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June 21st, 2014

First off, my Kindle novella To Recapture a Rake is free this weekend. [to recapture a rake], gift one, force it on unsuspecting friends. Illogical as it seems, give-aways drive sales. And I am still working on the bathroom and need money for a shower door.

Now, onto more important matters. I have never seen Game of Thrones, but…

Yeah. I know. I’m the only one, who hasn’t seen GoT. Nothing personal. I am saving it for the day I have time to binge watch. I’ll get there, eventually. I know most of the plot, since it is impossible to avoid.

And I was in an elevator with George RR Martin once, though. And I did not do this

George R R Martin in an elevator.

In my opinion this qualifies me to talk. And I want to talk about this article:

“We need to talk about the nudity on “Game of Thrones”

I’ve heard about the nekkid women in GoT I don’t live under a rock. I have also heard about the dearth of penises. After seeing the South Park episode with the wiener, wiener song, I thought that might have changed. Where did they get the idea that it was all dicks? Was it the books? Or did Matt and Trey see one penis on HBO and get so totally freaked out by it that they forgot dozens of boobs?

It could happen, you know. Lady parts are everywhere. But man parts are so rare, when you see one on film, it’s like seeing a bald eagle. You stop and point.

There is a perfectly logical explanation for this. Well, two, actually. The first one. Is rampant sexism. See the above Salon article.

The second excuse is that men are cowards.

For years, they have been objectifying he female body, stripping it down and putting it out there. Sticking it in the background of scenes to dress the set. Like it’s cheaper to get a naked actress than to find a ficus that doesn’t have yellowing leaves. If in doubt? Add a couple of whores. A stripper. Have the hero start out the movie in bed with a woman. Or perhaps two.

My family went to the latest Riddick movie, about a year ago. Though it had nothing to do with the story, Vin is in bed with two girls, one of whom had a Brazilian. It is always a little awkward to be at a movie with your two grown sons, when an enormous vagina appears on the screen.

But it was more awkward for the family in front of us, who brought a five year old girl.

Later in that same film, Katie Sackhoff took a shower, and showed one boob. I always wonder, when this happens, if they did not have enough in the budget to get her to show the other one.

But I digress. Female nudity, prevalent. You get the picture.

We girls have been soaking in this culture for years. And since women are more competitive than men will ever be, it’s made some of us insecure enough to completely rebuild ourselves, to look more like what we see. As a culture, we passed through the time when makeup and boob jobs were enough, into a world where we can wax, bleach, and die the down under and back behind, to make it look more like media says it should. If that’s not enough, there is surgery to make the little man in the canoe look perky as a porn star.

And then, there is vagazzliing.

SWEEET MOTHER OF GOD.

Anyway. If we want to, there is not an inch of our body that we cannot work on, to be ready for a full frontal close up.

Men are different.

If they go to the gym get muscles, oil up and sneer, women will drool. But there is one spot on their body that cannot be exercised. It is what it is. They can hide it with a washcloth. Or maybe, if they are lucky, with a hand towel. But drop the towel, and what you see is what you get. Bulking up the rest of the body isn’t going to make that winkie any better.

Women can kegel, and make improvements. But it’s not like a guy can lift weights with his doodle.

If all the men on Game of Thrones were forced to drop trou, they would be deathly afraid that all the women would be watching with a ruler in their hand. Or perhaps a tape measure, if we could get a guest appearance by Jon Hamm. We would be staring at Peter’s Dinklage, since contrast probably makes some things look bigger. Even worse, what if we looked at the guy sitting next to us on the couch?

Let’s face it. In a dick measuring contest, there can be only one winner.

And we haven’t even gotten to the question of erect vs flaccid. Or the fact that the stereotypical, ‘rising naked from the bath’ scene would be totally different with a man. Even if the steam was rolling off their shoulders, they’d be trying to tell us that the water was cold.

Until men are willing to be judged, as women are, every single time there is nudity in media, we’re not going to see dick.

Personally, I think we should demand naked equality. One testicle for every breast shown, and one penis for every vagina.

