Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Old Soul for the New Year

The Party’s Over, It’s Time to Call It a Day… One year ends. A new year begins.

The New Year is a special gateway, I believe. It’s a magical, mystical time for me. Maybe that’s what made me take that Internet quiz, “How Old is Your Soul?” What is on the horizon? What magic awaits? What challenges will I confront? This year will be like no other ever has been. What’s not to like about that?

The notion of old souls pulls at me. Since I believe in reincarnation, the idea that one comes back and back to resolve issues with individuals or character traits appeals. I get another shot (or six) at trying to improve myself. One gets to be an old soul, not by returning so much, but by working out those issues so that each lifetime has fewer areas in need of resolution.

When someone labels me an old soul, it’s supposed to be a compliment. A recognition that I am higher-evolved than many of their acquaintance. That I have learned many of life’s lessons.

The fact that I am again corporeal, am living another life after having lived many others, is evidence that I haven’t learned all I need to know to be the highest evolved. I am here to work out character flaws that keep me from the highest level. I know that two of mine are my judgmental nature that is directly tied to how difficult it is for me to forgive grievances.

Knowing that about myself is better than not knowing, but I fear I will leave this existence still
bearing the onus of those flaws. (See how judgmental I am?) I think I am still a toddler (in developmental terms) in mastering those two areas. Sigh. I think it will take me a few more lifetimes to figure out how to let go of them.

So much as I like the label of old soul, I have to say it bugs me to be so labeled. The implication is the one telling you that is an old soul, too, recognizing a comrade. It takes one to know one? Is that hubris or what?

While I do feel I have an awareness of what I need to work on, I don’t feel like an old soul so much as a mature adult who assesses what lies ahead and sets about to do it. I know, because I am actually old, that my soul will not accomplish its tasks in this body. I am too far from achieving the goal and seem unable to make myself do what I know needs to be done.

Sigh. I’ll be back! See you next life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why We Didn't "Do" Santa

As our oldest son and his wife near time for the birth of their first child, I wonder about what choices they’ll make as parents. You read books, you talk to other parents, but nothing really can prepare you for the out-of-the blue things to decide. Like perpetuating the Santa Claus myth in your family holiday tradition.

We chose, after our first son was born, truth. I had an easy transition as a child from the Santa myth to the Santa reality. That was made easier, I believe, because my earliest memories are of being told that Santa is the spirit of Christmas giving that we all should emulate. Giving is better than receiving. It’s the thought that counts not the cost. You know the lines.

DH, on the other hand, had a shocking and upsetting revelation about the Santa myth. He told me it took him years to get over it. And for a long time he wondered what else his parents had lied to him about. It eroded his basic trust in the two people he should always be able to count on.

Wow! That shocked me. In all the things I had been considering about parenting, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t do Christmas like my childhood Christmases. It never came into my consciousness--until he brought it up. We discussed it, and we decided to opt for honesty from the beginning.

Additionally, being Unitarian Universalists, we didn’t like all the threatening stuff around the Santa myth. Naughty or nice? List-making of deserving recipients? Watching you all the time? Yuck.  We were trying to give our children a moral core that said you are good and do good because that’s what people are supposed to do. You don’t do good to get a reward or for fear of punishment. Part of being human is making the world a better place because you walked here. That’s a responsibility you have.

In our holiday celebration we had stockings (and still do) and “Santa” gifts (unwrapped presents set out with the stockings), but we always told our kids that the gifts were from us. So give us a list, don’t keep anything secret. If you don’t tell us, it ain’t happening since there’s no man in a red suit who can read your mind. To this day, my adult children submit their lists.

Oh, and did we ever get criticized! “You’re taking all the joy out of Christmas.” “They need the magic of anticipation.” “Christmas should be fun.”

Excuse me?

Sure, I wanted the joyful season experience for my kids. And we got it. Shopping “angel trees” in the mall to get presents for less fortunate children. Making a gingerbread house each year that had to be different from any other we had done. Baking cookies and breads and taking them to neighbors and friends. Inviting friends over to make ornaments, cookies, and wrap presents for their own families. We had a super holiday each year. But Santa wasn’t a part of it.

Some families choose the no-Santa-myth route for religious reasons. Santa is an overblown commercialization of Christmas so far from the original Saint Nicholas as to unrecognizable. Others choose to go the truth route like us.

But I had to ask my friends who worried that their children were doubting the myth why they felt compelled to continue the lie when the kids had heard/figured out that Santa was not real. Who were they doing it for? My guess is that most parents who continue the myth beyond the time of ‘fessing up are doing it for themselves. Why else not just get it over with and back to the focus for the season?

And for us, having our children know that we would never lie to them was foundational to how our family functioned, and still does. Trust is worth so much more than participating in a charade.

And remembering the “reason for the season”, as the saying goes, was important to us as well. When they were little, and focused on how birthdays are done, we always had a birthday cake for Christmas dinner and sang “happy Birthday” ot Jesus. It was, after all, a world-wide birthday celebration.

What about my kids spilling the beans? Not a problem. I threatened death if they dared spoil how someone else celebrated the season. And since I don’t lie, they knew it would happen. (Okay, so maybe a little lie!) It never got tested. They were true to their word. Must be all that honesty modeling.

A quick family story:
Youngest son, Chicago, was a strong-willed child. And smart. He knew precisely the trigger to pull to get me going. One particularly trying day during the holidays, I was so frustrated I said to this kindergartener, “It’s a good thing there’s no Santa who gives gifts only to good children. You are being very naughty, but you’ll get gifts because we love you even when you’re not being good.” Not my finest moment, I agree, but it was in keeping with truth-telling.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone with family and friends.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Four Tips for Staying Together after You Get Together

My heroine, Carrie, in Streetwalker has commitment issues. And so does my hero. That makes for a very difficult relationship.

