Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What does 'I love you' actually mean?


Alas, it often means very different things, even to two people who are uttering those three little words to each other at the same time.  How many times have you heard a brokenhearted friend say "I don't understand; how could he just go?  He told me he loved me!"?  You may have said it yourself.  

Perhaps one person was saying "I can't imagine my life without you in it", while the other just meant "You're so exciting and exactly what I'm looking for, right now".

Sometimes it means the more sinister "I have an ideal in my head about the person I will love, and I want you to be 'it'"~ more on that one later!

I thought about this whole subject a great deal whilst writing my latest book, Last Child, because it features so many variations on the man/woman relationship.  Although not 'romances' by any means, my books do tend to be based around affairs of the heart, and I draw not only from my imagination but also from my own experience and observation of others This aspect of life has always been both interesting and so important to me, perhaps one of the reasons why I've never allowed it to fall into the second place necessary when you have children (actually, that's only just occurred to me!). 

Children or not, it isn't so important for everyone; there are those like Hannah (she appears in both Kings and Queens and Last Child), who prefer to keep such extremes of emotion at arm's length: "Some people need romance and passion like they need air to breathe, and some don’t.  I belong to the latter camp.  I’m happy to be a friend and confidante to those who need help in related crises, but have no desire to experience the despair that so often follows the joy."

(Sensible?) people like Hannah are just not made for the 'grand passion'; those explosive chemistry type of affairs, illicit as such things so often are, in which the two people have an immediate lust thing going on but also "that indefinable ingredient ‘X’ that turns attraction into love" ~ I won't say which two characters the one in Last Child involves!  The sort of love that leads people to leave long term partners, make crazy decisions, and tends to either burn itself out, painfully, or keep flickering away forever, even if the two are not together - think Burton and Taylor!  Even if we haven't the film star qualities of these two and our affair does not involve exclusive hotels, yachts, huge diamonds and newspaper coverage, I think everyone should have at least one of these sort of experiences in their lives!  Shame they don't always end in happy ever after...


In the second part of Last Child I've written two characters who, sadly, mean completely different things by those three little words.  His 'I love you' means 'I'm very fond of you but I'm really in this relationship because it gives me everything I need socially and financially', whereas, alas, hers says: 'I am obsessed with you to the point of not being able to live without you' ~ yes, for those who know their history, it's my modern day Philip of Spain and Mary Tudor.  

Old family friend Will Brandon makes this observation about 21st century would-be king Phil Castillo: “Lucky fella; a cushy job with a generous salary, a place in the bed of an attractive young woman whenever he wants it, and a nice little rent-free bolthole in the village when he doesn’t.  Can’t be bad, eh?”

...whilst poor Isabella feels like this:  "The ferocity of my love for him scared me, sometimes.  I couldn’t think about anything but him.  We’d be sitting at home watching television, but I’d be unable to concentrate on the programme.  I’d gaze at his face, study its angles and expressions, and I’d want to devour it.  Sometimes when we made love I left bite marks on his skin; he said he loved my passion, but I think it scared him a little, too."

Philip of Spain and Mary Tudor

This sort of relationship can work if the less enamoured is basically a decent person and appreciates where his/her bread is buttered (a young woman being totally spoiled by her doting, older, rich husband, perhaps!); sometimes love can grow out of such a situation, though more often than not the one with more to offer ends up with a broken heart.  I'm so glad I don't have the psychological make-up that allows me to be as eternally obsessed with someone as Isabella is with Phil; I know someone who suffers this affliction (poor her); her 'love' for the man in question colours her whole life, even if she rarely sees him. 

 
As sister Erin observes about Isabella:
"Love’s a weird thing.  It so often has so much other stuff attached.  Sometimes it’s more the fulfilment of a need.  Exhibit one: Izzy and Phil Castillo.  When she met him she was starved of love and affection, and just needed a good shag, in the opinion of most of the men at Lanchester Estates.  She saw mirrored in Phil’s empty blue eyes the image of herself in which she needed so badly to believe but was never truly convinced by, so when she felt her dream slipping away she clung to it by any means she could because she was terrified of going back to how she was before."

