I smile thinking about the lessons I’ve learned. They haven’t always been good lessons, but they’ve been lessons.

As I write this, I think of a friend and coach who had to make the hardest choice she’s ever had to make up until this point. On Monday she had to make the final choice to let her beloved friend go over the Rainbow bridge to pastures that are always lush and green. He wasn’t mine but I still loved him along with her. I’ve been tearing up a lot this week over it all, and keep looking at pictures of him that have been taken over the four years she had him. Trying to keep the memories with me.

I’ll leave this with a few pictures of one of the horses that made a huge difference in my life.

This is the horse that got me over my fear of riding bareback. I miss him everyday.
And now some of my two passions together. My horse photography.

And lastly, thank you so much for having me Julie and I hope I didn’t bore anyone. I’m so not good at this.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Making It Happen

In today's episode of Queer as Folk, the big event has finally arrived - the wedding of Lindsay and Melanie! We've been following their relationship ever since the series began, the first episode having culminated in the birth of their beautiful baby boy Gus (whose biological father is infamous sex god Brian Kinney). And now comes the big day, so of course the path of true love and episodic television can never run smoothly, now can it?

Things start falling apart at the last minute, after a Tarot reading at a stagette party warns the two that this is not a good weekend to be married because Mercury is in retrograde: between a caterer and catering hall closed down for salmonella, engraved wedding rings lost by the jeweler, and a wedding dress inadvertently destroyed by the dry cleaner, nothing is going right! Lindsay is having panic attacks, the two brides are on their last nerve, and typically selfish Brian is vacating Pittsburgh for a free vacation in Miami rather than attending the wedding!

But we all know that it's always darkest before the dawn, right? Can anyone doubt that with a little willpower - or maybe a whole lot of willpower - and the desire to make it happen, that our two lovely brides will indeed have their big day? See for yourself!

I confess - I cried. But isn't that what weddings are for? Tears of joy and happiness?

That's what you call making it happen. Knowing what you want to occur, and making it work, no matter what the odds, or what you perceive to be the odds.

There's an old Burt Reynolds movie from 1981 called Paternity, about a man who wants a child but not a wife, so he hires a surrogate mother. Great movie, I've seen it many times; it's one of my favorite having a baby movies. In the film, there is a scene were Burt's character, Buddy, is explaining about wanting a child, and talking about a little boy he used to watch riding his bicycle up on a high area, where common sense would dictate that he would fall, but he never did, defying gravity. Until the day he actually learned about gravity. Buddy said he wanted to be there when his child learned about gravity. That always stuck with me. It says to me if you don't know that you aren't supposed to be able to do something, you can do it. Like the bumblebee. He's an aeronatically designed mess that should not be able to fly. And yet he does, because nobody ever told him he can't.

My theory is that if you want something badly enough, it doesn't matter who else thinks you can or can't do it - your belief can make it so. That's very true in writing. How many people say they couldn't possibly write a book? They're daunted by it all before they even get started, so they never start. But if you don't think of it as writing a book, but as telling a story, you can sit down and do it. One step at a time. Just make it happen.

Once upon a time, I wrote fanfiction. I was inspired to do so by my daughters. They were writing it, and having a great time, and I was jealous. I wanted to have that fun too. So I decided to do it, and not only that, I said I'd use the three of us as characters in my fanfiction. I was excited and enthusiastic, and sat down to write. Two pages later, I got stuck. That was depressing. Two pages in and I hit a brick wall? What kind of writer was I?

Not a very good one, I decided, cause I had no idea where to go or what to do. I felt like a failure. So I stopped for a few days. Through my head, I kept hearing music from a movie I was watching a lot of at the time - Moulin Rouge. Finally, the message got through to me, the one my subconscious was trying to convey. And suddenly I saw my story, so I began to write. And write. And write. When I reached to about a hundred pages, I suddenly realized that this wasn't a short story any more. And still I wrote. By the time I finished, I think it ran 232 pages, and I think that was single spaced, and it encompassed several fandoms. No, I can never publish it, of course. But voila! It was a book. I made it happen.

