Embrace your velvet-cloaked vampire: Go ahead and publish that book

I just read an article in Forbes called Don’t Publish That Book. It’s worthwhile reading. The author Suw Charman-Anderson publishes a Twitter conversation she had with authors Steve Mosby and Lou Morgan in which the authors bemoan their early stories, one of which was evidently about a vampire in a velvet cloak.

I enjoyed the article. It encourages writers to write until they’re good enough to be noticed and not to rush to self-publish. Charman-Anderson seems to indicate that if you get multiple rejections, there’s probably a reason for that. She’s probably right and I agree with her. Too many self-published books are published before they are ready. Please, please copy edit. Don’t rely on spell-check. It’s not infallible. And let a manuscript sit for a few weeks after it’s done, re-read it and then decide if you want to publish it. You might be surprised by the answer you give yourself. My self-published book Weeds and Flowers sat on my hard-drive for years before I got the go-ahead from my inner editor.

With that said, I will also add that we all have our stories about vampires in velvet cloaks. C’mon, if you’re a writer who started publishing within the last fifteen years, you have that story. That one story that’s still floating around in the ether somewhere waiting to come back and bite you in the ass. I know where mine is. Do you?

My point is that we live and publish in a different time. A new age for publishing. An age in which our mistakes and growing pains may make it into “print”. Yes, we need to watch ourselves, but we also need to embrace this new age. Imagine if we could read Stephen King’s first stories. I’ve heard Nicholas Sparks say his first novel was a horror novel. Now that would be some interesting reading.

One of my favorite books on my bookshelf is A Whisper in the Dark: Twelve Thrilling Tales by Louisa May Alcott. Of course, I don’t love the tales so much as I love the book. You see, Louisa May Alcott was my inspiration for becoming a writer. I loved all her books, read all of them, but my favorite, of course, was the semi-autobiographical Little Women, in which Jo, the character Alcott based on herself, writes “sensational” tales for the paper. The first time I read Little Women when I was about nine or ten years old, I couldn’t imagine what “sensational” meant. Later I got the idea that they must have something to do with sex, especially since Jo destroys them all in a fit of shame in the book. I read A Whisper in the Dark much later as an adult, and I wondered what on earth Alcott was talking about. They’re corny by today’s standards, and probably pretty dark and risque in the nineteenth century, but not the awful stuff I’d half been expecting.

Only now as I begin (notice I said “begin”) to reach my own maturity as a writer do I understand where she was coming from. But as a writer, I’m grateful not all of Alcott’s early works were lost. It makes some of my own early growing pains easier to bear.

Even now when I look back on Secrets of the Lotus, published almost exactly two years ago, I see things I would do differently. The same for Winter Solstice. If I’m fortunate enough to continue growing and developing as a writer—and I hope that will be a lifelong process—in five years I may reread Where the Heart Lies with tolerant disdain.

It’s a process. So whether an editor or publisher will take the time on your work or you self-publish it, you have to know that if you are one of the lucky ones, you won’t like what you write now in five years.

Romantic Heroes: Alpha or Beta?

Recently I asked some Facebook friends (quite a few of whom write romance) which kind of hero they prefer: Alpha or Beta? A lot of romance publishers are calling for Alpha heroes right now, a trend I’m not sure I totally agree with, but which I thought might make a fairly interesting blog post.

So, Alpha heroes. These are men of power and confidence. Usually arrogant and abrasive. Classically handsome, Chippendale-worthy, even. Businessmen make good alpha heroes. Military men, firemen, police officers, doctors and other “manly” (read in a deep voice) professions work well, too. Alpha heroes usually have secrets or a dark past, and they’ve always got a wall around their heart that the heroines must break down before they have a chance at a real relationship. The closest thing I’ve ever written to a pure alpha hero was Dan Mason in SECRETS OF THE LOTUS. And yeah, he followed the typical arc of abrasive billionaire playboy to tamed and devoted lover of Josie, my heroine. Dan was fun to write. I enjoyed trying to get inside the head of a man (albeit an imaginary one) and figure out what it would take to bring him to the point of loving one woman.

Beta heroes are fun, too, though. Funny, still good-looking although maybe not in the classic way (think Johnny Depp or even Adam Sandler), Beta heroes are men with hidden strength. And when they find a woman in need, they are more than willing to spend that strength on taking care of her. They’re not good at keeping secrets from the woman they love, even if they have a painful past. In WHERE THE HEART LIES, my hero Liam Addison is definitely a beta hero. He has a secret that tortures him, but he keeps it because he doesn’t want to hurt his heroine Alicia. I may have enjoyed writing Liam more than any other hero. A recovering alcoholic who’d made more than his share of mistakes in the past, Liam was deeply flawed and yet so loveable, I couldn’t blame Alicia for falling for him.

With all that said, I want to salute the real heroes in our real lives.

