Posted in event, Thoughts

Romance and Valentine’s Day

As we near the day set aside for lovers, I can’t help but ponder love, romance and how we celebrate Valentine’s Day. For many of us, myself included, Valentine’s Day is just a commercial holiday. I celebrate it more for my children and grandchildren than I do with my husband. Why? For one there seems to be a lot of pressure to one-up each other on Valentine’s. It’s not about romance as much as it’s about competition. At least that’s how it seems to me. In this day and age of social media and television, even movie and romance books it seems to be more about the grand gesture than what the other person wants.

Is the big spectacular gesture or gift what romance is really about? I’m not saying my husband hasn’t done BIG. I got a van for Christmas the year before my first writer’s conference. He wanted me to have something safe to drive when I went to Pittsburg, but I also needed a new vehicle. So maybe this is where romance meets practical? But is this what romance has come to? How big does the gesture have to be in order to prove their love? Must they risk death and dismemberment?

We can talk about the historical significance of Valentine’s Day, but I’m more interested in how we perceive the holiday today than what it was meant to celebrate. You know the monk that was killed for defying a king and marrying soldiers in secret during wartime. Yeah, it was considered treason to want to marry and procreate, but it was against the church to do that stuff without marrying, so the guys (and gals) were-uh-hard up to get married. But that was then. What does Valentine’s mean now? When I talk to my friends, most are like me, Valentine’s is one of those holidays they might do something for but usually not. We give cards, go out to eat or maybe give a box of candy to our loved ones. The younger generation seem to fall into a few categories: 1) occasional card or small gifts, 2) over the top gifts and going out to dinner and/or dramatic gestures 3) feel it’s a cop-out for those who are uninspired to be romantic the other 364 days of the year.

So, what is romance? What would make you swoon? Is it the over-the-top gesture or a simple act of kindness? One of my writer friends mentioned her husband showing up at her office with a rose one Valentine’s, something he never did. It had been a horrific day. He’d done it not just because it was a holiday, but because she needed the boost. To me, that thoughtful gesture is more important than any big dramatic spectacle. The first time my husband sent me a meme with ‘you’re the only one for me’ in it, I cried. For the younger generation who grew up with texting and stuff, this means nothing, but for us, it was a milestone. He had to make the effort. I think that’s the thing that makes romance romantic, the effort, the thought, the doing something because you know it will please the other person. If your significant other loves model trains and you take them to a model train show, or give them a piece they’ve been looking for, it shows you listened and put thought into the gift. The gift or gesture doesn’t have to be big or expensive if it is something important to the other person.

Romance, like any other part of a relationship takes time and effort. You cannot buy it on eBay. It doesn’t come in a box. There’s not even a book on it, though as a romance writer, I could suggest a few that might help. No, what I think is romantic and what someone else thinks, depends on our personality, where we are in our stage of life and what we need from our person. Raising six sons there was never a lot of money or time, but my husband always made sure to remind me of how important I am to him. Sometimes it was just giving me time alone with my computer or a book after he’d worked all day. Other times, it was a little gift he’d picked up just because he thought of me: from the yellow rose with the Tasmanian Devil that used to sit by my computer to a coveted iced coffee drink which were hard to find and out of our budget.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What do think is romantic? I’d love to hear a romantic story. Share you romantic memories.

Don’t forget to join me at the Valentine Popup at The Venue Main Street Aurora!

Posted in Thoughts

Morally Gray Characters and Antiheroes

Morally Gray Characters Versus Antiheroes ~ What are they? What is the difference? Why do we like them?

Morally Gray Characters are the intermediate between villain and hero, neither wholly good nor completely bad. According to the Urban Dictionary they are a character who does too much bad to be good, yet too much good to be bad, like Robin Hood or Iron Man.

Hmm, so a morally gray character could be someone who breaks the law to help those in need or someone who does bad things for the right reasons like maybe killing bad guys the law can’t or won’t touch?  I’ve written a few characters like that, especially my character Phil Archer from The Leeward Files Series.

