Today I Will Marry My Husband. Again.

tattoo wedding band, married hands, vow renewal, Today is the first day of my marriage. For this year.

Today is also the 12th first day we’ve had.

When we were engaged and still in the planning process for our first wedding to each other, a couple dear to us mentioned to My Knight that they have renewed their vows every year of their marriage.

She explained that it helps remind you of what you’ve committed to, what you promised, and what you meant to accomplish together. It keeps fresh in your mind throughout the years that this was a choice you made willingly, and it was something you wanted and were dedicated to.

Her husband agreed with her, but he added his own take on their ritual. He told My Knight that if anyone told him he had to spend the rest of his life with her, he wouldn’t be able to do it. But he could do a year. So every time their anniversary rolled around, he decided he could do another year.

They’d been married 52 years at that time if memory serves me correctly, and they’re still married all these years later. They’re still signing up for one more year every time.

My Knight loved the idea so much that he proposed it to me before our first vows were spoken, and being just as much of a hopeless romantic as he is, I wholeheartedly agreed.

Of course, being the planner at heart that I am, I complicated it by saying we would take turns planning a surprise for each year. That way every other year someone is surprised and no one has to bear responsibility for all the planning.

We’ve had some amazing experiences over the years. We’ve done lakeside Sarasota Medieval Faire; Vow Renewalpicnics, lush gardens, the Italian fountain at Epcot, historic inns, a medieval fair (complete with knight and wench costumes), and a beautiful rainforest.

Much like married life, the renewals haven’t always gone as planned.

The hot air balloon for our 5th anniversary was nearly a bust the minute the alarm clock went off way before dawn and My Knight refused to get up—saying that whatever I had planned could surely wait until later in the day after more sleep. Once I got him up and out of the house and to the location where the surprise was revealed, high winds kept the balloon on the ground, and we ended up at a lakeside gazebo later in the day and could have slept after all.

One year, the whole day went by without any mention of a surprise, and by the time dinner rolled around, I had gotten quite cranky thinking perhaps he’d forgotten or had failed to plan. We went to a nice restaurant, but the mood was sour with my disappointment. I’d been spending all my time at the theater in rehearsals for a play, and when he mentioned he needed to stop by there to drop off paint, I acted quite the ass and refused to accompany him inside, upset that he had failed to make the evening special when he’d had a year to plan. Once we were in the dark, deserted theater, he led me around the corner, and when the stage came into view, it was beautifully and magically lit with twinkle lights, and there stood my director and dearest friend waiting to participate in our evening. He’d been thoughtful and caring in his plans, and I’d almost ruined it with my attitude!

We don’t plan any big fanfare or hoopla. In fact, it’s usually just the two of us and someone we select each year to do the text of our original ceremony for us, and some years we have someone to do the original reading as well.

We often ask people who have been instrumental in our lives that past year, or people whose relationship we admire and look up to.

Hot Air Balloon Ride for Anniversary Vow RenewalFolks tell me all the time how romantic it is that we do this, and it is. I love that I get to be a bride every year, without all the stress and expense of an actual wedding. I love that we reaffirm our commitment each year and that we honor each other in special ways as we plan the day. I love planning his surprise, and I thoroughly enjoy finding out what he has planned for me.

But it’s not always easy to say those vows again.

Marriages, even the best and happiest ones, have ups and downs. People are messy. Love is messy. It makes you vulnerable, and it can cause pain. It can be frustrating and infuriating.

There have been years where it was easy for those vows to roll off my tongue, and I was able to say them with a smile just as large as on the day I first said them in 2006.

But there have been years that the words were thick in my throat, and it was hard to get them out and muster the conviction I knew I needed to say them. Those were the years that were most important. Those were the years that those vows meant the most.

Because when it is the hardest to love our mate, when it is the hardest to be dedicated to the relationship, when it seems that romance is the farthest thing from the moment…that is when it is most crucial to remember that love is a choice.

