Monday, February 28, 2011

Drink Positive

So today is the final day of the month, and hence the last day of Face-Off February. This month's challenge was hard for two days, then liberating for twenty-six. I'm excited to put on makeup tomorrow for the first time in four weeks, but I'll be honest—the experiment changed me. I'll be far more likely to give the stuff a miss on occasion. Absolutely no one cares about the state of my face aside from me, bless them.

March, don't fail me now…
Onward! Tomorrow marks the start of Meager March, during which I'm not allowing myself to make any frivolous purchases. When I devised all the months that comprise Discipline Year, I thought this would be one of the easier ones. But in recent days I've been noticing all the treats I'll mourn in the coming weeks, as I've been indulging in them—beers and meals out with friends, spontaneous iTunes downloads, movie tickets. Hmm…this isn't just about saying no to shoes or clothes or jewelry. This could be far harder than I expected.

Though it may arguably be cheating, I did make one frivolous purchase ahead of time, as an insurance policy. Just now I walked to the bodega and bought a bottle of cheap champagne, my standard celebratory treat for new book sales. Although I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm expecting to have occasion to pop it open in the next month, there is a chance I could. And I'm trying to think positively, so accordingly, I'm planning for the best. Cheers to that!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Puzzle

It's Sunday again, and you know what that means—time for me to rip off the puzzle segment from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday!

Mustachioed enigmatologist
extraordinaire, Will Shortz
If you're a newcomer, each week on Weekend Edition Sunday, Will Shortz (the hardcore crossword puzzlers' almighty God) comes on the radio to do three things: share the solution to the previous week's puzzle, invite a winner who entered the correct answer to play another puzzle (usually word-related) on the air for word-nerdy prizes, and present everyone with the next week's puzzle (answers due in by Thursday afternoon via the WES website if you want a chance to play on the air).

Note: I never post the solutions on this blog…at least not before the submission deadline. I see lots of keyword traffic coming from people looking for the answers, which is at best impatient, and at worst, cheating. For shame.

Now without further ado, here's this week's new puzzle [the WES website is slow to update this week, but this I what I jotted down]:

Think of a common girl's name in six letters. Change the fourth letter to the next letter in the alphabet to spell another common girl's name. What names are they?

Click here to see the original puzzle posting [once it's up], check the answer to last week's challenge, listen to the segment, or find the link to enter your answer.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bucked from the Hobby Horse

My manfriend brought home his very first guitar this week, and has been spending a lot of time holed up in his office with his shiny new Precious and amp and how-to book, the muted sounds of electric strumming leaking through the door while I read at night or work on my own projects on the weekends. Do I feel neglected? Hell no! I've been nagging him to cultivate a new hobby for a long time, so I'm pumped. Plus his fingers are getting all callused. Growr.

Anyone else recently take up a new pastime? Tell me so that I may be jealous. I'm missing a hobby of my own at the moment.

Oh, my poor neglected tub o' yarn.
For a long time, writing was my hobby. Then when I lost my day job as a designer and had a few months of severance pay and unemployment insurance to help keep Team Awesome afloat, writing became my "jobby"—the thing my manfriend and I decided I should pursue as though it were my full-time paid gig, even though I wasn't yet published. It was clear to the both of us that I was good at it, and it fulfilled me more than working at my old job (which while fairly fun and decent-paying, wasn't feeling especially creative after five years of working on the same types of projects). So I had our collective couple's blessing to pursue writing until the money got unreasonably tight. And who'd have guessed it, six months into the lark, I sold my first book! Followed by another dozen. Though money is indeed way tighter than it was when I earned a salary, I'm still full-steam-ahead on making writing my full-time gig.

So, my hobby-turned-jobby turned into an actual job. Which leaves me hobbiless. I have a bunch of quasi-hobbies—reading, watching reality TV (while drinking wine), playing Angry Birds (also while drinking wine)… But those are passive occupations, requiring little of me aside from my attention, so I don't qualify them as hobbies. Walking and running are more physical upkeep than pastimes to me, cooking is as pleasurable as always but still a household obligation, so I don't count those, either. I find myself with occasional graphic design projects, for myself or others, but they're more diversions, not so much what I think of as a hobby.

A hobby is a long-term activity, in my view, one that requires you to continuously learn and gain competency. Like the study of a foreign language, yoga, painting watercolors, rock-climbing, poetry, amateur filmmaking, martial arts [wistful sigh], quilting, non-essential cooking, sailing, community theater, skateboarding, carving the faces of foreign dignitaries onto walnuts… You see where I'm going with this attempted definition. Something persistently challenging and hopefully creative. Something you look forward to while you toil away at your day job, and occasionally fantasize that you might one day make a living from.

Well my new day job, miracle of miracles, is still as creatively fulfilling as it was before The Call. So by the end of the day or the work week my mind is tapped, hence all my passive "hobbies". Staring at a page or screen is all I've got in me. I used to knit (I can produce a variety of impressive items, all of them roughly rectangle-shaped), practice Taekwondo, study French, sew, and try my hand at a variety of visual arts projects. I've always tended to grow bored easily then seek out new challenges as soon as I felt I'd grown competent with (if not mastered) a given skill. But now my brain's mush after fifty hours of working on projects that, generally speaking, I have massive creative control over.

Hmmm, suddenly this post sounds really douchey. Let me be clear—I'm not complaining! But I do miss having a hobby in my life. I've shifted to having projects instead, since that implies a challenge with a finite lifespan—an end. I very much feel that writing is something I'm still in the midst of getting good at, and I just don't have the energy to cultivate any additional creative skills just now.

What happens when your hobby turns into your profession? Does it become your "calling"? Your "passion"? Your "life"? I don't really know. But I do know that I'm just a little jealous of my manfriend, sequestered this very moment in his room, strumming away, with the promise of years of creative growth and challenge spread before him, should he choose to continue on his musical journey. I guess for now I'll just have to live vicariously. Possibly while drinking wine.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thrusty Thursday: Alan Rickman

Schieß dem Fenster!
Sixty-five years foxy! A very happy belated birthday to one of my absolute favorite actors ever, the one and only Alan Rickman.