When I decided to write Dark Love, all those many years ago, my first non-fanfiction book, I had no idea where to start. I was daunted at the idea of writing a book, but determined to try. So I wrote a scene here, another scene there, and I began to let my ideas flow, and my characters grow, and because I wanted it to happen, I made it happen. I wanted to be published, which is a little trickier, because now you're talking about outside forces, ones you can't control. But I was determined, and at first I did not succeed, so I gave up for a number of years. But I decided to climb back in that saddle and ride again - and I made it happen, with the help of Silver Publishing. Dark Love was released this month, about 18 years after its birth.

You have to believe in yourself, and you have to be willing to work to make something happen. Some things are outside of your total control, but even so, you can influence them. If you don't try to make them happen, they never will. There is a great deal to be said for the power of positive thinking?

Am I sure? I'm positive!

Lindsay and Melanie may be fictional characters, but they are examples of making something happen. They didn't do it alone, they had the support of their family of friends. If you believe, you can do it. I can hear some of you now - but I wanted this, and I couldn't make it happen. Think about the things in your life that didn't happen. What happened instead? Sometimes we need to take a different path than the one we think we should be on, in order to follow the path that we want to take. Sometimes it's hard to see that, when you're being diverted to a new course. But keep on believing.

If you want it, you can make it happen. I truly believe that. Things do happen for a reason, whether we realize what that reason is. I believe in you - you can make it happen!

Let's take one last look at the happy couple:

Let me know what you think! Do you believe that anyone can make it happen? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Of Men and Noses and Affairs of the Heart

On this day in 1992, famed film actor Jose Ferrer passed, at the age of eighty.  Some of you may remember him for such films as Lawrence of Arabia, The Caine Mutiny, and more recently, Dune, but I think he will best be remembered for his portrayal of Edmond Rostand’s immortal hero – Cyrano de Bergerac.

Rostand based his hero on an actual person, a French dramatist and duelist who may indeed have possessed a larger than average proboscis, but Rostand’s account of de Bergerac’s life is fictionalized, as there appears to be evidence that the actual de Bergerac was homosexual in his orientation.  I think that would make a very interesting subject for a novel itself – perhaps even a comparison between the actual de Bergerac and the fictionalized one.  But not right here and now.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the plot of Cyrano, I’ll just give you the bare bones.  Cyrano, the hero of our piece, is a most excellent man, being possessed of a brilliant wit, a large heart and a warm personality – as well as a rather huge nose.  Huge enough to draw attention to himself, and to put him outside of any chance of winning the heart of the woman he so desperately loves – his distant cousin Roxanne.  She’s beautiful, he thinks he’s ugly – nuff said.  Enter the extremely handsome and personable young cadet Christian.  He falls for Roxanne, and wishes to present himself to her, but she is indifferent to his charms, until Cyrano steps in and gives Christian the words he needs to woo her.  Cyrano speaks his words to Roxanne in the dark, where she cannot see him, and she thinks that they are Christian’s words, and she falls in love, not knowing she actually loves Cyrano.
Here is an example of some of Cyrano’s lovely words, from Act 3:
"And what is a kiss, specifically? A pledge, properly sealed, a promise seasoned to taste, a vow stamped with the immediacy of a lip, a rosy circle drawn around the verb 'to love.'  A kiss is a message too intimate for the ear, infinity captured in the bee's brief visit to the flower, secular communication with an aftertaste of heaven, the pulse rising from the heart to utter its name on a lover's lip: 'Forever’

You can see why she fell in love with him, right?  I know I’d have melted all over him, faster than sugar on a warm sticky bun.  But she thought it was Christian, even though that boy was not exactly the brightest bulb in the box.  Makes you wonder a bit how, once they married, she didn’t notice that he never talked so sweetly in their more private moments.  Or did she chalk it up to the honeymoon is over syndrome?