The final third of Last Child brings with it three more faces of love: duty, true soul mates, and that curious one of which my character Amy is guilty ~ she thinks she feels true love for her husband, Robert, though she is more in love with an ideal.  
Robert says: "Amy doesn’t really love me, anyway, although she thinks she does.  She loves her fantasy of me as one of the heroes from her stupid romantic novels, not me, the real me, how I really am."

I think this is more common that people realise (or admit), particularly amongst women who, when younger, daydream about their wedding day/future marital bliss, and amongst men who weave fantasies about their ideal woman - anyone who has been in a relationship with one of those men who tell you they adore you then try to change everything about you from your friends to your hair colour to the height of your heels will know what I mean by this one!

Being the object of this sort of 'love' should make the recipient want to say "Oh, excuse me for not being the person you've made up your mind I ought to be - not!!!", but, sadly, it all too often makes low self-esteem even lower; men who think love = protection and control have a radar that detects the sort of women who will put up with it.  As for women for whom "I love you" means "I want you to star alongside me in my fantasy of a perfect life.  Here are your lines and stage directions; if you deviate from them I will sulk" - they need a course in growing up!

As for 'duty' love, Robert's relationship with Amy begins because he is on the rebound, but grows into something genuine; however, he feels guilty for falling out of love with her almost before the ring is on her finger, and tries to make the best of it.  Erin thinks such duty is misplaced:
"If you don’t love someone, don’t stay married to them.  End of.  Don’t waste her life as well as your own.  Let her find someone who loves her, instead of putting her through years of anguish."  


As for Erin and Robert, their connection is a continuing theme throughout the book.  But are they true soul mates, two people who fit together so perfectly, or is their love destined to bring nothing but heartbreak (she says, as though writing a blurb for a romance book.....!)???

I hope if you have downloaded the book you enjoy finding out, and, whether you have or not, that you can relate to some parts of this post; I'd be interested to hear about anyone's own experiences, and promise I won't use them in future novels!



Thursday, 19 February 2015

Erin and Robert....


....my 21st century versions of Elizabeth 1 and Robert Dudley!

 

This is my husband's favourite piece from my almost-ready-to-publish new book, Last Child ~ spoken by Erin, my 21st century Elizabeth I.  One of those little things I've noticed over the years, that, inevitably, found its way into a novel....

“It’s a strange one, that,” I said.  I was thinking of my sister, too.  “Sometimes the people most lacking in self-confidence are the most demanding.  They’re so terrified that they can lose everything in a moment that they become clingy, which gives the impression that they see their own needs as all-important.  Their lack of self-esteem makes them self-obsessed.  It’s a curious contradiction.”
Robert smiled.  “When did you get so wise?”
“All the time I was reading books and thinking about stuff instead of cooking men’s dinners,” I said.  “And earning a living, observing people and the way the world works, instead of getting stoned at student parties and swotting up a load of crap for stupid exams that I’d forget within a couple of months.”

He also liked this bit, from the beginning of one of Robert's chapter. Alas, Robert is married to the wrong woman....

"When husbands don’t spend enough time at home, they’re always the ones who get the blame, aren’t they?  For not being supportive, a good husband, etc.  The onus is never on the wife to be less bloody boring so he might want to spend more time with her.  It’s like, because she keeps the house nice and irons his shirts he should give up the rest of his life to making her happy."

If you haven't already seen it and would like to, my original post about the book is HERE  


Not long now.....




Saturday, 14 February 2015

The past lives on, and Valentine's Day

I read a post via a tweet yesterday, titled '11 jobs that no longer exist'

One of them was milkman.  The article informs us that, many years ago before refrigeration, there used to be a man who delivered milk on a daily basis.  Who'd have thought it, eh?  Um, I've got news for you, article writer - these quaint old fashioned chaps have not yet slipped into history!  My father still gets milk from the milkman, for one, and I am sure he's not the only person in the country...

