A humbling moment..

     I’m a Dog Person.  Don’t get me wrong, we had cats when I was a child, and I like cats.  But my world changed (as far as pet ownership goes) when we got a dog. 

     My poor mother, I don’t know if she had any idea of what was going down when on a Saturday afternoon, my family piled into the station wagon for a “drive.”  The destination was a horse ranch on the far outskirts of Phoenix where they also bred and dogs.  Doberman Pinchers specifically.  That afternoon we came home with a Brutus. 

     On the long ride home, the conversation swirled about two specific topics.  What to name the puppy and mom’s long lecture on how we would all be responsible for caring for our newest family member, and the importance of training.  Looking back, I’m sure that her primary concern was all important “house training”, however it was soon clear that the quiet, observant, dog quickly figured out the rules and pecking order of the new pack of humans he would live with, and then quickly aligned himself with the ladies in the house. Clever dog, right?

     Brutus has been gone for decades and my mother to this very day will provide story after story of how special he was. Between my brothers and I, he was my primary responsibility, and I was his human.  And his training included joining 4H to attend obedience training classes.

     I hope you noticed that I omitted the word “dog” before the words “training classes.”  The classes specifically focused on the basic commands heel, stop, sit, stay, and come.  Our instructor had a class of young children and array of dogs from large to small.  What she knew and the rest of us attending the classes would figure out (some of us faster than others) is that training dogs isn’t hard, the challenge was to train the humans.

     Apparently, what dogs need is clear correlation between command and reward, and consistency in applying the two factors.  Once that foundation is set, the dogs are good to go.  The problem is with the handler, which in my experience was usually an adolescent who wasn’t too consistent, when it comes to “consistency.”  Our poor instructor, she was the living, breathing example of the phrase, “patience of a saint.”

     After a year of Saturday morning classes, we went to the county fair and among the agriculture competitions which included chickens, rabbits, and other livestock, a small dog show focusing on obedience training classes was held.  It was fun, we won some ribbons, but we didn’t go back for year two because the mission was accomplished. The dog (and human) had been trained, and the dog many times picked up the lessons quicker than the human.

     We should give our dogs and cats the credit they deserve. As young babies they leave their mother and siblings and make their way in a whole new world dominated by another species.  They learn the rules of their new home, forge life-long relationships, and along the way effectively train the humans.

     Today, my miniature schnauzer, Reilly who is 13 going on 14, has mastered the training of his humans.  Yes, he knows the basic obedience commands but over the years, I’ve learned and respond to his commands too. For example:

  • He comes to me and waits for me to set aside the task I’m working on at my desk to take him outside to do his “business.” 
  • He knows when my mother has finished her coffee and can now be approached to get his peanut butter treat in the morning.
  • He knows sit, stay, quiet, heel and quiet (Schnauzers tend to be barkers)

     But the training went both ways. We’ve learned his commands such as “out,” “peanut butter”, “food,” and “pet me.”  He knows how to deliver the requests clearly and often gets a quick response. 

    As the “smart human” I’d like to believe that I’m just more attuned to his behavior and therefore able to determine the reason behind his behavior and respond because it is appropriate.  As the “loving human” I pay attention because I care deeply for my pet.  But occasionally, the thought occurs that he’s trained me.

    That is no small task for a 17 lb. miniature schnauzer.  After years using patience and persistence, he finally got the “smart” humans trained. Kind of humbling when you think about it.

Romance Novels – Traditional or Trendsetting?

A Romance writer’s musings on life and love in today’s world.

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. The answer is both.  Blog done. Now it’s time to watch that new show on Discovery Plus.  Well, not so fast.  When we do take a deeper look at what is behind the question, the answer may not be so clear

I can remember when I read my first romance novel.  It was a Harlequin Romance.  The specifics are a little fuzzy after the decades since I first read it.  But the story line focused on a young pretty, attractive secretary, and her boss who I’ll name, “Mr. Successful  Businessman.”  Over time, a good working relationship bloomed into love and the happily-ever-after ending.  In today’s world this would be called a “Clean and Wholesome”  romance.  A lovely Cinderella story where the heroine gets her own prince charming, easy on the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll elements.

