Snarkling Clean

Snarkling Clean- because you don't have to cuss to make fun of stuff. Two dedicated readers discuss romance novels- from what made us weep with joy to what made us want to poke pencils through our eyeballs.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


My son was watching t.v. the other day and complained, "Mom, why do they always show guys as clueless idiots, and the women like they know everything?"

I could have made the obvious joke, but he was truly irritated. I started thinking about it, and it's true. Many of the family friendly sitcoms (the only kind I'll really let them watch) and commercials feature Dipstick Dad. He can't cook, he can't do laundry, he doesn't know how to do anything remotely domestic. He's totally out of sync with Good Parenting Today, and social situations only provide fodder for embarrassing faux pas, particularly in the marriage relationship. God only knows how he's stayed gainfully employed all these years- he can barely dress himself in the morning. Brother, even if the show revolves around him, is shown as a bratty Machiavelli or Dipstick Jr. Mother Superior guides them through life, wisely showing the way because only she truly knows what's going on.

I told my son that it's only the small price men pay for living in a patriarchal society. "It's still wrong," he grumped. "Why would any woman fall in love with these guys, anyway?"

He shoots, he scores.

Can you picture any of these guys as romance heroes? Even the more adult-oriented shows have men who are shallow, stupid, and sex-obsessed. They never have a deeper thought, never show a smidge of competence. I guess it's funny, because most of these shows are successful, but the women have become, for me, suddenly Not Smart. She may be omniscient and omnipotent enough to figure out what little brother is up to, what little sister is thinking, keep the house clean enough for a Southern Living photo shoot, do her own profession in which of course she excels, and tutor her hubby in everything from washing whiter whites to communication skills, but why would this superwoman settle for Dipstick? You can't even claim hormones, since these guys are usually...well, let's just say they'll never be cover models.

As for the fact that the women are all gorgeous and skinny despite their three kids...oy. Don't get me started.

Monday, April 24, 2006

What Is It About Romance?

Like many romance fans all over the world, I am happily married. Very happily, and though we will have our 19th anniversary this August we are still like butt-grabbing teenagers. My 12 year old son got a trauma-inducing eyeful when he walked in the room without knocking the other morning. My hubby talked to him later, and he said, "I didn't know you guys still did that."

(Side note: It is somewhat difficult to enjoy tea and crumpets while exploding in laughter. This because your son has told your 14 year old daughter, who sits outside your room telling the dog who is scratching madly at the door to get in, "No, Mazie! They're having sex, and they don't want you in there!")

Anyway, my point, and I do have one, is that I'm satisfied in the romance department. I've caught my limit. I'm not pining for old visions of what might have been, or longing for what I've never had.

So why do I love romances so much? I love mysteries- but like them better when there's a little romance thrown in. Westerns? Ditto. Sci-fi? Fantasy? Check and check. I love reading about the first zing of attraction, about couples who discover things about themselves and each other, and come out better for it. Gritting my teeth over fictional missed opportunities. Moments when I want to yell over the stupid thing EVERY SINGLE ROMANCE HEROINE does- whether it's jumping to a erroneous conclusion or going into the dark scary basement in a nightie.

I wait for, and am usually rewarded by, my favorite moment: When the H/h stop saying How Could I Ever Want Him/Her? and start saying How Could He/She Ever Want Me? When the heroine is moved not by his impressive breastplate or crumpet skills, but his nobility of character and strength of soul. When the hero is still motivated by her looks, but finds himself aching over her inner beauty.

Yes, the Black Moment worries me even though I know it will end well, and the HEA still has me sighing and crying after reading romances for most of my life. And I still don't know why. I don't know what need these stories satisfy. And I guess I don't have to. I'm just grateful there are so many out there to choose from.

What about you? What is it about romance for you?

Friday, April 21, 2006

WalMart Censors and Cute Guy Friday

This post at Romancing the Blog got me thinking. You all know I have issues with WalMart, and WalMartians, because I work as a vendor there. So I'm not necessarily shouting their praises, but...

Why is any store automatically deemed evil because it chooses what it wants to sell? The poster at RTB was wondering if authors of more sexy, envelope-pushing imprints were...forced? encouraged? to tone down their stories because WM wouldn't sell them, and since WM posts huge impressive numbers of mass market sales, if you really want to sell you have to conform to WM standards, right?

