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I'm currently editing A Golden Forever, the sequel to Faerie.  Like all good sequels, it also stands alone as a book the reader could enjoy without reading any of the other books in the series.  And yes, when I say I'm editing, what I mean is, I'm re-editing.  Or perhaps, re, re, re editing.  Does any writer ever feel finished with the work?  Anyway, in the course of editing this time with the intent to e-publish, part of the story causes me a little concern.  

Golden  tells Viv's story of going to California's gold rush to fund a future independent of any man.  Of course, the Earl who sends her to California has his own agenda.  The Earl is using Viv as bait to reel back his son, Colton.  The son is a bastard half-breed who was abandoned once by the father as a child, and betrayed as an adult.  The P.C. issue arises with the son. 

Troubled heros can be trouble for writers too.  Colt was the result of his father's affair with an Indian maiden during the father's tour of the American west.  Colt's mother marries a tribe warrior who doesn't much like the half-breed who reminds him and his wife daily of the English noble the wife gave herself to and still loves.  Colt pays for that as a child and after his mother dies has to sell his body to widowed squaws for food and shelter.  Later, in England, he sells his body to ladies who want to sleep with the savage in order to get invited to their social affiars and to gain acceptance to the ton

The stories about the tribe are rooted entirely in my own imagination.  I selected a real tribe, the Crow, as the one to which Colt's band belongs.  Why the Crow?  It made sense geographically in the story.  I also researched the tribe and found they were much more open about sex and sexual issues than many other bands.  I consider that philosophy very positive.  I also consider it important to the story because it had to be a tribe where the women would have had enough power and self-esteem to take charge of their sexual needs - even if they did it in a way that hurt Colt.   Let's face it, they also helped Colt because he survived. Survival isn't always free and it isn't always easy.

That's where my fears about the P.C. police come in.  I proudly have Cherokee blood in my lineage.  My eldest son has golden skin year-round thanks to that part of our heritage.  We've taken the kids to the Reservation museum and the Indian Village in Cherokee, North Carolina.  The children have been taught to respect all of their heritage.  But some folks of Indian heritage object to things like names of sporting teams.  It's not an attitude we really understand in the South and none of that P.C. mania has ever taken hold here.

Many symbols of history and heritage hold mixed messages.  In my state, South Carolina, we honor those symbols for the heritage and leave the meaning to the beholder.  I worry that some of the groups may take aim at Golden  and see only part of the message.  Even so, I decided to leave the Crow tribe as the Crow tribe.  I thought of making up a name - perhaps the Eagle Tribe - but in its own way, that seemed more disrespectful.  I admire the open acceptance embodied in Crow principals. I wish the South had more of a grasp of accepting rather than judging, of opening doors rather than closing them. 

I'll put a disclaimer at the beginning of my book, advising the reader of my creative license, and urging them to visit the Reservations, study the tribe and hopefully come to respect its many accomplishments and achievements as well as its history of acceptance.  The P.C. police may come for me when I post the book, but I hope they won't.  I hope they will understand that the dangers of fighting creativity and literary vision far outweigh any benefits.   

A Golden Forever  should be posted -- or published -- soon at e-tailers around the web.  Check it out and let me know what you think. I suspect that how readers see the story may be as varied as how readers see some of those monuments and symbols.

History is as individual as the people who made it.  One size doesn't fit all.

I've found my muse to be a fickle creature.  Sometimes, I'll be working to finish one project and there she will perch, on my shoulder, luring me towards a new idea.  Other times, I'm in need of the right word or phrase or image and I can't find her anywhere.  She likes to strike when I least expect her.

That happened to me a couple of years ago.  I was at a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) Seminar.  I'd long ago decided CLE's are how the bar association mines money from its members on a regular basis.  After all, dues only get paid once a year!  SC is a mandatory bar state, so our bar gets its dues and it gets all that CLE money too. A 3 hour seminar costs several hundred dollars and lawyers have to have 14 hours a year. 

Anyway, in addition to mining for money, the seminars herd a group of lawyers who don't want to be in a room into the room.  We sit and fume and sit some more.  But a couple of years ago, the oddest thing happened. My muse showed up at a CLE!  A brilliant colleague was presenting a seminar on a statute none of us had heard of before.  The statute makes it a felony to entice a minor to commit a sexual act by e-mail. 

