As the whole world knows by now, in this week’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Dr. Derek Shepherd, a/k/a Dr. McDreamy died.  Yes, died.  For a huge, massive number of viewers, when he died, the show died too.  It will continue, in a living dead sort of fashion, but the numbers will not justify it living long, and the plug will be pulled.  But it will have company — ABC will be shopping for a whole new Thursday night.  Why?

Because in killing Dr. McDreamy, Shonda Rhimes killed more than a character — she killed the bond of trust she spent a decade building with viewers.  That’s a bond that can’t be re-built.  We’ll never trust Shonda again and we’ll never risk watching any of her shows — not Grey’s, not Scandal, and not How to Get Away With Murder.  Shonda’s as done as her shows.

Shonda’s feud with Dempsey gained a lot of attention recently.  She who doesn’t like leaks suddenly liked them a LOT now, didn’t she?  She fed the media a bunch of stories about how Patrick Dempsey was suddenly too much of a “Diva” to tolerate.  It was entirely too sudden and entirely too convenient.  When Katherine Heigl’s movie career blossomed, tales of her Diva demands blossomed too.  But they didn’t start as a full grown rose – they started as a bud that grew and grew and grew.  But Dempsey became a Diva overnight. Ain’t that peculiar, people?

The truth is that Dempsey has wanted off the show for a while.  His whole life has been on the sids recently.  He’s lost a marriage and couldn’t figure out how to balance racing and Grey’s.  He discovered racing too late and it’s grown into an addiction of sorts, or so it seems to me.  And I completely understand how much it must enrage Shonda that the poor, “no-career” actor she cast a decade ago, now doesn’t have time for the show that changed his destiny.  I get that.  I just think that Shonda let her rage overcome her judgment.  Couldn’t any of the writers talk her off the ledge before she jumped?

Apparently not.

Rhimes and Dempsey are both people who have duties to the American public. Yes, they’ve entertained us for a decade but we’ve given them careers beyond any they could’ve imagined a decade ago. Just as Shonda changed Patrick Dempsey’s destiny, America changed hers. And Shonda was Queen of the Grey’s empire so she responded with a ruler’s rage —- “Off with his head,” she commanded. In killing her creation, she has killed her empire.

It didn’t have to be this way.  The pair could have sat down and pared Dempsey’s appearances down to Skype chats with Meredith and loving bits and pieces that could be pre-recorded and played back over all of next season.  Shonda could’ve brought an amazing offer from Cristina that required Derek immediately. Because Cristina is Mer’s “person,” she’d offer Mer a job that would be open whenever Mer was ready.  As Mer’s person, she’d know that Mer wasn’t ready now, but she’d be ready very soon.

But Shonda wanted to do more than kill Dr. McDreamy.  She has decided to diminish him until Meredith begins again……  a new man, a new father, a new life….  And she can do that because Grey’s is HER Kingdom, right?  WRONG.  It was only hers until the first show aired.  Just as a book only belongs to the writer until it’s published, a show only belongs to its runner until the first episode airs.  Then it belongs to its fans, the way a published book belongs to the readers.

Queen Shonda forgot that.

The romance between Meredith and McDreamy captured viewer’s hearts. They rewarded it with their loyalty. A decade of magic ensued. Grey’s could have continued after McDreamy left…. it could continue after Mer leaves.  Except now, it can’t.  Now, it’s dead. Shonda killed it when she committed the ultimate betrayal.  Grey’s might have grown in a strong new direction with a “shadow” Derek and a “shadow” Cristina, appearing in the occasional voice over.  A Derek alive, elsewhere doing other things and a Meredith alive in Seattle responding to some of those things and acting in ways that caused others – now that is quite a different proposition.  It could be an odd notion from the odd duck lady or the distressed ponderings of a fan — or both.  Regardless, it’s not to be, absent a giant “mea culpa” from Shonda.  It would take a new season beginning with Mer awakening from a dream (in an over the top nod to “Dallas”) or with Mer awakening to find a concerned McDreamy beside her bed, relieved that she’d stopped her fever-produced hallucinations. None of that is likely, because a Shonda who could kill McDreamy is likely beyond redemption.

MASH killed Henry Blake but learned its lesson.  It never killed “Hawkeye.”  Perhaps the runners of that show had more respect for magic or perhaps they were wise enough to know that a knife in the back of Hawkeye landed most painfully in the backs of every viewer who adored him. It’s too bad that Shonda killed Izzie and still didn’t learn that lesson.