... actually, it's quite an interesting article.  It's HERE.  If you click on it you also get to look at the totally weird post mortem photographs in the article at the side, too - but, anyway, back to the jobs of yore.  Amongst others, the article mentions 'knocker-uppers' - in the days before everyone had alarm clocks, each community had a chap or woman who would go around knocking people's windows to get them out of bed so they wouldn't be late to clock on at t'mill, or whatever.  Now, here's a thing.  I used to live with a chap called Marcus who came from a very 'we don't like no foreigners round 'ere' type of village in Northamptonshire.  In that village he was known by most people as 'Knocker', as was his father afore him, because his grandfather had been the village knocker-upper.

Me and 'Knocker', around 20 years ago.  I am sure there's a joke somewhere about 'knocking up', but I won't look for it.  And I didn't choose the picture of me looking quite sweet and him looking weird on purpose, either; I have very few of him scanned for computer use!!

Incidentally, it being Valentine's Day 'n' all, I'll just add this.  On February 14th, 1990, when we'd only just met, he made a most romantic gesture. This was in the long ago era before Valentine's Day became 'Suppose I'd better take the Mrs out for an overpriced meal and spend half my salary on a bunch of red roses and some daft heart shaped box of chocolates' Day.  He put a single red rose through my letter box, without anything to say who it was from.  Would have been so thrillingly mysterious had my flat mate not seen him through the window, walking away.  And I don't suppose his current girlfriend would have thought it was that romantic, either.  Oh, well....

I hope y'all feel loved and appreciated every day, not just today, and preferably not by someone who lives with someone else!


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Why do we blog?



I read a post by Tui Snider on this subject, and left a long comment that refused to appear, so I thought I'd turn it into my own post, instead!  You can read Tui's article HERE; alas, she is having ongoing problems with her site but hopes to have them fixed soon


So why do I do it? I started only because people kept telling me that writers ought to.  I shoved a few old articles on and remembered to write something once a month.  I used to feel pretty chuffed if I got about 50 views per post.  Gradually, though, this site became a thing apart from my books.  I never intended to have a blog based around writing or self-publishing, realising that would only be of interest to other writers, and I thought the whole point of them was to attract readers, or to allow current readers to find out more about you. Now, mine gets used whenever there is something I want to express in more than 140 characters.  It's somewhere where I can moan about stuff, develop funny (well, funny to me!) ideas I have, collate various thoughts into one post, obsess about my favourite TV progs, write a bit of background about my books when new ones come out, and share the odd picture of people like Josh Holloway and Norman Reedus....

(Whoops, there I go again...)

After a while, though, I found that I did sometimes want to write about self-publishing and, happily, around this time a nice man called Clive with a website called The UK Arts Directory approached me to write a regular blog on this subject.  It's HERE.  It's a combination of advice, opinions about which I occasionally wish I'd been less vehement, others I'm glad I expressed, and a fair few guest posts from other writers, too.  Then, last month, my blogging empire expanded when I decided to start a book review blog, HERE.  I did this because I'd been reading some really excellent books and thought they deserved more than just a review on Amazon; also, there were some I want to help promote because they are so good, and it's easier to do so with a blog where I can present the review more attractively. 

In answer to one of the questions on Tui's post, I don't have a blogging schedule because the idea that you MUST blog every half hour whether you have something interesting to say or not is, like, so 2012.  I never did anyway. Sometimes I'll do six posts in a month, sometimes one; it depends what else I'm doing.  I write stuff simply because I think of things that I hope will be of entertainment/interest to others.  Emphasis on the entertainment/interest.  I hope I'm never too self-indulgent.  But look, it's my blog and if I want to post pictures of Josh Holloway I will, right?

No, Josh, that's enough, go back to my Top Ten Netflix Hunks  post!

I must say the book reviewing blog does seem to be taking over, lately; I love doing it.  I've discovered why real book bloggers (not people just playing at it like me) do it!  I keep reading when I should be writing.... 

So why do you blog?