Mind you, all you have to do to commit the felony is press send.  A construction worker employed on a temporary job site can be playing around with his computer in Hilton Head, exchanging naughty messages with an older than her years Carolina teenager.  He might agree to meet her at Club "You're Screwed" the next night.  He doesn't go, and never intended to - he left to drive four hours to get home early the next morning.  Stupidity, but no actual intent to do anything.  It doesn't matter.  The communication is the crime!  (I won't bore you all with the group's collective opinion that the statute can not be constitutional).

Muse sat there and insisted I read the statute.  Lo and behold, at 17, a minor can consent to exchange naughty e-mails.  It puts the power in the minor's hand.  Before I got home that night, I'd composed a mental outline of my novel, E-mail Enticement.  It features a couple of trials centered around a romance between a 30 something billionaire and a 17 year old Carolina Girl.  I set it in Myrtle Beach where the billionaire owned a number of hotels - we have lots of those.  It presents a situation where the power that would normally be in the hands of the older man, landed squarely in the lap of the young girl. 

I had a blast writing E-Mail even if it was cursed by bad timing.  I finished it right before one of the Congressmen got in hot water for naughty e-mails to a page.  Sometimes, reality bites.  And sometimes, muses show up in the least likely places.

Bad timing and all, E-Mail Enticement is a great story about forbidden love, trials where truth is relative, reality may not be real and where power, like muses, can land in the most unlikely places. 

Give E-mail a read sometime.  My muse recommends it. She can be quirky, but she's not completely insane.  Me on the other hand...........

I don't see a priest or a confessional.  Heck, I'm not even Catholic.  Guess I'll just make the confession right here to all of you - I LIKE MIND HOPPING. 

There.  I said it.  Right out in the open.  Feels kind of nice to be out of the closet, or the hard drive. 

Whether it's the hero or the heroine, the protagonist, a second fiddle, a third fiddle or a maid who never laid hands on a fiddle, I want to know what they're thinking.  I'm a mind junkie.   If a character speaks, the words are out there for the whole room to process.  But if a character thinks something, but doesn't say it, then only he or she AND THE READER are privy to that inside knowledge.  And I like being an insider.

I want to know that even if the hero and heroine are hissing and clawing in public, that in private, they'd like to be grubbing and pawing.  I want to know that he finds the way she sometimes slips and pronounces R's as W's adorable.  I want to know that she'd like to brush that fallen lock of his raven black hair back into place with her tongue.  I want to know if the heroine's sister sees the secret looks passing between the lead couple and thinks they've done more than kiss, that her sister is in over her head, or that Da will go off the rails over the whole affair.

In real life, I wonder how daft my husband thinks I am.  I wonder if my eldest son would really hurt me if I snuck up on him during the night and shaved that abominable beard he's grown.  I wonder if my youngest lives inside his head as much as I think he does and where that amazing imagination might take him.  When I pick up a book, I don't want to have to wonder, imagine, or work out clues from dialogue and physical actions.

I want the author to let me know what the character thinks and feels.  That's much more important to me than how he looks or what she wears.  And by the great green toad frog, we all know that it's more important than what either of them says.  Let me inside the characters' heads and hearts so that I can understand.  As life kicks them around and love doesn't go their way I can care.  And when love and fate and karma smile and the characters overcome the obstacles to find their way to each other, I can cheer.  Then I can close the book and tuck it away in my "keeper" pile and recommend it to all my friends. 

All those books where the author wants me to decide what the characters are thinking or feeling from visual or verbal clues?  They remind me of business lunches where I don't know anyone.  I'm glad to get out as soon as I can and do it without the least desire to go back. 

When I'm at my computer crafting my own stories, I do my best to bring the reader along.  The mind hopping express departs daily from my hard drive.

ALL ABOARD!!

When is a book too graphic and when is it not graphic enough?

Erotic is in and these days, many if not most, romance novels feature some hot and heavy, sweating to the friction kind of action.  Authors handle the sex scenes differently.  But in one way or another, in books that are going to get down and dirty and in others where they'll hold out 'till they have papers on each other,  all of the writers will have to deal with the bleep factor. 

