Friday, March 29, 2013

Here Come the Brides - part I

I’ve been working on this analysis for quite a while and it’s grown very lengthy as I uncover more and more insights to (and from) this mostly-forgotten TV show. Remember, I work best on non-fiction when I’m 1) in edits, 2) have too many outside, real-life events that keep me from entering the world of my book.  As a result, I’m breaking this up over several blog posts and will publish each section separately over the next few weeks.

One of my must-see TV series as a young teen was Here Come the Brides. It aired for two seasons (1968-69 and 1969-70), each episode airing again during summer repeats and then forgotten. It didn’t even hit syndication until January 2011. By then, the first season had already been released on DVD for five years; the second season didn’t release until April of 2012.

I, of course, bought both seasons.

So what it is like, watching a beloved favorite of one’s youth, through the prism of time? Both fun and embarrassing. The show promoted the drinking of whiskey (often), gambling (occasionally) and fighting as a way to solve one’s problems (once in a while). It also promoted no sex before marriage, racial equality and women’s rights at a time when all the norms of modern American society were in flux.

Today I’ll cover the inspiration for the show, the show’s creators and the brothers (each of whom could get a post all by himself – and may yet!).

The Basics

Jason, Joshua and Jeremy Bolt (played by Robert Brown, David Soul and Bobby Sherman, respectively) own a logging camp just outside 1860’s Seattle, Washington. The small town has an overabundance of men, so these three stake their family property, Bridal Veil Mountain, as collateral on a bet that they can go East and bring back a hundred women as brides. Aaron Stemple is set up as the “villain” – the man on the other side of the bet who will gain the mountain if they don’t succeed.


This part began as a sidenote but I when I went to cite my sources, I discovered there was far more to where this show came from than a casual glance revealed. Hence, it deserves it’s own section.

There seems to be some disagreement as to whether or not this premise was taken from the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. IMDB says it was and I’ll admit, I worked from the same idea for years. Then I read Gangway, Lord! (The) Here Come the Brides Book by Jonathan Etter and discovered not everyone believed that.

Bridget Hanley (who played Candy Pruitt, the spokesperson for the brides) is originally from the Seattle area and makes mention of the “Mercer Girls” (Etter 180). A little further digging tells us about real-life Ada S. Mercer who went to Lowell, Massachusetts and brought back eleven ladies to level-out the male/female ratio in that part of the Washington territories.

So the show was (loosely) based on historical facts. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers also used the Mercer girls as inspiration. So did Calico Cargo, another musical treatment of the same event (Etter 419 and Kitsap Forest Theatre). It is also worth noting that the more famous musical spun off its own television series that aired in the early 1980’s (IMDB). Something tells me Hollywood is not done with this idea yet!

(Note: There is a website devoted to the stories of these individual women. Unfortunately, many of the links off that main page are broken.)


So who was it who said, “Let’s take the idea of the Mercer girls and turn it into a TV series? Well, that’s harder to answer than you might expect.

The credits in the opening for the show feature a slide with two statements: “Developed for television by N. Richard Nash” and “Based on a story by Alan Marcus”. Jonathan Etter makes note of the fact that Mr. Nash was working on a made-for-film musical of Here Come the Brides as early as 1960 with some of the same characters that later appear in the television series (although the musical was much rougher in both characterizations and language) (Etter 49-50).

So at first glance, one would assign Mr. Nash the lion’s share of the credit, especially when, according to IMDB, Mr. Nash worked on all 52 episodes as writer (developer), if it were not for one thing: neither Mr. Nash’s official biography page, nor his Wikipedia page mention this television series at all. Why? Was he ashamed of it? Or did he really only come up with the idea and then turn it over to others for implementation?

I then turned my attention to Alan Marcus, who, according to that title slide, wrote the story the series was based on. I first found him as a member of the Board of Directors for the Duende players, an acting company that brings theatre into schools. His biography refers to him as the creator of Here Come the Brides.

Wait. Creator? Two creators? Knowing Hollywood and how convoluted writing credits can get, I almost stopped there. But I persisted, returning again to Etter’s history of the series for information.

