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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Guest Post - 3/19/15 - Ines Johnson - The Grand Gesture - a romance plotting point #

Ines Johnson is on the guest couch today to discuss how The Grand Gesture and its use in fiction today, including an excerpt from her own story "Pumpkin: A Cindermama Story. So, grab your favorite beverage and join us on the couch.  We're being very casual today.

The Grand Gesture


Traditionally the Grand Gesture is known to be a common plotting point in romance stories where the hero does something bold or gives up something big in order to show the heroine that his love is true.

In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy puts aside his contempt of Wickham to help save Lydia’s reputation. This grand gesture is what finally convinces Elizabeth to take his hand.

In Twilight, Edward’s grand gesture, the thing that shows his true love of Bella, is when he sucks the poison out of her wrist without killing her.

For more on grand gestures, we’ll turn to the hero of my latest release, Pumpkin: a Cindermama story. This romance is a fairytale retelling of -you guessed it- the Cinderella story.

Having given up on fairytales after falling for her toad of an ex, Pumpkin is afraid to take a chance on town royalty Manny who believes she may be his soulmate.

EXCERPT:
The Mistress of Ceremonies hurried through her introductions and then the microphone was in Manny's hand, but he didn't take out the notes of his prepared speech.
"Many of you knew my mother," he began. There was a murmur of nostalgic assent throughout the crowd.
"You may not know that after her diagnosis, she spent most of her days watching romantic comedies. She believed she could laugh the illness out of her body. Her favorite moments in these films were something called the Grand Gesture. That scene just after all hope is lost because one of the lovers, normally the guy, has done something stupid that's led to the end of the relationship. So he thinks up this bold, romantic move to get the woman back."
A glance around the room told Manny that he held the largely female crowd in rapt attention.
"An example of a grand gesture would be a guy telling his estranged wife that she completes him in the midst of an angry mob of women. Or rescuing her underwear from the class geek and returning it to her at her sister's wedding. Or holding a boom box over his head, in front of her bedroom window, early in the morning, while blasting the song that was playing as he deflowered her."
A different wave of nostalgia swept through the crowd this time as they remembered these treasured moments of Hollywood cinema.
"In the real world, some people might call these behaviors creepy, or stalker-ish. But not my mother. She loved them. She believed in love, believed that when you loved someone you said it loud, you showed it often, and you never gave up."
Manny paused here, partly for effect, mostly to collect himself as visions of his mother's joyous face played in his head. He rubbed the heel of his hand against his chest.
"The national divorce rate is 50 percent."
There was no surprise in the room, where most of the men were older and the women on their arms were younger.
"There's never been a divorce in the Charmayne family. Not one recorded anywhere in our family line."
The sparkle of young women's eyes threatened to blind Manny from where he stood on the stage.
"What that means is when a Charmayne gives you their pledge, they are committed."
The decision was a split second one, but once Manny made it he stuck with it. He stepped around the podium, mic in hand and dropped to one knee. The gasp of every woman in the room was near deafening.
"To earn your vote, I will do whatever I have to, including blast Peter Gabriel in the streets. Charmaynes don't quit. I'm committed to this, to the people of this town. I hope that I can count on your vote."
The room erupted in thunderous applause, and the women's eyes sparkled even brighter.




We’ve seen literary heroes perform the feat of a grand gesture near the end of the tale. In Pumpkin: a Cindermama story, my hero Manny talks about this moment in the first act. I take a moment early in the book to teach the reader the rules of the grand gesture in this speech so that they are prepped for later in the book when I break these rules in favor of a more non-traditional grand gesture near the end of the story. To find out who messed up and how they declared their love in a grand way, pick up the book.



Blurb:

Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Now she believes she’s not cut from the storybook, heroine cloth and searches for Mr. Good Enough amongst the sidekicks and supporting men of the town.

Love at first sight isn’t a cliche for town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne. For generations the Charmaynes have spotted their soulmates by seeing a golden aura the first time they laid eyes on The One.

When Manny meets Pumpkin he sees…nothing, but sparks fly off the richter scale. The more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.

