Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Bringing Up "Issues"

As an author, I feel like I have an obligation to try to give my readers a well-written, entertaining and engaging story that helps them escape whatever their real-life problems might be.

That's my superpower. Writing.

And I know that's why I read. To escape. To be entertained.

What we write and how we write it also reflects who we authors are, and what we believe. I believe in Happily-Ever-Afters and soul mates and the fact that we always have a choice. Those tenets are reflected in my stories.

I also believe in climate change, and that we need to work to find solutions to mitigate the problems, that we need to support the scientists studying the problem. I live on an ecologically fragile spit of land sticking out into the ocean, so ocean issues are daily fodder for me. I know that not everyone is as educated about sea level rise or the dangers of ocean acidification, so I used my super-power to try to help educate.

I wrote an environmental scientist into the role of romance hero in CRAZY ABOUT YOU.

I'm saddened by the rise in drug use and drug overdose deaths around the U.S., and embarrassed as hell that the HBO documentary on heroine addiction was filmed and set on Cape Cod, as a microcosm for the country.Especially heartbreaking are the young people who feel they don't have better options, so what the hell.

My novella BREAKING THE RULES focuses on how the drug trade preys on the young, and the immigrant community.

I'm also appalled by the intolerance I see in the news, that rose to fever pitch on all sides during the 2016 election. Forget "politically correct" - how about being polite? How can you hate a whole class or race when you don't even know anyone from that group?

I pose that specific question in my Young Adult mermaid series, and while the issue lurks in the periphery for the first two books, the third one that I'm finishing up now (DECEPTION) slams it home.



I don't think it's just me.

If you read romance novels written prior to the AIDS crisis, I don't think the word condom appears in any of them. Ever. Today the lack of a condom is more noticeable than the grabbing of one from the bedside table. NOT using a condom is no longer acceptable unless a lengthy discussion between characters precedes it. And if you the writer forgets, I think your editor will probably bring it up.

We're authors, but we're also human. We live in this world and have the ability - and maybe even duty? - to comment on what's going on around us. Don't we?

What issues do you slip into your story lines?

Or do you? Am I totally off base with this line of thinking? 

Either way - have a great week and Happy Writing!





Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday Book Reviews: AGAIN, ALABAMA and BED, BREAKFAST AND MURDER

Again, Alabama (Alabama series book 1) by Susan Sands
Published by Tule Publishing in 2015

About the Book:
Cammie Laroux is back in Alabama—again.

Dragged back to her small town to help her mother recover from surgery while rescuing the family event planning business should be a cinch. Even for a disgraced television chef, right? Wrong.

Among the many secrets Cammie’s family’s been hiding is the fact that their historic home is falling down. Oh, and the man hired to restore the house, Grey Harrison, is the same high school and college love of her life who thrashed her heart and dreams ten years ago. Yeah, that guy.

Grey, a widower with a young daughter, has never stopped loving Cammie, and when they are face to face once again, the chemistry is off the charts. Cammie may be in full-blown denial, but letting go is no longer in Grey’s vocabulary, even when winning Cammie’s forgiveness and renovating their love may seem like an impossible build even for a master architect and carpenter.

As Cammie finds herself forgetting all the reasons she can’t trust Grey or love again, he finds himself remembering all the reasons he wants her to stay with him in Alabama… forever.
MY TAKE:

Over the weekend I read two books where the heroine is drawn back home and into the family business after "failure" in the big city. Coming home is one of those common themes, and interestingly enough these two books had another thing in common - the family business is an inn. In this first book, it's an historic house that caters to events, in the second it's a Bed and Breakfast.

Here's the thing. My parents owned an inn in Vermont. So while I think this first author has some peripheral knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes, the second seems to have merely watched Bob Newhart reruns to get the main gist.

In Again, Alabama, the failure is professional. Cammie works on a cooking and lifestyle show where the star's hair caught on fire and the star publicly blames Cammie. After signing non-disclosure agreements, her family calls her home to help (and heal) while her mother undergoes back surgery. Leaving her successful, sweet, and understanding fiance on the coast, she heads to Alabama to run the family inn while mom recovers. But no one told her her high school sweetheart and the boy who shattered her heart moved back to town and is renovating the inn. Will she give up her engagement to take another chance on the boy she still loves?