There wasn’t much. Two references only. One in a story told by Robert Brown (Jason Bolt) who was friends with Mr. Marcus. According to Mr. Brown, he told Alan Marcus to make sure he put his name on a story he’d written and still had rights to. As a result, Mr. Marcus received royalties each time Here Come the Brides played on television (Etter 138).

The second reference was one made by Bridget Hanley basically stating that she thought it was Nash who came up with the character of Jeremy (Etter 180), not Mr. Marcus.

Two sources now claiming Alan Marcus as the creator, two sources claiming N. Richard Nash as creator, with Etter’s book as a source for each, giving credit to both (although Nash gets an entire chapter to himself and Marcus only gets two one-liners*).

My conclusion? As often happens, two separate people came up with the same idea pretty much at the same time. This time, instead of making competing projects (which often happens), both men ended up at the same studio, working on the same project.

And I, for one, am glad they did. :)

The Brothers

You’ve got to love the very names of the characters, starting with the Bolt brothers. The strong alliteration formed when they are referred by that moniker (and they often are) immediately plants the idea that these are powerful men. Their surname sounds similar to the word “bold” and, when spoken quickly, the words can be jumbled together, further deepening our understanding that these are men to be reckoned with.

In addition, the word “bolt” stands for an object that holds things together, that’s dependable; its a fixed point in a moving world. Giving the brothers this surname gives them all those same traits. Remember, in the late 1960’s, America was a country in turmoil with an unpopular war, sexual and drug experimentation gone rampant, and feminists pushing for more equality. The Bolt brothers serve as a constant amid the chaos; they are strong men of principle the people of Seattle (and the viewers) can count on each and every week.

The brothers’ first names, however, provide a contrast to all that testosterone: Jason, Joshua and Jeremy all start with a soft sound. The “J” sound makes them human, willing to listen. It brings out the side of men many women want to see: the sensitive, caring side.

Jason Bolt is played with gusto on the part of Robert Brown. The character is larger-than-life, bold, a leader of Seattle as well as of his brothers. Other characters warn of his honey-tongue that can charm the birds out of the air and the fish out of the sea.

Unfortunately, his strength becomes his brothers’ weakness. Neither Jeremy nor Joshua can make a single decision without running to big brother Jason. Small problems or large, off they go, tracking Jason down and asking, “What do we do?”

Jason, of course, has the answer. He always does. He’s wiser, more experienced, trusted.

That’s not to say he doesn’t make mistakes. He does that, too. But he always owns up to them, taking blame when it belongs to him, showing everyone (including the viewers) what it means to be a Real Man.

Apparently, being a Real Man doesn’t include taking a wife. While Jason has his share of romances throughout the two seasons of the show, each time the two part (with regret, of course), leaving Jason free to flirt again in the next episode.

Joshua Bolt is played by David Soul (who would go on to play Hutch in the cop show, Starsky and Hutch). As the middle brother, Joshua has trouble fitting in and finding his place. Eventually, he’s established as the financial wizard of the brothers Bolt. Jason occasionally bows to Joshua's expertise on buying and selling, but, even here, the hierarchy is firm. Joshua gives input to the decision—Jason, however, is the ultimate decider, Joshua is simply a giver of information. He is, after all, the ultimate middle child.

Like Jason, Joshua has his affairs of the heart that come to a close by the end of the episode. Unlike Jason, Joshua wears his heart on his sleeve and love often makes him rash and foolish. He’s the quintessential Man in Love, which works because of David Soul’s real-life heartthrob status. Female viewers want to be on his arm and looking into those dreamy blue eyes as they walk into the pines together.

Which brings up his physical appearance. David Soul has the stereotypical Aryan look: blond hair and blue eyes. The producers knew they had to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, so cast the part of Joshua to pull in a specific segment of the population: women who like tall, blond men and gentle blue eyes. He certainly wasn’t cast for any physical resemblance to the other actors playing Bolt brothers (both of whom have dark hair although one does have blue eyes).

