The Booker Award

Fellow 2012 debut author and writer buddy, Stephanie Lawton has nominated me for the Booker Award. The award targets literary and book-centered blogs (snort…I know where I fall). The rules are simple: post my top five books of all time, post the Booker award icon, and nominate other bloggers to do the same.

Plucked fresh from today’s musings, which have varied wildly over time and even day to day, and in no particular order:

1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: This dystopian tale spurred my early love for the genre. You never forget your introductory stories.

2. I’m going to quote / copy Stephanie on my second pick as a great big “ditto”:  “Call it cliché, but I adore Jane Austen, particularly Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read all her works, but this one stands out … and not just because of the leading men who have portrayed Mr. Darcy in film versions.” It’s the perfect swashbuckling sword fight of manners and words.

3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Oh how I adored this book when I was a teenager. I think I read it twice nearly back to back. I rarely reread books, no matter how awesome they are…GWTW and P&P are the exceptions. Jane Eyre too, which duked it out with P&P for a spot on this list, but Elizabeth is of far more ferocious stock than poor Jane. As is Scarlett.

4. Outlander by Dianna Gabaldon is an epic tale of time travel, adventure, historical intrigue and most of all, despite NOT being billed a romance IS, in fact, a romance. There’s a reason my pen name is Claire and she’s the main character and narrator of the Outlander series.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Another dystopian pick. I particularly liked this one because it explores gender roles and enslavement and class consciousness all in one nifty little tale that has been oft-imitated but never duplicated quite as memorably. Margaret also shares a birthday with me, November 18th, so I am always reminded of her when I see those “Also born on this day” lists. She gets extra points for that.

And now to pass the baton to either thrill or annoy:

  1. Terri Rochenski
  2. Anna Simpson
  3. J. Keller Ford
  4. Rebecca Hart
  5. Sandra Bunino
All book links are to Amazon from whom I receive no compensation, but since I used their icons, credit given where it’s due.
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What Is a Darkly Romantic Curmudgeon?

A curmudgeon is:

  • A bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person. (Dictionary.com)
  • A crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man (Merriam-Webster.com)
  • An ill-tempered person full of resentment and stubborn notions. (Answers.com)

You get the idea.  Examples would include House (Hugh Laurie’s eponymous character), Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes (RIP), Hallmark’s Maxine, and The Grinch.  Amongst up and coming curmudgeons I’d include Sheldon, the physicist nerd from the Big Bang Theory, which also goes to show that not ALL curmudgeons are old.

Being a curmudgeon is a glass is half empty attitude. It’s the little old lady (played by Clara Peller) demanding “Where’s the Beef!” in the famous Wendy’s commercial of the 80s. It’s bracing for the worst (because everyone wants to rip you off) but secretly hoping for the best. It’s crusting over the outside to protect the tender, gullible insides.  I’d go so far as to say that within every curmudgeon is a sensitive but bruised soul.

So what is a darkly romantic curmudgeon? Isn’t romance the antithesis of curmudgeonliness? Well, yes and no. They are indeed yin and yang, opposites, but together they are pretty terrific. Let me explain.

People often say they “fall” in love, as if it’s not a natural state.  For curmudgeons, it’s not, but when we fall, we plummet.  Personally, I love reading stories where the hero or heroine stands atop a lofty perch built on arrogance or hubris, greatly increasing the distance of their forthcoming fall into the waiting arms of love.  The farther the fall, the greater the thrill in my tummy as I read.  I love to see the main character flailing about in mid-air, trying desperately (but failing) to grab hold of something familiar to check his or her fall.  It’s scary; it’s dark; it’s sarcastic; it’s grouchy; it’s curmudgeonly!  That character will fight tooth and nail denying love matters to them because they are deathly afraid no one will catch them before they strike the ground. Wise readers get that it’s all a front with a kind of smug omniscience, especially if they’ve been treated to the object of the affection’s point of view and know those arms are open and ready to receive…or will be if the object looks up.

So, favorite fictional romantic curmudgeons who demonstrate that reluctance or grouchiness I’m talking about?

  • Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews’ urban fantasy series (who put up a hell of a fight against her eventual love interest)
  • Mr. Darcy (and probably Elizabeth Bennet too) from Pride and Prejudice (“Pride goeth before the fall”)
  • Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (such evil that grew from love thwarted)
  • Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre (Boss of the Year award recipient…NOT!)
  • Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol (ok, so he found a different kind of love at the end but that’s still what it was)
  • Margaret (Sandra Bullock) in The Proposal (another meanie boss but you just knew she was all gooey inside didn’t ya?)
  • Elizabeth Perkin’s character Joan in the 80’s brat pack movie, “About Last Night” (Ok, I threw that in there because Elizabeth and I were born on the same day and I really did like her snarky character in that movie)
  • Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) in Remains of the Day (remember what he was caught reading? a ROMANCE!  I rest my case.)

But how does the “darkly” part fit in?

All my heroes have dark hair?  Well, that’s true, but that’s not what it means.  Darkly, within my writing context, means I may (usually) include elements of dark humor in my stories, mostly sarcasm or snark.  The bad guys get to be funny occasionally, maybe even crack a few jokes.  At least that is what I’m striving for.  Humor is always subjective, of course.  I enjoy a happy ending as much as anyone else though, so I don’t see myself ever having the main character wiped out by a bus on her way to her wedding.  That’s a different kind of dark that I don’t mess with.

The best news about declaring myself a lover of darkly romantic curmudgeons and claiming the title for myself?  I am now a certificate-bearing member of the International Society of Curmudgeons:

I’d love to tell you more about the ISOC, but I’m currently angry with them for having the most annoying website I’ve ever visited.  When I calm down, I’ll tell you all about it.  Suffice to say the ISOC agrees with my self-designated title of Master Curmudgeon.