Carrie doesn’t trust any man since she thinks she is only "tits and ass" to them. And she made her living based on that presumption for a good many years.

Harlan is a sex addict. Not officially recognized by the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), sex addiction has been tossed around for years as a possible syndrome that merits inclusion. Psychiatrists are split on whether sex addiction is an official syndrome or a manifestation of a syndrome, like obsessive-compulsive disorder.  

So you put together someone who doesn’t want to be touched with someone who has to be touching everyone, and, well, you see the problem.

If I were Carrie’s psychologist, I’d be advising her to take some advice from the research. Harlan’s issues notwithstanding, this couple can make it. They love each other but they don’t communicate about feelings, issues, desires. Their conversations are relatively superficial.

So, as an unofficial family counselor, here’s what Angelica French says the research says about staying together once you get together.

Relationships are like gardens. You can’t neglect them. You must prune away the dead stuff and the weeds. You must feed and water them. Watch your relationship for signs of disease or blight, then apply the proper fix.

You can’t neglect your relationship.
In the early stages of your relationship, you were very attentive and supportive. You cared about what you looked like and how you were coming across. Now some of that was over the top. You reallllly wanted him to like you more. You worried she would break off the relationship. So while you have a comfort level with your SO now, there should always be some slight tension leftover from those early days of doing and being your best, even now.

Taking someone’s affection and attention for granted is a potential road to heartache. Make serious and regular efforts to show your partner that you really want to be with him/her, and you are appreciative of the relationship you have.

Prune away the dead stuff and weeds.
All relationships have detritus after while. It’s like outgrown shirts or worn out shoes. Take a look at your relationship and see if you’ve outgrown something now that your relationship is firming up. Do you really want to go clubbing every weekend night? Maybe you do, but examine the relationship’s patterns of activities, interactions, and friendships and consciously re-choose them, together.

Are you getting into a rut with movie-and-a-show? Why not mix it up with a picnic in the park where there’s an outdoor movie showing? Do you always go to a particular friend’s house for card games? Why not meet instead once in a while at a game store that has a game night? Boredom kills relationships, so keep it fresh.

“Feed and water” your relationship.
Too much togetherness can stifle a relationship, however. You’ll each have more to talk about if you each have a wide circle of friends and interests. Read and talk about what you’re reading. Watch out for competitiveness and instead aim for a collaborative relationship. Be spontaneous and not always predictable--in a good way--to add a little extra nourishment to the relationship.

Meet your partner at a coffee shop, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, give a note to a waiter telling your partner where to meet you next, and then disappear. Head to the next stop and do the same thing. Keep him/her guessing about how you might bring some pop into your relationship.

Watch for relationship blight.
While you shouldn’t overanalyze a relationship, you should pay attention. There are always warning signs that things are going south. Always. The people who say they were blindsided simply missed or misread the clues. Maybe your partner isn’t as physically affectionate as early on. Find out why. Free, easy, frequent communication is one of the surest ways to nip blight. There should be nothing off limits for discussion, ever. If there is, are you sure this is THE ONE?

If your partner begins spending unusual amounts of time away from you, there are problems. If you notice avoidance of topics you could always talk about, there are problems. If you are being controlled/criticized/isolated/blamed there are serious problems to work on. If you feel jealous or needy, start working on the problem. If one of you is cheating or wants to … uh, oh!

Relationships are both fragile and durable, resilient and vulnerable. Let me mix metaphors here. Building a strong foundation allows the relationship to take some storm lashings, but without keeping up regular maintenance and needed repairs, the house will crumble over time. Keep your house a mansion; don’t let it become a ruin.

Need a last minute gift for someone who likes erotic romance? There's always Streetwalker
Here are a few of the resources I used for some additional reading:






Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Month of Ideas for "What Can I Write on My Blog Today?"

I write three blog posts each week (barring something weird going on in my life--and it happens).  I don’t really have trouble coming up with blog topics for the three very different blogs. Now time to do the research and write them … that’s a story for another day. But coming up with ideas, no, not what I struggle with.

In fact, if I were to have that kind of difficulty, I would pack in one or more of my blogs. If it ain’t fun, at this point in my life, I ain’t gonna do it.

But friends of mine confess to having difficulty. Voila! A blog post topic occurs.

If you struggle, too, here are some suggestions. Please add suggestions in the comments section below. I’d love to have some fresh ideas, too.

1) Interview one of your characters, just as you might an author. Giving other authors some interview questions could be your spin so they get to know their own characters better.

2) Talk about some interesting historical or scientific (or some such thing) aspect and how it fits your book. For example, I was fascinated with brothel tokens from the OldWest and wrote about them connected to my prostitute in Streetwalker.
3) Helpful tools you rely on to help you write better/faster. I wrote a post on the tomato timer for the Pomodoro Technique.

4) Review the best on-line tutorials you've found helpful for writing. Kathy Weyer, author of Stitches, did for Scrivener.

5) Share the writing risks have you taken and what you gained--or lost--by taking the risk.

6) Publish a short story that might be backstory for a character in your novel.

7) Describe how you navigate social media and build your unique platform.

8) Ask readers to give you direction on a project. I did this with my NaNoWriMo options. People like telling you what to do. ;-)

9) Create and publish 50 or 10 (or whatever) writing prompts or exercises for readers for when they're stuck. I did that and had lots of page views. That's what I did here!

10) Choose an odd topic to inform readers about, such as “What is fan fiction and what are the caveats, sites, issues?”

11) Interview another blogger or an author you admire. Create one set of questions you can use again and again.

12) Describe your journey to being an author from the beginning through transitions to your vision for the end point.

13) How do you carve out protected writing time in the midst of a busy life? Authors are always looking for ideas.

