What is wrong with Valentine’s Day

Roses in the shape of a heart. Just because.

Bet that got your attention, huh?

I know, I know.  I can hear you all now: “There’s nothing WRONG with the most romantic day of the year, Paula!  You’re a romance writer – isn’t that, like, sacrilegious or something?”

So let me quantify that by saying I have nothing against Valentine’s Day, rather, what retailers have done to it and the massive guilt trip people take because of it.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

First, Valentine’s Day was set up by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD to commemorate Christian martyrs named Valentine.  Apparently, there is no correlation between it and the modern interpretation, which was widely thought to be introduced by Chaucer.  Fascinating stuff, history.  Here’s some more on Saint Valentine and Valentine’s Day.

So, back to the commercial horrors.  Roses are the most expensive leading up to February 14th.  I have seen the prices triple – no joke.  This, for a flower you can give at any other time of the year, when your love is least expecting it and will probably appreciate it more.

Then we’re bombarded on TV, magazines and internet with aggressive advertising, where you’re guilted into buying your love overpriced flowers, chocolates or jewelry.  Or soft plush toys which, quite frankly, have no place in a grown woman’s bedroom (unless you’re a collector, in which case, put that shit in a display case).  I despise the way guilt is used to encourage a display of  love.

And, if you’re the giver, then the implication is that you’re a terrible, terrible person if you don’t give something.

Andrew Lincoln expressing his love. Not on Valentine's Day. He rocks.

No, I am not cynical, nor do I hate romance (I do write it, after all).  Nothing warms my heart more than two people in love (well, actually a few things warm my heart more… small fluffy kittens, carrot cake and finding money in my jeans pocket.  But that’s not what my post is about.)  I think love is pretty darn awesome and two people in love, in that special little bubble of happy-joy bliss, always brings a smile to my face.

And you know what’s more awesome?  Not having to be told that you HAVE to give your partner something special on one day of the year.  I don’t know about you, but I deliberately do the opposite if I’m being told what to do.  “Paula, clean up your room.”  “Paula, wash the car.”  “Paula, wear something a little less revealing.”  “Paula, you should buy (insert item) because we in Advertising Land told you to.”  See, sounds like my mother, right?  If it had an English accent and short dark hair, and cleaned like the Queen was coming to visit, it’d DEFINITELY be her.

Here’s my thing.  I believe retailers and advertisers have hijacked all the cool holidays, like Easter and Christmas, and people spend way too much, getting a little crazy and losing the real message of the day, which is pretty much about love, faith and sharing and family celebration (only for Easter/Christmas mind you – if family got in on the act with Valentine’s,  THAT would be a little weird.  Not to mention possibly illegal).

So, you love someone.  They love you.  You should feel free to express that love however way you want, at whatever time of the year you want.  You should get (or give) flowers “just because.”  You should buy your love a special gift, or have a romantic dinner or  have wild, crazy sex in a hotel bed strewn with rose petals because you damn-well feel like it, because you love them.  Because you love them all year ’round and not just for one day.  And especially NOT because some advertising people tell you to.  I tell you, I’d be much happier with a bunch of flowers, knowing the giver didn’t have to sell their kidney to do it.

Or maybe that’s just me…

By Paula Posted in rant

School, exercise and other assorted challenges to my writing schedule

Reading: Rebel Angels by Libba Bray
Watching: Star Wars: the Clone Wars season 3
Listening to: One Last Breath by Creed

So my 11 year old started Year 6 at the beginning of this month.  What makes this year different is it’s a brand-new school – smaller, better, and more expensive.  It’s also – if you’d been reading my Facebook posts late last year – a 45 minute drive away, as opposed to the public travesty that was a 5 minute walk down the street.  Public transport is not an option (at least, not right now) so I have a 1.5 hour round trip to take, Monday to Friday, until further notice.

Challenge Number 1.

I also changed gyms around Christmas, one that has electronic equipment, because I’ve started back into running (with the help of a fabulous app called Ease into 5K – TOTALLY recommend it!), plus I wanted a more intense weight workout than my 30min Contours could provide.   Problem?  It’s at the start of that 45minute drive.  And in my totally optimistic way, I assumed I would jump out of bed at around 6.30 and do my workout, get home in time for a shower, breakfast, bag pack and then drive to school.  I did not take into account the fact that it’s still dark at that time, plus getting darker as we head into winter.  Oh, and I suck at mornings – with half an hour until we have to walk out the door, I always, ALWAYS end up losing time.  How on earth can I get ready (after being at the gym) on time?

