Writing is a funny, funny thing.

close up of hand over white background

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

Funny weird, not funny ha-ha.

Funny in that when the fever is on you, you can write five to ten thousand words in a day.

Funny in that on those days, you don’t want to stop for anything.

Over the course of the past few days, I wrote the last fifteen thousand words of my next Sleight of Hand novel Dickens Magic. And then I started another one that I’m not ready to talk about yet. I’m now six thousand words into that one.

Writing is funny, but not exactly fun. While you’re in the fever, you’re aware of the other things you  need to be doing. But even though you’re not having fun, there’s no way you want to stop.

For instance, right now, I want to be back at work on my work-in-progress, but I knew I needed to stop by here and remind you that:

(a) Becoming Magic is out there now, just waiting for readers and reviewers. It has two reviews on Amazon and still sits at five stars.

(b) All my self-published books with the exception of Becoming Magic (because really, it’s a new release) are available in the Smashwords Summer Sale for FREE with coupon code SS100. Go get em!

With that said, I’m off to indulge myself some more in my funny, funny chose profession.

The importance of secondary characters in Becoming Magic

It’s a common misconception that a romance has two characters: hero and heroine. Unless you literally strand those two characters on a deserted island, you must create characters who figure into their daily lives. And unless they work and live in the same place, those secondary characters are going to be different.

I always strive to have secondary characters serve a purpose. I feel like old friends or family members can help reveal something about the main characters’ backstories or character traits that we didn’t already know. For this reason, I brought in Connor’s brother Jeff, the handsome pilot of Connor’s private plane, and Mira, Carole’s cute if a little immature college student sister. I feel like Mira probably serves more of a purpose to the storyline since she’s at first jealous of Carole’s relationship with Connor and later appalled that her sister would leave him. Check out these two short excerpts that illustrate the ways these two characters serve their purpose. First Jeff:

“Forgive my brother, ma’am. Jeff Wallace. The older sibling of the Wallace clan.”

Carole’s jaw dropped. “Oh. Well, that explains some stuff, then.” She felt like an idiot. The two men were very similar in height, build and features. She glanced at Connor. “You might have mentioned that your brother was the pilot.”

“Sorry.” Connor didn’t look at all sorry. “You just seemed so certain of yourself, I didn’t want to disappoint you.” He smiled a little wickedly. “I mean, it’s a shame to disabuse you of the notion that I lose touch with who and what I am whenever I’m offered a bit of Hollywood hospitality.” He turned to his brother. “Sorry, bro. She drank your champagne. You got another glass?”

Carole’s face felt aflame with embarrassment. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I—”

“He’s messing with you.” Jeff punched his brother in the arm. “Cut it out.” He turned back to Carole. “I never drink when I fly. Of course the champagne was meant for you. He called ahead to arrange it.”

And now Mira:

Mira stood in the doorway. “Better take some jeans and sweaters too. Just in case Connor takes you hiking. I hear he likes to hike.” She spoke casually, but Carole detected a glitter in her eyes. Was that really envy? As long as she could remember, Mira had been the prettier one, the more glam one, the one everyone loved without effort. Carole was smart and decent enough looking, but her little sister outshone her at every turn.

Carole frowned. “What’s up?”

“What do you mean, what’s up?” Mira didn’t meet her eyes.

“I mean you sound all jealous or something. Like I stole your boyfriend. This is work, Mira.”

“Ugh!” Mira threw her hands into the air. “I’m sorry. I just…maybe in a way you are stealing my boyfriend.”

“I was not aware of this thing between you and Connor Wallace,” Carole said solemnly.

Mira’s lips twitched. “Don’t laugh. You go to L.A. and be spotted on Connor Wallace’s arm, you’re stealing a lot of girls’ boyfriend. Because it’ll mean he’s off the market.”

“Why on earth would it mean that? He’s dated lots of women.”

“Because you’re the kind of girl a guy dates when he’s ready to settle down.”

Of course, my Sleight of Hand books wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from one of my other magical couples. In this case, Walt and Sabrina from Movie Magic are (slight spoiler alert if you haven’t read their story yet) planning their wedding and working on Connor’s documentary about becoming a magician. In a way, they serve almost parental roles for Carole, who has been Walt’s assistant since high school. Here’s just a taste of what they’re doing in the book:

Connor pulled out the linking rings, ready to manipulate them, and paused, his eyes on the engagement ring. “Well, that’s not right.” He pretended to try to get the ring off only to have it caught between two rings. He looked up. “Did somebody lose this?”

