Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Hope Chest

By Cheryl Oreglia

I started a "hope" chest in 1970 with two embroidered pillow cases (white, with pink flowers) and a couple of dish towels. The name of the chest is a little disconcerting because the whole idea is based on the contents "hopefully" being utilized when prince charming comes along, tosses you a ring, croaks out a few vows, and switches up your name. I believe we refer to this as wedded bliss.

I added to my "hope" through my adolescent years, quilting a baby blanket in high school, inheriting a yellow tea kettle from grandma, embroidering more dish towels, and an apron. Are you getting the picture? I also received a Betty Crocker Cookbook which made me feel very sophisticated but did nothing to improve my talent in the kitchen. I considered myself a talented cook with no experience. I still have this book, the margins are full of warnings, like the time I heavily salted some fish and added capers for good measure. It was not edible and we had to throw thirty dollars worth of Halibut down the drain. The intention was worthy.

I'm better with linens. In fact I tend to horde linens because maybe they'll be useful "someday." Sadly I've had those pillowcases in my possession for over forty years and never used them. (I did the same with a rose shaped candle that eventually melted in storage) Recently I've been binge cleaning, I'll just blame Mom, every drawer in her house was neatly organized, and somehow she made this seem normal. I think it's outrageous that my mother can make me feel guilty about my linen closet from the grave. She was my world and now I have her spirit. Glory be...

I'm beginning to understand the popularity of If you Give a Mouse a Cookiebecause for me it started with the window seat in the old master, and believe me when I say one thing leads to another. My goal was to de-rat Dante's room literally (we added on to our ranch style track home close to twenty years ago and somehow Dante ended up in the old master). I told him to get everything out and we would replace his old furniture with a sturdy bed frame, side table, and chairs from Mom's guest room. A day later I was shocked to find all his belongings neatly stacked in the garage on an old comforter. My children totally pick and choose when to follow my guidance. It's a crap shoot and I usually lose.

Somehow we were able to fit a bedroom set, two recliners, and a small desk into his room. Extraordinary. I drove straight to Bed, Bath, and Beyond (coupons  in hand) because as you know the right comforter sets the tone for the entire room. I found the perfect one. I'm sure Dante is thrilled, he didn't say, but I could tell. As we were moving in the new stuff he mentioned the storage under the window seat was full. I took a peak and found it crammed with Julie's stuff (my oldest daughter), dolls, scrapbooks, and a bunch of teenage paraphernalia she left behind ten years ago when she moved away to college. Why in the hell am I storing all this stuff? She is married and has a home of her own.

I sabotaged her recent visit and started pulling things out of the window seat. Just like Michael J. Fox, she was slammed back in time, squealing with delight over a slew of long forgotten dolls. She quickly faced-timed her sister who was at work and found it difficult to fully share in the experience. We piled all those treasured possessions in the back of Julie's van and I waved good-bye to the clutter, the memories, and a piece of my heart. Nic (her husband) was not pleased. 

It reminded me of the time I went to the doctor about a rash covering my lower leg. It was all scaly and unattractive, the doctor who was examining me said it was due to stress? What? Apparently four kids, husband, dog, fish, arrogant cat, and out of control linen closet was stressing me out. I could leave or drink wine. I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference...

But I digress, back to the pillow cases. I decided Larry's office also needed a makeover. I'm on a roll, move along, or get squashed. He has these samples stored in piles of boxes all over the room. It's not the first thing I want people to see when they enter my house. His office is positioned opposite the front door. That was a mistake of epic proportions. What's done is done. I flutter around saying things like, "he just got a shipment or he's reorganizing, this will all be gone in a week," which is a total lie. They've been there for a year and I see no indication that he was planning to store this mess any time soon.

Clearly he needs two shelves in my linen closet and I throw myself into the work. This is when I stumbled upon the embroidered pillow cases. They have yellowed over time but it makes them look vintage. I washed them up and this inspires me to revamp the guest room. It is now appropriately called the mermaid room due to the adorable bedding I spent a fortune on and Amazon happily delivered to my doorstep. I pulled out the old sleigh bed and replaced it with two twin beds. The bedding is now all color coordinated, it is adorable if I say so myself, and those two little pillow cases blend in perfectly. Who knew? I'm so happy with all of my little projects I might tackle the kitchen next?