Wednesday, 4 February 2015

My Top Ten Favourite Characters in The Walking Dead

.... I couldn't resist it, as the next half of the current series is imminent!  First I had fun going down the cast list on IMdb to choose my ten, then finding the pictures... so here they are - who were your favourites? 




10.  Sorry, T-Dog, you just missed out on a place in my top ten, as I gave that spot to Maggie Greene, played by Lauren Cohan.  I liked her because she was super not-daft-girly, and dealt with the histrionics of irritating sister Beth, and the initial prejudices of father Hershel about her relationship with Glenn, pretty niftily.  And she could handle herself with a gun.  Love her and Glenn's relationship, too. 

 **

9.  Swaggering in along with the chip on his shoulder at number 9, I've chosen Shane Walsh, played by Jon Bernthal.  I felt kinda sorry for him when Rick turned up alive in series 1 and he had to pretend he wasn't in love with Lori, especially when she started being snitty with him to cover up the fact that she felt guilty.  I thought a lot of his more 'it's hard, but it's the only way' type decisions at the farm were right, too.  Oh, and of course he was the best totty for the first few episodes... 

 **

8.  I love this guy!  Sgt Abraham Ford, the man who really thought he was going to save the world!  Big nice teddy bear, often with his ideas a bit screwed up, but heart in the right place.  Some of the best comedic lines involved him.  Played by Michael Cudlitz.

 **

7.  Now, I'm known for not having a great deal of time for anyone much under the age of about 25, but I really got to thinking that Carl Grimes was more than okay as the story went on.  He soon sussed out about not being a child anymore, and learned to do and understand grown up stuff without making a big song and dance about it.  He also had that way about him that the coolest kids have: sometimes, he could make the adults look pretty stupid.  Played by Chandler Riggs.


**

6.  No, Glenn Rhee, I won't make the mistake of thinking you're Chinese....  loved this chap from the time he first saved Rick's life back at the beginning, when he was a jaunty boy racer type.  He grew up so much from the lad who couldn't believe his luck when Maggie propositioned him in the looted out pharmacy, to someone who could protect and survive with the best of 'em.  I thought his relationship with would-have-been father in law Hershel was kind of sweet, too.  Played by Steven Yuen.

**

5.  Bumbling his way into the Top 5, surely one of the most inspired characters in the whole show - I bet the writers were pleased when they thought up Eugene Porter (played by Josh McDermott)!  The probably borderline Aspergers syndrome computer nerd with the horrendous mullet who knew he would be dead meat if ever he came face to face with a zombie, so pretended he was a scientist carrying the formulae to end the disaster - all he needed was someone who'd give him a safe passage to Washington DC!  Actually, everything he said made good sense, if you listened to it.  Terrific dialogue!

 **

4.  At number 4, someone I couldn't stand at first but then came to be one of my favourites.  Who'd have thought that the end of the world could bring out the best in someone?  Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) went from pathetic victim to totally capable and switched on person, almost as soon as her 'orrible husband died and her daughter turned into a zombie.  Whatever it takes, right?  She took charge of big cry baby Tyreese, and I loved how she was strong enough to kill eleven year old psycho Lizzie.  I thought she made the right decision about the people she sacrificed back in the prison, too...

**


3.  There's always got to be a Hershel Greene type character in these sort of programmes/films, hasn't there?  Just in case you haven't got enough tears pricking at your eyelids.  Scott Wilson played the saint who brought Carl back to health, and truly believed that he and his family would be able to carry on living in his farm, safe from the Walkers; remember when they were finally driving away from it, and he said something like, but it's my farm, and Rick said, "Not any more, it's not".... not a dry eye in the house.


In the prison he became the wise father figure to everyone, a moving moment with one of his daughters, Glenn or Rick in almost every scene he was in.  But then came The Governor....

**


2.  If ever I find myself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, I want to be Michonne!  Isn't she just the best?  That cold silent attitude at the beginning hinted at great pain that we knew would come out eventually - and as for her two armless Walker safety shield...