Real men are not romantic heroes, but let’s face it. If we found a real romantic hero (alpha or beta), we wouldn’t be very comfortable with him. The heroes and heroines of romance novels, regardless of their problems, are perfect people living in a perfect world. We’re real people with real problems who live in a world on the brink of blowing itself up most of the time. We battle our weight, worry about North Korea and terrorism and our kids, are too tired to even think about sex a lot of the time and our nine-to-five is often more like six-to-six-thirty. Or later. Men, all you really have to do to be our heroes is go to that job and hug our kids and let us lean on your shoulder every now and then. That’s a real hero, and he’s worth a thousand romantic heroes.

Booked Up Reviews Gives SECRETS OF THE LOTUS Four and a Half Stars!

I discovered, to my surprise, that Booked Up Reviews just did a review (yesterday, coincidentally on my birthday) for SECRETS OF THE LOTUS. I am happy to report the reviewer, Dolce Amore, liked it enough to give it four and a half stars. Yay! I am thrilled by the thorough job Ms. Amore does with her reviews, even going so far as to quote some of her favorite passages, and though she didn’t find quite as much to like in this one as she did in WINTER SOLSTICE, she did say it was “a lovely and wonderful story”. Thank you, Ms. Amore and Booked Up Reviews!

Second edition of Weeds and Flowers: The perfect valentine?

Yay! I just checked Amazon and my “second edition”, including the beautiful new cover you see to your left, is now up and ready to be downloaded to your Kindle (or smartphone or computer with the Kindle app). Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s free!

If you like Weeds and Flowers, you might even like my two romances, and today’s all about romance, right? And hey, today really is your lucky day! Lyrical Press is having a sale. Everything in their store is 50% off! Here’s a good place to start: My Books.

I’m also scheduled to be interviewed on author John Peters’ blog today. Until that’s up, check out his other informative posts: Dark Scribblings. He’s written some great articles and you might even spot my name in there once or twice. 🙂

Want my books?

If you do, February 14 is the day to get them. Not only will you be able to get your mitts on my re-release of WEEDS AND FLOWERS for FREE, Lyrical Press is offering a storewide 50% off sale. So you can get every book I currently have out there at a great deal. Be sure to check it out.

Lyrical Press, Inc.

Weeds and Flowers for Kindle

Romance Girls Gone Goblin Halloween Blog Hop Begins! Prizes Galore!

And so it begins.

The Romance Girls Gone Goblin Blog Hop kicked off first thing this morning and I, of course, was unprepared. I have two kids class parties to attend today, plus my favorite art gallery is having a party tonight, so I had to get dinner into the crockpot. But now I’m here, and I have a grand thirty minutes set aside to update my blog.

I wracked my brains to figure out what to write about for Halloween, and I kept coming back to my work-in-progress. It’s half ghost story, half romance, and I’m working hard to get the creepy edge just right. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything close to horror, but I’m rediscovering my love of the genre. Anyway, in honor of Halloween and Romance Girls Gone Goblin, I thought I’d give you just a taste of one of my chilling scenes before getting to the good stuff (my giveaway).

Natalia.

A whisper, somewhere just outside the range of hearing. Was it a memory or something more?

…Natalia…

The light breeze from the heavy night breathed over her skin, heating instead of cooling the drops of sweat. She welcomed its touch, tilting her head back and lifting her mass of auburn hair.

Yes…come to me…

How she’d made it outside, she didn’t know. Pain pricked the skin of her legs. She’d stumbled through something, scraping them in the process. Sharp sticks? Barbed wire? She couldn’t tell, but the blood running down her calves felt hotter than it should, almost fevered.

But he was there. Wherever she was, he was there. More than a large, dark shadow now, she could feel him hard against her as he pulled her into massive arms, lowering his lips to hers. He tasted salty, as if his skin was covered with seawater, and she recoiled.

Natalia…

Now that I’ve whet your appetite for all things spooky romance, here’s my offering:

Included in this giveaway are a tote bag with the cover of WINTER SOLSTICE on one side and SECRETS OF THE LOTUS on the other, a paperback copy of Hyprink’s The Best of All Sins: Stories of Love & Heartbreak featuring my award-winning story LIFE AFTER, a $25 iBooks gift card and some swag, including the beautiful postcard my friend Shannon LuQuire of Trade Ideas, Inc. put together for me with blurbs of my two published books and a sneak peek at my as-yet-unpublished book THE SIXTH FOLD. Sorry, the pumpkin is not included as it belongs to my daughter!

Two steps to win!
1. Follow my blog. (Humor me. I know you won’t always read all my posts, but every now and then I do come up with some cool stuff, and I’ve got some great stuff planned for December, including another giveaway!) If you already follow my blog, you can skip this step.
2. Leave a comment on THIS post with your name and email address. I’ll throw your name into the hat.

Winner will be announced the morning of November 1. For a full list of participating blogs in this blog hop, check out Lisa Sanchez’s blog here: Lisa Sanchez. Lots of other giveaways out there! Good luck!

