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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Happy Birthday to Us!

One year ago, Missie and I were sitting around talking about how much we loved cover snark/review sites, but our take on things didn't include the language or references to back-door tea and crumpets. So, we started our own. And to celebrate our first birthday, I'm putting up a cover that nicely demonstrates my guilty pleasure love of Harlequin Presents...this one makes no reference to mistresses, bought wives, or secret just comes right out with what we really want...

Love- Slave to the Sheikh

OOOOOH!! Mememememe!!!

Doncha love the way he's not even remotely dark-skinned? And I would say those are bubbles cleverly hiding her protuberances (but not his) but now that I look closer they aren't even bubbles. Just sort of froth, or mist. And if the water's that steamy, her makeup is gonna streak down around her neck by the time she turns around. At which point, he's gonna scream. And his palace guards will rush in and try to kill her. Which would be absolutely freaking awesome to have in a book, y'know? Certainly a more imaginative way to interrupt their first crumpet attempt than the usual ways; and the first time a couple goes beyond a tonsil swab they are always interrupted. It's a law.

Thank you to our blog friends whose witty comments always outdo our posts; if DQ or Bernita can e-mail me with directions on putting up a blog-link, please do because I don't know how and the directions Blogger sent me read like Fish can swim. Why are dogs brown? We want to link to you guys, so others can enjoy your blogs even though you have better posts and we really shouldn't allow that. Honestly, we were amazed that anyone did comment in the first place. And when our regulars commented frequently, I was like "EEEEE! We have groupies! We're The Beatles!" And Missie was there to say, "Robyn, we have 240 hits a week, and half of that is us checking for new messages. We're not even The Monkees. You're not drinking decaf today, are you?"

I never realized what a great experience this blog would be. How fun, how cool, how therapeutic. Missie found a great bunch of moms to help her celebrate the joys and sympathize with the tribulations of her baby girl's first year. (And my poor girl is coping with work and a baby with four teeth coming in at the same time. Everybody kitty up- we're buying her a drink. Whether for Missie or the baby, I don't imagine she cares much right now.) And I found a supportive group of Authors In Varying Stages of Publishing, which I expected. I also had a wonderful vehicle to express or withdraw from my grief when my mother died, which I did not expect.

Again, thanks for a great year. And may your life be filled with good friends, good books, and lots of tea and crumpets.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Should've Gone For Captain Hook

A friend and I were talking the other day about the personality we used to take on when in relationships. Most women I know, especially in their youth, change when they are with a guy. My friend, a smart, sassy brunette, became a BLONDE. Complete with giggles, simpers, and stooopidity. She hated herself when she got like that, but seemed powerless to overcome it. I thought about who I was back in those dating days, and can admit it now.

I was Wendy.

Wendy Moira Angela Darling, to be precise. Over and over and over again. I think some self-help guru actually wrote a book about the syndrome back in the eighties, and I was certainly a victim.

I always fell for the charmer who swept me off my feet, carried me to a fairy-tale land, and made me feel like I was the only woman in the world.

And of course, when he wanted me to cook and clean when the Lost Boys came over, who was I to say no? Even when they shot me out of the sky, I was good-natured about it.

He was so boyishly cute, and apparently naive. When I got angry because he was flirting outrageously with the mermaids and Tiger Lily and pressed him about it, he looked at me innocently and said, "What?" But I loved him, so I stayed.

I stayed until the day he thanked me. THANKED me. For what? For teaching him how to open his heart, how to love again. Unfortunately, when he learned how to love he found out who he really loved was Tinkerbell, and dumped my butt back in London while they sailed off in a golden boat.

Sigh...I finally got over my Peter Pan fetish. But now that I think about it, I wonder if that's one of the reasons I loved romances so much. For all the trials and tribulations, most romance heroines- be they boss, spunky kid, or helpless waif- don't put up with crap like that. In fact, there's usually a spot in the book where she will call everything off if he won't fess up to loving her, and marry her in the bargain. If he calls her on it, she'll wave as he leaves, not settling for less.