I got criticized by some publishing professionals early on for not calling it a c*ck or a p**sy.  Call it what it is, they said.  These days, readers want it straight up, no-holds-barred, graphic.  So,  I edited early work and used the terms in later stuff.  Later, I ran some of that work by groups of readers and other writers who said the terms jerked them right out of the stories.  Before I published anything, I had to reconsider this issue. 

I realized that some writers use the terms and use them effectively because those writers are comfortable with the language.  I was a wee bit uneasy at some of the terms, but mostly, I missed the creative opportunities, the out and out fun, I got from not calling it a bleep.  If I don't use the word, then I get to describe it or make up my own terms that can fit with what else is going on in the scene.  I decided graphic terms, whether they're for body parts or to describe the groping and grubbing sessions, work for the reader if they work for the writer. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to come off all prim and proper here. Heck, my day job is being a lawyer.  I've used the word d*ck for my hubby's package, sure enough, but I've also used it when describing certain other lawyers, judges, and the occasional client.  I've used it outside the office for the guy or gal who cuts me off in traffic and for the idiot who slows me down in line at the grocery store.  Those words fit real life occasions when I'm a little too stressed to be creative. 

In my writing, I have more fun not using those terms.  And if I have more fun, I hope my readers do too.  So this time, I think Shakespeare got it right.  A bleep by any other name is still a bleep.  It's just that sometimes, by another name it can be more and do more - it can make you smile, or make you think or sometimes, just sometimes, it can do both. 

No matter how much it will upset my college professors to hear an English major say this, I don't always agree with Shakespeare.  Like all that stuff about killing lawyers...not so much.  But hey, maybe that's just me  -- and all those I practice with, in front of or for, d*cks included. 

Let's save the in-your-face reality for the real world, when we need to be a little more graphic.  When we pick up a book, or better yet, a Kindle or a PC, (let's pick up lots of those) then we can enjoy the heated encounters, the dirty deeds and the knock-down, drag out fights by calling them what they feel like at the time.  Maybe some of those creative terms can find their way into our daily lives.  The next time somebody cuts you off in traffic or slows you down at the grocery store  try calling them a re-fried frog instead of a bleep.  At least, it'll make you smile.   

And let's not kill ALL the lawyers.

Some folks write great historicals that include very detailed information about the era in question. They'll include everything from specific accounts of political events to how cooks prepared meals in the Medieval Era, on the Western Frontier, or in Ancient Rome. Whether it's how they did laundry, polished armor, or got the Queen awake and dressed, I really don't care that much about it. If I want to know about political intrigue, I'll turn on the TV to one of the 24-hour news outlets. I have enough reality in my day to day life. That's not why I read.

I like to read - and write- books where history either sets the mood or sets the bar. The Regency period conjures images of one set of rules and expectations. A civil-war era Texas ranch or Charleston mansion conjures an entirely different set of images, rules and social mores. I find it fun to use history as wallpaper to set the mood and then bring in characters to knock down the wall.

It must be the Rebel in me, but I like to read and write about characters that push the limits and defy expectations. Of course, I enjoy it most when my hero or heroine is behaving badly because they're madly in love, or willing to break every rule to get back the one who got away.

 I admire writers who can construct carefully crafted historicals. I cheer for readers who have the patience to wade through them. They're not my cup of tea. I want to escape the details and routine of my life when I read or write. Give me lust and love, danger and desire, rowdy fights and ravenous make-up sex.

The real world lives at my desk, behind the wheel of my car, on the television news and outside my window. Keep it out of my books.

The big adage in publishing these days is "show not tell."  I think this adage misses a basic point about why some of us read romance.  I think it's caused many readers to keep searching for books like the great ones they used to read.  Eventually, they give up the search and stick to re-reading the classics.  So in the long run, "show not tell" means "look not buy."  I think it's cost the industry some devoted readers who have given up.

"Show not tell" means describe the characters about to kiss and describe the kiss itself.  The reader should figure out how the characters felt about the kiss from the description of the scene and the action. Woe be unto writers who dare to pop the reader into the character's head to experience the emotions of the hero and heroine!

