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!!

Announcement time from Mary Anne's husband here!

Thanks to the wonderful new technology of print-on-demand (or as they call it in publishing circles, POD), we now present to you Mary Anne's first book, Brotherly Love, in paperback form!

You may purchase Brotherly in all of its solid, material, flingable glory from two online POD publishers, Lulu and CreateSpace.

We will publish the remaining titles as paperbacks on CreateSpace and link them via our Complete List of E-Books section here on the Quacking Alone weblog. We published Brotherly as a paperback on Lulu before we realized the advantages of using CreateSpace instead - the main advantage being a lower price to you, the customer. It doesn't hurt that CreateSpace is an Amazon.com company either, and that they distribute books via Target Stores in some cases.

As always, we will still make Mary Anne's titles available as e-books through Kindle, Mobipocket, Smashwords, and Lulu. These are the quickest and most cost-effective means of getting content out to you, so we wouldn't dream of cutting off these channels to you technologically savvy romance lovers out there, what with your iPhones and Kindles and all.

I simply recommend that you don't hurl such expensive pieces of machinery towards somebody's noggin - buy a nice paperback for that sort of thing, mmkay? You'll thank me later.

UPDATE 04/30/2009: Remember what I said about Amazon.com? Well guess what? Here it is, the paperback on Amazon.

It's almost like being a new Daddy again. With more sleep and less baby spewage.

1

It's easy to read a romance novel and get caught up in all the big, bad brawls, the political intrigue or the business wheeling and dealing. You can see the men standing around and talking to each other about how they rule their roost and manage their woman. Often, of course, it's the bachelors boasting and issuing proclamations that they wish to wed a nice, biddable female. Any happily married man in the story will snort, guffaw or issue a vague warning --  you'll see. 

Those bachelors may get what they think they want.  If they do, they'll end up in a typical society marriage where they share a house and not much else.  If the bachelors end up happily married, they'll see that the women rule the house and set the pace.  And if the women do it right, the men won't mind a bit.  That's one type of female power.

Male power works like men's minds, men's interests, and men's bodies - it's open, obvious and hard to miss.  Female power works like women's minds, women's interests, and women's bodies - it's subtle, secretive and hidden. Men use their power to run governments and businesses.  It helps them build an empire and control it.  Women use their power to run men.  It helps them to rule the world softly, gently, and in the wonderful world of historicals, they do it without ever having to soil their tender hands with working outside the home. 

Where She Force is wielded in the hands of a good author, it defines and controls and does it without ever being obvious.  In Flame And The Flower  Brandon makes several vows of what he will and won't do, and by the end of the book, as a prior post addressed, he's broken them all but has arrived at the happier ever after he swore he never wanted.  In Johanna Lindsey's Mallory novels, Georgie gets James to break his promise never to wed by tying him in so many knots that he forces her brothers to force the wedding.  Amy gets Warren to trust women again, makes him compromise her, refuses to wed him if he's forced, and coerces him to propose properly.  In Nicole Jordan's Bride series three male best friends who don't want to marry meet three sisters who want to be independent.  The men chase the women, try to compromise the women and ultimately, it's the women who come to the men and make the marriages on their own terms. 

Female power works quietly and stealthily.  It's not motivated by force or will but rather by love and tender persuasion.  Which force is stronger?  All the loud, brash clashes of testosterone in the world can't compete with the soft force that changes men's vows, aims and goals and ultimately shapes the world.  She may do it over the breakfast table or in the bedroom, but look behind any happily married man and you'll find the woman shaping the policy, making the rules and defining the world.

Today, many -most (me too)- women are forced to be out in the everyday working world.  A lot of us would like to be like those ladies in historicals, working our magic from behind the scene.  Perhaps that's part of the charm of regencies and historicals - they paint a world we'd like to live in.  And why would we like to live in an age where men held the power?  Because we know they never did.

Or rather, in historicals, men held the power women didn't want.  It freed ladies to shape and manage the power they wanted, and to exercise it from the homes, the worlds, they built.  Economy has forced most of us out into the greater universe.  We should go there recalling that behind the shouts and shoves of men lurks the quiet intensity of women whose work makes the world go round as surely as it allows life itself to continue.

