Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why a book fails while another succeeds?

When I write a book, I don't think whether it will be successful with the buying public. In the first place, most of my books were written before I even dreamed of something like ePub. I wrote them because they came to me. I didn't aim them at editors either, although some were sent into publishing houses as part of a query.

Dark Angel never was submitted. I wrote it because the hero came to me in a dream. The story is a bit of a fairy tale which I only recognized after I had completed it and was beginning to edit/edit/edit. It is beauty and the beast. A lot of good romances were first laid out in a fairy tale. After all, there are only so many basic plots out there. It's what you do with it after the basics that separates the books.

Now a real life beauty and the beast (I just watched Hemingway and Gellhorn) wouldn't end happily. Real life tends to get in the way of happy endings, and when you have a man who is a beast, he is likely to be impossible to live with-- especially for an intelligent woman (Hemingway said-- 'Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know').

Actually their story did have a happy ending, if you ended the story before WWII and the real conflict they eventually faced between the intense career and emotional needs each of them had. Real life often starts where a romance leaves off.

Distracted again-- back to Dark Angel. The beast in this story is not a man who is difficult like Hemingway, but it is where opposites attract. Kind of like that old Billy Joel song Uptown Girl with a downtown guy.  Actually he sang another about this combo also earlier where he was the boy your mama warned you about.

Dill is all of that but he's mostly a good man in a bad spot. Seemingly you'd think it'd be a popular story. Maybe too many had read it already with the fairy tales? Perhaps they thought dark angel meant evil, and it doesn't but is the title maybe wrong for it? Well I don't know.

Asking why a book doesn't attract readers is the kind of question writers do ask. With mine, sometimes I know with say a story like Moon Dust where it's dealing with the adult ramifications of childhood abuse. Golden Chains had some fearing erotica and others not that interested in the art community.

Dark Angel though seems more generally of interest, with a tough and interesting hero coming together with a beautiful and strong heroine. There is, however, for it one possibility that seems as likely as a plot that turned readers off. I never did a free day.

When I got onto Kindle, I liked the idea of the free day promotions that are part of Select. I am an unknown quantity as a writer. People don't want to take the risk even when it's only $2.99. I feel those free days allowed me to introduce myself to a lot of readers. They would then know what to expect from a Rain Trueax book. And there are certain dependable elements.

Then I began to hear people in the forums saying they waited for free books. The system has spoiled them for buying at all. That eventually becomes self-defeating for the writer who would like to have the books be profitable.

So Dark Angel never got that freebie boost. No book of mine will from now on even if they disappear into the darkness of Kindle where they never see the light. The goal for me now is to see my books available other places, reviewed in other blogs and find readers apart from Amazon. Since now a lot of readers do know my work, I don't see the benefit of undermining readers who paid for a book by giving it away next week. That just proves upsetting.

Now there might be other reasons why Dark Angel didn't do well besides no free day. I really have never understood why readers choose what they do or why one book will suddenly sell 10 copies while another sits there and to me both are good stories in their own way. Anyway, enjoy the trailer as it gives a flavor of the story-- a beauty and the beast story that eventually, after a lot of travails, will end as a fairy tale should. Shame about Gellhorn and Hemingway.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Excerpt from Sky Daughter

Seeking peace in Idaho's mountains, Maggie first shoots a stranger, then saves his life. She's pulled into danger, passion, occult secrets; a world where no one is who she thought.

Once in awhile, experts suggest it's good to put out an excerpt as a way to give readers a taste of your writing. All of my books on Kindle offer the first chapter as such a sample, but I thought it'd be fun to pick a scene to stand alone.  I can't say it's a favorite. I like them all, but it's one I particularly relate to and think readers here might also.

In this simple scene from Sky Daughter more is revealed as to who Maggie is, what she is learning about the life she has chosen and who her grandmother had been. That it's about gardening is a bonus.


