On Live Rats and Dead Dogs

Back in college, I was very active in theater — I stage managed many plays, and I was house manager for the university’s Program of Theater and Dance.  I never got on stage myself (and for that, the community was very grateful!) but I supplemented my hands-on experience with a number of courses on theater, including a class on Shakespeare, one on modern drama (mostly, early 20th c), and one on contemporary drama (late 1960s and forward.)

One of my drama professors drilled home the point that when a playwright calls for something difficult in the staging of his plays (especially children and animals), he must truly think it’s important.  Therefore, the three identical sets of plants in Sam Shepard’s TRUE WEST (one set alive and well for the first act, one set dying for the middle act, one set dead for the third act) are an indication of the significance of those plants to the narrative.  (Personally, I think Shepard just hates stage managers — witness other requirements for his plays, including screen doors that are cut through, bottles that are shattered, etc.)

I was reminded of this theory, in spades, last night when we saw the National Theater telecast of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT.  The play *opens* with a very realistic dead dog, staked to the stage with a garden fork.  Throughout much of the play, the main character (an autistic 15-year-old) carries his live rat — through a variety of settings, including an imagined trip to outer space.  (There’s another challenging staging thing late in the play, but I won’t mention it, lest I spoil the story…)

By and large, I think it was worth the effort to “kill” the dog and keep the rat alive.  Both add great depth to the story.  When I first heard they were making a play out of this novel (told from the point of view of the 15-year-old, with many of his tics incorporated into the narration), I couldn’t imagine how they could stage it.  Not all of their efforts worked, but the show was very imaginative.  The parts of the story that were most difficult for Christopher were most difficult for the audience — the production uses sound and light and movement to represent the disorientation of the main character.

This production is also quite meta — the characters know that they’re in a play, and they comment occasionally on that fact.  At times, the entire thing felt *too* staged, too “created”, but there were genuine emotions evoked.  The characters were complex — none of the main characters is all good or all bad, and no one has an easy life.

This is only the second telecast I’ve seen, and I was impressed with the presentation.  The team uses multiple cameras, sometimes from angles that the theater audience can’t experience.  The close-ups give a much more intimate view of the actors (even if they take away a bit, showing the microphones, etc.)  I’ll definitely consider other performances in the future!

(I was reminded, as I watched the show, of Kazuo Ishiguro talking about his novel REMAINS OF THE DAY, which he said he wrote specifically to be not-filmable, as a form of art separate from the television and film that he loved growing up.  Of course, it was transformed into an incredible movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.  I suspect Mark Haddon never contemplated his slender novel turning into a play either!)

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Notebook of Doom

So, Saturday night, we went to a baseball game, as one does.

(Before that, we went to dinner, as one does.  To Medium Rare, which serves bread, salad, steak frites, and that’s it.  And we had a fantastic dinner — better than I’d expected, with perfect, salty, crisp frites that complemented the steak perfectly!)

Anyway, we went to a baseball game.  And the Nationals knocked around the Brewers pitcher pretty badly in the first inning, so the game had a pretty relaxed, easy-going feel.  And about halfway through the fifth inning, I all of a sudden realized that I didn’t need to write the next scene in CENTER STAGE, because it was boring and talk-y and didn’t tell the reader anything the reader didn’t already know.

But I *did* need to add a scene with a direct confrontation between two major characters, one where one guy says, “Do this and there’ll be Consequence X” and the other guy says, “I’m doing this, so get your consequences ready.”

Being an author, even an author at a baseball game, I had a notebook with me.  So I took out my pen and I scribbled away at a full page of dialog, using the extensive abbreviation scheme that I created in law school, so that I could transcribe hours of notes on Commercial Paper and other classes that left me clueless.

Today, I’ll be writing up that scene.  And I have the cheerful feeling that it’s already half done.  It’s almost like I get to spend the day editing instead of writing!  Yay, yay, yay.

And the Nats won.

And I spent yesterday at the Washington Romance Writers summer barbecue, chatting with friends, eating a killer chocolate cake I had no business enjoying as much as I did, and having a grand time away from the computer.

So, today is pretty much perfect :-)

How about you?  Did you have a good weekend?

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Reclaiming the Trope

Look up the word trope in your dictionary.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

The first definition is probably something along the lines of “a metaphor”.  The second definition is probably something along the lines of “a cliche”.  The second definition likely isn’t tagged “pejorative”, but it should be.  People sneer at tropes, whether they’re talking about movies, books, or any other form of art.

And yet.

