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Fathers are a lot like movie stars.

They cast the biggest, the broadest, the most all-encompassing shadow in the house.  They inspire, motivate, de-motivate and terrorize.  And all too often, they do it all without ever trying.  The memory that sticks in my mind from my own family features my hubby and Zack, our eldest (now 18 and about to head off to UCF to college although Mommy isn't sure how she'll like the dorm room). 

Zack, as a combat crawler at the age when he should have been toddling, had a couple of challenges.  First, his Mom worried constantly that he might be hungry.  (She still does).  Today he can just give me the look, say he loves me, and leave the table.  As a creepy crawler, he didn't have that option.  So he was a big butterball of a baby and toddling presented size challenges.  Second, his own mental make-up, even at that little age, meant he didn't want to do anything until he could succeed.  He did his combat crawling while his peers held onto furniture and took lurching little steps. 

Then one day Zack's dad was in the kitchen and Zack and Mom were in the den.  Dad started whistling and Zack jumped to his feet and ran into the kitchen, chasing the man making the merry noise.  Yeah, his Father inspired his first steps without even trying.

...continue reading "An Ode To Daddy Dearest"

A quick blog post from sometimes sunny and sometimes stormy Orlando, Florida. I know what you're thinking, but no, we did not travel here to visit the mouse. My eldest, Zack - the braniac National Merit Finalist - was honored to receive a full scholarship to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. Their mascot is "The Knight." He'll be attending the school's outstanding Honors College, Burnett Honors College.

We've been in Orlando for a two-day orientation called, "The Knighting." It is now complete, and my son has registered for classes for the fall, pursuing an engineering major. He wants to go to Law School - like Mom. His Mom advised him to major in a "real" undergrad discipline where he could get a job. That was a 'do as I say and not as I do'  bit of advice. I majored in English. Many of my Law School classmates majored in either history or poli sci. With engineering, my son will have a leg up on construction, products and other very technical litigation. He can also get a job as an engineer and right now that would be easier than finding a job as a lawyer.

Zack is a smart kid and I'm very proud of what he's accomplished. I'm also very grateful to the outstanding educators at UCF who saw enough potential to give him a full scholarship. I'm confident he will achieve wondrous things and make UCF proud.

...continue reading "The Knighting Is Complete"

I've been stuck in the final lap for a while now.

Yep, I'm writing the final, climactic chapter of my new contemporary romance. The problem is that I've been writing the final chapter for a couple of months. It should have been long finished.  By now, I should have finished the new one, finshed a pre-publication edit of A Sixth Sense Of Forever - the sequel to Faerie and GoldenAND started on my next projectInstead, I keep getting side-tracked on tangents, writing pages of text over one weekend and not getting back to it until the next weekend.  Then, when I read it back over, I realize that it's all wrong - either wrong for the mood, wrong for the characters, or wrong for the story.  I hit delete and write the section over again.

I've been making myself write - at least on the weekends.  I know I should write something every day.  I used to do that.  It used to be that I couldn't wait to get home and write.  The words would be churning inside, just waiting to burst free. But these days, it's sometimes tough to write on the weekends.  The problem is that my muse has turned fickle.

...continue reading "In Uncertain Times, We Have to Work Harder For Happy Endings"

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Many of us imagine the perfect mother as some combination of TV matriarchs June Cleaver and Marion Cunningham. Those mothers and the ones so often portrayed in film and literature are happy, well adjusted souls. They act as the rudder, steering the family through the choppy waters of life. Society's image of "the perfect mother" is someone who puts aside her wants and wishes, her goals and ambitions, and focuses on those of her children or her spouse. In other words, to fit the mold, the perfect mother must be the perfect martyr.

I've never been much for molds. I don't like them for my characters and I don't like them in my reality. I've also never been much for martyrdom. If I'm nailed to a cross then I can't hug my kids. Hands down, I think hugging and frequent reminders that my love and my support are unconditional beats trying to guilt my two phenomenal sons (Zack -18- and Sam -11) into doing "the right thing." Who says it's the right thing anyway? The phrase makes my point - social norms make mothers into judges who decide absolute right and absolute wrong, who know that Junior must do this or that to be happy and productive but that doing the other thing would not only be wrong, it would make him miserable.

...continue reading "The Best Mothers Are Certifiable"

Currently, I'm awaiting two things and I'm not sure which causes the most tension.