In those moments, I am reminded that for better or worse isn’t always better. That to love and cherish above all others isn’t always easy. That to give all that I am, all that I have been, and all that I will be means the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We are both flawed human beings. We love each other. We support each other. We are committed to each other. And yet, there are days, when we can’t stand the sight of each other.

My Knight and I at the top of Notre Dame in Paris.But on November 9th each year, we choose each other again. We choose to say that come what may, you are my partner in this life. We choose to love. We choose to forgive. We choose to move forward. We choose to be married.

We decide to sign up for one more year.

Happy Anniversary, baby. I love you. I can’t wait to marry you again today, and I can’t wait to see what this new year brings.

The Walking Dead Tour

Road Trip to Senoia

We were already impatient for the new season of The Walking Dead to begin, but after our tour of Senoia last weekend, we are so ready!!! We were heading up to Atlanta to catch Cirque du Soleil's Luzia, (which was amazing, by the way!) and we decided to take a detour into Senoia, home of the last and current seasons of The Walking Dead.

Senoia's Walk of Fame

Fried Green Tomatoes, Senoia, Movie TourWe fell in love with Senoia right away with its quaint streets, brick sidewalks, and charming antique shops, family-owned restaurants,  and home decor boutiques. Many TV shows and movies have used Senoia's charm, and we were delighted to read the names of the familiar and unknown as we meandered through town.

Nic & Norman's and EEK!--Alexandria!

Nic and Norman, Senoia, Movie Tour, Violet HoweAfter a quick lunch at Nic & Norman's, which is owned by Greg Nicotero and Norman Reedus--both of the Walking Dead--we ventured toward our Airbnb accommodations (which were incredible!). Along the way, we caught a glimpse of the walls of Alexandria, and we both geeked out like little kids, screaming and laughing in the car.

We unloaded the car and chatted a bit with our awesome Airbnb host (favorite hosts ever!) and then headed back into town for our tour.

The Big Zombie Tour #2 with Atlanta Movie Tours

Wow! What an awesome experience start to finish for Walking Dead fans!

The check-in process for the tour was at the Waking Dead Cafe, found right Walking Dead museum, Senoia, Violet Howe, Atlanta Movie Tournext to the Walking Dead shop and museum, which had some fun artifacts actually used in the show and several standing posters of our favorite characters.

The bus was air-conditioned and comfy, and our tour guide, Colin, had been a background character on several episodes of TWD, so he had insider information Senoia, Walking Dead, Atlanta Movie Tours, Violet Howeand many entertaining stories to tell.

My Knight had been a bit concerned about a three-hour tour (cue Gilligan's music here) but Colin's sense of humor and outgoing personality made the three hours go by fast. We were engaged and entertained the entire time!

It was nice having the video screens on the bus because Colin could show us scenes from the show as we were seeing the actual locations out the window of the bus.

Getting Off the Bus

Colin shared behind-the-scenes details and explained how the editing could change the physical make-up of the town based on the show's needs, or how scenes might be filmed on location but then the close-ups can be done later in the studio if need be.

One of the perks of booking Atlanta Movie Tours is the ability to see inside Morgan's apartment and the barn where the Governor and Rick had their meeting (and the heartbreaking grassy spot where Darryl had to take out the walker version of his brother, Merle!).

The most exciting off-bus excursion was a run-down factory where Michonne Senoia, Walking Dead, Atlanta Movie Tour, Violet Howetook out a cage full of walkers after snatching her sword back from the Governor's apartment. It was also the scene of the big arena fight the Governor staged with Darryl and the walkers that reintroduced Merle after his long absence.

It was so cool to stand there in such a familiar setting from a pivotal scene and imagine what it had been like when they were filming.

The scenery along the route was beautiful countryside, and the bus stopped for snacks and a bathroom break about midway through. During the periods of time with no locations to see, Colin kept us entertained with stories and personal accounts, as well as trivia games with fun prizes.

