By Michelle Thorne
If you google Michelle Thorne you will get about 850,000 hits for Michelle Thorne, England’s most famous porn star, and about 5 for me, Michelle Thorne, Bookseller. Iâ€™m in a bad mood, and not because there are people who think I do vile things with lots of men in stories that have no plots, on film or more accurately on video. Every month about this time I do book returns. I decide what books have had enough time on my new shelves and what books will get a reprieve until next month. I really hate this part of my work, because I hate to destroy books. It is a bad thing. I know itâ€™s wrong. I yell at customers just for opening a book too far and creasing the spine, but today I have to strip books.
Yes, I am a STRIPPER.
There is no way around it. I wish I could keep every book I order, forever. I canâ€™t. I donâ€™t enjoy stripping books, but to make room for next monthâ€™s books, I have to. Yes, I do get credit for the returned covers but itâ€™s not that great for me financially either. I take at least a 10% hit every time I send a cover back. If I buy a $5.99 book, I pay 40% of the cover price or $3.59. When I send a cover back, I receive $3.00 in credit, for that same book, from my distributor (and not real moneyâ€¦Ingram bucks). 59 cents is gone like the proverbial wind. It may not sound like much, but multiply it by every book I buy and return every month. And get thisâ€¦Ingram can decide not to give me credit or can drastically change the amount I get back from them in credit, at their discretion. That sucks, big time.
At BUBâ€¦.123 I give the potential â€œStripeesâ€ an extra month on a special shelf at 50% off (the same as I would get from Ingram, only in cash that I can spend.) Thatâ€™s their last chance. Really! I try very hard to be careful when I order, but sometimes I just donâ€™t get it right. Many of the times I donâ€™t get it right is when I have an Author Autographing. I can never be sure if I have under ordered and will sell out, or if I have over ordered and I have a table full of books left at the end of the day. I always offer the books to the Authors at cost, so I donâ€™t have to strip them. Authors always have to get books for contests, their relatives or donations. If you buy them from me you get your royalties, a discount and no books will die that day. Authors, donâ€™t forget to sign stock even if you donâ€™t buy your books, I always have a harder time returning a signed book, but I can do it. Buy your books when you can, but Iâ€™ll understand when you canâ€™t. Like I know youâ€™ll understand when I have to do returns. Donâ€™t hate me because I strip, It’s not like I do porn.
Bearly Used Booksâ€¦123
Home of A Great Read
123 So. First Street
La Puente, CA 91744
A Slice of Orange is closing the 25 Days of Romance Contest by bringing you a Bonus Blog from Maureen Child. We plan to announce the winner of the contest on March 6th. Thank you all!
On Valentineâ€™s Day, my daughter Sarah called on her drive home from work. We usually get a lot of chatting done while sheâ€™s stuck on the freeway and that day was no different. Of course, the conversation turned to Valentineâ€™s Day and she asked me if her father had given me the box of Seeâ€™s Bordeaux that has become tradition in our house. When I assured her he had, she said, â€œYour sweetheart always comes through, doesnâ€™t he?â€
It wasnâ€™t until much later that I realized how true her statement really was.
Mark and I were married when we were kids (although we were not twelve as Sarah insists) and weâ€™ve been married a long time. We sort of grew up together and I can honestly say that even when he makes me nuts, Iâ€™m still nuts about him.
Nothing shakes Mark. Where Iâ€™m volatile and explosive, heâ€™s steady and quietâ€”(not that he gets much chance to talk around me). Heâ€™s the patient one and Iâ€™m the one most likely to erupt like some long dormant volcano suddenly springing to life when everyone least expects it. We were a team when the kids were little and now that theyâ€™re grown weâ€™re still a team. The team we were when we first started out. And itâ€™s even more fun this time.
Mark is the rock in my world. Iâ€™ve always been able to count on him. When my car breaks down in the worst possible place at the worst possible time, I know I can call him and heâ€™ll ride to the rescue. When Iâ€™m feeling like the world is crashing down around me, he makes me laugh like no one else ever has. When Iâ€™m on deadline, he listens to me whine. When Iâ€™m obsessing about a new book, he never asks what Iâ€™m doing as I stare blankly into space.
And back when I was sure Iâ€™d never sell a book, Mark always believed in me.