In a week, gratuitous nudity would be gone, and we’d have to pay attention to the story.

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June 11th, 2014

Bathroom update:

The electrician has come and installed the lights (wrought iron chandelier and sconces). We are 2/3rds done tiling the shower. And most of the painting is done.

The boys looked at the color I chose (a nice warm brick color) and immediately Facebooked their friends.

Dante’s Cardigan.

#2 Son says that the bathroom is the seventh circle of Hell.

I think we all suspected that, by now.

But he had no real objection to the first coat, other than that, as he worked, he kept thinking he’d scraped his knuckles bloody, only to realize that it was just the paint. When he cleaned the roller in the downstairs sink, it looked like someone had slaughtered a goat.

Then, #1 Son came home to do his shift.

Me (very proud of the progress): What do you think?

#1: I think, between the light fixtures and the walls, it looks like you’re going to perform ritual sacrifice in here.

Me: Like I’m going to kill a virgin in the bathtub?

#1: It will save time on clean up. And isn’t the chandelier kind of low? Can Sean even walk in here? (#2 Son is 6’ 3”)

5’ 5” Me: The chandelier is fine. There is nothing wrong with it.

#1: I dunno. It makes me nervous. In fact, the whole room makes me anxious. No one is going to want to stay in here for long.

DH: It’s a bathroom. How long were you planning to stay?

#1 (Googling color theory): The internet says you should add some plants. To tone it down.

DH: Your mother can’t have plants. She kills them.

I do not. And in this case, it won’t be me. Demons will come out of the mirror above the sink and suck the energy out of anything living in there. And the pictures I brought back from New Orleans aren’t going to help. They’re black and white studies of tombs with weeping angels.

It’s taken me a year. And the finished room is going to look like Satan’s water closet.

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June 9th, 2014

First off, my next book from Harlequin is called The Truth About Lady FELKIRK.

Not Bellston. Because last time I told you all about it, I forgot the heroine’s name.

The Truth About Lady Felkirk will be available in October. In November, I will have a novella called The Christmas Duchess available in the WISH UPON A SNOWFLAKE anthology.

And now, on to other, more pressing matters.

I mentioned, a couple of months back, that we were remodeling the bathroom.

We still are. At this point, we have been remodeling the bathroom for almost a full year. The end is in sight. But I have been saying that since Thanksgiving, and no one believes me anymore.

Granted, something needed to be done. Like a lot of the repairs and renovations done by the previous owners of this house, that room was a dysfunctional mess. And (like with having a baby, or starting a war) if you wait until you have the time and money to carry it off, it’ll never get done.

So one day, I started picking at the brown speckled Alhambra tiles that went out of fashion when Starsky and Hutch were still on. And, just as I knew they would, they fell off the wall.

I promised my husband he could stay out of this project. It would be mine. Mine and the contractors’. Half the fixtures were already in the basement, waiting to be installed. That was from a time, several years ago, when a Home Depot went out of business.

What can I say? I love a sale. I bought, and I waited. And now, I had a little cash saved up, and could totally DO THIS.

Then, #2 son didn’t get a summer job, and #1 son didn’t get a school loan. And suddenly, I could no longer afford to hire it all out. But everyone owed me money. They owed me something, anyway.

So I said, “Boys. How’d you like to learn some useful life skills?”

In retrospect, the answer should have been a unanimous, “NO!” But they didn’t speak up at the time. And how hard could it be? They do this stuff all the time on the DIY Channel, and it doesn’t look that hard. And there are instructional videos on YouTube for everything.

There are no videos to explain why the previous owner would have installed soffits that didn’t do anything but make the room smaller. Was he planning to hide a body? Or several bodies?

And why was everything held together with nails the size of railroad spikes?

This is a lie. Some parts of that room weren’t nailed at all. Multiple layers of drywall and cement board were laminated together with construction cement. In the demolition process, the only lessons that #2 son learned were that bathroom design, like life, can be unnecessarily cruel and meaningless.

Also, cast iron tubs are heavy.

Then, the actual remodeling began. Two plumbers took one look at the job and walked out, never to be seen again. Third time was the charm.