Grey’s began with a one night stand that grew into an epic fairy tale romance so fans believed it would end with the happily ever after we were trained to expect, the same one we’ve always awaited. But Shonda killed the hero and now she says viewers will watch Meredith discover what life is like after the fairy tale ends.  But viewers won’t discover that because you know what we do when the fairy tale ends? We close the book. That book is closed for me, and a group on Facebook has started a page to boycott Shonda’s shows.  You can find it here.

America has not YET adopted my romance novels with the fervor it once reserved for Grey’s, but now is a fine time to start.  Pick up a Quacking Alone Romance by Mary Anne Graham, also writing as Olivia Outlaw.  At the end of any of my books you’ll never be pulling a knife out of your back or wiping away tears after the hero is brutally killed by a semi-truck.  Instead, you’ll be cheering for the fairy tale, full-on happily ever after that I guarantee you’ll find when any of my couples’ tales end.

The tombstone in next week’s episode should read:  “Here lies Grey’s Anatomy, born March 27, 2005.  It died at the hands of its creator on April 23, 2015.” Let me know what it says because I won’t be watching.

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This is a brief post because my Muse is yelling in my ear.  Not whispering or conversing, mind you – she’s yelling.  Muse has been waking me up at night to send me stumbling to my laptop at 3 a.m.  Why? Because it’s time for Vlad’s story.

Those familiar with my Forever Series will know Vlad very well.  The Russian gypsy first appeared in “A Golden Forever” and he’s been in every book since.  But it was never time for his story — until now.  I’ve had many readers email, asking whether there would be more “Forever” stories.  I gave them the assurance that there would be – someday.  Well, someday is now.

I’m also working on my third set of “Olivia Outlaw” stories.  There’s another “Isle of Bliss” tale half written on my hard drive.  I may be juggling Vlad and Mala with Adam and Evan for awhile, but both sets of stories are on their way.  They’d be here a lot sooner, if I didn’t have that pesky day job practicing law and trust me, I’d much rather write full time.  But the best any of us can do is make the most of what we have, right?

I’ve been concentrating on the “Bliss” stories of late, and it’s been quite a long while since I wrote the last “Forever” book, so I just thought I’d let fans of that series know that a new one is on the way!!  Vlad has to get his happily ever after now, doesn’t he?

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The horrific, senseless, and utterly evil killing of the late Walter L. Scott is not a justifiable action.  This post does not, in any way, attempt to justify it.  This post is about why my state’s lowcountry region has not been torn apart by vandalism and violence masquerading as protests.  This is about why the North Charleston/Summerville area of South Carolina is not and will not become the next Ferguson, Missouri.

A week ago today, on Saturday, April 4th, Mr. Scott, a black man, was stopped by a white North Charleston police officer for a very minor infraction – I believe it was a broken taillight on his vehicle.  In the course of the stop, Mr. Scott fled his vehicle and ran from the officer who gave chase.  A taser was employed but ultimately the officer pulled his gun and shot the fleeing Mr. Scott a number of times in the back, causing Mr. Scott’s tragic death.  First accounts indicated the officer felt threatened because Mr. Scott tried to grab his taser, but an eyewitness took video of the event and he ultimately turned it over to the Scott family.  The shooting occurred on Saturday, April 4th and on Tuesday, April 7th – just three (3) days later, the officer was charged with murder.

However,  the Charleston area hasn’t turned into Ferguson, Missouri.  Here, we’ve had no hordes of people using Mr. Scott’s death as an excuse to steal iPads or televisions.  We’ve had no mobs taking to the streets to destroy the hard-earned property of business owners and pretending they are doing it as an act of “respect” to the late Mr. Scott.  Very likely, Mr. Scott’s family and friends own businesses and have worked hard at various enterprises.  Surely, that was also the case in Ferguson, but it didn’t stop the vandalism and violence there, which was largely committed by outside agitators. Why is South Carolina different?

It’s different because we are not joiners and we are not followers. We don’t join unions and we don’t join gangs of thugs and we won’t follow any outsiders who try to motivate such stupidity.  Mr. Scott’s family is a sterling example of South Carolina at its finest.  They have been vigilant and forceful in insisting that the truth of their son’s death be brought forward, and that the responsible officer be held to account. But they’ve only asked that the responsible party be brought to justice – they’ve not blamed the entire North Charleston police department for the criminal evil of one officer.  In fact, two police officers on motorcycles escorted the hearse carrying Mr. Scott’s body at his funeral today.  The family has indicated that it wants Mr. Scott’s death to demonstrate and motivate changes that need to be made in the power dynamics between officers and citizens. The Scott family has given strong and clear signals that they do not want, and would not appreciate, an invasion of outside agitators.