I wish the author had taken her time to write a longer book, or leave out some of this to give it more focus. There was so much going on and it was all good stuff, but she never delved into the details that make you invest your heart in the story. Lots of character, lots of disparate dramas going on all over the place. When she focused on a scene or an emotion it could be exquisite, but the story itself was so sweeping that it seems she felt the need to rush us through, giving us short snippets and interactions to show the time moving along without fleshing out those scenes.

On the other hand, I read all the way through, and enjoyed it as a light beach read. There may be too many characters and too many POVs and too many twists to the story, but it has a real-ness to it that made me keep turning pages. Even the heavy confrontations and big reveals didn't feel so heavy, delivered like a slice of good lemon meringue pie with a big ol' side of "bless her heart." I'd give this 3.5 - 4 stars, and recommend for a light read to throw in the beach bag as a just-in-case read. It's the first in a series and free on AMAZON right now.


Bed, Breakfast and Murder, by Patti Larsen
Published by Mayhem and Murder, Inc., January 2017
About the Book:
A cozy murder mystery series to die for! 
I tried not to look down the mouth of hell staring back at me from inside the glaringly pristine outer ceramic shell of the white throne, my throat catching, stomach doing half flips and a rather impressive rollover routine that would have gotten at least a 9.5 even from the Russian judges. Instead, I forced myself to smile and swallow and remind myself the elbow length yellow rubber gloves grasping the handle of the standard issue plunger were all that stood between me and Pooageddon.

Suck it up, Fee. Big girl panties and adulting and all that.

"At what point," I waved the dripping plunger, wincing as droplets of yuck flew, "did I think owning a bed and breakfast was going to be glamorous and romantic?"
 
Fiona Fleming hasn't lived in Reading, Vermont in over a decade, her escape from small town living leading her to New York City and a life of adventure. An adventure that has left her with no career, an ex who cheated on her and zero plans for the future. And then, in the shocker of a lifetime, Fee's grandmother wills her a bed and breakfast. Awesome! It's the fresh start she's been dying for. Or is it?

Petunia's might seem like a refuge from her cheating ex and so-called life in the big city, but being accused of murder within two weeks of arriving back in her hometown? That's anything but charming. Can she uncover the truth before the handsome new sheriff puts her behind bars instead of asking her to dinner?
 My Take:

As I mentioned in the previous review, my parents actually did own an inn in Vermont. It was 42 rooms, restaurant, bar, indoor and outdoor pools, and also catered to events like the first inn in the Alabama book. So, more than a B&B, less than a full-blown hotel, still a real-live inn.

For so many reasons, I'm guessing this author has never had the experience of actually living and/or working in an inn or B&B... and the inconsistencies and bad details bothered me a lot. If only because unlike the other author I reviewed this week, this author offers up lots of details and has an overly wordy, self-aware and sarcastic voice that would fit better if she knew what she was talking about. You can't give details if you don't know details.

Again, I read this all the way through. Again, it's the first in a series staring these characters in this small Vermont town. But no, I can't recommend and no, I won't be reading more.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Feature: Excerpt from DECEPTION, Son of a Mermaid Book 3



Excerpt from DECEPTION, Son of a Mermaid Book 3, COMING SOON....
 