And yet romance novels, especially category romance novels, are built on tropes.  The entire idea of the genre is that we take a relatively few elements — a lover, another lover, (maybe more lovers), a trope or two or ten, emotion, conflict, and a satisfying ending — and we tell a story that is different, interesting, engaging, unique.

That’s the challenge of the genre.  That’s the joy — both in writing and in reading.

Tropes fade in and out of popularity.  It’s a pretty hard sell to set a romance in contemporary times and have a credible ward/guardian love story without setting off every possible creepster alarm — but it *can* be done.  It’s easier to use the trope of the secret baby now that lots of women are enjoying lots of sex.  Royalty — especially sheikhs — are a bit sparse on the ground, but there are an awful lot of athletes and military men.   Some tropes have become inflated — millionaires have become billionaires (I guess that’s the value of shrewd investing, early in one’s financial career.)

So?  What’s your favorite trope?  You know you have one.  Or maybe more than one.

I’ve put together a list of romance tropes:  http://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/for-writers/romance-tropes/

Check it out, and let me know if I’ve missed your favorite!

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9 Uses For a Flip and Tumble

Flip and Tumble — brand name for a light cloth bag that folds into its own pouch and can easily be tucked into a purse or, in a pinch, a pocket.  (First pointed out to me by Justine Larbalestier!)

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  1. Hold snacks purchased for early morning flight from Washington DC to Albuquerque (by way of Minneapolis, because why shouldn’t one fly north to end up south?)
  2. Hold rental agreement on “compact” car, which turns out to be a Chevy Malibu the size of the Queen Mary’s younger sister, because no “Corolla equivalents” were available in the parking lot.
  3. Hold funky keys for room at the Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe, which looks like it could be the movie set for a film about convent life in the old Southwest (if, you know, the nuns had king size beds in their bedrooms and massive multi-jet showerheads in their bathrooms and drank lemon ice water every time they passed through the hotel lobby on their way to some fun exploration).
  4. Hold refillable (and many, many times refilled) water bottle for use at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Festival, where over 200 artisans from dozens of countries display and sell handmade art and crafts (along with a fun international “food court”, and a surprisingly cool breezeway at the top of the hill, just perfect for taking a break in the hot-but-not-blazing (it’s a dry heat!) afternoon.
  5. Hold raincoat for afternoon gulley washer that created a 15 minute deluge followed by 15 minutes of light rain.  Oh.  Wait.  I left my raincoat back in my room, so the Flip and Tumble wasn’t any good for this.  But I was under shelter for almost all of the rain, so no big deal.
  6. Hold guidebook with information on Tia Sophia’s, a hole-in-the-wall breakfast restaurant with a yummy, yummy, yummy breakfast burrito featuring sausage, potatoes, cheese, and lots of red chili sauce.
  7. Hold cell phone used for navigating from Santa Fe to Los Alamos, where one can watch a fun short documentary about the “town with no name” where the atom bomb was developed.  One can also peruse the science museum on site, but one might want to have higher degrees in science to understand some of the exhibits.  Or, one can play with the brain-teaser games on spacial relationships that become addictive the closer one gets to (not) finding a solution.  (Don’t rely too much on the cell phone, though, because coverage will cut out about 5 minutes away from the museum.)
  8. Hold laptop and Kindle while attending the Annual Feast Day dance at the Cochiti Pueblo, because even though it’s warm in the shade and hot in the sun, it’s much, much cooler than the trunk of the car, where the suitcases are waiting for their return journey home.
  9. Hold snacks purchased for on-flight dinner, after a cross-airport sprint when Leg One of the return flight lands 35 minutes late, due to weather in Minneapolis.

All in all, my mother and I had a wonderful trip.  We found amazing treasures at the Folk Art Festival, spoke with dozens of friendly, kind people, and truly enjoyed our mother/daughter break!

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A Writer of Independent Means

So, we celebrated Independence Day.  Which doesn’t mean much — we didn’t head out for fireworks (too crowded on the Mall, and I didn’t even realize we *had* a closer-to-us local display until I heard the pounding in the distance…)

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But we enjoyed the long weekend nevertheless, folding in:

  • Fourth of July dinner of hamburgers, Tater Tots (what?!?  Our forefathers would have fought a revolution for them!), watermelon, and homemade apple hand pies (verdict — *perfectly* tart for me, needed some sweetener for normal eaters),
  • Knitting and frogging the first eight rows of a new pattern (Teardrop — first the triangular shawl, then the rectangular one) at least forty times before I decided it just wasn’t meant to be my pattern (at least not with the yarn I have, and at least not while I try to watch TV or do anything else),
  • Orphan Black, at least the first season on binge, and a few episodes of the second season, but we aren’t through watching yet, so no spoilers please,
  •  Private Lives, at the Shakespeare Theater, which was thoroughly amusing in a very arched-eyebrow way,
  • a pedicure (notable for the *bright* pink polish on my toes, but most enjoyable for the chance to catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in far too long.)