The way she just slashes through whole groups of them with that sword is always great to watch; the sword itself one of the stars of the show.  Her relationship with Carl is dead touching, and she always looks so cool, too.  Love that leather waistcoat....  Danai Gurira, you totally rock!

**

 1.  And at number one.... no, not Rick, I'm afraid.  His ego got in the way too much for me, and he made some crap decisions, too (I'm thinking back to him trying to negotiate with The Governor at the prison).  Hey, but this isn't about Rick.  It's about the best character in the whole show: Daryl Dixon, of course.


Absolutely nothing to do with him being drop dead gorgeous, of course.  Even when he's all dirty - or especially when...  no, no, shut up, this is a family show!  But aside from his lushness, he's the bravest, the sharpest, he's loyal and deep and fearless, has really hunky broad shoulders, the way he cried when Merle died was such a memorable moment, ooh, and the way he handles that crossbow .... Norman Reedus, we love you.  Well, I do, anyway!


 

I can't wait to see them all again ~ do you agree with my ten?



Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Book Blurbs - as hard as writing the book itself?

This was posted on my UK Arts Directory blog (which is for the purpose of writing/self-publishing articles) on Monday 26 January but they're having problems with their server today, so I am reposting on here.

Book blurbs: 
a few pointers for the yet to be initiated

So, you're days away from publishing your new one on Amazon, and you know you've got to take that 'must write the blurb' thought out of the back of your mind and actually write the wretched thing....
 
Most people hate doing them.  I think they're harder to write than synopses.  At least a synopsis is just an account of the book; if you did prĂ©cis in English at school you should know how to add the relevant and discard the irrelevant to give just an account of the pertinent points.  But a blurb is something else, isn't it?  And this, I think, is where new writers sometimes fall down.

A blurb is NOT a synopsis, it's an advert for the book.  It's that back cover bit you read in the library or the book shop, the couple of paragraphs that make you decide whether or not you want to open the book and look at chapter one.  I think that's the main reason novelists find them so difficult to get right - we write long fiction, not advertising copy.   

I'm not brilliant at them, but I've got better as time goes on, I think.  Recently I read a short blurb by a friend for his new book.  One short paragraph, and it was worded well but wasn't going to sock anyone in the eye.  The book was a crime thriller - I suggested that he simply divided the paragraph up into four lines, with spaces between them, to make it more 'punchy'.  More thrilling.  He did so immediately, and agreed that the book now looked twice as exciting.

Here are a few pointers, because I love bullet points!
  • Always, always think about what would make YOU want to read the book.
  • Think impact, not detail.
  • I read somewhere that you shouldn't include more than four character names at the absolute maximum.  I agree with this.
  • A couple of medium length paragraphs or a few very short ones are quite enough.  Any more probably won't get read, anyway.
  • Hugely important - do not give the plot away.  I notice this in romance books, in particular; you can sometimes guess the outcome of the book by reading the blurb.  Okay, romance is one of the most predictable genres, and this feature is one of the reasons its readers like it, but if you see something like "will Millicent choose her boring but safe life with Nigel, or head for the hills with unpredictable but devilishly attractive Raoul?",  you can bet your bottom dollar that Raoul's going to get the girl!  Or "Jocasta Lusty was doing just fine as the boss of Lusty Electrical until fiery and enigmatic technician Gregory Hotstuff arrived to upset the applecart" - no prizes for guessing that, after a series of spats, Jocasta and Gregory will admit their tumultuous passion for each other!  (Hey, should I start writing this stuff???)
  • If you want to add in a couple of quotes from reviews, put them at the end, after the description.  So often, I've waded through a list of "I couldn't put it downs" looking for a tiny paragraph hidden somewhere amongst the list of glowing testimonials, to tell me what the book is actually ABOUT.  The product description bit on Amazon is where readers go to find out if they want to read the book, and this is generally dependent upon its subject matter.   If they want to read all the great things people have said before they buy, they can click on the reviews.  Yes, it doesn't hurt to include a couple of particularly neat and memorable quotes, but they shouldn't outshadow the description of the book itself.  Similarly, any personal details about you can go on your Amazon author page, which is duplicated in 'more about the author' the book's own page, anyway 
  • Make sure the blurb is error free, perfectly paced, etc etc.  I've decided not to buy a book in the past because of a dodgy comma.  If I've done so, you can bet hundreds of others will feel the same.  Run it past your proofreader if you're not confident.
  • Keep 'em wanting more!  An unanswered question is always a good idea, and does not have to be posed in such an obvious way as the Raoul and co examples, ie, by asking a direct question.  You could put something like "Millicent can't make up her mind if she'd be happier dashing out into the unknown or trying to add new spark to her marriage."  (I'd go with Raoul if I was her, but that's beside the point)
Here are a couple of examples, first of two bad Amazon blurbs, and then of a good one, so you can get more of a picture of what I mean by all this.  Both are for the same book, which doesn't actually exist.  I'll call it Paradise Island (I know, I know, I'm making this up off the top of my head as I go along!) 