When the plumbing was finished, we tiled the floor (wrong). So we tiled it again (half way. And wrong). So we ripped it out, and third time was the charm, again. But the whole thing was a micron taller than it had been. We’d already started tiling the walls, but the cove tile no longer fit along the baseboard. Which meant, cutting and grinding. Also, an up close and intimate acquaintance with the fact that no two walls in the room are straight, square or level.

#1 son now knows more about ceramic tile than he ever wanted to. He is also developing the same scowl his father gets, every time I talk about home improvement. Yesterday, he claimed he needed a break because he was getting claustrophobic in an open shower stall.

Play through the fear, Son. I ran out of mercy after six months without an upstairs toilet.

Although I realized, about half way through, that the red and white enamel kettle in the basement that was left by the previous owners is not a spaghetti pot at all. It is a chamber pot, or, as my mother used to call it, a thunder bucket.

I am very glad that I did not make noodles in it.

My husband threatened to take it upstairs and photograph it sitting by the plumbing stack, so he can show people the “After” picture of our remodel.

But that wasn’t necessary. We have a working toilet again. And it only had to be installed twice. We’re getting better at this.

Home improvement is kind of like Afghanistan. You go in with the best intentions, meaning to make things better. All of a sudden, it’s years later, you’re still there, and there’s no end in sight.

And you still have no running water.

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April 29th, 2014

A few years back, I was at a party, as a civilian, not a writer. One of the women there came up to me and said what people usually say, when they hear what I do for a living.

“I hear you’re a writer. I’ve never met a writer before.”

And, since I am completely socially awkward, I responded with, “I bet you thought that it would be more interesting.”

I look back on that and cringe. I should have tried to be a more CIVIL, civilian. The correct answer should have been, (smile) “Why yes, I am.” (smile) followed by a sentence or two about working at home and writing full time.

In short, I should have tried to make normal small talk about my job. That’s not always easy to do when you spend your days having conversations with people that aren’t really there. And when you do have to talk about your job, it tends to be in a performance setting, at a library or bookstore or conference where people are there to see what a real author looks like.

In those situations, I do my best to look like a real author should. Human, that is. I comb my hair, and brush my teeth. I do not go out in my work clothes, i.e. pajamas. I put on a bra, and, if the weather calls for it, socks. I went to the Chicago North Spring Fling conference this weekend, and it was a relief to hear the other authors saying the same thing. Lauren Dane spoke of the need to get out of the house and wear “pants with a zipper”. Kristin Higgins was wearing heals, but missing her normal writing footwear: duck slippers.

But looking human isn’t always enough. Sometimes, you have to be bigger than life to make an impression.

A couple of years ago, I went to my very first writing presentation in my home town. There was a girl who wrote vampire stories, a Russian poet, an older gentleman who wrote Western mysteries. There was also Derek J Goodman, aka, that guy that makes pizzas at Papa Murphy’s.

That was years ago. Derek is now a librarian. There is nothing particularly unusual about this. Writers frequently have other jobs that can actually pay bills and get them health insurance. Who doesn’t love libraries? (or, for that matter, pizza?)

And then, there was me, in my pink writer blouse, with freshly polished nails, and an enormous stack of books, free for the taking.

And then, there was the last minute add to the panel. A screenwriter for the series House. He was a friend of the Western mystery guy, I think. Someone he had met at a writer’s conference.

This guy talked. A lot. He told anecdotes about House, and swore he’d gotten to know the show so well he could write a script in about an hour.

I remember thinking, ‘Well, that explains everything.’

I was not a huge fan of House. The plot of every episode: Someone gets sick. House tries twice to cure them, and almost kills them. The third time is the charm. Subplot, someone does something crappy to someone else. Hugh Laurie goes to his office, pensive. Outside, it is probably raining. Sad jazz plays softly in the background. Roll credits.

Mr. Screenwriter continues talking. When questions are asked from the audience, he fields most of them for us (what a champ). He tells the folks that self publishing is a scam (although this is no longer accurate, because Kindle is starting to take off). He tells us that Hollywood is controlled by a bunch of people who ‘all have the same name’.

