Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Roses

Portlandia, Eden, Iceberg, Bonica: these are the roses ordered today from Heirloom Roses.

Thank you Sonny and Lyndol for such a lovely way in which to remember my mother.

(I can't add images that are copyrights of Heirloom Roses, but as soon as I have blooms, I'll take my own pictures to post in my blog. Meanwhile, follow the links to see great pictures of these beauties.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Shiver me Timbers!

"Only With Your Love" doesn't seem like quite the right title for the best pirate story I've ever read. Lisa Kleypas wields her pen with the abandon of a pirate sword in this hearty tale of degenerate villains and renegade pirates (not an oxymoron - or what do you call a pirates who renege on being pirates?

OWYL doesn't fit with Kleypas' usual Regency romance, and I like those so well I read all that I could acquire first - nine e-books from Powells.com and six paperbacks through BookMooch. Maybe I inadvertently saved the best for last. (I have such a weakness for pirate stories.)

Two of my favorite characters from Lisa's novels are Lily Lawson, in "Then Came You", and Madeline in "Because You're Mine". On the surface, it would seem implausible that both of them could be my favorites, since they appear to be opposites: Lily is experienced and sophisticated, Madeline is the ultimate naive innocent. But they are both kind, intelligent, independent and in need of a worthy hero to love. Fortunately, Kleypas provides each of them with their own sexy, strong, intelligent and loving man.

There is more I should say about Kleypas' talents, which I enjoy so much, but I'm only on page 55 of "Only With Your Love", so look hardy mates, and raise the jib.

Avast there, we're away.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

PassWord Nut House

Surely no one else has managed to create such a password nut house as what has been growing in my file drawer for years. Two file folders, a notebook, scraps of paper, post-it notes, nothing in alphabetical order or even categorized.

Today I reached the limits of my insanity. I opened up the new MS Office OneNote 2007 that my husband gave me (he likes to see me organized -- it is such a rare view).

And I discovered it's so-ooo easy to put passwords behind an encrypted password -the only password I'll ever have to remember again. It is easy to put them in alphabetical order, within a table (yes, yes, I know - a table, but trust me, OneNote makes it easy). It is easy to add columns anywhere I want, easy to add rows above or below existing rows to keep the table alphabetized, and easy to print the table if I should want a hard copy. Oh my - if I'd known it could be so simple, I would have done this a long time ago.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mary Balogh - historical romance with heat

I enjoyed reading historical romance a few decades ago, but thought I was 'done' with that genre now. Wrong. Somehow - I don't even remember why, I stumbled across "A Summer To Remember" by Mary Balogh a few months ago. How did I miss reading her works previously? I've counted sixty-eight novels on her backlist and she's still writing. Happily, many of her earlier works are being reissued in both print and e-book format. My addiction to historical romance is rekindled. So far I have collected nine of her e-books from Powell's books online, plus four of her novels in print through BookMooch, and I have six of her books on hold at the library.

Mary Balogh's characters are people I'd like to meet (well - maybe not the villains), and I appreciate the exquisite settings she provides for their lives. Is there any more critical reader than someone who writes and studies the art and craft of creating a novel? I'm frequently jarred out of the story by less experienced writers, but not by Balogh. Her prose is smooth and lyrical and her plots develop with enough surprises to keep me interested. There is a sense of timing in her books that feels realistic without dragging the action. I love it that her characters have strong convictions, have honor and courage, but also have flaws and failings. Perhaps it is as much how her MCs deal with their failings, as their honor, that makes them sympathetic and fascinating.

There is heat in Balogh's stories, explicit, well written and well-balanced with the rest of the story. While her characters have physical attraction for each other, she develops their personal psychology and background, their other reasons for romance, and I can't say which I enjoy most - it adds up to a good reading experience. The chemistry between her MCs is believable and complex.

Coming in tomorrow's blog - another of my favorite romance writers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More Laughing

Two A.M. and I'm reading "An Offer From a Gentleman" by Julia Quinn, laughing out loud (again). The delightful Quinn has an intriguing knack of taking hum-drum, worn-out plot templates and turning them on their ear with an infusion of humor and her own unique brand of story-telling.

I know I promised more of my favorite romance writers for today's blog, but really -- I must get back to the story. Later, o.k.?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Laughing at Midnight

I'm currently reading "How to Marry a Marquis" by Julia Quinn - the second of her books that make me laugh out loud.

I didn't want to wake my husband so I also found myself giggling, snorting and nearly choking as I tried not to laugh loud and long at the pictures in my head. But I failed several times and ended up laughing out loud at the misadventures of Quinn's characters. This is actually the second of J.Q.'s books that made me laugh out loud, the other being "Brighter Than the Sun". The first book I read by the clever Quinn was "The Duke and I", which only made me giggle, although I had a silly grin pasted on my face for most of the book.

Romance can be funny - in real life it often is - albeit unexpectedly so, and the funniest stories are perhaps those which most closely resemble reality. I greatly admire Rosina Lippi for "Tied To the Tracks" for instance: literature that is not only romantic, but so humorous that in some catalogs it is listed under comedy rather than romance.