Back in Alexandria

Alexandria, Senoia, Walking Dead, Atlanta Movie Tours, Violet HoweOnce we got back to town after the tour, we were able to walk a couple of blocks from the main street to see the walls of Alexandria up close and take more pics. As we walked we encountered many other TWD fans who were there for the same reason, and we enjoyed meeting fellow enthusiasts and talking about the show and the setting.

We kept our eyes open for any sighting of cast members, as they are known to sometimes frequent the restaurants of Senoia, but the closest we got was a rush of excitement over a walking tour with a guide who was a dead ringer for Andrew Lincoln as Rick.

All in all, it was a great day for us crazy fans. We love the show, and it was cool violet howe, author violet howe, atlanta movie tours, walking dead tourto see so many familiar areas and get info about the actors and episodes we are so fond of.

I would highly recommend a visit to Senoia for any movie or TV buff, and if you're a fan of TWD, you definitely need to do Atlanta Movie Tours' Big Zombie Tour #2.

Now bring on the next season and let's kick Negan's butt!

2017 Summer Movie Wrap-Up

The Goddess Howe Summer Movie Wrap-Up

Summer Movies 2017: The Yays and Nays

Y’all know how much I love movies, and summer is one of the prime movie seasons! I fit in quite a few films around a hectic schedule this summer, and here’s what I thought about what I saw.

The Hitman’s BodyguardThe Hitman's Bodyguard movie poster: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1959563/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Loved it! If you like Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds, you’ll love it too! But if you don’t like them, skip it…because it’s classic them being them. It was a fun, irreverent romp with action, violence, clever one-liners, snarky humor, and Salma Hayek being a beautiful badass!

Wind River movie poster; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5362988/Wind River

This movie probably stuck with me more than any other I saw this summer. Jeremy Renner did an excellent job.  The scenery was gorgeous. The suspense was engaging. The movie’s message and the spotlight it shines on the way our country treats (or mistreats) Native Americans—especially Native American women—was unsettling and left me feeling like I needed to do something. I just haven’t figured out what yet.

Logan Lucky

I liked it. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. It was a clever heist movie. Interesting cast—Channing Tatum, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, Dwight Yoakam, and Adam Driver. I loved the quirky humor, but the terrible accents killed me and I couldn’t get past them.

Baby DriverBaby Driver movie poster; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1959563/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Now this one, I loved! I’m a sucker for fast car movies, smart heist movies, great soundtracks, super cool bad guys, even cooler bad guys who are actually good guys, and movies that have clever tricks and unique angles in filming. This one had it all! Kevin Spacey. Jamie Foxx. Jon Hamm. Ansel Elgort. And that soundtrack….wow.  I need it. And I need to see this one again!

Atomic Blonde movie posterAtomic Blonde

Oh my!  I have the hugest girl crush on Charlize Theron after watching this movie! She is like the ultimate badass chick (seems to be a pattern with the movies I like!) It was smart. It was sexy. It was like a throwback to the Cold War spy movies I grew up with. And I didn’t see it coming. I love when the movie gets me, and I didn’t see it coming.  

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Yes! Yes! Yes! The legend of King Arthur has always been a favorite of mine in books and films. This was like a prequel to the standard tale, showing us how Arthur ascended to the throne and became king. I’d never thought much of Charlie Hunnan one way or another, but I’m a fan now. Guy Ritchie movies tend to have a quirky, signature style that I like. This was Guy Ritchie greatness, and it did not disappoint.

Dunkirk

I wanted to like this. I really did. I love war movies, and I love movies that tell me about a true story I haven’t heard and make me want to know more. I didn’t know Dunkirk’s significance in the war before seeing this movie…and I still didn’t know its significance after seeing it. The cinematography was incredible. The acting was good. But the timeline skipped around without any obvious reason or purpose, which was confusing. I never really got the meat of what was going on, and after going home and researching Dunkirk and why it’s important, I felt the movie could have done so much more to tell the story. And the score was beyond irritating. Movies use music to carry your emotions where they need you to go. This score made me feel like I was supposed to be watching a horror movie. We never got a break from the level of anxiety it produced, and after a while, it wore on my nerves.

