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Spring Has Sprung

We’ve been having much warmer than usual weather for Chicago this time of year and I’ve been a little spoiled (I like my summer). Since it’s spring break for the kids, we’ll be heading out to the zoo today, so I’m doing a fly-by post. One of the things I like best about the beginning of spring is that it’s also the beginning of construction season.

Now most people in Chicago dread construction season because it means streets will be torn up and there will be endless detours. It’s not so much the road construction, but the housing construction that I enjoy. The whir of saws, the cha-chunk of nailers, the smell of sawdust…then of course there are the men themselves. I do love a man in a toolbelt.

So on this sunny spring day, I leave you with this–a video of construction workers dancing:

Also, who could forget this old Diet Coke commercial:

What do you like best about the beginning of spring?

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For the Love of Men in Uniform

There are few things in this world that will make my heart go pitter-pat on sight. A man in uniform is one of them.

My favorite has always been the Marine Corps dress blues. (and it’s not because I married a Marine – their Blues are hot!)

But it’s not just military uniforms that do it. Firefighters, cops, even cowboys get it right. Yes, you read that right, even cowboys. I’ve thought a lot about this because I have a huge crush on singer Toby Keith. The thing is, he’s totally not my type, except for the fact that he’s a big guy. Blonde hair, curly hair, facial hair — all things I’ve never been attracted to. Now, of course, I will admit that his voice and his music have a lot to do with my crush, but then I realized that it’s the cowboy hat. Take the hat off Toby, and he’s nowhere near as appealing.

Part of what helped me come to this conclusion is Kenny Chesney. Millions of women scream and rave like he’s the hottest thing going, but I’ve never seen it. His head is the wrong size for his body or something. But … you put a cowboy hat on him and not only is he proportionate, but he starts looking better.

Uniforms can improve almost anyone. Denis Leary is far from my idea of a sexy man, but dress his up like a fireman, and woo-hoo the temperature rises.

What is it about a uniform?

It’s just clothes. But it’s more than that. It’s what the clothes represent, I think. The uniform takes a man and makes him a better version of himself. In some cases, it might be a bigger persona (like Kenny); other times, it might be the ideals that go along with the uniform (Marines and firefighters).

I know I’m not alone in my love for a man in uniform. Maybe it’s the implied danger with some uniforms or the idea that the man wearing it is a hero. I’m not sure. But I know that the uniform will always get me.

What do you think? What makes women swoon over a uniform?

Friday Favorites – One for the Money and Being a B**ch

photo courtesy of imdb.com

First, let me say that today is a gorgeous day. It’s 45 degrees in January. In Chicago. Excellent weather for my day off. Usually my day off consists of running errands I pushed off all week and catching up on housework (kind of). The piles of laundry tend to get out of hand. Anyway, today, after getting my tires rotated and before starting the laundry. I went to see One for the Money, the movie based on the Janet Evanovich book and series.

I really didn’t have high hopes for the movie. I love the books, no matter how contrived or ridiculous because I love the characters and I always laugh out loud while reading. Katherine Heigl actually was a decent Stephanie Plum. Jason O’Mara was cast as Joe Morelli. I really like Jason O’Mara, but in my head, Morelli has always been Eddie Cibrian. I understand why they wanted someone who looked different because Ranger is played by Daniel Sanjata.

Here’s the cast:

photo courtesy of bellasnovella.com

taken from google images

And here’s Eddie Cibrian

So, I think it made sense to go with someone obviously different than Sanjata, who I think is the PERFECT Ranger. It’s been a long time since I read the first book in the series, but I think the movie did a good job of getting right. The cast hits the mark. I think Grandma Mazur could’ve been played up a bit more; she didn’t seem quite crazy enough. Lula was great.

The one thing that I thought was missing was the sexual tension. I didn’t see it between Stephanie and Morelli or Stephanie and Ranger. With the movie being based on just the first book, I didn’t expect a whole lot of tension between Ranger and Stephanie, but she didn’t even seem all that attracted to him, which, hello? The man is hot. I think there should’ve been more sexual tension between Morelli and Stephanie, but I wasn’t feeling it.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie and I felt like I got my money’s worth. It did feel like I was watching a TV show, though. Again, that might be because I know there are 18 books and plots and that much more character development. I did find myself wanting to see more, like the next episode.

I am behind on my Plum reading. I have number 17 that I haven’t read yet, which means I also have 18 to read. I’ll get my Morelli and Ranger fix in paper, I guess.

On to my regular mash-up of awesome links…

I only have 4 links this week, but they are powerful. First up, for writers, it’s all about having confidence and not being afraid. If you want to write (and be published) you have to be willing to put yourself out there and that opens you up to a lot.

Tonya Kappes writes about NOT being a fearful writer.

Merry Farmer talks about how confidence is a writer’s greatest asset.

My next two posts have to do with being called a bitch and what it means. I’ve been called a bitch by men and women alike, and probably a few kids who were students. It’s never bothered me, although it probably should have. The word itself has so many different connotations that I find it hard to be bothered by it. For me, I think bitch is used most often as a way to describe an independent, opinionated woman. I’m okay with that.

Emma Burcart starts off the conversation with So You Think I’m a Bitch.

