Monday, December 21, 2015

Going Bump in the Night

You Won’t Believe This, But . . .

    Since my Mind’s Eye series deals with psychics and spirits, I’m often asked if I really believe in ghosts. I can tell you, in no uncertain terms, that I do. Mainly because of what I’ve experienced at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, AR.
    During that particular weekend, my friends and I heard about a room that the hotel wasn’t renting out because everyone who had stayed in that room awakened to find that the doorknob had been removed from the inside. The hotel staff would come to the rescue and open the door for them and replace the doorknob, which was often found by housekeeping under the bed or in the closet. We speculated that guests were pulling a prank to bolster all the ghost stories surrounding the hotel. However, we decided to find the room in question.
    After midnight we went to the designated floor and crept down the hall. The room was at the far end of it. Halfway down the corridor, all the lights went out. It wasn’t pitch-black. We could make out each other in the dim light cast from the moonlight streaming through the window. Giggling, we were making “ooooh-aahhhh” noises to each other when we realized it was getting very, very cold! So cold that we could see our breath fogging the air. I remember shivering and wondering, What the heck?!
    My girlfriends and I stared at each other, round-eyed and quivering, as realization dawned. Was there a spirit near us? I could hear my pulse booming in my ears and I hugged myself to ward off the chills and sudden fear.
Then, with a soft pop, the lights all came back on and the area instantly began warming up. Within a minute, it was all back to normal.
    Except we weren’t.
    Like the chicken we were, we ran from that hallway and couldn’t wait to get into our room a floor below. We sat up most of the night jabbering about our experience and asking ourselves over and over again, “Did that just happen?”

That’s just one odd experience I’ve had in Eureka Springs. Don’t even get me started about the cafĂ© table that rose up and floated!


Friday, November 20, 2015

Birth Announcements

The Birth of a Notion
    So, writers start off with an inkling . . . a notion, if you will, of a story . From there characters are created and placed within the story outline. Scenes are imagined. Dialogue is designed. Places are positioned. A book blooms and comes to fruition.
    Then the real labor begins. Pushing that baby out so people can see it! Unlike the birth of a child, when people gather around to “ooh” and “aaah” and strangers say, “Can I see your baby? Let me see your baby,” a book’s birth is a lonely chore. Few if any people arrive uninvited to praise your newest production.
    Listen, I used to think I had it bad when I birthed a book for a print publisher like Harlequin or Avon. I had autograph parties and I went to book signing after book signing. I visited bookstores and put my books at eye level. This was NOTHING compared to what ebooks writers go through. At least with printed books they are out there. Everywhere. Every bookstore (although bookstores are disappearing fast!) and every library. With ebooks, if you don’t let people know – one by one – then your book will be read by a handful of people who actually know you or are related to you.
   Money begins flying out from PayPal for blog tours, advertising, contests, etc. You spend hours writing to blogs and asking them (how to ask without sounding as if you’re begging when that’s what you’re doing – BEGGING?) to read and review your book. Of course, they already have their favorite authors (and it’s always a long list) and they don’t have time to read or review anyone else. They will be happy to post an excerpt for a small price (which all adds up over time to be a big price – often you end up spending more than your book made in sales). Or they are already part of an author’s “posse” and too busy promoting her books, leaving no time for yours.
    And so here I am. Trying not to beg, but failing. Asking you, “Want to see my baby?” “Will you read my baby?”

   Pretty please?
   It's pathetic, really. But necessary. So, the next time you see a mention about a book on Facebook or get an e-mail about a book's release, don't sigh and hit delete. First, think to yourself, "Poor dear," and then read the e-mail or message, consider supporting that author by buying the book, and (this is the important part) WRITE A REVIEW on Amazon or wherever the book is sold.
   I heard the wonderful author Pat Conroy say one time that every year he purchases a book of poetry, a book by an author he's never read before, and a debut novel. I think that's a wonderful goal as a reader and I try to follow through and do the same every year. It does my reader's heart good.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Perfection, Please. NOT!

