Love of La Bella Supermoon

Supermoon 2016 HaileyReede

Supermoon = Full Moon (or, technically speaking, a new moon) + Occurring at the Time of the Moon’s Closest Point to the Earth (perigee) in Its Monthly Orbit.

For some, a regular old full moon is a time of romance  –

Theatrical release poster designed by Olga Kaljakin as per Go see it - or see it again!

– or maddness, or high tides.  This one, this 2016 supermoon, is the closest, largest full moon since 1948.

Supermoons, special supermoons, 1948, Cher – distractions or plot bunnies during this demanding time of National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Post Month?

Alas, this November 2016 supermoon itself was not much of a distraction here in New York City.  The sky was intermittently overcast and rainy.  What’s a girl to do?  Hence, I supplied my own supermoon (see first photo).  And then, why not an owl?

Romancing the NaNoWriMo Win Hailey wins NaNoWriMo 2014. This is the certificate.

55,142 Words Later

For our first assignment in law school, even before any class had convened, we were to read an article that appeared to be written in English – with a soupçon of Latin thrown in for good measure.  We all knew, for example, what the word “summary” meant.  Heck, in high school and/or college, most of us had probably bought summaries of, say, novels in which we should have luxuriated, but had only two nights to master.  Similarly, “judgment” was quite familiar to all of us.  But, and some of you are probably way ahead of me here, put them both together, and “summary judgment” is, at best, a distant cousin in meaning to it’s commonly used components.

Because I know some of you will not sleep unless you know the definition of “summary judgment,” a workable definition is this: it is a court’s judgment for one party and against the other party where there is no dispute between the parties as to material fact regarding the dispute or a portion of the dispute.  That raises the issue of “what is a material fact,” which leads me back to the article.

As I recall, the article’s author taunted us misguided, over-confident, know-it-all, former skim-the-assignment-and-regurgitate-it-on-the-test kids to persevere even in the face of having to redefine reality.  Words we thought we knew had strange meanings and were combined oddly.  It sounded like English, but, then again, it didn’t.  Towards the end of the piece, the author noted that we had probably skipped over dozens of words and phrases in order to complete the reading instead of dutifully looking everything up.  Yup.  Guilty as charged.

Eventually, and this means, for me, a few years later, all of those words were part of my everyday lexicon.  I didn’t skip any of those semi-English, sometimes Latin phrases; I scoured prior legal opinions and statutes for them.  And, in using them, I had lost that “new driver” feeling.

One of the Latin phrases in the article was res ipsa loquitur – meaning: the thing speaks for itself.  It’s often used when referring to negligence cases, and – –

OK, I’ll stop with the Intro to Law class.

In my small section in law school, there was a woman who married our Contracts professor after our first year.  Inside her wedding band, he had the jeweler inscribe, “res ipsa.”  Her finger was too small for the “loquitur” and it didn’t matter.  For a bunch of tough, analytical curs, we were all swoony over the romantic symbolism.  We’d pass her in the hallway sometimes and greet her with an admiring “Res ipsa, baby!

Which brings me to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  Late yesterday, I made it to 55,142 words of my romance quartet.  I haven’t fully digested the experience.  I’m going to let the manuscript rest, like yeast dough, for a few days before I edit, rearrange, add to, and punch it down.  In the midst of writing 50,000+ words on one story line, several others invaded my imagination.  I jotted them down, and refocused.

On the NaNoWriMo website, if you are a registered user (it’s free, and I am), you have the ability to upload your daily word count, and then to upload your novel (it is immediately scrambled and deleted) to have that count validated.  You are sent a link to the NaNo staff cheering you with congratulations – it is awesome.  Then, you are provided with a link to your completion certificate.  Mine is above.

This win was a huge experience and maybe I’ll write more about it later.  In the meanwhile, as per my completion certificate, above, res ipsa, baby.

Romance Reading

My mom didn’t ban romance reading – neither books nor comics — when I was a kid.  She was much too smart for that.  Instead, I had access to my parents’ bookshelves (Freud on Wit and Humor was memorable), my mom read age-appropriate stories to me (in “voices” – heaven!), she read grown-up appropriate works to me (selections from the then current Best American Short Stories and the like), and she supplied heaps of appropriate books for me to read on my own.  I devoured biographies of Clara Barton, Helen Keller, and Thomas Alva Edison, “realistic” adventure fiction such as Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, classics such as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Little Men, a pale tooled leather tome entitled Wonder Tales of Old Japan, and Danny Kaye’s Around the World Story Book.

There was a huge Doubleday bookstore on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets.  My mother and I would make our pilgrimages to buy books there – the children’s section was in the back on the left.