And when the working world gets to be too much, and the shouting and shoving makes us want to rip our hair out by the roots, we can pull out a romance novel and take a refresher course.  Then, with revived strength, recharged batteries and the recollection that the brash efforts of male employers or co-workers will never, can never, erode our She Force, we quietly keep ruling the world. 

The next time you read your favorite romance novels, or treat yourself to a new one (My new book, Golden, is an excellent example of female power)  look behind the obvious and notice how the women exercise their power.  The next time you're in the working world, notice how many of the men's decisions are really made by women laboring quietly at keyboards, running the show from behind the scenes.

She Force beats He Force every time and does it without ever letting the men realize that women run the world.  But then again, the smart ones do know.  Remember the happily married man talking to the boasting bachelors I mentioned at the beginning of this post?  He could tell the bachelors the secret truths behind "Yes, Dear."   But likely he won't.  He'll let them figure it out on their own and we get to enjoy each man's lessons, one page at a time.

Hi people, it's Mary Anne's hubby here. I just wanted to announce to the regular readers of this blog (both of you) that we're not just twiddling our thumbs here, we are making substantial efforts to bring Mary Anne's books to you in physical form, like with molecules and all that jazz.

The digital (i.e., electron-only) forms of her books will still be available, of course, but I know a lot of you out there are much like me - it ain't real if you cain't throw it towards somebody's head. So for us Luddites (yeah, I'm an IT guy who's a Luddite - it's like an Amish electrical engineer), Mary Anne is going to have paperback, print-on-demand versions of her books.

This involves a little effort from Yours Truly. And by a little effort, I mean a backbreaking Sisyphean task that will have me cursing like a sailor and consulting my friend Mr. Brick on exactly how to shatter the skulls of programmers who made the software involved in this brand new form of self-publishing.

So hang on kiddies. New things are coming your way! And if you're lucky, they're not hard and brick-shaped...

I recently commented to a post on Romancing The Blog where the author mentioned some of the first romance novels she'd read.  I believe she referenced the term "bodice rippers" and mentioned genius and genre matriarch Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and her book, one of my all time favorites, The Flame And The Flower.   It's considered, I believe, a politically correct way to refer to the book.  In my humble and not a'tall revered opinion, the politically correct reference fits Flame  as well as a shoe fits a flounder.

Flame starts with power appearing to be firmly in the hand of the hero, Brandon Birmingham.  He thinks Heather Simmons is a prostitute when he meets her and takes her aboard his ship on his first night in London. Despite the misconception, what Heather makes Brandon feel compels him to spend the time in London searching for her.  He's determined to set her up as his mistress,  even though he'd arrived with the intent that this would be his last voyage.  The power has already begun to shift.

When Heather's vile Aunt and ineffectual Uncle find out she's pregnant, they transport her from their little village to London.  A friend of her late Father's, a politician with power, seizes Captain Birmingham and threatens to impound his ship and imprison his crew if he doesn't wed Heather.  We never hear him mention that he's engaged to a woman back home, a fact that might have swayed the politician.   Brandon allegedly capitulates to the threat and marries the girl.  Of course, any reader who's been paying attention already knows the Captain not to be the kind of chap to be bullied so easily.  Why does he wed Heather?  He already knows he can't lose her and never intended to sail away from her forever.  The threat didn't motivate the marriage, Heather did that, all on her own.  The power shifts a little more.

Still, the Captain has a temper and he is, after all, male, so he tells Heather she shall have no more of him than he's been forced to give already.  In other words, they shall not share a bed as man and wife.  But Heather's not the kind of lass a man can wed and forget so easily.  Before they leave port to sail for Brandon's home in Charleston, her allure and beguiling ways challenge his vow.  He's promised never to touch her, intended never to want her, but each minute in her presence sharpens the claws of desire and need and things he can't admit to yet.  The power is shifting fast and furiously.

After the couple is back in Charleston, as Heather settles into her public role as wife, the claws digging into Brandon grow into spurs and then swords.  Although the Captain claims Heather will never share his bed, while she is too heavy with child to satisfy him, when he takes a trip up North to sell his ship and staff his mill, strumpets offer to share his bed but Brandon says no.  He's faithful to the wife who doesn't share his bed.  Who's holding the power at that point?