Should any agitators be flown or bussed into the lowcountry of South Carolina to try to instigate a campaign of violence, I expect they would encounter armed business owners and armed law enforcement officers who would travel to the area from all over our state.  That is as it should be, because the tragic death of Mr. Scott is a South Carolina matter, to be dealt with by South Carolineans in the just, peaceful and strong manner that my state generally employs. Local leaders would not tolerate outside agitation and our state’s Governor, Nikki Haley, would lend the full support of her office to keep the Charleston area as a peaceful place where respectful tributes to Mr. Scott can occur.

There is a prayer vigil planned tonight April 11th, the day of Mr. Scott’s funeral, by local United Methodist Churches.  It will be held at the sight of the shooting and those wishing to pay respect to the late Mr. Scott, to support his family, and to indicate their abhorrence for the act of this officer, will walk silently to one of the Methodist Churches.  Participants won’t be given the opportunity to vandalize businesses or liberate electronic devices. They will be given the chance to pay their respect and to indicate, by their presence, their support of Mr. Scott and his family.

Respect and support are important parts of South Carolina life.  I’d wager that Mr. Scott’s family hasn’t had to cook a meal since his passing.  Their friends and family have been there, tending to providing food and gathering with the family to join them in remembering Mr. Scott and celebrating his life and his legacy.  They will be there in quiet ways as the days pass, and will join the family again, to support them when the Officer is brought before a South Carolina Court to face justice.

We’re not joiners and we’re not followers so you won’t get us riled up and ready to go out and attack our community.  And if you try to bring in outsiders to incite such violence, we will stand in support of business owners and officers in resisting and in overcoming such efforts.  All of South Carolina mourns with the Scott family today.  Mr. Scott’s death was a South Carolina tragedy but I am very, very proud that the late Mr. Scott’s parents are dealing with it as South Carolineans, not joining and not following and not seeking joiners or followers.  I am not a member of his family and didn’t have the privilege of knowing Mr. Scott, but I expect that his family would appreciate people remembering their son by giving a donation to his Church or the NAACP rather than by breaking into businesses and destroying their community.

Racism is evil, but so are violence and vandalism.  Ferguson’s leaders may have felt that they had to tolerate a certain amount of violence in order to prevent more, but South Carolina is not Ferguson. We’ll not join you and we’ll not follow you – but if you are here to incite trouble, we’ll be glad to show you the way out of our state.

Rest in peace, Mr. Scott.

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I was in Kindle Unlimited (KU), for one stint – 90 days, the required term. I really enjoyed the program and the features.  More importantly, Amazon’s customers enjoyed my participation — my eBooks were downloaded a lot.  I left after that single stint for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a guaranteed payment (at least, a guaranteed minimum payment) scaled to the price of participating books. However, Amazon’s demand for exclusivity was my most compelling reason for departing the program. It’s the largest reason that most authors leave KU.

Amazon requires that in exchange for enrolling an eBook in Kindle Unlimited, that an author grant Amazon the exclusive right to sell that eBook.  That means that readers who use Nooks, iPads, or any other device, could not buy my books.  It meant that the price of participating in KU is telling a whole group of my readers that they are not important, that they don’t matter.  I just couldn’t do that after my sole stint in the program.  It hurt me to do that because ALL my readers matter.

Making my books exclusive to Amazon would also mean that all my eggs are in the Zon’s basket.  It means that at the roulette wheel of life, I’ve bet all my hopes and dreams on the Zon’s number.  I didn’t spread them out among several numbers to give myself a cushion; I bet them all on a single number.  That’s as poor a strategy in life as it is at the casino.  Yes, it will pay more if that single number hits, but it will cost me everything if any other number hits. The Zon’s basket is large and from the outside looking in, it appears sturdy and stable, but I have no inside info.  Amazon could fold tomorrow – or it could cancel its KU program tomorrow.  That would leave me trying to convince readers that I tossed aside like yesterday’s leftovers that they are still the main course.  My readers would never buy that – they’re an eclectic, imaginative, smart bunch.  They’re a tolerant group, but they won’t tolerate disloyalty.

Although a few, select “big time” indie writers were offered participation in the program without exclusivity,  some of those have now left the fold, despite still offering their books elsewhere.  They felt that KU was cannibalizing sales on Amazon, prompting potential buyers to “borrow” instead. And borrows are not paid as sales, they are paid much less – an unknown rate set monthly by Amazon lately averaging $1.38 to $1.40 as compared to $2.05 for a sale on a $2.99 eBook.  The “big time” indies lost too much money.  The money and the lack of guaranteed pay out rates also explains traditional publishers staying away from the program.  Amazon surely doesn’t require exclusivity from them but the trads had enough business savvy to know that borrows would reduce sales. So, there are issues other than exclusivity, but for the average indie author, exclusivity ranks at the top.