14) Read titles of others’ blog posts and get ideas for topics you can give your take on.

15) Review books related to your blog’s focus. I’ve reviewed writing books and books on relationship issues. Notify the author of the upcoming review to see if he/she will promote it, too. Drive more traffic to your blog.

16) Have you just learned about/started using another new social media outlet to promote your writing and your platform? Share that experience with your readers?

17) What are you realllly good at in the writing process? Editing? Plotting? Planning? Choose that element and write a series on various aspects.

18) What is your business plan? How did you develop it? Most writers don’t have one, so help them get where you are.

19) What experiences have you had with critique partners and/or writing groups? Share what you’ve learned and give some guidelines that worked for you.

20) Reading online articles on relationships or science or … provides you with information you can share and then translate to writingnovels. I do that a good bit.

21) What are the steps in indie publishing? How does one get started? What are the most important considerations?

22) Choose a category, like food, and do a post a day for one month. In February, I do a recipe a day, which is pretty easy to put together. I’ve done soup, chicken, and appetizers. I’ll let my readers vote on the category for the upcoming February.

23) Explore an aspect of your own life and how a situationis impacting you. I did a series on my mother after her sudden death in September.

24) Share an excerpt from a novel of you are writing. Explain some background and just paste in the excerpt.

25) Become an expert or exploit your expertise to create blog topics like Fiona Quinn does at thrillwriting.blogspot.com or http://forensicoutreach.com/ or http://historysleuth.blogspot.com/

26) Invite others to guest post on your blog. First, set up guidelines you can communicate at the beginning so they know what kinds of topics, how many words, what media you can use, and what kind of links you’ll promote.

27) Do a post of links to blogs you regularly read and/or posts you found engaging and why.

28) What is happening in magazines or newspapers you read that got your attention? What is your perspective on it? Think of this as an extended “letter to the editor”.

29) What genre(s) do you write? What are the elements of the genre(s)? Describe those elements so others can write them, too.

30) Select a quotation that means a lot to you. Write about what it is and why it matters. This can be in your life or in your writing.

31) What writers do you regularly read and why? What is it about their writing that keeps you engaged?

And you know? There are bunches more ideas! I hope you’ll add to this list below. And, more importantly, I hope I shared some ideas for helping you keep at that blog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Blast from the Past: Writing Erotic Folk/Fairy Tales for Fun and Profit

Because I am tied up with NaNoWriMo all month, I decided to re-run one of my popular past posts. Enjoy! FYI, my word count is ahead of schedule! Yay!

You might be surprised to learn there is a whole cadre of writers of erotic folk and fairy tales. It’s sort of like the old Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show’s “Fractured Fairy Tales” taken up a few notches.

I mean, really, just think what you could do with plot line like Sleeping Beauty. Horny young prince comes upon sleeping maiden. (How does he know, by the way--whether she’s a maiden? After all, once you know for sure, then she isn’t!) What to do, what to do? He takes liberties, of course. And she awakens gladly into his arms. Riiiight! Not in real life. She’d be ticked off. And then the fun begins.

Then there’s the matter of Snow White (sure she is) living with seven guys. Cozy, eh? Sounds like a case of nymphomania, to me. Wonder if she likes it in ménage or if she just takes them on one at a time? Does she give each Dwarf his own day or does she have favorites she pops more than once a week? And how about the “equipment”? I’ve heard--never had direct experiences--that the dwarves weren’t dwarf everywhere.

If you like your folk tales spicy hot, check Annie Eppa, A. Violet End, Selena Kitt, Cerys du Lys, Adriana Hunter, Elizabeth Black, Nadia Wilde and others. It is a field that just keeps attracting more and more erotica writers.

How can I resist? I’ve always loved folk tale variants, so here is the start of one of my erotic folk tale books. When I finish it, you’ll know!

Angelica French


    Prince Wolfe leaned his back against the headboard and pulled Nana to his chest. His fingers trailed down her arm and her shiver rubbed her nipples deeper into him. She watched his eyes as she moved again, pressing into his hardness.
    “Whoa, Girl!” Prince held her back. “Let a guy rest, will ya? Damn. I thought I scratched that itch. You’re one hot woman, you know that? But if you want to play some more . . .”
    He pushed her head lower, and shifted himself so she could find what she looked for.
    “Rinnnnggg. Rinnnnggg.”
    Nana looked up, annoyed at the interruption. “Damn phone.” Nana leaned across Prince, draping her breasts on his legs. “Hello?”
    She listened to the response. She mouthed “my daughter” to Prince as she looked over her shoulder. She pushed herself upright, and held the phone close to her mouth and gave a big cough. “No, Honey. It’s not really better. I told you before, I don’t think we should get together tonight. I’d better rest. I’m in bed now.”
    Prince smirked as he reached over and tweaked a nipple.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Blast from the Past: "5 Types of Women Men Go For" and Other Internet Articles

Because I am tied up with NaNoWriMo all month, I decided to re-run one of my popular past posts. Enjoy! FYI, my word count is ahead of schedule! Yay!

I can’t help myself. The fact that you clicked on this link to read this blog means you’re just like me. Admit it.

The Internet is rife with articles about how to interview, how to know if he’s really into you, what it means when she wears certain clothes. I’m hooked. Cannot resist collecting these things.

But, I have an excuse. Several in fact. I write blogs about relationship sorts of stuff. I tweet daily (@RomanceRighter), and I maintain my Angelica French Facebook posts. Oh, and I write erotic romances. So that’s why I collect this stuff. I use it!

One article I’ve been hoarding for a while is “5 Types of Women Guys Go For” (http://bit.ly/10TlGdT). How could I not have been drawn to it?

In this article, you are given character sketches--for free--of women to include in your stories! How cool is that? I mean, think about it. You read the description and come up with some questions about plot lines and BINGO! A book!