In the kitchen, Maggie picked up the flats of plants she had optimistically grown from seed. The first little plants had gone outside too soon and had their leaves blackened by a late frost, but she could protect these no longer. Most likely the deer would eat them before they got settled in, but she would give them a chance, a moment in the sun.
  Planting was part of the heritage of her grandmother. The urge to continue the cycle of growth, of planting and sowing ran strongly through her veins. After so much loss, so many aborted opportunities and lives, she had a need to see life reach fruition.
  Working in the sun-warmed soil, Maggie put everything from her mind except weeding carefully around the lavender plants, loosening the soil by the rosemary. She hummed as she worked, then came words about planting and releasing to grow. As quickly as the words came to her, they were gone. She sighed. The song would’ve never satisfied her managers anyway.
   She dug a hole for one of the marigolds, threw in a bit of fertilizer and then tamped the soil back around the tender plant. Planting meant a belief in the future, a desire for improving the present, and a reaching back to the past. It encompassed all of life to sow it with the hope of someday reaping.
   She sat in the garden when she had finished, feeling the warmth of the sun on her skin, the coolness of the soil beneath her knees. Why were tears running down her cheeks?
   Maggie girl. The words seemed almost real. She closed her eyes as she again heard her grandmother’s voice, seemingly could almost smell the blend of soap and the fragrance of herbs that was so much a part of every memory she had about her. She could feel the touch of that precious hand on her shoulder, soothing and giving her subtle energy. God, she missed that woman. She remembered her grandmother’s tall form as she would walk across the mountain, calling to Maggie and taking her with her into the woods, teaching her about the woods plants, which ones healed, which ones could be used for a fever, which ones poisoned.
   When had she forgotten the names, forgotten those words? She had been taught so much and it seemed it was all gone. She remembered one of the many conversations.

   ‘Dream, Sky Daughter, dream of the future and of all that will be.’
   ‘Grandma, I don’t remember my dreams.’
   ‘You must try harder. Dreams are the spirits speaking to you. They are your power.’
    ‘Mama says they’re not.’
    ‘Your mama had to follow her path and you must follow yours. They are not the same.’
   ‘How do you know?’
   ‘I know and you will too when the time comes.’
   Her grandmother just smiled. ‘You will.’
   ‘You could tell me now.’
   ‘No one should tell another their path, Sky Daughter, but someday you will know yours.’

   Maggie felt tears running down her cheeks and wiped the back of her hands across her eyes, to brush them away. “I miss you so. I thought you’d be here to teach me, to always tell me. Why did you have to go?”
   A hummingbird buzzed her, warning her off from the area, letting her know she was intruding on protected ground. Somewhere nearby was probably its nest. It was operating by instinct as she had found herself doing with Reuben.
  She looked toward the forest. She tried to force a change in reality, to go back in time, to see those, who had gone, come walking toward her. They would be laughing and talking about how much fun they would have had on a picnic at the falls. Her childish voice would be raised in excitement as it had been in those days of feeling so protected and loved.
  She waited, but all she could hear was the sound of a raven calling from higher up the mountain, the angry scream of a hawk, and the soothing tweets of smaller birds in nearby bushes. Never again would her loved ones be with her, and she had to face that reality.

Sky Daughter, a paranormal romance based in Idaho, is available at Amazon Kindle 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Metaphors and writing

 The first of these metaphors for writing or even reading a book came to me a few weeks ago.

A story is like weaving on a loom. 

The warp is the characters (hero, heroine, villain, sidekick, misc.) and the weft is what happens, the plot elements. So you start with a loom and on it are strung vertically the warp-- although you can add warp into the design as it develops.

A shuttle carries the weft across the threads or yarns and designs become obvious. You can add colors going vertically also as the design requires.

With a book, it's in a basic frame with these important people, some introduced immediately and others as the story goes along. They are influenced and changed by what comes at them both through their own decisions and those of others.

In the end, you have a whole, the rug or cloth and all the elements fit it. If they don't, the weaving was unsuccessful and you might tear the whole thing apart.

I thought about writing this down but at the time just let it be with the idea sometime it would work for a blog here. Well and also be sure my own story weavings were consistent, with strong and interesting designs.

Then last night, I had a dream which when it had ended gave me another metaphor.

A story is like a picture puzzle. 

You start putting together the pieces and guessing how it will turn out, what fits there, what does that piece seem to be saying? Sometimes you begin seeing a box photo of where you are going but sometimes you just start finding pieces that work to create a satisfying design. If a piece doesn't fit or is missing, the puzzle is a frustration.

So in writing a book there is a goal, a set of pieces that will be put together to satisfactorily meet the needs of that goal. A reader will be happy when they finish a book where all the pieces worked together to create something the reader had never seen the same way before.

Just for the fun to add to this, I'll tell you the general story. I don't see it as becoming a plot for one of my books, but it was a very enthralling dream movie.