Harlequin is brilliant. I mean that honestly, absolutely no sarcasm implied in that sentence. They keep a pulse on the market and work hard to make sure that they have a wide array of books to choose from regardless of your preferred sub-genre of romance for reading.  You want historical, they’ve got it.  Cowboys, Clean and Wholesome with or without a faith element interwoven into the story, they have that too.  Paranormal, Romantic Suspense? Yep.  And if you want your romance with lush love scenes, look no further.

Over the decades romance has steadily marched in step with the changes in culture and adapted. There are times when a book or sub-genre enjoys an explosion of sales, think Fifty Shades of Grey and erotic romance.  But over time, as a rule, Romance sub-genres ebb and flow.  But in recent years, despite the wide array of choices, a subtle change that has been steadily happening before our eyes.

And that change is… wait for it…. The popularity of what I call traditional romance.  I define traditional as the romances your mom and grandmother used to read. In fact, Clean and Wholesome romance is emerging from the niche zone of romance novels to a vibrant sub-genre that continues to grow year over year.

As a writer who’s work inhabits this sub-genre, these stores are not always easy to write.  You would think it would be, but to be successful, you must write a story that is relevant in today’s time, emotionally satisfying, and yet not be so “soft” (regarding the challenges the hero and heroine must overcome) that the reader “doesn’t feel it” and places your story in the “didn’t finish it” category.

There is a lot of clean and wholesome romance sub-sub-genres (no that was not a typo)  to choose from. Ranging from historical romances, mystery and suspense, contemporary, and romantic comedy. They also come with or with out elements of faith in God woven into the story.  Yes, there is a lot to choose from! 

Even the Cinderella themed stories are as popular as ever.  The young secretary of decades ago, is now the hard-working, advertising executive, manager, or business-owner.  “Mr. Successful Businessman” also has changed. Today, he is most likely to be a billionaire. I guess a million dollars isn’t what it used to be.

So, is romance traditional or trendsetting?  Both, but “traditional” romance sales are a growing trend  and shows no sign of slowing down.

George Clooney is still the sexiest man alive

A Romance writer’s musings on life and love in today’s world

March 17, 2021

A funny thing happened when I went to pick up the mail last week. Aside from the junk mail and bills, a copy of AARP magazine was in the inbox. Gracing the cover, staring back into the camera lens, which give you the distinct impression that he is looking you by the way, was an actor who I’ll admit to having a little, but harmless, crush on for some time, George Clooney.

The article begins with the acknowledgement that he is on the cusp of 60. I won’t say how did that happen because time flies.  In fact, the years seem to pass faster and faster as I get older. Does anyone else feel this is happening?

However, I find it comforting that he is secure and willing to own his gray hair and some wrinkles.  Don’t get me wrong, he looks healthy, and the article confirms that life is good.   I’m glad to hear that. Because the entertainment industry is generally not too comfortable with the issue of aging.  Heck, our whole culture gets a bit freaked out on growing old, but I digress.

The author of the article commented that, “George Clooney was never young, but he was also never old.”  I’d agree, the roles he took, even earlier in his career, tended to have a level of maturity in them. To me, he reminds me of Cary Grant. A versatile actor who had a long career and was still quite dashing as he grew older.

The article even shared some information on skills that I would have never would have thought that he had.  Like sewing (repaired the kid’s clothing and one of his wife’s dresses when on pandemic lock-down) and get-it-fixed-in-a-pinch auto and home repair skills.  I’ve got to admit, this makes him appear real and relatable. 

Real and relatable is good, especially if you’re a romance writer.  Our readers love handsome heroes who are good guys.  If they aren’t good guys at the beginning of the story, there should be a solid reason why not, and we want to see the transformation to good guy at the end.  

I’m sure that many a romance writer when creating their characters have looked to Hollywood for examples. Where better to search than the long list of “sexiest men alive” over the years, right?  George has had this title bestowed two times by the way.

But aligning your hero too closely to a well-known person, especially physically, can present problems.  I speak from personal experience on this mistake. When your main character looks exactly like Mr. Famous and it comes time to get your book cover gets designed, every model presented by your designer will not seem quite right because they aren’t Mr. Famous. For the record, I never based any of my heroes on George Clooney, honest answer!

Is he on track for another “sexist man alive” title?  I don’t know. There are a lot of smart, hard-working, talented, and handsome actors, athletes, or performers, to choose from each year.  I suspect if it never comes his way again, George will probably be fine with that.