Let’s try one. But first, here are the five types:
Type #1: The older woman
Type #2: The woman who’s “just one of the guys”
Type #3: The free spirit
Type #4: The intellectual
Type #5: The seductress

Here’s my process:
Remember I’m into Crone Lit. Old rules!

So, Type #1: The older woman is described as a sophisticate who’s been places, seen things, and done lots more. She knows who she is and what she wants. She can act as a mentor to both younger men and women helping them gain perspective on life. Being desirable isn’t an age but a way of being. A man needs to find ways to please a woman who isn’t looking to start a family.

After listing the traits from the article, I generate questions for me to answer:
What has she accomplished? What are her goals at this time of life?
Is she looking for love? What gives her the greatest satisfaction?

For conflicts, I can contrast her with male or female characters who are opposite her goals and accomplishments.

Then to the what-ifs:
What if a woman who just lost her husband and son met a man on a cruise who looked like her son but acted the opposite?
What if this guy is oblivious to her curiosity about him?
What if he is attracted to a younger woman who is so wrong for him and the older woman wants to save him?
What if in the process of distracting him they discover a mutual interest?
And so on.

After that, list your ten key events and build out to 35-40 scenes from them. 

Your turn! How would you exploit the remaining four types? Comments?

Saturday, November 1, 2014


It all began after a book signing, the “Authorpalooza”, at Melanie Tighe’s Dog Eared Pages in Scottsdale, AZ earlier this year.

Three of us had dinner and the idea of taking some popular song lyrics as inspiration for romance stories came up. We brainstormed how wonderful that could be. An anthology of writers would create short stories either using characters in our books or as complete stand alones.

I signed up! And now we have the product to share. The title of our anthology, SAY SOMETHING, comes from A Great Big World’s song of the same title. Listen to it and imagine your own story. As the seven authors listened to the lyrics, they got inspired to write seven very different tales.

Today I am sharing our book cover with you. In a couple of weeks, I’ll talk about the authors and stories included between the covers. Available for purchase on December 1, 2014

Jennifer’s Secret - Virginia Nelson

Behind the Scenes - Morgan Kearns

A Nordic Knight in Henry’s Court ~ Part One – Kris Tualla

Angel Rising - Deena Remiel

Meant to Be - Camelia Miron Skiba

Moving On - April London

Why Not Ask? - Angelica French

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Women Who Love Monsters (Not Just Any Bad Boys)

Can you take one more post on bad boys in books and life? But this time, I mean realllly bad. Like beastly bad. Well, ‘tis the season to trot out the monsters. And that’s what I’m doing, a take on a disturbed Beauty and the unredeemable Beast.

In folk and fairy tales it’s easy. The Beast is really a good guy. Beauty and the Beast; Shrek the ogre and Fiona the princess. The trope may have duped some women into thinking monstrous bad guys are really not so bad. Maybe, as the Beatles sang, all they need is love.

We’ve all read the stories about these women. You know who I mean. The ones who write letters to rapists. The women who marry serial killers. Some think Bonnie (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) may have had the condition. It seems not to matter how heinous the crime, there are women lining up for the chance to forge a future with a monstrous man in or out of prison.

If the man is attractive, there are even more women drawn to him. Ted Bundy, Lee Malvo, Jeffrey Dahmer, Aaron Hernandez, Scott Peterson. There are some great looking men who performed atrocious, inhumane acts. And women. Some women. Get off on that. Literally.

Hybristophilia is a condition in which women (mostly) become sexually aroused when thinking about and/or engaging with men (mostly) who participated in very bad criminal behavior. Like said rapists, child molesters and brutal killers.

Wikipedia says it is a psychological condition not yet listed in the DSM, the psychologists’ bible, but it and other forms of the condition, are potentially lethal. They go on to say it is “ ‘of the predatory type in which sexual arousal, facilitation, and attainment of orgasm are responsive to and contingent upon being with a partner known to have committed an outrage, cheating, lying, known infidelities or crime, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery.’ The term is derived from the Greek word ὑβρίζειν hubrizein, meaning ‘to commit an outrage against someone’ (ultimately derived from ὕβρις hubris ‘hubris’), and philo, meaning ‘having a strong affinity/preference for’.”

The causes of hybristophilia are unknown but experts speculate that the attraction can be traced to the belief that like regular bad boys, these women think they can “save” the rapist. All he needs is the woman she is, and he will change.

Some hybristophiliacs believe that present behavior can be traced to what happened to him as a little boy and they can provide the love and support he needs to heal. Some like that incarceration means he will be faithful because he can’t get to other women, therefore, he is all hers.

Doctors have considered that hybristophiliacs exhibit an extreme fanaticism because they can’t find love in the normal way. With some, their insecurities cause them to seek someone with whom they can’t consummate the relationship.

Some of these women are turned on by the power they impute to men who commit horrible acts. They see him as manly and powerful, in control.

And it is not ruled out that hybristophilia is triggered by the need to be in the spotlight. By proclaiming love for a monster, they attract attention to themselves. “Who could love such a man?” most of us would ask. “Who is she?”

These women leave themselves open to manipulation and seduction. They will do anything for these guys, putting themselves at risk physically, financially, and legally.

In too many of the cases where the “jailhouse romance” led to them getting together on the outside (because of a prison release), women were killed or hurt. These men aren’t the normal “bad guys.” They are irredeemable. And that plays out if they are given the opportunity.

If you are writing romances with a horror element or based on a true crime drama, including a woman with hybristophilia coming onto your monstrous bad guy could lead to some interesting plot twists. Admittedly, this kind of book wouldn't appeal to the normal romance reader, but you might draw in readers attracted to the bizarre and unacceptable, people who follow the true crime stories and know about this type woman.