I can’t quite decide if he is talking about simple nepotism, or a secret cabal of Jews. Or perhaps both.

And he says that he can’t sell a novel because New York publishers loathe screenwriters.

Like, say Suzanne Collins, who wrote for television before she wrote The Hunger Games. I bet they just hate her in New York, for making them all that money.

But Mr. Screenwriter also says that The Hunger Games is trash, and that children shouldn’t be reading about killing each other. The one novel he sold is about to be made into a major motion picture, by Disney. He wrote it by the light of a single blub, on scraps of paper that had to be smuggled out of his prison cell. This happened, when he was captured while working for the CIA.

Wait a minute… What the…

I can’t remember if he had a copy of the book with him (although it does actually exist). I am sure he didn’t have any scripts with him. At the time, that didn’t seem odd to me. But now that I think of it, how hard would it have been to bring one or two of them.

I do know that he continued to hold court while the rest of the authors there tried to sell their books. I tried to give mine away. Since a fair portion of the audience was from the local Bible College, my sexy romances were about as popular as small pox blankets. I brought most of the sack home with me.

But not before having a couple of really strong drinks, muttering to the DH and #1 son about how the Illuminati are keeping me from being successful in Hollywood. Or ninjas. Or perhaps it is self-flagellating albino monks. New York won’t touch me because they fear my power.

And low, two years pass. And then, I read this.

http://www.leegoldberg.com/james-strauss-fake-writing-credits/

Bwaaaaaa.

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March 7th, 2014

I’ve been busy lately. The writing thing. Again. I finished a Christmas novella that will be out this year. For a change, it includes nothing of my recent Christmas stories (hot sex against a wall, murder, brain damage, ghosts, actors)

This one has singing, mistletoe, a little kid, a dog, and a wedding.

I am assuming this is the one that will get me the RITA nomination because it is both fun and normal. Thought I’d try normal for a change.

After that, it was edits on my latest book, THE TRUTH ABOUT LADY BELLSTON. At least, I think that’s what it’s called. My editor gave me the title, and I promptly forgot it. Now I can’t find the e-mail to check. Since this is an amnesia book, the fact that I can’t remember what it’s called is really kind of appropriate.

Next up will be TO RECAPTURE A RAKE. I also tend to forget the title on this one. Maybe this is a reoccurring problem. But RAKE is an e-novella which will be up on Kindle as soon as I get around to editing it. I’ll let you know.

The DH and I also celebrated our 30th anniversary. Really, we’ve been together since December of 1978, so it’s longer than that. To celebrate, we went to the Apple Store to see why my IPad died. Actually, I went there. He went to the Microsoft store. It’s important to allow for some freedom in a relationship, to keep it fresh.

Then we went to a casino and played the slots until I had given enough money back to the indigenous peoples to balance my karma for another 30 years.

When I got home, I looked at the front page of the local paper and saw that there had been a taxidermy auction on the weekend. Of course, I complained that the DH had missed an opportunity to get me an anniversary gift. I think the 30th anniversary is probably ‘roadkill’. Sure feels like it, anyway.

And then, I looked closer at the picture.

It’s not every day you look at the front page of the newspaper and yell, OH MY GOD! I KNOW THOSE SQUIRRELS!

Those of you who’ve been around Double Cheese for a couple of years will remember this. (Scroll down to Sept 8th)

http://christine-merrill.com/blog/page/8/

Even if you don’t, take a moment to look at the pictures because you will never see the likes of them again. Sam SanFillippo died last year at the age of 93, and his taxidermy collection has been split up and is now in the hands of individual collectors.

And none of those collectors is me.

Really, it’s just as well. It saved the auctioneer the embarrassing sight of me begging, “Please honey. Please. It’s our anniversary. Get me those cooch dancing chipmunks, no matter what they cost. GET THEM NOW.”

And the cost was likely pretty high. My second choice would have been the 8 foot long bar scene with the piano player and the chipmunks playing cards. According to the paper, that went for $4750.

