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Thursday, October 09, 2014

New Book - Speed, Sex and Retribution - 8th in the Rafe Vincennes series


Oh, my goodness, I am glad to finally get this one published! I was in the middle of it during my Mom's last illness (Alzheimer's) and finally, her death. Taking care of my sweet, courageous little mother as she disappeared into dementia was a time when creativity was in rather short supply. I would plink around on the book for a while but my brain seemed to be working in a kind of creaking first gear. Mom called me constantly and then didn't remember what she wanted me for, so that even finishing a paragraph started to seem overwhelming. I'm not whining. I'd do it many times over for the woman who was my rock for the first 50 years of my life.

It's just that as the book dragged on, it started to feel that I'd been working on it forever. I was grateful it was a Rafe book because Rafe is my best writing companion. I know him so well, I didn't have to think about what he'd do in any situation, I just knew.

After Mom's died, it took me a while to get back in the groove. I made changes to the house to put my own stamp on it. I gave away over 1,000 dolls and 200 teapots and replaced them with a few pieces of art I loved. There were Mom's financial affairs to be taken care of. And grieving to be done.

After months, I was finally able to give Speed, Sex and Retribution my full attention again but I was eager to finish this book and to start over with something fresh and new. Bless Rafe's heart, he came through for me as he always does.

In this volume, Rafe still races in NASCAR but his father begins a new venture at the other end of the garage property with the building of the Vincennes Stud Farm, where he hopes the stallions, Swift Reckoning and Rolling Fog, father foals as successful in thoroughbred racing as Vincennes Team Racing has been in NASCAR.

Rhiannon is still making movies and the Vincennes kids are growing up. Rafe still follows his wayward ways and his siblings still call on him to be the family Enforcer, thanks to his lethal skill set.

Speed, Sex and Retribution has been published now. It is available at Amazon and Smashwords

My work in progress is about three boys who grew up in a family of Irish Travelers, a fascinating subset of American life.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Ah, A Naked Jamie...The Outlander

Well, we finally got to see a naked Jamie (and Claire too, if anyone cares). After weeks of arousal, we finally had satisfaction. I loved it because it was so real. Although there was an obvious attraction between Claire and Jamie, they had to hurriedly get married to make Claire a Scot to keep her from the evil Black Jack Randall. Naturally, they were both nervous, especially knowing  the other ribald Highlanders were waiting in the Inn below so they would be prepared to swear that
 the marriage had been consummated.

Jamie talked and talked, telling her tales of his life and family. Claire drank and drank until gradually, they began to feel more relaxed. When they finally did the deed, it being Jamie's first time, it was about what you'd expect. Wham Bam, Thank you, Ma'am - so that when he asked her if she liked it, she was sort of like, "well, um, it was okay." He was disappointed but not surprised because his fellows Highlanders had warned him that most women didn't care for sex.

The second time, Claire took matters into her own hands, so to speak, and I suppose, Jamie was feeling slightly less urgent, the first rush of lust having been depleted. She taught him that women can, in fact, be the assertive partner at times. And when she performed oral sex on him, it was obvious he thought he'd died and gone to heaven.

By the third time, they were comfortable with one another and they simply enjoyed what was growing between them, a friendship as well as a sexual partnership.

Anyway, it was not the usual masterful male and ditzy female scenario, thank God.

And then there was one more episode and it was over for six freaking months!

I haven't watched a television series for so long, I hardly remember what it used to be like but it doesn't seem as if you only got to see six shows before a six month hiatus.

Now, Jamie will be hanging in a window with a gun while Black Jack holds Claire with a knife to her breast.....for half a year and fans will all be suffering from Outlander withdrawal.

Some things I've learned from the Outlander.

- Kilts are oh so sexy.

- Anything said with a Scottish burr sounds more charming (this is true of an Irish brogue as well)

- Thank heavens, bum rolls for women went out of style.

- Scotland has some of the most gorgeous scenery of anywhere in the world.