First off, WM will sell anything it can. They're out to make money. But, they are also touting a family-friendly image; since their book rack has almost all the covers facing out they're careful about sexy covers. Read the comments at RTB for the rest of that discussion.

My beef, if I have one, is this: how do we judge what is, or isn't, censorship? Is no one allowed to have standards? If I had a bookstore and chose not to stock erotica books, am I censoring them? Just a few years ago the only place I could find inspirationals was a Christian bookstore. (And I suspect the reason WM now sells tons of them is because WM is at least two dollars cheaper. Your average Christian bookstore is ka-ching expensive, y'all!) Were these B. Dalton type stores censoring Christian books because they didn't sell them?

Poppycock. WalMart is a private company, just like B&N, just like any other retailer. They have the right to sell, or not sell, any darn thing they please. I may gripe, but I'm not going to paste a censorship label on them. They aren't preventing the spicier books from being written, printed, or sold. After all, what are you grousing about? Not having to karate chop your way into the book section, dodge the kid throwing his popcorn chicken at his little brother while you choose your book, then stand in a line with 186 people to buy it? For goodness' sake, buy it online from the comfort of your own home. I'd buy just about everything that way if I could.

Rant off. And just to make us all feel better after my venting, how's about some Cute Guy Friday? From Phantom of the Opera and the upcoming Beowulf, Gerard Butler.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Curtsy for Her Madge

Of all the authors in Romancelandia, Johanna Lindsey is the queen of the clinch cover. With our heads bowed in awed reverence, voices suitably hushed, we bring you the Romance Cover Royal Gallery, Part One.

A Gentle Feuding

Robyn: I guess she was late coming down for breakfast, and decided to take her grapefruit halves with her. Too bad she forgot a sack and put them down her dress.

And do none of these women put their hair up? Or back? I thought only hussies wore their hair dow- never mind.

Missie: What is a gentle feuding? How do you gently feud? And isn't that an oxymoron? Feud implies...well, feud..fighting..not niceness. Gentle implies...well, niceness. How do you have a niceness not niceness? I am so confused.

Also confusing is the whole why is he all Birthday Suit Boy while she's fully dressed? Well, except for her..frontage area. And correct me if I am wrong, but that color red in her hair does not occur in nature. This cover is going to give me nightmares, I can already tell.

Tender Rebel

Robyn: I have a question- where exactly ARE they? On what is she reclining? They look like they’re on a rooftop. Outside wasn’t bad enough, they had to go on the roof? Isn’t it a teensy bit dangerous to indulge in your great passion several stories off the ground? At least they can make a safety rope out of her over-permed, chemically damaged hair.

Missie: When bad hair extensions happen to good people. Also, Poor Mr. Snuffaluffagus, Part Deux.

Love Only Once

Robyn: I cannot tell you how glad I am that one of these couples finally had the sense to enjoy their crumpets inside. Le happy sigh. Then they had to ruin it by showing our heroine’s milky white protuberances sliding into her armpits while reclining on the nastiest cushions I have ever seen. I don’t need it that real, thank you.

And why is she holding that fan? If she was going to whack him with it for getting fresh, I’m assuming she would have done it before he got COMPLETELY NAKED.

Missie: The fan? And the gloves? With the ugly pillows? And the noses touching? I can't...there aren't words...I just can't.

Robyn: Tell me about it. Einstein there apparently hasn’t grasped the concept- you can’t get to Miss Hooterville from BEHIND the couch.

Up next: Royal Rascals Part Deux!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

All this and brains, too

Yesterday while cleaning my house (just shut up!) because we have it for sale and people can come see it at any time, I am shoving the dirty clothes around my master bathroom floor with my foot so I can fully open the door (because my master bathroom? Really tiny. Thong tiny. Smurf tiny. I don't care what my real estate agent says, it's not a master bathroom suite! If it were a suite, would I be selling this house? Would I not spend all my time in there trying to escape my children and husband and the gloriousness that is my life? Hmmm?). Anyway, while concentrating really hard on that task, because apparently, it takes alot of gray matter to be able to send messages to the foot Move dirty clothes while also sending messages to the hand Open the stinkin' door, I forgot to send the message Move skull out of the way.

I cracked my head on the bathroom door. Hard. Ow. Open door + bent head = Waaah!