But my husband loves me. Have I ever told the story about the glow-in-the-dark skull I got him for our wedding gift? Because he asked me to.

He’d have totally got me some squirrels.

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February 25th, 2014

I don’t usually review books, and I try not to snark on other writers. As someone who has both written and been published, I have way too much skin in the game.

But sometimes, an opportunity is just too good to pass up. Sometimes, a writer does something so spectacularly wrongheaded that it leaves me in hysterical, Schadenfreude induced laughter.

Everyone’s read this by now, right?

If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It

If not, take a minute and read it. It’s short.

It’s not that I don’t think it’s unfair that, after 17 books, and some odd stories, I am writing this post while eating ramen in Wisconsin, instead of from the deck of my yacht. But I had no idea, until yesterday, that it was J K Rowling’s fault. If only she stopped writing, people would automatically flock to my books and then I would be the one richer than the queen.

Never mind the fact that I do not write in the same genres as she does. Apparently, if she would just step out of the limelight, or at least stick to kiddie books and stop being successful in each new venture, even when she works under a male pseudonym so as not to capitalize on previous success, then the world would immediately turn to me, buy my entire backlist, and make me a millionaire.

And while you’re at it, J K, convince E L James to pull her books from the shelves, get Nora Roberts to retire, and run over Stephen King (again). Then I will go to RWA, this summer, put some strychnine in the guacamole, and wipe out all the rest of the romance novelists.

And then, it will be me, and only me, that makes the sales.

Snicker.

Like everyone else, I went and checked out Lynn Shepherd’s backlist on Amazon. That was probably what she wanted. I’d love to say that writers only blog for altruistic reasons [fall of a saint]. But a lot of it has to do with publicity and sales.

So, I went to check out what Lynn Shepherd had written. Historical detective fiction. Nothing like any of the stuff J K Rowling has written. One of them is a Jane Austen knockoff. A lot of people do those. Maybe it’s brilliant, but it sounds derivative.

And Mansfield Park? Really? Does anyone like that book? Because, ugh.

Normally, I would never write about snap judgments if I hadn’t read the book. But since she admits that she hasn’t read Harry Potter? Guess that’s legal now.

Anyway. She might be brilliant. This essay might make her some sales, since no publicity is bad publicity, right?

Wait a minute. Since yesterday, her Amazon rankings have dropped. In fact, they are lower than mine. And her best reviewed book lost an entire star on Amazon, from all the people saying, “I haven’t read this. But I don’t like it. Lynn Shepherd should stop writing.”

Ms. Shepherd, you have done the impossible. You have proven that there is such a thing as bad publicity.

Now, I’m impressed.

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January 25th, 2014

Let me start out by saying, if you like to be scared and aren’t watching Helix, you probably should be. I love Helix.

And now, if you are watching , and aren’t caught up, stop reading this until you get caught up, because I am going to spoil the hell out of it. But first, some backstory.

When I was little, I watched too much TV. I should have been out playing. Perhaps I would not be fat now, if, after 3rd grade or so, I’d turned off the set and gone outside. But it was really good for the writer in me. TV, especially TV in the 60’s, is like story telling with training wheels on it. If you watch enough of it, you are stuck with 3 act structure permanently burned into your head. The turning points are before commercials. The monster is always some adult in a mask, who totally would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling kids. And if the male lead falls in love, she’s going to die.

If you are in grade school, it takes you a while to catch on to the fact that there is nothing new under the sun. Everything is still a surprise. But if you had a father like mine, things are a little different. My Dad would announce the way the plot was going. He would tell me who was going to die. If it was a mystery, he always knew whodunit.

He would spoil the ending. And I would ask “How do you know?”

His answer, “Because I wrote it.”

I knew this was unlikely. I was pretty sure Hollywood writers were not living in dumpy little houses in Wisconsin, and eating pancakes for supper when the money ran a little thin. I also knew that, whenever he built something, or dug a hole, no matter what he claimed, it was probably not an elephant trap. There were no elephants in Wisconsin. It was probably why we never caught one.

But I also knew that he was right about the TV plots.