- The casting was outstanding for this series and Sam Heughn is the perfect Jamie Fraser. (I worried about this before the show started. If Jamie hadn't been right, that would have been the end for me.)

So now, I'm re-reading the Outlander series to stay in touch during the program's sabbatical.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ingrid Sundberg's Color Thesaurus

I am sharing Ingrid Sundberg's Color Thesaurus this week because I found it so wonderful. I'm pretty sure anyone who is reading this loves words as I do. I imagine sometimes I could swim happily in a pool of them - some cold, some hot, some joyful, some sad, some wistful, some eager. I don't think of individual words as a static collection of letters but rather, almost living things, with different personalities and tempos and moods....and none more so than the words that represent colors.

So here, for your reading pleasure, I present:

The Color Thesaurus

I love to collect words. Making word lists can help to find the voice of my story, dig into the emotion of a scene, or create variety.
One of my on-going word collections is of colors. I love to stop in the paint section of a hardware store and find new names for red or white or yellow.  Having a variety of color names at my fingertips helps me to create specificity in my writing. I can paint a more evocative image in my reader’s mind if I describe a character’s hair as the color of rust or carrot-squash, rather than red.
So for fun, I created this color thesaurus for your reference. Of course, there are plenty more color names  in the world, so, this is just to get you started.
Fill your stories with a rainbow of images!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Speak To Me Not of Genre


Of all the things you have to do to publish a book, choosing a genre is the hardest part. In fact, the very word strikes fear into my heart.

My books are a little bit of a lot of things but not enough of any one thing to call it that. They contain romance (quite non-traditional) and a bit of paranormal and a tad of mystery and some adventure, all sort of thrown together in a genre stew.

I cannot seem to conform enough to slot myself into any of the genre labels. My second book was meant to be a romance. I was determined to follow the guidelines and produce something salable. I'd watched my former student, Liz Flaherty, do it extremely well. She writes great books and gets them published. Damn, I taught her a few little things. Now I'd learn from her. But it didn't work.

Sticks and Carrots turned out to be a romance in the end but only after it wandered far from the acceptable bounds of romance publisher rules.

Another former student I'm in touch with recently told me that he's been publishing erotica. "They practically sell themselves," he said. It's for sure none of my books would ever earn a PG rating. They sometimes deal with taboo subjects and they are quite graphic but they aren't single-minded enough to be considered erotica, not like 50 Shades of Gray in which the sex was the whole point.

My heroes are never quite heroes. They aren't saved by love. They aren't redeemed by honor or patriotism which makes their lawlessness acceptable. And they aren't vampires or werewolves.

I have written eight books in the Rafe Vincennes series. A fan once told me, "there is nobody else in fiction like Rafe." I took that as compliment. But when an editor once asked me what other character I'd liken Rafe to, I gave him the same answer.

"Hmmm," he responded, "that's a problem."

Yes, for me, genre is a problem.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Adding Number 5



I have a Pinterest board entitled "Jimmie, Kimi, Johnny, David". I don't expect anyone else to follow it. It's for my own personal enjoyment. It features pictures of my favorite men.

1) Jimmie Johnson -  six-time NASCAR champion. If I had a young son and was asked to choose who I would want his role model to be, it would be Jimmie. He's handsome, a loving family man, an admirable representative of NASCAR, a passionate competitor on the track and a fitness buff. Jimmie is the whole package.

2) Kimi Raikkonen - Champion in Formula One racing, currently driving for Ferrari. Kimi is the opposite of Jimmie. His nickname is the Iceman. He dislikes the press and is frequently either uncooperative or profane. Kimi walks to the beat of his own drummer and doesn't much care if his behavior offends others. His fans love his independent spirit.

3) Johnny Depp - Johnny is beautiful and unconventional. He loves quirky roles that make his looks beside the point - the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, Willie Wonka, Tonto in The Lone Ranger. He is hardly ever a hero in the traditional sense of the word. As Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean, for instance, his character is dishonest and sometimes cowardly. He's a drinker and a carouser. Yet somehow, he comes through in the end with wits and deeds of derring-do.