Perfect Is Dull

  Good books have good conflicts – both internal and external.
  When I created the main characters my Mind’s Eye series, I purposefully gave them numerous flaws and both internal and external problems because these characters had to fuel several books. I had planned on three novels for sure – and possibly more.
  One reviewer was reluctant to read the first two because I mentioned that my hero struggled with his feelings for the heroine and wasn’t sure he could be faithful to her. This completely turned off the reviewer, even though I explained that the hero was actually in love with the heroine, but he was trying to keep up some defenses because he expected her to leave him. Conflict. That’s what that is – character conflict that is rooted in past experiences.
  The reviewer’s stance made me think that she was missing out on a lot of good books! If the hero had to fall madly in love with the heroine and have no qualms or insecurities about it, then it’s all on the heroine to fuel the conflict. How is that fair? I suppose the heroine has to be the same way – in love and sure of it. So, where’s the conflict? Has to be all external, which can be less than stellar.
  However, I understand some of these “I won’t read a book that has . . .” reader rules. I used to say I would not read a book with a love triangle or one where the hero does dastardly things. I have since read those and enjoyed them! A good writer can destroy your preconceived notions and "rules" about what you think constitutes a tale well told!
  So, if you’re setting up reader rules – be careful. You’re missing out on the “spice” of trying something new. Give writers a chance to win you over! Allow them to court you. Maybe you’ll spurn them in the end, but at least you will have tasted something sinfully different.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Art of the Steal

I Love That -- I'm Stealing It.

Have you ever read something over and over again because it's beautifully written? I have. As a writer, sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes it's a bad thing.

Good thing: you're struck by the emotion or imagery it evoked, so you read it several times because you want to remember it.

Bad thing: it's lovely, but it pulls you out of the story and makes you think about that sentence or wonder about that word. Anything that makes you step out of the story and ponder whether that word is right or what the phrase means or why the character is thinking that or saying that stops your flow.

Every writer has read something and thought, I love that. I'm stealing it. Yep. Stealing is plagiarism and plagiarism is bad, bad, very bad. But that's not what most writers actually do when they "steal something." What they do -- and what I do -- is they take the inspiration and use it, giving it our own little twist.

For example, I might read a sentence such as "His gaze danced across her skin and she felt every step, every turn, and every dip." I might like that and think, I'm stealing that. Then in the book I'm writing I pen, "His sloe-eyed gaze sambaed over her face and body with a slow, sexiness that increased the tempo of her heartbeat."

It's not the same sentence, right? But it was inspired by what the other writer penned. That's what "stealing" is to most writers. What we're actually doing is writing something that was triggered by a good piece of writing composed by someone else. It's actually a compliment, even though the other writer will probably never know about it.

When you get into trouble is when you actually rip off someone's writing, word for word. There have been some famous cases of this and they're all tragic to me. Why? Because it means that writer was in such a funk that he or she deserted his/her own integrity. Often, it's a financial thing. A deadline is on them and they haven't completed the work, so they start "borrowing" plot and dialogue from someone else's work, thinking that no one will notice.

Someone always notices, though.

Be inspired by other works and use them as springboards to better prose. If you like how a scene progresses in a book, try a similar scene in your book -- without looking at the inspirational scene as you craft your own version. Looking at the other writer's scene will hamper your own creativity. It's enough to remember how you felt as you read the scene and then try to create that same feeling yourself in your own work.

"Steal" the feelings and the level of excellence, but never the actual words. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

50 Shades of Shame

Shame On You!

Every so often I see comments from women about hiding the cover of the book they're reading or liking their Kindles because no one can see what they're reading. This never fails to infuriate me!

I'm hyper sensitive to this kind of thinking because at the heart of it all, I'm a romance reader, writer, and lover! Therefore, I have been and continue to be subjected to titters, grins, eye rolls, and sneers when I tell someone what I'm reading or writing. This happened to the extreme (and still does) when I was reading (and re-read) the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and watch the film. Not only do men grin like perverts when I tell them I love those books, but women often smirk or shake their heads and say something like, "Oh, my God! Really? You're reading that?!" Yes, judgmental, narrow-minded biddy, I'm reading that -- and for about the 10th time, too!