I couldn't do that IRL most of the time. A lot of women I know wouldn't do that. We settled, because if we didn't, he'd leave. Of course in stories, he always comes back, giving the heroine what she needs and meaning it. Real men just might not come back. Too bad it takes so many years to find out that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Did you ever change who you were to keep a boyfriend?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Blogus Interruptus and Cute Guy Monday

Sorry it's been so long- life intruded. But the kids are back in school, the son's birthday is all taken care of...sniff...excuse me, I'm just a little BABY'S turning thirteen on Tuesday...~sob~

Not crying cause me bebe's growing up. Crying cause now I officially have two teenagers. OY. Somehow you never think you're actually going to be that old, y'know? And don't get me started on walking down the street with my teen daughter and getting whistles. I turned to stare down the rude punk, and then realized it wasn't my attention he was after. Rather disheartening to face the fact: That Ship Done Sailed.

Go read December Quinn's excellent blog post. Even though I like a heroine who can slay her own dragons, I have to agree with Sherrilyn Kenyon: I don't much care about the girl as long as I've got an Alpha Male. PC or not, I want to read about a possessive sheikh. About an Italian businessman who has a smooth veneer of civility that shreds when another man comes sniffing around his woman. About a cowboy, a soldier, (oh, goodness yes, I lurve a man in uniform) a cop who will fight to protect what's his. And yes, about a knight who will fight for his lady's honor. (A knight can still be an accountant, you know. As long as he growls "You're MINE!" somewhere in the book, I'm good.)

And, just because I want to forget for the moment that I'm a 42-year-old mother of two teenagers ~sob~ who doesn't get whistled at unless I'm blocking a parking space, enjoy with me the Alpha possibilities of Law and Order: SVU's Christopher Meloni.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

My Favorite Romance Ever

I don't know that I could give a number to how many romances I've read. Since I started reading them as a young teen, I think I can safely say I've read thousands. But the romance that stands out in my mind is the first one I ever read, a book based on a movie that I read with relish over and over at a tender age.

It's set in America around 1910 or so. The heroine is a sheltered, somewhat spoiled rich girl who is the queen of her household until a new baby displaces her in the family's affections. Though she grows to love the innocent child, Mama and Papa leave on a trip. A nasty aunt comes to stay with her two demonic wards, and make life unbearable for our girl. Circumstances force her out of the house.

She's found in a dangerous situation, and rescued by our hero- a lovable bad boy charmer from the wrong side of the tracks. He's got an eye for the ladies, and is always one step ahead of the law. He takes pity on our girl and shows her life from his perspective. She's never known anything outside her own small social circle, and she enjoys seeing the variety of life. They share a whirlwind romance in one night, falling for each other and sleeping under the stars. The next morning, he wants her to join him- to see the world, footloose and fancy free. She would like nothing better, but she's decided she must go home. She must do all she can to watch over the baby. Deeply disappointed but understanding, he takes her home.

Her night away with no chaperone has consequences, and two old family friends offer for her. She turns them down, of course. In disgrace, the nasty aunt has locked her in a small dank room. From the vantage point there she sees an intruder enter the house, via the open window in the baby's room. She calls out for help, trying to escape her cell. Our hero comes in, naturally, and saves the day. The aunt, though, thinks he is the intruder and calls for the law. Our girl has managed to break free, and the aunt sees their obvious relationship. Not wanting to make trouble for her, our hero goes along quietly.

