Tell Me What You Really Think

Sincerely Yours  Robin Helm

Sincerely Yours
Robin Helm

Meredith Esparza of Austenesque Reviews posted her thoughtful four-star review of Sincerely Yours yesterday. Her review was a good one, in that she presented her likes and dislikes in a very fair manner. It’s wonderful to me that she likes more than she dislikes about the book. Thank you, Meredith!

I don’t expect everyone to like everything about my books. In fact, I would be surprised if they did. I know that my books can be controversial. All of them have a religious component and a paranormal element. The Yours by Design series (Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours) features a time-switch between Regency Darcy and modern Darcy.

I was particularly interested in the comments. More people were concerned about the religious aspect than about the time switch. Accidentally Yours (the first book) is much more “Christian” than are the other two books (Sincerely Yours and Forever Yours) in the series. I established modern Will’s Christianity in the the first book, so I felt no need to beat it to death in the other two books. Modern Will’s grandmother was dying. Losing his last family member caused him to lean heavily upon his faith. He was in despair. People of faith respond to such gut-wrenching agony in one of two ways: they will either draw closer to God or they’ll turn from Him entirely. Will reacted in the first way – he sought God. When he switched places in time with Regency Darcy, Will was in a place where everything was unfamiliar to him. Again, he sought the comfort of the only thing in his life that was stable and real at that point – his faith.

It amuses me that so many readers prefer the jerk Darcy (who grows into a good guy) to the spiritual Darcy, but it shouldn’t. After all, I see that in real life on a daily basis.

I’m thinking of two high-profile men I know who have the same job. One is a criminal, though he has never been convicted of anything since charges against him are always dropped. He has raped, stolen, cheated, been obscene in public, and destroyed private property, but people idolize him because he gives them what they want. He has received national, prestigious awards. The other man is a Christian. He works hard, goes to church, does good works, stays humble, and pleases God rather than all men. Guess which one is more popular? Michel Jackson meme

I’m not at all upset by the controversy my books create. People are talking about them, and to me, that’s a good thing. At least I’m not being ignored.

I think I’ll make my next Darcy a Christian politician. Hand me that popcorn.

Posted in Accidentally Yours, Modern culture, Reviews, Robin Helm, Science Fiction, Sincerely Yours, What I have learned about being a Novelist, Yours by Design | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

I Had to Laugh … Fishing and Cutting Bait

DSC_3951_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFile - CopyIt’s official. I am now old and my church doesn’t care what I think. Not that my opinion has been keeping the old girl afloat all these years, but it’s now official.

We have new décor at our church and I don’t like it. I’m not going to describe it because to do so would bring out my long knives. Just let me quote Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner character from “The Avengers,” “Well, this is pretty … terrible.

I’m not going to be one of those people who huffs out the doors over the color of the new carpet or choir robes. By-the-bye, for over 30 years I’ve heard about those sorts of epic struggles in the Body of Christ and have yet to see one. Pettiness has been a feature of every church I’ve attended but most splits  have been ignited by differing doctrine, and once theology was the detonator.

Anyway, for a long time I’ve disliked the music at our church. Church music has been shifting for a while and I haven’t shifted with it. My problem is that I am not musical. I have little in the way of rhythm, and cannot carry a tune. I forget the words unless they are printed out and I’m just too busy actually thinking about the words and their meaning to try and keep time. Let’s just say that praise and worship for me is difficult. We have never been a hymnal kind of church—those I do well with, figures—and so have always used projections systems. Over a year ago  we started using backgrounds with motion. These were a problem for me as my eyes are lousy, which means the movement plays tricks with the lettering. I was/am also distracted trying to find the point at which the movement starts to loop. This coupled with the Jesus-is-my-boyfriend nature of current worship music, and you see I’m really in trouble.

LightsBack to the décor. With the lights–yes, there are lights–and new textured surfaces, there is even more to see. The lights on the new features stay on during the sermon so I have even more to distract me.

Here’s the crazy, upside-down part of this: our pastor’s sermons are excellent.

Most people have complaints about dry, irrelevant preaching. Not so here. I have nothing negative to say in that regard.