The thick walls felt oppressive, the water murky without the stir of even the slightest current. The building had no windows, no outlets except the entrance guarded by Erastus. Low moans of other prisoners came from the far shadows of the cells she passed, but she didn’t turn her head to look, not wanting to see any more suffering than necessary. A final turn down a long, darkened hallway before the single lamp at the end illuminated the iron bars of Zan’s cell door. His shadowed body slumped against the wall, arms suspended over his head, dangling limp and lifeless from iron chains. She wondered for the millionth time how he endured the heavy shackles. Her heart hurt to see him this way, but there was nothing she could do or say to make the guards unbind him. She’d tried. Many times.
“Zan,” she called softly. “Zan, wake up.”
He stirred but his eyes didn’t open. “Go away.”
“Zan…”
“I told you not to come back here once the trial began,” he said, his voice barely audible. “Someone will use it against you in court.”
“We need to talk, Alexander.” Kae used his given name, trying to get a rise out of the merman. She succeeded.
Opening his eyes, he gave her a weary look. “We have nothing left to talk about.”
“We do.” She squirmed under his gaze, flicking her tailfins against the rocky floor. “You were right about Shea. He didn’t even try to deny it. His grandfather ordered him not to search for me, so he didn’t.”
The corner of Zan’s mouth pulled up in a half-smile. “Did you ask him about the bracelet?”
She glanced at the silver bangle on her wrist. “I didn’t have to. It was on Hailey’s wrist when I found her on the island. She told me he gave it to her for safekeeping, before they got on the plane. The one you crashed.”
Zan winced. “I guess I had a thing for tornadoes. But you can’t blame him about the bracelet. Royal blood means responsibility to clan before all others. You should understand that better than most, little mermaid, having lived your entire life inside the castle walls.”
“Shea is different,” she insisted, feeling the need to defend him even when he disappointed her.
“You just told me he isn’t.” Zan shook his head, letting his chin fall to his chest. “It doesn’t matter. I appreciate all the time you’ve spent here with me, keeping me company in this bleak place. But if this is all I have to look forward to, a life in chains and stolen moments with a mermaid whose heart belongs to another, then why should I bother?”
“You’re my friend. I care about what happens to you.”
“You shouldn’t.”
His terse words hit her like a punch in the belly, knocking the breath from her gills. She tried to remember why she’d come here in the first place, but all she could focus on was how hopeless he seemed. She wished there was something she could do to help, but the reality was she needed his help now. “Zan, the magick in me. It’s getting stronger, I can feel it.”
His eyes opened all the way. “I don’t sense it in you.”
“Because of the dampening spell on the dungeon.” One of the guards explained the precautions taken with the prisoners. He also let slip about the sedatives added to Zan’s food. They were taking no chances with the sorcerer. “When I get angry, I have trouble controlling my reactions. Like today in court, when I saw Prince Demyan.” She spat his name like a curse.
The chains rattled over Zan’s head, an anguished look on his face. “I’m not in a position to help you with anything more than advice. You know enough not to reveal yourself.”
She studied his face, wondering if he’d known this might happen. Day by day she felt her abilities growing stronger. “I’ve made a few friends from my history class who have magical abilities. Not like you, of course,” she added quickly when he jerked his head. “Small magick. Mermaid magick. They’ve been trying to show me how to control the magick inside me.”
“I warned you not to tell anyone.” His words were more of a growl.
“Don’t be angry. I’m dealing with this the best I can!”
Zan exhaled a long breath and hung his head. “I’m not angry. I worry about you. And there’s nothing I can do at the moment to help.” 
* ~ * ~ * 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Writing Wednesday: When Your Family Reads Your Books

I know I'm not the only one who relies on friends and family for support in my writing career. I'm not saying they're the only ones buying my books, but it always feels good to have family show up to support an event or a book release.


< ~~~ My sister-in-laws at a recent bookstore signing (and they smuggled in margaritas from the sidewalk cafe next door-yum!)



My kids, nieces and nephews at a book release event at a Chatham book store ~~~~~~~~~ >








But actually reading and reviewing my books?

Sometimes I'm not sure if they've read them... and sometimes maybe I'd rather not know. My mother-in-law recently *borrowed* a copy of my latest anthology release to read my story in the collection.
I'd ordered a paperback version for myself - it's seriously the size of an old-fashioned dictionary, not "light" beach reading, lol.


< ~~~~~~~~~~ "Your book is over there on the desk, underneath some things to hide that racy cover. The kids shouldn't see that."

"Did you read my story already?"

"Well, yes."

"What did you think?"

"It's very explicit, isn't it. Well written, and I liked learning about the inner workings of the restaurant business and the detective character. But the details were... well, too graphic. Too racy for me."

I don't usually have those problems with my YA books. (duh.) But I also haven't been successful getting my own children to actually read the finished versions, as they read so many drafts and beta-edits along the way. They feel like they *know* the story - why bother reading it now?