BAD AMAZON BOOK BLURB: NUMBER ONE 

"I found this book hard to put down and was up all night reading it" ~ Amy Smith, Amazon author.

"Full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the very end!" ~ Jackie Brown, book blogger.

"I really enjoyed this summer romance" ~ Wendy Green, avid reader. 

Paradise Island was longlisted for the Worthy Effort Book Awards, 2015. 

About the author: Angela Author lives in Stoke on Trent with husband Colin and two cats who think they run the house.  She loved writing from a young age and her drawers are stuffed full of half completed early attempts.  After completing a course in creative writing Angela decided to have a go at being an author, and Paradise Island is her debut novel.  She can be found on Twitter @AngelaAuthor, and writes a blog about her self-publishing journey.  

About the book: (note: if potential buyer hasn't stopped reading by now)

Eager to take a break from her dreary life with husband Nigel, Millicent Battersby goes to work on Paradise Island for one summer as a receptionist in a hotel.  While she is there, though, she feels a bit homesick.  However, a new group of travellers arrives and she makes friends with Pam and Lucy.  The three of them go off to discover the real life of the island outside the tourist area.  In a bar, she meets Australian travellers Guy and Luke who invite her to a party.  At the party she meets Raoul, a very handsome traveller to whom she is immediately attracted.  But Raoul is against her nine to five and steady way of life, and they argue a lot, although the attraction between them is apparent to everyone. 

Just when Millicent thinks she may abandon her life back home and head off into the hills with Raoul, who should turn up but Nigel.  He is disturbed to find her having changed her outlook on life and feels jealous of her burgeoning desire for Raoul.  To make her jealous, he begins a flirtation with Samantha, an amply bosomed blonde waitress.  Millicent is upset by this.  But Pam and Lucy tell her that she only feels upset because she thought he was so dependable, and that if she was bored with her life before then she shouldn't go back.  Meanwhile, Raoul is stepping up the pace and showing her how exciting a life with him could be.  But he will not wait forever.  Will Millicent go back home with Nigel, or head off into the unknown with Raoul?
~~~ 

BAD AMAZON BOOK BLURB: NUMBER TWO 

Bored with her life and husband, Nigel, Millicent takes a summer job at Paradise Island.

Up pops mysterious adventurer Raoul, who makes her feel restless.  Despite their tempestuous arguments, they are very attracted to each other.

Suddenly Nigel arrives, wanting her to come home and trying cheap ploys to make her jealous.  She is torn between her dreary but safe life, and passionate adventure with an enigmatic new love.

Will Millicent go back home with Nigel, or head off into the unknown with Raoul? 

I think we can pretty much guess what she is going to do, don't you??
~~~ 

GOOD AMAZON BOOK BLURB 

Millicent Battersby is bored with her safe, steady life and marriage to Nigel. 

A summer job on Paradise Island delivers sunshine, fun and new friendships, and the prospect of adventure.  Yes, and some much missed passion and romance, too...    

Then Nigel turns up out of the blue.  His reaction to her new life is extreme, and sends her already conflicting emotions into overdrive.