So what then is the difference between a morally gray character and an antihero?

An antihero is a central character who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes— Such as idealism, courage and morality.

When I was researching antiheroes, I found a long list of familiar characters, I’ve chosen some of my favorites: Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind, Dexter Morgan from Dexter, Hans Solo from Star Wars, Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, etc., Man with No Name, Catwoman, Wolverine, Deadpool, Snake Pissker from Escape New York, etc. and Harley Quinn.

An antihero might be a character you sometimes hate. As with Scarlett, there were times we just wanted to thump her between the eyes, but we still couldn’t help but root for her. Other characters like Hans and Jack Sparrow were often difficult to take seriously. Their selfishness and self-centeredness made them less than heroic, yet they were still likeable and came through heroically in the end. Still other antiheroes may react with over-the-top violence but only towards those who truly deserve it. They are redeemable by their acts of kindness, gentleness or honor towards those who are innocent or weaker and in need of a hero.

Morally gray characters have a moral code, it may not be exactly Captain America’s code of honor but there are certain lines they will not cross. Servius Snape of the Harry Potter series is a bad guy in many ways but even he has limits and lines he will not cross. He is willing to risk death to save Harry’s mother.

The modern Sherlocks of television and movies each have cavalier attitudes towards women and sex, drug addiction and even using people, but they are brilliant at solving crimes. They will employ any means necessary to solve a crime even doing something illegal, immoral or mean. This character tends to be narcissistic, believing they are not only the smartest person in the room but that their agenda is the only one that matters. Even as some of Sherlock Holmes’ traits make him less likeable, he finds redemption through a variety of techniques: their moral codes, their relationship with Dr Watson or other shows of weakness not evident to the casual observer.

In Blake Crouch’s Good Behavior, Letty Dobesh is a repeat offender. She has recently been released from prison for theft and is in the middle of a burglary when she overhears a murder plot. What can she do? How can she stop it? She can’t go to the police, but she cannot allow an innocent woman to be murdered.

In my Leeward Files Series, few of my characters truly embrace the conventional qualities of a hero. Phil Archer starts out as a socially inept, creepy stalker but his quick reaction saves Rae Lynne’s life in Chrome Pink. Through his actions might have been to save himself, in his misguided way he was trying to rescue the citizens of Leeward especially Rae Lynne and her friends. With each consecutive story Phil’s backstory is revealed and readers begin to understand the reasons why he does the things he does. While Phil can’t exactly be called a hero, he does have some heroic tendencies. He tries to protect children, even if his methods aren’t typical. He wants to see the bad guys pay for their crimes and he is willing to do whatever is necessary to make them pay.

Rae Lynne Grimes the cornerstone of my Leeward series more morally gray than antihero, she does have a code of honor but she is also a recovering addict, a rape survivor and many of her actions are self-centered because she is doing all she can just to survive.

For me, I believe morally gray characters and antiheroes are more interesting than traditional heroes. I still love my good guys, but I want them flawed and fighting their own demons.

As a reader, what type of characters do you like to read and if you are a writer, what are your favorite characters to write?

Posted in backstory, promo

Interview with Rae and Logan

The Main Characters of Chrome Pink

Interviewer: The two of you are the main characters in Chrome Pink, how did you meet?

Rae: We met at the opening of the Bryant Foundation Art Gallery.

Logan: No, we met at the bar where you were singing Karaoke.

Rae: But I didn’t learn your name until the gallery.

Logan: True, you rode off angry.

Rae: You talked bad about my bike.

Logan: It was a pink Harley. Who paints a Harley Pink?

Interviewer: That is an unusual color for a Harley, isn’t it?

Rae: It was to raise money for breast cancer. I restored the bike, even had the seat upholstered to match.

Interviewer: The two of you are together now?

Rae: He’s asked me to marry him.