Just published my FIRST paperback.  Brotherly Love  is available on Amazon.  The publication of an actual physical version of a book is a momentous occasion for any writer.  It's a dream come true.  Okay.  It's the K-Mart Blue Light Special version of a dream come true.  The actual dream come true would involve a NY publishing house, an editor, a literary agent and a book tour.  But, the great thing about being a writer today is that we can take the reins of our own destiny.  Thank you Createspace and Amazon. 

My listing just went live on the aforementioned literary mecca called Amazon and I'm anxiously awaiting my first sale.  Not that I'm clicking my Createspace member dashboard every few minutes or anything.  No.  Of course not.  (Yeah, right.)

The other anxiety producing event is that my husband is actually reading the book.  He's nobody's romance fan.  Just last night he told me that he might go postal if he ever read any versions of the words pebbled and nipples in the same sentence again.   I asked if he'd have the same problem looking at them.  He shot me a look. Yeah, one of those looks.  No dear, I'm not certifiable. 

So, I'm biting my nails to see whether my husband will be able to finish the book and come up with anything nice to say about it.  Can the man I've been married to for over 20 years and produced two people with find something non-nasty to say when he finishes my book?  If he finishes my book?   

I can hear it in my head.  It's the voice of the announcer from the soap I used to watch with my maternal grandmother.  Her grandchildren called her Mammy.  We  called my maternal grandfather Spot. Don't ask.  But anyway, Mammy and I used to watch a soap called "The Edge of Night" every afternoon.  That announcer's voice is in my head now. 

What's he saying?  It goes something like this: 

Will any patron of Amazon ever click the buy button and take delivery on Mary Anne Graham's firstborn paperback, Brotherly Love?  Will the man who with Mary Anne Graham created her first and second born sons actually read her entire book?  If he does, will he be able to say something nicer than, "It wasn't completely rotten." Or even - you dreamer you - "It didn't make me want to throw up."

Stay tuned women everywhere.  As for me, like I said, I'm biting my fingernails.

My toenails are even starting to look tasty!!

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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.

Dreams sometimes come true.  Once in a great while, Second Chances happen in real life too. 

The best duck in the pond swam home. 

Right now I'm working hard to deserve him.  Soon, I'll have time to address other topics.  My next post will call for everybody to board the mind hopping express - it's one of my favorite trains!

Stay tuned.  Same quacking time.  Same quacking channel.

I had the best duck in the pond but he swam away.

My duck had a tough year and I should have worked harder to support him. Instead, I let the pressure of bills and finances get to me and I quacked at him harshly. We all feel some stress from finances these days, but why didn't I see that what pond we swam in wasn't as important as that we swam together?

Some lessons get learned too late.

I hope my duck swims home soon so I can pet him and treat him like the special quacking partner he is. If he doesn't, I'll have to sharpen my bill so I can take care of any poaching female quackers until he does.

I have to believe he will. Second chances aren't just for romance novels.

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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.

I grew up in a little town in South Carolina that had a drive-in theater.  But, mind you, not a regular drive-in.  This one was special.  When my mother and my aunt drove in, my cousin and I were hidden under blankets in the back seat.  Why?  Because it showed those movies.  You know, the ones where someone moves into a new neighborhood and is greeted by the Welcome Wagon.  Before you could get back to the car with popcorn, the now naked new neighbor, the Welcome Wagon, the Postman, and the movers were grinding and grubbing all over the screen. 

(Try telling 2 pre-teen girls to sleep through that.  Also, try to explain why the forbidden children who were told to sleep were sent for the popcorn and returned with it without anyone calling the cops or Social Services.)    

The grubbing and grinding follies, if on a page instead of a movie screen, would be in the category "adults only."  I get that.  What I don't get is where the boundary begins.  When exactly does romance enter the "adults only" category?  Brotherly Love  and E-mail Enticement  both venture beyond the bedroom door.  In fact, both describe the physical encounters in graphic and - I hope - arousing, enticing and alluring detail.  Brotherly  contains a scene in a bordello with one man and several "ladies of the evening."   Neither book contains sharing of their coupling by the focal pair nor (darn it) bondage, sex toys, or overly unusual forms or foibles.  Does the writer's intent make the difference or does it take something more?  Help me out - what makes a book fit the adult only category?

By the way, I've categorized both Brotherly and E-mail  as adult only.  Does anyone have an idea whether that helps or hurts sales?  When I check out my books in the e-tailers, some (most) of the others in the same section make my stuff look and sound pretty tame.  So I got to wondering -- am I in the wrong neighborhood?

I'd appreciate someone getting out the clue gun and pointing it in my direction.