Not only does making something exclusive to one store hurt the author, it also hurts the customers. The market not only functions best when it’s competitive,  it also grows more when it’s competitive and innovation flourishes as competition does.  Exclusivity is a big scary concept to indie authors.  It makes us slaves on the Amazon plantation, totally dependent on “Master” Amazon. Given a choice between keeping our freedom and signing on for Amazon servitude, many of us are too damned independent, too damned AMERICAN to take whatever Amazon doles out. Perhaps Amazon should take a closer look at what’s happened to America in the era of Big Government and reconsider.  Amazon should remove the exclusivity requirement from KU and it should adopt a guaranteed minimum pay scale based on factors including the price of the work, the length of the work, and the sales price for similar books.  All those factors are required because too many game the system – it’s a lesson they’ve learned in the Big Government era.

If Amazon would make both changes, then KU customers would have a much, much – (Did I say much?) – larger and ever-growing variety of books to borrow.  The two policies hurt customers most of all because their selection is limited, severely, by the pay-scale-to-authors and exclusivity issues. If Amazon removed both issues, and made the recommended changes, publishers would likely enroll some items like backlist books, especially of mid-list authors, occasionally high ranking first-in-a-series books of top authors (at least for a limited period) when the top authors had new series books coming out. If Amazon removed only the exclusivity requirement, even keeping the present uncertain and unfair pay scale in place, many indie authors, myself included, would enroll at least some books — and that would be enough to provide a sizable increase in books available to customers for borrow.

In the long run, Mr. Bezos’ refusal to make the necessary changes to fix the KU program will have the opposite effect from the one intended — it will not only drive away KU customers, it will anger them and make them less likely to buy anything from Amazon.  While Amazon doesn’t worry so much about how exclusivity negatively impacts authors, it does, should, and must worry about how it negatively impacts consumers.  Those promised “all you want to read” value by KU who have to hit the buy button to get the books they actually want will, more and more, feel they’re spending money for nothing.

Right now KU is like one of those bargain shops.  A customer walks in to buy a nice black dress.  She sees one for $9.99. But wait – there, just beside it, is a bin full of huge sealed bags.  There’s a sign over it that says – “Buy a whole bag of dresses for $9.99.” The value scale seems obvious.  Why spend $9.99 for one dress when you could get 10 or 15 for the same price?  But when the customer buys the bag, gets home and opens it, she finds that none of the dresses is black or they’re all the wrong style. How will the customer feel about that store now?  She’ll feel like the KU subscriber promised all the books she wants to read for $9.99 a month who discovers that none of the books she wants to read are in the program.  That customer will feel angry, misled, cheated and lied to – and that will be her feeling every time she sees that store’s sign, so she’ll go to another one.  How easy is it is, after all, to go elsewhere in the virtual world.

Sometimes Karma works. The Karma of Amazon turning a crop of indie authors into indentured servants will filter down to the customers.  More and more authors will flee the exclusivity noose because writers are, by nature, the most free-spirited and independent people on the planet. That means that Amazon won’t be able to deliver on its promise to customers, because that promise depends on motivating writers to continually put more work into the program. Amazon’s failure to deliver on its content promise will then begin to drive customers away from Amazon entirely.

Karma’s a bitch and that’s why Mr. Bezos should change KU.

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A Christian couple with good motives and the best intentions in the world wrote an app to “clean” dirty words in ebooks by replacing them with “clean” alternatives.  They named it “Clean Reader” and they made it available for free for iOS and Android devices.  They created a book catalog for the device from work supplied by @Inktera and Smashwords.  It sounds like a feel-good kind of story, right?  Wrong. The clean device did a dirty deed – it rewrote authors’ words without obtaining permission from the authors.

The app had three settings that downloaders could select from to decide how “clean” they wanted their books.  Depending on the setting,the app picked out words and changed them.  The “Daily Mail” article by Jenny Stanton  gives an example of how this process worked with passages from some well known books:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

Before: ‘I don’t want to f*** you at all. My heart’s as cold as cold potatoes just now.’

After: ‘I don’t want to [freak] you at all. My heart’s as cold as cold potatoes just now.’

Before: ‘It was not woman’s fault, nor even love’s fault, nor the fault of sex.’