My problem is the the falderal that surrounds the sermons. For me, it’s like being a fan of chocolate and only being able to get liver-wrapped truffles. Ugh.

We have no plans to leave because every church has it’s problems and I am comfortable with this set and have no interest in getting used to those of others.

My daughter just pointed out some wisdom that very much applies to my situation: “Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert (distract)  me I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.” – Jane Austen.

I am famous for saying you learn the most from reading badly written books. When reading a bad book you learn what not to do with characters and plot, you learn what you really dislike in storytelling, and when there is a good turn-of-phrase it stands out brilliantly. I suppose I should be prepared to learn what really matters to me in a church setting. I think I’m going to be learning and laughing  a lot.

Take care.

Posted in Challenges, Eeewww, Help me!, Susan Kaye | Tagged , | 13 Comments

If Darcy Played Football . . .

TheUnitedStatesofCollegeFootball-1For the past three years, I’ve been very interested in football. I’ve read everything I can find on it, and I keep up with the college teams, particularly the ones in the SEC. My friends think it’s all hysterically funny, because I’ve never had any interest in football before. I’ve always preferred soccer to football, and my girls played volleyball, basketball, and softball. I kept books and stats, or served in coaching or assistant coaching capacities so that I could travel with their teams. I also kept books and stats for soccer, boys’ basketball, and baseball. During those years, I was the same way about those sports that I am about football now. It’s sort of a hobby for me.

Eric Decker, formerly of the University of Minnesota and now a wide receiver for the New York Jets, has the Darcy looks.

Eric Decker, formerly of the University of Minnesota and now a wide receiver for the New York Jets, has the Darcy looks.

I’ve never been good at any sport. I just don’t have the athletic gene, and I have to know people who are playing for me to be truly interested in the sport. (My family tends to be more creative and arty. I suppose we have more of that genetic material.)

One day, I’m going to write a story with football as the background. It’s a violent game played by alpha males. What would you think of a football playing Darcy? I’ve done too much research on this and attended too many games to let the experience go to waste. What position should he play? Offense or defense? I’m thinking either a quarterback or a wide receiver. Ideas?

Posted in Robin Helm | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

My un-sorry hired help

Can you blame me? It's like prison in that purse.

Can you blame me? It’s like prison in that purse. Let me out! Let me out!

I write historical fiction but I live in an age of automation. Which is absolutely wonderful because…

I don’t have to deal with the drama that comes with hired help. Or so I thought.

Because I DO have hired help. It’s just that my workers are not human.

Electronic gadgets are supposed to be “seen and not heard,” right? Lately mine have been letting me down.

Are they sorry for the trouble they cause? Ha, not on your life.

And I lose my work. Sigh.

Like it’s MY fault that Laura loses her work?

Today I’m sharing caught-in-the-act photos. A furry friend would be more trouble, but his “I’m sorry” picture is so much cuter.

See me rock the adorable vibe.

Ha, see me rock the adorable vibe.

But hey, I'm like 50 years old. (and I'm not THIS far off)p

But hey, I’m, like, 50 years old.
(And no way am I THIS far off.)

Not every cute pet is sorry...

Ah, but not every cute pet is sorry

Posted in Laura Hile, Oh my, What the ...? | 7 Comments

I Had to Laugh … Cloud Cuckoo Land, Storm Cloud Edition

DSC_3951_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFile - CopyThey’re b-a-c-k. The hackers are back. The stars are back. While war breaks out worldwide, and out breaks of disease grow ever larger, the stars of Hollywood continue to be plagued with the embarrassment of private pictures being released to the WWW.

The perennial favorite, Jennifer Lawrence has finally weighed in. Yeah, I too am relieved,  because, no doubt like you, I’ve been holding my breath this entire time awaiting the proclamation.

imrs.phpHere it is:

Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offense. You should cower with shame. Even people who I know and love say, ‘Oh, yeah, I looked at the pictures.’ I don’t want to get mad, but at the same time I’m thinking, I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body.”

It’s a nicely crafted statement. I hope she wrote it herself because it would show she’s a woman who can put words together, not just parrot them when she’s paid.

Let me assure Jennifer, and the rest of you, I haven’t perpetuated a sexual offense. I haven’t looked at any of her photos, or the photos of others who were hacked.