Romance isnâ€™t just the stuff we write books aboutâ€”the first flush of love, the excitement charging the air. Itâ€™s also about being there for someone every day. Itâ€™s about laughing together over jokes no one else will ever understand. Itâ€™s about holding hands in the movies and dancing in the kitchen.
Itâ€™s about always coming through.
EXPECTING LONERGAN’S BABY, Desire, April, ’06
STRICTLY LONERGAN’S BUSINESS, Desire, May ’06
SATISFYING LONERGAN’S HONOR, Desire, June ’06
By Sandra Paul
“I have a great idea!” I told my husband enthusiastically. “Why don’t we put mirrored closet doors in our bedroom? It will not only give the room more depth, it will bring in more light!”
“Why don’t we just buy another lamp?” he replied dryly. “It would be easier.”
Obviously, he didn’t share my enthusiasm. Possibly because I’d been coming up with “great” ideas to improve our fixer-upper ever since we’d bought it two years earlier. Since then, my husband had spent nearly every weekend replacing windows, repairing walls, re-roofing, hanging siding, ripping out carpets, nailing down floors, fixing plumbing, laying bricks, cementing, yanking out tree stumps, laying a lawn, drywalling, plastering, and painting.
All of which he now reminded me of in unnecessarily specific detail.
“But the bedroom is a special project,” I reminded him in turn. “I envision it as our personal, private haven where we can relax. A getaway from the kids, pets–and endless chores.”
I think it was the chore bit that got him. At any rate, he didn’t argue further but put in the mirrored doors for me the following Saturday. When he finished, I stood in the doorway of our newly redecorated room, admiring how the lamplight bounced from the softly glowing burgundy walls to the gleaming mirrored doors and back again. I was totally thrilled with the result of my latest great idea. . . until the next morning.
While lying on my side, I opened my eyes–and stared in horror at the image before me. Less than four feet away was my own reflection, revealed in unforgiving detail in the harsh morning light. My once blonde hair looked dull and lifeless. My eyes were red and swollen almost shut. My skin was puffy and blotchy.
Involuntarily, I made a sound between a horrified gasp and a moan that caused my husband to sit bolt upright next to me.
“What is it? Are you hurt?” he demanded, leaning over me. He tugged down the sheet I’d lifted to cover my face.
“No, it’s those mirrors!” I blurted without thinking. “I look so awful. And now I’m going to have to face that fact, every single morning when I wake up!”
His green eyes widened with surprise, and then narrowed on my face. He stared at me as if he’d never seen me before.
Which was so not true. I’d first met those green eyes when we were in high school. We’d now been married over 20 years, and during those years, we’d spent less than twenty nights apart. I’d studied his expression countless times during countless days, hours and seconds. There was no face on earth including my children’s, I suddenly realized, who I gazed at more often than his. And if that was true for me, then it had to be true for him as well.
Shuddering at the thought, I jumped out of bed as he started to say something, wishing I hadn’t called my looks–or lack thereof–to his attention. I kept busy all day, avoiding mirrors, avoiding my husband’s gaze. And I went to bed that night, determined to forget the whole thing.
But when I awoke the next morning, I was lying on my side again. And I knew, without even opening my eyes, that I was facing those darn mirrored doors. It doesn’t matter; just don’t look, I told myself. I took a deep breath, and resolutely opened my eyes.
My gaze locked; I stared at the doors in amazement. Then my eyes grew misty. But that didn’t matter, because what I saw is forever imprinted on my mind and heart.
Sheets of notebook paper covered the glass. On them my husband had written, “You are beautiful. And I love you.”
By Jen Crooks
Iâ€™ve always had a good track record among my friends for dating losers. I spent all of my teens and 20â€™s perfecting this gift. Every guy I dated was potentially Mr. Right and I would try the idea of â€œforeverâ€ on to see how it fit, which it never did.
Finally, the day came when I turned 35. Iâ€™d broken up with the last Mr. Right and was moaning about the years that Iâ€™d wasted â€“ was I going to ever get married, ever have children, ever belong in a partnership with someone? The prospects were looking dim.
Obviously, with a Romance Record like mine, I have very patient girlfriends. When I bemoaned the wasteland of my love life and the biological clock that was hurtling me with G-force toward menopause, my three best and most patient girlfriends listened to my tale of woe.
Every one of them said the same thing to me: I needed a better system in my quest for Mr. Right. I needed to let someone who knew better (they all three mentioned that they were happily married) be pivotal in the decision making process. In short, I needed to date by committee.