What if she were even too weird for the monster? What if a prison guard was attracted to her when she visited? What if she stalked him when he got released on a technicality? Or what if he manipulated her and went to live with her upon being paroled? What if they married while he was on death row and she gave him access to all her money which he gambled away, stripping her of financial security? Or what if she was artificially inseminated by her rapist to give him a child?

Oh, so many possibilities.

But even a "normal" romance might include a sub-plot with hybristophilia for a minor character. Most people don't know about or think about the condition. Your book could inform them. Not just romances, but many books include romantic relationships as a major or minor plot line. Consider giving your next book a twist many won’t see coming. Just imagine… what if…? how come…?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Death with Dignity: Who Should Have the Right to Determine When You Die?

Some call it “suicide by doctor”. Some term it “euthanasia”.

This column has been about relationships from the beginning, but not too often do I deal with relationships with family, friends, and oneself.

Making the decision to die on one’s own terms and in a time one determines is anathema to many.

Sometimes the objection is on religious grounds: no one but God should determine your entry or exit from this world.

Sometimes there is this vague sense of unease: it’s just not right to kill yourself, no matter what the label du jour is.

Others are concerned that the “do no harm” and pledge not to kill that doctors subscribe to will blur the lines of what a physician is. Once they cross that line, where might the brakes be on this train?

But for the people in favor of what the Hemlock Society (and other groups and individuals) has been promoting and supporting for decades, the right-to-die, this is an acceptable risk. The Hemlock Society makes sure folks have access to information about the right-to-die and they try to change legislation to permit physician-assisted suicide.

Currently, there are five states where one can establish a six-month residency and let a physician assist your passing, if you meet the criteria for terminal illness. Washington, Oregon, and Vermont passed laws allowing death with dignity. In two states, Montana and New Mexico, the court ruled the state cannot interfere.

Of course, the term “suicide” has so much baggage that even supporters like I seek alternative wording. Having a physician supply medications to ease your transition is NOT the same as the association the word “suicide” has. This decision doesn’t come from a place of hurt and depression like suicide. Rather, being able to determine the time of death, and planning for it, puts one in control of emotions and actions.

I prefer the term Death with Dignity. After all, if I am terminal with some disease and two, seventy, a hundred doctors (pick your number) agree that I am terminal, why don’t I have the right to go on my own terms? Leave this life while I still have energy and my good spirits?

In the circumstance of no hope of recovery, why should I drain my family emotionally and financially? Why can’t I choose to spend quality of life time with them instead of them sitting watch me waste away in pain? What purpose does that serve? Isn’t it a selfish thing to do?

I love hospice service. When my mother-in-law had reached the end of her life, following her specifications for no heroic measures, no artificial life extension, hospice provided her with medications so she was comfortable. She had water swabs we used regularly, but no food. Because hospice could not have a physician-assisted passing, they provided no nourishment but substantial quantities of drugs. In essence, she starved to death. And that’s better? She was going to die, so why not ease the way for her? Now, that is not what she wanted. She was a tough lady who hung on for a while. But that should have been an option for her to reject.

My choice would be different than hers. My ideal death would be at a time of my choosing, without family or friends indicted for “killing” me, having tidied up the pieces of my life that needed it, time with each child and my husband separately, and then slip into another part of the cycle of life. Why does my dog deserve that more than I?

I’m glad New Mexico is my neighbor. I thought I was going to have to travel to Washington or Oregon for death with dignity. It’s great to know that Albuquerque is so close by.

And you? What end of life would you choose, if you could?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Plotter vs Pantser: A Specious Distinction

Winner of the NaNoWriMo Novel-to-Write-in-November Contest:
Potluck, book three in the “Dinner is Served” series, won the readers’ contest for which book Sharon Arthur Moore will write for National Novel Writing Month. Wahoo! The publisher will be delighted that this one won’t take as long to get to her as book two has!

As a long-time literacy educator in the regular classroom, with “rotten readers”, as a school district administrator, and as a professor preparing future teachers over a thirty-nine year career, one issue brought my blood to the boiling point faster than any other.

Some of you may remember “The Reading Wars” in which vociferous arguments dominated the educational landscape for years. At issue: “whole language” vs. “phonics”. It was a specious argument largely dominated by people who had never taught a child to read. People who didn’t understand that phonics and whole language methodology were on different metrics. An apples and oranges thing.

I won’t go into it more than to say the current good-spirited debate around whether ‘tis better to plot or fly by the seat of the pants is another false dichotomy. And I’m getting a little tired of the debate.

At least with this particular argument you have folks on the same metric. The difference is on a continuum this time, so it’s a fairer debate.

Still. Really? This is worth the energy to argue? Certainly no one should expect to change someone else’s mind. So why so defensive that YOURS is the right way to write a novel? Each side surely sounds defensive.

Here’s the deal. How much prep goes into writing a novel is the author’s choice. Period. There is no one best way to write a novel. Not yours. Not theirs. If there were the one best way, we would have found it and everyone would be doing it.

Now I would argue that it is only a matter of degree of planning. Not whether there should be none or maxed out planning. The most avid pantsers I know started with an idea, a scene, a character, something and then wondered how that might play out. They may not have written it on note cards to pin to a board in chronological order, but they don’t sit down each day and say, “Gee, what will I write today? Hmm. I wonder.”

Nope. The brain, that miraculous organ, works even while you are not. Those synapses are synapping. You may not think you’re a plotter, but your brain is working, working, working.

And plotters! Stop being so holier than thou, shoving a million file cards and character interviews into others’ faces to prove you are better prepared to write than they are. If you aren’t open to the discovery your characters put out there and run with it, you aren’t much of a novelist. Each of us should find surprises that pop up even after extensive plotting, and those deserve exploration.