Mama and Papa arrive home, and our girl explains the situation. They rush to free our hero, who realizes he truly is caught. By her. And they lived, you guessed it, Happily Ever After. If you haven't guessed the title of this story by now, here's a clue:

An innocent children's film? I think not! Romance, you hear me? RO-MANCE. I know it when I see it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Back to School

The kids will be in school soon. Hallelujah. We just got all the school supplies from the Official School Supply List, (a plastic orange compass. Does it really have to be orange?) and I'm slightly peeved. Our state lottery was supposed to be all about education. If we can give 204 million dollars to somebody in Wisconsin who bought a dollar ticket, why can't we earn enough to help with school supplies? But that's another rant. Funny how around April I long for summer, so I won't be as busy with band concerts and choir concerts and science projects and the day-to-day clock ticking...

Okay, it's 3:15. The kids will be home at 4:00. Do I have time to make it to the bank and the store before they get home? Maybe just the store. I have to get (insert essential ingredient I forgot when at the store earlier that morning) for dinner. But I need to get the paycheck deposited so I can pay bills later...(At that moment, the dog whines like a needy buzzsaw and gives me that mommy-I-need-to-go-NOW look.) Okay, it's 3:30. If I leave right now, I can get to the store and back. If the check out lane isn't that long and...(Phone call from anyone. Literally. 3:30 is the favored, hallowed time for my phone to ring. And not someone I can just let the voicemail get. For certain people, I have a built-in guilt chip that makes me answer, and sure enough, one of those people will call.) Okay, it's 3:45. If I hurry, I can- oh, the heck with it. We'll just get a pizza. I'll get Gary to put the check in the night deposit later and hope for the best. (Of course, I will have forgotten that the kids have a special band practice after school and won't be home until 4:30.)

I always think summer will be a reprieve, and for awhile it is. But now my teeth are worn down to the nubs because of grating them after hearing MOM I'M BORED for the 197th time. In the last hour. Now I'm looking forward to that ticking clock because it means, on my days off at least, that I will have good solid chunks of uninterrupted computer time. Time that I can use to write. Time that I can use to edit and revise. Time that I can tell myself I should be writing and editing and revising instead of blog-surfing. And there will be projects and practices and chores and homework and dinner and dishes, but that's later. For a few hours at a time, I can lose myself in worlds where the men are commanding and confident, the women independent and impulsive, and secret doors open to spy heavens. Oh, yes. Back to school for them, and back to work for me.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Happily Ever After

What, exactly, does "Happily Ever After" mean? To some, it's the usual end of a fairy tale. To others, it's the difference between fiction for the unwashed masses and true literary classics.

Romances are known for it. Ridiculed for it. But I don't think the story ends with the HEA. HEA, to me, is an end. But it's also a middle. And a beginning.

I don't think it means the end to conflict, but a hopeful view that whatever obstacle comes up will be faced, fought, and defeated. I should know about HEAs; I'm living in one.

Nineteen years ago today I got married. To the type of guy I never thought I'd go for. He was not really what I wanted, but turned out to be just what I needed- which eventually made him, of course, what I really wanted. And those nineteen years have been sometimes exciting, sometimes bland, sometimes dark and difficult and most times merry and content.

I used to joke that I'd married Eeyore. There were reasons for that comparison, though he's lightened up over the years. Gary is the very embodiment of still waters running deep. He seems a simple man of simple tastes, but below the surface there's so much there. A lot I'm sure I haven't begun to guess at. Even though we can finish each other's sentences, he still surprises me. Who would think that the fishing hiking Eagle Scout who lives to make bad puns also writes me poems every Valentines' Day and unashamedly tells everyone that we're on the 20th year of our honeymoon?

The companionship is sweet, the intellectual friendship is delicious- we still talk about anything and everything- but I'm most pleased that the romance is still there. Even though my hair has changed colors and his hair is gone, and we've both got more fluff in our stuffing, we're like hormonal teenagers. He can reach for me in the morning, when my breath is not pleasant and my hair would rival Queen Amidala's, and still make me feel like the world's sexiest woman. Yet, he can also appreciate when I've gone to a lot of trouble. I'll wear that new outfit, and he'll give me The Look. You know the one I'm talking about. The one where his gaze travels up and down, and I know he's thinking slightly lustful thoughts. Puts my nerve endings on zing for the rest of the evening.