Even in my salad days when my tongue wasn't as sharp, having not been honed yet on many an unsuspecting tsker, I resented and squirmed inside when people pooh-poohed my writing and reading preferences. I also noted with chagrin that when men were published in romance they usually went mainstream and were given more credibility. That still happens today. I'm sorry, but I don't believe for one second that Nicolas Sparks is a better romance writer than most Harlequin novelists. But he has a penis, so he is placed on a different level, not only by book reviewers, but also by a lot of readers! That really gets me fired up!

It's high time, ladies, to stop being ashamed of what you read! Do you ever hear men trying to hide the fact that they're reading books about war and violence or that they're reading Louis L'amour or Tom Clancy books for the second or third time? No, of course not! Even when men read pornography or buy Playboy magazines, they are hardly ever questioned about it. You know why? Because boys will be boys . . . they get a pass by society.

Stop making excuses for what you read and, for heaven's sake, stop hiding it. I don't give a hoot who sees what I'm reading. I carry around my copy of Fifty Shades proudly. When men snicker, I say,  "Are you intimidated? You should be." (That's a little something I ripped off of Mr. Grey himself!) When women look at my reading material as if it's covered in feces, I tell them, "Hey, hon, don't knock it until you've tried it. Whoever you're sleeping with will thank you for reading this!"

I love romances. I love to read about two people meeting and falling in love and becoming better people because of it. I refuse to apologize for enjoying this kind of story or writing this kind of story. I'll apologize for awkward sentences, typos, and other writer goofs, but not for the story. Uh-uh. Nope. No way.

And you shouldn't either!

But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong (but in this case, I'm not!).

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Falling for Levi

A Man Worth Knowing

Creating Leviticus David Wolfe was a labor of love for me. I wanted to create a man worth getting to know because I hoped to center a series on him and his lady love Trudy Tucker.

I wanted a deeply flawed hero who was struggling to fix himself, even though a voice inside him insists that he is "unfixable." To make him believable, I created a backstory for him of an horrific childhood of abandonment and psychological torture. Only because of his tender heart, brilliant mind, and the support of a spirit guide was he able to become a functioning adult -- albeit a lonely and bitter one.

He believes he's on the right path -- one that he can travel the rest of his life and be perfectly okay with it -- until he joins forces with a auburn-haired, green-eyed, modern day witch. Trudy Tucker. She blows this notion to smithereens. Trudy chips away at his emotional armor and touches the heart of him -- the heart he tries so hard to hide.

I've read reviews of my Mind's Eye books where the readers had a hard time liking Levi (and even Trudy in some cases!), especially in the first book. That's okay with me. Although I fell madly in love with him in THROUGH HIS EYES, I can understand how some readers might be put off by his arrogance and moodiness. This is Levi before Trudy. Unhappy and unsettled, although that's not how he saw himself. He thought he had finally "got it together" and the years of being in therapy had paid off handsomely. But Trudy makes him begin to believe that he could actually love someone and be loved. Happiness is something Levi had stopped seeking or expecting, but Trudy makes him happy. She makes him laugh! It's a revelation for him. Even with her pestering him about his past and demanding more and more from him than he thinks is safe to give, he can't resist her. In her, he finds an open and giving heart and psychic powers that he didn't know were possible. Quite simply, he's in awe of her.

In the second book -- THOUGH HIS TOUCH -- there were fewer readers complaining about Levi. However, in a few cases, readers thought I spent too much time developing the relationship between Trudy and Levi and not enough on the psychic detective plot, but this is an error I embrace. These two are complicated people and they are embarking on a relationship neither one of them anticipated. In book #2 of the Mind's Eye series, they need to navigate the new course they've charted.

Hopefully, in the third book --THROUGH HIS HEART -- readers will love Levi like Trudy and I do. They will understand that he has a lot of issues to sort through, but that he's willing to do whatever it takes to "fix" himself and be the man he wants to be for Trudy. As for Trudy, I haven't even scratched the surface of her yet! If all goes well, I will give her the attention she deserves in the next two or three books.