Cyrano is a most excellent play, and if you haven’t read it, I recommend it.  It still possesses the power to bring tears to your eyes, filled as it is with the most deathless, selfless, unrequited love of all times.  Maybe Romeo and Juliet died for their love, but at least they confessed it to one another, and had one night together.  Cyrano had none of that. In 1990, Gerard Depardieu took on the role of Cyrano – I confess that I’ve not seen that yet.  And just three years before, in 1987, comedian Steve Martin took it to a wonderfully satiric level in Roxanne, costarring Darryl Hannah, which I think was totally brilliant, and had a far less tragic ending.

So, to get back to my point, if Cyrano was the man with the words, if those words conveyed his heart, his soul, his truths, then technically, Roxanne was in love with him, wasn’t she?  It’s a shame she didn’t know it, caught up as she was by the pretty but shallow package that was Christian.  And that’s a truth that is pretty much self-evident even today.  The pretty boys with the pretty features and the sculpted abs gain all the attention – the devotions, the drooling, the deep-seated longings and dreamy desires of many women (and men), while some true beauties who don’t have quite the same – shall we say, points of interest? – go unnoticed.  And yes, the same can be said of men who see the vision – the hair, the makeup, and the two fixed chestly assets – and don’t give the girl with lesser so-called attributes a second glance.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I fell for Cyrano when I read the play, and I cried for him, because he was so wonderful and so underappreciated.  This reminds me of another quote, this time from Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

 “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”

Truer words have ne’er been spoken.  Love sees beyond the fa├žade, beyond the paint and the glitz – past the perfect body and the surface beauty – love sees inside, into the heart and soul, and knows that it is good.  Mind to mind is the real thing.  Anyone can make body parts fit, that is no accomplishment. That, I think, is what works between people who meet on the Internet, and why so many couples have been created that way – the first meetings are intellectual, rather than physical.  They meet the person inside without worrying about the outer person.  By the time they meet in real life, they are often already enthralled.  My belief is that by loving someone, they become beautiful to you, no matter how the rest of the world perceives them.  Your heart knows, and it gives your sight the knowledge.  Think about it, about that person in your life, and how beautiful to you they are.  Now think about the ones that are gone – once the love was gone, did not the perception of beauty often end as well?

There will always be beautiful people in this world, undoubtedly.  People we enjoy watching in films, on TV, listening to, and even ogling in films less artistic but very entertaining (yes, I mean porn flicks).  What you see is not necessarily what you get, and for a fantasy, that’s just fine, cause face it – most of us will never meet these people in real life anyway, so it doesn’t matter.  But when it comes to real affairs of the heart, what I’m saying is don’t just look at the surface – get to know the person inside.  Which isn’t to say that every man with a large nose has a Cyrano de Bergerac hiding inside. But you don’t know what he does have til you care enough to find out.  And when you do, you’ll discover how beautiful he is to you.

Do you have a Cyrano in your life?  Someone that you know is beautiful, and you want to share with the rest of the world?  I’d love to hear from you.  Tell me what you think, and show me your Cyrano.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Announcing yesterday's Winner! Drum roll please!

Thanks to all my new followers!  The winner of  a gift from my virtual gift basket is:

Lori Toland!

Congratulations to Lori, look for your gift to be winging to you very soon!

How do you play nice with someone you'd rather kill?

Famed humorist Will Rogers once said, "I never met a man I didn't like."  

Notice he didn't say - immediately?  I think what he was trying to say was that you can find a reason to like anyone, even if you have to work at it.  You have to want to do it, though.  Which is what I'm talking about today - liking people despite first impressions or instant dislike, and disregarding what you may have heard about that person, or even the words that may have come from that person's lips.  I'm not talking general prejudice here, dislike for a group or type of people, which is just wrong on every level.  But learning to like even the most outwardly unlikable person imaginable, the one you swore you'd despise forever.  It can be done, and it should be done - not simply for the obvious reasons, that as people we all need to get along, but because in the long run, it's really good for everyone, especially you.