My current plan was Speed Dating. Each agreed that I needed to continue with that plan â€“ I got to meet maximum numbers of men (10-15 in an evening) with minimum effort (I just had to sit and talk to them each for 3-5 minutes).
The Dating Committee encouraged me to date as many of these prospects as possible with one single caveat: at least one person on the Committee had to meet them before 1) any significant physical contact, defined as anything past a good-night kiss outside the vehicle I was driving home or 2) by the third dateâ€¦whichever came first.
I threw myself into Speed Dating â€“ often having as many as four â€œfirst datesâ€ in one week (completely exhausting â€“ I donâ€™t recommend it). I was excited that these men shared so many desirable characteristics in a first date â€“ most had jobs, their real hair and wanted to meet women. However, not a single one of them tempted me to either get to the significant physical contact or go on the third date.
My friends began to suspect that Secret Dating was occurring. I assured them this wasnâ€™t the caseâ€¦I just hadnâ€™t found anyone worthy of putting before the Committee yet from Speed Dating. I began to look around at Rapid Dating and Pre-Dating, to beef up my pool of prospects.
Then my mother died suddenly and my 35 year-old world got a reality check. I did all the tasks that accompany death, and I grieved. I stopped dating completely â€“ Iâ€™d decided that life was too short to spend on losers. My patient girlfriends dragged me back into life, ignoring my bitter protests, and one night one of them coerced me out on the town.
We went to a place in Newport Beach. I danced and danced with my girlfriend and her husband and had a lovely time. In the middle of this evening, I met a man. We danced. He bought me a drink. We were beginning to engage in the usual inconsequential â€œdating chatter.â€ I had forgotten completely about the pact to date only by Committee when my girlfriend, whoâ€™d downed enough Vodka Tonics to be entertaining, zoomed up to exercise her Committee Rights.
She stopped in front of the guy who came to be known as Newport Steve and held out her hand in introduction. â€œHi, Iâ€™m her girlfriend Mary. How are you?â€ And she proceeded to pepper the man with questions.
â€œWhat do you do? Oh, a Computer Guy! Uh-huh. Great! Jen works in computers!
Where do you live? Oh, Newport Beachâ€¦close byâ€¦Great!
How old are you? Forty-four? (She gave him a suspicious stare.)
Have you ever been married?
Reallyâ€¦did you have any kids? No? Well do you want to have kids?
(I tried to slink off right about this time but my girlfriend trains dogs for a living and sheâ€™s got a grip like a pit bull.)
How do you feel about pets? Oh, youâ€™re afraid of dogs? Well, cause she has a dog, but Hoshiâ€™s a really nice dog. She really likes men â€“ Hoshi, not Jenâ€¦well, I mean Jen likes men too. Anyway, you guys will do great!
What kind of dog? An Akita.â€
And on it went. Newport Steve stood up to the Inquisiton â€“ answering her questions without stammering or stuttering. He joined us and at the end of the evening we traded information on cocktail napkins. Less than a week later we went out.
Bit by bit we fell in love, though I kept struggling against the feeling, thinking about my other Mr. Rights. Steve was always relaxed and so certain that we were meant to be together and I couldnâ€™t figure out how he â€œjust knew.â€
A few months after we met, I had my 36th birthday and he took me out to a wonderful dinner. He gave me beautiful jewelry and watched me blow out my candle. I made the wish to keep him always while he smiled at me from across the table.
â€œWhat did you wish for on your birthday?â€ I asked, referring to the birthday he had right before we met.
He looked in my eyes for a moment before he answered. â€œI wished for you,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m pretty sure your mom heard me from Heaven and pulled a few strings.â€
I started crying, right there in the middle of the restaurant, and I felt my motherâ€™s spirit. I could hear her voice in my head, telling me to quit worrying and relax. I realized in one of those stunning moments of clarity that my former boyfriends were all Mr. Maybesâ€¦practice trials to help me truly appreciate the man that my mom â€œpicked out.â€ Evidently, sheâ€™d been on the Committee the whole time.
Newport Steve is now My Steve, and I canâ€™t imagine my life without him.
Jen Crooks writes womenâ€™s fiction, chick lit and short stories as Jenny Hansen. She has been a member of OCC since 2001 and has served on OCCâ€™s Board of Directors as Newsletter Editor, Membership Director and Program Director. She is currently the Contest Coordinator for the 2006 Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers.