Posted in General on April 26th, 2011 by Casey Crow
Hi everyone! Come see me today over at www.graceelliot.webs.com/ talking about Second Chances. Please stop by!
Posted in General on April 26th, 2011 by Casey Crow
Hi everyone! Come see me today over at www.graceelliot.webs.com/ talking about Second Chances. Please stop by!
Posted in General on April 21st, 2011 by Casey Crow
Yes, I’m impulsive. A doctor or a shrink might label me as ADD, a label whose connotations I reject. If I have trouble paying attention, the topic must not be that interesting. I did well in school and I have a Master’s degree in Literacy from Michigan State. I’m a teacher, and my students tend to like the fact I can’t stand doing the same thing day after day.
While I wrestled with Tomorrow Cries, I read my first erotic romance novel. It was a free download on my Kindle. I’m a veteran of the romance genre, having discovered Johanna Lindsay in seventh grade, but I’d never seen anything that explicit. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I thought, “I can write better than that.” A few months later, I had the first draft of Letting Go. That ended up being my first published novel.
The next book in the Awakenings series, Hanging On, took on the issue of the lasting repercussions of a traumatic event. I dislike perfect heroines because I know they’re underdeveloped. Nobody is perfect. When you love someone, you often love their flaws. I also experimented a bit with ménage, mostly because I wanted to explore what it would be like to write an erotic scene involving more than two people.
After that, I switched back to paranormal and tried out having a supernatural villain in Irrepressible Force. In keeping with that theme, I published the first of my Daughters of Circe trilogy, Torment. This series centers around a series of soul mates who must find one another in lifetime after lifetime, but only one of them remembers they even have a soul mate. The second and third in that trilogy, Desiree and Riley, come out this summer. All of my heroes and heroines deal with this difficult and painful experience in their own ways. Both Desiree and Riley end up in foursomes, so they’re my first two forays into ménage a quatre. They also both present interracial relationships. Desiree is African-American and one of the heroes in Riley is as well.
Late last year, I returned to the Awakenings series with Two Masters for Samantha. That was just a fun read. I had no moral dilemma on my agenda or real emotional strife to explore. I used it as a chance to look at the unrealistic extremes presented in much BDSM literature, a fantasy story wearing a contemporary disguise. It was the easiest novel to write so far. I poured it out in three weeks as I avoided working on some papers for a post-graduate class I took. Then I tried my hand at romantic suspense with Crimes of the Heart.
My latest release, Time to Pretend, took the longest to write. I wrestled with it for nearly a year because Daniel was so flipping stubborn. I almost gave it up, but several readers sent emails asking for Daniel’s story, so I kept at it. Once I found out about him and Evan, things flowed much better. That discovery made it much easier to put myself in Alaina’s place. Daniel’s reluctance to face his love for another man would make me sad, not angry. I thought Alaina should be supportive. I thought she was the type of woman who would encourage Daniel to accept himself. It’s hard enough to come out of the closet. It’s impossible to be happy without the understanding and support of those closest to you. I delve into some pretty deep emotional issues here, and I hope you all fall for Alaina, Evan, and Daniel as much as I did.
Right now, I have several stories going. I’m always working on two or three manuscripts and I’m always reading two or three novels. Ideas, situations, character analysis, scenes, and dialogue flow for me when I do this. I guess that’s the upside to ADD—a mind that never stops working.
Posted in General on April 18th, 2011 by Casey Crow
Feeling sluggish and out of sorts? There’s a reason for that people, and you can not use the “monthly visitor” excuse either. Your tiredness is simply a combination of what life is throwing at you – stress at work, running kids to every activity known to man, poor diet, skipping the gym, and we mustn’t forget the oh so thrilling joy of maintaining romantic relationships in the midst of all the chaos. So how do you solve this feeling of well, it’s not depression, but for some, it could lead to it. It’s more a feeling of give-and-take, with you giving 95% of yourself to everyone else and receiving a whoppin’ 5% in return for everything you do. In essence, you’ve lost a sense of yourself – your identity.
Finding yourself begins just like anything else – baby steps. You are not going to change overnight, so that’s once less thing to stress about and wha-la, one less zit or wrinkle. First, get your bootay off the couch (no matter how good you think you are at guessing the right answer on HGTV’s House Hunters) and hit the gym. If you aren’t a member of one – jump around to GAC or the radio or better yet, talk a walk outside. The fresh air will revive you. Next, watch your diet. Balance and moderation are the keys here. If you want a cookie, eat it. Otherwise, you’ll end up eating more in an effort to satisfy your cookie substitution. Just balance the sweet out with something healthy, like a salad, preferably organic lettuce, too. Too much processed sugar makes you weak and feeds cancer cells so counter act it with veggies. Try to make it a point to eat at least one healthy everyday and remember to hit all the groups on the food pyramid, specifically protein, fruits, and vegetables. Pretty soon, it will be become a habit and you and increase the healthy meals and decrease the junk food. But, if there is one tip to offer up, it’s WATER. To reiterate, WATER! This author should own stock in Dasani. Water flushes out the gunk for those who like junk (back to those cookies). You may not care for drinking it with meals, but always have some along side whatever else you’re drinking. That way, when you get thirsty, take a sip of water first, then the wine, soda, or tea. You will be amazed how that one little thing cuts down on calories. Plus, keep a bottle or glass beside you throughout the day to sip on.
Posted in General on April 13th, 2011 by Guest
Thank you very much for having me to blog today. My name is Jeff Mehalic, and I have a law practice in Charleston, West Virginia and will soon be opening an office in New York. In addition to my litigation practice, I also negotiate on behalf of writers and authors, and represent them in disputes arising from their contracts. I have a blog called The Write Lawyer, which may be of interest to readers here, and another called the West Virginia Business Litigation blog.
Before I talk about why you need to know and understand what’s in your publishing contract, let me add a disclaimer. My opinions here are general in nature and should not be interpreted as legal advice for any particular situation. Any recommendations or advice would depend on the specific facts.
As a writer or author, perhaps the most important document you will work with — after your manuscript — is your publishing contract. I’m sure each of you knows someone — hopefully not you — who has signed a publishing contract without consulting an agent or lawyer and been taken advantage of in the process.
Let me give you three recent examples where sophisticated and experienced parties entered into contracts or other agreements that came back to haunt them, and in two of the examples, caused substantial financial or professional harm.
The first example involves Conan O’Brien, who was involved in a widely publicized separation from NBC last year, after it decided to move The Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m. from its traditional starting time of 11:30 p.m. During O’Brien’s negotiations with NBC, in which he opposed any effort to move the start time of the program so that Jay Leno’s program (The Jay Leno Show) could take over the slot, his reps discovered that his contract with NBC did not provide for time-slot protection, meaning that NBC could air the show at whatever time it chose (within reason — it probably couldn’t air The Tonight Show in the middle of the afternoon opposite Oprah or Dr. Phil), and wasn’t obligated to air the show at 11:30, even though that was the time it had always aired, at least since Johnny Carson took over from Jack Paar in the early 1960s.
Without time-slot protection, O’Brien had little in the way of leverage to negotiate with NBC. The obvious question is why didn’t O’Brien’s transactional lawyers — who negotiated his contract with NBC when NBC agreed to give him The Tonight Show in 2009 — ensure that The Tonight Show’s time slot at 11:35 p.m. was guaranteed in his contract? Without knowing for sure, my best guess is they thought he didn’t need it. Who would think that NBC would be willing to move a show from the time that it’s been aired for more than 40 years?
But you know who had a time-slot protection provision in his contract with NBC? Jay Leno. And he’s also the subject of my second example. Most entertainment contracts have a “pay or play” provision, which means that management, such as a studio, network, or television station, has to let the talent work or, if management doesn’t want the talent to work, to pay him or her anyway. But, as NBC discovered to its dismay, Leno’s contract had a “pay and play” provision, which meant that NBC had to let Leno work; it didn’t have the option of taking him off the air and then paying him under his contract.
That provision complicated NBC’s negotiations with O’Brien, because it meant that NBC couldn’t cancel The Jay Leno Show, and find something else for Leno to do or pay him until his contract expired. Leno’s “pay and play” provision, coupled with the absence of time-slot protection in O’Brien’s contract, were largely responsible for the turn of events that led to O’Brien leaving NBC in January 2010.
The third example is one that was concluded — apparently — a couple of days ago, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss in their effort to undo their settlement with Mark Zuckerberg over the creation of Facebook.
Here’s a story from The New York Times from the end of last year that described the Winklevosses’ history with Zuckerberg and what was at stake in the litigation. Essentially, the Winklevosses claimed that the settlement they reached with Zuckerberg turned out not to be worth nearly as much as they believed, in that they thought a share of Facebook stock was worth $39.50, when in actuality each share was worth $8.88. Considering that the Winklevosses had received 1.25 million shares of Facebook stock as a settlement, the difference in the stock’s valuation was huge.