Now, even though I am not the sharpest sandwich at the picnic, I usually refrain from injuring myself due to abject stupidity. And could I do this by myself? With no audience to observe my brilliance? Nerp. Gotta do it just as my husband is opening up the shower curtain to step out. He reaches for his towel, then THWACK! Gets to see the mother of his children bean herself with a big wooden freakin door that has only been there for, oh, two years, so she should totally know where it is in relation to her head, which has only been on her shoulders for oh, 35 years or so. People, I saw stars. Through my tears. Teary stars. Or starry tears. Whatever. I'm still not thinking straight.

And to add insult to stupidity? It left a mark. I have a red one right at my hairline. A big flaming remind me of my dorkiness owie. And it throbs. Well, only when I breathe. And push on it.

So no matter what the week throws at you, you can take comfort in knowing that you are indeed smarter than some people out there because you haven't tried to coldcock yourself in the head lately.

Unless you have.

Then you would be my new best friend.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Vacation Without Leaving Home

Serious one, if I can beg your indulgence:

On last Thursday, I woke up to the somewhat happy thought that it was my birthday. Birthday number 42, to be exact. (Yes, Missie, I'm really THAT old.) We don't normally make a big deal about it, dinner and a movie maybe but no huge cake and candles. I can expect a few calls and a few cards, some with a monetary gift tucked inside, and that's fine by me. I didn't expect this year to be any different.

But it was. As I was getting ready for work, it occurred to me that I wouldn't get the one phone call I'd gotten ever since I moved out on my own. This year I wouldn't hear my mother's voice singing a gloriously hokey hick version of "Happy Birthday." This is the first birthday I've had since her death, and I had no idea it was going to hit me so hard.

When I got to work (Hallmark rep at WalMart, if you remember) I was already upset. And became worse because the task ahead of me that day was longer than usual, a re-set. That means I have to take whole sections of cards out to put new ones up. One of the new sections was called a "preview," which is a smattering of cards showcasing a season to come. In this case- yes, you've probably guessed it- Mother's Day.

I worked for nearly six hours putting in the new displays, and spent two of those thinking of the birthday calls I'd never again receive as I put up poufy lacy Mother's Day cards. See, my mom was a card freak. She was one of those people who would just read cards in the store because she liked to, and she might pick up cards months in advance of anyone's holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or graduations. She and I often had contests over who could send the sappiest card- our requirement was that the card that made you cry right there in the store was the one you bought and sent.

No one else sends me those kinds of cards, and I'm not sure I want anyone else to. It was one more of those 'me and mom' things that I won't have again. My husband came to pick me up, and found me sobbing in the WalMart McDonald's. There's nothing more lowering than having strangers stare at you in the tiny fast food franchise of a discount store as you hiccup and sniff and thoroughly baptize your cherry pie.

The reason I'm sharing this with all of you is one, I need to get it out and this seems to be my vehicle for doing so, and two, emotionally speaking right now I'm a limp dishrag. I've finished revising the chapters of my story that are to be sent to the editor; I just need a synopsis and this puppy's gone. That's really about all I can handle right now, so I'm going to take a short blog vacation. We'll be back on Wednesday, April 19, with a new cover snark (Johanna Lindsey; you don't want to miss this!) and a co-review of Nora Roberts. Thanks everyone, and see you then.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Hail to the Queen!

Today is an extra special day in the land of Snarkdom. It is the day we set aside to honor the birth of our founder, our sovereign, our humble goddess of bad romance covers, Queen Robyn of the Snark!
Here's to another year of takin' life by the wheel and steering it where you want it to go.

And even though I won't disclose your real age, I will say the light generated by the candles on your cake burned my baby's retinas. She had to look away in order to save what was left of her eyesight.

Daddy, I am scared of the old wrinkly lady with no teeth. Hold me.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Careful...our guest snarker Terry (ozzatlarge) told us there are wolves about...

Wolf Shadow

Robyn: I love the wolf in the background. You can see the cartoon bubble over his head saying, “What the heck is that? That ain’t no Indian.”

Missie: Native Americans all over the land rise up in protest chanting, "The White Man, first he take our land, then our cover model jobs!"

Terry: Chief Goofy Feather has and Indian candy coated shell, but smells like white man in the center. Either way, looks like lunch!

Beauty and the Big, Bad, Wolf

Robyn: Okay, first off, let’s not mix up our fairy tales. BBW didn’t do Beauty, he did Red Riding Hood. For once, the art department got that one right. Second, he ate Grandma, not apples. That was Adam and Eve. Crap, what is this book about, anyway?