Interviewer: Have you given him an answer?

Rae: I’m thinking about it.

Logan: I gave her a ring.

Interviewer: It’s pink.

Rae: Yeah, he wanted something unique and this reminds us of our first meeting.

Logan: And the pink Harley.

Interviewer: Are y’all planning a big wedding?

Rae: God, I hope not.

Logan: My mother and sisters are planning the wedding.

Rae: And my best friends: Jenna and Dana.

Logan: Well, Dana is kind of my sister, too.

Interviewer: She’s your sister?

Logan: My stepdad, Sam is Dana’s dad.

Interviewer: Oh wow, that’s interesting.

Rae: You have no idea. Our lives have gotten very interesting this past year.

Logan: We’ve been accused of murder.

Rae: People have tried to kill us.

Logan: And we fell in love.

Rae: Yeah, that’s the good part. I’ve been sober for a few months now.

Interviewer: Wonderful, did Logan help you get sober?

Logan: She was already sober when we got together.

Rae: But he gives me incentive to stay sober, we just found out we’re going to have a baby.

Interviewer: Congratulations. That’s a lot of changes in a short amount of time.

Rae: Yes, but we’re learning to handle things together.

Logan: Being part of a team isn’t always easy but working together makes it better.

Interviewer: I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Rae: We can’t either.

Interviewer: Thank you both for joining me and I look forward to reading more of your adventures in the upcoming holiday book, Evergreen Crystals.

Posted in backstory, my books

When Phil met Rae

This is a scene not used in my Leeward Files series but it gives a bit of backstory. Warning, it is a bit dark.

She was going to kill him. He’d known it for a while now. She was losing interest in him. She’d taken him to a couple of parties. He was small for his age. She said, he could still pass for younger. The men who took him were not interested in keeping a boy. Most of them had families, children of their own. Their friends and neighbors would be horrified if they knew what they were doing with little boys.

                He wiped the tears smearing snot across his face. He’d overheard her talking, she was planning to dispose of him and soon. He couldn’t wait any longer, he had to escape now. He listened as Aunt Mary packed the cooler in the boat. She would be gone for a few hours. If he was lucky, he’d be long gone before she noticed his absence. He worked the bolt loose, opening the manacle just a finger’s width. Collapsing his hand, he slid it carefully from the heavy metal. He set it carefully on the floor to keep it from clanging and alerting his aunt. He hadn’t heard the boat start up. His heart beat quickened. Heavy tread on the floor overhead told him she’d not left. She wasn’t going fishing. She was getting rid of him today.

                His chance of survival was slim but he had no choice, he had to go now or he was dead. He pried open the door to the wood box praying no snakes or rodents were lurking on the other side. With all of his strength, he shoved the small stack of wood from the box and climbed out.

                “Philip? What are you doing? Get back here before someone sees you!”

                He ran faster. Stumbling over limbs and sliding across pine straw in his bare feet. He was only allowed shoes when they went to a party. His feet burned from sand spurs and briars. The pain and fear making it hard to think. He could hear Mary wheezing as she lumbered after him. He glanced over his shoulder, she was getting close. When he turned back around a girl was in his path. He tumbled over her tangling them both in an awkward puzzle of arms and legs.

                “Hey, what’s your hurry? Are you playing hide-and-seek?” The girl asked.

                She was taller than he, dark hair and eyes and skin the color tea after the ice melts. He couldn’t speak. He wanted to stay but knew he had to go. Leaping to his feet he started to run.

                “Where do you think you’re going?”

                He stopped. His heart pounding. The stupid girl had gotten in his way. She’d kept him from escaping. Terrified, he looked around for a place to run.

                “Ho Mary, how’s it been?” An old man walked from the house waving his arm. “I haven’t seen you around in a while. Who’s this fine young man.

                Mary glared at the man and shrugged her round shoulders. “He’s my nephew. He came to spend some time with me.”