My first conscious introduction to Alan Rickman (I'm sure my brother and dad watched Die Hard in our living room at some point during my childhood, but such genius was wasted on me until I was a bit older) was his role in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Oh, Sheriff of Nottingham! Baddie swoon! I'm pretty sure I'll go to hell for saying this, but that film's got the most hilarious attempted rape scene of any movie, ever. Rickman is the ultimate genre-spanner—action to fantasy to drama to comedy, from Jane Austen to Douglas Adams, Kevin Smith to Tim Burton. In college I took a film course that clued me in to a subterranean Boston video store that stocked just about every movie, ever, which is where I managed to track down a bunch of Rickman's more obscure titles, such as Mesmer and Dark Harbor and the genius HBO production of Rasputin. Sigh, the voice! The nose! The tired eyes! That patented eyebrow move where he manages to make blasé snark into the purest form of seduction!

Is it just me, or was it a total waste that Rickman didn't factor into any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies?

Bonus foxy factoid: Rickman started as a graphic designer! All the awesomest people do. [cough cough]

You know I had to include a video to honor the Ricksta. And dag, there are a lot to choose from! He must be among the most tributed dudes on YouTube—so many gushy montages set to emo music. I decided on this one, titled "10 Reasons to Love Alan Rickman." As if they needed enumerating.

Happy birthday, Alan! Can't wait 'til you score yourself a knighthood. xoxo

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Chemistry of Writing

Nope, nothing to do with a leading couple's attraction. Nothing to do with plot formulae. I'm talking about basic bodily chemistry here, and how it affects writing, or how it affects me as a writer, at least. Bear in mind, this ain't proper science…

Proper science.
I think any dedicated fiction writer will agree, this job is unpredictable. One day you write five thousand words, all of them as brilliant as first drafts come. Euphoria! The next day, you tweeze out six hundred, each feeling like a tooth being extracted. In between are the adequate days, maybe one or two thousand usable words, steady forward momentum. But one thing is certain—you can't guess which type of day you're in for until you sit down and start listening to the voices in your head. Or in the case of a bad day, straining to hear them, desperate for the tiniest scrap of inspiration.

That's all very annoying, because some days, due to deadlines both external and self-imposed, we feel we need to hammer out three thousand genius words, but it just isn't going to happen. However, there are certain chemical aids and hindrances you can either avoid or harness to help stack the writing deck in your favor.

Caffeine. If you're a coffee (or Coke or tea) drinker, this is major. I think we underestimate how strong a stimulant caffeine is. A highly reliable scientific reference (Wikipedia) tells us "caffeine is an ergogenic, increasing a person's capability for mental or physical labor." It is my opinion that writing is both a mental and physical labor, so one might think this would bode well. I disagree.

Too much coffee and I swear my brain dries up from a lake to a gully. I may be alert, but the thoughts I'm having feel very surface-level, very uninspired. The movies that play in my head when I write become faint and fuzzy. It's my experience that too much caffeine makes the brain shallow. That reads like the label off a Victorian quack medicine bottle, but I stand by it. Caffeine can push your body into jacked-up faux-survival mode, heart beating faster, all impulses feeling urgent and immediate…kiss your creativity and emotional awareness goodbye. Stick to the same dosage each day. I have a mug of coffee first thing with breakfast, and that's it if I want to stay relaxed enough to write. For me, much of the appeal of coffee is the comfort factor; having a mug of something warm by my side makes work feel less worky, as if I'm getting away with something. My twenty year old self would scoff, but I can't say enough good things about decaf.

Sugar. Similar to caffeine, but different. The illusion of instant energy, but in my opinion, the crash is far worse. I try to not eat anything too sugary until after dinner, because it just wrecks me for the day. Also, during the brief window when one does enjoy a little energy hit, I find myself very distractable. I may be going a million miles a minute, but generally only around and around in circles, from Twitter to Google to the kitchen, to the work-in-progress, which I stare blankly at before deciding to see if anything's changed on Twitter in the ninety seconds since I last visited. Then, cue the robot slumping as it powers down. The only thing worse than a sugar buzz for getting words written is a sugar crash. Just stay away from that white powder…at least until you've hit your word count.

Adrenaline. This is a tricky one…again, I can only speak for myself. If you work great under pressure, more power to you. But my body does not process adrenaline the way I wish it would. I would love to be one of those people who, when confronted or in the midst of a competition, get a surge of superhuman strength and ride that wave to victory. Not me. My adrenaline highs make me shaky and short of breath, turn my mouth to a desert and my knees to jelly. Ask anyone who's watched me right before I had to spar in Taekwondo or at the start line of a 5K. I would love to be that person who feeds on the surge, but something about my engine just does not process that chemical to the best effect. Flight, not fight, for me.

As such, I know I can't function as a procrastinator and succeed at this job. I don't work well under pressure at all, so instead I go the teacher's pet route and do every assignment as soon as it's given, so I won't find myself in the midst of an anxiety attack the night before it's due.

The only times I do enjoy adrenaline rushes are when I'm competing against myself, with low stakes. If I'm running and I decide to push myself to go a bit faster, a bit farther, suddenly I'm there—an actual, enjoyable adrenaline high, and nothing to lose if I fail. Same with the writing—if I set my daily goal at a thousand words, I nearly always double it or better. It sounds lame and counterintuitive to our reach for the stars culture, but the more reasonable the goal, the more likely you'll surpass it. Set too high a goal and you're inviting pressure. If my goal is a thousand words, I might hit it, get a surge of accomplishment, and write another thousand. Set it at four thousand and the uphill climb wears me out and I begin to doubt myself by word 1,500. I hate to say it, but if you're like me and don't process adrenaline the way Gator-Aid and Under Armour like to suggest we all should, set your hurdles low. You might go soaring over that hurdle way up in the air, but if you set it too high you're likely to just whack your head on the bar.

Endorphins. Ah, what makes running an admissible form of torture for me. I wanted to be sure to offer up a couple of positive chemical aids after villainizing caffeine and sugar and adrenaline. Endorphins are the body's own self-made opiates, triggered by such things as exercise, love, spicy foods, and orgasm. I'll focus on that first one.