The hero and heroine are married and working with government forces in a strange country. This is what they do. They are living in a very big home, well set up structurally, and not living with the main body of military personnel which says they were probably CIA or something like that. The country is in turmoil.

I think there were at least three scenes that mattered, that were important parts of the puzzle. In  a way my characters were also putting together a puzzle. There were others in their home off and on who were working for the same goals regarding this country.

The folloowing section was when I saw the analogy to writing most clearly. Things had gone wrong and worse the government body with which they worked wasn't really effective. It looked like it would all fall apart and the mission fail when the hero basically got together some of his friends, told them to come to the home and they were about to start their own military action.

The next pieces of the story would be gathering the personnel and tools together to win something that all the bigger bodies were about to lose completely.

There wasn't much romance because this couple were already together and had no marital problems. They were an enjoyable couple to watch; so it had plenty of interest as they were both good at what they did-- paramilitary fighting (think Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt). Fun dialogue to write, and put together how they would win in the end with a small force. But not a romance.

It was however a great metaphor for putting together a good story or how you feel after you have read one. The tiny piece that didn't seem important when you looked at it is often a key element to making the puzzle work.

My father used to like to play tricks with puzzles. He would hide one piece; so that when we got to the end, we'd know something never seemed to be there. Then he got to put it in. There is a real satisfaction when writing a story when the last piece goes into place and you may not have even seen it mattered but suddenly you know it was the key to it all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Branding the writer

Recently I was told, by someone more experienced in marketing, that I needed to create a brand for myself. This isn't for my individual books but for my name as an author. This person has done it successfully for others as a favor but now is offering her services professionally. She did not specify an amount, but it wouldn't have mattered. I am not making enough money on the books to justify borrowing for publicizing-- not yet anyway.

I've said before that I am only going to put into this what I make from it. The argument sent back to me from others is-- do you believe in your product? If you do, pay for professional editor, cover artist, and someone to help you get publicity. That can run $1000 a book to hire those with quality resumes. Repeating again, I'd go nuts right now if I did that as I might find my books not that salable even if I put out that money, and we would be talking $10,000 for all of them. I am sticking to my philosophy.

So how do I market me as a quality product when I can't hire experts? For the first two parts it has meant for the last year putting a lot of hours into editing and creating covers which now involves trailers. No money but a lot of my own sweat when it's not fun to be reading for errors and not pleasure.

My covers are done (again and again) with some paid stock images as well as many of my own landscape photos. I even got a new set of fonts to offer a little more professional look to titles.

Basically I have worked, what amounts to a full-time job, for a year on these manuscripts. Whenever I find something hasn't worked, I redo it. It has been a tremendously demanding project. I did it because I felt the books deserved the best I could give them.

BUT there is still that pesky branding problem. How does one brand oneself? I don't even know how I would do this as a woman let alone as a writer.

Who am I as a writer? What is my purpose in my stories? Is there a common purpose? If I wrote one of these series type books, it might be easier. My contemporary manuscripts, some with continuing characters, are not a series other than set in the modern West of Montana, Arizona, Idaho, and Oregon. To be honest, I rarely choose series books to read although I can think of a few exceptions (Elswyth Thane Beebe, Roberta Gellis, Patricia Veryan, Diana Gabaldon) but generally I don't care for the series format. Well a lot of readers do; so one of the ways I might have created a Rain Trueax brand would be if I did-- too late for that for these contemporaries.

I got distracted. The issue is what is my purpose in writing?
Primarily, I love creating stories I would enjoy reading.
 Plots and characters come to me various ways, and when they do, I want to give them life. 
 With issues I care about,  a romance is a good vehicle to highlight them.

The coming together of two people with all the energy of an emotional explosion is exciting to write and read (yes, I love reading my own stories-- when I am not editing them).

I love finding combinations of words, the perfect dialogue, the energy of a scene that went well.

In each of my stories there will be a man and woman who find they are stronger through what they experience than they either were before. They will go through some very tough times which will always mean a dangerous event or events. Through them, they will find their strongest self. The heroine will be an equal partner in overcoming these tribulations. I like strong women.
My life and interests are reflected in my stories which are of love, of men and women finding relationships, working, trying to better their world, and struggling with all the things humans do.