And here’s why: When I joined the Air Force in 1977 I went from complete bathroom privacy to showering with 30 other women every day. At the time, “the showers” were lined with ugly poo brown tile, a sitting area with slat benches like a swimming pool might have, and an area with eight shower heads surrounded by flimsy white plastic curtains that flew around from the water pressure. No stalls, no shower doors, no privacy. I learned that while the aesthetics of women’s bodies varies hugely, the basic components are the same.

And the other reason I haven’t perpetuated a sexual crime is that I don’t think one occurred.

I’m not a familiar with the legal definition of a sex crime. But, I would hate to think the justice system is so loosy goosy that a person who has hands (maybe multiple sets) laid upon them, their clothes ripped away, exposed to ridicule and violence, perhaps beaten, spit upon, concussed, and then left injured enough to require stitches, hospitalization, or worse, are put into the same legal category as someone who had files stolen remotely and therefore their privacy breached. I can’t look at the person who is battered and bruised and say, “Buck up, Jennifer Lawrence had essentially the same thing happen to her.”

It’s always humiliating when we guard something, keep it private and out of sight only to have it made public against our will. In this case it’s embarrassing photographs and the presumptions of their viewers. Sometimes we ruin our own reputation by letting people see the real us, unfiltered. The revelation that we are more than we normally allow people to see is always startling. None of it is comfortable.

Maybe in this case sexual harassment can be claimed. I’m not sure. All I know is that in our world where everyone gets to to define terms, proportion has gone out the window and if we aren’t careful our desire to be sympathetic will destroy reason and discernment.

Take care

Posted in Deep Stuff, I Had to Laugh, Life and Times, Susan Kaye | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Not Too Hot

Today is October 7. As I mused on that, I was reminded of a quote from that classic movie (and perennial favorite at our house) Miss Congeniality. One of the movie’s funniest moments came when Stan Fields asked Miss Rhode Island (Cheryl) her interview question in the Miss United States pageant. Check out her answer.


This is that sort of day in the South. After I wasted several minutes of my life and a few hundred brain cells pondering that, I began to think – not always a good thing, but I did it anyway. I asked myself, “Self, wasn’t anyone important born on October 7? Did anything of import happen on this day in history?” So I went to the source of all knowledge, Google, and found some answers. They are mostly, “No.”

In 1492, Christopher Columbus changed course and missed Florida, and in 1913, Henry Ford instituted the assembly line. In 1780, the American militia defeated the British near Kings Mountain, NC. In 1942, the United Nations was established. We saw the far side of the moon for the first time in 1959, utilizing the USSR’s Luna 3. In 1969, ABC and NBC began broadcasting. Film star Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California in 2003.

Birthdays include Niels Bohr, Yo-Yo Ma, Toni Braxton, Simon Cowell, John Cougar Mellencamp, James Whitcomb Riley, and Joy Behar.

Hits and misses in both lists, but I won’t tell you which ones I think are misses.

All in all, I think Cheryl had it right
– except for the date. And, by the way, she won with that answer.

I just love the ridiculous.

Posted in Humor, International Days, Modern culture, Quirky news items, Robin Helm, The Writing Life | Tagged , | 8 Comments


You get what you pay for ...

You get what you pay for …

I had a conversation with my daughter yesterday that focused on a free tattoo and what a disaster it had turned out to be. (For an acquaintance, not her.) We decided that if you speak to someone and tell them about a desire or a need you have, if their next words are, “I know a guy,” it’s best to end the conversation and move away very fast.

Nasty reviews come in lots of guises. Amazon isn’t the only place human blisters frequent.

One of the best episodes of The Big Bang Theory last season was one in which Sheldon Cooper_P&Pintroduces Amy to the Indiana Jones franchise. In turn, she points out the walloping plot flaw in Raiders of the Lost Ark: the Nazis would have found the ark and been just as fried if Indiana Jones had stayed home washing his socks. Indy makes no difference to the story at all. Yeah, I really didn’t notice this either, but I chalk it up to the fact that I don’t like Indiana Jones in any of his incarnations.

