5 Things NOT to Do on Your Honeymoon

As the summer wedding season kicks off, so do summer honeymoons. If you’re counting down the days until your honeymoon or know someone who is, here are some quick tips to make sure your special week is a success. Purely hypothetical advice, of course. Not in any way drawn from personal experience. ūüėČ

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Our wedding 7 years ago

1. Use the Do Not Disturb Sign

Sure, growing up you saw that little white thing with a door knob hole punched in it as just a useless piece of paper. Trust me, it’s not. Use it. Or perhaps the evening of your wedding you thought, oh I’ll wake up early and hang that up in the morning.

Procrastination, a mortal flaw.

On the bright side, you will only make this mistake once. Ever. In your entire life. Trust me.

2. Trust Reviews

If a¬†hotel’s reviews say ‘lovely place, but not¬†good¬†for honeymooners,’ don’t think oh they meant other people, not us. We are adventurers. This will be a wonderful hotel for a honeymoon. The reviewers could know something you don’t, such as the hotel staff is entirely INSANE.

Speaking of crazy hotel staff . . .

3. Do Not Cook Microwave Popcorn

I love popcorn. I wanted to introduce my new husband to this passion of mine, so I made a bag of microwave popcorn. Unfortunately, I didn’t watch the microwave timer. The popcorn burned.

No biggie. I threw it away.

A half hour later, the crazy hotel staff rushed our room. Not just one of them, hordes of them. The lady in charge glowered¬†at me. “I smelled smoke. Are you burning down our hotel?” She gave me the evil eye, as if to say, I’ve been warned of terrorists like you.

“Uh. We made microwave popcorn. It smoked.”

“I see smoke marks on the shower.” She glared at me.

Really? From one bag of popcorn? “I’ll scrub them off.”

The hotel staff ripped open the microwave door as their gazes flicked around the room, looking for evidence of other nefarious deeds we might have done in their absence. “Look at this! Popcorn stains on our microwave. You’re replacing that entire microwave for our hotel.”

“I’ll scrub the microwave. I’ve cleaned burned popcorn from a microwave before.” Besides, most of the yellow scum in the microwave wasn’t even from me.

“No, you can’t.”

“Yes, I really can.”

The entire horde of hotel staff crossed their arms. “We’ll believe it when we¬†see it.”

“Alright.” Cue several hours scrubbing a microwave of not only my popcorn, but every previous tenant’s popcorn. Just how we wanted to spend our honeymoon.

Learn your lesson here. Don’t cook microwave popcorn on your honeymoon. Maybe just don’t cook anything. Your brain’s probably not fully functioning this week anyway.

4. Sunscreen EVERYWHERE

And I mean everywhere. You know that adorable bathing suit you bought just for your honeymoon? Skin that’s never seen the sun before burns easily–really easily. You don’t want burnt skin on your honeymoon. You really don’t. Don’t be like me. Use sunscreen.

5. Imagine Two Screaming Babies

No matter what delays and less than perfect planning interrupts your honeymoon, you will instantly have an entire new appreciation for these days of your life if you try this simple exercise.

a. Walk into the shower. Close the door. 

Did someone scream? Did someone twist the handle? Did someone pound on the door and yell “Mama, Dada, I’m lonely!”

No? You’re having a great honeymoon.

b. Put food on your plate. Lift your fork.

Did someone scream? Did someone throw peas on the floor? Did someone jump out of their chair and start sticking their fingers into electrical sockets?

No? You’re having a fabulous honeymoon.

c. Sit down. Put your feet up. 

Did someone scream “Mama, Dada, I fill in bodily function a toddler needs cleaned up“?¬†Look down at your shirt? Is there any kind of small child’s bodily function on it?

No? You’re having a wonderful honeymoon.

Enjoy your honeymoon. It will end all too soon.

Writing Prompt: What’s one thing that went wrong on your (or someone you know) honeymoon or wedding?

Criminal to Entrepreneurs: The Story of Australia

I read and write historical fiction because I want to be transported to a different era. Few eras are more fascinating than Australia from 1778 to 1868 when it served as a penal colony for the British empire. Magistrates shipped 162,000 men and women off to Australia during that time.

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Now I can’t tell you exactly how much a ship voyage¬†from England to Australia cost back in the day, but let’s just say it¬†wasn’t a cheap ticket. The thirteen American colonies are closer to England than Australia and the poor would indenture themselves for up to¬†seven years to earn ship passage to America.

Why spend all that money to ship a thief to Australia rather than just pay for a short jail stay? The British originally set up a penal colony because of their belief that convicts were genetically defective and no amount of consequences, help, or education could ever rehabilitate them. The British wanted those defective genes as far away from their lovely country as possible, so they sent the criminals 9,000 miles away to Australia.

The convict ships were¬†far from¬†luxury cruise¬†lines. Harsh ¬†conditions led to as many as one-third of the deported convicts dying on the journey to Australia. After arriving in Australia, some convicts¬†were confined in jails or factories, but many others¬†were hired out as unpaid laborers to the free settlers. This didn’t make their treatment any less harsh, however, and convicts often felt the abuse of lash and leg iron.¬†The women, always a scarce commodity in a new land, were often more or less forcibly married off to the¬†free settlers.

The irony in the British’s deportation scheme is that these despised convicts went on to set up successful farms and businesses and build the backbone of Australian industry. Women labeled as whores and shoved into the harsh conditions of female factories went on after their term of imprisonment to starts schools and hospitals.

Today, the nation built on the backbone of these “unredeemable” criminals has¬†a flourishing free-market economy and is a popular tourist destination.