This post was actually inspired by my trip to the Y yesterday. I'd started my day less than chipper, filled with low-level angst and mild annoyance, an overall sensation of meh. But I knew from experience that this meant I needed to get a nice sweat on. Thirty to sixty minutes of good old fashioned exercise and I can suddenly find myself staring wide-eyed into a totally new day. During my walk to the gym, the snow looked gray, the people seemed like slow-moving obstacles blocking my way, the cars like death machines hell-bent on running me down. On the walk home, the sun was shining (it had been before, but I hadn't bothered noticing), the people were friendly, and the cars all seemed eager to stop and let me cross the street. Oh, endorphins. Best drug ever, and totally free! Another huge upshot to exercise is of course better health, plus a feeling of accomplishment, competence, a temporary sense superiority to others (if you're a jerk like me), and I firmly believe, increased creativity. Plus you can eat more.

Serotonin. I won't pretend I have any authoritative understanding of this one, but I did want to touch on it. Please don't trust my science. But here's what I believe to be accurate: serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can create in us a sense of well-being and contentment. Highly conducive to writing. The tryptophan in turkey we've all heard about is an amino acid that our bodies convert to serotonin, hence that happy, sleepy feeling many of us Yanks experience after Thanksgiving dinner.

Serotonin production and release is highly influenced by diet, and things like complex carbohydrates help us create it, while things like protein do not. Junk foods, particularly those high in simple carbs, trigger the serotonin effect, but because they don't actually provide us with the nutrients to replace the serotonin they unleash from our bodies' stores, they give us a temporary high that can later result in a depressed sensation. The obvious lesson here—eat junk food in moderation. The little high it gives us is short-lived, often chased by the low that spurred us to head to the cupboard in the first place.

Hmmm… I hadn't intended this post to become an "Eat right and exercise!" PSA, but here we are. I would have liked to cover alcohol as well, but that hotbed of emotion- and impulse-modification is a post or two in itself. Plus, I need to go write…just as soon as I steep myself a cup of decaf.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Puzzle

It's Sunday again, and you know what that means—time for me to rip off the puzzle segment from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday!

Mustachioed enigmatologist
extraordinaire, Will Shortz
If you're a newcomer, each week on Weekend Edition Sunday, Will Shortz (the hardcore crossword puzzlers' almighty God) comes on the radio to do three things: share the solution to the previous week's puzzle, invite a winner who entered the correct answer to play another puzzle (usually word-related) on the air for word-nerdy prizes, and present everyone with the next week's puzzle (answers due in by Thursday afternoon via the WES website if you want a chance to play on the air).

Note: I never post the solutions on this blog…at least not before the submission deadline. I see lots of keyword traffic coming from people looking for the answers, which is at best impatient, and at worst, cheating. For shame.

Now without further ado, here's this week's new puzzle:

Spell a part of the human body. Change one of the letters to an E, and rearrange the result to name another part of the human body. What body parts are these? Clue: Both parts of the body are things you can see.

Click here to see the original puzzle posting, check the answer to last week's challenge, listen to the segment, or find the link to enter your answer.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Woo hoo! Went down to start a load of laundry and found the best box ever waiting on the back steps—a slew of my very first author copies from Harlequin! I really underestimated how thrilling this would be. Like Christmas. Actually, no…Christmas morning hasn't excited me this deeply since 1989, the year my brother and I got our Nintendo (with Power Pad). This was Christmas, but as a kid again.

I also went onto Goodreads this morning to update the blurb for Caught on Camera, and discovered it's already been rated! Wow, that was quick, considering it's not out for another month. Then I realized the rating came from a Twitter acquaintance who writes book reviews for RT, among other things, which filled me with spastic, hopeful excitement. Hoo…I need some lunch. Can't be safe to get this overstimulated on an empty stomach.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thrusty Thursday: Jason Isaacs

Ooh, smuggins.
On Tuesday, my smutty erotica-writing alter ego sold a book very near and dear to her heart. Said book has seven main characters, and of those seven at least two are, well…assholes. Sexy assholes. And so the asshole mystique has been front and center in my brain, and when it came time to source this week's thrustee, I asked the Twittersphere for suggestions for a man with that elusive do-I-want-to-hit-him-or-grope-him quality. My favorite of the resulting endorsements was for English actor Jason Isaacs. Damn, his name alone is thrustable!

First and foremost let me say, I'm not at all implying that Jason Isaacs is an asshole. He merely looks like one—in the best way possible—and seems somewhat predisposed to playing them. I'm sure he's a lovely man. At any rate, I know Isaacs best from the Harry Potter movies, in which he plays Lucius Malfoy. Had I known only that about him, I'd have taken a pass, as it's rare for a blond to turn my head. But I didn't recognize him by name and good thing—his image search was all it took to convert me. Ooh, shiver. His shifty face makes me wish he'd give me a damn good reason to slap him.

Behold! A sampling of Isaacs looking vaguely evil in various capacities:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wooing the Non-Standard Woman

I really hadn't expected a St. Valentine's Day post from myself. But inspiration struck, like a heart-shaped arrowhead into the buttcheek of the blogging lobe of my brain. And so I present to you, my guide to wooing non-standard women. And not just me—I think I speak for a small but not discountable subset of the Western female population, a group of straight ladies in our late-twenties to mid-forties, who proudly own and celebrate our own dopey perversions. So, men enamored of da non-standard womens, my instructions to you:

Step One—Get us flowers, unless you're expressly told not to. These flowers should cost between ten and thirty dollars. If we work outside the home, bring or have them delivered to our office, so that our coworkers will see. This step is patently non-non-standard, but just go with it. If you really don't want to get flowers, buy us a live plant like a decorative cactus, but make sure there is a big pink or red bow on it, so our coworkers know it is a Valentine's cactus.

Step Two—Look nice that evening. Wear that shirt or sweater we picked out for you, and whichever pants cause us to poke your butt the most. Groom your face in the way your lady prefers, be it a super-close shave, two days' stubble, or your beard at its most lumberjacked. Make yourself as doable as possible. Everyone will benefit. Tonight is also a good time to give boxer-briefs a go.