But in Facebook, Inc. v. Pacific Northwest Software, Inc., 2011 WL 1346951 (9th Cir. 2011), the appeals court disagreed with the Winklevosses, and placed the burden on them to have ensured that they received what they had negotiated:
The Winklevosses are sophisticated parties who were locked in a contentious struggle over ownership rights in one of the world’s fastest-growing companies. They engaged in discovery, which gave them access to a good deal of information about their opponents. They brought half-a-dozen lawyers to the mediation. Howard Winklevoss—father of Cameron and Tyler, former accounting professor at Wharton School of Business and an expert in valuation—also participated. A party seeking to rescind a settlement agreement by claiming a [Securities and Exchange Commission] Rule 10b–5 violation under these circumstances faces a steep uphill battle.
The court concluded its opinion with this summary of the Winklevosses’ predicament and explained why they weren’t entitled to relief:
The Winklevosses are not the first parties bested by a competitor who then seek to gain through litigation what they were unable to achieve in the marketplace. And the courts might have obliged, had the Winklevosses not settled their dispute and signed a release of all claims against Facebook. With the help of a team of lawyers and a financial advisor, they made a deal that appears quite favorable in light of recent market activity. See Geoffrey A. Fowler & Liz Rappaport, Facebook Deal Raises $1 Billion, Wall St. J., Jan. 22, 2011, at B4 (reporting that investors valued Facebook at $50 billion—3.33 times the value the Winklevosses claim they thought Facebook’s shares were worth at the mediation). For whatever reason, they now want to back out. Like the district court, we see no basis for allowing them to do so. At some point, litigation must come to an end. That point has now been reached.
What lessons do these three situations teach? First, make sure that you have representation, whether with an agent or a lawyer. The publishing company will be represented, and the contract you’re offered has been drafted and reviewed on multiple occasions by lawyers. You will always be at a disadvantage if the other side is represented and you are not.
The next lesson is to make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to. If you have an agent or lawyer and you have a questions about the contract language or a particular provision in the contract, ask what it means and why it’s there. Remember that what one provision may give, another provision may alter or modify. The contract has to be read and understood in its entirety, not as a collection of separate clauses.
The third lesson is that everything in a contract is negotiable. That doesn’t mean you’ll get your way on every provision; you won’t, especially if you’re trying to do it yourself. But an agent or lawyer who deals with publishing contracts on a regular basis will know what you can successfully negotiate and how far the publisher can be pushed. On some items, there’s no leeway at all. But you won’t know unless you ask.
And finally, don’t let your desire or enthusiasm to be a published author override your professional well-being. If you can’t reach an agreement with a publisher on the terms of a contract, you will be better off to walk away and pursue publication elsewhere than to obligate yourself to a contract that is heavily weighted in the publisher’s favor.
Casey, thanks again for having me, and I will be happy to answer questions and comments.
Posted in General on April 11th, 2011 by Casey Crow
Do you know what leadership is or the definition of a leader? A leader is NOT “the boss.” It is someone who encourages or motivates people to reach a goal or vision. A goal is something that you really, really want to achieve, but in order to reach the big picture or long range goals, you must first set short term goals. Think of this as a journey toward the destination and that’s where we learn, mature, develop, sacrifice, and often have fun.
The past few decades have seen major changes in the style of leadership from that of a “boss” to that of a “server.” Today’s leaders are no longer at the head of the pack, but pushing from behind. They passionately work toward motivating group efforts into achieving one common goal. Unfortunately, that goal may not jive with your personal wishes, but what’s best for the overall good. Most importantly, the most effective way to lead is to serve.
Back in my Miss Alabama days, I created a children’s motivation program entitled GOALS. It was an anachronym for “Giving Others Awesome Leadership Skills.” I firmly believe that if parents and teachers teach leadership skills to children at a young age, then by the time they reach their teen and adult years, they will have the confidence and self-esteem to stand up for what they believe in and do what is right. Using props, I taught elementary students five leadership skills that I now want to share with you. Bear in mind, it’s never too late to start “servant leading!”
I use a mnemonic device to make it easier to remember the leadership qualities: God Takes Perfect Care. The “GO” in God stands for Goal Oriented, while the “D” means Determination. The “T” in Takes is Time Management. The “P” in Perfect, persistence and the “C” in Care, compassion.
Goal oriented means staying focused on an ambition or working really hard to make a dream come true. It requires a vision or dream, but you also must be realistic. Start out with small goals and once you reach that, work toward bigger and better goals. Just remember to take one step at a time. Scholars seem to think that this is the most important trait of a leader. After all, Theodore Hesburgh said that “the very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision.”
The second skill is determination, which is dedication to a goal. Basically, it means hard work. I would always show an old, raggedly pair of ballet shoes to prove that success does not happen without practice. My motto is “In this world of give-and-take, you must be willing to give what it takes.”