Jeremy Bolt is played with coyness by Bobby Sherman, a singer who brought with him a built-in fan base of teen-age girls. Jeremy is the youngest brother, the one who never seems to do things right, the one the other two are afraid to trust because of his age and inexperience. That said, the older brothers are very protective of Jeremy, and are leery of putting him in harm’s way—because they understand harm often comes for the youngest and smallest.

Jeremy has another trait that sets him apart from the others, not only his brothers, but from the others in town—he stutters. This was an interesting choice on the part of the writers because recurring characters with disabilities were mostly ignored by American TV in the 1960’s (Ironside being the notable exception). What is laudable about this choice for the character is that the disability wasn’t played for comedy. No one laughed at Jeremy when he had trouble speaking. Instead, they showed patience and understanding – one of several ways this show bridged the roles of TV as pure entertainment and of social responsibility.

Jeremy has something to prove to the world. He occasionally whines when Jason chooses Joshua over him to go on an errand or do something dangerous and so, when he does get the opportunity, he is determined to make sure it goes right so Jason will see he’s a grown man and can handle the responsibility. Of course, whatever the task, it usually does not go right and big brother Jason has to get him out of the scrape.

Jeremy, however, the only brother who has a steady romantic relationship. While he and Candy have their share of arguments, the two always make up and serve as role models to American traditional marriage. There is no hanky-panky before the wedding (which we never get to see—the series was cancelled before the writers could get to that point).


I cannot end this discussion of the brothers and their roles without a nod to their respective heights.

An actor’s height often influences the way an audience reacts to the character he/she plays. While we all know, for example, that Tom Cruise is on the short side (5’7”), he is often filmed in such a way that he appears taller. Taller men get more respect and the casting directors of Here Come the Brides were well-ahead of the studies that prove it (you can read those studies here, here and here).

Until I started writing this paper, I truly thought Jason was the tallest of the brothers, followed by Joshua in the middle and Jeremy as the shortest. While that is true of the real-life actors, it isn’t true by as much as you might think.

As the eldest brother, Joshua tends to tower over the other two and Robert Brown, the actor who plays him, is broad-chested and six-foot two, a respectable height for any man. Joshua, as the middle brother, is the middle height—but David Soul, who plays him, is six-foot one—not a whole heck of a lot shorter than his character’s older brother.

Yet look at publicity stills from Here Come the Brides and you will see, in every case, Joshua appears MUCH shorter than Jason. For one thing, Soul is thinner than Brown, which helps force the perspective. For another, he’s often shown seated when next to the eldest Bolt brother, or when filmed, standing lower on the hill. The viewer is helped along with the idea that Jason is the more powerful by use of height.

Jeremy, of course, is the youngest brother and therefore, the shortest. Bobby Sherman clocks in at a respectable 5’9” tall – a scant three inches shorter than David Soul. Yet here, too, the filmmakers “force” the idea that younger is smaller with camera angles and actor placement.

The second season DVD has a publicity shot on the cover that perfectly shows this artifice: Jason stands tall in the center between Candy and Lotte, his arms crossed and his body leaning back as if he is the master of his domain. Joshua and Jeremy are seated below, Joshua to the right with his shoulders slightly slumped and Jeremy to the left, leaning in. The positions of these two imply a height difference closer to a half a foot rather than a scant three inches.

LOL! Okay, okay...I'll stop here for now. I could write on this forever, but will settle for this much today. Look for more Here Come the Brides posts in the future!

*I have some issues with the balance of reporting in Etter’s book that I’ve blogged about here. He has definite biases toward some of the characters and actors and favors them with more detailed accounts and a more thorough investigation. Because his book shows favoritism in some areas, I cannot be sure that the matter here between Nash and Marcus isn’t more of the same.

Edited to make correction: Bobby Sherman has gorgeous blue eyes as well. See here if you need proof.

Part II can be found here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

No workshop this week

As I said before, this is the Year of the Funeral for my family. My mom's convinced it's because the year ends in "13" that everyone's decided to take this time to say goodbye, but I'm chalking it up to coincidence.