4) David Garrett - a virtuoso violinist, David has got to be the sexiest musician on earth and this is coming from an old rock and roller who, heretofore, paid no attention to classical music. My musical choices were along the lines of Rod Stewart and AC-DC, the Beatles and the Stones and ZZ Top but David has carried me along to places I never visited before.

And now, I guess, I'm going to have to change the title of my Board to add 5) - Sam Heughn, who plays Jamie Fraser in the Outlander series on Starz. I honestly expected to be disappointed with this series, believing as I did that the producers couldn't possibly find an actor who could do justice to Jamie, who is at the top of my favorite fictional characters....but they did. Sam is a perfect Jamie. He's courageous and tough, yet also sensitive when needs be. He smart and funny and sexy. He can be a macho man while also giving his wife, Claire, absolute respect.

(Incidentally, one of my favorite men used to be Mel Gibson (the Lethal Weapon movies some of the few I've watched more than once) until he went so maniacally right-wing, he turned me off but I may have to go back and re-visit Braveheart now that the Outlander has caused a new fascination with Scotland.)

These are my five - two racers, two actors, one musician, all talented, but ranging from outgoing to anti-social, conventional to non-conformist, all mesmerizing in their own me, at least.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Eat Crow...Sorry, Diana Gabaldon


Funny how often you limit yourself by your own misconceptions. Me, for instance, I held off reading the Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon for years. To tell the truth, I was even rather snobby about it to people who recommended them to me.

"Sorry," I remember saying sniffily, "but a historical romance with supernatural overtones just isn't my cup of tea." (Implying, I suppose, that I was intellectually above that sort of thing).

I don't remember when I read the first one, which happened to be The Scottish Prisoner, but I got it at the library. Maybe there was nothing else that piqued my interest that day. Because I hadn't read the first book first (The Outlander), there were some things about the story that I didn't understand but nevertheless, I fell in love with both Lord John Grey and Jamie Fraser. Claire barely even made an appearance in that volume but that was fine with me because I always find male characters far more appealing than female ones. In fact, after I finished The Scottish Prisoner and decided to go back to The Outlander, I knew from the blurb that Claire would be a main character and I was disappointed that she'd take time away from the men.

That was so only until I began reading, then Claire too captured my heart. (The gay Lord John is actually the somewhat marginal figure but I always look forward to his appearances. In addition, he has some novellas devoted to him).

I assumed that, as in so many romances, Jamie would be the big, strong man and Claire would be the weaker, slightly ditzy woman who needed his protection, particularly since she came into his world, the rebellious Scottish Highlands of 1743, one that was totally alien to her. And Jamie is, in fact, a strong hero type, but Claire (who was a battlefield doctor during World War II before falling back in time) is equally as tough in her area of expertise. If she relies on Jamie's strength and fortitude, he relies on hers every bit as much.

Their love is not always a storybook affair. They fuss, they fight, they get disgusted with one another but in the end, they laugh and love and forgive and respect. Their sex is passionate and real but it is simply a natural part of their lives, not a focus of particular attention.

Diana Gabaldon is scrupulous about the history in her books, bringing whatever era she is writing about to life through meticulous detail (all of her books are pleasingly fat). I didn't even know I was interested in Scotland's history, but it turned out that in her sure hands, I became fascinated by it. Gabaldon does not sugarcoat any of the horrors of past times; she doesn't pull any punches about blood and guts and violence and ignorance.

She's a master of description, painting vivid pictures of the Highlands, of the towering mountains and vast forests, of bogs and gorse and heather. You go behind the scenes in royal castles and brothels and hospitals where early physicians ply their, almost barbaric, early trade.

Every character, and there are a lot of them through the entire series, is a fully-fleshed person and demands an emotional response from the reader, whether that response is admiration or pity or hatred or love or some combination of all those. There is no one you come away feeling lukewarm about, even some with the most minor roles.

