Tag Archives: romance

Monday Moments: Love Letters

We lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable for ourselves and for others. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I love reading love letters. Ones I have written, ones that have been sent to me.

Other people’s.

Yep, especially other people’s.  One of the most fascinating aspects of my work as an archivist is getting to pore over other people’s letters to each other. I like browsing their scrapbooks and photographs, too, but for me, there is nothing quite as moving than delving into a file full of old correspondence, and especially letters of love. Nothing can bring a personality to light more than something so private, so personal, as what one writes to one’s love.

(Come on, ‘fess up…. haven’t you always wondered? Or is it just me?)

One of my favorite series of books is centered on just that idea — the Griffin and Sabine books by Nick Bantock, published beginning in 1991. Set around the correspondence between the two main characters, the books –six in all, set in two trilogies– tell a love story through their postcards, letters, and art. Part of the fun of the story is that the reader gets to open the envelopes and unfold the letters, as if they were coming directly to you. You become an activate participant in the literal unfolding of the story. If you haven’t read them, I recommend them highly, at least if you are a sappy romantic like me! I had the chance to meet the author at, of course, my favorite bookstore, so I’m proud to have a signed set to return to when the mood strikes.

If you’re so inclined, I recently ran across another book along the same lines, only using real love letters, with the author’s permission of course. Bill Shapiro put together a remarkably engaging book and website called Other People’s Love Letters, which contain images of love letters, whether card, crayon, email, or on the back of a scrap of paper. Love of all sorts –new, hopeful, soul mates, long-term, and endings– springs from the various formats. (And if you’re voyeuristic tendencies run to less happier things, Shapiro has another book called Other People’s Rejection Letters available, too!)

I have a whole scrapbook of love notes and cards between me and my beloved, much to his chagrin. (I blame the day-job, but I try not to haul them out too often.) In lieu of posting one of our love letters, however, I have another one to share. This note I found is from my mother to my father, and, knowing her, I’m sure it was tucked into one of his lunches or set on the counter for him to find at the end of long day of farming. As much as her sentiments demonstrate the love between them, the love I was fortunate to learn from about what went into a strong and committed relationship, I simply adore the paper on which it was written. That paper speaks to me about the realities of their love and how love should be shared, every day, no matter what or even how, with the ones you love. Even if it’s on bug-paper:

So on this February Monday, it’s confession time — any love letters squirreled away?  Would you have shared them if Bill Shapiro had asked?

2 Comments

Filed under Archives, Life, Monday Moments

My Funny Valentine

Patrick and WSU President Dr. David Hopkins

Patrick with WSU President David Hopkins (Photo by Seth Bauguess, Wright State University)

You know you’re in love when you don’t want to fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams. ~ Dr. Seuss

See that guy over there?

No, not the kind gentleman in the suit and tie.

The other guy.

My guy.

Yep, that’s *my* guy.

That is my husband, Patrick. I first introduced you to him, officially anyway, on his birthday last August.

Sometimes…. okay, a lot of times…. my work involves after-hours kinds of things — receptions, public events, and the like. This month, those events include the fabulous things going on for the Paul Laurence Dunbar celebration I wrote about yesterday. Thankfully, my good sport of a husband is usually right there with me, keeping me company, running back for things I forgot to bring, troubleshooting technical glitches, and all the other wonderful things he so patiently endures because of the things I get him into doing. His ever-present kindness and good-natured humor are two of the reasons I married him!

Of course, I knew on our second date that this was the man I was going to marry. (Actually, I knew it on our first, but I was trying to be coy about it….) Our second date was rather much like an adventure. He nearly fell on his keester, and I almost set the hotel room on fire. Um, yeah, an adventure.

Patrick

We were living two states apart at the time. I had lost my mother the past July. (Now I joke that when she went to heaven, she headed straight for the match-making department, because I met him just a few months later.) We had our first date in mid-December. Valentine’s Day weekend was our second.

We were attending a party thrown by a friend, out-of-town — actually out of both of our towns. The midwestern winter was in full force. The roads were icy, and it was windy enough to make driving a battle of wills against its force. When he went to get out of the car, his foot slid on a patch of black ice, and it was sheer force of will and a strong car door that kept him from hitting the pavement. By the time we finally got settled, neither of us was in much hurry to go back out into the elements again. Big 10 college basketball was on, gearing up for March Madness, and it happened to be Purdue playing, which is where I was going to school at the time. We decided to stay inside instead of going out to the party, order a pizza, and cozy up in front of the television, content to spend time together. I went to rearrange the space to make more room and, while moving the couch, didn’t realize that the electrical plug for the lamp was in the floor under it. (Who knew that’s where they’d put it??) I sheared that thing off at the base of the plug, sparks shooting, and we both expected the place to burst into flames.