Wonder WomanWonder Woman movie poster

Bam! Pow! Yes! I loved seeing Gal Gadot save the world. She’s such a badass (see--there we go again!), and seeing a movie carried by a female superhero was awesome! Chris Pine was more dreamy than I’ve ever seen him (and did you know he can sing??? Google it. He’s good! He even sang with Streisand!). The movie was funny and moving and action-filled. And the fact that you could see Gal Gadot’s thigh jiggle as any normal thigh would and it was perfectly okay and not post-produced into perfection was everything.

Home Again

I was thrilled when I got tickets for an advance screening of this movie. I am a huge Reese Witherspoon fan (I even included her as part of my novel The Ghost in the Curve!). The premise seemed cute, and the movie was cute, but that’s about it. Michael Sheen was good, Reese was good (I swear the woman DOES NOT AGE), and it was great to see Candice Bergen. But the movie fell a bit flat. It had several laugh out loud moments, and the trio of young men were entertaining (Reese’s romantic interest was HOT!), but there were several moments that didn’t feel plausible at all. I couldn’t see a mom allowing total strangers access to her daughters and her home in the way she did. So that kind of ruined it for me. Still have nothing but love in my heart for Reese, though!

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Oh, how I wanted to love this one, but I didn’t. I loved the first one, and I know many friends who were thrilled with part two, but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t buy Kurt Russell’s character as a god, and I hated what they did to Baby Groot. Overall, it was meh.

So what movies did you see this summer and what was your favorite?

 

Why Is a Heroine Over 40 A Taboo Subject?

violet howe, seasoned romance, older heroine, publishing sex appeal
When I wrote the wedding planner trilogy of my Tales Behind the Veils series, there was one secondary character who stood out to me and piqued my curiosity. This character, Maggie, was one I enjoyed writing, and as details emerged about her life and her history, I wanted to explore the character further and find out more about her past and her future by giving her a book of her own.
As I started discussing the new project with other authors, I was greeted with dire warnings that Maggie was too old to be a romance heroine.
How old is she? She's 49...the same age I'll be later this year.
I don't consider myself too old to be a heroine, and I certainly would be interested in reading about someone my age, whose life experiences and relationship issues might be something I could relate to. So in hopes of proving my well-meaning fellow writers wrong, I set out to research the issue.
What I found was disturbing.

The Publishing Industry says No!

violet howe, seasoned romance, older heroine, publishing sex appeal The romance publishing industry frowns quite sternly on any heroine over the age of 30.  It's a rarity to find a best-selling romance with a leading lady that has already left her twenties behind. It seems that if the storyline focuses on love and passion over "a certain age", it pushes the book into the women's fiction genre and out of the romance genre.
Over and over again, I found the same message in my research---according to the powers that be in publishing, no one wants to read about people over the age of 30 having  romance and sex.
Yet...as people over the age of 30 would readily confirm, it happens! Despite how far-fetched (or disgusting) it may seem to those still seeped in youth.
I met my now-husband when I was 36, and I can assure you, romance and passion were (and are) alive and well in our relationship. The candid conversations I often have with friends in my age range indicate that I'm not alone in that. People "my age" are still having sex. And good sex!
So if women still experience romance and passion past thirty, why is it a taboo subject?
I was curious to know if this was a case of the publishing industry deciding for readers what they want to read. Was there a market for heroines over 30?
Several factors would indicate there is.

Readers say Yes!

Baby boomers and Generation X are two large segments of the population in that higher age range, and they are both groups that buy and read romance.
Demographics for reader subscription services such as BookBub reveal that women over age 40 are a significant portion of the market for romance purchases, and my own statistics from my website and my marketing efforts show that the majority of my readers are over 35.
So if it's reflective of real life, and there's a market of people who could relate to it, why is it taboo?