My stories do explore sexuality but always from a healthy perspective which includes responsible choices. I do not write about women as victims. No heroine of mine will ever say no when she means yes.

Not sure any of that sounds much like a brand, certainly not like hey, it's Wranglers, I'll get myself a pair; so back to the drawing board.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Creating a brand

 If you have a cattle ranch in much of the West, unless you buy it with a brand already owned, you have to create one for your cattle. Brands might be some part of an owner's name or an imaginary symbol. What it cannot be is what some other rancher has.

Actually you can use a symbol already used. There aren't a lot that aren't, but it will be placed in a different place on the calf. Yep, you brand calves in that country. If that calf is sold, for breeding stock elsewhere, there will be a new brand added.

In the West, I have eaten in cafes where there are branding irons and brands in wood all along the walls. It basically tells you who has been there as well as might still be there. Unfortunately when I was recently at the Empire Ranch in southwestern Arizona, I saw the brands on the post in front of the ranch buildings but did not photograph them. How unthinking was that? But there were several that the ranch could legally use. The contracts to attain these rights are historically preserved as they matter.

Brand inspectors make sure brands are accurate, registered and hence that the cattle are being sold by the proper owner. Rustling still happens; so there is a reason for a brand. They are not common however in western Oregon, nor are they required legally-- yet anyway.

Branding can be done the old fashioned way with a fire, an iron with the proper shape to the design on its end, heat it up, calf is roped, neck and one leg generally and the iron (may take more than one) is laid on its side just long enough to make the mark permanent but not so long as to harm the animal. (Yes it hurts, of course).

There are also electric branding irons, no fire required, and these days you can do it with chemicals or freeze branding but there are as many potential problems with that as the rest.

Basically get a work crew including the home front who prepare a big spread of food, wranglers to get the cattle into the pen, ropers who are good at roping necks and one back leg, and most importantly an experienced cowboy who knows how long to lay down the iron, and where it has to be put, and there aren't a lot of improvements over that method in open range country where a tattoo in the ear isn't going to make separating the stock that easy.

There is a reason I am writing this. It's because they say branding matters to a writer also. Of course, it's not laid on your butt, but it has to be established and recognizable.   It is where this is heading (to be continued).

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dark Angel Trailer

There was no way I planned to create a trailer for Dark Angel, but that's what I did as it just came together with Dill, Katy, and the love story neither of them planned and yet-- well check out the video and then the book which is linked alongside here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sky Daughter as an eBook

With having written ten contemporary manuscripts, I will now have nine as eBooks on Amazon Kindle with the publication of Sky Daughter. It is a story of a family, its secrets, and what that means as one member of the family has been involved in something very dangerous which will effect not only them but their small mountain community.

Maggie Gard has returned to the Idaho mountains after a series of setbacks to work at the service station her family runs and be there for her grandfather who seems to be failing. Instead of peace, she meets a stranger who is in trouble and will challenge her on every level. With him, she will begin to unravel secrets that will impact her view of the world.

The story is one of mysticism, the paranormal, power run amok, ancient religious traditions, and that of a passionate love between two very different people who are also trying to find peace of mind regarding the religious and spiritual heritages of their families. The following passage is from the book when Maggie is remembering a childhood conversation with her dead grandmother:
‘Dream, Sky Daughter, dream of the future and of all that will be.’ 
 ‘Grandma, I don’t remember my dreams.
‘You must try harder. Dreams are the spirits speaking to you. They are your power.' 
‘Mama says they’re not.’ 
 ‘Your mama had to follow her path and you must follow yours. They are not the same.'
‘How do you know?’
‘I know and you will too when the time come.'
Her grandmother just smiled. ‘You will.’
‘You could tell me now.'
‘No one should tell another their path, Sky Daughter, but someday you will know yours.’

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sky Daughter

A lot of my books had never been sent to a publishing house but Sky Daughter had been not long after I had written it. There was a new line looking for metaphysical manuscripts. They accepted mine from a query. The editor wrote back that she liked the book, but there was too much romance for that line. She told me she sent it to one of their lines oriented toward romance where that editor saw the supernatural aspect as unbelievable. This was before Harry Potter.

So after its rejection, I let it set. I wanted plenty of time to think about the paranormal aspects.  Was what happened believable even if nothing I had personally experienced. When I had written it, I did a lot of research on real people's experiences with the unexpected, the unexplainable, the paranormal. I knew what they said had happened. I read about the places these events occur more frequently than elsewhere.