After: ‘It was not woman’s fault, nor even love’s fault, nor the fault of [love].’

Before: ‘She threaded two pink campions in the bush of red-gold hair above his penis.

’After: ‘She threaded two pink campions in the bush of red-gold hair above his [groin].’

The first problem with the app is that it changed the words of authors without their permission. That is always, always, always wrong. The second problem is more basic – who decides what is clean and what is dirty and who picks what words get substituted for the dirty ones?  It’s like walking into a neighbor’s house – you might walk in and think “This place is filthy. Jane is a lazy bitch.”  I might walk into the same house and think, “I wonder how Jane keeps this place so clean and still keeps her daily word count so high.” Dirt is in the eye of the beholder.

A reader is always free to skip a passage he or she finds offensive or to imagine a different word in the place of one that bothers her. It might be that the reader is mortally offended by any reference to sex or the human body.  It might be that the reader was once hit by a black car and can’t bear to read about black cars.  Perhaps the reader was bitten by a dog and prefers the pets in her stories to be cats.  We are all the product of our own experience.  Mr. Duck is a computer programmer, so he’d be one of the people making those decisions about which words to replace.  Mr. Duck has a wicked sense of humor, a sharp intellect and is married to an insane duck lady. His choices for those words would likely NOT be the ones made by the great bulk of humanity.  Lord knows, my choices would likely not be made by even the smallest sliver of humanity.  The choice of what to read and what to replace and what to skip – those are decisions by the reader who always has the option to close a book he finds offensive.

Authors outraged by Clean Reader’s mutilation of their work took to blogs and Twitter,  and created such a backlash that their book suppliers pulled out and “Clean Reader” folded.   The couple claims they intend to rework the app and will release it again.  I hope they don’t because no matter what they do, the couple can not create an app to replace each individual reader’s sensibilities.  Books are as individual as art.  A painting or statue that could make me marvel for hours might make you sniff and move along in an instant.  But we both have the right to look at the same painting and stare or sniff.

I suspect that devoted readers would never download an app designed to keep them from reading a book the way it was written. People who love words will be just as upset as authors at the notion that some programmer’s judgment should ever be allowed to re-write a book.  “Clean Reader” is a digital bonfire and it is every bit as dangerous as the vigilantes who remove physical books from a library’s shelves and feed them to the flames.

If programs like this one are allowed to exist,  museums must change their rules, and allow offended patrons to bring in spray paint and chisels.  So the world would lose a few Titian’s, Cezanne’s and Ruben’s and Michelangelo’s David might lose something even more personal – but the offended would be appeased.  That’s what matters, right?  Of course not.

Yet, that is exactly what programs/apps like “Clean Reader” are – they’re chisels and spray paint inside your phone, iPad or digital device.  They’ve done their work before your eyes arrive and have removed any risk that you might be moved by a love story with a sex scene or that curse words in the right place might make you share a character’s anger.  What hands do you trust to hold the paint and chisels?

Buy or don’t buy.  Read or skip. But never put the spray paint and chisels into the hands of someone who hasn’t lived your life or walked in your shoes.

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I’m convinced that one of Shonda Rhimes’ favorite songs must be the old gospel hymn – “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”  The woman does love to close a circle – as most fans of her hit ABC TV Show, “Grey’s Anatomy” will know and sometimes rue.  An interesting word that – “rue” sounds very akin to ruin which is what I think will happen if Shonda closes the latest circle.

Yo, Shonda Sunshine – some circles should stay broken.   Derek does not need to vilify himself further by closing this one.  The Mer/Der partnership does not require a “dark and twisty” member.

In case you’ve missed it, the latest drama on “Grey’s Anatomy” puts the show’s “raison d’etre”  (reason to be) at risk.  [Some things just require French.]  Yes, believe it or not, Shonda’s newest plot would do MORE than destroy the couple whose rendezvous started the show off with a bang & propelled it to the ranks of television royalty.  It may turn out that Derek has been cheating in DC — (I know, what’s new about that, right?  Imagine – someone doing the down, dirty and dishonorable in DC!!)

The show started when McDreamy neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd discovered that his wife had been cheating on him with his best friend.  He walked in on them one evening – and walked right out and away from the marriage, fleeing to Seattle to accept a job long-offered by his old friend Richard Webber.  Of course, the viewers didn’t know either his identity or his history any more than Meredith Grey knew it when she hooked up with him for a one nighter the night before she started her new hospital internship. The viewers knew what Mer knew – the man had a fabulous ass. (How naughty showing that was on TV at the time….)