It Goes Deeper than Publishing

I think part of the problem is rooted in our society's overall view of women aging. We glorify youth, and while we allow our men to age with dignity and retain their sex appeal, we tend to bench females who are considered "past their prime" as having lost their sensuality.
silver fox, Sam Elliott, seasoned romance
The King of Silver Foxes
As I combed the internet in my research, older men were referred to as silver foxes. But the few articles I came across regarding older heroines often called it "matron literature" or "hen lit", (older chick lit). Somehow matron and hen don't sound as enticing as silver fox to me. Even "cougar" has a bad connotation associated with it. Where are the positive terms?
Of course, part of the problem stems from the prevalence of youthful gatekeepers within the industry who cannot fathom old people having sex.
I get it. I do. I remember being a teenager when one of my aunts turned fifty. I was horrified on her behalf. She was ancient!  Life was basically over for her in my mind.
But I have found as each birthday has rolled around, that despite the increasing number  of candles on the cake, I don't feel old. I'm still just me on the inside. My bones may creak more, and I may forget why the hell I walked in a room, but I'm still me. And I still have a full range of emotions -- love, passion, hurt, anger, disappointment, elation, and yes, ecstasy.
But as an "older woman", my perspective is quite different than it was in my twenties. It is colored by my life experiences and the wisdom of hindsight.
Older heroines are more likely to have survived heartbreak and hardships. They may have children, even adult children, who change the dynamics of starting a new relationship. They may have financial independence and career security that a younger heroine hasn't achieved yet. They are likely to have gone through a divorce or losing a spouse, or many other life upheavals that change us and shape our ability to trust and be open to love.
Nothing in my research led me to believe that older women do not want to read stories about older heroines.
In fact, it's quite the opposite. More and more, older readers are demanding that writers give them heroines they can relate to. People whose lives look more like theirs.

We're Coming Together, Slowly But Surely

At a recent book conference, I attended a workshop on "Seasoned Romance", one of the new terms coined for this market. Authors Morgan Malone and Karen Booth talked extensively about the challenges of marketing older heroines, but they also pointed out a few encouraging signs.
More than one romance publisher has announced plans for a division dedicated to older heroines, with names such as August Romance or Love Like Fine Wine. So the powers that be are paying attention to the buying power of older women!
romantic women's fiction, violet howe, chick lit, seasoned romanceAs for me, I didn't let the taboo designation slow me down. I published Maggie's story, which includes parallel tales of her heartbreak at nineteen, and her resistance to risking her heart again at forty-nine. It delves into her reluctance to give up her independence, her adult children's reactions to her budding romance, and the baggage (and habits) she and the hero both bring into the relationship.
Just like in my novels about heroines in their twenties, Maggie focuses on the relationships she has with her family and friends, her own doubts and insecurities, her career, and yes, her attraction to the opposite sex.  Because these are all universal aspects of life, regardless of age.
Thanks to the workshop I attended, I've joined the Seasoned Romance Facebook group, where I can interact with other authors who write about older heroines and meet readers like me who want to read about people more like them. That led to joining Romance In Her Prime, another Facebook group for fans and authors of older heroines and heroes.
It has been refreshing to see so much love and acceptance for realistic characters who have found love later in life.
The twenties were exciting and tumultuous for me, but the thirties and forties have held much in experiences, emotions, triumphs, and losses. The ups and downs of this thing called life. Looking back on it all, I think that time period from nineteen to twenty-nine was just the tip of the iceberg in all my life has encompassed.
How sad it would be to limit our fictional counterparts to that one decade in the immense lifetime of being a woman and what that entails at every stage of life.

What's your take on it?

So here's to love no matter what age we are! I'd love to hear from you.....what do you think? Would you read a love story about an older heroine? Do you believe in seasoned romance?