There's so much freedom in a relationship where you have trust. I know that I can do anything, say anything, and he'll still be here in the morning because he cares. But I'll temper what I do and what I say because I care. After this many years together, it isn't that I have to- it's that I want to.

What to say to the man who's put up with me, been there for me, laughed with me, stood while I blew up at him and then held me afterwards, who has forgiven me and asked for forgiveness, who has shared my life as no one else ever can or ever will? Somehow, even for this romance fanatic, I love you doesn't seem enough. But by a God-given quirk of humankind, it is.

Happy 19th, honey. I love you.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rugged and Manly or Nerd Named Stanley?

Ah, heroes. The one thing I suspect every romance fan truly wants from a story is a good hero. I've read, loved, and kept several romances with eyeroll inducing heroines, but if the hero is wrong, that book gets tossed. The hero archetypes are:

The Chief- Captain Kirk, the King of Siam, Don Corleone. Decisive, dominating, responsible.
The Bad Boy- James Dean, Snake Plissken, Johnny Castle (from Dirty Dancing.) Charismatic, street smart Joe Cool.
The Best Friend- Christopher Robin, George Bailey, Mr. Knightley. Stable, supportive, unassuming.
The Charmer- Cary Grant, Remington Steele, Petruchio. Witty, smooth, elusive.
The Lost Soul- Angel (for you Buffy fans,) Heathcliff, beauty's Beast. Vulnerable, devoted, fatalistic.
The Professor- Harry Potter, Mr. Spock, Frasier Crane. Analytical, genuine, inflexible.
The Swashbuckler- Zorro, Indiana Jones, Robin Hood. Fearless, exciting, foolhardy.
The Warrior- Dirty Harry, William Wallace, Atticus Finch. Tenacious, noble, merciless.

The Lost Soul appeals to me. So do the Chief and the Warrior. Swashbuckler...okay. The rest are pretty interchangeable for me. Why? Because, apparently, I love reading about hairy possesive chest thumping Alpha males. There's something so satisfying about the crash when they finally fall for the heroine. What fictional men do it for you?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Adventures of Spunky

I'm re-reading one of my favorite reference books. It's actually about screenwriting, not novels, but I find it very, very helpful. My copy of The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes is falling apart. In looking over the heroine archetypes, I noticed that my heroines usually tend to be the same archetype. If you haven't read the book, here are the categories, with character examples:

The Boss- Dolly Levi, Queen Elizabeth, Murphy Brown. Self-assured, take charge.
The Seductress- Rebecca Sharp, Delilah, Scarlett O'Hara. Charming, yet cool and savvy.
The Spunky Kid- Lois Lane, Little Orphan Annie, Stephanie Plum. Spirited, cheerful underdog.
The Free Spirit- Auntie Mame, Austen's Emma, Dharma. Energetic, unconventional.
The Waif- Dorothy Gale, Juliet, Cinderella. Pure, kind, trusting.
The Librarian- Joan Wilder, Miss Marple, Dana Scully. Efficient, orderly, analytical.
The Crusader- Erin Brockovich, Joan of Arc, Antigone. Courageous, determined.
The Nurturer- June Cleaver, Elinor Dashwood, Pollyanna. Altruistic, capable, optimistic.

I realized that I invariably write the Spunky Kid. Almost every time. Occasionally I'll veer toward the Librarian or the Free Spirit, but Spunky is just who flows from my fingers. I don't do a Boss well without making her a witch, and I find it difficult to make the Seductress relatable. Don't even talk to me about the Waif. She abounds in fiction and I can't stand her.

Do you find yourself drawn to one type, whether writing or reading? I have to admit, I like reading about Spunky, too. Maybe that's because I'm most similar to that archetype- easy to know the character when she's like me.

Discuss! I'll do the heroes later.