Mostly, what I learned was, it was OK to lie to children with a straight face. And to my #1 son James, I am really sorry about any embarrassment you experienced at school the time I told you that Oz was real and Kansas was made up.

But back to storytelling.

I learned at a very young age, the mechanics of storytelling. Don’t hang a gun on the wall unless you mean to fire it. Don’t introduce characters that have no purpose. And recognize that the purpose of some characters is cannon fodder. If you have a serial killer and no one dies, there is no rising dramatic tension.

But once it becomes predictable, you disengage from the characters, especially, if you are sensitive, like me. I look at Old Yeller, and see the Grim Reaper holding the leash. I look at Skip and wonder who’s going to hit him in the head with a shovel. And when I took my kids to the movies, I spoiled the plot for them, to spare their feelings.

Samuel L Jackson in Jurassic Park? “Don’t get attached, son. Don’t get attached.”

And this was before he started getting the roles where he’d have called the dinosaur a motherfucker, ripped its arm off with his bare hands and carried it back to Sam Neil to add to his collection of raptor claws. Back then, Mr. Jackson was just a man with a significantly darker complexion than the people who always survived.

So, now, I am watching Helix. It’s like a cross between The Andromeda Strain and Alien. I am digging it. Strand a bunch of people in the Arctic with a killer virus that they created. Bring in the CDC to ‘save’ them. Throw in some characters that are rooting for the virus to win.

The smart viewer is expecting some casualties. At least, I am.

On the CDC team, we have:

Main scientist guy who is here because his brother is infected. Main guy never dies in the first few eps. Maybe as a season one cliff hanger, but probably not even then.

Ex wife of main scientist guy (who also slept with his brother). Let’s call her Sigourney, shall we? Everyone is clearly obsessed with her and she’s going to survive for a while, even though she should be dead already. Why is she not dying?

Perky assistant of scientist guy (who looks strangely like his ex wife. Would it kill her to get a different hair style so she’ll stand out?). Perky is young (obviously) Perky is smart (they show us so, repeatedly). Perky has a brain tumor, and will still outlive most of the other characters. Because #1 you don’t kill cancer girl with a virus, and #2, she is too perky to die. You cannot kill perky with a shovel, even though some of us would like to.

Rounding out the team: The army engineer. Clearly cannon fodder. Except he knows too much. He has an agenda. He is running the long game. Therefore, he has immunity for several episodes at least.

And finally: The older, wiser scientist, who has seen some shit. She is blonde but with a bad hair cut. She is fat, with a mannish look to her. She has a good brain, smart mouth and a personality with rough edges. She is not afraid of rats.

Let’s call her Old Yeller.

In the first half hour of the show, I went to IMDB, counted the number of episodes that the actress was listed as starring in, and waved goodbye to her. She is/was the most interesting person on the team. She delivered a lot of exposition without being too obvious about it. She was as close as a series full of dead people was going to get to comic relief.

She was fat. And she was doomed.

There is also the fact that she liked the rats she worked with. So, of course, they were involved in her death. Plus one point for tidy foreshadowing in the writing. Did not see that coming. Plus one point for scary, since the thought of being nibbled by rats, even if we are dying of an embolism is scary to most of us.

Minus one and a half points for killing the fat girl. Again.

I understand that it is more effective if we bond to a character before killing her. I appreciate the casting of someone nonstandard in gender and size. Although, in this case, female isn’t non standard. Girls are pretty well represented in the base staff, and more than half of the CDC team. Go us.

But fat girls are not. What with Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy, there are more of them on TV than there used to be. But the fact that they are fat is still a significant plot point. The brutal truth is that a part of the series revolves around that extra fifty pounds they carry.

Then you take a character like the one on Helix (whose name I did not bother to learn because she was going to die. Because fat girls always die.) She doesn’t exist because she is fat. She is a scientist who happens to be fat. She has field experience, and the sort of brittle personality you get when you’ve had to push a little to get past the men and pretty girls. She is not afraid of rats, plague monkeys, or the military. She is strong. She is the fictional CDC equivalent of street smart. If her fictional universe is like the real world, she’s had to be just a little bit smarter than everyone else, since she is not male, thin, or perky, to overcome the prejudice against fat people. But not in a way that is too challenging to male authority because then the army ‘engineer’ would dismiss her input and go look for the perky girl.

