31 August 2009

Building a Mystery

It's no secret that I love SciFi and Fantasy books - especially if they have kick-ass chicks or vampires in them.

But I have another favorite Brain Candy, too: Detective/mystery stories.

Agatha Christie is probably my favorite mystery author of all time. And I do love the Sherlock Holmes stories, too. But, mostly, the common theme among my current favorite mystery/detective stories seems to be (no surprise) female authors and strong female protagonists.

So, some of my "must-run-out-and-buy-her-latest-book-right-now!" mystery authors include ...

Janet Evanovich
Stephanie Plum Series
I never laugh out loud so much as I do while reading about Stephanie Plum - Suburban Jersey Girl and Bounty Hunter.

The series started with One for the Money, and continued with Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly, etc. She's just come out with Finger Lickin' Fifteen. She also has several Between the Numbers books out now. And every single one of them is side-splittingly awesome. the plots are outrageous bordering on unrealistic, but they are so funny that you just don't care. Seriously, if Stephanie, Lulu and Grandma Mazur don't make you laugh, check your pulse.

JD Robb
In Death Series
Eve Dallas is one of my favorite cops. Ever. The In Death books are set about 50 years in the future, which is what primarily attracted me to the first book. But, while there are some futuristic elements to the plots, they don't really qualify as science fiction.

I think Robb's near-future is a realistic one and the stories and characters are interesting. Dallas is a tough as nails and dedicated -obsessive, even - detective and the plots are unique and engaging. I usually read these books within a day or two of getting them because I just can't put them down.

Robb is the pen-name for romance author Nora Roberts. And there is an element of romance in the In Death books as well. But, while long-term character development is definitely a big part of the appeal of this series, the romance does not overshadow the detective story - which I appreciate. But I think my favorite thing about the romance side is that it is between Dallas and her husband, Roarke. You don't see a lot of "married" romance in books like this. It's refreshing.

Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone Series
This series is also called the Alphabet Series because of the titles: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, etc.

I've read A-S and I have T is for Trespass on my bedside table. Kinsey Milhone is a private investigator in fictional Santa Theresa, California (based on the real city of Santa Barbara). Kinsey is smart, tough and extremely independent. I like that the detective work in these books is realistic and not gussied up to be glamorous. Millhone is a straight-forward, no-frills kind of person doing a straight-forward, intellectually and physically challenging job.

To be honest, a couple of books in the middle of this series were just a little bit "meh" for me. But the rest have all been fun and entertaining. I like that I'm not always able to see where the plot is going ahead of Kinsey. And yet, I don't feel like Grafton has "cheated" the clues to keep the reader guessing, either. That's a nice balance and hard to do again and again in a series.

One side note: The first book was published in 1982 and the story is set in the same time frame. Each subsequent book is set only about 6 months or so after the last. So, even though the books have spanned 20 years, the internal timeline is much shorter. That means that even though S is for Silence was published in 2005, the book is set in 1987 or 1988.

Charlaine Harris
Aurora Teagarden series
The next three series are all by Charlaine Harris (who was also featured in my post about my favorite vampire book series). Basically, I've loved almost every character Harris has ever created. :)

Aurora Teagarden is a bit different from my other favorite characters, though, because she's not exactly what you'd call "tough" ... and yet she's incredible strong. "Roe" is a librarian, a bookworm, a thinker-not-a-fighter (anyone who knows me can see why this type of character would appeal to me, I think.). She's whip-smart, curious as a cat and can't resist poking her nose into a mystery.

Like many other books in this list, the long-term character development over the life of the series is a definite draw here as well. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but Roe's personal life is a driving factor in the "mysteries" in these books and Harris takes the readers to some bold and interesting places, I think. As she does is many of her other books to, including ...

Charlaine Harris
Lilly Bard series
I think these were the first of Charlaine Harris' books that I read. Lily Bard is a tough, fiercely private rape survivor who moves to the fictional town of Shakespeare, Arkansas. She just wants to mind her own business and run her one-woman house cleaning service. But she becomes unwillingly entangled in a series of interesting small-town mysteries.

