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Blood Libel: If the metaphorical shoe fits… January 13, 2011

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.
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Political rhetoric… so not my thing.

But, when it comes to trashing someone’s imaginative use of words…

Well…   Read on at your own risk.

Sarah Palin’s early morning Facebook post, yesterday (In case you missed it).   “Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”   This “status update” is in response to accusations that imagery and rhetoric associated with her may have contributed to the recent Arizona violence.

But, blood libel?  Really, Ms Palin?

Blood libel (or libels), as you may already know, are allegations that a person or group engages in human sacrifice, often accompanied by the claim that the blood of victims is used in various rituals and/or acts of cannibalism.  Historically, the term has been used to falsely accuse Jews of using Christian children’s blood to prepare their Passover matzoh. This myth is said to have begun in Europe as early as the 12th century, perpetuated by the death of a small boy in England in 1144.  Please note, this is only a myth!  And, like fiction, myths are rarely true; but are almost always birthed and verbally perpetuated by those who desperately need it to be true.  Sound familiar?

Which brings us back to the crux of this post.

Metaphorically, Sarah Palin has it right.   The Press, the Right, the Left, the Talk Show Spewers, the special interest groups, are indeed sacrificing our Nation using the words of her people in various rituals and/or acts that cannibalize us; our time, our money, our energy and our economy for the single purpose of personal gain!

And this is not a myth, folks.

Its is sad commentary indeed, that we, as a Nation, would rather engage in fruitless playground mudslinging than putting shoulder to the wheel and set our economy to rights.  Stirred mud produces nothing but stink and sour. The men and women who actively fought and died, sacrificing all so that we might live free, deserve more than that from us. Come on America! Do what you do best; make our Nation, our world, our children’s future a better and safer place.

Engaging in anything less will truly be blood libel — the real, non-mythical kind.


Sitting in a Regency Corset July 23, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life, Writing.
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If you missed Living in a Regency Corset, posted earlier in the week, click here.  To the scads (and scads) of folks who’ve already visited that post, THANK YOU, and welcome to Sitting in a Regency Corset.

First off, allow me to say that standing and walking while laced in a Regency corset is an absolute delight. 

Sitting… not so much. 

So, if you don’t mind, let us first indulge in the delightful.

If I could get away with wearing my Regency corset everyday, I promise you, I would.  (There I am on the right, peticoat over my corset) Not only does lady-like posture become a no-brainer — shoulders back, spine straight, tummy tucked — the weight of your upper body is automatically transferred to your hips, bypassing the lower back.  I’ve spent hours dancing quadrilles, reels and cotillions while corseted (below, right), and nary a back complaint have I faced.  Gliding along is the only way I know to describe it. 

But sadly, today’s fashions brook no tolerance for the armpit level bust a Regency corset produces.  Nor do low-slung bucket seats and soft-seated chairs allow for an unbendable lady.

And that’s exactly what you become while wearing a Regency corset.  Unbendable.

The inch wide wooden (or ivory) busk is to blame, you see, running from breast to just below the navel.  That, and the six companioning lengths of boning, four running down the back with one governing each side. 

Bending at the waist is simply not an option.  

Which brings us to the heart of this post; sitting in a Regency corset.  

It is an art form best practiced in private, which is why there are no pictures.   In today’s modern world, we employ leverage to sit.  Regency ladies used their thighs.  It’s easier than it sounds, I promise you.  The key is…well, here, I’ll let Lady Grace, intrepid time-traveler, enigma extraordinaire, and handler of my 21st century heroine, do the teaching.

From Love’s Freedom (where Sara would rather believe her 19th century experience is a nightmarish dream courtesy of a fall ending with a blow to the head, than face the truth.)

     Sara shook her head.  “Quit babbling and send me home.  Or wake me up.  Or do whatever it is you need to do to fix this.”

     “I see I must speak more plainly.”  Grace pulled out the vanity chair and pointed at the round pink cushion.  “Sit.”

     Tamping down exasperation, Sara collected the yards of fabric clamoring around her bare feet, then squeezed between the vanity’s marble top and the chair, her torso stiff as a board.

     “Oh no, dear, don’t sit in the chair.  Sit upon it.  That’s right, touch the backs of your knees to the edge, center yourself, then lower straight down upon the seat.  There, much better.”  Grace flashed a smile at her in the oval mirror, added a motherly pat, then pulled a jeweled blade out from between her own breasts.  “Now, where was I?”

 A few pages later, Sara is standing in her reluctant hero’s cavernous foyer that’s been closed up for months.  Surrounded by his curious servants hastily removing Holland covers from the lavish furniture, she faces thwarted plans and lots of dust.  Another thing you might need to know.  During the Regency, shoes made no allowance for left and right feet. They had to be worn to make them comfortable.

