Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Romance is a Dance.... by ALL ABOUT CHARMING ALICE author J. Arlene Culiner

All About Charming Alice
Romance as a Dance…

Romance is very much a dance, an archaic and complicated one, and it has to be re-learned no matter how many times it appears. The first steps are always awkward, tentative. Then just when we manage to gain a bit of confidence, we trip over our feet, stumble, come crashing to the floor. Oh, the embarrassment, the self-doubt, the misery — especially since this particular dance requires considerable elegance, high polish and a promise of tenderness.
Yet, despite the required grace, romance certainly isn’t polite. It’s an obsession that makes us rude to our friends (think of all those cancelled coffee dates) and horribly self-centered (we can’t talk about anything else) and narcissistic (keeping us in search of the closest mirror).
This is exactly what happens in my romance book, All About Charming Alice. Neither Alice (my heroine) nor Jace (my hero) are particularly young. Both lead interesting lives: Alice, an original but prickly character, loves the desert and protects snakes; Jace, a writer, intellectual and definite charmer, is from the big city. Both have been in love before, have had relationships that either fell apart or grew dusty, and neither expects the zing and confusion of new love when it comes galloping in — along with confusion, hesitation, misgiving… and bliss. And while Alice and Jace are taking those first tentative dance steps, the entire nosy, cranky population of Blake’s Folly watches, goggle-eyed, from the sidelines, hardly daring to breathe but not in the least loath to interfere.
Who are those folks? Well there’s the meddlesome, ageless and shapeless couple, Ma and Pa Handy: she’s a terror; he’s her henchman. Sex bomb Rose Badger who has already chewed up most males in the state of Nevada, encourages Alice to indulge in a mad fling; Mick Fletcher, a beer swilling tough cookie and once the rat catcher’s mistress, also gives romantic advice; and well-off, rather boring rancher Brad is there too, waiting for Jace to abandon Alice, go back to gorgeous women and life in Chicago’s fast lane. And let’s not forget all the wriggling dogs in the tale, although the starring role goes to Killer, a scrawny, sloppy-looking, match-making stray.
That’s all I’m going to tell you… except, I want to make a confession: yes, I adore my hero and heroine, but my absolutely favorite people are all those odd-ball inquisitive cranks looking on.


Purchase All About Charming Alice from Amazon or your favorite eRetailer.


Alice Treemont has given up hope of meeting the right man and falling in love. Living in depopulated Blake’s Folly, a quirky community of rusting cars, old trailers, clapboard shacks and thirsty weeds, she spends her time cooking vegetarian meals, rescuing unwanted dogs and protecting the most unloved creatures on earth: snakes. What man would share those interests? Certainly not Jace Constant whose life in Chicago includes elegant women, fine dining and contemporary art.

Jace has come to Nevada to research the new book he’s writing, but he won’t be staying; as far as he’s concerned, Blake’s Folly is hell on earth. He’s disgusted by desert dust on his fine Italian shoes, dog hair on his cashmere sweaters and by desert bleakness. As for snakes, he doesn’t only despise them: they terrify him.

So how is it possible that each time Alice and Jace meet, the air sizzles? That she’s as fascinated by him as he is by her? That they know their feelings go deeper than raw desire? Still, it looks like this relationship is doomed before it starts: Jace won’t be around for long, and Alice wants to avoid the heartbreak of a short fling.

In need of some juicy romantic gossip, the other 52 residents of Blake's Folly have decided Alice has been alone for long enough. The attraction between her and Jace is obvious to everyone, so why worry about essential differences? If you trust in love, solutions do appear. But don’t those solutions call for too many compromises, too much self-sacrifice?


Through the end of February, you can purchase All About Charming Alice from Amazon for $1.99.

As far as romance writing goes, I’m somewhat of an anomaly. I love creating stories with original heroines and romantic heroes … but they do tend to be real people. Some have – or have had - fascinating careers as herpetologists, archaeologists, country music singers, relief workers and translators - but money, expensive cars and designer clothes have no part in their lives. My men and women tend to be socially responsible, concerned about our planet and its wellbeing. Some are vegetarian; none would ever drive fast cars, or fly to Cambodia for sunbathing holidays. But that doesn’t make them any less romantic: it’s a question of how we see ourselves. If we care about and love our environment, we want to do as little damage as possible.

I also write stories with an older audience in mind: those forty and over - and that includes baby boomers. There are no unexpected pregnancies in my tales, and no hidden babies. When love comes knocking on the door, it is ageless. Take my father’s crony: he married his mistress of forty years when he was 90 years old and she was 89. A week later, they departed on a long voyage across the Great Lakes in his new yacht.

And, no matter how old they are, my heroes and heroines are comfortable with their age. They never resort to hair dye, Botox or plastic surgery. They do, however, take care of themselves; and they accept their bodies, their wrinkles and their beautiful silver hair when it appears. They also know that, along with age, they’ve gained experience, character and ideas. And interesting pasts. And great futures. And passion. And originality. So why are there so few romance books being published about this age group?

Other characters pop up in my stories too, humorous and cranky ones: old timers who live in a sea of collected junk, cantankerous rotgut brewers who stalk around with rifles, short order cooks who see camouflaged flies, strange and sleepy waitresses, and many small town busybodies. I can’t keep these folks out: as soon as I begin to write, here they come, bursting through the door. And because I enjoy them all so much, they’re here to stay.


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