Worse yet, he might kill her and not even say he was sorry.

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January 23rd, 2014

So. It’s 2014.

And as always, I have been writing. Just finished, or mostly finished, a book. It’s sitting on my editor’s desk, anyway. And I’ve gone on to other things.
But as always, after a deadline, I am looking around at the house, and wondering what the hell happened. Nothing it clean and there are a lot of started and unfinished jobs. The biggest of those is the upstairs bathroom, which I started ripping apart (very slowly) last June. We are now up to the point where it kind of really needs to get done. It is a long walk downstairs to the only working toilet in the house.

I got as much work out of #2 son as I could, during the Christmas holiday. But he is back in school now. This means, I am the one left holding the trowel. And mastic. And many, many boxes of ceramic tile. Also, a tile saw. I am overcoming my perfectly sensible terror of power tools, and learning to make angled cuts. As of this moment, I still have all ten fingers. Wish me luck.

But I am busy, not dead. This means, I am trying to get caught up on some of the movies I missed, while chained to the desk. Saving Mr. Banks: thumbs up. Philomena: thumbs way up. But even I am not able to do three chick clicks in a row. For the sake of my husband, last night’s choice needed to be something where things blow up.

I considered and discarded Lone Survivor. As I mentioned earlier, this is the BLEAK midwinter. I do not want to go to a movie where I get all invested in the characters, only to have them die on me. There is something about the title of Lone Survivor that tells me this is not a story about a plucky team that makes it through alive. It gives me the same vibe that the theme music from Titanic did. When the song is all about how my heart will go on without you, I already know that Leo is not going to make it up onto that piece of flotsam.

So, Jack Ryan it is. The fact that this is supposed to be his first adventure of many tells me not to be too worried about whether he’s going to make it. The same goes for his wife. And things will definitely blow up. There is also the added advantage of staring at Chris Pine for two hours. I can do that.
So, I am at the movie, and Chris Pine is killing a guy in a bathroom. It’s a really great bathroom. And I’m thinking, ‘nice tile.’ There is also a really great, rainfall shower in the middle of the room. I could die happy in a bathroom like that, even if Chris Pine’s foot was on my neck. But he’d have to let me use the shower first. The scene ends, and Chris Pine is shaken and stirred. There is broken glass and ceramic, and marble. And a great big dead body. He calls in a handler who tells him to leave the room for a couple of hours.

When he comes back, the body is gone, and the room is pristine, except for a little bit of wet calk.

And now, I am wondering who I have to kill to get the CIA to fix my bathroom. Clearly, they have skills that I can’t get around here. The first two plumbers I tried to hire took one look at what was already there, laughed and walked away. But somewhere in Jack Ryan’s Moscow, there was a CIA agent that had to smuggle a replacement bidet into a 5 star hotel, and plumb it in. And it didn’t take them 6 months and countless trips to Home Depot.

The mind boggles.

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December 19th, 2013

Once again, the year is turning, and my top resolution will be to reboot the Double Cheese Blog. You’ve all heard that one before, right?

Well, this time, I am taking out some insurance. I’ve hired the plucky Rachel, to keep me in line, with firm emails, which may be followed by a stern expression, and perhaps, if necessary, a pitchfork. She may need to stab me a few times. It’s been a helluva year, and I am seriously lacking in motivation to do anything.

Rachel also says she has ideas. This is good. Someone should have ideas. I sure don’t have any. Of course, her first idea is for me to write about a Christmas tradition.

I don’t have any of those, either. Unless you count traditions that I force on the family to put myself in the mood for writing about the Regency at Christmas. Since I’ve started writing Christmas stories, I make a proper English pudding, every year. For Americans who have not tried it, imagine a cross between a spice cake, a fruit cake, and a bowling ball. Now soak it with rum and set it on fire.