I noticed Larry is developing a rash. Strange? I feel refreshed and unencumbered. I think I even lost a few pounds. My daughters had memory boxes instead of hope chests. I might rethink this strategy. We  take our "hope" with us when we move out but for some reason the memory boxes get left behindI think there is a message embedded in all this? Don't you?

Barbara Kingsolver says, "the very least you can do in your life is to figure out what to hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope." It all started with two pillow cases. Forty years later I'm decorating a room for my granddaughters. Who could have ever imagined my greatest joys would be resting their heads on pillowcases I embroidered with girlish dreams and a lot of hope.

I'm Living in the Gap, drop in anytime, it gives me hope!

What are you hoping for? Leave a few notes in the comments (I almost said closet) give me something to do besides redecorating. My husband would be grateful. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rumpus Room Reads #7 - "The Best Cartoons of 1957"

Ever since my membership at the gym ended this spring, it's been hard for me to find time to crack open my stack of Rumpus Room Reads.  I realized I was doing 95% of my leisure reading on the stationary bike.  I missed it so much that I was actually searching Craigslist for an old Exercycle to call my own.  Then when my kids went back to school this month, they came back with a brochure for programs at all the city rec centers.  I discovered that several of these rec centers have small free workout rooms, including the one closest to my house.  And when I went to check it out, sure enough - stationary bike!

For my first session back in the saddle, I brought along with me "The Best Cartoons of 1957."  This was probably my grandpa's book.  My grandpa Raymond Cowan was a prolific amateur cartoonist.  He had some published in "Stars and Stripes" magazine and sold one to the Philadelphia Inquirer along with some sports article he wrote.  It was titled "Punt or Bunt" and was published in "I don't know, I think the sixties," according to my irritated mom who is currently visiting me down here and is laying down watching "American Ripper" on her phone on my bed and whom you would think would be more enthused about answering my questions about her late father but I guess it's the finale?  I remember the article hanging framed in my grandparents' basement (the actual rumpus room!) but never actually reading it because ew, sports.  I wanted to encourage my oldest son Eli's interest in cartooning, so I brought this one back with me at some point in the past couple of years.

1957 -  Eisenhower was president.  Sputnik 1 and 2 were launched into orbit.  The last episode of "I Love Lucy" aired.  Gas cost less than a quarter a gallon.  A new house cost . . . okay we all know what's coming, I'm going to stop setting the stage and just show you the opening page:

Literally exactly what you thought it was going to be, isn't it?  Actually, you may not realize that sexist objectification of busty bimbos isn't the only repeated theme of "The Best Cartoons of 1957" present in this opening picture.  There was also a persistent psychiatry theme.  Psychiatry, bimbos, priests, doctors, nagging wives, department stores, and for some reason desert-set cartoons were all the rage that year.

Psychiatrist-approved child abuse!  Ladies who can't park!  Actually, look how freakin' sweet that cartoon car that was probably supposed to look generic is.  Hah cha cha!

Schools were beginning to desegregate thanks to 1954's Brown v. Board of Education, but it was still cool to make fun of Spanish speaking stereotypes!  The first one is pretty straightforward, but is the second one I guess like a Latin lover doctor type performing on his guitar before performing the old fashioned "massage cure" for "hysteria?"

Disgustingly sexist to imply women don't care about sports - oh wait (see paragraph two of this post).

Another weird trope - wives being caught rummaging for cash in their presumably sleeping husbands' recently worn pants.

July 12, 1957, Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney linked smoking to lung cancer.  Maybe these cartoons were from June then?  Smoking in the maternity ward!  Dad waiting outside with a full ash tray.  Who is that lady next to him?  She can't be the woman in labor, where's her belly?  Oh, that's right, big pointy missile boobs were kosher exposure in 1957, but publicly acknowledging pregnancy was positively pornographic (see aforementioned "I Love Lucy," where they never even used the "p" word when she was all knocked up).  Actually, I can't really tell if in that second picture the cigarettes are part of the joke or not.  Did they know nicotine was addictive yet or is this just really ironic?  The fact that not every executive in the picture is smoking tends to point towards irony.