She's not exactly Miss Marple, but Lily manages to untangle all of the small town secrets and lies and get to the usually ugly truth. There are five Lilly Bard books and Harris has said she'd finished writing the series.

Charlaine Harris
Harper Connelly series
This is Harris' most recent series. There are only three books out so far, but they're unique and interesting. Harper, like many of Harris' protagonists, seems delicate and vulnerable on the outside, but underneath that she has a strong, appealing core.

Again set in the south, the series dips into the realm of the supernatural in that Harper has a unique talent - she can find dead people and determine their cause of death. But, other than that strange little quirk, the books are realistic. The mysteries within the plot are interesting and well done, but, again, it's the characters - main and supporting - that really drive the story.

Sara Paretsky
VI Warshawski series
VI "Vic" Warshawki is an iconic character in women's detective stories and the books have a strong feminist undertone.

More than any other books on this list, this series is most like the traditional "hard-boiled detective" genre. Warshawski is a smart, tough, snarky-before-there-was-a-word-for-it, private detective in Chicago. She drinks Johnnie Walker Black, loves opera, and can hold her own in a street fight. She's proudly independent and yet fiercely protective of those she cares about. The plots are intelligent and unique, but it's Paretsky's tough, witty, kick-ass PI who kept me coming back for more.

Oh, and if you've seen the movie? Don't judge the books by that, okay? I like Kathleen Turner. And the movie wasn't bad. But it wasn't really a good representation of the books.

Also, I should mention that I've had a couple of guy friends tell me that the feminism was more over- than under- in tone and that factor made it harder for them to get "into" the story. I can see where that might come from. But it wasn't an issue for me.

So, those are some of my favorite mysteries. What about you? Do you like mystery/detective novels? What are your favorites? What is it about them that appeals to you?

27 August 2009

Music has charms to soothe a savage breast

Have you ever scrolled aaaaaalllll the way down to the bottom of my blog?

If you have, you've seen - in addition to a great LOLcat - my favorite Playlist. The exact contents of the player change a bit from time to time. But, for the most part, this is the soundtrack of a lot of my days.

One of the things I love about my job is that I don't spend all day every day at a desk. But, I do still spend quite a lot of time on my computer at work. And, when I can, I love to have music playing in my office while I work.

Sometimes, I pick a specific artist to listen to. Sometimes, I just set my whole i-tunes library (which is quite a large and eclectic collection) on "shuffle" and just see what happens. But, more often, this Playlist is what is playing in the background as I write or edit or design or code.

So, when I was invited to be a Guest DJ over at Music Savvy Mom, this was the Playlist that came to mind. S0, I hit "shuffle" and jotted down the first 10 songs that came up as well as my first thoughts about each one.

So, if you want to hear a snippet of my "typical" day, pop on over and see the results of my Guest DJ Gig.

If you're interested (and you haven't already done it) it's fast and easy to create your own Playlist and embed it in your own blog.

But, if you do, just promise me that you will NOT set it to auto-play, okay? Nothing freaks me out more than clicking over to a blog and having strange music suddenly blaring from my speakers because I forgot to turn them back down after cranking them up to 100% to hear some freakishly quite YouTube video. Jarring!

(Okay, well, yeah, lots of things freak me out more than that, but it's still annoying, so don't do it.)

If you do have or create a Playlist, let me know and I'll pop over and check it out.

Even if you don't, I'm curious: Where and what kind of music do you listen to? I know that music is pretty important to some of my readers (I'm lookin' at you SFD, DGB and A Free Man.) So, tell me about the role music plays in your everyday life?


PS: If you're interested in being a Guest DJ at Music Savvy Mom, you can get the skinny on that here.

PPS: See that pretty Label Cloud in my sidebar? Want one for your own blog? Well, now you can have one just like it! I had to make mine the hard way (by stealing the code from another blogger). But you have it easy: Blogger just added it as a standard widget. You lucky little blogger, you. If you try it out, let me know and I'll stop by and see it. :)

25 August 2009

Venus vs Mars: Feelin' Flirty

I'm over at The Real World: Venus vs. Mars again today with a new post about flirting ...

Do you flirt?

I think you should.