      “Milady.”  Peg appeared at her side, a frivolously feathered bonnet in hand, and pressed a pair of lady-like gloves into hers.  Gripping the soft leather, Sara considered the sweeping staircase leading back to her rooms.  Forcing the Lord of Wayfair to face his PTSD when more desirable work commanded his attentions would be a waste of effort.  They could talk at the picnic. 

     The chocolate brown bonnet in Peg’s hands came to rest on her head.  “I am sorry for my lateness,” the girl whispered, swiftly tying the bonnet’s soft velvet ribbon beneath her right ear.  “But I returned for these.”  The girl produced a pair of slightly worn ankle boots. 

    “Bless you, Peg.”  Shucking the tortuous slippers, Sara bent to pick them up, the corset’s unyielding busk issuing a harsh reminder that Lady Ashland would do no such thing.  Neither would she be pulling on those soft leather boots for herself. 

     Her feet hurt too much to care.

     Peg motioned her to a large gilded chair a pair of footmen had just uncovered.   More dust clouded the air and suddenly she sneezed, the ruling busk making even that task difficult.  Every eye on her again, the sounds of her sneeze echoed through the cavernous room as Peg pressed a lace kerchief into her hands and she tried hard not to wring it while struggling to remember the steps to sitting upon a chair, not in it.  The backs of her knees making contact, the ensuing and highly observed effort proved more worthy of a beached whale.  Or a woman in her ninth month.  But at least her feet didn’t go flying over her head. 

As to what a Regency corset does to a well-endowed woman’s décolletage while she is sitting… I’ll leave that to your imagination.  😉



Unspoken Desire July 15, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.
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Last time we munched through the magical power of fortune cookies.  Today, let’s talk fortunes – of the unspoken variety.

More than once, I’ve stood accused by someone of being a mind reader.  Thankfully, I’ve never been convicted.  But, my knack, ability, gift — whatever word you want to stick on it — is un-nerving, even for me, because I never know when to trust what floats unbidden through my mind when I’m talking to someone, or just chalk that strange idea/thought/image up to this vivid writer’s imagination of mine.

But then, some things in life are hard to deny when I see them.

One is regret.  It’s important to be careful with regret because it mimics guilt so well.  Guilt is giving your child a new toy because you feel bad about something you did/said or forgot to do.  Regret is laying on your deathbed wishing you’d spent less time at the office.

But never does regret start there.

Which leads me to my most favorite magical Fortune Cookie fortune of all time.

“Your unspoken desire is the road not taken.”

This favorite fortune of mine is actually from the 200th episode of JAG, a legal thriller that ran nine seasons, starting in 1995.  If you ever get a chance to watch the episode, titled “What If?”, do. (You can get it from Netfix.)  “What if?” is a vivid depiction of how one moment, one word, one yes that wanted to be a no, one fear that should have been trumped but wasn’t, rules the road not taken.  What remains is the life we lead.

In truth, I don’t know why I’m posting this, today.  I just know I need to.  So I will leave you with this.  The greatest gift you can give to another is a picture of the road not taken.  Then let them decide.



Chewing on a Fortune July 13, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life, Writing Life.
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My fortune, compliments of my most recent fortune cookie. How, in the entire universe, did the churning Chinese-Fortune-Cookie-Stuffing-Machine know I was a writer in need of such a vague encouraging fortune? 

Hard to say. 

But that’s what attracts us to those oddly bent and brittle cookies, isn’t it?  Even though we know that tawny exterior is tasteless and the words have no meaning, we eagerly break them open and mindlessly munch away anyway while absorbing our Chinese Fortune.  After all, everyone knows the wondrously mythical Chinese possess an unexplainable connection to the fortune whispering universe.  Three billion of their fortune-delivering-devices are consumed by the Western World every year.

But, did you know that the fortune cookie is not the least bit Chinese? 

We, the Americans, were the inventors.  Yup.  It’s true.  We invented the Fortune Cookie and all the little prophesies stuffed there in.  

Now, if we can do that, surely we can invent something that will keep our economy from repeating well-known history.  Because, if there is one thing that casts doubt upon the magical power of our tasteless fortune cookie, it’s when the same fortune is repeated at the same table.

Unless, of course, you wrote the 200th episode of JAG where fortune cookie fortunes do repeat.  Successfully.

See, we Americans can do anything if we’d just put our minds to it.

Do you know what the repeating fortune said? Its advice is worth considering.

My Writing Chamber, 179 days later July 9, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.