In any case, I didn't get a workshop written because of it. I'm off to a funeral today - a second cousin who celebrated her 90th birthday last autumn.

Thanks for your patience. Go write and I'll post another workshop next week.

Play safe,

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The next few months...

Don’t know about other authors, but for me, I have to totally be able to enter the world I’m creating in order to write well. The outside world drops away and I immerse myself in the lives of the characters coming to life on the screen before me.

That said, I can write under any circumstance: in the car, in a crowded coffeeshop, in front of the fireplace. Location isn’t as important as the ability to let it all fade into the background so the story can come to the fore.

There are certain circumstances, however, that lend itself to non-fiction writing rather than fiction. When editing, certainly. Also when Death is in the house.

And Death will be visiting me a great deal over the next few months. Already a friend’s mom has passed away this year and, this past Wednesday, an elderly cousin of mine joined her. I have an aunt and uncle (married and childhood sweethearts) both of whom have gone into hospice within a week of each other. We expect calls soon.

Then there is my husband’s mom, my mother-in-law for nearly thirty-two years whose cancer has returned and the doctors have told her to get her affairs in order as she has only a few months left.

Five deaths expected within five months. One would think I’d be a basket case – but I’m not. They are all elderly (my mother-in-law is the youngest at 79) and have stated they are ready. They’ve all had the blessing of time to make arraignments, both emotionally and in practical matters. We are getting the time needed to say goodbye and to be able to say all the things we’ve wanted to but, for one reason or another, didn’t.

What that means for my writing, however, is a shift to the non-fiction side for a while. I have a Christmas story I’m working on that is actually several short stories all rolled into one. It’s good, because I only have to keep a small world in my head at a time and can work on it piece-meal until summer, when I will be able to once-again immerse myself in fiction.

The next few months are going to be a little hard. Ready as we are, there is still regret when someone you love dies. The memory-making stops and there’s always sadness in that.

I told you a while back I was working on an analysis of Here Come the Brides for fun. I still am! It’s grown long...what can I say? There’s a lot there to talk about! :) What was going to be one post is now several and I’ll start getting them up soon. Doing the analysis is a great way to take my mind off my troubles and enter a pre-made world - a world created by someone else - which, really, is what storytelling is all about. It allows us escape when we need it.

So look for some escapism in the next few weeks in the form of a too-close look at one of my favorite TV series, ever. 

And go give a loved one a hug from me. :)

Play safe,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Get the facts straight

I learn best by reading. That probably doesn't come as a surprise to any of you.

I'm also not one to jump into anything without a clear picture of what I'm getting myself into. As a result, when I finally accepted that I had more than a passing interest in BDSM, I combed the fledgling Internet for books on the topic. There weren't many.

But I did find a few books (my favorite is still Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns) and a few websites (I learned a lot from Castle Realm, a now-defunct site. Some of their archives can be found here). Through them I learned a lot about both the psychology and the physical attributes of BDSM.

Why do I tell you this in a writing workshop? Because knowing your subject is vital to writing a believable story. Nothing pulls me out of a book faster than something that ain't true.

We're not talking dramatic license here. Taking a few liberties or combining characters for the sake of the story is an entirely different affair (and one for a future blog post! Making a note to self...). Nor am I talking about verisimilitude (the "reality" every story presents). I'm talking about factual mistakes that make readers sit up and say, "Did this author really just write that? It's so wrong!"

Believe me, other people notice. Tied to Home was recently reviewed by BDSMBookreviews. The line in the review that meant the most to me was "She did, however, go out of her way to make sure there were no circulation problems with some of the intricate scenes."

Yes, I did. As a writer of BDSM play scenes, I have a responsibility to my readers. Some people read my books as good fantasies--escape stories that let them vicariously live a life they wouldn't dream of living in reality. Other people read my books to learn about models of relationships--how can a modern, feminist woman allow her submissive side to come out and still respect herself in the morning?