In fact, I think flirting can be good for your marriage (or other long-term relationship). No, seriously ...

Read more

24 August 2009

Too Darn Hot

I'm a Hot Mama!

The Hot Dads say so. So it must be true. ;)

They even gave me this awesome award to prove it. How cool is that?

I have a well documented soft-spot for Dad Bloggers, so it should come as no surprise that Hot Dads is one of my favorite daily reads.

The Hot Dads represent a really eclectic and fun mix of Dads-who-Blog ... married, divorced, widowed ... younger kids, older kids, younger and older kids ... athletic, outdoorsy, geeky ... blue collar, white collar, no collar. ;)

They always have something fun or interesting to say. And they like me. They really like me!

So why not pop over and check them out? Say Hi. Tell them a new Hot Mama sent you. ;)

21 August 2009

Venus vs Mars: How I Met Your Father

If you don't know the story of how I met the ZenHusband, you should pop over to The Real World: Venus vs. Mars to read all about it today ... ;)

19 August 2009

Waitin' for my letter from the Harper Valley PTA

My baby - my first born - starts kindergarten tomorrow.


I have all the "normal" feelings of bittersweet excitement and nervousness. And I might write about them after I get over these first-day-of-school jitters.

But, today? Let's talk about me, instead.

Because, you know what? Starting school is WAY more stressful on parents than on the kids.

And because I have a secret fear I need to share with you: I'm afraid of the Other Mothers.

No, really. I'm freaked out about having to socially interact with other moms. So far, in my limited experience, I've found that I'm really not very good at it.

I know this might sound a little weird coming from someone who babbles about her life and thoughts to anyone with an Internet connection, but: I'm an introvert. I do most of my living in my head or in my small select circle of loved ones.

The ZenHusband is - as he is so many ways - my Balance. He's an extrovert - the original never-met-stranger, comfortable-in-any-situation, go-with-the-flow kinda guy. When we're together, his outgoing personality lets me ease into situations and his presence makes it easier for me to be more social, too.

But when it's just me ...

Well, one of my very best friends can tell you that the second time we met - oh so many years ago! - her impression was that I was snobbish and rude - I'm neither, I swear! :) - because I was so stand-offish and unsociable. When, really, I was just shy and uncomfortable and very in-my-own-head that day. Typical.

Fortunately, we got the chance to get to know each other better over time and now she knows what an amazing and wonderful person I really am. ;)

But, yeah, I guess it's safe to say that I don't always make a great first impression in new social groups.

The funny thing is that I can be very outgoing in some specific situations. But, most of the time, I'm reserved, quiet, and more into doing my own thing in my own little world than in "normal" social interaction.

So, yeah, basically, I'm Sybil.

Moving on.

So, how does my situational introversion apply to the Minion starting kindergarten?

Oh, holy hell, people, grade school is a social MINEFIELD for the introverted parent!

Birthday parties, field trips, sports, after-school groups, student performances, room mothers, phone trees ... these things scare the ever-lovin' crap outta me.

Don't get me wrong, I mean, I want the Minions to have school friends and play soccer and take martial arts and learn music and act in their school play and whatever other activities interest them.

I love the idea of "participating" ... but the application intimidates me.

And, from what I've seen so far, some of those Other Mothers really freak me out ...
  • I just can't relate to Crafty Carla, who keeps her glue guns and glitter in a shoulder holster and who painstakingly handcrafts personalized Arbor Day cards for every kid in the class ...
  • I have nothing in common with Helen Homemaker, who bakes gourmet, organic, non-allergenic cupcakes from scratch for the whole class for little Joey's "half-birthday" ...
  • And who wants to try to keep up with Judy Joiner, whose kids are in so many sports and clubs and activities that they need their own personal assistants just to stay on schedule ...
  • I can't imagine having anything to say to Academic Annie, whose kid is so much smarter and more talented that yours, but who will be glad to tell you all about her birth-to-5 plan to raise a super genius, even though it's too late for your over-the-hill kindergartner ...
  • and don't even get me started on Holy Heather, who can't decide if she wants to "save" my heathen Minions or just have us all burned at the stake at the next church potluck. We have those in spades around here.
Seriously, people:

Do. Not. Want.