We all know them, that person in our lives who gets on our nerves for whatever reason.  It might be a co-worker, or a neighbor, a friend, or a relative, someone you wait on at work, or somebody who waits on you.  They get on your last nerve.  They rub you the wrong way.  They say stupid things, or they behave stupidly - at least in your eyes. You don't like them, don't want to deal with them, don't want to talk to them.

It's human to feel this way.  I have, you have, we all have.  And yet is it necessary?  Is there a better way to deal with these people?  There is, I'm firmly convinced of it, and it's all just a matter of mindset.  If you're determined to get along with everyone - and by get along, I'm not saying they have to become your bestest buddy or anything, but you drop them from your people I can't stand category - then you can do it.  But you have to want to do it.

Before you ask, yes, I've tried this theory out myself.  At one time I was a checker for regional grocery chain here, and their motto emphasized their friendliness.  I was not exactly outgoing when I got the job, but when you're a checker, you learn how to talk to people - lots of people.  I was determined to fulfill the company's motto, to be the friendliest checker I could be.  But sometimes customers just get in the way of that.  Like the lady who complained when I commented on her more than 20 items in the less than 20 item lane (I even checked her out, simply pointed out to her that she was over the limit so she would know for next time, and she accused me of being a racist).  That was a one time incident, I'm not sure I ever waited on her again.  Maybe I didn't recognize her when she wasn't complaining.  But I had a regular customer, a woman who, no matter what, complained about something every time she came in.  There was always something not to her liking.  It got to where other checkers would avoid her.  But I was determined to be friendly, so I would take her, and I met every surly comment or criticism with nothing but friendly attitude and sympathy. Right before I left that job, I found out she thought I was the best checker there, which made me feel good, although I wished I'd known before the day before I left.  Another customer was a bit of an odd duck, with odd habits, and again the checkers tried to avoid him.  But I found a common interest with this person in the form of books, and we actually had discussions concerning them, once I put aside my attitude of thinking he was weird and not wanting to deal with him, and I began to enjoy his company.

In each case, I didn't let the other person's attitude affect mine.  You can only control what you do, not what anyone else does.  (Not even your children, trust me).  So decide ahead of time that you are going to like this person, no matter what.  They don't have to like you back, although it would be nice if they did.  If you are in a customer service oriented position, then that should be a given, it's what you do.  I've noticed a sad trend which has grown over the past several years or so where some people in public service jobs think they have the right to treat their customers as they see fit.  They're totally wrong!  If you don't like what you do, get out, or better yet, change your attitude - and you'll discover that your job isn't as bad as you think it is.  Don't endure, enjoy.  And if you're the one standing in that customer service line, remember that the person who is waiting on you is human too, and may not have all the answer that you want.  But if you work together, you'll get farther than by pulling apart.

So Will Rogers had the right attitude - never meet a man that you can't like.  It may take time, it will take effort, but if you put your mind to it, you can do it.  I gave up hate from my vocabulary a long time ago - hate is an emotion that only hurts the one who possesses it.  Love makes everyone feel good.

Give it a try - focus on someone in your life that you think you don't like.  Look for reasons to like that person, whether it be common interests, a personality trait that you were unaware they possessed, or something you find interesting about them, or the way they dress or talk.   Whatever.  Don't give up until you stop disliking him or her.  You'll be glad you did.

Now, if we could only get everyone in the world to adopt such an attitude!

Monday, January 24, 2011

TV Rambling - in anticipation of the return of Justified and a chance to win

Check this guy out.