Still others read them because they live the lifestyle and like to read fiction that doesn't treat their chosen way of life as something "off" or "outside". These are the readers who will spot a fake six shelves away. They understand the world of BDSM is like a candy store - with lots of different flavors and many different expressions. And I'd better get them right if I want to sell these readers any more books.

But candy stores have rules, and so do those in the lifestyle. Safe, sane and consensual is a concept that goes back several decades and one which I follow in all my books. The above reviewer did take exception to the fact that the characters in Tied to Home didn't have a set of safewords -- and she's right. They should have. All my other characters do. That was an oversight on my part and she's right to take me to task for it.

Because, when it comes right down to it, authors are teachers. It's our responsibility to get the facts right. I knew so much more than other kids in my class about history because I read historical novels. I knew dancers walked with their toes pointed outward (The Velvet Room), that there were several kinds of nurses, and that a purple crayon could make me an entire world. I knew words most of them had never heard of. Not that I knew what all of them meant, but the exposure was there--and comprehension came later.

Think about what you've learned from the stories you've read. Now imagine the author got those facts wrong. Imagine thinking you understood a particular concept or knew a straight-up fact only to discover you didn't-because the author, by being lazy and not doing his/her homework, told you a falsehood.

You'd be angry, wouldn't you?

And so will your readers if you try to take shortcuts. Get your facts straight - and write the book your readers will remember as the place where they learned something new. Something right.

Play safe, 

P.S. Remember, I write these workshops as a supplement to my income. If you find them useful, please leave a donation. Thank you.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

We did it!

Okay, I know I said I wouldn't post about Under His Spell anymore...but I just need to say THANK YOU to everyone. You pushed it over into the Diamond Level sales at A1Adultebooks and now it's firmly in the site's Hall of Fame. My first title to earn that distinction!

Of course, such success only encourages me to write more Mystic Shade novels...see what you did?

PS. There are still two more levels on this site-one at 120 and one at 150. Feel free to share this with all your friends and let them know. :)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

One last post...

...UNDER HIS SPELL is nearing a record-breaking sales record for Mystic Shade at A1Adultebooks. If you haven't gotten your copy yet, head on over and get it in whatever ebook format you prefer. Only about a half a dozen more sales and it will tip the scale to the good!

Currently, UNDER HIS SPELL is #1 on the Recent Bestseller's list there -- and I'm very psyched :)

Many thanks to all who have already purchased this very naughty book. You might enjoy Mystic's other titles, also available at A1Adultebooks.

Play safe!

(edited to add the screen capture)

Writing prompt!

Since I've been blabbing on and on over the past few weeks about some of the externals of writing (clothes, grief and royalty-tracking), I think it's time we remembered why we're here in the first place -- to write good stories.

If you haven't started something new in a while, here's a chance to dump all your troubles, your manuscripts that are giving you grief and ignore the cares of the world for a while. Choose a prompt below and spend at least a half an hour throwing some spaghetti to see what happens. Remember, practice is important and so is reflection, so once you're done, set it aside and take out your journal. Think about how it felt to start something brand new again and write about process.


1. Choose a prompt below and write for at least a half an hour on it.

2. Set it aside and take out your writer's journal and write a reflection. Use about 10 minutes to write about your process or about what it feels like to start a new story.


A. I woke up this morning and the sky was green....(First person prompt. Go!)

B. Protagonist: wants to sleep in
    Antagonist: wants to go to church

C. Character One cannot get the new program on the computer to work. Character Two is getting tired of having to show Character One the same things over and over. You decide which is the protagonist and which the antagonist and write the scene where things come to a head.

D. Look out your window and describe what you see there (characters optional in this one :) ).

Have fun, play safe and leave a tip! Once I retire from my day job (which will be soon!!!), this becomes one of my sources of income :)


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Business nuts and bolts

There are several excellent blogs devoted to the business side of writing (you can read three of the best here, here and here) but few talk about the nuts and bolts of keeping track of your sales. Everyone seems to assume you just know how to do that.

Well, I didn't.

Not when I first started, anyway. My first book was published in September 2003 (ten-year anniversary's coming up - I think we should have a party!). I used a pen name because my husband was concerned about dragging his family name through the erotic romance mud. When I sold 173 books in two weeks and made a royalty check of $430, he changed his mind. There's money to be had in sex! Who knew?