Will Millicent decide that her marriage is worth saving, or head out into the unknown? 

Paradise Island is the absorbing debut romantic novel from Angela Author, ideal for summer beach read escapism.
~~~ 

The 'good' blurb is by no means Amazon bestseller perfect, and is not without a hackneyed phrase or two, but it's a hell of a lot better than the other ones!  Notice that Raoul is not even mentioned in this one, that a new love affair is just hinted at, as are Nigel's activities post arrival on the island.  I don't know about you, but I'd quite like to read that book; I'd be wondering about Nigel's extreme reactions, at least!  I wouldn't buy it if I'd read either of the first two blurbs, though, because I'd already know what was going to happen.

You can always try running your first blurb drafts past someone.  I showed my first one for my new book, Last Child, to my sister and she said, "Yeah, great, but lose the horrendous cliche in the second paragraph".  She was right, of course.  It's since been amended several times and will be again before publication.  This will be the tenth book I've published on Amazon; I've learned, now, that it's best to tackle the blurb during the first few drafts, and keep going back to it to revise.  As with the novel itself, if you leave it a month you are more able to see its strengths and weaknesses.

Lastly, make sure the blurb accurately portrays the feel of the book.  If it's a thriller, put questions in the reader's mind.  If it's a light, amusing book, make the blurb funny, too.  If it's especially gory, make sure you let the reader know.   

Think reader, reader, reader, all the time!

Friday, 23 January 2015

My Top Ten Favourite Characters in MAD MEN


Having just finished watching all there is to offer of this wonderful series at the moment, and having seen all of it, from start to finish, over a period of two or three weeks, I am struck by my usual 'what the hell do I watch NEXT?' quandary.  To keep us going until we get the final seven episodes I thought I'd do a tribute to it, here, for fellow addicts!


So here goes with the rundown of my Top Ten favourite characters in Mad Men, in reverse order....

10.  Just slipping into the top 10 after a few were rejected for this spot, I chose department store heiress Rachel Menken, from series 1 (I think I preferred the earlier ones), played by Maggie Siff, on whom I wasn't so keen in Sons of Anarchy but thought was great in this.  Rachel was really cool, an independent, intelligent woman who wore amazing hats and didn't allow herself to go in for too much of Don Draper's idealistic romantic rubbish.  A match for him, indeed.  You were right not to go away with him, luv, but I think you sussed that out, didn't you? 


9.  Lazing about at number 9, the laid back and funny Stan Rizzo, played by Jay R Ferguson.  Calls a spade a spade, but basically a nice guy.  I love the way he seems to be laughing at his private jokes all the time and doesn't care too much what anyone thinks.  Only question - WHY did he grown that awful fuzz all over his face, later??



8.  Being dead straight at number 8, the delightful Henry Francis, played by Christopher Stanley.  Quietly attractive rather than drop dead sexy, the perfect husband, especially when you've had your heart wrung out by the Don Drapers of this world!  Even when he's being a bit shouty and laying down the law, you can kinda see his point.  I love the way he told Betty he wanted to marry her within only a few short meetings.  And meant it.  The move of a confident man.  Love it.



7.  I thought Michael Ginsberg (aka Ben Feldman) was going to really annoy me when had his first interview with Peggy "hold on while I throw some more toys out of my pram" Olson, but he very quickly made me laugh instead - and didn't he always get everything absolutely spot on?  That is, until the breakdown - I didn't see that coming but I suppose it happens to all the best creative geniuses (or genii!).



6.  How could you not love Lane Pryce?  Such a sweetie.  I always felt sorry for him because he wanted to fit in with Manhattan so badly but didn't quite, even though he loved it.  I also wish he'd had the courage to go off with the bunny girl he loved, instead of being so brow-and-literally beaten by his horrible father that he went back home to England.  Sad, sad end.  Come on, Don, you needn't have been so harsh, he would never have let you down again.  Played by Jared Harris.



5.  Into the top 5, and one of the best television deaths I've seen.  Don's secretary for part of one series, after Joan decided he didn't need any more pretty ones: Ida Blankenship.  Hilarious Brooklyn-Jewish accent, some great comedy moments. Played by Randee Heller.


....and the moment her demise was discovered....