And there was the usual not-enough-reading, and the eating of the season’s first corn, and the watching of baseball, and the gorging on the season’s first cherries, and, and, and…

And now, it’s the workweek again, and I have a chapter of CENTER STAGE staring me in the face.  So, what am I waiting for!  I hope you had a good weekend, and a good long weekend if you were in the States!

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Define: Irony

Yesterday, in celebration of the launch of THIRD DEGREE, we went to a Washington Nationals baseball game.  (Okay, it wasn’t really “in celebration of” — it was one of the 20 games we attend on our partial season ticket.  But I was carrying over my celebration to the ballpark.)

The stadium was much more crowded than it has been for earlier games.  That’s not because the Rockies were such a great draw; it was because summer is officially here.

The row of seats behind us is typically sold to Groupon people — they buy their tickets at half price.  Usually, these people are young (in their twenties), and they have zero interest in the game — they’re using the stadium as a convenient place to have an extended happy hour get-together (although with domestic beer going for $9 you have to wonder at that logic…)  Last night was no exception — we sat in front of a group of about ten who asked such baseball related questions as “Where are the Rockies from?” as they cheered “home runs” that were obvious foul balls, etc.

Around the seventh inning (just before last call) the loudest and ditziest of the group came back to her seat after a foraging expedition, bearing a “daquiri” — a $14 slush drink served in a yard-of-beer plastic glass.  At some point, some amount of that drink ended up in my hair.  I only discovered it when I ran my hand through my hair and my fingers came back wet, sticky, and smelling like cheap lip gloss.

Grr.  Sigh.  Argh.   But no real damage done.  The Groupon folks left at 10:00; we stayed to the end to cheer the Nats to their victory, and we headed home.

Whereupon, I decided to take a shower, to wash my hair so that my pillow and pillowcase didn’t end up wet, sticky, and smelling like cheap lip gloss.  Shower taken, I wrapped my long, wet-with-clean-water hair in a scrunchie and went to bed.

And this morning, I woke up to discover that the scrunchie had stained the pillowcase, the pillow cover, and the pillow.

Irony, much?

(Linens are now soaking in Oxyclean.  Pillow will survive :-) )

Um, yay Nats?

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Hot, Hot, Hot! (THIRD DEGREE Launches Today!)

It’s fitting that we’re at the beginning of a massive heat-wave here in DC, because today is the launch day for one of my hottest books yet!  THIRD DEGREE is live and in stores — Amazon Kindle | Amazon Print | Apple | B&N Nook | Createspace Print | Kobo (More links coming soon!)

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There are a few things that make a book a Mindy Klasky book — most notably, fun descriptions of food.  And THIRD DEGREE gave me a chance to incorporate my love of cooking (and baking, and eating, etc.) into a hot baseball romance.  Here’s the “back of the book” copy:

If you can’t take the heat…

Chef Ashley Harris wants to own a restaurant – that’s why she attended culinary school, and that’s why she’s working for the world’s most lecherous restaurateur.

Raleigh Rockets third baseman Josh Cantor wants to launch his investment restaurant with the family recipes he loved growing up. Josh has been promised that treasure trove – but only if he can convince his grandmother that he’s dating again, after a traumatic divorce.

When a cooking reality show comes to Raleigh, Ashley and Josh must compete against each other to achieve their dreams – even when the flames in the bedroom roar higher than the ones in their kitchens.  In the end, only one of them can win Who Wears the Apron.  Will their relationship survive this trial by fire?

There’s an excerpt available online:  http://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/books/passion/diamond-bride-series/third-degree/

So?  What are you waiting for?  THIRD DEGREE is a perfect summer read — fun and sexy!  We’ll be celebrating the launch tonight in Klaskyville by heading out to a Nationals game.  What better way to share in the baseball fun?!?

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If It Were UP TO ME…

One of the great things about writing romance is that you get to hang out with a lot of amazing women (and the very, very, very rare men) who write romance.  The Romance Writers of America is an active writers organization, and a *lot* of its business is done through local chapters.  I’m a member of two of those chapters — the Washington Romance Writers and the Maryland Romance Writers.  Even though the Maryland group meets 1.25 hours from my home, I regularly attend the meetings because I get so much out of them (guidance, support, and great insight into the crazy business we’ve all chosen to work in!)