To satisfy our more lowbrow tastes, we went to our neighborhood newspaper and magazine store, Epstein’s.  It doesn’t exist anymore.  Where Epstein’s once stood, on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and 93rd Street, is now an upscale restaurant, Le Paris Bistrot Français.,+New+York,+NY+10128/@40.7851417,-73.9556874,3a,60y,303h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sKag6EdvVxkfXMUNfRDTpMw!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c258a3d0753de9:0x2a1ddb0d22b80fdc!6m1!1e1

Le Paris Bistrot Français is on the right.

No matter.  Back then, Epstein’s was a tiny Wonderland for me.  There were zillions of comic books from which to choose – all just inside the door to the right.  My mom must have steered me towards the relatively innocent Archie series while she browsed fashion magazines or bought The New York Times.  She never bought gossip magazines – she told me they were hurtful and untrue.

Actually, the gossip magazine discussion often seguéd into a discussion of McCarthyism, blacklists, and how the beneficent power of The Press can be corrupted if we, The People, are not vigilant.  Then, I was taught never to sign a petition for anything because the header information on the petition, the very words that induced one to sign the thing in the first place, could be, and sometimes were, easily removed and different material could be substituted (before scanners and home computers, mind you) so that your name could be used to support a Communist cause.  And then you might never get a job.

But I digress.

Romance paperbacks and comics, with their melodramatic covers, were looked down upon in my home.

And so I read mom-approved works ~ until my one encounter with a romance comic book.  For purists and comic book devotees, it could have been True Romance or perhaps Secret Hearts.  Or one of their close relatives.

Across the hall from our apartment, two girls, P and K, and their mom moved in.  P was about two years older than me, and K was two years older than P.  That made K unreachably cool.  K had little use for P, but she taught me how to draw a cardigan.  P and I often played together, tumbling in and out of each other’s apartments.

One day, when I was across the hall, waiting for P and K to finish getting ready so that we could go out, my eyes fell upon the not-explicitly forbidden bounty, a romance comic book.  A Benday-dotted young teenage girl with a blonde ponytail and Capri pants was sitting in a tree looking down upon the slightly older (not creepy older) handsome boy-next-door.  It’s possible his name was Brad.  He was passing by in a convertible with a raven-haired beauty.  Our Benday-dotted heroine was desperately in love with Brad, but he barely knew she was alive.  Oh, the heartache!

Once in a while, if she mustered enough courage to greet him, he’d wave, “Hi, kiddo,” (or so I remember).  From her window, or from behind a fence, she watched as he squired around one after the other of sophisticated teen beauties.  You knew they were sophisticated by their coiffures, shoulder-exposing dresses, and thick eyelashes.

Then, he went off to war.  She grew into a late-teen Benday-dotted beauty, and she always thought of Brad, no matter what she was doing or whom she was with.

This wasn’t an actual specimen from that comic, but it is evocative of the genre:

And then ~ Brad returned home!  He was a changed man, and not for the better.  He sported a head bandage and used crutches.  He was no longer carefree.  There was no longer a bevy of beauties around him.  I don’t think Brad could drive anymore.  Somehow, I think our Benday-blondie offered to help him – or maybe his mother welcomed her to help him.  Brad didn’t quite remember Our Girl.  Oh, Brad!  Oh, the heartache!

The bittersweet end (and, spoiler alert if you ever find this comic from the 1960s) is that he fell in love with her, and she remained in love with him, even though the comic book made it quite plain that she would be doing some serious caregiving in the happily-ever-after.

My first and only romance comic – and pretty heady stuff for a kid.  I think I read the whole thing standing up near K and P’s dining table right inside their front door.  It was an oh-no-he-didn’t/oh-no-she-didn’t page-turner.  Then, P and K were ready and we went out to play.

I didn’t hide this reading experience from my mother, but I never thought to discuss it with her, either.  We had bigger fish to fry when I allotted more time to Archie than I did to my summer reading one year.  That resulted in a comic book ban altogether.  It was back to Esther Forbes’ Johnny Tremain and Louise Andrews Kent’s He Went With Marco Polo: A Story of Venice and Cathay.

It wasn’t long after that that artist Roy Lichtenstein appeared to burst on the art scene, recontextualizing the art of comic romances, stripping them of their extended narrative, but preserving their intensity of emotion.  My parents were big fans of the work of Lichtenstein; I am, too.

Abruzzo’s original art (left) upon which Lichtenstein’s pop art interpretation was based (right).

My parents and I, however, did not delve into the merits of the original works, not the art nor the stories, that inspired Lichtenstein. I’m sorry, now, that we never discussed Lichtenstein’s source material, or my reading of it, on its own merits.

I would love to have known what my mom thought about true romance.

Backing-up Romance

For all those participating in both National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), this chapter is for you.

She ran her fingers over the scar on back of his muscular index finger….

