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.

1

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.

1

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.

Or at least, let's get on with it!

I've encountered a problem with several recent books by romance writers whose work I adore.  Too much back story.  Not only do I want to meet the hero and heroine early on, I want them to meet each other.  It's their interaction, chemistry and conflict that will drive me to read the book.  I think of it as the Grey's Anatomy requirement. 

On the pilot episode of Grey's some of the first scenes were Mer/Der.  The emotions of that first meeting have carried the show and kept me watching even when the couple was apart.  Because once they had the spark and sizzle, no matter who they're with or what they're doing, the S&S factor flavors every encounter.  I give Shonda Rhimes some props for kindling the fire and for being smart enough to keep the embers burning.

That's what I want from my books.  Even though Mer/Der got to the grinding and grubbing right away, a literary couple doesn't have to (and I really, really hope they won't) sleep together in the first 10 or even the first 50 pages.  By the time they have sex, I want to be emotionally invested.  On the other hand, I don't want to be so tired of details and history and minutia that I'm too bored to care much by the time they meet, greet and make it sweet. 

I'll take some history if I have to, but first, I need a spoonful of S&S to make it go down and keep me hanging around.

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

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

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

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

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

3

Amazon introduced the Kindle and it became the new "must have."  The device seems to be on permanent back-order, a status that didn't change even when Amazon announced it was about to introduce the Kindle 2.  Other companies, like Sony, have e-readers too, but it's Amazon that led the charge into a brave new world.  It was Amazon that told authors that if we wanted to publish our work, just upload it and they'd make it available on their site to all those Kindle owners. 

Wait -- there's a way to get my work out there and off my hard-drive without spending a fortune to self-publish?  I can, gulp, make my work available to actual readers?

As my husband would say --- CUE MR. BRICK!!!

Okay, I know that Amazon didn't introduce e-publishing.  It just gave it feet.  With the growing number of Kindle owners, soon, e-publishing may run.  When the app becomes widely available for cell phones, e-publishing may take wings and fly.  The possibilities percolated in my disturbed little brain and one day I turned to my hubby the computer guy and said - Give me a book cover

The first book I ever wrote, the one I wrote before I had any concept of the tight little rules in what the majors will and won't publish (Brotherly Love) became my first Kindle book.  After I uploaded it, I discovered the Mobipocket forum that formats and distributes e-books for PC and other online e-publishers to a list of great e-tailers. 

I wasn't surprised to read my Mobi contract (I am a lawyer) and learn that AMAZON OWNS MOBI.  So,  one writer who appreciates Amazon for being far-sighted enough to give everyone a forum and let the buyers decide what they want gives three cheers for Amazon.  Yip, yip, yipee!

Today the Kindle and Mobi, and tomorrow - the world.  The possibilities are endless, now that I've opened my eyes to see them.  Maybe it was all the publicity surrounding the new Kindle launch or maybe, it was a conspiracy between my hubby and his co-hort in crime, Mr. Brick.