Where do I come down in the debate? Yes.

I have written two books I plotted up the wazoo. I have written two books where a character totally took over the book (Streetwalker is one), and I felt like the character wrote the book not I. Then, too, I have written books with some plotting and some pantsing, sort of that middle ground.

It is not at all a matter of which is better, plotting or pantsing. Rather it is a matter of what the author has to do to comfortably sustain 75K words (or whatever) to finish the damn book. You do what you gotta do. And ain’t nobody, no way, no how got the right to say your way is the wrong way. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Completing a Novel

I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.   
Flannery O’Connor

This post is kinda related to the previous one. Has it happened to you? You have a great premise. Novel (Ha!). Unique. Unknown to the known world. Yeah, right.

How quickly can this great idea devolve into the mundane? Been done? Ordinary? Prosaic?

Pretty fast.

There’s something about sustaining a great idea across 75-90,000 words that is daunting. It makes 90% of us who start writing a book, quit. 90%. Don’t you think that’s high? Someone in some workshop tossed the number out. I have no idea how anyone could know that, much less check it out. Still. You know it’s a lot of folks.

Let’s say the number is less. I know that I personally have started about three dozen books. Seven are completed. So my personal percent is roughly 20% finished. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that I quit 80%. Some I have, but I just delayed the re-start for others.

I’ll get back to them.
After I finish the new one I just jotted down an idea for.

Here’s my new idea—I volunteer at our community library, so it occurred to me last Monday that I could have my heroine volunteer at a retirement community library. This curmudgeonly fellow starts coming in on her shift. She tries to help him find books, but he is difficult, bordering on rude. But they get together in the end after she shows him the power of unconditional love. Sweet mature lovers romance, yes?

Or maybe I should write the historical fiction that goes back to the first novel I attempted in high school. This story explores the relationship of Virginia Dare (first white child in the Colonies) and Pocohantas, supposed savior of Captain John Smith and wife of a Virginia planter. My story premise is that Virginia Dare survived and was reared by Indians, eventually being sold to Powhatan, father of Pocohantas. She lived with and took care of baby Pocohantas thus engendering her regard for the invading British. This can explain how Pocohantas knew the English language.

So, I may start one of them. Or not. Maybe they’ll join the others in the incubator I call “computer files.”

Oh, but I forgot to tell you! The very next novel I write, the one I have to complete in 30 days in November, is my NaNoWriMo novel. Hie yourself on over to Write on Sisters and vote for my November writing project by commenting on the post.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What It Takes to be a Novelist

Patsy, my decades-long friend and writing partner from my previous professional life is a natural storyteller. She tells of happenings in the lives of family and friends. While doing so, she embellishes with rich details, she paces the information flow, and she reveals the climax at just the right time.

But Patsy says she can’t write fiction. She is the most vivid dreamer I know, and retells her dreams fluently. But she doesn’t see the connect to writing fiction. Of course she could write fiction. Why do some of us think we can write fiction and others do not? And what does she mean by that? 

By nature, we are story-telling creatures. However, she doesn’t see that the stories she tells me are ones that others would want to read. Or she doesn’t think there’s enough detail to sustain a novel. And maybe there isn’t. Because she doesn’t like reading short stories, she would never write short stories. I read and write full-length and short, myself. 

Maybe that is the disconnect. She doesn’t see how to stretch the dream into a feature-length film. Is that a difference between those who claim “fiction author“ as an identity and those who don’t? Do we see all stories as potential novels? I know I do. Ah, but the execution!

How many novels have I started in my computer files only to abandon them because, as Gertrude Stein wrote, “…there’s no there, there.” ? Great premise, but thin on the development. Maybe a short story, but not enough engaging stuff to sustain a novel. However, there are a ton of resources for dealing with the saggy, soggy middle. There are strategies for plotting. There's all kinds of help for writers learning the craft. A great resource, writeonsisters.com, is full of tips and strategies.

See, I believe Patsy could indeed write a novel. She is an avid reader who knows what makes a good story. But she has to believe she could do it, and more importantly, she would need to want to be a novelist. It’s a hard enough job when you want to and think you can. 

And if you’d like to support a novelist, check out Streetwalker on Amazon. It’s a quick, hot, hot, hot read with a lot of heart. http://amzn.to/12Lp95X

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Writing the Bad Boys of Romance

I posted today at writeonsisters.com on characteristics of bad boys in books and how to write believable ones. In doing research for that post, I gathered so much information, that I thought I’d share the leftovers here.

Well, not really leftovers, actually, since this is new content, but the content is complementary to what is over there. Check out my other bad boys post today at http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/tips-to-write-bad-boys-in-books/

My erotic romance, Streetwalker, features hero Harlan, a bad boy for heroine Carrie. I LOVE Harlan. He is brilliant, powerful, confident, rich, gorgeous, great in bed, and more than a little bit flawed.

Harlan’s rebellion against society’s rules led to losing his medical license. So of course, he started a high end bordello on New York’s Upper East Side, enrolling as clients the rich and powerful of the city as insurance against prosecution. A bad boy.

Not all bad boys wear leather jackets, sport multiple tattoos and piercings, or have a scruffy look about them. Harlan is a great example of an elegant, successful, and living-life-on-his-own-terms, bad boy. And did I mention his sexual prowess?

In a nutshell (for the whole enchilada, to mix a metaphor, read the post at Write on Sisters), a bad boy exhibits certain qualities. I identified these as: exuding confidence, allowing his own interests to take precedence over others’ interests, moody, paradoxical, edgy, displaying an attitude, rebelling with or without a cause, engaging in dangerous hobbies, and being mysterious, complex, and complicated. Women respond to their perception that his strength will bring them protection, a universal need.