We found out he was her bosses boss at the same time she did, and it soon turned out that their one night stand turned into love that looked strong and true and honorable.  Only, it turned out – not quite so honorable.  Derek was married, as we found out when his wife strolled into the lobby to greet the slut sleeping with her husband.  And don’t forget – Addison (the then-wife) told Derek he’d have known she was coming if he’d answered any of her phone calls.

Now, flash forward.  Derek flies off to DC after a royal battle with his wife who refused to leave her career so he could go be a DC big shot.  And episode before last Mer called him and a woman answered.  She started asking herself and her friends — Could Der be cheating on her?  Could history be repeating itself?  (Popular wisdom says – if he did it once, he’ll do it again.) Previews for next week’s epi show Derek telling Mer that they’re in trouble — and APPEAR to show him having a Mer/Der type hot and heavy moment with a lady in a lab coat (a new Grey’s doctor?), complete with one of THOSE looks he only shares with Meredith.

Shonda Sunshine is a master illusionist, so perhaps we’ll find out that things aren’t the way it appears.  I hope so, anyway.  I hope that she who created Shondaland will not resort to cliches to close yet another circle.  Yeah – in strictly geometric terms, it would make sense for Der to have left for a new hospital, found a new woman, and be trying to shed the old one.  It would close a circle big style.

The problem is that many viewers, like this one, do not think or feel or grow attached to characters for reasons that have anything to do with logic.  As a romance writer, I thank every lucky duck in the universe for that fact.  I just hope it’s not one that Shonda has forgotten.  And no, Sunshine, I don’t think we need to explore the other side of infidelity.  I don’t want you to introduce us to a new lady doctor and try to make us like her even though she’s cheated with Derek, wants to cheat with Derek or may be about to cheat with Derek.  Because Shonda, we won’t like her and we won’t be too fond of you either.

Romantics everywhere have been convinced that Mer/Der are the real deal — and we desperately need to believe that the real deal still exists somewhere outside of our own happy marriages (my case, Mr. Duck is a sweetie) – or for others, that it will exist for them in their next boyfriend, husband, wife, lover or partner.  The danger in Shonda convincing us that Mer/Der are the real thing is that if Der cheats, it means they’re not.  And yeah, McDreamy would become the doc we love to hate and hate having loved, but he’d take Shonda and her show right with him — especially if it turns out this is Dempsey’s ticket off the show and onto the racetrack.

Making viewers love the lovers made Grey’s Anatomy a television phenomenon and keeping viewers in love with the lovers has kept Grey’s at the top. Breaking viewers’ hearts will send Grey’s on a shark-jump to television infamy.  And I hope that Shonda is smart enough to stay far away from turning Grey’s into Heartbreak Hospital.

Here’s one Grey’s viewer who will be watching next week to see what rabbit Shonda pulls out of her hat this time.  And if there’s no rabbit?  #TGIT will mean – “Thank God It’s Thursday” because I can write all night.  And I’ll take special care to keep my readers heart-whole and cheering for love.

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Hi guys, it’s the Angry One, making a small contribution from the storehouse of dysfunction that is Crazy Duck Lady’s husband’s brain.

Over a decade ago, I used to write little comedy bits for websites here and there. They are all gone now, but I’ve managed to dredge up a few little things from my packrat hard drive. A couple of them I’ve put on the blog here already, but there was one series in particular that I enjoyed writing – the story of Ogg and Linda, caveman and wife.

I used a lot of my own experiences with women and the funny differences between them and the male half of the species for material. After a marriage lasting over 25 years and interaction with women on a daily basis at the workplace, the comedy almost wrote itself.

This particular story came from my helping the ladies of the one of the departments in my workplace move their offices around.

There are some things in our climb from the swamp to the stars that will never change for women, one of those things being a dissatisfaction with all arrangements of furniture…

(more…)

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I was never a country music fan — until recently.  I discovered an affection for country music after I switched my reality-music-TV watching from “American Idol” to “The Voice.” I wasn’t very far along into watching “The Voice” before Blake Shelton’s easy-going, strong as satin-wrapped steel demeanor struck enough of a chord for me to go into my Amazon Prime account and check out his music. And Blake connected me to country.

Why I had no appreciation for the genre before, I can’t say.  A whole lot of country music speaks of life with a “Southern Voice” (Love that one by Tim McGraw, BTW). My Southern eyes see life just that way.  I’ve always adored Beach Music, the tunes to which Carolina Girls (Love that one by General Norman Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board) shag.  The shag is the official state dance of South Carolina because its a step that was, like me, born and bred in the Palmetto State.  Music connected to the South has always held an appeal for me, but for some reason, that didn’t hold true for country.

