May 31, 2015

Pantyhose are back!

Pantyhose in place 1972
I have a girlfriend who at 65 has just discovered that women's legs look sexier in heels, than flats. How this revelation has escaped her for all these years, I'll never know. Yes I do. We were taught by nuns. We did not aspire to sexy. We never thought about it. We aspired to cute, pretty, beautiful if we thought we could manage it. But never did it occur to me that I might be considered sexy even as I wore mini-skirts up to my unmentionables like any good American girl in 1972.

The sad thing is that for most women of 65 the chance of looking sexy in anything is slim at best. There are women who fight the good fight and diet, exercise, and have 'a little work' done. For these brave souls I say, "Good for you. But you're just putting off the inevitable." The rest of of us prefer to 'age gracefully' - another term for 'a little work' being way out of our price range and/or we're just too afraid we'll end up looking like Mrs. Potato Head. But we like to pretend, so we sometimes wear high heels and pantyhose!

Yes, the good news is pantyhose are back! The fashion gurus of the world, thanks to the impeccable Kate Middleton Windsor, have finally admitted that pantyhose (or as they now call them 'leg concealers', no doubt in order to charge exorbitant amounts of money for a yard of nylon) are make-up for the legs. Get a grip people. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that bare legs on anyone over ten are just not that great looking. Veins, scars, general knobbiness, and cellulite are simply unattractive. Let's cover up those veins and compress those thighs!

And I don't want to hear about the comfort factor. I do not want to hear, "Pantyhose are hot. Pantyhose are tight." If you go there I will have to go back into the joys of garter belts and girdles (and, no, Spanx do not compare), but they are better left back in the day with teased hair and house dresses. Pantyhose, I still contend, were the best invention since sliced bread. 

May 12, 2015

Finding Forrester and asking the soup question

A few weeks ago I watched the movie Finding Forrester once again. It's a lovely movie about a man named William Forrester,an author who published one great novel then became a recluse living in New York, and Jamal Wallace, an unlikely teenage savant who becomes Forrester's friend.

Early in their relationship Forrester asks Jamal to stir his soup, so a skin won't form. Jamal asks him why this is needed and Forrester explains.

Moments later Jamal asks Forrester a question about his personal life. To which Forrester answers, "That is not a soup question."

So exactly what is a soup question? It's a question with an answer that will benefit the person asking. In the first instance, Jamal learns something about various ways to make soup. This is to his benefit. It increases his knowledge. But as to the second question, Forrester points out that knowing intimate details of his life is not a benefit to Jamal's.

As writers we know the importance of moving the story forward. Much as we would like to add interesting comments, side stories, silly anecdotes, and the like, editors, at least my editor, take a dim view of it. My editor is happy to cut paragraphs and whole pages that she feels don't move the story forward. And this can be hard for a writer, especially when you have an incredibly clever little bit of prose that you really feel needs to be shared.

And as a new writer, I was fairly intimidated by the editing process. I first had to get over the agonizing realization that my 'baby' might need some repair work done. After the initial hysteria, a strong drink, and my husband's gentle, but constructive "Do whatever the hell you want!', I realized that what I wanted was a better book. But because I was such a novice I just assumed that the editor knew best. This I had to rethink just a bit when my she deleted about one hundred or so words that "didn't move the story forward" without realizing that I had planted a clue in those very words.

Holy Redeemer School 1959
After time to digest so many things about editing and the whole writing process, I came to the conclusion that editors are not always right and that not everything has to move the plot forward. I think that adding another dimension is not only possible, but good for the story - as long as it's a 'soup question'!

So now when I'm writing I ask myself two questions. Does what I'm writing move the story forward and, if not, does it benefit the reader? With this in mind I'm free to add a day of useless sailing on the Chesapeake Bay because it sets the stage. I'm free to include silly mishaps that do nothing to move the plot forward, but do a lot to help the reader bond with the characters.

This all may sound elementary to a seasoned writer, but for a woman who was taught by some rather rigid nuns to follow strict rules at all times (rulers on knuckles, not an uncommon occurrence), it's a truly liberating idea. So for any writers out there who care to take advice from me, I would say have some fun, move that plot right along, but answer couple of decent soup questions along the way.

May 5, 2015

Roses Are Dead, My Love

This week just a little snippet from Roses Are Dead, My Love 

Angela walked in and Rose said, “Mother, what in God’s name are you dressed for?”
“This is how I roll, honey. Ready for a little night-time action.”
She was wearing a black cat suit, black ballet shoes and a black bandanna covering her honey-blond curls. And she was carrying her Super-Soaker. 
Daisy said, “Mother really, a bit suspicious looking, isn't it? We all set?”
They put the dogs on their leashes and walked casually down the street and toward the park. As they were crossing the bridge a police cruiser pulled up next to them and Tom Willis rolled down his window.
“Everything okay?” He looked at Angela a little doubtfully.
“Just walking the dogs before bed,” answered Daisy. “Everything quiet around here?”
“Seems to be.” He hesitated a moment and then said, “Angela, you’re not planning an attack on that streaker, are you?”
“Oh, heaven’s no. Just letting Percy and Malcolm get a bit of air. It’s so hot during the day that these poor little guys don’t get enough exercise.”
“Okay, ladies. Please, stay close to home and keep together. Don’t forget there’s a murderer out here somewhere.”
Rose shivered. “How could we? We’ll be careful. Good night.”
Tom drove off slowly turning to go past the park and post office, then continued out toward the highway.
Daisy said, “Okay, we've probably got about half an hour before another patrol comes through. Let’s move it!”
Everything seemed to be quiet. Only a couple of lights were on in some of the houses further down the street. They crossed in front of the post office and started up the alley to the back door. Malcolm and Percy stopped suddenly and started snarling and growling.
Rose said, “Okay, let’s go home. The dogs don’t like this.”
But Angela was moving ahead, squirt gun in hand. “Come on girls,” she whispered over her shoulder. As she got near to the corner of the building, they heard a door bang.
“Mother, stop!” Daisy hissed. Angela had reached the corner and stuck her head around when the sisters caught up with her.
Just as Rose whispered, “What do we do now?” a shadow ran from the back of the building toward them. Malcolm and Percy started pulling at their leashes and barking like crazy. The figure turned to his right and veered up the alley running all out toward the old neighborhood.
“What was that?” whispered Daisy.
“Someone else breaking into the post office?” answered Rose.
“Seems to be a popular pastime. Well, he’s gone. We might as well take a look.”
They sidled around the corner, the dogs trotting beside them. Malcolm was calm now, sniffing the area. Angela said, “You’re right. Whoever it was is gone.”
Daisy was inspecting the door. “Look. We don’t even have to break in. The door’s open!”
Rose had her phone out. “Daisy, are you nuts? We don’t know the place is empty. We have to report this. That could have been the killer finishing the job Peggy interrupted.”
“Just give me one minute, Rose. I’ll just pop in and check out the book. And then we’ll call.”
“He’ll be long gone by then.”
“He’s probably long gone now.”
While they were arguing, Angela had slipped into the door and was back. She was holding a red three-ring binder labeled ‘POST OFFICE BOXES’ with her bandana. “Is this what you wanted? I found it lying on the floor. The place is a mess.”
“Mother! Put that back,” cried Rose.
“Wait a second, Rose,” said Daisy. “Just let me take a look.”

She carefully turned the pages of the book by the edges. When she came to Box 768 she pulled out her cell phone and snapped a picture of the page. “One more second. All right, I’ve emailed it to myself.”