Step Three—Source something hot to watch. Oh yeah, we totally want to stay in. Now don't find something that marketers tell you we want to watch, something with Jennifer Anniston or Hugh Grant in it. Definitely not. We want to watch something ostensibly marketed for men, but actually favored by women due to the way it showcases a cast of beefcakey men in tight and/or scant clothing, quite possibly fighting one another. We're talking the Wolverine movie, 300, a marathon of the 2004 Battlestar Galactica series (especially that episode where Helo and Boomer get it on in the woods on Caprica, in the rain, blam!), Man vs. Wild (I'd prefer Survivorman, but I bow to the popular vote for this post) or my personal favorite of late, Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Especially that fucked up episode with the masks. Do not compare yourself to the men on screen. Just suck it up and hope for some bare boobs to turn up and even things out.

Step Four—Get us drunk. Slowly, though, and not too drunk, or we'll fall asleep, which is not what anyone wants, and which is counterproductive to all that cinematic beefcakery you so thoughtfully procured. I'll leave it to you to figure out what drink your non-standard lady prefers, but I'd advise against cocktails. The sugar crash will work against you. That goes for sweet foods, as well. Save the candies and desserts for later. Instead, try cheese! With the exception of my unfortunate lactose intolerant sisters, we love cheese. But not too much cheese…you know why.

Step Five—Get all physical during the movie / cheese / gradual-drunkening process. Not boob-grabbage-physical (yet), but a nice arm grazing, or invite us to sling our leg over yours, or give us the old arm-around-the-shoulder move (minus the tempting boob-grabbage). Establish yourself as the bringer of nuanced physical pleasure. We're easier to manipulate than we let on.

Step Six—The stuff you and your lady get up to. I'm staying well away from your bedroom door—which is unlike me, as a writer—but you know better than I what Step Six ought to be. Go to it, soldier.

Step Seven—Dinner, which should really come after Step Six, the stuff you and your lady get up to. Dinner is whatever we want. It's possible we'll want to cook, especially if we're feeling rather womanly and grateful and energized, following the successful application of Step Six. If we do cook, make a believably big deal about how delicious the meal is. And since you wisely waited until this point in the evening to cook or order dinner, you're both now free to gorge, and to change into more accomodating pants. Plus if Step Six went well, you're likely needing to regain your strength. Resume Step Three with optional dessert until sleepiness is achieved.

That's it, fellas. We non-standard ladies are relatively cheap and easy to please, no reservations necessary. Best of luck with teh w00ing this Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Puzzle

It's Sunday again, and you know what that means—time for me to rip off the puzzle segment from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday!

Mustachioed enigmatologist
extraordinaire, Will Shortz
If you're a newcomer, each week on Weekend Edition Sunday, Will Shortz (the hardcore crossword puzzlers' almighty God) comes on the radio to do three things: share the solution to the previous week's puzzle, invite a winner who entered the correct answer to play another puzzle (usually word-related) on the air for word-nerdy prizes, and present everyone with the next week's puzzle (answers due in by Thursday afternoon via the WES website if you want a chance to play on the air).

Note: I never post the solutions on this blog…at least not before the submission deadline. I see lots of keyword traffic coming from people looking for the answers, which is at best impatient, and at worst, cheating. For shame.

Now without further ado, here's this week's new puzzle:

From Jack Jaiven of Highland Beach, Fla.: Name a world capital. Add the letter R, and rearrange the letters to name two U.S. presidents. What is the world capital and who are the presidents?

Click here to see the original puzzle posting, check the answer to last week's challenge, listen to the segment, or find the link to enter your answer.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Theta Heroes: Lost Souls

It seems like it's been a long time since I've posted anything writing-related on this spastic, unfocused blog, so I've decided to repurpose a recent post by my erotica-writing alter ego. For your enjoyment: a concise guide to one of my favorite "alphabet" hero types, the lesser known Theta Male.

I first saw the Theta hero defined in Rebecca Vinyard's Romance Writer's Handbook. She also refers to him as the Lost Soul or loner archetype, and Vinyard says this of him: "Tortured and secretive, he's got a vulnerable heart and discerning eyes. He also tends to brood to excess and can be unforgiving. He might wander through town, or maybe he was cast out because of some evil deed or deformity. […] In work, this man is very creative, but he's very much a loner, too. […] In historicals, he's the lone gunman."

Yum. The truly delicious thing about the Lost Soul archetype is that in a romance, we know it'll take an extraordinary woman (or man) to break through the crust and claim that guarded heart.

I can't say for certain that I've published any books featuring a true Theta, despite my love for them. My April Samhain release may feature a Theta; Max from The Reluctant Nude is tough to classify. He's a recluse, but he's also far pushier and more outgoing than the average Theta. My very first romance manuscript (in the drawer, yet to be polished and shopped around) starred a textbook Theta—such a loner he abandoned society to move out to the middle of nowhere as a survivalist. Oh, so tortured. And why exactly is that so attractive to so many of us?

For the reader, I suspect much of the appeal of the Theta hero is the challenge. The more impossible it seems that he could ever let love in, the more we want to see him rescued from his grim, self-imposed exile. There's also the bad-assitude. We love Alphas for their strength, but Thetas are just as strong…perhaps more so, given that they rely only on themselves, their wits and their brawn. They're nearly always reluctant heroes, thrust by circumstances into heroism when they'd perhaps prefer to stay out of others' problems. Other times they actively seek to help, but as unnamed vigilantes. If they act bravely, they do so out of grudging duty or self-preservation or vengeance, and not for glory. They're often described as "anti-heroes".

Some Thetas from popular culture: Eli from The Book of Eli. Sirius Black from the Harry Potter books. Mulder from the X-Files. The Beast from Beauty and the Beast. Sawyer from Lost—he went from borderline villain to highly unlikely hero over the course of the series, thanks largely to The Power of Lurrrrve™. Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings. Wolverine of the X-Men is perhaps the most classic example; a broody, grumpy loner with a pitch-black past, who steps into heroism because of two women—one he feels compelled to protect as a daughter, and one he loves, unrequitedly. Darker incarnations of Batman could also be considered Theta—he's a master brooder. Many comic book protagonists fit the bill—no shortage of secrets and haunted pasts in the superhero world.