Amazon Purchase Link:

ISBN: 978-0-9909228-4-1 AISN: B00TKP8ZMQ



About the Author:

Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books!
Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, Ines is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.

Ines lives outside Washington, DC with her two little sidekicks who are growing up way too fast.

Social Links:
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24927912-pumpkin
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ineswrites
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ineswrites
Website: https://inesjohnson.wordpress.com/
Publisher: http://heartspell.com/

Sunday, February 8, 2015

How did February become associated with Hearts, Flowers and Valentines? (Repost)

(This is a repost from 2/1/14 with some changed graphics)

So, who was St. Valentine, and why do we celebrate him every February 14 with hearts and flowers? Well, to answer that question we have to go back to the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, commonly known as Claudius Gothicus.

Claudius reigned from 268 to 270.  Not a long reign, but a bloody one, because Claudius liked to wage war a lot.  During his two years, he fought successfully against the Alamanni and scored a crushing victory against the Goths at the Battle of Naissus.  It is possible Claudius gained his position and the respect of the soldiers by being physically strong and especially cruel. A legend tells of Claudius knocking out a horse's teeth with one punch. When Claudius performed as a wrestler in the 250s, he supposedly knocked out the teeth of his opponent when his genitalia had been grabbed in the match.

But I digress.... As legend has it, in the 3rd century, Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, so, he outlawed marriage for young men (as soldiers were sparse at this time and he needed men to serve fearlessly in the army without the distraction of a wife or girlfriend making them homesick). However, Valentine, a priest serving near Rome, recognized the injustice of this decree and defied Claudius by continuing to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.. He was caught and imprisoned. While in prison, so the story goes, he may have fallen in love with the daughter of his jailer, and wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine." He was beheaded on February 14, around 270 A.D., and Pope Gelasius declared St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D.


So, Valentine was a true romantic at heart.  But how did the heart become linked with emotion? In China, the heart is related to thought, life, and emotions. It brings together everything from understanding and recognition to the flow of emotions. The Romans thought the heart contained the soul. Before them, ancient Egyptians believed the heart to be the center of emotions — and intellect. And before them all... pictures on cave walls depicted animals with red hearts in the center of their bodies — evidence that even cave dwellers understood the heart's significance.

However, the symbol we now associate as a heart, really doesn't look much like the human heart at all. That leads us to ask how we arrived at such a symbol to begin with.  According to Symbols.com (http://www.symbols.com/symbol/1809) "Specific suggestions include: the shape of the seed of the silphium plant, used in ancient times as an herbal contraceptive, and stylized depictions of features of the human female body, such as the female's buttocks, pubic mound, or spread vulva. A heart is not the only symbol for love."

Hmm.  Not sure the female buttocks to represent St. Valentine was what the church had in mind at all. And, since the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred, we may ask why do we associate February 14 with St. Valentine's Day?  Though some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial--others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to "Christianize" the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she wolf

The Roman festival began with members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, gathering at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. Once everyone was present, the priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat's hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. (Lovely, right?) Far from being fearful of the bloody whippings, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

Fertility and marriage, a good combination.  Yup, that story makes me want to hop right into the car and buy a box of candy and a dozen roses.  You, too?

Back to history.  Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”--at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius (remember him?) declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that Valentine's Day should be a day for romance.


And we return again to the hearts and flowers decorating the greeting cards of Valentine's Day. Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written valentines didn't begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (I'm not sure what he wrote, exactly, but his poem is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

Cards decorated with black and white pictures painted by factory workers began to be created in the early 1800s; by the end of the century, valentines were being made entirely by machine. Sociologists theorize that printed cards began to take the place of letters, particularly in Great Britain, because they were an easy way for people to express their feelings in a time when direct expression of emotions was not fashionable.


Manufactured cards notwithstanding, increasingly beautiful handmade Valentines were often small works of art, richly decorated with silk, satin or lace, flowers or feathers and even gold leaf. And many featured Cupid, the cherubic, be-winged son of Venus, and a natural Valentine's Day "mascot." Though Venus, Cupid and Psyche's story is too long to go into here, suffice it to say after many trials and errors they end up happily-ever-after, and we continue to celebrate their successful union in our Valentine's greetings today.