The third quality is time management. This means organizing the hours in a day to be able have time to do everything you need or want to do. It starts with making a list and setting priorities so that the important items get done first. Break out those calendars, appointment books, and cell phones that beep when you have something to do because it’s mighty easy to get side-tracked.
The next characteristic is persistence – never giving up on a dream. After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, a 1933 memo from the MGM testing said: “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” An expert said of famous football coach Vince Lombardi: “He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation.” Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for lacking ideas. He also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. When you don’t reach your goals the first time, keep on trying and eventually you will succeed. It is my opinion that there are no limitations on ambition for those willing to work diligently toward their goals, and to understand that yes, it may take some hard work and dedication to reach those goals, but if you are willing to put forth the effort, you can and will succeed. My favorite bible verse sums it best. “Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds because the testing of your faith develope perseverance.” 1 John 2-3.
Now, think of a megaphone. What’s the first thing you would do with it? Put it up to your mouth and yell, right? Wrong. If you put a megaphone up to your ear, it greatly enhances your hearing. That’s what compassion - listening to the opinions of others and then in combination with your own, forms a decision that benefits everybody. Compassion demonstrates caring and unselfishness. After all, people will follow only those who have compassion. That is what makes a true leader, someone who is a beacon – a guiding light – inspiring others to do his best.
If you tend to shy away from leadership roles, remember you can still be a very effective person simply by serving because that makes you an instant role model – and utlimately a leader without you trying! Here’s another way to get started. If you need help, reach out. Someone, somewhere, somehow will know how to help you. Remember your high school teacher saying, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.” Shared knowledge builds loyalty and trust. Remember GOD Takes Perfect Care so no matter who you are or what age you are, become a “leader” – a “guiding light.” Be a Beacon.
Posted in General on April 4th, 2011 by Casey Crow
Hi friends, I’m over at www.kellylstone.com/blog today talking about being a Plotter vs. Pantser. Please stop by!
Posted in General on March 31st, 2011 by Casey Crow
One of the many reasons I love regency romances, is the subtly of courtship… subtle, yet sizzling! With a chaperone present our regency heroine has limited ways of seducing her dark lord….but sometimes less is more.
In ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’, during a drawing lesson with Lord Ranulf, Celeste Armitage plays the ‘proximity’ card with consummate innocence.
“Very well, we begin. First I will show you how to measure proportion.”
Sitting side by side, the warm press of her leg through her skirts against his thigh was, Ranulf decided, exquisite torture. A curl of chestnut hair escaped its pins, bobbing against her neck and desperately he wanted to reach out to tuck it back behind the shell of her ear. But he resisted, instead barking gruff instructions.
“Hold the pencil thus,” Ranulf extended his arm. “Overlay the tip against the crown of the head…and slide your thumb along to mark the position of the chin…”
His pulse raced a Celeste’s lips parted in concentration. Was it his imagination or was she trembling, her tongue darting between moist lips. His eyes locked with hers, drawn into their emerald glitter, falling deeper under their spell. He heard her breath hitch as her arm drooped down to her side…
Of course once you have hooked your brooding lord, you need to transform him into more husbandly material. And to do this, flattering flirtation is required, whereby the heroine reveals the hero’s hidden depths. Celeste does this with aplomb; admiration in her whispered tones as she skillfully massages the delicate male ego.
At her invitation Ranulf flicked out his coat tails to sit beside her in the shade of the high brick wall.
The sketch was of a handsome man with dark soulful eyes; part rogue, part lost boy. Over his shoulder a horse draped his head, nudging his velveteen nose against the figures chest, devoted and trusting.
“This is me.” Ranulf’s eyes dilated in surprise, “only this version looks …content…at peace with the world.”
Celeste whispered, her words nearly lost of the breeze. “Behind that façade you are a gentle man, in the truest sense. It’s just that you hide it well.”
“That comes,” Ranulf replied with bitterness, “of being a constant disappointment to those around me.”
Her eyes glittered. “How can you even think that?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Try me.” Tentatively, shy as a startled rabbit, she reached across and touched his hand. Ranulf’s shoulders slumped from the sheer relief of human contact.
When a regency rogue is targeted by a determined tonnish Miss, he might as well give up there and then. For if she wishes, once she has evoked an animal response from his body, her wit and pluck invades his sanity such that no even a stiff ride in a thunder storm can purge her influence from the mind.
How could a woman affect him so? Ranulf pressed Fable on harder. Startled, the horse leapt forward, all his energy spilling over into the exhilaration of speed. But as Ranulf transferred his weight to his knees, he seemed cursed, for even the steady, drumming of a headlong gallop, beat out the rhythm of her name…
She had bewitched him.