I still had to decide if I would go supernatural in Sky Daughter. What happened could have been an illusion. There was a lot to this book beyond the supernatural. With the militia movement and romance, it still was a full manuscript. I felt though that this story had more to say.

It is about a valley in the mountains of Idaho, a small town, and most specifically one family. It asks the question of what went wrong up there and why? For the couple who fall in love, where will this lead?

In the family is mysticism of the ancient Celtic sort, but the heroine had been raised elsewhere and had no knowledge of it. When her parents had been killed, she came to live on a mountain near her grandfather and just outside a fictional Idaho town. Here she learns the secrets of her family-- as well as...

Watch the trailer.

Sky Daughter comes out as in an eBook sometime later this week.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mysticism and Fiction

Is there anything more mystical than the attraction between two people which often goes against every expectation they ever might've had. Chemistry. Phrenomes. Physical attraction. On you go but explanations never really explain it. There is a connection that  is mystical where two people do become one in a way that goes beyond the physical. Words don't really explain it; and if you have felt it, you don't need me to explain it. If you haven't felt it, you think I am nuts.

That kind of connection is mystical but it isn't the one that determines if those two can build a life together-- that's when they leave behind the mystical, quit using just pathos reasoning and head into ethos and logos territory.

Well that is not what I am going to write regarding the mystical and fiction but that particular photo was purchased from stock to be part of the cover and in a trailer for the only book that I have really written where the mystical is a big part of the story.

Although Sky Daughter does have two adults falling in love (and you know where that goes), there is something more as it looks at another kind of spirituality where you take A, add in B and empower something new-- C. In the case of Sky Daughter the chemistry leads to an example of how this can be a bad thing, can empower something threatening. Sometimes that can happen in ways people never imagined-- but they better figure it out if they want to put an end to it.

Although this is the first book I have written with a paranormal element, I have had 'mystery' in other stories. Most of my books discuss at least briefly spiritual beliefs. I have had major characters who believe and those who do not. I always know what they think about it because I write more character driven than plot driven stories.

I do not have major characters who are into a religion in any major sense because it's not how I think or believe is healthy-- and my stories are always what I believe is healthy. As a writer there is a responsibility to write truth as much as the writer knows it, which obviously the reader may see differently.

In a plot driven story the reader might not know the spiritual beliefs of the main character. It may not come up in the rush around the adventure. In a character driven story, even if the emphasis is not on the spiritual, the writer does know that character's take on god, morality, religion, and how those beliefs impact their lives. The writer will know how they got to where they are spiritually even if they don't end up making it a big part of the story.

To be continued next blog.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pathos and Romance

In creating a new trailer, one for Moon Dust, I thought about the basics behind romance novels and one of the complaints many have about them. They are about emotion, and they are about pathos. If a couple's relationship works out from the get-go, it's not a romance. If it shows the ecstasy and agony of the passion in love relationships, then many feel it's maudlin. Where's the balance or is it even possible? Does most romance (exceptions being romantic comedies)  have pathos at its core whether a small or large part of it?

I remember a humorous segment of Romancing the Stone where the Kathleen Turner character is finishing one of her romantic novels and sobbing the whole time as she declared how good it was.

The great classics, or those regarded as romantic classics, certainly do have pathos as an essential ingredient-- often with a tragedy to make sure it's complete. To be a romance today, at least as regarded such by the professional organization, Romance Writers of America, there are two key ingredients. One a love story between two people. The second that it ends satisfactorily. Happy endings are part of any modern romance. Save the tragedies for great literature and real life.

Aristotle declared there are three ways to appeal to people in any argument-- ethos, pathos and logos. Pathos is used a lot both in advertising and political arguments-- appeal to the emotions. Sometimes ethos is used as in this person is honorable and their argument must likewise be honorable. But logos, that's less frequently used and not sure how much it works in literature as that sounds more like nonfiction than fiction of any sort.

Pathos is often ridiculed especially in romances as being silly; but it's not. It's an appeal to the common emotions we all experience unless we suppress them. All great fictional literature has it even if it is not of the romantic sort. In a romantic novel, there is going to be pathos if it's not going to be a-- and then she did this, followed by him doing that, and this is what happened-- kind of writing.