Lastly, a hint of feminism courtesy of a fancy old dowager wearing the whole dead fox.  So progressive and modern, ma'am!  Your daughter or granddaughter will ride that sentiment of detached emotions on the quickly approaching tide of free love, but her daughter might be deeply depressed by the demise of the perceived cultural norm of monogamy and long for the simple Rockwellian days of yore.  Then she'll find this book in your basement and be like, "oh yeah, that's what it was like."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

STARSWEPT release day!

Hey everyone! Mary here, and I'm taking over the blog today to announce the release of my new YA sci-fi romance, STARSWEPT! It's been quite a journey to get this book out, from the cover shoot to the book production (I had it printed in hardback and did the interior myself), but at last, the book is done and out in the world!

Here's a bit about it:

Some melodies reach across the stars. 
In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce. 
A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.
When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music. 
But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.
And here's what people are saying about it:
"...a sophisticated commentary on art, society, and how we perceive our own worth. The beginning of an elegant, spirited rebellion saga." - Kirkus Reviews 
"Starswept is a seductive and wholly satisfying book from start to finish--imaginative, well written, and touching on themes beyond romantic love." -Foreword Clarion Reviews 
"Fan spins a riveting tale against a backdrop of intergalactic human trafficking, brainwashing, corporate greed, freedom fighters, and the backstabbing culture of an exclusive performing arts academy." -Blue Ink Review (starred review)
And it's now available from Snowy Wings Publishing! Find it on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and more.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

#TeaserTuesday: Branding Your Book Launch

Full disclaimer #1: I don't know if other genres do the whole #TeaserTuesday thing on social media like the romance genre does. I read mostly romance and write romance exclusively, so that's where my main focus lies.

Full disclaimer #2: My "method" isn't scientific or even proven. But it is what I see lots of successful romance authors doing and why re-invent the wheel?

Full disclaimer #3: Even if you don't embrace #TeaserTuesday, branding your book launch doesn't seem like a bad idea?

I have a new book coming out October 11. Yay! It's called A BRIT COMPLICATED and it's the third book in my rom com series. I have high hopes for this book because I have such a crush on the hero, you guys. (Weird, but you get it, right?) But, I'll be honest, I'm also way more nervous about this release than I was about book two. A lot of series tend to fizzle -- and/or intentionally end -- at book three, and I'm not ready to stop living in this rom com world.

So, I've been thinking about branding. A lot. My series covers are branded really well and the third one fits in perfectly with these two:

(I can't show you yet, but my cover designer is on it, trust me.) So, opportunity #1 for branding -- that box is checked.

Then there's the whole #TeaserTuesday thing, another opportunity to brand my book launch pre-release. I realized pretty quickly I'd done a crap job with my past two releases. As in the branding and consistency in my graphics was nonexistent. I started branding the teasers of my last release, A BRIT UNEXPECTED, but when they didn't gain traction, I switched it up. Now when I look at my teasers collectively, you wouldn't even realize they were for the same book.

Bleh, right? Where's the branding? Let me answer that one. Aside from the book title, is none.

Seven weeks out from my next launch, I know I need to do things differently. So, I started looking at some of the best sellers in my genre. And guess what they do really well? They brand their teasers on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram! They all match!

Look at Emma Chase's teasers for ROYALLY ENDOWED, her latest release:

You only need to glance at them to know they're for the same book. They all have the same white background, red writing and the book cover. 

Lauren Layne also does this well. Look at her teasers for READY TO RUN, her book that came out this week:

She does one better -- all of her teasers have one of two backgrounds. Only the blocked text changes! How cool -- and effective -- is that?

As I said in the beginning of this post, I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel, so I'm focusing on consistent branding with my upcoming launch. I spent last Friday night making picture teasers and ALL of them are similar to this:

Same fonts, same colors, same logo (which I'll switch to the book cover after my reveal). When I look in my Google Drive and see all the images side by side, I see consistency. I see the same look and feel, and the same font combination, which hopefully will help readers associate with my upcoming book. 