Romance writers must be an intrepid lot, with a stash of courage that exceeds that of scriveners who choose other genres. I think there are more traps for romance novelist than for, say, mystery writers. One thing that a romance must have is chemistry between the MCs, but how to accomplish that without over-writing the descriptions of their attraction to each other and their subsequent actions? Quinn does it with a light touch, as does Amanda Quick, another historical romance author whose prose has made me laugh out loud.

Even more difficult than funny romance, though, may be writing a heated romance that is also suspense, and managing to include a cause to laugh out loud - or at least induce good giggles - between the torrid scenes and the nail-biting action and suspense. S.L. Viehl, writing as Gena Hall in the Paradise series, (and later using the pseudonym Jessica Hall in the "Fire" duo and the "Blades" series), managed to startle some very surprised laughs out of me in the midst of her original, fascinating and hot romance-suspense works. I must compliment romance writers who can make me laugh because of their deft touch with the human comedy, and not, as happened this week with a writer I haven't named, because a scene is so overdone it becomes ridiculous.

And that is why I think romance writers are so very brave - it takes courage to address our deepest human hopes and fears - to be loved for ourselves and to not be ridiculed by someone else. It takes fierce determination, I would suppose, to write scene after scene with that exquisite sense of timing and honesty which makes the reader say to themselves "Yes, that is just how it is", and make them actually empathize with those emotions.

Tomorrow: the rest of my favorite romance writers, and why I like their novels.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Vegetarian - First Six Days Good

Six days of vegetarian eating have passed remarkably fast and easy. So far, so good - my average calories per day are down by 400 calories, without feeling hungry or having cravings. I'll be curious to see if I actually lose any pounds by day fourteen.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Bamboo Dreams

Dreaming of planting some tall bamboo next to the west fence, and some ground cover bamboo next to the north walk, and some thick bamboo next to the fence by the greenway for privacy.

The New York Times has reported the scientific breakthrough - growing bamboo in test tubes. The world will now have an adequate supply of bamboo; pandas and gardeners rejoice!

So why would bamboo be in short supply? A plant that flowers only once every sixty years, and is difficult to propagate from seed or by dividing existing plants, bamboo is in demand for producing fabric "as soft as silk", paper, food, flooring, furniture and other wood products. According to Times, bamboo absorbs four times the carbon dioxide as normal trees, and releases thirty-five percent more oxygen. Perhaps the day will come when enlightened cities plant bamboo by the roadside and downtown spaces, providing more breathable air in crowded, commercial centers.

Boo-Shoot Gardens in Mt. Vernon, Washington, has taken the lead in bamboo production. They stock forty-two varieties of bamboo: twenty-four of them from tissue culture.

Shirts of Bamboo
offers a variety of "soft, breathable, natural clothing for men, women, red pandas and babies".

Pandas International is a resource for panda pictures, opportunities to adopt a panda, and amazing panda facts.

Yes, bamboo is good for many things - it is especially good for pandas.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

R-Rated (not)

I was surprised to discover Kat Dancing sports an R-rating on her blog, so I was curious to see what vegetarian bear rates - see results below. Well then, pandas are cuddly but not terribly sexy, right.

Online Dating

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Eight Things I Don't (usually) Tell Other People

I normally throw any kind of "chain-thang" into the delete bin... but, just this once, for Jaye, who tagged me:

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each participant posts eight random facts about themselves.
3. Tagees should write a blogpost of eight random facts about themselves.
4. At the end of the post, eight more bloggers are tagged (named and shamed).
5. Go to their blog, leave a comment telling them they're tagged (cut and run).

1. I was such a hyperactive toddler that my parents put a harness and leash on me when we went out in public.

2. I signed up to be trained as a nurse in the Navy when I was nineteen, but I was never inducted because my parents both refused to sign their permission, which was required for females (but not males) under twenty-one in those quaint olden days. The conflict in Viet Nam was just heating up then.

3. I roomed in a former firehouse and when I was late to work, I took the fire pole to the main floor.

4. My college music teacher locked the door after class started, and one morning I was late. I was so desperate to get in that I wrote "pretty please" with my lipstick on a piece of paper, and slid it under the door. The class was laughing so hard he couldn't teach anyway, so he let me in.

5. I love seeing kids learn new things - the excitement they have when they master a new skill, and so I have given lessons in accordion, organ, and piano, and swimming, and have coached kids soccer and coached kids for speech tournaments. I count my greatest success as the Christmas program where I assisted the choir director, when several parents came up to me and said with delight, "We could actually understand the words in the carols this year!". I didn't tell them I cheated. I had promised the kids that they could earn a candy for each verse that they could recite accurately to me, and it became a competition with them, to see who could earn the most candy!

6. The first Thanksgiving dinner that I cooked, I didn't realize the frozen giblets had to come out of the turkey, and several hours later, one of my guests discovered why the bird wouldn't cook right (but the wine was good, so maybe everyone had a good time anyway.)

7. The flower that melts my heart is a pink miniature rose.

8. My favorite holiday is the Fourth of July. Happy Fourth, y'all!

Now this is the really hard part -- who to tag?

Cat over at Kat Dancing

Heather has just been tagged with something else, so she's safe, and I can't think of anyone else right now, so just add yourself in comments if you want to play.