Still when I read some of my own stories and feel the emotions surging in the characters, I do wonder how far I should have gone with it, and when will I have lost the readers by trying to push more emotion than the situation actually merits. You cannot tell the reader they should feel sorrow or pity for a situation. It is either there or it's a fraud.

Some of my books have more pathos than others. When I wrote Moon Dust about a man who had been molested as a child and as an adult was refusing to deal with the ramifications of that, when his wife had left him over the ways this kind of abuse had impacted their relationship, when he was wrestling with not only that divorce but also, as a high school principal, situations where he felt he was losing students due to the problems in the system, problems he couldn't overcome, when his wife with a new haircut, wardrobe, apartment, and productive life seemed to be moving on while he could not, when he faced a dangerous, life threatening enemy, when he came to a point of nearly losing it all or winning the ultimate victory, can that be written without pathos? Does that very emotional climax though turn off as many readers as it might win over?

Well it's not like I have answers, but it's the kind of thing with which I think writers all wrestle. How far do I take this?  When does it become farce and not feel real?

Creating this trailer pleased and surprised me as I didn't think I could do one for this particular book. When I began gathering images, creating ones that I would need, I found the repetition in shapes and motifs played together the way the story's elements did. The music worked with it and yes, enhanced the pathos.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sexuality and Fiction

Recently I had an articulate reader comment on my books in the Amazon Forums. She said she had not bought any, even though they looked interesting, because of her dislike of sexuality in books. She felt my covers indicated they might have that sort of thing inside (she was right). She thought a rating for sexuality would be helpful in my product descriptions.

I wrote back that I'd have a problem deciding how I could rate mine even if I could think of a rating system. One of my books got a review in a book review blog. I only stumbled across it by doing a name search to see what was out there in mine. She gave that book a 2 star in passion. Since a 5 star is tops where it comes to rating a book, I am guessing she was saying that while there was some passion, it wasn't that much. I am not sure if that was her meaning-- other than if someone wants zero sex, they don't want my books. On the other hand, if they are looking for erotica, they don't either.

If I used the ratings like for films, it wouldn't get much easier. I would definitely not say my books are PG but then would they be PG-13? When my granddaughter asked if she would be able to read them, I said not for some years. It wasn't just about the sex though. It's about grown-up attitudes toward romance. I don't really want her thinking soul-mates at her age.

When I think about an R rating, I am not sure my books are sexy enough for an R. I have read a lot of romance books where a sexual encounter can go on for pages, sometimes 20 or more. Mine are more about the leading up than the actual doing as I am not into reading or writing blow by blow descriptions. But on the other hand, they don't fade out before the big event either (and there will be at least one big event somewhere along the way). 

I am still thinking how sexuality can be handled in the blurbs for the books. I am comfortable with the level I use in the actual books-- and I did think about it. My belief is that healthy sexuality is good for adults. I think it's fun to write and seems rewarding for the characters and me. And I am about a full experience for those characters as well as the person who will pick up the book.

In my own reading, I don't mind sex in a book, but I wouldn't buy one for it either. One writer I've read over the years used the term blush for the level of sex in her books. Well I agree she has sex and it's described, sometimes step by step, but blushing? I don't know what it would take to get me to blush regarding sex in a book.

If a writer puts in more sex than interests me (and for me it's not about offensive, it's about boring), I skip over it. In some books I have read, that can mean I get a short story rather than a full novel.

IF I make a mistake and get a book with what I feel is a perversion of sex, I throw that one out rather than trade it back in. I wouldn't put a nasty review on that author's page, but I sure wouldn't buy another book by them either. The only kind of sexuality I am interested in reading or writing is healthy relationships between two people.

In my case that means male and female, not because I consider the other unhealthy but because I don't know much about it. I try to stick to what I do know something about from my own experiences. I have had gay characters, but they are always secondary-- i.e. friend of hero or heroine.

An idea for a book has rolled around in my head for awhile. It came to me in a set of two of my movie type dreams that came a couple of weeks apart. In the first dream the hero has been in a long time relationship with another man-- basically his life mate. He and the heroine are forced to go on the run from a criminal element and in spending so much time together, they fall in love.

In the dream, he might have known he was bisexual before this, but she was totally surprised as she may have been attracted to him but didn't let herself imagine it could be anything. In the first of the dreams, they didn't pursue it once they escaped from whatever they were trying to flee. Although it appeared that his partner was sick and when he died, maybe as much as five years later, they would seek each other out.