Maybe I'll get lucky and meet a Blogging Betsy or a Slacker Suzy and we can snark about the Alpha-Moms over coffee at an Internet cafe while we should be cleaning our houses.

18 August 2009

Quote Junkie: Thus do we refute entropy

The Real World: Venus vs. Mars is running a post from my archives today about clutter and compatibility ... stop by and leave your two cents, won't you?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

Quote junkie strikes again! I'm in a Spider Robinson kind of mood. If you’ve been to Callahan’s Place, you’ll probably recognize some of these. If you’ve never been to Callahan’s … I’m sorry.

Shared pain is lessened, shared joy increased, thus do we refute Entropy.

Never attribute to malice, that which can be reasonably explained by stupidity.

A beginning is the end of something, always.

Anger is just fear dressed in drag.

… in love, never settle … value yourself first and this will help you to value others … life is short, so enjoy it to the fullest … everyone in the world is different, and that’s ok ...

Sometimes I think I must have a Guardian Idiot. A little invisible spirit just behind my shoulder, looking out for me ... only he's an imbecile.

"Rupture" occurs when you think you are in the middle of a conversation with someone...and suddenly discover that you've merely been making noises at each other, that there is a previously unsuspected chasm between you.

...one of the secret masters of the world: A librarian. They control information. Don't ever piss one off.

And I repeat: if there is anything that can divert the land of my birth from its current stampede into the Stone Age, it is the widespread dissemination of the thoughts and perceptions that Robert Heinlein has been selling as entertainment since 1939.

Science fiction is the only genre I've discovered that assumes there's going to be a future.

If a person who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and a person who commits a felony is a felon, then God is an iron.

The delusion that one's sexual pattern is The Only Right Way To Be is probably the single most common sexual-psychosis syndrome of this era, and it is virtually almost always the victim's fault. You cannot acquire this delusion by observing reality.

This is what it is to be human: to see the essential existential futility of all action, all striving -- and to act, to strive. This is what it is to be human: to reach forever beyond your grasp. This is what it is to be human: to live forever or die trying. This is what it is to be human: to perpetually ask the unanswerable questions, in the hope that the asking of them will somehow hasten the day when they will be answered. This is what it is to be human: to strive in the face of the certainty of failure. This is what it is to be human: to persist.

Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increase - thus do we refute entropy.

Just as there are Laws of Conservation of Matter and Energy, so there are in fact Laws of Conservation of Pain and Joy. Neither can ever be created or destroyed.
But one can be converted into the other.

14 August 2009

I'm not an addict (maybe that's a lie)

Consider this a warning for would-be creative writers everywhere: Liquid Story Binder is CRACK.

Especially if you happen to be a slightly OCD creative writer who likes to have every element of your writing organized and alphabetized and cross-referenced and annotated and measured and tracked and ...


Sorry, got a little excited there.

So, Liquid Story Binder-XE is basically a portable word processing program specifically designed for writing novels and similar fiction projects.

I downloaded it last month on a whim after the awesomely talented Ilona Andrews mentioned it on her blog. The organizational features looked really appealing and the interface didn't seem too daunting, so I clicked over just to check it out.

And that's when they get you hooked.

Because, just like the schoolyard pusher, LSB lets you have the first taste for FREE.

So, you think: Free Trial! WooHoo! No pressure. I can just check it out, see if I like. Just this once. I'll be able to quit anytime I want to!

And then, 30 (non-consecutive) days later, you're jonesin' for a fix so bad you're pawning your kid's Big Wheel to shell out the $46 to get keep that high goin', baby.

No, seriously, this thing is awesome. And, in my opinion, completely worth the $46. The kids might not agree. But, hey, walking builds character, right?

Honestly, for the first week or so, LSB was more of a distraction to my writing than anything else. But, once I finished playing with all the bells and whistles like the big ol' geek kid I am, it really did turn out to be very useful!

I haven't even come close to using all of the functions and features, yet. And, frankly, there are features I will probably never use. But that's okay. Because they don't get in the way. And everything I have tried, has made me squeal like a fangirl.