Thetas often have a bit of a curse surrounding them, something that causes them to push others away, lest they get hurt by the Theta's lifestyle or enemies, or disrupt the carefully constructed solitude the Theta chooses to cloak himself in. Thetas need saving as much as they need to save others. Those two things must happen in tandem, and I personally find that irresistible.

Going back to the Wolverine comparison, I feel compelled to point out that Thetas pair very well with urchins and dogs. That's shorthand to say it works handily to draw a Theta into heroism with the use of a weak character in peril, often a child but perhaps a love interest (Mad Max, Jack from Romancing the Stone, Louis from Interview with a Vampire, Eric from The Crow). They may be hell-bent on minding their own business, but beneath the angst beats a heart of gold, and they'll step up when truly needed. Thetas are also well suited to keep pets or other non-human companions, as it shows they're lonely, but unwilling to trust or depend on a fellow person for company (Eli from The Book of Eli, Han Solo, Eric from The Crow, again).

Now plenty of us love a wounded man, but go too far with the Theta's darker characteristics and you risk wandering past mysterious loner right into creepy loner…think Travis from Taxi Driver. A genius character, but nobody's love interest. There's sometimes a fine line between guarded recluse and sociopath.

It's late, so I'll leave you with that as my guide to the elusive, reclusive, anti-hero archetype, the Theta. Have you spotted one in a movie or book or TV show recently? What's your verdict? Well, for now I'm off to bed, to dream of brooding, damaged men in need of a good heart-melting.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Win stuff!

I'm guest-blogging for Katie Reus's 30 Days of Danger and Secrets event today, and she's giving away two books to two lucky commenters! Head over to her blog for a chance to score a free copy of Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis, or Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan! Contest closes at noon EST on Monday, February 14.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good luck, Ray!

Just a quickie post to wish my boyfriend Ray Allen good luck tonight. He's only two three-pointers away from the all-time career NBA record (currently held by Reggie Miller, with 2,560). Plus the Celtics are playing the Lakers this evening (7:30pm EST), and snagging the record during that match-up would just be icing on the cake. Looks like that OCD training regimen is poised to pay off! Break a figurative leg, boyfriend!

To get you all juiced, here's a quick clip of Ray setting another three-point record, for the most in a finals game (also against the Lakers, blazzow!) from last July. Oh, he smoove!

Thrusty Thursday: Rami Kashoú

I'm still catching up on past seasons of Project Runway, but at least this time I don't have to beg for the finale not to be spoilerized—I finished season four before this post. Spoil away!

This week's thrustee is Rami Kashoú, season four competitor, Palestinian fox, and, sadly, surely as fond of a nicely turned man as I am. Actually, wait…not so sad. He could never actually horn in on my manfriend's rightful territory, plus this way no other woman can have him. Result! Plus my pervy erotica-writing alter ego can more easily daydream about him kissing other boys, all with his arms and his nose and his voice and sexy, shiny noggin… Sigh. The man's got hisself some poise. And his smile makes my insides go all warm and gooey like undercooked brownies.

When I headed to YouTube in search of a bomb-ass Project Runway Rami tribute video to share with you, I was disappointed to not find any…I suspect I've been thwarted by copyright vigilance on the network's part. You win this round. But I did find one passable montage, a bit light on the gushy fan clip curation and heavy on the fashion-techno-fabulocity, but it'll have to do.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eff-Off February

Thought I'd give you all an update, now that I'm more than a week into the make-up-free month of Discipline Year, Face-Off February.

With the exception of a few desirous twinges, I've adapted shockingly well to this challenge. About two days in I got a lovely little break-out on my chin…was my complexion suffering from withdrawal? Nah, this is a pretty typical monthly annoyance for me. Who still gets break-outs in their early thirties? Me! Anyone else out there? Now I wouldn't say I was tempted to cheat and dab on a bit of concealer, but I certainly wished I were allowed to.

I've now been seen without makeup by strangers in the street, acquaintances at the gym and local shops, and beloved extended family members, and as any rational person would expect, no one's batted an eye. Walking around in public sans makeup after half a lifetime of daily usage is an interesting experience… As I told someone on Twitter, I feel simultaneously invisible and conspicuous, at least for the first few minutes. I feel like no one's noticing me, and everyone's noticing me. I'm all naked up in the face, and it does feel that way now and then—naked. A mix of vulnerable and liberated. Mainly liberated.

Since going makeup-free I've changed in a few subtle ways. I care less about what people think of me. I've adopted a bit of an "it's my face so fuck right off if you don't like it" philosophy. Hence the title of this post. This is what I look like, deal with it. Of course, nobody cares except me, so perhaps that eff-off is aimed at myself. It's working! I no longer fear being seen without cosmetics. Granted, if I were still single I suspect this challenge would have been a lot more trying. I hate how pathetic and borderline sexist that sounds, but I'm being honest.

Another thing that's changed is that my efforts to look put-together have shifted, now that the cosmetics have been culled from my girliness tool kit. Before this experiment (and at the start of it) I had bronchitis, and I'd pretty much given up on wearing real pants. My body was so grumpy and uncomfortable, I threw it a bone and lived in yoga pants and pajama bottoms for two weeks. But after the makeup went away, loungey pants were one sin of schlumpiness too far. I took a hard look at myself that first morning in my flip-flops and novelty tee-shirt, PJs on a weekday and a bandanna over my hair and thought, "I have become a living cartoon, exemplifying what it means to stop trying."

And so I've been dressing more carefully and wearing more jewelry, even if it'll be covered by my coat when I leave the house. I've been shaving my legs more frequently, a chore (oh yes, a chore) which normally falls by the wayside a bit in the winter. [Before you judge, I am blessed with the transparent-Irish-leg-hair gene. It's a fair trade off for also possessing the go-directly-from-albino-to-sunburned tanning-ineptitude gene.] I've been playing shoe dress-up, clomping around the kitchen in heels, obviously fiending for a hit off the old what-it-means-to-be-feminine pipe. I've also discovered a handy crutch. If I wear my glasses (which have fairly bold, dark frames), they take the edge off the conspicuously-naked-face sensation. Almost as if I don't feel like there's enough going on with my face, on its own. But toss some glasses on and I feel I'm more adequately accessorized. Face-jewelry.

