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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"

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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."