                The girl asked. “Aren’t you in school? We just started back. When does your school start back?”

                She put her hand in his. Phil stammered. “I’m not in school.”

                Mary frowned. “I haven’t gotten him enrolled yet. Everything happened so fast. His mama died, and my sister, his grandmother was supposed to take him in but then, she got bad off.” She shrugged. “So here he is.”

                The old man nodded. “I got some clothes here Billy has out grown.”

                His aunt spat and grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the girl. “I’ll be taking him shopping.”

                “What’s your name? Mine’s Rae Lynne.” She walked beside them oblivious to Mary’s scowls.

                “Philip,” he stammered from lips gone dry with fear.

                “How old are you? Will we be in the same grade?” She skipped along, her voice rising and falling as she bounced beside them. “I’m eleven. I’m going into sixth grade.”

                “He’s got learning problems, he may have to go to special school,” Mary growled.

                “Oh, they have special classes at my school. Billy had to be in a special reading program because he’s dyslexic. Are you dyslexic too?”

“You talk too much girl, go home.You can see Philip at school,” she barked but Rae didn’t flinch. She smiled and waved, turning around to go back the way she’d come. “By Philip, I’ll see you in school.”

The memory of that day was as clear to Phil as yesterday. He’d hated Rae for interfering with his getting away, but he’d come to realize she’d probably saved his life. He should be grateful but the nightmare his life had been, made him wish he’d never run.

Posted in Thoughts

My Agent Broke Up With Me

My Agent Broke Up With Me
I had no idea breaking up with my agent would feel a lot like breaking up with my high school boyfriend. Like infatuation, my first experience with having my very own agent was exciting and a little frightening. There were times I felt as if I had no clue what was expected of me or where we were heading. Learning to communicate and trust each other is the most important part of any relationship, and like some lovers who don’t stand the test of time, it was miscommunication that caused the demise of our partnership.
Philosophers would say it was all by design. Some people come into our lives for a season, others for a life time. I believe my agent came into my life at a time when I needed her. She gave me confidence and taught me a lot about craft and the business of writing. I appreciate the time we had together and feel stronger for the experience. Like that first love who taught me to French kiss and drive a stick shift, my agent gave me the courage to fight for what I wanted and the knowledge to achieve it.
Being true to the vision for my novel is important. When I first started working with the agent I was too afraid to say anything for fear she’d not want work with me anymore. While some may believe it crazy to rock the boat when you have an agent in your corner, and perhaps it is. But if you are not true to yourself then what happens when you mold yourself or your writing into what they want and it still isn’t enough. I feel that is what I’d done. I’d changed my words to fit what she suggested or what I believed she wanted. In the end it wasn’t and I was left not knowing what I’d done wrong. I believe my agent wanted to help me deliver the best book possible but somewhere along the way communications broke down and the relationship failed.
Like the first bloom of romance, there is the honeymoon period where everything is rosey and perfect. You both try really hard to make the relationship work. It’s a learning period. You do the back and forward dance until, if you are lucky, you get into the same rhythm. If you are lucky your first agent could be your only agent, after all several marriages started out as high school sweethearts. Like that immature relationship with your high school boyfriend, rushing the intimacy could cause the romance to disintegrate. For a strong and lasting relationship with an agent it is important to feel like partners. Having a strong, well balanced relationship built on mutual respect and faith. Believing in your work enough to fight for it and not be intimidated by the agent. Like that first boyfriend who overwhelmed me and made me feel I wasn’t quite experienced enough or pretty enough to keep him interested, I felt inadequate in my relationship with my agent. It is difficult for many first-time authors to believe in ourselves. Finding an agent who understands what you need as a person as well as a writer.
I don’t regret my time with my agent. She taught me so much that I could not have received anywhere else. She put a lot of time into my novel and her effort on my behalf is greatly appreciated. Like that first love, I now feel more confident going into my next relationship or doing things on my own.