Missie: Hey, I know, let's get a really hot babe with the forearms and hands of a lumberjack and put her in a red dress and heels in an apple orchard and have her stand UNDER a ladder, and then get Greg Evigan to try to force an apple on her, cuz he's been looking for a steady job since BJ and the Bear was cancelled.

Terry: Boy, the girl in the low cut short red dress is a beauty, but Mr. Man sure don’t look like a beast, but wait, the full moon’s not out yet. Run, Beauty run before the sun goes down.

Loving the Lone Wolf

Robyn: If you are with the lone wolf, is he still ‘lone?’ And apparently, loving the lone wolf means you ride Harleys in silk dresses and stripper heels.

Missie: Joaquin Phoenix's first big break.

Terry: I better make a fast getaway before The Beast realizes that I took The Beauty in the Red Dress from him. I hope I put gas in this pig.

Secrets of the Wolf

Robyn: Like I’m gonna search for them in a spooky graveyard that has a twenty foot tall Cerberus-like guard wolf?

Missie: So did the wolf kill someone and that's his secret or did he see someone get killed and this is where the body is buried and that's his secret only he can't tell anyone because-hey, he's a wolf here- and he can't talk and he tried to do the Lassie thing where he went up to the heroine and he's all, "Woof, woof, owwwwhowwwoh" and she's supposed to be all, "What, boy? The bad guy knifed someone in the woods and is leaving that person for dead and we have to call 911 now in order to save the injured party and make sure the wrong person doesn't get framed for the crime?" but instead she's all like, "Eww! It's a wolf and he's smelly and barking at me! Save me!" and then he's all like, "What a dork!" or did he try to bark out a message in Morse Code because actually the secret is he's really a human that turns into a wolf sometimes, like during full moons or after a stressful day trying to get his license renewed at the DMV, and so he would totally know Morse Code and would be able to bark in it while in his wolf form, and that's his secret, or what? Because I just don't know...

Terry: Secret is these headstones were dinner at one time. So, come on in and find the Secrets of this Wolf.

Lone Wolf’s Woman

Robyn: Since Lone Wolf is about 30 stories shorter than his bride, I see relationship troubles. You know men and their egos.

Hmm, bride in the sky...Lilliputian guy on horse by a river...Green fields...Wolf in the title...I smell a Pulitzer.

Terry: So the Lone Wolf isn’t the Lone Wolf anymore. He finally got the Beauty to settle down and trade her red party dress for a wedding dress. Hopefully the Beast doesn’t crash the wedding.

Up next: Covers of the Queen!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Kids Are People, Too

I'm reading an old Western romance right now, and our spunky biscuit baking heroine is a widow with kids. One is hers; two are orphans she's taken in. I find myself appreciating that the youngest, a three year old boy, swings from Completely Adorable to Sell Him to the Gypsies, Please.

My own kids are fabulous. You might as well know it now and get your jealousy out of the way. I've been told by more than one teacher, Sunday School teacher, etc. that they are indeed just about perfect. But for all their delicious snuggly sweetness, there have been days when I would have cheerfully given them away to the first passing stranger.

I rarely find that "kid dichotomy" accurately portrayed in books. Romances especially. Kids always seem like a plot point with a grape juice mustache. They exist only to show us that the hero or heroine is the most dedicated parent in the world.

Rabbit Trail- I always find it funny that the Mother of the Year has been focused like a laser on her child; never going out, etc. After she starts being romanced by the hero, the kid who has previously been the sole reason for her being is farmed out with regularity to a kindly neighbor who apparently has no life of her own. I'm thinking- wouldn't this kid be having serious seperation anxiety issues?

Usually the kid is either trying to broker the marriage like a good little matchmaker, or is a somewhat sullen preteen that comes around after being saved from a kidnapping or something. The children don't get to be fully fleshed out characters. Even with the HEA in mind, and a sense that the stepfamily thing will work, can we see kids having good days and bad days? Being moody, silly, outrageous, impulsive? One day, Obi-Wan, one day, Darth Vader?

As a writer, I have to wonder if children don't work in romances. At least the category or smaller ones. You'd have to spend so much time and energy on characterization for parent and child to really do it justice, how do you also spend enough time on the romance in 80,000 words? So unless I get a lot more prolific and write a Gabaldon-like tome you could choke a horse with, I'm probably not going to use kids in any of my stories.

What about you? Have you read (or written) books where the kids were more than convenient plot devices?