For those of you have haven't been privileged to meet him yet, that's Raylan Givens, federal marshal relocated to Kentucky from Florida after he shot a man there (the shooting was justified, but nonetheless Raylan was sent back home for it).  Raylan comes from Kentucky, and knows a lot of people there, including his ex-wife Winona, and Boyd Crowder, criminal turned evangelist whose daddy Bo is still a crimelord in those parts.  This is the background against which Justified is set.  Justified has completed its first season, which is now out on DVD (my copy of which is even now on its way to me), and the new season begins on February 9th.  I am way excited for this for many reasons.  I almost didn't give Justified a chance, as I am very selective in my TV viewing, which is close to non-existent.  But I saw some promos for this at the theater (and it's impossible to fastforward through those, so you either watch and listen, or tune them out).  First I tuned out, but then I began to watch and listen and I became interested, and now I'm hooked.

Having watched the first season, I was unaware until recently that Raylan began with a short story.  His creator is none other than Elmore Leonard.  You may know him for many reasons, among them being Get Shorty and Be Cool.  The original story is called Fire in the Hole, and I recently read it.  You can read it before you watch the series, or after, bearing in mind that transferrence from one medium to another generally involves change, and this one is no exception.  Justified is full of humor, action, and plain good ol' fashioned fun.  The characters will hold your attention, and Raylan is definitely my favorite, although Boyd is an interesting case study, and Dewey Crowe - well, there are not adequate words to describe that boy.  Do yourself a favor, check it out when it returns February 9th, and then catch up on the first season.  If you like what you see, find more of Timothy Olyphant.  I did - Hit Man (which I reviewed here), Die Hard 4 and Catch and Release.

Moving on.

A new show premiered on F/X a couple of weeks ago.  Being pleased with Justified, I checked it out, and I'm glad that I did.  Lights Out is about a boxer who left the ring five years before, after a title fight which he, and a lot of other people, think he was robbed in.  Since that time, things have gotten rough for him, and he's been reduced to such things as calling bingo games and appearing in cheesy ads to make money.  He has a large home to maintain, a wife and daughters to support, but times are tough, and a real estate investment he sunk a lot into isn't materializing quite the way that he'd hoped.  His brother is his business manager, and he does what he can, while his dad (former Papa Titus Stacy Keach) helps out at Lights' gym.  But when he is compelled to help with collection of a debt, and resorts to violence, and then ends up wailing on a loudmouth at a bar - well, he's sinking fast and it looks like his only way out is the rematch of that title fight which the winner is clamoring for, cause he's tired of hearing that he robbed Lights.  To complicate things, Lights has been diagnosed with pugilistic dementia.

I like this already, after only two episodes.  It's character driven, and well written and acted, and I think it has potential.  F/X is doing good.  I would be happier with them if they hadn't let Terriers get canceled.  I understand that it was a bad time slot, but it could have been moved to a different one.  I recorded it anyway, so it didn't matter to me when it aired, but it was good, and its cancellation is our loss.

So what else is going on in my TV land?  Hawaii 5-0.  I watched it for Alex O'Loughlin, but there is more to it than him (though if you only watch for him, you won't feel shortchanged, I assure you). If you'll recall, he was vampire Mick St. John in Moonlight, which died far too soon, after only one season.  Blame the writer's strike.  I do - for that and for the demise of Deadwood, but that's another story.  Hawaii 5-0 is beautifully shot, the acting and the writing are first rate, the scenery is magnificent, and it's a refreshing update of the old series.  The stories are all good, the last one, which actually aired last night, after the football game, was about a killer tsunami hitting the island.  If you haven't seen it, check it out, you'll be glad you did.