Growing up, my neighbors and family liked country music and laughed at my love of rock and roll. It was scorned as “the devil’s music.” During my college years, most of us went out to clubs that played rock and roll, disco, and beach music.  The clubs that played country were the haystick places where you didn’t go unless you were armed and appreciated watching a good bar fight.  My musical tastes matured as I grew, but somehow that never, ever included country music until “The Voice” introduced me to that “Playboy of the Southwestern World”, Blake Shelton.

Blake’s evangelism for the genre made me wonder how I’d never appreciated it before. Mr. Shelton speaks fervently of how country must be felt before its sung and of how it can only be sung well if it comes from the heart. Most great country songs revolve around the same core as my books – love, in all its good, bad, ugly and life-affirming variations.  It might be first love, back seat “love for tonight,” brokenhearted love lost, love never returned or forever love found – but if its love, there’s a country song with lyrics that tell the tale. (Blake’s amazing wife, Miranda Lambert, has one about a “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” that delights an insane duck lady.  Any song that celebrates crazy is a good thing. I think Loretta Lynn said that first. )

There are country songs that celebrate having fun, loving family, appreciating friends and having a drink or ten while you’re doing it.  But I’ve come to realize that other than a love for pick-up trucks,  the rebellious, raucous, loyal-beyond-a-fault country attitude describes my approach to life and writing. And it was something I was closed to – an automatic shut-off valve in my brain activated whenever a country song came on the radio.  That was ‘change the station’ time.  Now, I listen, enjoy and appreciate.

How much of life do we miss if we have automatic shut-off switches?  Whether it’s different ideas, different values, different views of life or love – why not let it in enough to consider, to ponder,  to evaluate?  There is much absolutely abhorrent out there, and I’m not advocating that we accept or endorse every idea floating around the universe.  I’m just saying that what we should “shut off” are those switches that deprive us of the opportunity to grow and learn and to become and to keep becoming as long as we’ve life left to live.

Lots of folks who love country music may have their automatic shut-offs programmed to screen out over-the-top, avidly erotic tales of love between a man and a woman (Mary Anne Graham titles) or between two men (Olivia Outlaw titles – to date, but Olivia will expand too).  Well, a whole bunch of those folks are missing some stories that will read a lot like a country song sounds.  In my author’s voice they’ll recognize familiar notes sung in a different tone. If they give it a chance, their worlds might grow a little too, just like mine did when NBC’s “The Voice” and country charmer Blake Shelton convinced me to override my shut off valve and re-consider country music.

I see it now — my books read a lot like a Blake Shelton song sounds – and that’s a very good thing.

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I went to see the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie and left feeling disappointed and decidedly unmoved.  It was well-filmed, well-written and well-acted, but it didn’t do justice to the book or its readers. Why?  Come on – if you saw the movie then you know the answer. There was no sizzle, no spark – no chemistry – between Christian and Ana. And the sizzle sells the story. Without that spark, the film fell flat.

I think some of that and perhaps a lot of it is due to the control the book’s author insisted upon exercising over casting.  Rumors are rampant that the author is demanding even more control over the sequels.  If she gets it, then there is no point in making the films. And that’s true even if Erika Mitchell (E.L. James) has a background as a film assistant and a television executive.  Even if the author has a background directing or producing movies, she must step aside from her book’s movie.

A story belongs to the writer when it lives only on the hard drive of the writer’s computer.  As soon as it leaves that safe, secluded nest, a story belongs to the readers – or its movie producer, director, screen-writer and actors. If the author doesn’t let it go then it won’t grow into something that lives, breathes and inspires. The book will be like the child who never leaves home.

In casting the movie, particularly, the author should not – absolutely should not – be involved.  A writer developed a vision of her characters that helped her tell their story.  Because her vision was so strong, she believes her readers saw the characters in the same way.  The author believes that if the characters appear in any way other than the way she wrote them then the story will not work.  The author convinces herself that she owes it to her readers to be sure that any film adaptation will feature only actors who look the part. The author is lying to herself, of course.  Every reader sees the story differently, and a film producer, director and script-writer will have their own vision. That’s the story they must tell — not the one written in black and white by an author. The author’s story inspires the movie, but it can not confine the movie.

It never mattered that the actors playing Christian and Ana looked the part because Hollywood is like a fairy godmother.  It can turn a black actor white, a white actor black, and a human into an alien.  It can surely turn blond, red-headed, or black-haired actors into people who look like Christian and Ana. But Cinderella’s fairy godmother could do more than dress her for the part,  and Hollywood can do no more than turn out players ready for the play.  Chemistry can’t be created.  All the amazing special effects in the film-maker’s arsenal can’t create the special human magic that either occurs or it doesn’t.