I bet the British magistrates who condemned criminals to Australia never would have guessed that.

Writing Prompt: Who today does our society unconsciously think incapable of redemption? How would these people’s lives improve if¬†we recognized their potential?

All Roads Lead to Rome: Here’s Why

Rome, the Colosseum,¬†Hadrian’s Wall, the Parthenon, the Pyramids. Those lucky enough to have seen all those things will still not have traveled the entire length and breadth of the Roman Empire.

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Parthenon

The Romans conquered and held a vast amount of territory and built roads and structures that last even to this day. Latin is still heavily used in professions such as law and many of our modern phrases come from Latin ones. We even take wedding traditions from the Romans. Like modern brides, Roman brides wore a white dress (the tunica recta) and a ring on their left-hand finger. Rome collected and assimilated knowledge from many different civilizations and achieved higher technological advances than would be seen for centuries after.

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Hadrian’s wall

As the¬†saying goes, though, the winners write the history books. And along with Rome’s glorious conquests came an ugly underbelly of corruption, slavery, and horrific abuse of basic human rights. More patriarchal than the Celtic warriors Rome conquered in Germania, Gaul, and Britannia, Romans still gave women more rights than the Greeks. Roman women could move freely in society, but they didn’t have authority¬†over their own children, let alone the power to make independent choices.

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You know that classic American principle “all men are created equal” that even the most prejudiced among us give lip service too? If you said that in Ancient Rome, your listeners would have guffawed. Equal? No way. A slave’s soul was no more considered equal to an elite patrician’s than a barbarian’s soul was considered equal to a Roman soldier’s.

This is why I love reading historical fiction set in Ancient Rome. Because with a historical novel, a hero enters into that¬†brutal world and rises above the customs of the day to make truly noble choices. It’s one thing to uphold the values of liberty and equality in 21st century America where not doing so will get you booed. It’s another thing for an elite patrician of Rome to have enough character to look upon a slave, a barbarian, or a woman with compassion.

Some fiction genres give us larger than life heroes and heroines who battle impossible odds to conquer evil. Historical fiction, on the other hand, gives us heroes and heroines brutally scarred by the ethics of their culture, yet attempting to rise above what their entire world is telling them is right to grasp for some higher good.

If you can’t tell, I write Roman novels as well as read them. My first Roman series is coming out in about a month here.

Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our blogaversary drawing! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

Tell me about a modern phrase or tradition we get from the Romans.

Hope Blossoms Eternal in Spring

Alexander Pope, an eighteenth century English poet, wrote: “Hope springs eternal.”¬†But I think he should have tacked on, “especially in springtime.” Every spring, no matter how dark the winter or sad the cold nights, blossoms shoot up from the ground and buds open on trees, filling the earth¬†with new life.

I grew up in D.C. My favorite springtime memory is of course, the cherry blossoms. Here are some pictures of the famous D.C. cherry blossoms around the tidal basin.

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Though the D.C. blossoms are most famous, all over the D.C. suburbs, varieties of ornamental cherries and Bradford Pears blossom into life in the springtime.

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Some people like Fall, or Winter, or Summer, but for me, no season will ever compare to Spring. And I have Biblical backing to prove it.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12a: …for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come . . .

See, God doesn’t call winter, “the time of singing.”

Just joking, mostly . . .

Here’s your writing prompt: You walk into your backyard. In the center of your beautiful flower garden, leaning against a blossoming fruit tree…is a man. Who is he? Why is he there?

5 Reasons to Read Romance

Romance novels often get a bad rap in the world of readers. People look down on romance novels as trashy fluff only designed to titillate.
Your friend asks you, “What have you been reading these days?”

You replying, “a¬†romance novel” just doesn’t has the same snooty ring to it as replying “Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.”

I love romance novels, and I think they have a lot more to offer than those romance-haters out there give them credit for. Below is a picture of a romance novel I recently published.

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  1. An Understanding of Love: Most of us will probably never slay a dragon or fly a space ship like a fantasy or sci-fi novel protagonist. Yet, almost all of us are, or desire to be, in relationships. A good romance novel will explore the idea of love, what it means, how to sustain it, and how to reach that happily ever after.
  2. A How to Guide to Romance: While most romance readers are female, I often think there are some clueless males who could benefit from reading a few carefully chosen romance novels. For the man who innocently selects¬†a vacuum cleaner for his wife’s 10th anniversary present, you could learn something about what women want by cracking open a high-quality romance novel.
  3. Happily Ever After: Study after study is written about how Americans don’t rest enough. Even our fiction choices often reflect that. For example, we read horror novels that lead¬†from one adrenaline rush to the next only to crash us¬†into the depths of despair at the end. Sometimes one just needs the relaxation of a warm cup of tea and a happily ever after. Romance novels provide that.
  4. Characters Who Inspire: One of the biggest problems I have with trashy romance is how it teaches young women to want a certain kind of man, who is a jerk. I used to counsel at-risk teen girls and I was horrified to learn of some of their romance reading choices. Way to condition themselves to choose a psychopathic maniac as a boyfriend. A good romance, on the other hand, will teach young women how they should be treated and inspire them to seek a high-quality man.
  5. Focus on What Really Matters: If you read one of those articles asking octogenarians if they could go back in life what would they do differently, again and again they say, “spend more time on their relationships, family, etc.” Unlike other genres, romance novels focus on relationships, family, and love, all things that have much long-term value.

 

Writing Prompt–So romance readers and writers, what other surprising or not-so-surprising benefits do high quality romance novels bring their¬†readers?