But it didn’t. And you know what? It became one of my most favorite Valentine’s evenings we’ve spent together. We went out for brunch the next day and spent about four hours trying to figure out how this relationship was going to work: Who could move the easiest? Which one of us would be more likely to find a job in the other’s town? How quickly could we make this happen? We made it work faster than we expected or even hoped.

Patrick with WSU President David Hopkins (Photo by Seth Bauguess, Wright State University)

His sense of humor is another of the many reasons I love him. He has an innate ability to be able to make people laugh, in the very best sense of the word. Not at themselves, or him, but at life and all its situations. Take, for example, last Tuesday night, at yet another event he went to because of me. The president of our university pulled up a chair for a visit, and he, like others before him, laughed at something in the conversation.

Even after more than 14 years of marriage, that second date on Valentine’s stands the test of time on romance. For as I’ve learned, hearts and flowers, cards and candy, aren’t the heart of my romance. It’s the being there for the other one when your feet fly out from under you and not running from difficult times or when there are fires that need to be put out. It’s the day-to-day lunches, the time spent together, that makes my romance so special.

It’s my guy that makes Valentine’s Day out of every day.

I’d love to hear your stories — what’s your most memorable Valentine’s Day?

2 Comments

Filed under Life

RWA Workshops

RWA Workshop panel

Each day learn something new, and just as important, relearn something old. ~Robert Brault

One of the greatest benefits of conferences is the ability to attend workshops to learn new things and rethink things you already know. RWA provides an astounding amount of workshops to pick from, and, like most conferences, oftentimes there are several engaging ones all at the same time. Luckily, RWA records many of the sessions and makes them available for purchase, so attendees can have access to nearly all the content after the conference. RWA also tags sessions into various tracks, such as Craft, Publishing, Writer’s Life/Muse, Research, and Career, to help attendees focus on a particular area during the conference if so desired. Some of the most informative sessions are done by the publishing houses, offering spotlights on their lines presented by editors of the house, highlighting upcoming releases and talking about what they’d most like to see in submissions. And the signings, where authors of specific publishers sign free books. If desired, attendees can end up with extremely large amounts of books to haul home!

On the first afternoon, workshops I attended focused on making the most of your pitch appointment and a fun and engaging session on “Can You Do that in an Inspirational?” which covered what you can and can’t do when writing inspirational romance. The last session of the day was an editor discussing the importance of romance fiction, and she was full of practical advice for writers at all levels. And keep in mind, each of these sessions were just one of nine or ten options being offered each hour!

Thursday brought workshops all day, from 8:30 in the morning until 5:30 that evening. Sessions I went to included information on world-building, e-books, contracts, and romance review websites. This day was also the Harlequin book signing and the spotlight on Harlequin single title books. One of the sessions I most enjoyed was the one by Beth Adams, Senior Editor at Guidepost Books, who presented on “Using True Facts from History to Spin a High-Concept Story.” Not only was the topic intriguing, but I was totally unfamiliar with Guidepost Books prior to this session. I was also able to contribute a comment about the benefits of using and partnering with archives when writing historical fiction, a topic I previously discussed here on the blog. Without question, however, the highlight of the day was the Awards Luncheon and the very emotional keynote given by Sherrilynn Kenyon, which left many in tears. In contrast to the emotional highs of the day, Thursday also brought the moment where I left a session going, “Did she really just say what I think she said?” In one of the sessions, the presenter unfortunately chose to introduce her comments –not just once, but twice– with the phrase: “Well, let me put this in dumb people’s terms…..” I was certainly not the only one offended by that one. But overall, an amazing day!

Friday was the last workshop day, again filled from morning to early evening with more sessions than I thought possible to absorb. If you aren’t familiar with Deb Dixon’s book, Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (GMC), it is worth every penny. Dixon presented a condensed workshop focusing on the “Big Black Moment” that offered suggestions on building and creating the BBM in your writing. Other great sessions focused on one-page plotting, revisions, submission packages, critique partnerships, punching up the emotion of your story, and historical clothing. Finally, Tara Taylor Quinn packed the house for the last session of the conference with her highly informative workshop on creating a successful blog tour. After her Chapman Files tour and the recent tour for It Happened on Maple Street, she was full of excellent advice, and attendees peppered questions to take advantage of learning the best practices of creating a successful promotional blog tour for their own books.