Anyway, there is a similar, superfluous character in Persuasion. Just not one of the main ones, thankfully. The character of Mrs. Smith serves to give Anne an escape from the confines of Camden Place. Austen uses her to show us Anne’s compassion to a down-and-out friend. Smith makes little trifles that are sold to Nurse Rook’s wealthy patients, and the money given to needy neighbors. In doing this Austen  shows us a person who, though suffering herself, is mindful of the suffering of others. Her presence in Anne’s schedule makes Sir Walter angry, and that can’t be bad. She also lets Anne know what a horrible person William Elliot is. Too bad dishing the dirt comes after Anne already made her mind up about Elliot and the prospect of becoming the next Lady Elliot.  Anne and Frederick would have ended up together whether Mrs. Smith had spilled the beans or not.

If Austen were a modern author, she might have been encouraged to delete Mrs. Smith all together. I think I like the story with her. Even if she’s less a “hero” than I might have thought earlier.

Take care

Posted in Humor, Quirky news items, Susan Kaye, The Writing Life | Tagged , | 6 Comments

The Flintstones and Giant Squids

September 30 has never seemed to be very important to me. I live in the south, and though fall officially begins September 23, we don’t notice it for at least another month. September is more like a northern summer here.

Since September 30 seems to be a particularly blah day, I decided to see if anything important had ever happened on that date. If you’re interested, History Orb has a huge list, most of which are events I’d rather forget.

However, there were a few September 30 happenings that illustrate just how much life has changed in the past 168 years

1846 - Anesthetic ether was used for 1st time by American dentist Dr. William Morton who extracted a tooth.
1939 – A college football game was televised for the first time. (Fordham vs Waynesburg at NYC)
1950 – Radio’s “Grand Ole Opry” was broadcast on TV.
1960 – The Flintstones premieres (first prime time animation show)
1962 – KCRL TV channel 4 in Reno, NV (NBC) begins broadcasting
1988 – IBM announces shipment of 3 millionth PS/2 personal computer.
1993 – MS Dos 6.2 was released.
1994 – Space shuttle STS-68 (Endeavour 7), launches into orbit
2004 – The first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat are taken 600 miles south of Tokyo.

I’m most thankful for that first one. I would never have any dental work done without anesthetic, so Dr. William Morton has my undying gratitude.

The item which caught my fancy the most was the last one. A live giant squid was photographed for the first time.

The first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat are taken 600 miles south of Tokyo on September 30, 2004.

The first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat are taken 600 miles south of Tokyo on September 30, 2004.

That, of course, was followed fewer than ten years later by a live giant squid sighting hoax in California.

January 9, 2014 - the giant squid hoax in California by The Lightly Braised Turnip

January 9, 2014 – the giant squid hoax in California by The Lightly Braised Turnip

If we can be so easily fooled by a photoshopped picture, what else might we be missing?

Next, I’m going to hear that the Flintstones were never the modern Stone Age family from the town of Bedrock.

I really do believe in Area 51 and the Roswell UFO incident. Something is out there.

I can’t take much more reality. That’s why I write fiction.

Posted in Authors' tricks, Humor, Lessons in being a Novelist, Modern culture, Quirky news items, Robin Helm, Science Fiction, What I have learned about being a Novelist | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Foiled by the Brain Helpers

Photo Credit: Abie Sudiono (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: Abie Sudiono (Creative Commons)

It’s bad enough to stumble through life with a partially functioning brain. But have you noticed how many “Don’t Forget Me” Helpers there are?

You know, those “smart” devices with the tiny beeping alarms. Is it a text? Is it the security alarm? Are terrorists lurking with a bomb?

No, it’s an appliance. And it has something to say.

“I’m done with my task, stupid. Don’t forget me.” Welcome to the memory-free future.

  • The seat belt has an alarm.
  • So does the coffee maker.
  • Ditto for the iron and the microwave.
  • My tablet and phone sound off when fully charged.
  • Dang, even the photocopier beeps at me. “Don’t forget!”

I’d almost prefer a teenager. You recall how it was. In middle school we became the remembering half of our busy moms’ brain, right? How we used to roll our eyes.