"She died like she lived: surrounded by the people she answered phones for."


4.  ..... so said number five, Roger Sterling!  Played by John Slattery, after a psychiatrist encouraged him to understand his true self, he described himself as an inquisitive child who happened to have a successful business and a huge bank account (or something).  Totally hilarious, loved him. 

  
"Well, I gotta go learn a bunch of people's names before I fire them." 

 "Have a drink. It'll make me look younger." 


3.  Well, self-indulgent, self-obssessed womaniser or not, he has to be in the top 3, doesn't he?  The thing with the totally lush Don Draper is that just when you think he's a complete asshole, he does something that softens your heart towards him, and just when you think that he's a nice guy underneath it all and is actually learning by his mistakes, he does something horrendous.  It's my theory that people who are consistently unfaithful are secretly looking for a type of love that doesn't exist, ie one that will keep the passionate beginning alive forever, when two people adore each other unconditionally.  Aside from the occasional one-nighter, Don's affairs were never just about sex, were they?  A screwed up psyche with a hundred and one hang-ups, all wrapped up in the big hunk of gorgeous that is Jon Hamm!

  
"The reason you haven't felt it is because it doesn't exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I'm living like there's no tomorrow, because there isn't one."



2.  I've seen her described as 'the bitter, vengeful Betty Draper', and my husband thinks she's all kinds of awful, but I really liked her, and I felt sorry for her, too.  In the days when women had little choice but to be a perfect wife and mother, she gave 100% to Don and the kids, always looked fabulous and put him first, every time, unlike 60s girl Megan who kissed goodbye to her happy marriage the minute she made her own career her priority.  Yet still Princess Betty got treated appallingly.


I felt the most sorry for her when, older, overweight and gotten frumpy, she went to pick the kids up from Don and Megan's new swanky apartment and clearly felt bitter and jealous; who could blame her?  She'd given her youth to Don and had the worst of him, whereas it seemed as though Megan had got the best.  I was glad she found happiness with Henry, lost weight and ended up looking gorgeous again - I bet January Jones was pleased to get all that 'fat' off her face, too.  Best moment: when she picked up a guy in a bar for sex, just so she could feel that she and Don were even, although she never told him about it.  Oh, and after their one brief night together in series 6; I thought Don realised what he'd lost, then...




I loved the Rome look! 



1.  Who else could be number one but the fabulous Joan Harris?  Played by Christina Hendricks.  I thought she was just going to be an out and out bitch and gold-digger at first, but then her character was given more dimensions and she showed her supportive and understanding side.  Of course she's one of those terrific women who is smart, independent, but also understands the power of glam!


 Her worst moment was when she made the decision to sleep with a client for the sake of the company; the ghastly thing, of course, was that the partners (Don excluded) had little enough respect for her to suggest it in the first place.  I think she probably gained as much respect in business as any woman could during that particular era, on the whole.


I went off her a bit near the end of series 6, and series 7, when she was anti-Don, but, hey, she had her reasons.  I liked how she chose living as a single mother rather than succumbing to the countless men she could have been with, for the sake of having a husband.  Almost unheard of in those days!  Oh, and she was queen of the icy put down, too.... to the young guys in the office who laughed at her so cruelly, for no reasons other than that they were little boys trying to be big sexist men " I can't wait until next year when all of you are in Vietnam. You will be pining for the day when someone was trying to make your life easier. When you're over there, and you're in the jungle and they're shooting at you, remember you're not dying for me because I never liked you."

I still think (hope) she'll end up with Roger... 




What I love most of all about the whole show is how it shows the huge sociological differences that happened during the sixties - the world was a very different place in series 7, when compared with series 1.  Brilliantly observed and illustrated - as were the subtle changes in fashion each year, too.  Didn't you just love the clothes and hairstyles?

Just a few more episodes to go, before the Mad Men 1960s are all over....  


Catch you later, guys!