Will it make a difference in sales? That's still TBD. But it can't hurt, right? I'll report back post-release and let you know. In the meantime, I'd love to know more about your branding in the comments. Is this something you think a lot about? How do you brand your book launch?

Monday, August 21, 2017

The 10 Con Commandments (for Exhibiting Authors)

A post by Mary Fan
Many authors choose to exhibit their books at conventions and other events as a way of reading new readers. I've lost count of how many cons I've gone to over the past four years, and I've seen a lot of fellow exhibiting authors fail to meet a certain level of... basic etiquette. 

So here are 10 Con Commandments to follow:
  1. Thou shalt not interrupt a fellow author while they are pitching their book to a customer.
  2. Thou shalt socialize with fellow authors when the dealer's room/exhibit hall is dead. It gets boring in there.
  3. Thou shalt offer to watch a fellow author's table so they might run to the bathroom or obtain food.
  4. Thou shalt tell a fellow author if there's an issue with their display (slipping posters, tipping books, etc.).
  5.  Thou shalt not walk around to other authors' tables to sell them your book, for they are here to sell their books, and thou art wasting their time and costing them potential opportunities to pitch passing customers. Especially if thou dost not haveth thy own table.
  6. Thou shalt not block a fellow author's table, even if thou art there to chat with the author. Stand to the side.
  7. Thou shalt not badmouth any aspect of a fellow exhibiting author's book.
  8. Thou shalt share tips for setting up display; there is no sense in being weird about it when a fellow author asks where you got your cool poster or book rack.
  9. Thou shalt recommend thy fellow authors' works where possible. For instance, when thou hast finished a sale, direct the customer to also check out thy neighbor's works. Or if the customer stops and chats but is not interested in your genre, but may be interested in thy neighbor's genre.
  10. THOU SHALT NOT POACH ANOTHER AUTHOR'S CUSTOMER. When a potential customer stops by an author's table, thou shalt not engage this customer until that author is done pitching their book. Thou shalt not attempt to direct the customer's attention to thy own book instead. AUTHORS WHO POACH FROM FELLOW AUTHORS BURN IN A SPECIAL CIRCLE OF HELL.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


To quote Jon Lovett, "What a week." Oh, man. Listen, I am sure we are all feeling the same things right now -- rage, more rage, despair, and a huge sprinkling of WTF, but we'll get through this. The nation will overcome. Trump won't be prezzy forever. He may not even be president for the duration of the year. Any solace in that? Probably not.

Fight the good fight.

But sometimes we need a break from: protesting, calling our senators, tweeting, yelling at our Facebook friends. What better way to escape than with some quality television options. (I thought about blogging about heavy topics, but I don't have it in me right now.) Plus, television informs my art. No other medium inspires my storytelling quite like it.

Here are my recs.

In no particular order...

Animal Kingdom (Tuesday 9pm ET, TNT): Basic cable used to blow, but TNT has been showcasing excellent series and this show is exceptional. Produced by John Wells of ER and Shameless(!), and set in Southern California, Animal Kingdom is about the Codys, a crime family run by Smurf, the matriarch. She is ruthless, cunning, and she's taught her sons all she knows. It's gritty, clever, and compelling.
 Shetland (Netflix): Produced by BBC and based on books by Ann Cleeves, Shetland is a mystery series set in the Shetland Islands. The first season is one mystery split over two episodes. You could binge this satisfying show in a weekend, and then book a trip to the islands. It's atmospheric, chilling, and cleverly done. Make sure to watch with subtitles since the Scottish brogue is hard to decipher for American ears.

Master of None (Netflix): Aziz Ansari writes and produces this comedic gem where he plays Dev, an actor trying to find love and work in New York City. I feel like I overuse the word 'clever,' but this show is worthy of the adjective. It's funny, smart, and insightful. Season 1 is solid, Season 2 is gold.

You're the Worst (FX, Hulu, Season 4 premiers in Sept): There's something magical about two terribly selfish people finding love with each other. Jimmy is a struggling British writer whose one published novel has gotten little attention. He loves to drink, and loves to heckle. Gretchen is a self-absorbed publicist who can't maintain a relationship to save her life. And yet, you root for these two kids. Like Judd Apatow's Love, but way, way better. My favorite line from Jimmy: "Scrambled Eggs -- a dish so pedestrian, its name is the recipe."
 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Netflix, CW): Do you like neurotic Jewish girls? And musicals? What about smart takes on feminism? And stereotypes being turned on their heads? What about all that stuff in one show? Why are you not watching CEG? Seriously, you're missing out! Rachel Bloom is my hero. She'll be yours too. If you're not sure, watch her videos on YouTube. My faves: JAP Battle Rap, I Give Good Parent, Sexy Getting Ready Song. You're welcome.

Dear White People (Netflix): This satirical series, based on the movie of the same name and written by Justin Simien, portrays students of color who go to a predominantly white college and deal with social injustices. It's highly stylized with a sharp narrative structure. Each episode is told through the point of view of a different character. Barry Jenkins directed one of the best and most heart-wrenching episodes of the season featuring Reggie and a campus party that goes wrong. The mood skips from joyous to harrowing in a blink. Race, sexuality, class -- it's all covered with humor and complexity. Everyone should be watching this. The show has been renewed for a second season.

Okay, that's it from me.

Recommend your favorites.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Stop Feeding the Hate

My family had a difficult time last week. We lost an amazing member of our family. My husband’s Uncle Ron was one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. Ending an already grief filled week with the horrific events that happened in Charlottesville resulted in my struggling to figure out what to write for today’s blog post.

So I decided I’d talk a bit about hate.

For the longest time, ‘hate’ was considered the ‘h-word’ in our house. Even now that our daughter is old enough to know most of the curse words we still don’t like to use the word ‘hate’ in our family. If she says she hates her pencil, we challenge her to express her frustration a different way. Then we talk about why we don’t want to say hate often. And why is that, you ask?

Because hate feeds hate.

You start feeling justified in hating one thing, then it becomes easier to hate something else. And then something else. And then someone else. And it builds. Hate feeding hate.

I remember the first time I felt true hatred toward a person. It scared me so much I sought help. I needed to talk to someone because I didn’t like how it made me feel. I’m grateful that back then we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter or other social media outlets. Who knows what I might have said or done in the heat of my hatred. I knew I had to find a way to let go of that hate because I could feel it festering, and it made me look at all the other aspects of my life through a negative filter.

But these days we do have a boat load of social media outlets to express our frustrations. Places where we read post after post and tweet after tweet, feeling our anger build higher and higher. The hatred is in our comments and tweets—from expressing our hatred for the white supremacists who acted this past weekend, to the terrorists who bomb innocent people, to the people who open fire in schools and gay nightclubs, and to those who gun down cops. Hatred is even in even our negative comments about our Presidents (I use the plural because while this presidency seems worse it’s not new). We are hurt and angry and confused—hatred is bubbling and it wants to be released. So we do. We find a target and let it fly.

I don’t think most of us sitting behind our computers associate expressing our feelings of frustration with perpetuating hate. We want people to hate things like what happened this past weekend in Charlottesville. If we don’t, then we have no hope left for humanity. So if we hate what happened, then we can hate those who did it—along with anyone else who we feel didn’t live up to our expectations of how they should have reacted to the situation. I get that. I feel that.

But the reality is when we share those feelings we are feeding the hate. We are keeping the hate alive. We are telling others that it’s okay for them to do the same.

Commenting that the white supremacists are pieces of shit who deserve to burn in hell will not make them change their beliefs. It will only feed their hate.

Our posts and tweets about how the President sucks for not saying the right thing at the right time will not stop racism. It only feeds the hate of others.

I’m not saying we can’t feel all these things. Again, if we don’t feel them then I worry about humanity. But I think it’s time to start questioning ourselves about the effect of our viral comments and actions.

Many of the people stopping by our blog today are probably in the writing community. We have platforms where people listen. We have a chance to help stop the spread of hate through thoughtful consideration of what we share. We’re writers—we should be able to express our feelings in a way that will encourage others to act in support and unity rather than to fuel hatred and division.

Let’s all do our best to stop before every post/comment/tweet/share/like and ask ourselves what side of the line it falls on. Does it have the potential to feed hate, or does it help close the divide and move us to unity?

I’m not saying we should stand by and accept what’s happening. But what we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working. It’s not getting better. As individuals, we can’t change the beliefs and behaviors of others, but we can start spreading light. We can start spreading love. Hopefully, if enough of us shift the dynamic then it will start to drive out the hate.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Guilty Pleasures (That Keep Me From Writing)

A Post By Jonathan

We all have them. We all want to get rid of them. But no matter how hard we try, they never seem to go away. They are our guilty pleasures-- and they're here to stay.

We writers are naturally guilty people anyway, so when we're working on a book or article it's tough to view any other activity (besides writing) as okay or something we can feel good about. I'm not talking about family commitments, the day job or other essentials of being a functioning adult. I'm talking about those conscious decisions we make, in our (for some rare) moments of free time, to spend (waste?) hours and hours doing something that is easy and requires no thinking and just makes us happy, OK?!

Anyway, here are my top three guilty pleasures and how they keep me from writing:

Oh come on, I know you watch it too. Sure, it's only an hour show on a Sunday night, but most of the episodes are so awesome that you just have to spend a couple days on the internet figuring out what you missed, and on twitter gleaning everyone's reaction, and watching the after show show episodes (and the after the after the show show episodes).

So maybe GoT is more than one guilty pleasure... But it pretty much takes up my whole Sunday night (but I've read the books, that's got to count for something, right?) My Sunday nights will get even more guilty with the arrival of this next one.

This may not resonate with a lot of my fellow writers, but I love, love, love NFL football. It's not just the games, but I play fantasy football as well (probably way too much of it). I've been meaning to quit my league(s) for about ten years now, but I keep lying to myself that it's the only way I stay in touch with my buddies. I mean, what kind of buddies can they be if we only commune online over a fake game with fake players for four months out of the year?

Well when you're a dude this can sometimes be the only way you stay in touch. It's so fun and so easy to waste time on, reading articles, stats, etc. Apparently fantasy football costs companies 13.4 billion dollars a year in lost revenue due to workers spending time on it. Sorry boss!

Oh Netflix. You dirty little time sucker. How you waste my life with your amazing original series and ease of viewing with your no commercials and enticing streaming of many seasons of the most obscure shows on the world wide web. I really loved that Manga black hole you dragged me down the other night. Even though that cartoon was entirely in Japanese I'm pretty sure I got the gist. Don't mess with the Japanese... If only writing were so easy. I could just sit on the couch with my potato chips and let the ideas wash out of me and flow from my fingers and onto my laptop. Ain't so and will never be so.

So here's a PSA for you kids. Don't be me. Don't do Game of Thrones or Fantasy Football or Netflix or Drugs. Just keep your nose to the grindstone and keep on the keepin' on. That said, feel free to celebrate with any of your guilty pleasures once you've put the time in or completed a project. They won't feel nearly so guilty if you actually deserve them.

Now if you ever want to talk about a series or know of another fantasy league I can get into, just leave a note at the bottom! And thanks for stopping by.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Rumpus Room Reads #6 - "The Great American Alimony Escape"

I’ve had this book on my list to revisit for some time now, due to the outrageously delicious trash cover.  Like some of the other Rumpus Room Reads, this one didn’t come from my Grandma’s basement.  Not even ten books in and I can barely stick to my mission-statement formula!  

But come on, who could resist talking about this thing, even if it was purchased for like fifty cents from a beat up cardboard box in a Publix in Fort Myers, the purgatory of Florida (which is itself the purgatory of the USA)?  It’s so in-your-face seventies swinger kitsch, it’s practically giving me crabs (bell-bottomed crabs at that).  The font is brought to you by Quaaludes.  The human math equation at the top with the guy in the microscopic pink towel and tiki beads aching to get timesed by the Breck Shampoo girl who adorably stole his undershirt if only it wasn’t for his flabby avatar with the so-large-as-to-be-useable towel staring gloomily at his past marital mistakes - it seems to actually involve the man marrying himself?  It’s confusing me, frankly, but I somehow escaped ever taking calculus (physics, too, damn you lackadaisical public school education!).  