Except that teenagers cannot spell. I can, but you’d never know it by looking at Facebook. You see, I have a Spelling Helper. Happy joy.

Yes, my Kindle Fire thinks I am a hopeless illiterate, and it corrects what I post. What it assumes is a lot.

Photo: Eli Christman (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: Eli Christman (Creative Commons)

“Tonia,” I wrote in the dialog box. “No,” said Kindle. “You must mean Sonia.” And that’s what showed up.

“Alexa,” I spelled out, letter-by-letter. And that’s what displayed, so I pushed Post. “Ha,” said Kindle. “I’ve got your back! You fool, it’s Alexander.” Thus poor Alexa changed genders.

“Deep breath,” I typed, to encourage a writing friend who entered a contest. “Idiot! Deep does not breathe,” said Kindle. “But deer do.”

Thus “deer breath” is what my poor friend saw. And everyone else. Gah!

So here’s to the Brain Helpers. If I haven’t messed up, they’re sure to do it for me.

What not-so-smart Helpers have you encountered? Have they ruined your life? Do tell.

Posted in Get Out Much?, How Bad Is It?, In Real Life, Laura Hile | 9 Comments

Moving House, Navy Style

The beginning of Persuasion is sad. A family must make decisions about moving out of their grand, ancestral home and into cheaper digs in order to save money. This has been a while in coming. At least sir Walter’s man-of-business, Mr. Sheperd knew it was. He was on the prowl for a tenant in the summer. There is mention of meeting the Crofts at the Quarter Sessions in Taunton. That would have been around the 24th of June. the meeting of the Elliot family that opens the novel is sometime in July to give enough time for the Crofts to visit, agree to the lease, find a place in Bath, clean out the house, and have Sir Walter and Elizabeth leave in early September.

J-H-Buckingham-The-Michaelmas-Fair.-St-Albans.-1852.1_museumimage“Michaelmas came; and now Anne’s heart must be in Kellynch again. A beloved home made over to others; all the precious rooms and furniture, groves, and prospects, beginning to own other eyes and other limbs! She could not think of much else on the 29th of September; and she had this sympathetic touch in the evening from Mary, who, on having occasion to note down the day of the month, exclaimed, “Dear me, is not this the day the Crofts were to come to Kellynch? I am glad I did not think of it before. How low it makes me!”

The Crofts took possession with true naval alertness, and were to be visited.”

The Crofts’ lease of Kellynch Hall began on Michaelmas. Traditionally this is the third quarter-day of the year. Rents are paid and accounts settled. It is also a good day to begin a lease evidently. In a way it’s like getting married on a holiday so you don’t forget your anniversary.

The first meal served to the Crofts would no doubt feature a fine fat goose. This is the time of the year that geese are at their peak and with the 29th being the feast of St Michael, it’s likely the second best silver was employed in celebration. The quote tells us the Crofts operated with naval alertness. Perhaps, at the end of the meal, the Admiral toasted to the birth of Admiral Horatio Nelson in 1758. It’s possible that Croft had met Lord Nelson when he was in the action at Trafalgar and so might have a bit of sentimentality about the day and the man. Another glass would have been raised on October 21, the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, where Nelson met his end in 1805.

In many parts of the kingdom, Michaelmas is the end of fishing season and the beginning of hunting season. This would have mattered little to Admiral Croft as he sometimes took out a gun but never killed. I’m sure he saw enough death at sea, violent or otherwise, and didn’t feel the need to partake on land. The 29th was considered the end of the harvest. The apples were mostly picked and cider making had commenced. Farmers were calculating how many animals they could afford to feed over the winter, and how many would be sold or slaughtered and salted down for winter provision.

Many areas took this opportunity to re-elect their town councils. There were also hiring fairs where laborers looking for winter employment would gather.

Autumn is a busy time of the year in the country. It’s also a nice time of the year to settle into a new home to rest after years abroad in service to the King. But you have to wonder if the Crofts were very content. They wound up in Bath after just a few months in the country. Maybe after the busyness of Michaelmas, winter in the country was a bit too quiet for them.

Read more at:
The Book of Days
The Old Foodie

Posted in Holiday, I Had to Laugh, Susan Kaye | Tagged | 4 Comments