For now, I'm happily in love with my hero -- every flawed part of him. And isn't that the way it should be?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Hero Is a Hero

Bad Is Good

I write contemporary and historical romances, but the core of my protagonists in these different genres remains constant. Whether the hero is a cowboy (which is the case in my historical romances) or a psychic detective like Levi Wolfe in “Through His Eyes” and “Through His Touch,” they are alpha males with a “bad boy” persona. The heroines are smart, independent, and will stand toe-to-toe with these mavericks.
Why a bit of badness in the men? Well, because that’s my personal weakness. I’ve always loved those bad boys with hearts of gold. All tough on the outside and gooey on the inside – with the right woman, of course!
A hero just isn’t any fun if he isn’t a little (or a lot!) dangerous and flawed in some way. I love the “misunderstood hero” (Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” or Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind”) and my own heroes fit this description, such as Griffin Goforth in “Fire Lily,” Johnny Cheyenne in “Cheyenne’s Shadow,” and Reno Gold in “Tough Talk, Tender Kisses.”
Levi, the hero/protagonist in “Through His Eyes” and my new novel in the Mind’s Eye series “Through His Touch” is a classic misunderstood, flawed, alpha man and he is – if I say so myself – deliciously bad in the best sense of that word. Levi Wolfe had a troubled youth and he launched himself into a destructive period as a young man to emerge with “No Trespassing” signs posted all over him, especially on his heart. He’s a gifted psychic and self-made millionaire, but he has never known unconditional love. Into his life walks Trudy Tucker, also a talented psychic, who does a head and heart trip on Levi.
I think what I love most about bad boys is their strength coupled with vulnerability. They can take care of themselves and they do because they usually have had to do just that. There wasn’t anyone around they could trust to protect them, love them, and guide them as they grew from boys to men. Or they went down the wrong path in their youth, disappointed people who loved them, and then felt like they couldn’t make enough amends when they finally regained their footing on the right path.
Levi is one of those walking wounded who feels that he can’t trust people with his deepest feelings and that he’s damaged goods. Women look at him and swoon because he’s a gorgeous specimen of manhood, but they don’t look past his beauty to see the sad beast crouching within his heart. Trudy sees him – all of him – and she still loves him. And that both fascinates and terrifies Levi.

Readers tell me that they love my heroes and that gladdens my heart because I love them, too! Whether they are cowboys in the 1880s or present day psychics, they are men with heart and grit!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mysteries of Writing

How Writing Works

   I'd like to tell you that I understand the process of writing, but I don't. It's still a mystery to me how the ideas come, why I become so obsessed with make-believe people and circumstances, and why it's so imperative that I write these stories down for others to read.

  All I know is that I was born this way. When I was unable to read, I wanted to be read to and I wanted picture books to look at and coloring books to color. Books. Books. Books. I wanted them! Then I learned to write and read and that unlocked something in me. Stories swam in my head. Characters crowded my brain. Feelings bombarded my heart. I acted out movies and TV shows in my bedroom, playing all the characters. Then I began to write original stories. Early on, I loved romances and my earliest attempts at writing always had a romance at the heart of it.

  Years later, I am compelled to sit and write. I fret about characters I've created and feel their pain, their anguish, their joys, and their fears. When my writing is flowing, I'm totally "gone." Hours slip by and I have no concept of time or space. Only when my bladder becomes painful do I realize that I have been sitting for way, way too long. When the writing is going well, I don't even get hungry. The only call I answer is the bathroom one.

  Every writer is asked, "Where to you get your ideas?" and I've never heard a good answer to that because we simply don't know. It's like asking someone, "How did you learn to breathe?" Uh. Nobody actually taught me how to breathe . . . it just happened. Nothing put these ideas in my head. They just happened. I can't turn them off any more than I could decide not to breathe.
 Not all of the ideas make it to the page. Some fizzle out. Others bloom into big, spectaular displays. Some days I write pages and pages of great stuff. Other days I write pages and pages of stuff that needs a lot of editing, rewriting, and rethinking. But every day I write, I feel better for doing it. I suppose it's like people who are compelled to hit the gym. Sometimes it's a joy and sometimes it's an ordeal. But they're always glad they did it and they can't not do it.

  Writing for me is certainly not a hobby or a vocation. It's not even a job, although I make a living doing it. Writing is me. Like my brown eyes and sweet spot for Chihuahuas. It's always been in me, of me, on me, at me. Even when I didn't know how to write, I was romancing it and preparing to fall madly, widly, completely in love with it.