The best benefit of Maryland Romance Writers, though, hands down is getting to know the members.  Christi Barth is one of those members — in fact, she’s the chapter’s president.  She is one of the most organized, energetic, enthusiastic, positive, upbeat, encouraging…  okay, you get the idea.  (She’s also an incredible companion for afternoon tea!)

And Christi is celebrating the release week of a new contemporary romance, the first in a series.  Here’s the fun cover:

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And here’s what the book’s all about:

Ella Mayhew’s always appreciated the beautiful view of Seneca Lake from the spa window of her family’s hotel. But the view improves dramatically when a hot stranger runs across the grounds—shirtless. He’s the first man to kickstart her hormones in the three years since she lost her parents, and she doesn’t even know his name.

Graydon Locke’s on his umpteenth undercover assignment. The routine’s always the same: assess a business, recommend it for closure, then roll out before anyone discovers his decisions impact hundreds of lives. He’s always believed nothing good comes out of small towns. Why would this one be different? Then he makes two classic rookie mistakes—falling for the sweet, sexy girl who owns the very business he’s on the verge of axing. And letting the town’s residents get involved in both his life, and his relationship with Ella.

Ella’s the best thing to ever happen to Gray, but he’s lied to her from the start. If he pulls the plug on Mayhew Manor, the entire town may crumble. Ella couldn’t save her parents, but it’s up to her to save their hotel. Even if that means turning her back on true love.

And you can buy your copy here:

Amazon | Apple iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Carina Press | Google Play

Wait?!?  You still haven’t made up your mind?  You’re not certain that UP TO ME is the perfect summer read?  Well, then, you should check out this excerpt:

“Come do yoga with me tomorrow.”

“I’m a guy. We’re all about being hard and stiff, not soft and bendy.”

Ella blinked rapidly to clear the images of a naked, hard-muscled Gray that popped into her mind. And hardness…other places. “Don’t be so close-minded. Didn’t you end up enjoying the massage I gave you?”

“Yes.” He sounded adorably sulky at being forced to acknowledge it. Why was it that men found it so hard to admit when they were wrong? Definitely a topic of discussion for her next margarita night with the girls.

“See? You can’t dismiss something out of hand without at least trying it.”

Gray wrinkled his nose. “Do I have a choice?”

“No.” Ella brought up her other hand to cup his face. “You deserve to be looked after. It’s not much, I know, but let me help you in the only way I can.”

“I’ll do it—”

Ella bounced a little. “Terrific.”

“—on one condition. I’ve just come up with a good plan for stress release. Let’s try my way first.” Gray wove his fingers through the loose knit of her turquoise sweater. In one swift move, he pulled it off over her head and tossed it into the corner. “Come swimming with me. Right now.”

Was he serious? To stall for time while she processed the preposterous suggestion, Ella stammered, “We…we don’t have suits.”

“You said the pool’s still officially closed. No one will interrupt us.” He toyed with the strap of her matching tank. “You’ve got this thing. I’m wearing boxer briefs. We’ll be more covered up than in suits. Unless you don’t think you can control yourself around me?”

That was it in a nutshell. Not that she’d admit it to Gray. Not when he had that sharp eyebrow arched and a smug quirk to his lips. If he was trying to shock her…well, he had, no denying that. But what better way was there to embrace life fully than to embrace a dripping wet, mostly naked Gray? While she’d never work up the courage to tell him, this was the kind of activity Dr. T. would probably applaud. Or at least give her a gold star. He had asked her to email him with progress reports if anything big happened. Unable to resist, she glanced down at Gray’s crotch. Ella expected something very big, indeed, was about to happen.

“Water’s extremely therapeutic,” she said in her most serious, I’m massaging you but not judging your naked body in any way professional voice. “Swimming is a good counterpart to yoga. They use the same long muscles.”

Yup. Her matter-of-fact delivery dropped his eyebrow back to its usual straight line and wiped the smug from his lips. Ella kept the surprises rolling. She stood, unbuttoned her skirt and let it slide the floor into a big blue puddle. Then she reached out, grabbed his wrist, and yanked him sideways into the pool with her.

The simultaneous body flops slapped noise and water all around the room. Ella recovered first, treading water while waiting for Gray to get his bearings and surface. Keeping her head above water was easy. Breathing, however, was not, as she was laughing her head off at catching him off guard. Finally, with much thrashing and churning of the water, Gray popped up near the middle of the pool.

“What the hell?” he yelled, his voice bouncing off the rocks with a hollow echo. “I’m wearing clothes!”