NOTE: I’ve added an Email Subscription button to the top left column (just above the HONEOWP updates). This should make it easier for you guys to subscribe and become eligible for the giveaway!

What Makes a Super-Couple? A Study of Soap Opera Characters

Hi. My name is Michelle and I am a soap opera addict.

Well, I’m addicted to one soap in particular. Days of Our Lives. My mom watched it when I was a toddler playing in the living room with blocks and baby dolls. I took a brief hiatus during elementary school (although I did enjoy it when I was sick), and then the advent of the VCR and then the DVR allowed me to become re-addicted. Nowadays, I watch it on Hulu while I’m on the treadmill. I almost never miss an episode.

It’s exciting times in soap opera world. You’re either fixing your formula so you can compete with the talk show hosts or you’re getting cancelled. Days, or DOOL as my fellow addicts and I affectionately refer to it, has chosen the first, and far more preferable, route. After years of sub-par plots, untalented (and very young) actors and a startling preference for violence over romance, the Powers-That-Be seem to be listening to the fans. They’ve pared down the cast to the most talented, and now they’re bringing back some old fan favorites and giving some others more meaty storylines.

This all got me thinking. Soap operas, at least since the eighties, have been known for creating “super-couples”. These are the couples in soaps who are truly together “until death do they part.” If you’re a fan of soaps, you know these couples are never going to be torn apart, no matter what. Well, sometimes they get divorced or accidentally fall in love with somebody else for a while, but only if they think the other one is dead while they’ve really only been kidnapped. Or maybe they did die but were brought back to life for nefarious purposes by an evil genius. Either way, love will conquer all in the end.

But what makes these couples so indestructible? How do they have such powers for forgiveness and love that they can overcome finding someone else in their spouse’s bed after they’ve fought their way out of a dungeon to get home? I’ve come up with a (sort of) formula for this, just in case anybody out there would like to attempt to replicate this heaven on earth in real life.

First, they must both be incredibly attractive, but probably in different ways. For instance, the woman is a debutante or a professional while the man is sort of a diamond in the rough. A nice scruffy beard is a plus, but just a permanent five o’clock shadow will do. And while the woman is absolutely clueless (at least at first) as to the effect she has on the man, the man should definitely believe he is God’s gift to women. (If there are any guys out there reading this, this attitude most definitely does not work in real life. Trust me, you won’t be able to pull it off like an outwardly alpha/hidden beta male can.)

Second, the man must be an alpha male, but with a tender side that the woman uncovers by accident. He’s often brusque and rude, especially in her presence, but if given the opportunity, he will save little children and kittens (accidentally in her presence).

Third, our couple must experience an element of danger. Life-threatening (mostly for her) danger is best, and if it can be brought about by him, all the better.

Finally, the woman must be so attracted to the man, she will never, ever give up on him. Even when he’s rude and endangers her life, she will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. After all, she knows there is more to this guy. She’s witnessed his bravery when small children and kittens are at stake. And besides, the five o’clock shadow is too sexy to leave.

On second thought, I don’t think I would recommend reproducing these characteristics in real life. However, if you’d care to live in a fantasy for a while, try reading a romance or two. Like these:

Excerpt from SECRETS OF THE LOTUS:
Josie let him take her hand. “No, I guess not. How do you know for sure when somebody can’t hurt you anymore?”

Dan’s thumb moved gently over the backs of her fingers in an absent but comforting gesture. “I suppose it’s when you no longer feel like they have the ability to reach into your chest and grab hold of your heart.”

“I’m not sure I ever felt that way about Eric.”

“You’re lucky.” He was still looking at her hand.

“Then you have?” She was surprised, she had to admit. She hadn’t thought he ever let women get that close to him.

Dan dropped her hand abruptly. “Only once. We should go before I get a parking ticket.”

Startled, Josie watched as he pulled on a sweatshirt and headed to the door.

“Coming?”

“Sure, yeah.” She picked up her bag. “Sorry.” She followed him, wondering which of his many conquests had elicited such intensity of feeling from him and if that woman fully appreciated
what she’d left behind.

Excerpt from WINTER SOLSTICE:
“Has anyone ever told you you’re very sexy when you’re feeling guilty?” John asked.

Becky looked up to find him smiling. With a rush of violence, she wanted to hit him. In fact, she did raise her hand to strike him, but he forestalled that by stepping forward, one arm sliding around her waist, the other hand behind her head, pulling her to him, his lips first gentle on hers, then more demanding. As she relaxed in his arms, he drew her even closer, the hand behind her head sliding down to the nape of her neck in the lightest of caresses.

It was the first time they’d kissed in nearly two weeks. It felt incredible to be in his arms again. She realized how much she had missed being with him and reveled in the heat between them, wanting more, but knowing this embrace would have to end.

He released her with obvious reluctance, tapering off the one long passionate kiss to several slow and deliberate kisses, finally stopping completely.