With LSB, every project is a "book" and each book is made up of individual, but connected, "chapters" saved in simple text format. (You can also export them into MS Word or other word processing software, were you so inclined.)

LSB tracks stats like session time and word count on each chapter and even lets you set goals for chapters and sessions. Your chapters are backed-up automatically, but you can also create redundant back-ups. If, you know, you happen to be all OCD like that. (Shut up.)

Other features I like:
  • Workspace: You can customize and personalize your workspace in whatever configuration works for you and LSB will remember your setting for each book.
  • Portability: The whole program - including all of the files that make up your "book" can be saved onto a flash drive so that you can take your work with you anywhere.
  • Images: You can save images of people or locations or whatever else you want into LSB and associate them with other files, like Character Dossiers, timelines, outlines, etc.
  • Dossiers: You can create informational dossiers for every character (or for organizations or locations or whatever). You can use LSB's standard categories and just fill in the blanks or customize it to your heart's content.
  • Outlines / Mindmaps / Timelines / Storyboards / Notes: Just like they sound. All the creative and planning and organizational tools a writer could need right there in your "book" file and waiting for you at a single click of a mouse.
  • Uber-Search: You can search every kind of file in your book for any word or phrase. I think you can even do a universal "replace".
  • File List: All of the files in your Book are easily accessible through a simple File List that I, personally, like to keep maximized on the right-hand side of my workspace as a quick menu. With one click, you can organize your files by type or by name to find and open them easily. You can also "associate" files with chapters to make it easier to cross-reference.
  • Audio files: You can add mp3 files and create playlists to match your writing mood. I haven't tried that yet because I'm afraid my head would explode at the sheer coolness of it.
My free 30-day trial is almost up and I've been eyeing the kids' Piggy Bank with a predatory gleam for a few days now. Because I really, really love this thing.

And I shall hug it and pet it and squeeze it and call it George.


Do you have a geeky gadget obsession?

12 August 2009

Road Trip: Venus and Mars

I'm not here today. I'm blogging over at The Real World: Venus vs. Mars ... Won't you come over and say hi? :)

It's a great blog where interesting people come to talk about real relationships.

The comments section can get pretty busy with the back-and-forth on good days, so if you leave a comment, be sure to hit the "subscribe to comments" button so you can follow along and, hopefully, jump back in for more.

10 August 2009

The Scent of a Woman

I don't wear perfume.

Never really have. I don't even like heavily scented soaps or shampoo. In fact, I usually go out of my way to buy "unscented' products of all kinds - from laundry detergent to cleaning products to personal toiletries.

This is mostly because I'm very sensitive to smells of all kinds - some scents can actually trigger a migraine headache for me. (Red onion, for example. Gets me every time. It's weird, I know, but, there it is.)

Plus, when it comes to toiletries, I think the natural smell of a clean, healthy person is preferable to just about anything else.

But I have two exceptions to this rule:

1) The ZenHusband has recently started using Axe soap and deodorant.

Mmmm. You know those commercials where the women are falling all over themselves to get at the guy who's wearing the Axe product? Yeah, I laughed at those, too. I'm not laughing now. That stuff smells awesome. Like, OMG-let's-get-a-sitter-tonight awesome. So, yeah, he'll be getting some more of that in his Christmas stocking this year. :)

2) I do, occasionally, like to indulge in a lightly scented lotion or soap or bubble bath for myself. But I'm picky. I like light, clean smells - I usually stick with a citrus or vanilla base - nothing floral or overly sweet. And it has to be a very mild scent - just a little hint of something extra, not an overwhelming cover up.

Enter the temptation that is Bath and Body Works.

I used to go there all the time, but I hadn't been in ages. Then, this weekend, they sucked me in with their buy-two-get-one-free promotion and $5 specials.

So, I went in thinking I'd get some lotion or bubble bath and left with:
Not sure if I'm going to like that last one. Might be too strong for me. We'll see.

So, I'm looking forward to trying these out. But, sampling the different scents in the shop got me thinking about the amazing power of the sense of smell.

Smell is one of the strongest triggers of memory and emotion. And it seems like everyone has "good" and "bad" triggers. So, I'm always curious about the different types of scents that mean and do different things for different people.