Ranulf crouched low over Fable’s neck, the smell of horse grease filling his nostrils, the silvered mane lashing his cheeks. Like a warrior training for war, he recognized weakness and must destroy it. Damn her.
Achieving all this under the watchful eyes of a chaperone. Go Celeste! Oh la la! Go those Regency girls! They could teach us a thing or two about flirting!
Blurb from ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ – Grace Elliot
Celeste Armitage has a plan…and it doesn’t include marriage.
Celeste’s despairing parents exile her to the country, where she finds a sketch book of nude studies and is shaken to find the artist is her hostess’s son, Lord Ranulf Charing. This cynical lord is the exactly sort of dissipated rogue she despises most…if only her blood didn’t heat at the sight of him!
Lord Ranulf faces ruin as a blackmailer uses his late brother’s debts to destroy the Charing’s reputation. When Ranulf unexpectedly falls for the rebellious Celeste he must chose between true love and family duty…but Ranulf underestimates Celeste’s resolve to clear his name and unwittingly places his soul mate in mortal danger….
About the author: Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. She firmly believes that intelligent people should read romance, as an antidote to the modern world. Grace is addicted to books and all things feline. If you would like to know more about Grace and her work please visit:
The sensuous historical romance ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ is widely available from most good eBook stores, Amazon Kindle, Smashwords and www.solsticepublishing.com
The Romance Reviews. FictionBooks. OnceUponAChapter
Posted in General on March 28th, 2011 by Casey Crow
Hello everyone! Thanks so much to Casey for having me here today! For commenting today I’ll be giving away a copy of one of my three books.
Recently at my local Romance Writers of America’s meeting I explained the difference between erotica and erotic romance. Several members informed me that they’d never known there was a difference. That brings me to today’s post. Months back I expressed an interest in writing an inspirational novel about a woman losing her first love to drugs and him coming back clean as a preacher. At the time I got a lot of negative feedback because I was told there was no way I could write something so tame. The thing most people don’t understand is that erotic romance and inspirational novels have one huge thing in common, emotions.
Both inspirational and erotic romance stories are based off of the emotions and feelings that drive the characters forward in the book. Inspirational writers must stop at a kiss, while erotic romance writers can let their characters do just about anything. While inspirational and erotic romance have that one base in common that’s how erotica differs. Erotica does not have to have any emotional involvement from the characters. In erotica the story is pushed forward by the physical and mental desire for sexual experience. I’m not saying that in order to write erotica that you can’t have a story line with a great plot but it’s not about the emotions in erotica. In this genre your characters are open to explore themselves, their sexuality, and others without having to have an emotional journey along with the sexual journey. Most times at the end of an erotic romance you get a happily ever after. At the end of an erotica you don’t. The heroine or hero does not need to be in a relationship, only the promise that the main character has found him or herself sexually and grown from the experience is required in erotica.
Before you classify your books please make sure you read the “rules” for each genre. If you are querying an erotic romance as an erotica you are hurting your chances of getting a yes from an agent or editor who is interested in erotic romance. That goes the other way too.
My erotic romance UNTAMABLE was released on February 23, 2011. This story wasn’t supposed to be out until mid April, so I’m thrilled it’s out early. To purchase UNTAMABLE at http://www.sirenpublishing.com/saydegrace/
Here’s my new cover as well as a bit of a teaser, in this one I hope can feel the emotion behind these characters:
Jasper nodded. “All right, tell me she’s going to wake up any second and be perfectly fine.”
Doc grimaced. “I can’t tell you that, but be prepared for her to be back in heat when she does. She needs to complete the cycle.”
Damn it, that was not what Jasper wanted to hear, although her still being in heat would definitely be a good thing. He couldn’t wait to mount her.
Sidda wanted to roll her eyes. All he thought about was “mounting” her. For fuck’s sake, she’d almost been killed by Brockton’s dumb ass, and all Jasper wanted to do was mount her. “Is that all you think of?” Her croaking voice flowed through the room.
An instant later, a rush of footsteps had Jasper on one side of her bed and Doc on the other. She shook her head, biting back a groan of pain. Dammit, her head still hurt.
She opened her mouth to complain but stopped short when another figure appeared at the foot of the bed. Tears began to pour from her eyes. She slowly sat up, holding her hands out to Zeke, sobbing as he eased his way to her. “Oh my god.” She grasped Zeke’s hands, tugging him to her. Sidda’s breath caught in her chest. She’d been so sure she’d never see him again, yet here he was alive with her.
“What happened? I saw what Brockton…” She shook her aching head, holding onto him for dear life. He’d saved her from Brockton. “I thought…I…”
“Yeah, he beat me up pretty bad, but Stephan got there.” Zeke smiled. “He’s a good guy after all.”