A sufficient time after Heather bears their son, Brandon "demands" his husbandly rights but Heather turns the tables on him.  When the lord of the manor enters the room, he doesn't see his wife at first, and fears she's run from him.  She hasn't.  In fact, she's taken control of the encounter just like she's taken control of their relationship. 

Female power differs from male power in as many ways as men differ from women.  My next blog post will talk a little more about the essence of female power.  But for now, consider that in Flame  Ms. Woodiwiss puts all the apparent, all the traditional power in male hands.  However, all of the hidden but far stronger REAL power over the relationship, the household and how the couple meets the world ends up in Heather's feminine hands.

Flame And The Flower may meet some of the P.C. Police's standards for a bodice ripper in that it does deal with sexual power plays.  The problem with the definition and with the P.C. Police generally is a tendency to look only at the surface and to judge the surface armed with "their" labels.  In the minds of the P.C. faction, power can only mean one thing and it can only land in the hands of the one who rips the bodice.

Sometimes the real power lies in the hands of the heroine whose bodice got ripped.  It may be his game, but she's gonna play it her way.  That means, she won before the first seam got torn.

If you've never read The Flame And The Flower (shame on you), then you should pick up a copy today.  Like the defining classic of the romance genre it is, it stands the test of time without showing a single wrinkle.  It's had a place on my saver shelf for years and if you buy it today, it'll be on yours tomorrow.

2

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.

First - To my Hubby:  I cite a loophole in our Grey's Anatomy deal. I get to leer at Patrick Dempsey for an hour a week.  Two hours on special occasions or when Shonda Sunshine so decrees.  There's no clause about blogging.  So there!

This is a post about Grey's Anatomy that's not about Grey's Anatomy.  It's an ode to Shonda Rimes and her writing team.  It's also an ode to every writer who gets the big one right.  Sometimes that includes me.

How to set the scene for the proposal?  Most of the time it's all led up to this.  It started with that first meeting when the dynamic duo eyed each other for tender spots where a knife or a high heel would do the most damage. By the second meeting they notice tender spots that would taste just right.  A few rounds later, they can't be in the same room without battling the urge to rip off clothes and find the most tender spot of all.  After all the angst and the obstacles, the hope and the despair, he finally plans to ask the M question because he has to.   You know what else he has to do?  He has to get it right.

True, he has to get it right for him, for her, for them.  But most of all, he has to nail it for the readers or viewers who laughed and cried with them, who suffered and soared with them.  They rooted for the romance, believed in it even when the dynamic duo had boogled on to other people.  Those readers and viewers watched each of the pair waste time on wrong people and got through the rocky times by imagining the duo reunited, picturing the pivotal moment when two agree to become one. So when the moment arrrives, the hero has to make it McDreamy.

What Grey's showed is that perfect may be perfectly wrong.  Had Derek proposed in Meredith's bedroom, surrounded by roses, he'd have gotten it right by storybook standards, but not by the standards of his story.  He might have even gotten the wrong answer.  Surely, Mer would have wondered why he didn't know she wasn't a rosy kind of gal.  In the end he figured it out - Mer's more elevator than rose petals, which is one of the reasons she's perfect for him.

Making it McDreamy means making it fit the characters and the arc of their romance. For Grey's, since it was a planned proposal, that meant location, location, location.  Only a few I can think of would have fit.  He could have popped the question on the barstool at Joe's.  He could have asked in a supply closet or on call room.  The second best place would have been THE exam room he chased Mer to at the dance. But yeah, given the overall history, that elevator was perfect.  And forget the roses, the scans were the best dark and twisty bouquet.

In thinking about this post, I realized that so far, I've written only one planned proposal.  The others have occurred rolling around in the mud, under a cloud of circling glass from all the bottles polished off the night before, in a hospital bed (not from being cut by the glass) and in a gazebo after a quick dash to change clothes.  The planned proposal wasn't even traditional.  It was under a willow tree with a fully set table - white cloth and all.  But it was outdoors with servants holding back an angry horde.  Now that's romance.  In the story, yeah, I hope so.

Guess what it all means is that romance is as different as lovers.  My McDreamy might be your McNightmare. Hopefully not in my books though.  There, I hope that like Shonda, I get it right.  Kudos to Ms. Rimes and her diabolical minions!!

"Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in."

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.