I have a writing chamber.  It’s in the basement of my house.  I mostly built my chamber myself.  And I absolutely love it!  The walls are burgundy and navy fabric that I snagged at a box-lot auction.  The ornate Louis XVI styled end tables situated at my left and right were an amazing $5 yard sale find.  And, the comfy sea-foam green wing chair, upon which I now sit, is a castoff from my daughter’s late great grandmother.  All around me are my favorite things: research books, dolls, statuary, mementos from beloved writers (some who are now gone), framed prints that first hung in my grandmother’s house when she was newly wed.

Today is the first I’ve absorbed this space since Jan 11, when I broke my ankle, making the basement trek impossible then ill-advised.  Upon the library desk in the corner sits proof of absence.  My WomansAdvantage.biz flip calendar stalled at January 10th.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back!

If I was in possession of my camera right now, I would include pictures of this momentous moment (momentous for me, anyway).  But my camera is some 2600 miles to the west, in Hollywood, with my daughter, Anna, recording her YA adventure of a lifetime, complete with her best-friend-forever, Rachel Lauffer.  (If you’re reading this, Girls… I love you!)

So, let me give you something a mite more useful than pictures of me.  A few inspiring calendar quotes which I found while ripping away 179 little square pages, looking for today.

Enjoy! [bracketted words are mine]

Jan 12th: The happiest women don’t have the best of everything; they make the best of everything.

Jan 13: Treat every customer [reader] as if they sign your paycheck… because they do.

Jan 14: Stop Global Whining!  Work on what you can change.  Stop complaining about the things you can’t.

Jan 24: How are you creating a legacy?

Jan 26: If your foot is on the gas and the break at the same time, you can’t move forward.

Jan 28: Confront your problems head on.  Issues that you run from, run your business [and your life].

Jan 30: During good times, ideas flow like sunlight.  Record them in an idea book to draw from when times are tough.

Feb 1: Eliminate one habitual time-waster a month, like checking e-mail too frequently.

Feb 3: Thriving in this economy [publishing world] is like being on American Idol: pick the right song [story], put your heart into it, and ignore Simon! 

Feb 8: You can’t do everything.  Pick two priorities each week.

Feb 12: Successful people all have setbacks.  What separates them from others is that they don’t give up.

Feb 15: Remember what made you happy when you were little, and when you’re feeling sad, do one of those things.

Feb 21: You can’t change yesterday, but you can ruin today worrying about tomorrow.

March 20:  The one who angers you, controls you.

March 26: People are more interested in who you are than what you do.

May 22:  Deal with what is, not with what you wish was.

May 26: Regardless of your past, your future is spotless.

May 26: You can do anything.  You can’t do everything.

June 3: When you’re finished learning, you’re finished growing!

June 8: There will be bumps, so savor the journey.

July 2: She who asks the questions has the power!

And my absolute favorite… Today, July 8: Failure is not a four-letter word.  FEAR is.

What are some of your favorite quotes? This newly inspired mind wants to know.

A Moment on the Lips July 6, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.

A moment on the lips, forever on the hips.  You’ve probably heard this before.  It’s the skinny-person’s warning levied upon someone about to savor something utterly yummy. Yesterday, while standing in a Wal-Mart checkout line, this dampening phrase challenged my eternal perspective. 

As I unloaded jars of marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, and bags of sugar and chocolate pieces from my cart onto the rolling conveyer belt, the elderly gentleman standing in line behind me asked what I was making.  “Peanut-butter and chocolate fudges,” I told him, the deserts coveted at an annual party my family and I have attended every year for the last then years.  The gentleman made a deep throaty sound that told me he hadn’t allowed himself to enjoy such sugary confection in a very long time.  Then, he laughed. “I can already feel my teeth rotting,” he said.  “And I can see my waist expanding,” I added, matching his jovial tone.  That’s when the cashier chimed in.  “Oh, it won’t add that much,” she told me.  “You do have to live, after all.”

That’s when it hit me.  This body I worry about, and the daily pain I now live with, is not forever, even when it feels like it.  As surly as my skin is temporal, my soul is eternal.  Long before this century winds down, I will be living inside a different body, a perfect body as demonstrated by my Lord and Savior. 

Now please, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for proper nutrition along with enjoying yummy fudge in proper moderation. (see comments) But I’ve spent far too much time absorbed by the wrong things. 

Funny what a quick trip to Wal-Mart can teach you.

Nina, thinking that viewing this life by the light of eternity is a much better way to live and give.

What’s life been teaching you?  Do share!

2am w/Alan Alda July 2, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life, Writing Life.

I have been living in a brain fog for the last ten days or so, fighting tooth and nail to escape. 