In “Fifty Shades of Grey” – the movie – the magic spell was never cast because it never existed between the actors. People who watched the movie without having read the books were left wondering one thing:  What kind of idiot female would dance to a tune played by a stalker with a God complex? Without the chemistry, the love between the characters never sold the story.

When an author’s book is made into a movie,  there is only one place the author belongs — in the audience.  The creative team making the movie must be allowed the freedom of spirit and independence of action that must occur to allow them to create a visual depiction that carries a viewer the way a good book carries a reader.  The creators aren’t telling the writer’s story.  They are showing the story that played in their heads, in their hearts, and in their spirits – while they read the writer’s tale.  They are readers with cameras and make-up brushes, with scripts and director’s chairs.

A story told well will create a different picture for every reader, shaded and contoured by the reader’s own beliefs and experiences. Most readers can not take that picture and translate it into a film that moves the viewer. Making a movie is a creative act and every member of the team is an artist in his or her field. An author must respect the creative process enough to get out of its way.

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Dear readers and authors everywhere – Shall we break out the champagne? The royals have thrown open the castle gates to admit within the sacred walls the indie authors who dared to take their work directly to the people. Post Indie Revolution the eyes of at least some of the royals are opening to realize that in depriving writers of a chance, the gatekeepers also deprived the royals of a choice. It’s a new day, and in the dawn of the light of freedom and possibility, the crown lies where it has always belonged — upon the head of the reader whose finger hovers over the buy button.

Yes, publishers are blinking and as their eyes adjust to the blinding light of the new dawn, they are seizing some of the control they formerly ceded to literary agents.  Check this out:

Publishers are playing literary agents at their own game, seeking out new talent for themselves and cutting out the industry’s powerful middlemen.

Executives within HarperCollins, Jonathan Cape, Little, Brown, and Tinder Press are inviting “un-agented submissions”, marking a dramatic cultural shift for an industry having to readjust to developments such as self-publishing, as well as the often huge advances demanded by agents for coveted titles.

“Publishers Bypass Literary Agents To Discover New Talent”, The Guardian, Dalya Alberge.

I’m not a’tall surprised to find that one of the leaders of the new movement in publishing shares the name of a certain duck lady.  Mary Anne Harrington of Tinder Press, Headline publishing’s literary imprint noted that in relying upon gatekeeping literary agents, perhaps publishers have been “drowning out other, fresher voices.”   You think?  It figures that one of the first publishers to get a clue would be blessed with a duckly moniker.  Quack back at’cha Mary Anne Harrington.

Another ‘got a clue’ lady has a different name – but hey, we can’t ALL be named Mary Anne, can we?  Katie Espiner, a publisher at HarperCollins imprint, Borough Press, awoke in the bright sunlight to an epiphany – she was allowing other people to make her decisions. She promptly held an open submission that discovered a promising new author because:  she wouldn’t allow other people to make her choices for her in any other area of her life.

The gate-opening trend among publishers has prompted some literary agencies to cast a wider net – but at least one is doing it with a Jekyll and Hyde mentality.  Agency Curtis Brown is holding a writing course that has discovered 15 debut novelists over the last 2.5 years.  Yet the chairman of that very same agency, Jonathan Lloyd, retains enough of the royal mentality he acquired working at HarperCollins during the Castle era to remain skeptical of publishers actually making their own choices.  Lloyd said, publishers “don’t have the resources, time and energy to deal with the flood of manuscripts that they’re going to get. And they won’t be filtered.”

I’m happy that publishers are finally descending from their ivory towers to seize their companies’ destinies in their own hands. And I’m delighted that literary agencies are awakening to discover that they have to get out and find the talent because writers no longer crawl to their doors in such great numbers.  But I’m still one of those writers who left the beggars’ line at the dawn of the indie revolution.  I don’t even own a hat and groveling on bended knees gives me leg cramps.

If a literary agent, publisher or big shot movie producer is insane enough to take a flier on romance or erotic romance by a crazy duck lady who publishes as Mary Anne Graham and Olivia Outlaw — I’m easy enough to contact. This blog has a “contact me” link in the upper right corner and I bet Amazon or D2D would be glad to steer any legitimate inquiries my way. Otherwise, I’ll continue to write my stories where lovers get the happy ending that reality too often denies.

Y’all keep reading and I’ll keep writing.

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