(I did, but that was beside the point {g}).

But I was too new at the whole thing to really understand that being a writer means being self-employed. I happily wrote books, sent them off to my publisher and deposited the royalty checks with the bliss that belongs to the ignorant.

Then I went to my first Romantic Times conference and my eyes were opened. Promo alley? What was that? Who supplied all those goodies the readers eagerly gobbled up? The writers did? Where did they get the money to buy all that stuff? Did it work? Advertise my book? I was supposed to do that?

I'm a fast learner. Went home and got myself a DBA (Doing Business As), went to my credit union and started an account that would be solely dedicated to my Diana Hunter earnings - and went into business. Designed and bought some promotional items from a friend who runs The Copy Shop and started to keep track of money in and money out.

I like Excel. It's a good program and I'd used it in my day job for a number of years, so it was the database program I turned to. I still use it (the 2003 version - hate that Microsoft "improved" something that wasn't broken. But that's a blog post for a different time). You can use the program of your choice, but if you haven't started keeping track of your writing, it's time.

I've spoken of file management before; that was more about how to keep track of your stories on your computer. What I'm talking about now is how to keep track of what you've written and whether or not it's making you money.

First things first

If you don't yet have a DBA and a financial account dedicated to ONLY your writing career, go make it so. Your accounting will be so much easier on all fronts when you can do business, not from your family account, not from the same account with which you pay all other bills, but from an account specifically dedicated to your royalty checks and your expenditures as a writer.

Please note: That doesn't mean you can't use that account to pay for other things. I paid my kid's tuitions, I currently pay the VISA bill out of my Diana Hunter account. I have a line-item called "salary" for when I absolutely have to have that new blouse at JC Penney's. It just makes everything easier when it comes to tax time.

Second things second -- setting up your database (if you haven't already done so)

I set mine up (using Excel) with the entire year on one workbook page. I like to see the entire year in a single scroll (see below). The little red triangles in the cells means there's a comment there (I opened one so you could see it). The one in "expenditures" simply reads "all expenditures come out of the checking account". I leave notes like this so whoever takes over after I'm dead will have a clue (Kristine Katherine Rusch has a great series of posts about dealing with your writing after death. Read them later. Get your financial records in order first).

If you don't know how to use Excel, take a class at your local high school or a workshop at the local library. It's really a very, very valuable tool that you won't stop using. Being able to use a good database program is as important to your writing career as being able to use a good word processor. I can't emphasize that enough. I can show you a good set-up, one that works for me. I can't teach you how to enter the formulas or do the math.

I can, however, give you an example. Take it, tweak it to your needs and then - be faithful to it. At the end of the year, it makes pulling together the information you need to itemize for your taxes a breeze! I created a template (the above screenshot shows only a small piece -- all twelve months are on the same page) and then each year I simply change the year in Row 1 and fill in the balance forward cells and the sheet now will make all the calculations for me.

(sorry the picture bleeds off the side of the page. It doesn't in my editor. When I make it smaller, however, you can't read it)

If you haven't done so already, this week's activity revolves around the business side of writing and consists of three things to do:

1) File for your DBA if you haven't already done so (see your local county clerk for the forms). You are a self-employed business person now and need the paperwork to prove it.

2) Set up a financial account for your money. When I started, I put $400 of "seed money" into my account out of the family savings since I hadn't been keeping track of those early royalty checks. They'd been simply deposited into the regular checking account and I had no record of what happened to that money. Put in what you can afford -- it will grow as you get royalties from your work.

3) Set up a database that will allow you to see where your money is going. For some of you, this will mean taking a class in Excel first (Microsoft actually has several excellent modules if you want to self-teach yourself the program). If you already know how to do use a database (Excel or any other), then set it up in a fashion that works for you.

That's enough for this week! I'm planning a series of these Nuts and Bolts and will use that tag along with the writing workshop tag to help you find them. :)

Play safe, and drop a tip in the jar on the way out!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Under His Spell near a record!