You see, surrender (however sweet) is so rarely an option for me.  

Yesterday, I took Anna to the library where she volunteers, and I spotted Alan Alda (well, one of his books) sitting on the Book Sale table.  Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.   The title was so apropos to my aimless grey mental state — rolling along, my own creative voice echoing, fading in and out — that I bought the book.  Maybe, I too could make something out of my own disjointed murmurings just by listening.

At 2am this morning, rudely awakened by throbbing legs that just wouldn’t quit, I cracked open Alda’s book.  And, was amazed.   All my life, Alan Alda has been the funny yet serious, Hollywood-overdone yet undeniably authentic Hawkeye Pierce of M.A.S.H., and a few other characters in movies I can’t remember at the moment. 

But, in reality, Alan Alda is a man of all-encompassing, oceanic-like depths.

His book cradled in my hands picked up where he ended his bestselling memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, having been saved by emergency surgery after nearly dying on a Chilean mountaintop.   From that mountain top experience, which according to Alda marks his new birthday, he plummets deep into the black abyss of suicide.  The stories told were not his own, but of others, people, mostly young, who wrote to him just as M.A.S.H was on the upswing, begging him for advice on how to keep living. 

As a member of this human race, I’ve walked those black endless nights that grow only blacker, trudging slippery mental roads that seem to plunge ever deeper while climbing impossibly upward, sapping every ounce reasoning and faith while proving fatalistic in the process.  As a writer, I commend Alda for bravely juxtaposing his mountaintop experience with the truth of life. 

But, I was not altogether thankful for what his brave choice brought to the fore of my mind.  A story I’ve never found courage to write. Why?  Because, quite simply, I fear mining those suffocating depths to flesh out an authentic main character, never mind what the writing community would think of me if penned such a thing.

See, we, in all our selfish optimism, which we defensively wear, ignore suicide for the same reason we’ve relegated vampires to the world of fantasy.  We prefer that such things don’t exist.

So, I kept reading, flowing along with Alan Alda’s chatty, easygoing humor and listening  

“Be brave enough to live life creatively,” Alda said.  “The creative is the place where no one else has ever been.  It is not the previously known.  You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing, but what you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover will be yourself.”

And then, I overheard myself talking.

Limited Movement, Foggy Brain June 29, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.

I’ve said this before and now I’ll say it again.  It’s good this blog is called Raw & Dangerous, because that is just how I’ve been these last days.  Living in pain, occasionally eclipsed by a Percocet fog, due to an ailing lower back (complete with throbbing legs) thanks to limited dorsiflexion, courtesy of the broken ankle that I was blessed with 170 days ago.  I am fast concluding that the older one gets, the more courage it takes to live.

Yesterday, at Physical Therapy, I was talking with a newly made friend who started her PT about the same time I did.  About 20 years my senior, she had both knees replaced, *at the same time*.  Needless to say, her PT is more of the painful sort, yet she bears it with smiles and jokes even when tears rim her eyes.  

In truth, I don’t know where I’m going with this post, as I bring you, trudging through my brain fog.  I just wanted to stop in and say hello to the twenty or so folks my WordPress Blog Stats say visit here, everyday.   I have loads of ideas flying around my head for this blog, from “How To” posts on making money selling dead people’s stuff (something I’ve done for the last three years), to offering affordable Macro-Editing to new writers looking for feedback and direction, to creating an “e-harmony” like site for writers seeking the right critique partner.  Who knows what else I’ll find when the fog lifts and the pain ebbs.

Until then, thank you for faithfully visiting.  Your patience is much appreciated.



Good News & Bad News June 23, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life, Writing Life.

First the Good News.   Last weekend’s Yard Sale was a smashing success!  The total take just over $600, Anna and her friend Rachel have the funding for their trip to California.  It will be an experience from which YA novels are born.  Anna and Rachel did a stellar job at the sale, too.  More than once, buyers commented on the sale’s organization, item cleanliness and the quality of the signs that led them there.  I am very proud of the girls.

Now for the Bad News.  Taking on the Yard Sale in conjunction with returning to household duties has set my ankle and my lower back, back several paces.  On Percocet, again, my creative brain is solidly fogged in.   When the weather lifts, I’ll return.

Until then… how’s your summer shaping up?

Making Money: The old fashion way June 16, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.

Today, I have my daughter Anna with me to talk about a moneymaking tradition that dates back centuries.  No, dear romance writer friends, we’re not talking about that.  We’re talking about selling your used unwanted stuff.   And in this tight economy, every penny helps.

