Saturday, November 29, 2008

My pet peeve in fiction

There are many benefits to being a writer, but one of the best is that you can read books and tell everyone that you’re working. I love that. My husband is stuck in meetings and trying to fix overruns and explaining to various branches of the government why his team is behind schedule and I’m lying in bed reading. Yep, it’s hard work.

The Bow-tied One is an especially cool editor because he sent me over a dozen bestselling books that he thinks I should read. (The message apparently being: figure out what these authors are doing and then do it.)

When I got his package full of books I clutched them to my chest and murmured, “I love this job!”

I’ve read five of them now. I will not tell you the titles or the authors because I’ve pretty much hated them all.

One of them read like a handbook on how to have sex. Seriously, it even gave instructions on how to put on a condom. Is that really necessary? Don’t the boxes come with directions? Unfortunately there were no instructions on how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases; in fact, there was no mention of them at all.

I have to call my fellow writers (for both books, TV, and movies) out on this subject. It’s irresponsible to pretend like STDs don’t exist. According to some research I did for one of my Sierra St. James novels, 80% of sexually active people over the age of 14 years old have at least one STD. 50% of these people have genital warts—which condoms don’t prevent. Ditto for Herpes, which one in five people have. At first when I ran across these figures I thought they couldn’t be accurate. They sounded way too high. I actually even called two STD hotlines to find out what the real numbers were.

And those were fun calls.

Me: Hi, um, I’m an author doing research for a novel and I wanted to ask you a few questions . . .

Them: Yeah, yeah. You’re calling for a friend. We know. What are your symptoms?

Each time, they confirmed the numbers—80% of sexually active people have STDs. I still couldn’t believe it so I called my obstetrician. And yep, he confirmed the numbers too.

If 80% of people had any other ailment (and there is no cure for many STDs) we wouldn’t be silent about it. We would be warning people night and day. But when was the last time you read or watched any story where this issue was addressed in any fashion?

James Bond? Yikes, I hate to think what he has. Sam Malone of Cheers? Even worse. I’ll admit that one of my favorite TV shows ever is Frasier and I can’t count how many different women he slept with during the show. All with no consequences. That is not real life, and we shouldn't pretend that it is.

And then there’s AIDs. How many millions of people has that killed? I have a friend who’s a drug rep and does work in some of the African nations. In one of the countries he visited, 40% of the population had HIV. That’s almost half the people.

Look at the houses on your streets. Think of the people at your work, at your classroom, that crowd at the football stadium--can you imagine if 40% of them had a deadly disease?

That could be our nation if we aren’t careful, if we aren’t responsible, if we don’t let kids know that yes, they too are at risk.

Okay, this blog has gone on for too long. I’ll let you know the problem I had with the other books next blog.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gaston/ fire alarm update

A few of you have been asking for updates about my oldest son, code name: Gaston, because there's no one as burly and brawny and he’s got biceps to spare.

Let me tell all of you women who don’t have children yet—having boys is not something for the faint hearted. Boys do not think like we do. And they enjoy destroying things. Sometimes it is just better not to know what they’re doing.

Like the time when Gaston was in third grade and he told me he got in trouble for doing back flips off the swings. While they were moving.

Me: Why in the world did you do that?
Him: The other kids always want me to do it. They think it’s neat.
Me: realizing that this is something he’s done many times Aaah!

Another example is when his scout leader told me, “Do you know that Gaston can climb all the way up a lamp post?”

Double Aaah! I didn’t need to know that.

Another thing boys like is playing with fire.
Here is a picture of Gaston and his friend T-man igniting something with a Bunsen burner. (I didn’t take this picture; T-man’s parents did. They have all boys so they’re used to this sort of thing.)

So the other day while I was typing away, I heard a ruckus downstairs and words like “Fire” and “extinguisher” being thrown around by Gaston and my husband.

These are not words you really want to hear as you’re busy typing. By the time I reached downstairs it was completely filled with smoke.
It turns out Gaston was cooking up a smoke bomb on the stovetop. Apparently some part of the recipe requires you to caramelize sugar. Unfortunately Gaston caramelized it to the point that it turned into an inferno, effectively setting off the smoke bomb in my kitchen.