In the second dream about these same people, his primary relationship turned out to be with a crime boss-- meaning he had been betrayed by his long-time partner thereby not only proving dangerous, but also giving him a legitimate reason to go to her. If I had ever tried to fully develop this idea, I would not have written about his same sex experiences but only the new one with the woman. (The dream didn't reveal either as I have to admit here, I don't dream about sex. I am more of a dream right up to it and fade to black kind of dreamer.)

Usually when you do see a movie or read a book about three people in this kind of triangle, it's from the other end where the man and woman have been in a long time relationship and then one of them recognizes their true sexuality is to be gay.

 I haven't tried to develop this idea not because I think readers would not go for it (who knows on that).  I don't write based on whether I think an idea would be popular with readers. Instead my hesitation was because I thought it might be offensive to gay people where I have read that many don't think there is such a thing as bi-sexuality. Gays are fighting for respect on so many levels now that I would hate to write something offensive or implying people can change their gender at will. I don't believe that but what I do think is some are gay, some are straight, and some can go between, but what do I know about it. Hence it has seemed wiser to leave this idea on the discard pile where a lot of other ideas for books end up.

Well, that was kind of a distraction to my main topic which was to try and figure out some kind of sexuality rating for my own books that alerts readers to avoid them if they are opposed to sex in a book-- married/committed or not. I know one thing-- they aren't sweet and they aren't Christian. But what they aren't doesn't say what they are.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Moon Dust-- a free day

Free for one day on May 5, 2012, Moon Dust, is one of those stories that took a lot of research in order to write about a serious issue-- the impact of childhood abuse on adults. This is most especially true for those who have tried to bury or forget what happened. This book is about its impact on one marriage.

It also is about our modern educational system and one particular high school principal caught in the potentially deadly grip of community expectations as he tries to assure that his school is providing its students a full education. This man believes in his students and puts his life on the line to do the best he can for them.

 This story led to a second book with some of the same characters.  Second Chance takes place eight years later with most of the same characters but set in the world of wildlife rehabilitation with a different couple at the apex of the love story.

when you tell what you tell

One of the issues a writer has in any story from short to epic and in any genre-- when do you reveal information to the reader? How do you reveal it? Does the reader discover it or are they told? Writers who do a dump of info right in the beginning show their lack of skills. The reader wants to discover and does not need an entire resume in the first chapter.

Think how it works in friendships. You get to know someone. You find out a bit about them; then a bit more. If they tell you too much right out of the gate, you back off. On the other hand, there must be enough information to make the friend feel secure and interested in learning more. That's exactly how books are. The best books keep revealing things until the end.

One of the things I have learned about this process is that groundwork should be laid for anything that will later be revealed as a key element of the story. It's not as though you constantly are dropping hints, but there has to be enough that when it comes as a surprise, it also is believable.  Tricks don't make a reader have faith in that writer and aren't likely to lead to their seriously considering another of their books.

I have had stories where a set of facts revealed themselves throughout the book. I knew what they were but hadn't thought fully on what they meant. Suddenly it dawned on me-- this has significance and one or more of the characters must address it at least in their thoughts.

How you address it for a character means they recognize what's going on and draw the conclusion the reader has also drawn or will as soon as they hear them say it. Whether the reader came to it before the character doesn't seem important to me. What is important is they believe it even as they go-- wow, look at where that led.

The idea of tricks, of some big surprise is fine-- if it makes sense for the characters. If it's all aimed at the reader, I don't as a reader appreciate it.

Characters do act in their own best interest. Now that doesn't always mean it's wise what they do, but it will make sense at the time for their character-- even if later they go-- what was I thinking? This will vary only slightly between character or plot driven stories.

In a way  a book has two audiences. One is the characters themselves. The other is the reader. The reader has to be secondary to the characters-- and no matter how slick something sounds-- a writer must make sure it's believable for those on the front-lines-- the characters.

This was driven home to me when I was editing a book which will be ePublished a little later in May-- Sky Daughter. I had my characters saying something about a certain situation and when I looked at the reality of that situation, it didn't fit their assumptions. I either had to adjust the event or their expectations-- if I wanted readers to feel good about what they had read.

When I start out with a story, I do know the outline of where it is going. I never lose sight of that. There is a plan for this, but what I don't know is all that will happen along the way. The characters, when they have a sense of reality to them, they take the story into different areas and sometimes unexpected ones. They do not take the story from me. Rather they fill it out.