******potential spoilers ahead******
A few weeks ago, Californication returned for its fourth season, starring that sexy sex-addicted bad boy Hank Moody (David Duchovny).  I have liked this show from the start, never missed a one.  It's still got the kick it had when it began, and it never disappoints.  If you'll recall from the first season, Hank had sex with a girl he picked up at a book signing, who punched him during their coitus, and who turned out to be only 16, but he didn't know.  Later, after a dry slum of non writing, he wrote the story of what happened, under the guise of a novel, called it Fucking and Punching.  The girl in question, whose name is Mia (Madeline Zima, also of Heroes) found the manuscript, stole it, and published it under her own name.  Ye gods!  It gets worse.  She's a sudden instant hit, feted and touted for her writing, to Hank's chagrin.  But how can he reclaim his own material without his long time girlfriend discovering the truth of what happened (it's a very complicated situation). Well, last season she found out and the shit hit the fan, and now this season - the fallout.  Hank is still Hank, and he's still got his sleazy but cute manager Charlie Runkle, as well as the regulars.  This season's guests so far include Rob Lowe and Matt LeBlanc.  If you haven't seen it, you should.  Be warned that there is a nude or semi-nude David Duchovny in almost every episode, not to mention a great deal of language and sexual situations.  Not everyone's cuppa tea, but definitely mine.

Enough about my shows - let's hear about yours.  Ever watch something, get totally hooked and have the network yank the rug out from under you by cancelling it?  I think we've all been there done that.  Ever written a letter of protest?  I'm not sure if those even help, but I hear they do.  The one time I tried was years ago when they canceled Matt Frewer's show Doctor, Doctor (pre Max Headroom).  It didn't help.  I also wrote last year to the writers of Vampire Diaries telling them their stories were horrible and the writing had slid downhill by the end of the first season.  It's gotten better this season, but that could be a coincidence.  They never replied, so who knows if they even read my letter.

Who are your deepest regrets from the TV graveyard?  What shows did you love that died without being allowed to properly wrap up their storylines?  Do you regret that they left the castaways on Gilligan's Island and only came back to them in movies years after the fact?

I'll be giving out a gift from my virtual gift basket to one of my new followers.  Follow and leave a comment which includes your email addy!

That's all for now!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Welcome Stephanie Danielson!

In honor of my new blog, I'm reposting my first guest blogger!  Welcome if you will SL Danielson, author of Bernard: Diary of a 46 Year Old Bellhop, Lust in London, Ranch Hands, Life By the Numbers, and more.  Make her feel at home,and feel free to leave comments!  Show her the love!
Greetings! Author S. L. (Stephanie) Danielson here! Gearing up for what promises to be a great 2011!

First, I'd like to thank Julie for hosting me. She's terrific and I love working with and talking to her :)

OK, down to business. First, the news, I just submitted a sequel to 2010's smash hit "Ranch Hands" to my publisher. It's only been a few days, but keep your fingers
crossed! It's called "Ranch Hands 2; Jerry's Season."

Also, my new release is slated for release on March 26th, "Life After Math" which is also a sequel to 2009's "Love by the Numbers". If follows Scott
and Jared to college and the extreme pressures and drama that ensue from there.

That's it for news, now to current events. "Bernard; Diary of a 46-yr old Bellhop", my "newest" book has been out since Thanksgiving. I've gotten a lot of great reviews
on it and have been praised for creating the 'not so perfect' lead character.

I've attached an excerpt of Bernard for everyone. Available at Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu (paperback), and All Romance Ebooks.

“I want to give you something. I’ll be right back.” He stood up and exited the room for a moment. He returned with a book in his hand. Jack stood up to greet him.
“What is it?”
Bernard flipped the book over. It was his journal. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot. We’ve gotten a lot closer lately and I think it’s time. If you want to know me, I mean really know me, read this. I’ve had this depression a long time. I’d love for someone to finally try to understand me and not just the illness.”
Jack smiled at his friend and ran his fingers over the fabric on the cover. He remembered the first time he saw it in the hospital. He looked down into Bernard’s brilliant blue eyes and cupped his chin.
“I promise you, I will read this and not judge anything. I want to get to know the real you.”
Bernard smiled lightly. “Thanks, Jack. I hope you’ll still want to once you see what’s in those tattered pages.”
Jack leaned forward and kissed the man’s cheek again and pulled him in for a long embrace. “Don’t worry, I will.”
Bernard held on tight to his friend and tried to breathe in as much of his scent as possible. Finally, they let go.
“Thank you for dinner. You’re a great cook!”
“Thanks! I guess my Mom did teach me some stuff after all. They’re all diner recipes.”
Jack smiled and brushed Bernard’s hand. “I’ll see you later. Give me a couple of days to read this, alright?”
“Absolutely. I didn’t write very much, but take your time.”
“Will do. Good night, Bernard.”
“Night, Jack.”