Here is a picture we took a few minutes afterwards in the living room. We had to open all the windows and completely air out the downstairs.
And despite the fact that we replaced the smoke detector the last time we had a "caramelizing issue" in the kitchen, the alarm still didn’t go off.

That's good to know, right?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Embarrassing stories contest winner

Okay, let me say right off that I'm embarrassed at how long it's taken me to post the embarrassing stories and the contest winner. And actually they were all posted about a month ago, but when my daughter added them to my website it caused the website to split in half, and then her computer crashed and she couldn't fix it.

I didn't really want to draw anyone's attention to my oddly formatted website but now my dear friend Marsha has fixed it (Way to be techno-savvy, Marsha!)here's the news:

The winner is: Cheryl S.

Here is her story:

When I was a senior in high school (at least 11 years ago, give or take a few months), I had the privilege of being voted as one of the representatives of our youth government group. This was good, because it meant a trip to our State Capitol (which was Boise. Quick, what state am I from? Anyone? Anyone?). Hundreds of high-schoolers from around the state took over the Capitol building in mock Senate, House of Representatives, and Judicial sessions.

It was great! We passed our fake laws, voted, created caucuses, etc. For two days, our lives revolved around debates, the mock "media", and seeing which high school had the most controversial bill. I happened to be in the House of Representatives. I had borrowed my best friend's incredible "power suit" for the occasion, and I did a pretty good job debating for and against various bills in front of hundreds of peers and dozens of teachers.

On the last morning of bill-passing, one particular bill came up for debate that caused quite a stir. It was a bill wanting to put condom machines in high school bathrooms. Both sides were very heated. As a conservative virgin (and yes, this is important to note), I was against the bill. I heard several people stand and declare that it was about freedom of choice and/or preventing pregnancy, since "everyone will do it anyway". One person against the bill stood and spoke about how "30 STDs could still pass through a condom", etc.

Fired up by the debates, I stood up. "Mr. Speaker!" I yelled. "The House recognizes so-and-so from whatever!" (that's me; and no, he didn't say "whatever", but I digress). I stood up and said:

"Thank you. I rise in negative debate. As Representative So-and-So stated, over 30 STDs can still pass through a condom. See, Condoms do not necessarily make sex any better....wait...wait..." My mind went blank. What did I just say?

Soon the entire room was roaring with laughter. The teachers, some of whom were listening via microphones in the other room, were laughing. The audience up in the balcony (consisting mostly of high school students from the Senate and Judicial Court) were laughing. I finally realized what I had said and yelled "Safer! I meant Safer!" And then sat down, completely humiliated.

Luckily, I had a sense of humor and could laugh with them --even when some started calling out "How do you know!" Oh, the joy.

Thanks Cheryl, it's nice really, to know that I'm not alone in embarrassing myself.

Oh, and honorable mention goes to Chuck, the golfing librarian, for the sheer number of embarrassing stories he's shared on my blog. We are kindred spirits, Chuck.

For the many people who contributed great stories but still didn't get a free book,(you check out stories on my web page) have no fear. My Fair Godmother comes out in January and Just One Wish comes out in March so I will be running more contests then.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Faking It

The bow tied one read over my blog entry on the subject and his favorite title pick is: Faking It. So AzLang, remind me to send you a book when it comes out. (I will try to remember this myself, but as my memory is frequently out bowling with my muse, it is not the most reliable entity.)

Of course, who knows what the marketing department will decide as far as the title. Just One Wish started out as My Life as a Teenage Genie, briefly flirted with the title: The Rules of Wishing, then went to Last Wish, then went to When You Wish Upon a Movie Star, and finally settled on Just One Wish.

I am not hard to please when it comes to titles. Covers, on the other hand send me over the edge. Often times you can find me huddled in a corner weeping over my cover art and muttering, "You can't judge a book by its cover, but people always do!!"

Really, just don't get me started on that subject.