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!!

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.

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.

I've just published my novel, A Faerie Fated Forever.  It's up now and available at Mobipocket and partner e-tailers but is still "in the formatting loop" at Kindle.  It should be up on Amazon and available for the Kindle shortly. The setting is partly the Highland Isle of Skye in Scotland and partly Regency(ish) England.  It tells the story of Nial Maclee, a laird whose family labors under a faerie curse and of Heather MacIver, the local lass whose adoration of the laird is legendary and whose disguises to hide her unusual looks earned her the nickname, "Heather the hag." 

Faerie, and the two sequels that I've written already, were born from my perversion of a very famous legend.  I love Scottish tales and wanted to write one but wasn't sure where to start.  For inspiration, I searched the Internet for interesting historical tidbits about clans and found the one on Skye, the Clan MacLeod.  The MacLeods famously have the blood of faeries in their family line thanks to a long ago handfast or temporary (sort of) marriage between a laird and a faerie. 

In the MacLeod legend, after a year and a day, the faerie princess returned home, leaving behind the laird and their baby, Ian.  She made her hubby promise that he'd never let the baby cry.  For a long time, thanks to constant nursing care, the little one never cried.  But one night, Ian's nurses were lured away by a party and the baby cried.  His Mother came down from the land of faerie and crooned to him to soothe him.  She wrapped him in a cloth and told him the cloth was a faerie flag that could be used 3 times to call for help from the faeries.  The clan has the famed faerie flag at their castle.  It has reportedly been used twice and one use remains. 

...continue reading "The Rest Of The Story"

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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One thing I've always found curious is the reaction of other writers to age differences between lovers.   Most of them accept an age span as perfectly acceptable in historical romances.  If it's in jolly old England during the Regency era, then of course it's okay for a 17 year old female to find love with a decades older man.  However, move the characters forward to 2009 and suddenly it's wrong and makes them out and out uncomfortable. 

There is distance and time enough to justify the Regency. But put the same couple in today's world, and fears over what is and isn't socially acceptable change the dynamic.  I dislike and generally refuse to acknowledge most lines and labels.  Even if I didn't, books are the best place to explore, to push the boundaries.  If you're perfectly content to follow the herd, then why would you need fiction? 

In my novel, E-mail Enticement,  a 17 year old and a thirty something fall madly in love in a hot and steamy, read it with your favorite partner nearby kind of way.  He teaches her about hypocrisy and she teaches him that you're never too old to hurt.  They battle community opinion and the law and learn that redeeming some things means losing others.  In the story, age provides the barrier that love must overcome.

In Email,  Alix realizes that the calendar is only a function of how men count time.  Mother Nature gives maturity at her own pace.  That's one of the reasons I wrote the story.  Whether it's Regency England or modern day Myrtle Beach, one size doesn't fit all. 

Love doesn't have a watch or a calendar.

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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.