Once I found them, I forced myself to limit my reading of the series. I didn't want to devour them all and be done too quickly. For one thing, they are too crammed with substance to rush through them. These are books to savor slowly. So I spread them out over the course of a year or so. It was a delightful feeling to know there was one waiting on the shelf to be pulled down when I was in exactly the right mood. Right now, I relish knowing I have Gabaldon's most recent offering, Written in My Own Heart's Blood, to look forward to.

I rarely watch movies or television except for news and NASCAR but when I discovered that Starzz was making a series of the Outlander novels, I immediately ordered the channel just for that one program, hoping that the the producers had made the right decisions regarding casting. I knew if the Jamie character wasn't believable as my Jamie, the entire series would be a bust.

When it was over, I heaved a sigh of satisfaction. Yes, Sam Heughan was Jamie and Caitriona Balfe was Claire. Justice had been done.

So, now I have the next Saturday and the next and the next, times however many shows there will be to spend time with the people who have become my favorite fictional characters. I will never enjoy television as well as reading but still, the series will help fill the time between books.

So, Diana Gabaldon, I'm sorry I spurned you during all my years of smug superiority. I was flatly wrong. You won me over with the first chapter and you've given me so many hours of delicious reading pleasure since. I hate to think I might have missed having Jamie and Claire and Lord John and the all the rest in my life.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

The Glass Castle

In our county, we've recently had furious disagreement over school reading lists. Leading the way of disapproved books was The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I'm always curious to know what causes people to want to keep their children away from certain books so I read The Glass Castle myself. Let me say, up front, that it is a wonderful book. It is touching and entertaining and heartwarming and heartrending every step of the way.

The Glass Castle is an autobiographical book about a family that is unorthodox, to say the least. The parents deliberately cut themselves off from anything most of us would consider normalcy, preferring to live in slums and squats than regular houses. Always have to "skedaddle" because of unpaid bills. Dad is an alcoholic and Mom fancies herself an artist, refusing to work to bring money into the house even when she had hungry children, in favor of concentrating on her art.

The kids' lives include a gamut of experiences. They are often cold and/or hungry. They sneak food out of the trash can that their school mates throw away. Sometimes they go to school and sometimes they don't. They are made fun of by the other children because they are dirty and don't know obvious things other students know. Their parents just shrug all this off. They never worry about what others think of them and value self-sufficiency above all. If their kids get beaten up, they simply tell them to go fight harder next time.

On the other hand, they go on adventures. They sleep in the desert under the stars as their father teaches them about the constellations, along with many other things. They can read long before most children and have an expansive vocabulary and scientific knowledge. Their father is brilliant intellectually and can build anything. He has detailed drawings of the Glass Castle he is someday going to construct for his family. When the kids are young, they work on the plans, each child getting to make his or her room into whatever they want it to be. In real life, when the stairs to their shack become so rickety, they aren't safe, he never bothers to repair them.

In their early years, the Walls children simply accept what is. They love their parents, especially their visionary, impractical father. As time goes on though, they begin to lose faith and wonder why they have to live the way they do. They no longer believe in the glass castle as Dad falls deeper into the whiskey bottle and Mom distances herself from the every day world by focusing on painting.

One by one, the kids escape. The oldest daughter, Lori, takes a bus to New York when she graduates. When she has established herself, she sends for Jeannette who is a junior in high school, then Brian, the brother, when he is a junior. And finally their baby sister. Eventually, their parents come to New York too but they remain the same diehard independents they've always been. They are homeless, cadging food from dumpsters and sleeping in the park, refusing to let their children help them.

The book is a classic case of how love can exist side-by-side with the most unbelievable dysfunction within a family. And how some children rescue themselves. Yes, there is cussing and yes, there are some graphic descriptions of attempted child molestation but there are also incredible scenes of courage and self-reliance and sticking together. It is a book that reaches some deep part of your heart.

If I had a child, I would not only let them read The Glass Castle as part of an assignment, I would provide it for them if the school didn't.