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fall 2007

Howdy folks,

Is there no end to the abuse I must suffer from that redheaded sadist to whom I am married? You already know the answer. She's resurrecting those old bookmarks again. Let no good deed go unpunished.

This will take some explaining. Back in the mists of time, romance writers used to use beefy male models to produce "chest marks." These were bookmarks that featured a shot of the model from neck to waist, prominently displaying a manly chest. The marks were a marketing device. I later learned that the reason for not showing the face of the model was so the reader could imagine any face she wished perched above those buffed pectorals (a goofy idea, I always thought).

Well, during this craze, as a wedding anniversary joke gift, I had a photographer who did Shirl's glamour pix do such a shot of me…more modest, naturally. Just a picture of me from neck to waist, dressed in an unbuttoned white shirt, with my thumbs hooked in the waistband of my slacks. I took a copy of the picture, cut in down to bookmark size, and included it in the box that held the evening gown that was Shirl's real present.

A light bulb went off in the redhead's brain: "Why not get some productive use out of old Jim. I'll use him as my personal bookmark model." She talked to her friends at ROMANTIC TIMES who thought that she had a unique marketing idea. She started talking at me. Finally, I agreed to let her use my joke photo for her new "Jim-mark." Maybe Carol Stacy at RT came up with that one. Anyway, I attached one provision to my agreement. None of those "Jim Marks" were to show up in the area where I was an English professor at Youngstown State University.

So much for our agreement. Out of the 75,000 of that first "Jim Mark" printed, about 100,000 ended up on the campus of YSU! I learned this one evening as I was heading to a course that I was teaching in the "pop culture" portion of our curriculum. Ironically, the course was on the romance novel. I got on the elevator with three young women, two of whom I recognized as students in that class. As the doors of the elevator closed, the young woman whom I did not recognize pulled on my sleeve and said, "Dr. Henke, could you sign this for me?" I turned around and she was holding out that @&$^ bookmark, headless but with my name printed below the picture. My two students were giggling; I was stunned. I didn't know what to say or do. For god's sake, I was stammering! ME! When I arrived at the classroom and got ready to deal with the work we were to study that evening, this big ox in the back of the class (his name was Roger) suddenly called out, "Hey, Doc, is this really you? Not bad pecs." I kept my cool, sort of, and said, "Roger, if you don't put that damned thing away, they'll be extracting a size 10 shoe from one of your more tender bodily cavities." I vowed to run Shirl through a wood chipper when I got home.

But she soothed me, saying that probably a couple of students had just traveled out of town and came upon books sporting the "Jim-marks," which the regional wholesale distributor had promised would not be used in Youngstown. However, two nights later at the next meeting of the class, two-thirds of the students held up the marks and waved them at me as I walked into the room. I blushed. Me, the most feared (and modesty does not prevent me from adding, one of the most loved) professors on campus-I actually blushed! No more Mr. Nice Guy, no wood chipper. When I found out Shirl had done a book signing in an adjacent town the preceding weekend and given out the accursed things, I decided to slowly strangle that redheaded heifer, grease her body with bacon fat, and let the dogs drag her around town.

Then things got worse. I was walking across campus and heard, "Hey babe, what a set of hooters you got." Ah please god, not Gloria. Gloria, a fellow professor, the leader of the feminist faction on campus who saw me as a prime alpha male target, was striding up to me waving one of those damned bookmarks. "Aw, James, don't look like that. Just give me an autograph." I wept. Good lord, I was even losing my status as the big he-buck male chauvinist.

But the "Jim-Marks" really helped draw attention to Shirl's writing. We received bags of mail (back in the pre-web stone age). So I did three more bookmarks with the last one showing my face. Now they have come back to haunt me. How can I ever run for president, a former pinup boy! I couldn't beat Pam Anderson in the primaries.

Oh yeah, one final thing about the bookmark business. Shirl just showed me the one that will appear on the web page. That one was for the first of Shirl's book in which I ever wrote a complete scene. The idea was that the reader who could pick the scene would get a prize. In the picture, I am holding it: an 1870 silver dollar coined at a Nevada mint. The coin was appropriate because the story takes place in 1870 and the value of the coin as a collectable was approximately the price (several hundred dollars) that Cass, the heroine of the book, pays to buy Steve, the hero.

Now on to a happier (or maybe not) topic: the kittens. The little kittens you saw in a picture on the last home page are not so little anymore. Slightly over six months, Inky, the black one, is about five pounds; and Pewter, the silver-blue bugger, hefts in at about seven. At this stage of their development, they are only at about a third to forty percent of their adult size. Good grief! At full growth, about two years for a tom (assuming I allow them to reach that age), while Inky will be an average sized cat, Pewter could come in at about seventeen pounds-if we can keep him lean and that's a big if, considering he sucks in kitten chow like a vacuum cleaner.

So, what feline adventures shall I recount for you: the time they disassembled the furnace and air conditioner? The time they tunneled from the laundry room into the wine rack area under the back stair case and began to pull bottles of wine from the racks, no doubt to choose a suitable vintage for four in the morning sipping? I think not, since both adventures sent me into a towering rage. Ah, I know! Let me tell you about their recently acquired sense of style. One afternoon, I heard this shrieking coming from the bedroom wing of the house. "YOU MISERABLE LITTLE WRETCHES. LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE. GIVE THAT BACK OR I'LL SPANK YOUR BUTT OFF!" I thought I had best check that out. When I reached our bedroom, I found my wife on her hands and knees. Her large jewelry case had been knocked off the dresser onto the floor, the drawers had been pulled open, and earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces, and all matter of shiny things were strewn across the rug. Shirl was battling her "sweetie boys" for her hoard of treasure. Pewter was heading down to the laundry room with a long earring dangling from his mouth, and Inky was engaged with his "loving mommy" in a tug of war over a diamond-cut silver necklace.

Now, I had warned Shirl before that Inky, in particular, was becoming something of a fashionista. She had left a dresser drawer open just a crack once, and Inky had opened it the rest of the way to get at several gold necklaces. I found him with one in his mouth, sitting on the dresser, admiring himself in the mirror. Doubtless, he was trying to decide whether gold was suitable to accessorize black fur.

I have no sympathy. I warned her that raising two kittens would be hell. Then, again, maybe they'll turn professional jewel thieves and support us in our old age-if we can get them to share…

Jim

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Jim in front of a classroom, teaching during his tenure on our local school board.


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Jim posed for the River Nymph book cover, chose the lady with the cards model and created the basic design from which Kim Killion worked.


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TWO FREE NOVELLAS


Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble
        iBooks             | Kobo                          

Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble
        iBooks             | Kobo                          








 

 
 

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