In writing your bad boy, be sure to avoid the stereotypes as the only traits. Make him more complex and he’ll interest your readers more. To clarify, we aren’t talking villains here. Villains in our books primarily exist to foil the protagonist, not to act as a potential love interest. Though it does happen.

We’re talking Bad boys as the guys who appeal to women in books (and real life?), guys you see around every day.

Think about Diane Lockhart’s fascination with Kurt McVeigh, a man different from her in nearly every aspect. Can you see the appeal for her, a buttoned-up corporate type? He’s so wrong for her from her friends’ perspective, and when she meets his friends, she finds nothing in common with them. Women who fall for bad boys risk being isolated from other friendships. Kurt is on the softer side of the bad boy continuum.

Another classic bad boy is Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. He flaunted convention and contrasted well with the ultimate nice guy, Ashley Wilkes. Scarlett, who schemed shamelessly to entrap Ashley, never could shake her attraction for the dangerous and rule-breaking Rhett.

On the harder side of the bad boy continuum, think to Morelli, Stephanie Plum’s nemesis, virginity-taker, and man she simply cannot get out of her life. Adding in another bad boy, but a more complex and softer bad boy, Ranger, just adds to her man dilemma. There is no way Stephanie Plum is going for the nice guy. No way.

An interesting piece I came across, and then lost the link to when I had a computer glitch causing me to lose all my research, was on women and how birth control had changed to put them more in charge of their relationships. The gist of one section was that ovulating women are attracted to bad boys, and women who are on birth control seek men who are perceived more as nice guys. I interpreted this to mean, women want strong, healthy babies (from the rugged men), but they want a nurturing male who will be faithful to them to raise the babe. An interesting notion.

Research into what constitutes a bad boy always leads one to a book by Carole Lieberman and Lisa Collier Cool, Bad Boys: How We Love Them, How to Live with Them, When to Leave Them. Dr. Leiberman’s research led her to identify 12 archetypes for bad boys. She used movies and folk and fairytales to name them. These destructive men to avoid are: Fixer-Upper Lover, Wanton Wolf, Commitment Phobe, Self-Absorbed Seducer, Wounded Poet, Prince of Darkness, Lethal Lover, Power-Mad Prince, Misunderstood & Married, Grandiose Dreamer, Man of Mystery, and Dramatic Daredevil. A more recent book by Dr. Lieberman is Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them and How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets. Analagous to the bad boys book, there are 12 bad girl archetypes. Maybe that will be a later post.

Involved with a bad boy or want to be? Know this. The chances of changing him are slim. And why would you want to? The parts of him that attracted you would disappear, and then what? You leave him because he is no longer edgy, dangerous, challenging? Who wins in that?

If you want more, here are some links so you can do reading on your own.

Writing the Bad Boy

The Trouble with Bad Boys is Them Bad Boys are Trouble

Why Women Love Bad Boys and Dump Nice Guys

Why Do Girls Like Bad Boys?

What’s Your Literary Bad Boy Type?

Four Literary Types You Shouldn’t Date

10 Literary Bad Boys We Love to Love

Bad Boys of Literature & How to Spot Them in Real Life

Monday, September 15, 2014

Parenting and Using It in Our Novels

From inception, this column has always been primarily about relationships. Admittedly I write more about the romantic ones, but recent events have made me consider other relationships and what those mean for writers.

I wrote last week about my mother who passed away less than two weeks ago. She was 87½. The pieces of the relationship I described were my experience at being parented by her. I’m sure my brother and sister would have different perceptions and for sure different interactions. As I finished up that post, I wanted to challenge them to share what they experienced, remembered, perceived. But that won’t happen, I know.

However, it put me in the mood to remember the stories the three of us would share about childhood memories. They were wildly disparate. Different to the point that I wondered had we been there together. Was I interpreting through my own distorted lens and faulty memory what was not true? Surely that has happened to you as well.

As authors, our parented selves contain a trove of stories to delve into, to mine, to transform for our characters. The joys, the pains, the fears, all of these are part of our childhoods, and using them in our characters brings authenticity to our stories.

My parents were stern discipliners, stemming from their own experiences being disciplined in the years of The Great Depression. Mother was less severe than Daddy; we could usually get her to see an alternative.

But once Daddy made up his mind, there was no compromise and no veering from the course. It was as if he felt he would be less than a man if he changed his mind like women always seemed to do (in the minds of his generation). So, even if he knew he was wrong, and he was on so many occasions (Aren’t we all?), he stuck to the decision made.

He was quite physically abusive to me. Not so much to my siblings, but then they didn’t challenge him as much as I, the eldest, did. I was the one most like him in intellectual interests, I think. But his emotions were thwarted and twisted from the parenting and economic hardships he endured. Imagine a bright, bright man who had to quit school in 8th grade to help provide food for the family. Imagine that lack of education resulting in low-level factory and janitorial work for nearly 40 years that never challenged him intellectually. The grind of that kind of work would do a number on my psyche.

When I decided to become an educator he took it upon himself to change my mind. Since I was paying for my own education, I didn’t listen to him. However, one conversation has stayed with me for decades. Daddy: “Why would you spend all that money to be a teacher? If you’re going to spend that much, get a job that pays you more money.” Me: “But I love teaching. It’s important to me to enjoy my work, to give back to the world.” Daddy: “Work is to buy food and pay the rent. Work isn’t for you to enjoy.”

He could be very closed off. At other times he would cry, especially in later years. He liked to laugh, however, and his work nickname was “Happy”. But not so much at home. He resembled Lincoln physically, and like Lincoln he was a depressed personality through all the years I knew him. To Daddy the glass was never half full. There wasn’t a glass, and don’t go getting your hopes up for one appearing. He told me once that he had an advantage over me because I had high expectations, and so, was disappointed when things didn’t happen the way I wanted. He said that he was never disappointed because he didn’t expect good things. So sometimes he even was happily surprised when they did happen. He advised me to be more like him. I ignored that advice, too.