Although Under His Spell is available in several places, the book is nearing the next level of sales at A1AdultEbooks - and I am so psyched! If it goes over, this will be my biggest seller there (Over My Enslaved Body also reached Gold Level several years ago).

In order to reach ANY of the levels, the book has to sell a certain number of titles in the first 28 days of sale. Under His Spell's countdown started when it was released a week ago. In that seven days, it easily slid past silver and into gold. A few more sales (ten at last count) and it will make platinum!

So if you don't have your copy yet, go to A1AdultEbooks -- they have all formats for all ebook readers. Let's push this puppy up the Bestseller list (it's currently holding at #7) and get it to platinum!


Sunday, March 03, 2013


When my two adult children asked me what I wanted for Christmas this past season, I told them I wanted something new to read. That wasn't specific enough, they told me. What titles did I want? Was there any particular author?

My response? Go browse. I like fantasy, which usually means series of books, but I'm eclectic in my reading tastes, so...I finally told them that, if they were going to buy me a book, to find one they think I should read. Any genre except horror or suspense (they give me nightmares. What can I say? I have a vivid imagination!). Any author, any anything. Just something they thought I might enjoy.

Of course, what that forced them to do was think. Consider. Ponder. To actually LOOK at the books and weigh it against the books I already have on my shelves. Which meant they had to go look to see what I had on my shelves. My answer required them to do a little work in picking out a book for me -- which was my present to them.

Because, you see, I spend time choosing presents for people. I hate money in a card. I'll only put it in the bank or trifle it away on the cups of hot chocolate I get too many mornings from McDonald's on my way to work. No, I want to know people actually THOUGHT about me as they made their choice. That they considered me and what I might like.

Mostly, when I'm asked what I want for Christmas, I say, "Surprise me" because that's exactly what I want. A surprise. If I know what's in the box before I open it, where's the fun? The mystery? And if my great-aunt Mabel thinks I need a purple and orange and teal afghan that she crocheted with left over yarn, then I think I need it, too. It's a gift of her love and what do I care about the colors?

So my kids really should've known better before asking me such a silly question. But they try every year and this year I took pity on them and gave them a "real" answer: Buy me a book you think I'd like.

And they did.

My daughter bought me not one, but three books -- the first in the series by three different authors. Three books, three series starters. When I opened them, she told me, "I figured this way, you could start them and then, whichever one you liked, you could buy the rest." I hugged her and told her that was smart thinking.

My son bought me a boxed set trilogy -- the first of six books in one series. He said that he read the back cover and liked it himself, so he thought I might like them as well. I hugged him and told him it looked like a great series. He didn't realize it, but the author he bought me (Brandon Sanderson) went on to finish the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series, so they guy has some chops.

The only problem is that I can't read while I'm writing a book. I said above that I have a vivid imagination and I meant it. When I open the cover a book and start reading, I am transported. My mom used to say she could set a bomb off next to me and I'd not notice. You can't imagine the number of times my husband, daughter or son have to call my name to get my attention when my nose is in a book.

So I can't read and write at the same time because I do the same thing when I'm writing. I'm totally immersed in the world of my own creation and don't want anyone else's creation getting in my head. As a result, I didn't  even pick up any of the books they got me until after Under His Spell was done. Then I gave myself a treat and opened Mistborn, Sanderson's first book in the Mistborn series.

It's a good thing I wasn't writing...because I got pulled into this world hook, line and sinker. One of the traits of a good book is the way it stays with you after you read the last page. It should stay in your head, the characters' speech patterns or comments should continue to echo in your brain. 

This series has done that. I find myself continually returning to the events, replaying them in my head, wondering what would have happened if.... I'm looking forward to purchasing the next two books in the series and continuing the journey. I do hope he's kept some of the same characters (in fact, I even know which character I'd like to be the protagonist of the next set of books!).

The upshot of my telling my kids to find me something they think I should read? I can now recommend Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series to everyone who likes fantasy!

Now off to read my daughter's choices for me...
Play safe!