Sidda forced a smile for her brother. Her hand trembled, burning from the mark on her palm. It looked like a small scratch, but the hum of energy from the spot told her it was more.
She cleared the thoughts of Stephan from her mind. “I can’t believe you’re all right.”
“Yeah, I’m gonna be fine. Your mate said if I didn’t get better, he’d be forced to beat me back to health.” Zeke laughed.
Sidda smiled at Jasper, releasing her brother’s hands to pull Jasper’s head toward her. She kissed his cheek, and he winked.
“Gross.” Zeke’s lips curled. “I should not know what you are feeling, or him. It’s disturbing. Come on, Doc, I want to take these rags off my forehead.”
Zeke and Doc slipped from the room. Sidda grinned at Jasper and pulled the covers back so he could slide into bed with her.
He tugged his pants and shoes off, followed by his shirt. “I should be mad at you for running off, not trusting me to handle the situation, and going into heat while I wasn’t there. I really should be pissed, but all I want to do is hold you. To make sure you’re safe and all right.” Jasper wrapped his arms around Sidda, dragging her close to him.
Sidda sighed with contentment. She’d been so scared when Brockton had come after her, but here in her mate’s arms, she was safe again. “Just hold me. Later we can fight. Right now I just want to hold you.” She yawned against his warm chest.
“Whatever you want, babe.” His hands stroked her back, sending her into a blissful sleep.
Thank you everyone! I hope you enjoyed my post and now go forth and be productive!
Posted in General on March 21st, 2011 by Casey Crow
Thank you, Casey, for inviting me to blog today. It’s my pleasure after your great post on pageants as part of my recent Salute to the South at email@example.com. Your post reminded me of my experiences with my own daughter who chose a different path.
My Laura never disappointed me until she was five when my husband and I gave her a karate gi, planning to share one of our family hobbies with her. She put it on and allowed me to take her picture in it, then took it off, folded it as neatly as a five-year-old could manage, handed it back to me and uttered those heart-breaking words: “Karate is your sport, Mama, swimming is mine.”
And how was I supposed to know this? She loved to swim in the bay at our house, but compete? Nevertheless, I packed away the gi, bought a gallon of UltraSwim shampoo and signed her up for the local year-round swim team.
By the time she was ten, she was swimming in the top one percent nationally—not headed for the Olympics yet, but pretty damn good. Then, she and her two best swim friends hit puberty. Laura grew to 5’9″ tall –great for a swimmer- but she wears a size 5 ring and size 7 shoes. No way could she bulk up enough to swim competitively for scholarships or the goal of every swimmer who dives into a pool—the Olympics—it just wasn’t in her genes.
After one tearful meet, Laura accepted her limitations and continued to compete because she loved to. While in high school, she became a lifeguard, worked as an assistant coach in summer swim league, then coached a team of her own. In her senior year, after her high school team’s state meet, she climbed out of the pool, looked at me and said “I’m finished.” Laura worked at her college’s pool, taught swim lessons, and worked as an assistant coach with a youth team.
Could I imagine Laura in a pageant? Not likely. Laura was invited to model by a couple of department stores, but she gave the ladies a polite “No thank you, ma’am,” and returned to swim practice. She wouldn’t even buy a nice dress for a portrait. When her cousin loaned us one, she complained “She should have minded her own business.” (Confidentially, in the photo she’s wearing her swimsuit under her cousin’s dress.)
Laura did have one brush with pageants, however. After swimming at a meet in Auburn, she and her swim friends piled into the elevator in their wet suits, damp hair flying. A group of immaculately groomed and beautifully dressed pageant princesses who were participating at an event in the hotel followed them into the elevator. Each group claimed a side of the elevator, then stared at each other like they were from different planets.
But they really weren’t that different. Each of those children had a lot in common, beginning with supportive parents. As a retired educator and counselor, I could only dream of parents like that. Each child learned early to set goals, then worked to achieve those goals. Whether exhausting swim practices, intense dance or voice lessons, or tedious weight training or fittings, their commitment was a key to success. Then, there was learning how to gracefully accept not winning and competing simply for the enjoyment of the experience.
There’s no doubt that the swimmers’ passion and commitment affected their later lives. Laura is a successful commercial lending banker with an MBA from Johns Hopkins, Mandy is completing her OB-GYN residency, and Lee Anne who recently married is an accountant. I don’t know how those pageant participants at Auburn turned out, but I wish them success like Casey’s who has a long list of personal and academic achievements which she attributes – in part- to her participation in pageants. Did you or your child make a commitment to something early? How did it work out?