Jack left the apartment and walked down the steps. Bernard locked the door behind him and leaned against the door. His heart jumped a few beats every time he thought of Jack even being near him! He felt sweat on his brow and wiped it away with his sleeve. “Hope he knows what he’s getting. Well, better go clean up.”

Jack returned two days later to Bernard’s apartment. He held something behind his back which the older man attempted to catch a glimpse of.
“What do you have there?” He asked while smiling.
Jack shook his head. “Nope, no peeking. Close your eyes first.”
Bernard laughed and shut his eyes. “Okay.”
Jack held up a white rose to his friend’s nose.
Bernard sniffed the air and could smell the rose. “Oh wow that smells good! What is that?” He opened his eyes and saw the flower and sniffed it again. “It’s beautiful!”
Jack smiled at him and spoke softly. “Bernard after reading your journal and learning about the real you, I could draw only one conclusion.”
“What’s that?” Bernard asked breathlessly.
“That I’d like to start my own healing process and I’d like to know if you’d be willing to go out with me?”
Bernard’s mouth gaped open and he looked at Jack in great surprise. “Are you sure?”
Jack rolled his eyes and let out a grunt. “Yes, I’m very sure. Here’s your journal back. I want us to learn about each other even more. It doesn’t even have to be sexual at first. We can just be dating for a while. What do you say?”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Now we begin

Prior to this, I had a blog at Tumblr. Well, actually, I still do.  But today I came to the realization that I needed more, as I cannot even receive comments from other people, unless they have Tumblrs too.  So I decided to make another blog, here at Blogger, as I've seen others do.  Now, it remains to be seen how well this technologically challenged author will do at this, but I tell you what, I'm gonna give it a try!

Bear with me, if you would, I'll be making changes as I go, as I get a feel for things.  And I hope that I will actually blog on a more regular basis.

I'll make a brief intro then, shall I?  My name is Julie, I write under the name Julie Lynn Hayes, but call me Julie, or even Jules.  I have published with Wicked Nights, Silver Publishing and Dreamspinner.  I'm sure I'll be adding my titles here somewhere, eventually, but I'll list them for now:

To The Max:  novel, Dreamspinner, released 3/10
Prince Wore Pink Stilettos: short story, Dreamspinner, released 4/10
Lawn Boy: short story, Wicked Nights, released 10/10
Sex on the Beach Christmas Style: short story, Wicked Nights, released 11/10
Captivations 1: ongoing series, Wicked Nights, released 11/10
Captivations 2: All that jazz  released 12/10
Captivations 3: To Err is Human released 1/11
A Special Christmas: short story, Silver Publishing released 12/10

Sweet Dreams, My Love: novella, Dreamspinner - to be released 2/11
Leonardo di Caprio is a Vampire: novella, Silver - to be released 2011

I also write under the name Reinette - my first novel Dark Love was released by Silver January 2011.

As you can see, I've been very busy and very blessed over a short period of time.  Also during that time, I became unemployed - fired by my brother after working for him for thirteen years.  He denies it, but it's because of my book Max.  I am still seeking employment, as making a living from writing royalties is very difficult to do.

I think I'll save the bio info for a bio section, there must be one here somewhere.  I'll figure it out.   This is my first post.  I hope that you enjoy reading what I do, and sharing my thoughts and feelings about things, and listening to yours.

Pull up a chair, and visit, why don't  you?  Everyone is welcome!  Let's all share some full moon dreaming!