My daughter Anna is a consummate “yard sailor” who knows how to strike a bargain and get every last dime out of a sale of her own.  With three yard sales under her management belt, the last one netting over $700, I turn the mic over to Anna, with this question.

What, in your opinion, are the main elements of a successful yard sale?

Thanks Mom, it’s wonderful to be here.   Thanks for having me.

So, the elements of having a successful yard sale….

Good adverting and clean and clearly priced items are key. The cleanliness is important! When I see a grimy piece of Hall Poppy Seed china, I don’t see the value.  I see the dirt, I don’t buy, and you just missed out on making six bucks!  It’s also important not to load all the work of washing, pricing, and packing into one day.  Do it over time and price as you go.  Trust me; you’ll thank yourself later.

You say good advertizing is important, but newspaper/classified ads are so expensive.  Is there a way to advertize without paying for it? 

Craigslist!   It’s free with unlimited ad space, and loads of people visit the site.

When writing your ad, give details.   Don’t just say “clothes, baby items, kitchen stuff, china, dolls and more.”  Instead, write “boy’s clothes 0-12, Graco stroller and crib for girls, Tupperware, Hall Poppy Seed china, old collectible cabbage patch dolls (never played with).”  Details get people’s attention and make them come to your yard sale FIRST with their freshly filled wallets.

Also, don’t forget those signs.   Make them big, eye catching, and easy to read.  Include date, time, and street address.   Be sure to waterproof them, (laminating with clear packing tape is cheap and effective) and mount them on cardboard so they will withstand the blowing breeze of passing traffic.  Never hang your sign on a Stop Sign or poles that hold up traffic lights, it is technically illegal to do so, however some people go it anyway and get away with it. Be sure to remove your signs as soon as your sale is over.  It is the neighborly thing to do.

On “the day of,” what can I do to encourage people to buy?

Appearance is everything!

Drape your tables (old clean sheets work great) or purchase some plastic tablecloths at the Dollar store.  

When people walk into your yard sale, get up, walk around, maybe adjust a few items, say hello, ask how they are, and then ask if they are looking for anything in particular. Sometimes people need some engagement. Trust me; I’ve landed many sales using this technique.

Set up your tables in a way that supports comfortable flow of traffic and leads customers to you at your station ready and waiting to take their money, give them change, and bag their purchases.   Remember to have plenty of “Wal-Mart type bags,” change and an organized moneybox.   Having blank paper for an impromptu sign, extra price tags, pens, sharpies, and scissors at hand is also helpful.

Departmentalize your items.  When you walk into Wal-Mart, you don’t see the poultry next to the cereal do you?  No, you don’t.  You wouldn’t expect to find baby toys in the electronics section either.  It’s the same way with yard sales. Don’t stick a drill with doilies or mesh jewelry with kitchenware!  When Mommies and Grandmas come looking for your advertized baby stuff, they should find all you have in one department.  The same is true of collectables.  Your yard sale is your store.  Good organization is pleasing to the eye and suggests better quality. 

Pricing.  Price fairly and according to your market (the neighborhood where your sale is located).  Never price an item compared to what you saw on Ebay! This pains me every time someone says “Well it is worth 50 bucks on Ebay!” at a yard sale.  Ebay is a very different market whose pricing doesn’t apply to “yard sale” markets.  Pricing an item according to what you saw on Ebay will just make your shoppers mad and mad shoppers talk to each other at other sales going on that day.  An overpriced, disorganized yard sale will be squeezed out while better sales are quickly recommended. 

Be ready to bargain, but at the right time.  Experienced yard sailors know that there is a time for bargaining, and that’s late in the day or on the last day of the yard sale.   But they might try to bargain sooner.  It’s up to you to say yes or no, but don’t panic and say yes to a bargain you didn’t want. If you have more time, just say no. I’m sure you’ll get another offer.

Finally, ask for help!  A yard sale is a tough job that often needs at least three helpers.  Yard sailors are impatient people. It’s often hot, they want to get a move on, and there are other bargains to be had!  So, enlist family and friends to keep things moving. After all, what better use do you have for your teenage children and their friends in the summer?

If you follow this advice I’m sure you will have a very successful yard sale that will put a nice bit of extra coin in your pocket.

Thank you, Anna.  Will you let us know how your June 18 & 19 yard sale goes?

You’re very welcome, and I most certainly will!  I’m looking forward to serving buying customers who will supply me with cash for a trip to California.  And I’ll be rid of my clutter, too!  A yard sale is a great time to tan up a little as well, haha!

Anna will be hanging with me at Raw & Dangerous, today.  So, if you’ve got Yard Sale questions, tips or woes, here’s your chance.  Post in comments. 

Ohoh! I love questions, please do ask something. 🙂