Friday night brought an end to the conference with the annual RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony where the best of both unpublished and published works are honored. For romance writers, this is our Emmy, Oscar, and Tony awards all wrapped up into one big evening. Emceed by Meg Cabot, the evening always brings emotional speeches and memorable moments.

Each year always brings, as the above quote suggests, the chance to learn new elements of romance writing as well as the opportunity to relearn (or better learn) things writers already do. I come away inspired to do more and to do better. And looking forward to next year’s conference.

Tomorrow I’ll share some of my favorite moments and a RWA 2011 wrap-up, including my visit to Broadway!

What kinds of things do you take away from conferences? Do you think they’re worth the money and time to go?

Leave a comment

Filed under romance, writing

Bright Lights, Big City!

Last week was simply an amazing week! I spent a little over four days in marvelous New York City for the 2011 Romance Writers of America National Conference. Each year, more than 2100 authors, editors, publishers, and agents gather to celebrate reading and writing romances of all sorts. The days are full of workshops and book signings, while the evenings are parties, dinners and drinks with friends old and new, and sightseeing.

Throughout the rest of the upcoming week, I’ll share some of my adventures with you. But here are just a few of my favorite moments to whet your appetite for the stories yet to come.

Al Roker working the crowd line on the plaza at the Today Show

Times Square, NYC

On the plaza for the Today Show

The view from my seat at a Broadway show - can you guess which one?

What’s your favorite New York City memory or location?

3 Comments

Filed under Life, romance

The First Ones

book cover NO time FOR love

A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog’s ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins. ~Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia, 1833

Today, it’s all about firsts. And before we get too far, there is a very special first happening here on Monday — my first guest blogger! I am thrilled beyond measure that Tara Taylor Quinn will be blogging here on Monday, May 16, as part of her extensive blog tour for her newest book, co-written with her husband Tim Barney, It Happened on Maple Street.  We celebrated the launch of the book back in April, so I’m very pleased she will be joining us for a stop along the way. The excellent reviews keep pouring in, as in today’s Library Journal review. So please make a note to come back on Monday for this very special first!

Given that fantastic first, it is only fitting to talk of another. Do you remember the first romance novel you read?  The first time you lost yourself inside a story? Or maybe even found yourself?

I don’t recall the absolute first romance novel I read.  I’m sure there were a few before the ones pictured here.  But these are the first two I remember reading, or being able to recall characters and the story anyway.  On a whim, I tracked both of these down on Amazon.com, surprised that I could actually find them for purchase — you really can find just about anything there.  Once in hand, I reread them.  I wanted to see why I could remember, thirty years later, these two books enough to google the story to find the author and title.

Of course, that answers the heart of the question, doesn’t it?  I remembered the story.

No Time for Love (1980) was an early favorite, and I know it was most definitely because of the story.  The heroine, Lorelei, was a violinist with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra; her love interest was concertmaster, playing first chair.  She was innocent, shy.  He was grumpy, distant, committed only to his career.  Throw in a healthy violin competition and references to classical pieces, a European tour, and a stalker and you’ve got a story.

book cover winters loving touch Winter’s Loving Touch (1979) is harder for me to understand why I remembered this story so long.  Maybe it was the exotic Alaskan setting, as this was a few years before I had the chance to visit that beautiful state.  Carrie, the new doctor in town, was engaged to a like-minded environmentalist.  The hero thinks her cold and hostile.  She thinks Zachary is arrogant and a danger to the environment in his job as an explorer intent on developing the rich energy resources hidden in the land.  Competing goals and personalities wove a tale set against a harsh, unforgiving and distant environment.

Reading these again showed that the basic story held true to my memory of it, but given the intense stories around these days, the plot and structure were decidedly flat. What it also showed, not surprisingly, is how very far the genre has come in those thirty years. Some of the language and actions, behaviors and descriptions would not be in a book published these days — too misogynistic, too “forced” – and that is especially true at its most literal meaning in what were considered the “love scenes.” Shudder. So why were they so memorable? Does the story triumph? Or is it a combination of things? I still am not sure.

What was your first one? What made it so memorable for you?

Leave a comment

Filed under Reading