I've also been taking more care with my hair, which I normally just allow to air dry if I don't think I'll be seen in public without a hat. I'm compensating, clearly… Yet it doesn't feel like an obligation I'm striving to fulfill. I just miss the little dress-up routine I indulge in each morning when I do my makeup. Though I'm not a glammish woman, I do miss getting gussied up in my own small ways.

But overall, this has been a interesting and liberating experience so far, if not dramatically life-changing. No major revelations have struck me yet, just a growing sense of adequacy in my natural state. Which is all I could have hoped for, really. I know I'll be going back to makeup when the month is up, but now that I know how un-traumatizing it is to live without it, I suspect I'll be far more likely to skip it now and then. I recommend this challenge to other Camp Two makeup dependents…though I wouldn't push it on someone who isn't intrigued by the prospect. It took me years to get to a point where I was curious enough to try this, but now that I'm here, it's cool to know I can sneak into Camp One whenever I like, and pass for a native.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gasp! Angry Birds Seasons update: Valentine's!

The flouncy get-up doesn't detract from 
how constipated the birds often appear.
Hey, there's a new Angry Birds Seasons update out now—Valentine's Day! Available for both Apple and Droid. At first the fact that all the birds have been feminized with eyelashes and blush and bows seemed a bit patronizing, but then I decided they were just in drag. I mean, the egg-laying bird isn't normally feminine-looking, so this must be a flamboyant cross-dressing transformation. That, or I'm too focused on makeup this month. Or, I'm thinking way too hard about animated birds. Either way, go forth and download!

I haven't dug into it yet (I still have a bunch of regular Angry Birds levels to catch up on) but apparently this update includes a special Super Bowl-themed level…please please please, validate my Superb Owl fixation! Frankly, I'm already dying to see what Easter brings, given how contentious the whole egg-poaching issue is for those guys.

Why I Blocked You

Reasons why I may have blocked your Twitter account:

1. You have the word "internet marketing" in your bio.
2. You followed me immediately after I tweeted a key word—yoga, restaurant, Heidi Klum, tarot or the worst of all, deal.
3. You're a realtor.
4. Your avatar is a pouty teenage girl, yet your tweets are all links promising to get me more followers or improve my golf swing.
5. I looked at your Following list and it's suspiciously random.
6. You're following 59,431 other people, or exactly 2,000.
7. When I click to see who you are, it says you follow 126 people. When I hit refresh, it jumps to 400.
8. Your tweets offer links to view pictures of your body parts.
9. You sent me an @ reply offering me a coupon for a product I just mentioned.
10. Your bio contains the word "motivational" in any context—speaker, quotes, training, etc.

Reasons why I may have stopped following you:

1. Your last tweet was four weeks ago and you're not on vacation or in traction.
2. You RT too many tweets trying to win contests.
3. You only tweet book promo.
4. You simply tweet too much for my taste.
5. Your tweets are consistently TMI about your sex life and/or medical procedures.
6. Your Follow Fridays fill my entire screen for twenty minutes at a time.
7. Too many LOLs when LOLs are not warranted.
8. We've followed each other for six months yet never found occasion to @ reply one another.
9. You retweeted one too many inspirational quotes.
10. ur lack of capitolization, punktation, speling + minamal attempts @ senetence structure + u use 2 many !!!!!s LOL!

Anyone else want to hop on the Twitter rantwagon?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Puzzle

It's Sunday again, and you know what that means—time for me to rip off the puzzle segment from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday!

Mustachioed enigmatologist
extraordinaire, Will Shortz
If you're a newcomer, each week on Weekend Edition Sunday, Will Shortz (the hardcore crossword puzzlers' almighty God) comes on the radio to do three things: share the solution to the previous week's puzzle, invite a winner who entered the correct answer to play another puzzle (usually word-related) on the air for word-nerdy prizes, and present everyone with the next week's puzzle (answers due in by Thursday afternoon via the WES website if you want a chance to play on the air).

Note: I never post the solutions on this blog…at least not before the submission deadline. I see lots of keyword traffic coming from people looking for the answers, which is at best impatient, and at worst, cheating. For shame.

Now without further ado, here's this week's new puzzle:

Name two things an airplane does. Each of these is a single word. Put them together, one after the other, to make a compound word that names something it's nice to have as big as possible. What is this thing?

Click here to see the original puzzle posting, check the answer to last week's challenge, listen to the segment, or find the link to enter your answer.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Justice Prevails!

Hey all! Thanks for your support and kind words during this morning's drama. I have resolution to share!

Officer Hero-Pants just came by to update me, moments after I noticed that the camera had been taken down from my neighbor's window. The police got a warrant to check things out next door, so my officer and another cop went over to investigate.

The perv is some thirty-five year old guy (a "kid", according to my cop) who lives on the second floor, and isn't actually allowed in the third floor. No one's allowed in the third floor, apparently… Side story, the owner inherited the house but she lives out of the state, so it's overseen by a [not very effective] management company. Hence the un-cleared sidewalk I so enjoy bitching about. The guy claims he was taking photos of the icicles on our roof…and while they are impressive, neither I nor Officer Hero-Pants was especially sold on this excuse.

But some properly good news: the officer said the camera was pretty low-tech—only takes still images and probably doesn't even have a zoom. So my career as a star of streaming voyeur-pr0n was over before it began. It sounds like the supposed pervo got the fear of God put in him pretty effectively by the end of the whole ordeal. Fingers crossed that's the end of the story…though I'm sure I'll be jumpy the next couple of times the doorbell rings when I'm home alone.

Damn, I should have snapped Office Hero-Pants's photo…what a perfect Thursday thrustee he would have made! (Heavy-handed irony alert.) I must say, the cops in my town get a big old grateful thumbs-up from me on this entire incident. Very nicely handled, boys.