Campfire smoke, chlorine, gunpowder, ocean, coffee, cloves, horses ... these scents all have strong associations for me, meanings and memories beyond simple smells.

Smells can change moods, trigger physical responses, transport us through time. It's an incredibly powerful sense. And we take it so much for granted.

I know someone who actually lost his sense of smell after a head injury. I know. Of all of the senses to lose, that would be the preferred one, right? He jokes that it makes being a father of two boys easier.

But, still. Think about it. No smell of fresh cut grass or impending rain, no barbecue or baby powder, no baking pies or pine trees ... how dull would your life be without the smells - good and bad - we take for granted every day?


How about you? Do you have specific scents you prefer for yourself or your significant other? Scents you find appealing? Scents you avoid? Scents that bring back memories or change your mood?

07 August 2009

Kid Logic: On girls

Four-year-old Minion: "Mommy, who can I invite to my birthday party?"

Me: "Well, who do you want to invite to your birthday party?"

Ticking them off on his fingers: "Ashton and Bryce and Theo and Mitchell and Boy Riley and ... Girl Riley, too. She freaks me out."

Me, with the classic double-take: "Wait. She does what?"

Minion, matter-of-factly: "She freaks me out. That's what girls do. They freak boys out."

My kid. The Genius.

05 August 2009

When you're there, I sleep lengthwise. And when you're gone, I sleep diagonal in my bed.

My husband is out of town tonight.

I don't sleep well when he's gone.

Oh, where is the ZenHusband, you ask? He's at a Phish concert at Shoreline with friends. That was half of his birthday present from me. The other half was tickets to Phish's three-day festival in Indio over Halloween weekend.

Why, yes, I am the best wife, ever. Thank you. ;)

So, tonight while The ZenHusband is partying in the parking lot and rockin' it in his awesome floor seats, I will be sleeping diagonal in our bed.

Am I the only one who sleeps poorly when their significant other is gone?

Normally, I'm in bed by 10 or 11 and asleep just moments after my head hits the pillow. I sleep soundly. I dream. I wake rested.

But when I'm alone, I tend to stay up much later than usual - reading or watching TV or playing on the interwebs or the Xbox - because our cozy, comfy bed seems so much less inviting when it's empty.

And I sleep so lightly - waking at the even the smallest sound from the kids room or the street - knowing, even in my sleep, that I'm the only one there to take care of things. I toss and turn like I never do when the other side of the bed is full.

It was a little better when we had a dog.

Our beloved Dalmatian, Patch, passed away last year. But, for the eight-plus years before that, I used to let Patch sleep on the foot of the bed whenever the ZenHusband was out of town. I would tuck my feet under his 90+ pounds of doggy muscle and sleep more soundly.

(Shhh! Don't tell The ZenHusband! He's a no-pets-on-the-bed guy. Patch knew he was never allowed on the bed - unless Daddy was gone. And then he'd hop right up in "his" place as soon as I'd go to the bedroom. Smart boy. Geez, I miss that dog.)

Dogless now, I'm more likely to have a toddler wander in for cuddles in the middle of the night. That's okay, too. Just like Patch, they know that when Daddy's gone, Mommy is more likely to let them stay in her bed for a while.

So, tonight, I will make a "fun" dinner for me and the Minions (I'm thinking Mickey Mouse pancakes), tuck them into their beds by myself, and then stay awake in my unusually quiet house until I am too tired to keep my eyes open anymore.

Then I will finally put on one of The ZenHusband's 5 million t-shirts - maybe this one in keeping with the evening's theme. Then I will cuddle up to one of his pillows in lieu of his warm body, and sleep. Lightly.

In the morning, I'll be tired. I'll run around getting the kids and myself out the door without any help. And I'll drink even more coffee than usual to get through the day.

And I'll be all the more appreciative of my ZenHusband when he finally comes home. :)

What about you? Do you sleep "differently" when you're alone?

*Art Credits:
Rift, Phish
"A Woman Sleeping" by Rembrandt

02 August 2009

Let's talk about sex

TMI WARNING: If you are related to me, you probably don't want to read this. Yeah, In fact, it's best if you don't. How about if you go read one of these today, instead, yeah?