Beyond that, family traditions tend to involve traveling to visit my parents, and sitting awkwardly, watching a History Channel documentary about that time space aliens helped to build the pyramids, defeat the Nazi’s, or midwife for the Blessed Virgin, while someone argues religion in the dining room and a chunk of plaster falls out of the ceiling.

Dad died this year, which is a story unto itself, and Mom is now on antidepressants. Christmas up North will be practically unrecognizable, other than the continuing likelihood of falling plaster.

My fondest Christmas tradition, which, strangely enough, didn’t catch on, was the year that the late, great, Kaiju the golden retriever ate the dishrag. Kaiju was big and stupid, and had a mouth the size of the Holland Tunnel. Things disappeared into it all the time, and we didn’t always go after them. It took several days to notice that we were missing a dishrag. The first clues were repeated vomiting and projectile diarrhea. In the kitchen. At Christmas.

The third clue was the dishrag, which was in no condition to be reused.

The dog got antibiotics, and we announced that the dog was in no shape to travel, or go to a kennel. We would be skipping Christmas and not going north until he recovered. Instead, of the History Channel, we had to content ourselves with normal Christmas specials, gifts under our own tree, and no three hour drive on icy roads. Also, the ceiling did not fall down.

It was wonderful. I threatened to feed the dog a rag every year. But I didn’t have to. He ate his next dishrag as soon as the antibiotics ran out.

Anyone else have any traditions they want to share?

And does anyone want a last minute Christmas gift? As a special reward for anyone still reading this blog, which has been dead for a year. I am giving away free books. Lots and lots of them. All you have to do is ask.

Send me an email with your name and address, and first choice of one of the following:

greatest of sins

sinful

scandalous regency christmas

Christmas cover

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December 26th, 2012

Articles about the soppy, floppy, saccharine sweet nature of Christmas stories always make me laugh (bitterly).  I’ve written a lot of holiday themed books.  Two novels and three short stories for Christmas, and a novella and a short story for Halloween (although I doubt I’m allowed to count those, since no one ever complains about Halloween romances, because there aren’t any).

But my own personal relationship with Christmas, is problematic, to put it mildly.  Actually I think of is as post apocalyptic.  It’s the season where the crazies come out, and are hard to escape from, since the rest of the world is totally shut down and you can’t even guarantee a trip to McDonalds won’t end in a sign that says “Our employees are spending the day with their families.”  If you haven’t stocked your personal bunker, it’s hard to survive the day.

In going home for Christmas, there was that one memorable year where we had three meals from a gas station… Or perhaps it was the one with the argument, after the ceiling fell in…

And I mean that literally.  The ceiling fell.  I found it upsetting.

Mostly at Casa de dos Quesos, we phone it in for the family visits, then lock the door, open the cookies, poor the rum in the eggnog and wait for Doctor Who.

Anyway.  I write Christmas stories.  For the most part, they are happy stories.  They at least end happily, because they are romances. It’s not my favorite time of year, but I think of it as being like physics.  I believe, wholeheartedly, in the potential energy of Christmas.  Peace on Earth, good will towards men, and light shining through darkness are all concepts I am firmly in favor of.

But none of these things occur magically, due to the date on the calendar.  They have to be worked for, and they are a group effort.  And in most families, not everyone wants to be a team player.  My Christmas stories tend to be a little  prickly, compared to the totally the warm and fuzzy.  There is usually at least one character that would just as soon avoid the whole season.  In my latest story,

[To undo a lady]

my hero is Indian, and on the Hindu side of agnostic.

I’m pretty proud of that one.  And to anyone who thinks it is a sickly sweet story: Did you read it all the way to the end?  If so, I worry about you.  Seriously.  You have some issues.

And in case you’re wondering, Christmas around here was pretty good, despite some recent troubles.  There was that moment where I announced that the Doctor Who Christmas special had better not be as weepy as most of them are, since I wasn’t in the mood to cry.  But how could it be?  Because the Doctor was getting a new companion.  And it wasn’t likely that Steven Moffat would kill her off in the very first episode…

Happy Holidays, everybody.

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