Many of us read to take that mental journey with the characters.  If we want to see a kiss and read meaning and emotion from visual cues, then we we'll watch it on TV.  I want to know why the pair kissed, why it mattered that they kissed and how they felt about it.  I want to be inside the heads and hearts of the hero and the heroine.  I want to take the mind trip with both of them. 

Only in a book can you crawl inside the mind of a man who thinks love is a concept invented by women to conquer the male race.  Only in a book can you crawl inside the emotions of a woman so giddy with love that she'll face her darkest fear to stay in the arms of a lover.  But, of course, it's not just romance that gives tickets to ride the magic mind train.  Books will take you inside the head of a madman holding a knife, a victim about to be slaughtered, a pathologist doing the autopsy, a detective solving the crime and a juror returning a guilty verdict.

The best books are magic carpets that take the reader on an adventure in thought and deed.  I try to provide a little touch of that magic for my readers.  So if you're looking for a magic carpet ride, check out E-Mail Enticement, Brotherly Love,  or my upcoming historical, A Faerie Fated Forever. 

And keep the TV turned off.  After all, it can only SHOW you the kiss.

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A book cover has always been a marketing tool.  But with a paper book sitting on a brick and mortar shelf, the quality and impact of the cover art isn't the only selling tool.  The book has a physical presence and sometimes the art does too.  Keyhole covers and snazzy cut outs get to play with textures.  The cover is often what gets a buyer to pick up a book, but then the buyer can read a paragraph from the first chapter, the middle chapter and the last chapter.  It all combines to make an impact that makes a difference.

An e-book has to make the sale with the quality of the art first.  It has to catch the eye with more than a visual impact.  It has to carry the book's pitch clearly enough to hint at answers to the questions that the sample pages can't convey.  The art has to carry the author's message and it can't do it with texture or snazzy cut outs.  It takes a gifted artist to create an e-cover good enough to seal the deal. 

The artist who designed the covers for Brotherly and E-mail is a phenomenally creative soul who had the good taste and poor judgment to marry me.  I think my hubby did a great job with both covers because he cared about the message of the book and even bothered to learn some of the finer details.  My husband considers learning anything about a romance novel to be a sign of supreme love and a sacrifice beyond measure. (He never knew I spent so much time thinking of creative ways to refer to men's members.)  But beyond all else, he put his artistic talents to work to design a quality cover I'd be proud to have my name on anytime, anywhere.

I don't think authors of e-books always take enough time or pay enough attention to their covers.  In many ways, e-books are to publishing what no fault was to divorce.  And that's a mixed blessing.  Some good work can now get to readers that they could never have had the freedom to choose just a couple of years ago.  But just as no fault made divorce so easy that couples too often don't try to work on their marriages, e-books can make publication so easy that authors don't take the time to design the best image for their work. 

E covers matter more and we should all work to get them right. 

And to John, the creative genius unfortunate enough to be married to a (sometimes more than slightly) warped writer in lawyer's clothing, I love you very much -- and thank you.

Or at least, let's get on with it!

I've encountered a problem with several recent books by romance writers whose work I adore.  Too much back story.  Not only do I want to meet the hero and heroine early on, I want them to meet each other.  It's their interaction, chemistry and conflict that will drive me to read the book.  I think of it as the Grey's Anatomy requirement. 

On the pilot episode of Grey's some of the first scenes were Mer/Der.  The emotions of that first meeting have carried the show and kept me watching even when the couple was apart.  Because once they had the spark and sizzle, no matter who they're with or what they're doing, the S&S factor flavors every encounter.  I give Shonda Rhimes some props for kindling the fire and for being smart enough to keep the embers burning.

That's what I want from my books.  Even though Mer/Der got to the grinding and grubbing right away, a literary couple doesn't have to (and I really, really hope they won't) sleep together in the first 10 or even the first 50 pages.  By the time they have sex, I want to be emotionally invested.  On the other hand, I don't want to be so tired of details and history and minutia that I'm too bored to care much by the time they meet, greet and make it sweet. 

I'll take some history if I have to, but first, I need a spoonful of S&S to make it go down and keep me hanging around.