The novel itself is heinously dated and misogynistically objectifying to the point where as a twenty first century woman I’m fairly certain I betrayed my gender by ever completing it.  Poor Jed, before he discovered tiki beads and grooviness, married boring old Denise and had some boring sons with her.  Then twenty years later he was like, catch you on the flip side, Denise, I’ma get me some of that strange all those draft dodgin’ hippie kids were rapping about over their doobies!  But see, kids, he gets sick of banging different free-spirited nudity-lovin’ tight bodied twenty two year olds every night, so he decides to just bang one free-spirited nudity-lovin’ tight bodied twenty two year old.  Oh, sorry, I’m totally exaggerating.  She was twenty four.  Anyway, Maura, the nude young romance novel editor, tells him she can’t marry him until he ditches the alimony payments to Denise.  Cue the scheme to find Denise some schlong with a wallet attached, which they find in the form of Barney, a well hung middle aged momma’s boy virgin Jed trains for Denise’s pleasure with tennis and dancing lessons and bridge lessons
It’s not even really worth delving into the rest of the plot.  This isn’t just me saying that - it’s the first book I’ve reviewed here that I couldn’t find a plot synopsis for anywhere on the internet.  By the end of the book, every character described above and even more thirsty bicentennial-era skanks end up at some Caribbean sex resort with the subtle name of Gomorrah.  Surprise surprise, the plot twists everyone one intercourse friend to the left, and Jed ends up back with Denise, tearfully apologizing post-coitus for the whole hackneyed midlife crisis because, as he put it, “I’d like to be a little fat and flabby.”  Because we all know that  marriage is nothing but a dangerously attractive form of entropy.  Below, without comment, a selection of quotes to better flesh out the mood:

“Sheltered by marriage, he had been unaware of the full force the winds of freedom of the sexual revolution had unleashed.”

“And where the hell is Gaby?  She could at least come and tell me what’s happening.  Or bring me a sandwich.”

“Barney arrested his piston movement in mid-revolution, his body suddenly hunched like a cat discovered on the buffet table.”

“Keep your hands off the other guys’ women, towels, and diet margarine.”  

In my attempt to find out more information about this book, I was surprised to discover in his 2013 online obituary that, far from being solely an author of slender seventies trash novels, author David Rogers was a Broadway playwright who also wrote for television, opera, and “night clubs,” wrote a Tony-nominated musical adaptation of “Flowers for Algernon.”  He studied at the Theater Wing alongside Jack Lemmon and Lee Marvin and contributed to the Zigfeld Follies, writing for such stars as Tallulah Bankhead, Bea Lillie, Bea Arthur, Carol Haney, and Hermione Gingold.  Most shocking to me, though, was the last line - “He is survived by his wife of 50 years, June L. Walker.”  

What was this happily married man doing writing about moist heaving aging divorced swingers?  Was it all an escapist fantasy made safely digestible with the addition of the return to the wife at the end?  Or was he deeply grossed out by the whole scene, intentionally making everybody involved vapid and foolish out of derision?  I believe the latter, especially given the little throwaway line early in the novel by some beefy Scottish stereotype masseur gossiping about some other almost-fifty dude meeting a barely legal second wife in line for Woody Allen movie.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Black Jacket Hack Job #21 - "The Partner"