Thanks again to Casey for inviting me to blog. Today, my Moonday’s Historic Hunks in History with the Sizzlers (http://southernsizzleromance.wordpress.com/) features that naughty King Charles II (and his many mistresses) and my daily blog (http://ritabay.wordpress.com/) continues a Salute to the American West with The Oklahoma Land Rush. Also, please check out excerpts of my historical and paranormal romances at http://www.ritabay.com. Rita Bay
Posted in General on March 17th, 2011 by Casey Crow
This blog post first appeared on Rita Bay’s website http://ritabay.com as part of her “Salute to the South,” but in case you missed it…
Those that know me are fully aware I pretty much have five passions in life – my kids, writing, dancing, working out, and pageants. Rita’s “Salute to the South” includes a shout out to pageants and she called on me, a pageant guru (yes, I’m tooting my own horn). I think my first pageant experience was when I was five, but really got the bug when I turned fifteen. I’ve competed on the local, state, national, and international levels and in every sector of pageantry you can imagine. In college, I participated in the Miss Universe and Miss America systems. A huge highlight was competing in Miss Alabama for several years. I was Miss University of Alabama, an honor I still have no qualms bragging about! Another special title for me was Miss International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The title is long, but getting to meet Jeff Gordon (sigh!) as well as other famous NASCAR drivers and ride atop the Pace Car to open a Talladega race made memories I’ll never forget. Fast forward to present day – I’ve been a pageant coach for over fifteen years with a dang impressive track record. I also work as a professional emcee and judge (Miss America certified) and big surprise, my daughter now competes. In fact, we just returned from a weekend at the Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen Pageant (the teen division of Miss Alabama/Miss America) where my daughter was presented as a “Rising Star.”
To give you a little history, a unique American tradition began in 1921, as a promotional gimmick when Atlantic City, New Jersey, hotelmen decided to stage a flashy fall festival, or “pageant” to entice summer tourists to stay in town past Labor Day. On the boardwalk, “the most beautiful bathing beauties in America,” strutted their stuff. Newspaperman Herb Test said, “Let’s call her Miss America!” Eight contestants competed with Margaret Gorman, who represented the nation’s capital as Miss Washington D.C., won. The sixteen-year-old schoolgirl was a dead ringer for reigning matinee superstar, Mary Pickford. Talent became mandatory in 1938 and scholarships were first awarded in 1945.
The next big pageant came along in the 1950’s when Miss America 1951 Yolande Betbeze refused to pose in a swimsuit, insisting that she was a classical singer, not a pin-up. (BTW, she is a native of Mobile, Alabama, where I live!) Officials supported her decision, but main sponsor Catalina Swimwear quit and started the sexier Miss USA, Miss Universe, and Miss World. In case you don’t know, Donald Trump now owns those systems. I also think it’s rather interesting to note that these systems were the first to work for world charities, even beginning in their earliest year of 1951, while Miss America is now better known for supporting its national platform, the Children’s Miracle Network, along with each contestant’s personal issue.
Basically in the United States, Miss America http://www.missamerica.org/ and Miss USA http://www.missuniverse.com/missusa are the premier two pageants. Many others exist including those for women of all ages, single, married, divorced, minorities only, plus size, and even senior citizens. There are pageants for teens and children young as zero. The first international pageant for children was staged in Miami, Florida, in 1960. It was Little Miss Universe.
To be blunt, pageants are a way for the owners/directors to make money. Most, particularly those involving children, most likely began when someone got mad about something and broke away, founding another system. Each new system had a new set of rules regarding dress, make-up, modeling, talent, etc. That’s why you now have everything from all natural (no make-up and minimal sparkles) to glitz (think Toddler’s and Tiara’s). It’s true, in glitz pageants, spray tans, flippers (fake teeth), hair pieces (extensions and/or wigs), Tammy Faye Baker make-up, and lots and lots of rhinestones are not only necessary, but required to win. Glitz pageants are the ones giving away cars and ginormous crowns. Talent is usually optional while “fancy” modeling rules the runway. Even boys can compete!
The more natural ones opt for scholarship money. Most of them and the middle-of-the-road (a little make-up) pageants focus more on talent and are considered to be Youth Development Programs (YDP) as opposed to a “pageant” where you win a crown and go home. YDP’s provide a “reign” and not only for the winner, but all contestants involved have the opportunity to participate in parades and entertain at various festivals, fairs, and other venues throughout the year. This provides opportunities to be on stage (or doing backhandsprings on a flat bed trailer as I often did) and try out different talents or work on public speaking skills.