 Nah.  Backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace.

“What’s this,” she whispered as she stroked the calcified scar on his muscular left index finger….

It was Day 5 of NaNoWriMo and Belleluluflower had her doubts.  Was her romance novel on the right track?  Could she finish it?  Should she finish it?  Wouldn’t it be more productive to produce a non-fiction manual that would be Good for the World?  She activated her screensaver, slipped into her flats, and headed out.

“I did this crazy thing,” she said to Coach, “I signed up for not only NaNoWriMo, but also, NaBloPoMo –”

Coach’s eyes widened.  She noticed.  “So, wait.  I know that’s crazy.  But I’m wondering if I should set this aside altogether and go back to my non-fiction.”

The coach took a deep breath.  “Belleluluflower,” he closed his eyes, “Whenever there is extra stress in your life, you dream up new projects.” Belleluluflower looked sheepish.

“No, no, Belleluluflower,” Coach comforted, “Having so many ideas is a good thing.  Make a list, jot them in a notebook, create a special document.  But Finish This Novel.”

“Really?” she said. “I think that you might be the only one who believes in my novel –”

Coach smiled enigmatically.

“Except for my BFF in California; she likes my novel, too,” she finished.

“There is joy in finishing.  There is fear of rejection in finishing.  But you must enter the realm of Project Finished to move beyond….”

On the walk home from Coach, Belleluluflower called her BFF.

“Listen, BFF,” she said over the crackly transcontinental transmission, “What should I do?  Maybe we could write a Great Legal Treatise together?  Or I could go back to my Good for the World solo project?”

“No!” crackled the bestie, “You must [crackle crackle] finish your [crackle] novel because [crackle] and I want to read all of it as soon as you finish!”

That was enough for Belleluluflower.  The Universe was telling her, through the availability of Coach and BFF, to get back to work.  She fumbled in her cross-body bag and retrieved her key a half block away from her apartment door, ready for her slender, but muscular, fingers to pounce upon the keyboard.

At her dining table, Belleluluflower’s laptop awaited.  She hit a key, and the interchanging beach scenes faded away, revealing her manuscript on the screen.

First her eyes, then her slender left index finger traced the calcified scar along his thumb.  He flexed his hand lazily, as a lion stretches its paw.  Then, suddenly, his muscular fingers entrapped her wrist.  He pulled her close and she could smell his salty – –


The screen went back.  No.  Really.  My laptop went black.  And, despite some prescient warnings on the NaNoWriMo website about having one’s work backed up, mine, alas was not.

Was this A Sign from the Universe to stop?  Or a swift Universe kick in the keister to own my project.  I choose the latter and embrace my resilience.  I found another computer, and, tomorrow, will see the good folks at Tekserve.

Let this be a warning!  Back up your work!

The Romance of Beginning College

It’s nearing the end of August and, all over the United States, kids are going off to college. Some of them, like my friend PJ’s daughter, as well as my heroine Cara, are entering college for the first time. Someday, sooner than I’d like to acknowledge, I may be sending my own chickadees off to a palace of higher education.

How do we advise them? What did our parent teach us about surviving and thriving at college?

PJ told me that she spent last week, before the big drop-off, pouring out wisdom. I am eager to know what she shared.

As for me, I was the beneficiary of all kinds of accumulated learning well before my move-in date. My mom gave me a set of four beautiful patchwork placemats and a small set of Revere cookware copper-bottomed pots and pans for the dinner parties I surely would host. I would know no hunger – they gave me dishes, utensils, a two-plate electric burner, and a toaster oven. I actually did have a few dinner parties in my college years – two of them involved placemats. One night as a freshman, a friend of mine, a guy from my high school, and I tried to make a cream sauce for chicken, which we were cooking in my other saucepot. We knew nothing about cream sauces. Finally, my friend went down the hall to call my mom for guidance. (Yes, it was before cell phones.) He came back to me triumphant, crowing, “Keep the heat on, Hailey! We are reducing our sauce!”

My dad advised me not to set up housekeeping with anybody so that I could achieve academic greatness.

My mom told me to decide how far I wanted to go before I embarked on a date so that I would not have any later regrets of being swept away in a moment of passion. She shared with me the wisdom her father gave her when she entered college: You marry a different guy at 15 (her age when she began her freshman year), than you do at 20, than you do at 23 (the age when she married my dad).

There’s a crazy yearning that happens when August means the beginning of a new school. We yearn for the security of the known – the past, and we dream of adventures to come. And we think we can go back, if we need to.

In the first of my soon-to-be-released four-part novel series, Love U: At First, Cara has received plenty of parental advice that she weighs as events unfold. I hope you’ll come on the journey with Cara and me.

(Start at minute 1:16 if you want to skip right to the music)