Thanks for all your concern and good humor, everyone!

Voyeurism in the Digital Age, update

Update! The police just came to take a report. The officer was stern but nice (and heavily cologned) and I showed him what was happening outside our kitchen window. Part of me now hopes the camera is continuously recording, so the pervo has some lovely footage of a uniformed policeman staring at him and scribbling on a pad. The cop took my details and left to try to figure out who owns the house and who lives in that unit, so he can confront the weirdo and inform the landlord (perhaps they're one and the same!) and "get to the bottom of it." My voice was all shaky while I was explaining the situation, but I'm glad I didn't come off as a hysterical mess. I hope he tracks the camera owner down and puts the fear of God into him or her…though if he doesn't, my husband seems determined to do the job himself. Thank goodness for ballsier people than me. Well, except the kind who perform home-surveillance on their neighbors.

All that said, as soon as that camera's gone I'm getting myself right up in those windows…to measure them for blinds.

Voyeurism in the Digital Age

I'm afraid this is not a cheeky post, as such a title might suggest when it's coming from a romance and erotica writer.

This is a post in mid-creep-out…and I woke up in such a good mood.

There's a camera, probably a video camera, pointed into my kitchen from the house right next to us. My condo and the creepo's unit are both on the third floors, and my husband called me into the kitchen to point out the incredibly obvious camera propped in their window, angled right into ours from perhaps twenty feet away. It's so obvious, in fact, that I suspect it can't have been there for more than a day or two without us noticing. My husband immediately took a zillion pictures of it, and I called the police after a few minutes' unfocused fretting. They're coming by today to take a report. I think my husband wanted to go the vigilante justice route—march over and confront them—but I wanted the cops to see the creeptasticalz before the neighbors know we know…though if it is video camera, they now have plenty of footage of my husband documenting their set-up and us standing in the window, pointing and discussing what's to be done about it.

Sleazy scandal-wise, it's like, minorly scandalous. We don't have wild monkey sex in the kitchen and the most embarrassing thing that happens in there is me dancing like an asshole to Kylie Minogue while I'm cooking dinner. However, our bathroom is beyond the kitchen, and I do pass through naked once a day going back to the bedroom from the shower. This may sound stupid of me, but our neighbor's window is a skylight, so a person standing in their room really only has a view of the sky…unless of course they prop a camera up there at a certain angle. So, someone may possibly have three seconds' dim footage of me nakers, strolling by with my pajamas clutched to my chest.

I feel like I'm supposed to feel violated and panicked, but I'll be completely honest—I'm just annoyed. I'm annoyed perhaps most greatly that some douche ruined my husband's morning. He had a shitty day yesterday and this is the last thing he needed. And if taping my pasty butt is indeed the point of the camera, I'm sorry, but I just refuse to feel victimized over that. I don't care if some weirdo has a couple seconds' evidence of my boring old average nakedness passing by a window. I don't even particularly care if it's on some shoddy fifth-rate voyeur pr0n site. Everybody gets naked… That said, I will start wearing a towel in the mornings from now on, or at least buy some blinds for the kitchen windows.

Still, non-crisis or not, this did wreck my day, or at least my morning. My head cold is finally clearing and I'm supposed to be plugging away on a proposal, focused. And I'm not focused. I'm irritated and disappointed that this happened. I live in such a nice little city, but of course, even the smallest town has plenty of room for creeps.

I'm waiting for the police to come and check things out and take a report. The dispatcher lady was very nice when I called, which made me feel better. I had no idea what, if any, procedure there was for this situation, and it was validating to be taken seriously…and a relief to absolve my husband of his perceived duty to charge over there and thump some skulls.

Another thing that annoys me is that now, thanks to some creepy jackass, I'm probably going to get re-annoyed every time I walk by their house for the foreseeable future, which is just about every day. Is it possible to logic one's self out of that gut reaction? I guess I'll find out.

I guess I also want to clarify, this isn't a goes-to-show-you cautionary tale post. I'm not saying that everybody should stop walking around nakers in their homes because the world's inherently pervy and unsafe. Walk around nakers if you want—this probably won't happen to you. Or if it does (or if it has already) you very likely won't know, anyhow. Live in ignorant bliss, as I was doing quite happily until 7:30 this morning. Do check your neighbors' windows on occasion, though. Live in well-informed ignorant bliss.

Well, that's it. My husband had to head out to work, and it was nice to vent this to somebody now that I've had an hour to process. I'll check in later and let you all know what happens, once the cops come and do whatever it is they do in this situation. In this day and age, let's be honest—it can't be an uncommon occurrence. I'm sure they've dealt with it before. Anyhow, thanks for reading. I hope all your mornings are going more smoothly than mine is, so far. Such a sucky feeling, when the world decides to remind you that sometimes it's not such a lovely place.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thrusty Thursday: Super Bowl XLV Edition

It's another first! Thrusty Thursday's got its very first guest curator this week. My Twitter buddy Missy Ann Tx begged me to do a topical football edition, and since the Pats are already out and therefore Super Bowl XLV is dead to me, I said, do it yourself. So she did! Lucky thing, too, as otherwise I probably would have done a Superb Owl edition and featured some supposedly foxy ornithologist. But instead you've been spared, and it is my great pleasure to present this week's thrustees, as nominated by Missy Ann…

Thrusty Thursday: Packers vs. Steelers

Perhaps more accurately, Clay Matthews vs. Mike Tomlin, Missy Ann's picks for the finest man-specimens from each team. Linebacker against coach! An alpha male showdown between brawn and brain. Rumble!

If you're behind on your foo'ball this season, as I am, Missy Ann has kindly provided some highlights. We'll start with Clay Matthews, of the Packers. Missy Ann calls him "Six feet, three inches, and 255 pounds of oh-my-goodness linebacker. He brings to mind all those old-school Fabio romance covers. His family is certainly doing something right—his father and uncle both had long pro careers and his cousin Kevin Matthews plays for the Titans. Congrats to all the Matthews ladies, you've done good work." She's right about the hair. Check those flowing romance locks!