A girl may sing one number and dance the next. That usually means changing with a few mamas holding up beach towels to create a dressing room. Who said pageant life was glamorous? Participants also meet political leaders and take part in charitable events. Friendships are formed and competing many times becomes secondary to having fun with friends.
Opponents to pageants say they degrade women and children, turning them into puppets and sex objects. Contestants often develop eating disorders and spend way more money than they ever receive, even in the popular scholarship based Miss America and Distinguished Young Woman (formerly Jr. Miss – which does not consider itself a pageant, but for argument’s sake, I’m including it as a scholarship source for young women). They say that pageants encourage women/girls to not be their true selves, but a made-up version, which encourages excess plastic surgery. The Jon Bennett Ramsey incident still haunts us, but her parents maintained, as the vast majority of pageant parents do, that this is hobby. Boys play baseball. Girls put on pretty dresses and smile.
Proponents argue that pageants develop poise, self-confidence, and talent. Lynn Maggio, 2011 Mrs. Alabama International believes, “pageantry has given me the confidence to explore other opportunities. It has contributed to the way look and feel, put me in the public eye, and helped me use the abilities and talents I have that otherwise I would not have been exposed.” Laura Newton says, “I have two daughters that have competed in pageants for the last ten years. I can see a difference in their self-confidence, ability to speak in front of others, and their ability to interview well. I feel they have grown from this experience socially and mentally.” I can attest that pageant experience gives you the skills to think on your feet and speak in front of a crowd with zero prompting and preparation. Just the fall, Miss Alabama 2010 Ashley Davis http://www.missalabama.com/ and I emceed together. We had about an hour’s worth of technical difficulties, but the show never slowed or stopped because we were able to adlib, interview each other and audience members, speak on our personal platforms, tell jokes, and entertain. (Thank you Ashley!)
Those skills translate into other areas of life. For example, having been interviewed in front of judges at a pageant makes a job interview a cakewalk because pageant judges are famous for asking (1.) General pageant questions (What is your ambition and why? What three words best describe you? (2.) Current events (How do you feel about the US government’s involvement in Egypt? Name your Senator, Congressman, and the president’s daughters.), and (3.) Stupid pageant questions (What kitchen utensil best describes you? If you could be a car, animal, color, flower, etc. what would it be and why?). Don’t forget you have about two seconds to come up with an intelligent reply. Interview questions make you think on your feet and develop the skills to articulate opinions. Research has shown that pageant participates do well academically in school because of the discipline pageants develop. Girls must practice their talent, modeling (yep, I’ve walked around my house with a book on my head in pajamas and high heels), and study up on interview (read the newspaper and watch CNN). Other advantages are increased interest in community service and volunteerism, bonding time between parent and child (unless you have one of those moms), and increased in physical health (no jiggly thighs in swimsuit). It’s important to mention that Miss America’s stance on the swimsuit competition is they keep the tradition, not because that’s how the pageant got its start, but because the American public expects its winner to be beautiful and physically fit.
So why are pageants so popular in the South? The entire top five in Miss America 2009 were all southerners (including Miss Alabama!) and as much as we like to think Southern Belles are just plain prettier, that’s not the case. Pageant judge Cheryl Bonner coins Southerners’ appreciation of beauty as The Scarlett O’Hara Effect. Foo foo hairdos and fancy dresses come from that old Southern Belle look which we southerners have been exposed to all our lives as a form of beauty. In essence, we love our traditions. Since pageants have been around for nearly 100 years, it makes sense that we would love parading that beauty around and watching it.
What’s your take on pageants? My seven year-old pageant veteran advises, “Be sure to wear a slip because those dresses itch so bad you’ll feel like a cheetah is attacking you!” Why do you think we are obsessed with pageants in the South? Do you have a pageant experience you want to share? I’ll go first and admit my most embarrassing story. Before evening gown competition in a Miss Alabama preliminary, I went to the restroom then went on stage with my dress tucked in my panty hose! Thankfully, the dress was full and created a bustle of sorts. Here’s another memory. Luckily, they have all these fancy pasty gadgets nowadays, but back in the day, one had to tape their breasts for extra perkiness. I used cloth first aid tape, but once I was out used Duck Tape. Can you say pain? There was not enough baby oil in the world to make getting that stuff off hurt any less. I’ve had “wardrobe malfunctions” too, but simply tugged on that top back in place and kept on dancing. I’ve even made the mistake of going to the restroom after swimsuit competition and let me say that spray glue on one’s behind mixed with a toilet seat HURTS! After that experience, I added baby wipes to my list of “must haves” along with Q-tips, lipstick, mascara, and hairspray. Lots of hairspray!
© 2010 Casey Crow • firstname.lastname@example.org • Photography by Toni Riales Photography