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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Grey's - The Finale.  Happy and sad and puzzling all rolled up into a two hour teaser to keep viewers wondering until next season.  I'll leave the pondering of Izzie and George's fates to others.  That's not what started me asking about the rest of the story. 'Twas the post-it vows and Shonda Sunshine's tease that did that. 

As you surely know, instead of making a trip to City Hall on a day when two friends' lives hung in the balance  - even if they didn't know about George yet - Mer/Der decided to get married by writing vows on a post-it note. Mer had suggested the quick trip to City Hall because she couldn't live another day without being married to Der.  He agreed, but later, it was Derek who came up with the idea that they'd write down the vows they wanted to make to each other on a post it note.  Then, he said, they'd be married.

They decided to vow:  (1) they would love each other even when they hated each other; (2) no one could leave or run away; and (3) they'd take care of each other when they were old and senile.  Kiss and tender moment and they left and proclaimed themselves married.  But of course, they aren't. I'm sitting in South Carolina where we have common law marriage where they could proclaim themselves publicly married and make it so.  Grey's is situated in the state of Washington where there is no such thing.  Mer and Der proclaiming themselves married does not make it so.

In an interesting interview with Ausiello of TV Guide, Shonda  Rhimes says that the post it wedding "will have big reverberations next season."  Now there, romance fans, is a REST OF THE STORY CHALLENGE. 

Anytime a man you want to marry suggests a post-it wedding, you should worry.  There are lots of shoes left to drop here. One is what they didn't vow - fidelity.  If Izzie and George do go off into the great beyond, likely more doctors will be brought into the mix.  They'd provide potential romantic threats for Mer/Der's unorthodox coupling.  There's the nurse Der slept with a couple of times - what if she was pregnant?  There's Der's ex off on another show that lots of folks think should return to this one.  On Private Practice, Addison has been flirting with a romance with a married man.  What if she returns to Seattle determined to get her man back and give marriage another try?  In real life, Ellen Pompeo is pregnant and if her character gets pregnant, there would be a lot of social pressure for a wedding and some issues for the couple to deal with like, whose last name would the baby have.  There will surely be pressure from staff and friends to make the marriage real which is likely to cause Mer to bow up, refuse and stir the pot some more.  Little issues, like last names on medical licenses loom as well.  What if there's another lawsuit or a trial with the one filed last season?  Mer couldn't claim marital privilege based on a post-it wedding. 

How would I write the rest of the story?  Der's Mom gave the couple her seal of approval and even passed along the engagement ring she'd never allowed Addison to wear.  But Mer (which I just do not find realistic) proclaims herself not a ring kind of gal. She's not wearing the precious heirloom.  Der's sisters don't like Mer anyway and once they find out she's not even wearing the ring - they may change Mom's mind too.  Implications?  Obvious and many.  The family may bring in some of Der's old girlfriends.  They may conspire to show Mer in a bad light.  They may push Der to demand a formal wedding which Mer's decided she doesn't want because they're already married.  I suspect the social pressure from the hospital will play a part along with some snide comments from Mark.  Insecurity on both sides will rear its ugly head because they don't really have papers on each other.  If Mer won't wear an engagement ring, will either she or Der wear a wedding ring?  That's bound to cause some internal friction between the couple.  I can see Der not telling his family about the "wedding" and Mer not understanding.  I can imagine his family's reaction when he does tell them.  Der's family is much more traditional.  A post it wedding?  Get real.  Clearly, they would say, he staged the farce because deep down, he didn't want to marry her at all.  Deep down, they'd say, he still considers himself wed to Addison, or wed not at all.     

Where's it all headed?  One possibility is that Mer will be pregnant on the show and it won't be a stable pregnancy - which would fit the character.  The medical challenges might bring Addison in for a consult and possibly even some of the temptation for Der I was discussing earlier.  Reunion sex is even a possibility given that a pregnant Mer would be moodier than a non-pregnant Mer and Der would likely spend most of his time reminding himself he promised to love her even if he hated her.  If Der's not the husband then Mer would call the shots with treatment.  And if it culminated in a life or death decision, then Der wouldn't have any legal right to tell the medical team to save Mer before the baby.  The one with the legal right to call the shots would be the next of kin, Mer's sister, or her designated "person" Christina or even Mer's Father.  Dramatic implications in that struggle are obvious.  It could end with a life or death scenario, with Derrick demanding one thing and the others demanding another.

The medical scenario works the same even if Derrick is in a life or death crisis.  His next of kin would be Mom, influenced by his sisters.  They'd have already had the tug of war - was there or wasn't there a wedding?  No priest or reverend, no license, no marriage Der's family would conclude.   In Der's case, he could be lingering in some unconscious state for which his family blamed Mer.  They might forbid her from even seeing him, calling for some in the staff to break the rules to get her into his room. 

With either scenario,  but especially with Derrick lying ill and near death, I can imagine a court battle between either Mer/Der and the family/friends over the wedding that wasn't. 

Shonda Sunshine says the post it wedding will cause big reverberations next season.  Now if that doesn't get your writer's imagination churning, I recommend a long vacation somewhere tropical with moonlight walks on the surf that end in some grown up games with waves lapping at your legs.  And other body parts. 

How would you write the rest of the story?  Game on, Grey's fans!!

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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"

1

Currently, I'm terminally indecisive about Mobipocket. I think there's something strange with my sales declining about when I'd have earned out royalty. But then again, I've been married to hubby the magificent for over 20 years. Likely, I've acquired his gift for seeing conspiracies around every corner.

I had deactivated my books on Mobi. But realizing that I may be seeing a boogeyman that's not there, I just reactivated.

I want to beat the invisible monster, but I also want to get my money. They're holding a sizeable chunk until I reach 150 Euros. Let's see how long it takes!

Personally, I'm counting the days until Smashwords starts their new affiliate program. Smashwords does something amazing. It pays the royalties writers earn every month. Imagine, if you earn the money, Smashwords pays you. What a concept.

2

The husband here, reporting for duty.

I have been doing other things besides reading my wife's book, Brotherly Love, believe it or not. Avoiding stabbing myself in the neck or running out in front of a Greyhound bus while screaming in terror, for instance.

Not a big fan of the romance genre. Sorry.

Anyways, one actual useful thing I've been doing is getting A Faerie Fated Forever ready for paperback. To be blunt, I never liked the original job I did on the cover design. It seemed a bit amateurish to me, which is strange because it was not the first one I ever did (that one was E-Mail Enticement). So I took the opportunity to change the front cover and make it a little more professional looking.

You should now see the new cover on our website, both in the sidebar and, of course, in the Complete List of E-Books page. I will look into how difficult it is to change the cover on the e-book sites. If it's worth the trouble, you'll be seeing the new cover on those as well.

And where else will you be seeing the new Faerie cover, you may ask? Why, on the paperback of course! The CreateSpace page is up for it already, but it won't be active until we get the proof copy and make sure everything is acceptable for you, the reader. The Amazon page selling the paperback will be up and running shortly after that.

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.