Today, he would have been turned in for child abuse. He used the belt or a switch on me a lot. I went to school with welts. Back in the day, what happened at home, stayed at home. He tried to grind me down into compliance and obedience to make his life easier. But it was my persistence and challenging that allowed me to achieve a good bit of success in my field. I am a resilient person.

He died at age 92, nearly two years ago. I regret that in all those years he was never able to say he was proud of me. That is very hurtful. I accomplished a lot--a PhD, wrote more than a dozen books, had some national reputation. Still, he couldn’t bring himself to say it. I have no idea why.

Does he sound like a Shakespearean tragedy character or what? All kinds of story fodder exists in the actions, beliefs, and personalities of the people who parented us.

I started a novel several years ago based on my father’s personality and foibles (with some embellishments, of course, for dramatic effect). I need to finish that novel, I think, to bring closure to a very difficult relationship. Writing has a way of doing that for me.

What in your parented life would help you shape a story character? Develop a plot point? Explain relationships?

If you want to read about the relationship with my mother, here are the links:

Mothers and Daughters http://angelicafrench.blogspot.com/2014/09/mothers-and-daughters-rip-mother.html

Everything I Know about Cooking Started with My Mother http://sharonarthurmoore.blogspot.com/2014/09/everything-i-know-about-cooking-started.html

Food Grieving http://sharonarthurmoore.blogspot.com/2014/09/food-grieving.html

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mothers and Daughters: R.I.P., Mother

Betty Lorene Lawson Arthur passed away last Sunday, September 7, 2014. The death certificate will say Monday because that’s the day she was found, and no autopsy was performed. Natural causes, it was ruled. And I’m sure it was, but I would have liked closure on why. For my own medical history. For some idea of what her last moments must have been like.

At 87 and a half years, exactly, she survived longer than the average American woman. Longer than her husband. Longer than her four brothers and one sister. She was the last of her generation’s immediate family group. She knew she was next, and she was okay with the inevitability.

She wasn’t a perfect mother, and I was FAR from the perfect daughter, but we had an indestructible bond. The mother-daughter relationship is far stronger than mere blood would expect. We share with our mothers the first menstrual cycle and its incumbent fears and expectations. We know the childbirth pains she experienced when birthing us. We share the never-ending fear that something awful will happen to our children. Those are bonds no son can know. It is the Sisterhood. The Red Tent.

Mother carried around the psychological wounds of her childhood. And sometimes those wounds caused her to act in ways, make decisions that I disagreed with. And we argued. Oh, my how we argued. But the absolute, complete, love underneath was the firm foundation we always settled on after some contretemps or another.

Her story is one I’ve tried to novelize in my incomplete draft, Grassy Crick Holler. I think I need to go back to that story for closure and as a tribute. It is the very least I can do.

She was a coal miner’s daughter. Really. In West Virginia. Her stories of those mining towns and the fear when the bell rang signaling tragegy in the mine, was part of the fabric of my childhood.

When she was 5, her mother died at age 28 of pneumonia after giving birth to her latest son. Jack was seventeen days old when Grandma died. Grandpa was left with five children, no child care, no money for child care. He allowed Uncle Jackie to be adopted by a wonderful woman. The rest of the family were briefly scattered to live among various relatives, and then reunited when Grandpa married “the first Lilly”.

She purportedly took good care of the kids, but I guess, as Mother told the story, these were very hard depression times in a state that never was rich. Grandpa worked nights in the mine, and so did Lilly to supplement the family income. Mother tells of accompanying Lilly to her rendezvouses down by the rail tracks. She was told to stay by the tracks while Lilly went off to conduct business. At least she didn’t leave Mother home alone, right?

Grandpa divorced “the first Lilly” when he found out. Kids scattered again among family. But those families were struggling, too, and my mother ended up in the orphanage and then was farmed out to different families over the years or returned to the orphanage when families didn’t want her or she couldn’t live with them. Imagine the number that would do on your psyche.

She married my father at age 17, still in ninth grade because she had such erratic schooling. She didn’t go to school for the first time or learn to read until she was 8. I know she saw marriage to Daddy as her ticket to a better, more stable life. And it was. He died almost two years ago at age 92 after their marriage of 68 years.

As a kid, I remember how she wanted to be open to anything we wanted to know. Because she had no one to explain menstruation to her, when she got her first period, she thought she was dying. She hurt and she was bleeding. And she didn’t know how to tell this latest foster mother. She was beyond scared. She told me that she swore she would never have her children wondering about their bodies.

At a time when my friends’ mothers were reticent to talk about the female body and human sexuality, my mother was eager. If she didn’t know, she’d pull out this aged medical dictionary she had, and we’d read it together to see if we could find the answer. Unsurprisingly, my friends would hang out at our house so they could ask Mother questions they couldn’t ask at home.

Also, I credit my lack of sexual inhibition--I, quite simply, don’t have any hang-ups-- to living on a farm where reproduction just is what goes on and to my parents clear sexual connection to one another. I thought everybody necked in front of their kids!

Despite numerous and very serious health issues over the years, she was doing so well living on her own in her own home still. Iowa has a wonderful aging-in-place model of support for seniors. My brother looked in on her. People came to clean, walk with her, set up her pills, and so on. The latest was that she was planning her new adventure. She was moving to Denver to live in an apartment near my sister. She was so excited and so looking forward to this new phase of her life.

When she died in her chair Sunday, quite peacefully, likely from her on-going heart issues, she had just made her famous Mexican Cornbread and had the fixings on the counter for cherry pie. We think she sat to rest, and then went to sleep forever. That’s the way to go. Kisses, Mother!