My youngest finally agreed (reluctantly) to read the books at work this summer, between boat trips. He just finished DESCENT yesterday, and grudgingly admitted to liking it. Enough so that he packed the second book in his bag when he didn't think there was enough of the first one left to make it through the day. It's cool to hear his take on the characters I've been living with for years like a second family. The ones he likes and doesn't like, what television characters they remind him of. The fact that I write teen dialogue like a grownup trying to write teen dialogue. ("Don't worry though, it's a common problem in fiction." Umm, thanks?)

What do other authors do? Do your kids and spouses and extended family beta read for you? Do they read the finished versions and tell you know what they think? Or do you write under a pen name and never let them see the finished product? How high is your anxiety level when you know a family member is reading something you wrote?

Happy Writing ~ and Reading!


Friday, July 7, 2017

Saturday Book Signing at Whydah Pirate Museum, West Yarmouth 10-12pm


I'll be visiting the Whydah Pirate Museum tomorrow, the home of the only authentic pirate ship ever recovered from the bottom of the ocean. It's a fascinating place for all ages, and right on Route 28 in West Yarmouth, on Cape Cod.

Barry Clifford has recovered so much pirate treasure, from the deck canons (that you can touch!) to real gold coins and jewelry! There's so much to read and learn about the life of pirates, as well as learning about treasure hunters themselves. In the "back room" you can see the recovery process each item goes through. Really cool stuff!

While Deception isn't available for purchase just yet, I may be reading from the manuscript, handing out postcards and answering questions about all things mermaid! If you're on Cape Cod for the weekend, add a trip to this museum to your to-do list.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Pronouncing Those Words on the Page

I'm in the home stretch of writing the next book in my YA mermaid series, and it's been brought to my attention that readers are unclear how to properly pronounce some of the words and names in my book.

We've all been there. Especially in paranormal or science fiction, but even in contemporary fiction. Foreign looking names that are probably not pronounced the same way they're spelled.

I know with my own kids, there are plenty of words they read and understand, but when they go to use them out loud in a sentence, they mispronounce them for one reason or another. It's a word they've only read, not heard, so they don't know. And having taken years of high school Latin, they often mispronounce English words that don't follow "normal" rules of pronunciation.

With my own series, though, I've been stuck as to how to fix this. The very first time the two main characters meet on the beach, the girl tells Shea how to pronounce her name. I thought that would be sufficient for the readers. Apparently not.

Okay, back up a sec. The boy's name is "Shea" which another character compares to baseball's Shea Stadium, so I figure that's easy enough. The longer version of his name is Gaelic and spelled Sheachnadh, which even I'm a little unclear how to pronounce.

The girl's name is Kae. Looking at it, it's similar to Shea and maybe it makes sense to say "Kay"... but in the first book she explains.


When the girl said his name, it tingled in his ears like music touching him all the way to his toes. Goosebumps prickled up his arms.
He cleared his throat. “So what’s your name?”
“My name’s Kae.” She smiled, her lips parting to show perfect pearly white teeth. “Kaa – ee,” she enunciated again. She stood and stretched her arms toward the sky. She was easily the same height as he was. “You must pronounce all the sounds.”
“Kaa – ee,” he repeated in the same exaggerated fashion and shook his head. “I haven’t seen you on the beach before.” 
“You’re the new one.” Kae tucked her wet hair behind her ears. “My family is here every summer.”
 See? I thought that made sense. But my kids tell me no. So I came up with an idea - adding an umlat to the "e" to make sure it gets pronounced as a separate vowel.

But how to do that on the computer?

Turns out it's not that hard in Word. Type Control Shift Colon, release and then type the letter you want the umlat over. Except of course it doesn't seem to want to work for me in Blogger, there must be a different key combo in this program.

Now I need to decide if I want to go in and fix the first two books to reflect the revised spelling. Or if that will still be just as confusing. People seem to be able to pronounce Zoe and Chloe properly without the use of an umlat - I didn't realize my mermaid's name would be so difficult.

Have you come across this in your own writing? Where a word is perfectly easy to say in your own head but then you find other's having difficulty? What have you done to fix the problem?

Happy Writing - and Reading - to you all!



Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

Hope your weekend is filled with friends, family, fun...
and cake!

Happy Independence Day, America!