No, seriously.

Why are you still here? Shooo!

Are they gone?


Let's talk about Sex.

It seems like several of my friends - male and female - have complained to me recently about the quality or quantity of their sex lives.

When they do, I always ask the same question: "Have you talked to your partner about that?"

And I'm constantly surprised at how often the answer is, "No".

Newsflash: Sex is not rocket science. If you are in a long-term relationship and having "bad" sex: You are probably at least 50 percent to blame.

No, seriously. Own it, dude.

Because I'm a helper and a giver, I'm going to share a little (not-so) secret with you. So gather round and listen very carefully boys and girls, because this is the truest truism about sex that has ever been written:

Communication is almost always the key to better sex.

What? Don't give me that look! I told you it wasn't rocket science. It's bloody freaking simple: Communicate. Cooperate. Enjoy.

I know. Duh, right?

But, still, so many people don't do it!

I know that I have a tendency to be pretty blunt and up-front - yeah, it's maybe not my most endearing trait. But, I just prefer to come right out and say what I think in most situations and on most subjects.

And that includes OMG s-e-x. I'm pretty open on the subject - within certain social limits, of course. I mean, I don't run around bringing up the subject with strangers (Heh, unless this blog post counts?) or my boss or my grandmother or anything like that.

But with my friends - and certainly with my husband! - there's very little that is off-limits.

If I don't want to talk about a subject: I'll tell you. But if I do want to talk about it, I'm going to just talk about it straight. I'm not going to - if you'll excuse the expression - beat around the bush.

So, I have a really hard time understanding my friends - and, yes, it's mostly (but not entirely) women - who will talk to ME about their sex life, but NOT to their significant other.

Seriously? You're doing it with him, but you can't talk to him about it?!

What's that about?

So, these women (and men, too) are unsatisfied or unhappy or bored with their sex lives, and their SOs are either totally clueless, or, worse, they know something's not right, but not exactly what or how to "fix" it.

Geez, people. Do you expect your partner to be a mind-reader?

Despite what Playboy, porn and romance novels would have you believe - there are very few "naturals" at this sort of thing.

Guys: Girls don't really learn the tips and tricks of how to please a man at college sleepovers in between naked pillow fights. You're going to need to let her know what you like and what you don't.

Ladies: Your man studied long hours just to figure out how to get your bra off. Cut him some slack and be willing to help him out with the activities that have a higher degree of difficulty, huh?

Sex is a team sport and coaching is not only allowed - it's mandatory. And, don't forget, practice makes perfect.

Of course, not all communication is verbal. And you don't have to sit down and have an intervention to make small changes.

A well-timed moan, a guiding hand, a shift of position, or other non-verbal coaching can go a long way to letting your partner know what you like or don't like. As can being more open to his or her non-verbal cues, too.

And after? Praise the good parts. You might be surprised how well a simple "Wow, Babe, I really loved it when you ... " can inspire a repeat performance.

Best case scenario: Don't wait for a "problem" to talk about sex with your partner. Even if you are perfectly happy, it's still a good idea to communicate about these things. Hey, there's always room for improvement, right?

But, if - heavens forbid - your partner is not rockin' your socks off in the bedroom (or on the floor, or in the shower, or on the kitchen counter, or in the backyard ... whatever), please for-the-love-of-Pete: TELL him or her!

Odds are good that (s)he'll want to know. And will be happy to hear what (s)he can do to make things better for you both. And, hopefully, will be eager to share his/her ideas on the subject, too. Because, trust me, you're not perfect, either.

Even if you don't know for sure what you want or need, that's fine. Talk about that and explore new ideas together.

Yeah, okay: You probably do need to be a little less blunt and a little more ... diplomatic ... than I have a tendency to be. So as not to damage any egos. But, I can almost guarantee that just talking about it will help kick up the heat all by itself for most couples.

Thus endeth the sermon.

But, hey, that's just my opinion on the subject. Ladies? Gentlemen? Any dissenting opinions or supporting evidence on the subject?