“So take them off,” she yelled back. Geez, it was his idea. Ella had just implemented it without talking it to death first. She’d thought he’d appreciate her spontaneity.

Gray stared at her for a minute, totally unreadable. Then his head disappeared beneath the water again. In fact, he sank straight to the bottom. It worried her. But just until a heavy, sodden pair of jeans landed like a giant blue spitwad in front of her. Laughing, she tossed them over her shoulder in the general direction of their shoes. Then Gray’s shirt appeared, floating near the filter. Something she’d have to remember to retrieve before morning when maintenance would make their final sweep before reopening the pool.

She felt Gray first. His head brushed against her stomach. Using her body like a swim ladder, he climbed it with his hands until just those brilliant blue eyes broke the surface. Blinked at her once. Then he tilted his head back and arced a stream of water from his lips to the dead center of her forehead. Laughing even harder, Ella reached under his shoulders to pull him the rest of the way up.

That’s when the laughter stopped. When buoyancy slammed his oh my God so hard cock right against her. When it was the most natural thing in the world to wrap her legs tight around him to keep him nestled against all her heat and what felt like every freaking nerve ending in her body. And when she twined her arms around his neck just for the thrill of rubbing her breasts across his chest.

With two powerful kicks, Gray propelled them to the wall. He sandwiched Ella against it and hung on to the rocks to keep them both afloat. “I’m on board with your idea. As you can tell.” He ground against her in a way that absolutely proved not only that he was enthusiastic about stripping, but that there was definitely nothing between them other than two thin, skintight layers of cotton. Gray’s impressive length was no longer just an impression or wishful thinking. It was hard and long and she couldn’t wait to impale herself on him. For now, she locked her ankles together and let the water do most of the work of bobbing her up and down in a rhythmic, full-body caress.

Water glistened at the tips of his lashes. Ella kissed it away, then just kept heading south. Over his early-evening stubble. Down past the Adam’s apple that jerked reflexively. She’d always thought them sexy. So uniquely masculine.

A nibble in the hollow of his collarbone. Down till her lips were just underwater, closed around his nipple. Ella flicked it against her teeth. Gray…growled? Whatever the noise was, it came from deep inside him and turned her core body temperature up by about twenty percent.

* * *

Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage.  A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning.  Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance.  Christi is President of the Maryland Romance Writers and lives in Maryland with her husband.

You can read more about Christi and her fun, sexy contemporary romances here:

Website | Blog | Pinterest | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page |Facebook

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Pssst! Wanna a Free Book?

Great news!  PERFECT PITCH (the first volume in the Diamond Brides series) is ***free*** in all e-formats!  For ZERO dollars and ZERO cents, you can read this hot baseball romance on your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or iThing!

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Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant’s rules—no smoking, drinking, or “cavorting” in public. That’s fine, until D.J. Thomas—God’s gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch.  He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam’s no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.’s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss.

Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam’s music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.’s son begs to trade in Little League for music class. Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?

And here’s what USA Today had to say about it:

This introduction to Mindy Klasky’s Diamond Brides series is a heartfelt, conflict-ridden story as irresistible as its characters. It’s also a whole lot of sexy, savvy fun.

So?  What’s keeping you from reading PERFECT PITCH?  Here are the links to get your FREE copy today!

Amazon Kindle | Apple | B&N Nook | Kobo

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When I’m 93…

… I want to be capable of practicing my life-long career.  You know.  Like Bob Wolff, a sportscaster who was recently recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for spending 75 years in his chosen profession!

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We attended a “Conversation” with Wolff on Monday night, down at the Smithsonian.  While we were waiting in line to get into the auditorium, Mark and I noted that we were the youngest audience members by a good twenty years.  There were two other women present, but I was willing to bet that I’m the only one who writes hot baseball romances :-)

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening — the interviewer, Phil Hochsberg, had prepared numerous clips of Wolff interviewing famous baseball players, and Wolff discussed the circumstances of those interviews.  My favorite was the early 1960s interview with four Senators players who kept house together, dividing up the cooking, housekeeping, etc.  The whole thing was so staged and goofy and completely out of keeping with today…  (The most poignant interview was with Jimmie Foxx, who was bankrupt within five years of ending his Hall of Fame career.  Foxx was trying to get a job teaching/coaching at a university but was told he could not be hired because he didn’t have a college degree; Wolff knew about the problem and structured the interview to discuss Foxx’s plight.)

I have to admit, though, my attention wandered a bit, because I’ve been fiddling with a plot point in FROM LEFT FIELD…  Probably not the type of thing 93-year-old Bob Wolff would have wanted to handle in the Question and Answer session!

 

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