Again in Sky Daughter, I saw this happening in a key situation. Every event put down a trail of crumbs to the conclusion, sometimes in ways I had let happen because these were the characters and it's what they would have done. In the end though, I felt it was important for my hero to acknowledge what it all meant which required some thought processing by him.

When something like that happens, when I find in a key element, the story was smarter than me, I am excited and it reminds me why I love to write fiction. 

As with two other books, I did a trailer for Sky Daughter which is adding a lot to my enjoyment in these stories and I hope will add to reader interest in the story.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Paulo Coelho books

On my other blog, I have a link to Paulo Coelho's blog. On it, he mentioned he has dropped 11 of his eBooks, in an agreement with his publisher, to $.98. Since he is a favorite of mine, I thought I'd put his link here to be sure anybody who would like to get them for their Nook or Kindle has their chance while their prices are so low. Check it out:

As any fan of Paulo's writing knows, these are stories with good messages and a plot that carries a life lesson along with it. Check them out.

And so you want a villain?

Villain:  1. A person guilty or capable of a crime or wickedness. 2. The person or thing responsible for specified trouble, harm, or damage: "the industrialized nations are the real villains".

As long as I was writing about heroes and heroines, I figured I should add in another very important aspect of many stories-- the villain. Villains or the book's enemy provide an important psychological element to the story, but do not have to be a person. Life itself can be the enemy, or as the definition above states-- the collective nature of one cultural element. What I am writing about here though is-- the villain.

There was a time in books and entertainment when a villain would immediately look like a villain. This kind of thing has proven very handy for real villains-- as real villains do not come in identifiable packages. Not only are looks not a dependable criteria for who is a villain, but sometimes neither, in the beginning, is behavior-- hence was born the anti-hero. Sounds like villain but in the end is heroic.

Where it comes to the real deal for villains (fictionally anyway), I find them a lot of fun to write. The story can have more than one. When there is a human enemy, it is important that he or she be convincing, a worthy opponent, with reasons for what they do-- even if the reason is pathological or psychotic. The victory cannot be forced; so the hero must have the tools in his persona to succeed.

I don't think a writer should ever insert a hero just for drama or to let the hero/heroine be heroic.  A good villain is not inserted just for manipulation. Think of that villain as a real person and it gets easier to think why they might do despicable things. That does not mean the reader should sympathize with them. They might but it's not important. What is important is genuine motivation. Villains are not place holders. They are an important part of the drama of a story.

In some stories, the enemy is within the main protagonists and it's that which it must overcome. One way or another a struggle is a part of most interesting books.

When I got into the stock images, I began looking for possible human type villains as a part of doing trailers-- these people are unlikely to ever appear on a cover but they are excellent in a trailer.

When I found photos that fit my book descriptions, I would generally feel a bit apologetic for buying them for this purpose. I am sure these are very nice people. They don't really look like someone I'd identify as a villain in real life. That's the key advantage in a villain, of course. They don't look like one.

Think of some of the most despicable serial killers-- the one that comes to my mind immediately is Ted Bundy. He was handsome. His ruthlessness was hidden until he had a victim helpless. The fact that we think a villain will look like one is part of what enables some of the most vicious of humans to be successful. They are the ones who the neighbors say they had no idea. Or they undermine families using emotional violence while getting sympathy for themselves. Someone in real life who looked like a villain would be easy to identify and avoid. It's when they don't that their risks to us all increase.

In writing a book generally I use two points of view-- hero and heroine. In one book I used only the heroine's perspective because I wanted the reader to wonder about the hero. If they had known his thinking, they'd have been certain of his nature sooner than I intended. To carry some parts of that plot, where the heroine would not be going, I used the villain's point of view.  I have also done that now and again because I enjoyed writing these bad guys.

Dialogue between that hero and villain in Evening Star was a lot of fun to write and revealed more about the hero, things the heroine would not be able to observe. That villain was a crime boss, not psychotic. He was sane but a user of people for his own ends, and totally amoral in every area of life.

For one of my trailers with a villain, check out Desert Inferno. This was a guy I enjoyed writing for some of his quirks. The hero is someone I enjoyed for other reasons. I don't have favorites really because each is a favorite when writing the story-- but this guy, I really loved.