Challenge Number 2

My PC is at home, with my email and internet connection.  It’s where I write.  It’s where the coffee is.  It’s where I can shut the door and write to deadline for a few hours.  But it’s now 45 minutes away.

Challenge Number 3.

So what to do about these challenges?  First, own up to them.  I understand that I suck when it comes to getting out the door on time.  I realize there is simply NO WAY I will get to the gym before school, so I investigated other options and found a fitness centre that met my needs in the town over from school.  I joined up today, at a cheap off-peak rate.  Yes, it’s an additional fee, but I can put it on hold during school holidays, plus I know I feel 100% better when I exercise, so the benefits outweigh the money issue.  Two problems solved right away, which means I won’t have to a) stress about not getting to the gym and b) feel shitty and guilty about it.

Now, the writing thing.  I have a MacBook.  I have noise-cancelling headphones and the iPod loaded with music, books and movies.  I have a power cord, a cooler bag (for a packed lunch) and water.  I am a one-woman roving office.  I can get to a local library which has free wireless (yes, I am using it as I write this, listening to Leona Lewis singing Bleeding Love  :grin:), then head off to the gym after a light lunch, before picking up my son for the drive home.

So my lesson learned in all this?  I have made important changes that allows me to ultimately meet my writing deadlines, my desire for exercise and my son’s educational and emotional needs.  It meant a flip in my thinking, getting used to doing stuff differently (which I sometimes have a problem with) and allowing a transition time.  So as of tomorrow, I’ll be an official member of two gyms, and that person typing furiously at the table in the back of the library.  And if you happen to see me there, looking distracted and with headphones on, mouthing the words of songs you can’t hear, don’t disturb!  I’m working, okay? 😎

exciting stuff for February

Reading: Lucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts
Listening to: In My Arms by Plumb
Watching: Star Wars (the original trilogy!!!)

So it’s been a while, right?  How are you all?  I’ve just crawled out of the deadline cave (book # 7 is off into cyberspace) so it’s time to surface and let you guys know what I’ve been doing.

Whenever I finish a book, I always end up learning something, be it a writing process, a better way of plotting and/or organizing my time more efficiently, or just a different way of writing.  For this book, I learned:

  • I can write through the Christmas holiday period (not that I wanted to, but I did)
  • Writing at night, in bed, when everyone is asleep and can’t interrupt with dumb questions, dinner choices or “can I have a lolly?” is FAB
  • A looming deadline will always make me finish the book, even through the horror that is the public library (think screaming kids, curious onlookers and noisy browsers and you’re nearly there)
  • I can write 10,000 words in a week (not that I wanted to, but I did)
  • I will not wither away and die if I don’t watch the latest episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, Private Practice or House

I also learned a very interesting writing technique — getting my characters from mistrust to trust.  See, in this last book my hero and heroine are two complete strangers and have an intense distrust of each other at the start of the story.  So how to go about showing that gradual change to total trust (then, obviously, love) by the end?  It’s something I’d struggled with so I wrote an article about it because that’s how I roll 🙂  I’ll post it as soon as I finish.

If you don’t follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook (and you should because I talk A LOT so you might miss something important), Promoted to Wife? (aka Zac and Emily’s story) has been nominated for Favourite Short Category Romance of 2011 in the Australian Romance Readers Association’s awards!  Yay! (insert happy Snoopy dancing here – oh, hang on….>>>>>)  Thank you everyone who voted.  So very thrilled to be up there with some of my most favourite people 🙂  Oh, and ARRA also asked me to be their guest speaker on the night 😎  It’s  11th February in Sydney if you want to come along for a fab time – wear lots of bling!

Another event this month is my talk/workshop at Burwood Library, NSW on the 18th February (12.30-1.30pm).  I’ll be talking about the nuts and bolts of writing romantic fiction, plus there’ll be some giveaways.  This is a free event but bookings are preferred.  Call the library on (02)  9911 9999 or email them.

In other exciting news, Bed of Lies is on the shelves this month (March for Australia) – gorgeous cover, right?  Make sure you rush out and buy it.  😀  Here’s the blurb:

Her Darkest Secret… Revealed
Banker Luke De Rossi must sell the Australian beach house he inherited from his mobster uncle, fast. But then he runs up against Beth Jones. Is she the rightful tenant? A reporter out for a scoop? His uncle’s lover? Luke wants answers – almost as much as he wants Beth.

The last thing Beth needs is this hunky magnet for media attention breathing down her neck. She has a lot to hide. And falling hard for Luke as he gets closer – and tries to evict her! – isn’t helping things. Separately, they have each made their bed. Now they’ll lie in it… together.