By Cheryl Oreglia

I have been avoiding all non obligational things this summer, especially reading and writing, not unlike the protagonist in John Grisham's best selling novel The Partner, minus the ninety million dollars. 
My summer objective was to lounge around the vast recesses of my mind, drenched in memories, with utterly no expectations. This is my chosen form of escape and let me just say it's not going well.
My sister suggested I read something fun, I believe she used the words for pleasure, pounding her fist on the coffee table for emphasis, "read this and maybe hit the shower this week."
She spilled my coffee with all her zeal. See, I would rather sit here watching a ring form on the dark wood then leave the comfort of my "housecoat." That's normal. Right?
She threw a worn copy of John Grisham's "criminally entertaining," novel The Partner at my head. Arizona Daily Star claims "compulsively readable." I was able to catch it was alarming finesse for someone my age. We'll consider that a sign.
Now these are rather weighty accusations as to the readability of this novel and I believe someone should substantiate these claims. 
I carried the book around for two days like one of those beloved miniature chihuahua's before opening the first page. The first chapter was quite a jolt and I was hooked like a big old catfish. It happens. 
I suppose the attractiveness of a story has much to do with the interests of the reader. So...avoidance queen, coffee addict, no expectations kind of girl was unexpectedly caught in the Grisham web.
If you only read romance or horror, do yourself a favor, and browse through a Grisham novel. There's an entire exegesis on torture, a complicated trail of betrayal, deep dark secrets, torent lovers, grieving mom's, sleazy senators, and way to many lawyers. He must of been in the middle of a law suit when he wrote this book. 
I'll skip all the flowery language, subtle nuances, and intellectual wit. Here's the short version.
Fat lawyer, good mind, bad marriage, trusted, slipped out of town with ninety million dollars, "now they don't want justice - they want revenge." Poor Patrick is found, tortured, tried, but there's a twist, as unexpected as a double yolk. That's a clue.
This book is so good I'm planning on re-gifting at the next wedding I'm invited to. (That should curb the invitations)
The ending is worthy but you're not going to like it. Just sayin.

What have you got your nose stuck in this summer? Do tell. 

Living in the Gap, drop in some time. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Google Search: "What if Ghosts..."

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Hey everybody!  First of all, to answer the burning question on everyone's minds: no, we're not dead.  Far from it.  Brenda and Abby both ran into unexpected situations and had to bow out for the last two blogposts.  Not to worry, guys.  As we all know, everybody gets one:

Just kidding, of course.  We're a pretty easygoing blog and life happens.  I'll be flip-flopping my slot with Abby this week and she'll take August 7.

It's my turn for a Google search post!  I may have mentioned this before but I'm sort of half-assedly working on a haunted house novel.  So weighing on my mind lately has been the question, "What if ghosts were real?"  For those of you who don't know me in real life, I am a supreme skeptic about basically everything.  That means God, ghosts, karma, chi, and ear candling all go basically in the same basket for me.  (That is: the bullshit basket.)  Naturally I mean no offense to any of you who are believers, just as you doubtless can respect my opinion while not sharing it.  That's the beauty of freedom of conscience after all.

Anyway, I digress.  Rather than Google "What if ghosts were real?" I decided to just google "What if ghosts" and let the algorithms do the rest.  Here's what I came up with:

It seems Google either knows me or most people are like me, and a couple of those hits were the exact subject I was thinking of: what if ghosts were (or are, depending on your tense) real?  More interestingly the first hit was "What if ghosts are aliens?"  I actually saw an episode of "Doctor Who" about that once.  Trust me, you do not want ghosts to turn out to be aliens, if the BBC is anything to go by.

However, I was feeling lucky today, so I indicated that to Google, which ended up choosing the last option, apparently, and took me to this site:

Those of you who are interested can go to the link directly.  But I thought I might save you all some trouble and ply you with my own listicle on that very subject:

8.  Tell the ghost, "Are you a ghost cop?  Because if you're a ghost cop, you have to tell me."

7.  See if the ghost will take a message to one of your deceased loved ones.  Then spend half an hour giving really explicit directions on how to reach their house in Heaven, i.e. "Turn right at the Dairy Queen but if you see a stop sign you've gone too far."

6.  Ask, "What's it like being dead?"  Ghosts never tire of that old chestnut.

5.  Never, ever throw a sheet over your head and cut eyeholes out of it.  Ghosts consider that "ghostface" and it is extremely offensive.

4.  As subtly as possible, lick the ghost.  If no saliva remains behind, it is a real ghost.

3.  Ask questions about current politicians and sports teams who have moved to different cities to see if the ghost has been paying attention.

2.  Start making a vase on a potter's wheel and if the ghost just so happens to come up behind you and semi-erotically join in, so be it.

1.  Netflix and chill.
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