Jennifer Liberts Weinberg, the Kvetch Mom, talks about the snarkiness encountered on social media, especially when one screws up (one of my greatest fears). She questions why women choose to be bitchy towards each other. Definitely food for thought.

What are your thoughts —  on Stephanie Plum, writer confidence, or being a bitch?

Good Bad Guys

Leverage is a show that is successful in what it does, but I’m not sure it has the following it should. Sure, it’s been on for 4 seasons now and new episodes are airing on Sunday nights, but there never seems to be a lot of buzz about this show. For anyone who has ever enjoyed Robin Hood or the A-Team, Leverage is a winner. In fact, when someone asks what the show is about, I describe it as a modern-day A-Team. Outlaws band together to help the underdog. The main difference is that instead of a physical threat, it’s usually a monetary loss that the team is trying to recover.

Here’s a trailer:

The high-tech gadgets and complex cons that the team pulls are fascinating, but the real draw for me is the characters. This is not a show that follows the characters into their personals lives. You really only get to see them as they interact with each other and the marks. We see where Nate (the leader/Mastermind) lives because his home is the base of operations for the team. Other than that, we don’t know what goes on for each of the characters outside of the jobs they complete.

Instead of making the characters boring or uncomplicated, this tactic makes them that much more intriguing. We get glimpses of them and their beliefs and fears and hang-ups based on how they react to certain jobs. The way each character interacts with a mark shows you a little more about that person. It’s fascinating to watch the characters reveal themselves in small ways.

For instance, Parker is the thief. She’s small and pretty, but she’s a tomboy. She has no fear of jumping off a building or flipping over lasers to get around an alarm. But her social skills suck. She doesn’t know how to make friends. We’ve learned that she grew up an orphan and bounced from home to home, which made her who she is. It explains a lot, but when the team takes on a job that involves an orphanage, we see the impact it has on Parker. She refuses to leave without saving the kids.

Another example is Eliot. I love Eliot; he’s my favorite character. And it’s not just because he’s nice to look at. Eliot is considered the hitter, or the muscle of the team. He beats up anyone who gets in the way. He almost never uses weapons. He prefers to use his hands. He’s a soft-spoken guy with a really nasty temper.

image from Google images

But he has a strong protective streak that pops up when a kid is involved. Also, in one episode, he asked for the team’s help for an ex-girlfriend. We got a glimpse of Eliot from another lifetime. A softer Eliot.

I could go on with a lot more examples, but I think I’ve made my point. What makes this show so enjoyable for me is that the writers are masters of showing instead of telling. Each of these characters are damaged and carry some unique baggage. We are only given a moniker for them that they use to define themselves: thief, grifter, hitter, hacker. But through the small things, we begin to see them as real 3-dimensional people.

As writers of fiction it’s what we strive for in our writing every day. We want to reveal the living, breathing characters that live inside our heads, but if we just offer a laundry list of descriptors, no one will be interested for long. Learning how to parcel out the information is one of the more difficult tasks we face.

Choosing how and when to reveal character traits and backstory is hard. We want readers to know what we know so that they can understand and love our characters the way we do. The problem a lot of writers have is that they dump a character’s entire life story on the page and expect it to be necessary.

I tend to go to the other extreme and in order to avoid info-dumping, I leave too much out. Things I know and think make it onto the page aren’t really there. I try to trust my readers to figure things out and follow along without me spelling everything out or repeating myself. The problem with that, however, is that sometimes, I end up confusing the reader.

How do you prefer your characters to be written? Do you like the slow reveal, or do you prefer the writer to lay it all out at once?

Friday Favorites – Writing Advice and Hot Men

I’ve decided that since Friday is a day for fun (it’s my day off – I work Sun through Thurs), I will post my favorite things. Today, I’d like to do a mash-up of some of the best blogs I’ve read this week. I read a lot of blogs, some for work, most for fun. I’ve found a lot of interesting people and ideas from reading blogs. Information is good, but if it’s delivered with a laugh, it’s better.

Asrai Devin wrote about writing rules and when to let them go. As much of a stickler for rules as I am with my kids and my everyday life, I don’t worry about rules when I write. I tend to just go with what works and what feels right, especially for a first draft. That being said, I usually have MAJOR revisions afterwards.

My next link comes from Mary Stella at The Bettyverse. If you’re unfamiliar with the Betties, you are missing out. They are a fabulous group of free-thinking, supportive women, all brought together by the wonderful Lani Diane Rich (AKA Lucy March). In this post, Mary talks about Writing what you know and how that can develop into an interesting storyline.

Tawna Fenske is a fellow Betty and romance author (check out her book Making Waves fun read). I read her blog daily because not only am I guaranteed a dirty joke and a smile, but she also makes some great analogies. This one is about how critique partners are like steel wool.

Since I’ve talked about romance heroes a couple of times this week, here’s Kara Flathouse’s take on Kissing Toads.

For an extra smile, Emma Burcart talks about Hot Dads. I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind getting older as long as the actors are still this hot.

Finally, no fun romance blog would be complete without some shirtless men. Jillian Dodd offers us some eye candy.

Have a great weekend and try not to drool on the keyboard. 😛