"Now my Steelers pick—go Steelers!" (Despite the Tx in her name, Missy Ann is a Pittsburgh gal.) "Nope, not Troy Polamalu. My lucky Steel City thrustee is the ultimate alpha, Mike Tomlin. There's just something about a man who's always in charge. Solid as a mountain and as steady, too. A man those younger, stronger, and wealthier respect and defer to. Oh yes, Mike is the man the Old Spice and Dos Equis dudes aspire to be."

I have to admit, I'm not much for blonds, so Tomlin probably gets my vote as well…just look at his thoughtful expression! And yet I have a collective crush on the Packers, the only community-owned, non-profit team in any of the major American sports franchises. Rock on, Green Bay! Oh, choices. The thrustability of a man is comprised of so many factors… I'm stumped, so let's take it to the polls!

And so we did. The poll I created in the original post resulted in Matthews winning with 60% of the vote. His team then went on to win Super Bowl XLV. Which makes me wonder…could thrustability be directly related to Super Bowl performace? Predictive, even? I guess I'll just have to try this again next year and see what happens!

Also, if you have a thrustee you'd like to nominate for an upcoming Thursday, don't hesitate to e-mail me with your suggestion.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shock and Awe, Take Two

It's day two of Face-Off February, and I must say, I'm adjusting rather nicely to this challenge so far. Unlike yesterday, I didn't automatically reach for my missing makeup bag this morning. In fact, as I finished up in the bathroom I thought, "Hey, this saves a lot of time!" and flounced off (as much as one can flounce with bronchitis) to begin my naked-faced day. Bonus: my coffee was just slightly warmer than usual.

Now I must admit, I was hoping for a bit more "Wow, you're so brave!" in the comments on yesterday's opening post, and bit less "You look great! Which picture is which?" Which is which? You better be blowing some kindhearted smoke up my ass, oh wonderful friends, because I don't invest those five to ten minutes in front of the mirror each morning to look like I literally did nothing. Close to nothing, sure. But I mean, come on. A touch more pity wouldn't go astray. This is supposed to be an experiment in deprivation.

It's just you and me this month, Chapstick.
So in an attempt to prove I really am roughing it, here, I just snapped a shot in some of least flattering light there is—webcam light. Also note the scarf worn indoors, and the knitted-hoodie-over-cardigan ensemble in a neutral-on-neutral color palette, always a bold look. Sorry you can't also see the pajama pants and wool socks-under-Birkenstocks I'm rocking to round out this outfit. Top that off with a swipe of original black-label Chapstick, and I am ready to conquer me some red carpet events. Luckily the scrap of carpet I use to keep my chair from scuffing the hardwood floor is red, so that'll keep me indoors with minimal witnesses.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Face-Off February…go!

So it has begun! It's Face-Off February, second month of Discipline Year, and one I'm dreading a bit. No make-up for the entire month… Let's see what we're working with, hmm? Here's a before-and-after I took a week ago:

My pre-Face-Off February before-and-after mugshots.

The left-hand picture is my totally unembellished face. Not so bad, really, now that I see them side by side…though I was sitting right in front of the window, and sunlight is kind. The right-hand photo is after the application of liquid-powder foundation, brown eyebrow pencil, a bit of blush, a tiny taste of eyeliner, taupe eye shadow, one sweep of "brownish-black" mascara, and tinted lip balm (I hate the feeling of lipstick). That's me on an average-plus day. On a plain old average day, I don't bother with eyeliner or shadow. Bonus: I took these the day before I dyed my roots, so you can catch a glimpse of my encroaching silver up top. There's way more where that came from!

The women I've chatted to about this month's challenge seem to fall into two camps. Camp One never wears makeup, and they don't see the big deal at all. Camp Two's members have been wearing makeup since junior high and won't even fetch the mail without at least mascara on. I'm more of a Camp Two girl, but obviously, I'm not so afraid of my own natural face that I won't lock the cosmetics away for twenty-eight days. Hmmm, twenty-eight days…not unlike rehab.

I know intellectually that my face is just fine. I know that the average dude can't look at a woman and tell whether she's made up or not (my husband) and if even if he can, he doesn't really care. Women who are into makeup, however—they notice.

I used to be much more of a Camp Two recruit. It wasn't until I began a volunteer job at the New England Aquarium in 2005 that I realized it was possible to be seen with a bare face and survive the experience. My job there involved bobbing around in a wetsuit chest-deep in cold water, feeding the penguins and cleaning their exhibit, and makeup doesn't last long in that environment. Certainly not mascara.

At first, that felt weird. Oh my crap—people are seeing me without mascara! You know how in Disney movies, even the female animal characters have eyelashes? I had one of those moments, as if my gender were suddenly thrown into question. As if eyelashes are like the female cock and balls, and going bare was a castration of my femininity. That sounds so ridiculous now, but here we are. Anyhow, working at the aquarium got me over my irrational fear that I may cease to exist as a viable (or indeed, identifiable) woman in the absence of cosmetics.

The other thing that loosened me up about makeup was my relationship. My husband was the first man I really lived with (platonic roommates and one very brief, epic cohabitation FAIL notwithstanding) and you just can't spend the entirety of your marriage avoiding being seen without your bra on or your cellulite masked by candlelight or your face done up. Plus my manfriend is from Oregon—he's a beardy outdoorsy man with intermediate chainsaw skills and little patience for fussiness. He doesn't notice whether or not I'm made up. Not because he doesn't look at me. More like the presence of makeup is a tone heard on a non-human frequency, or a color imperceptible to his eyes. It just doesn't register. Bless him. Which isn't to say I've changed my routines too much since we've gotten comfy with one another…just modified them a bit. It's pathetic to fear the reverse might be true, but it's very reassuring to know you'll be loved equally at both your best and your worst.

Sorry, tangent. So anyway, let the experiment begin! Let's see just how comfortable I get in my own natural face this month. If nothing else, I'll save myself at least five minutes each morning, as well as the annoying under-eye-finger-wipe that any mascara-wearing woman caught in a rain- or snowstorm can appreciate.

Farewell, my put-together sisters. See you in March!