The audience tittered, but it had a surprised, anticipatory sound to it. Connor worked the rings again, managing only to get the engagement ring looped over three. He worked until he had managed to get it off all but one. “Finally.” He set the others aside. “I think this ring will only be released into the hands of its rightful owner.” He tossed it up into the air and caught it, the ring still in place. He glanced around, turning to Carole. “Is this yours?” He tossed it to her.

She caught it with pride, holding it up to display the diamond still hanging on.

“It would appear not.” Connor held out a hand and she threw it back, watching as he caught it expertly. He appeared to think. “I have an idea. Maybe I need another magician’s help with this one.” He swung around to Walt and threw the ring to him.

Walt caught it, tossing it back in one fluid motion, then turning to drop to one knee in front of Sabrina. He held up the diamond ring. “No magic is equal to what you’ve done to me. Say you’ll stay in my life forever.”

Tears spilled over onto Sabrina’s cheeks, amazing Carole. She’d never seen Sabrina cry before. But as she held out her hand to let him place the ring on her finger, she could only nod, wordless and obviously happy.

In a very real way, this book—and the whole Sleight of Hand series is about family. It’s a very large family made up of lots of smaller families, but they’re all bound together by a love of magic and each other. And a belief that love is a magic all its own.

Happy Birthday, Becoming Magic! Time for a new kind of romance.

pile of covered books

I pray I am not shouting into the whirlwind of too many voices this time. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Happy birthday to my newest baby, Becoming Magic! It’s high time for this book. In a world with so much denigration of women, it’s past time for the genre of books most heavily written by women to honor what women really are.

We are powerful.

We are beautiful.

We are creative.

We are romantic.

We are sexy.

We are strong.

Does anyone want to deny any of the above? As a member of the “lesser” sex, I can say honestly that the only reason I can see that we were ever called that is so men can make us think less of ourselves. We’ve been victims long enough. It’s time to rise up and recognize the men who actually appreciate what women really are.

They are equal partners.

They are not afraid of us.

They are willing to treat women as equals.

They are romantic.

They are sexy.

They are strong.

Please notice that I didn’t say they are dukes or melancholy or macho or sadists. All except the last could, possibly, be part of who they are, but as women, it’s time to defy the melancholy, macho, duke hero who practices S&M. We know what we want, and it doesn’t include rape.

That’s what a new kind of romance is all about. Please try out my new kind of romance, Becoming Magic. You can find the first chapter here. Read it. If you enjoy it, download the whole book at your favorite ebook retailer. The paperback version should be available soon.

Read it.

And then tell me what you think.

Dear God, may this book please not be lost in the shuffle of many. May it not be caught up in a whirlwind of other voices that drown it out. May it please make it to the eyes of the readers who need it. In your name I pray, Amen.

Love,

Michelle

Three Days to Becoming Magic: Magic Numbers and Jack’s Beans

It’s three days to the publication of Becoming Magic and today I started thinking how in folk stories, three is magical and that number has entered our own lives in ways we might not really notice at first. Jack had three magic beans. The first time I pitched a book to a literary agent (someday I’ll write about this rather painful memory), he asked for three things: a 3-page synopsis, the manuscript and proposals for three more books.

I can’t help but wonder if Jack had five magic beans would I have been asked for a five-page synopsis? And five more book proposals?

At any rate, I’m hoping the magical number three will work for me today. I’m going to post three excerpts from Becoming Magic. And if the day is as magical as Jack’s beans, you’ll be intrigued enough to climb the Becoming Magic beanstalk to find the treasure.

Excerpt #1:

She gathered her notes and then slapped them back on the table, turning to him. “Look. We’re obviously going to be working together since there’s no talking my bosses out of this, so let’s lay down a few ground rules.”

He sat back in his chair. “Go ahead.”

“I know you’re a big movie star and you’re probably used to getting your way with women without even having to work for it, but let me just tell you here and now, there’s nowhere to get with me. I’m not looking to get laid, and your charming ways are not going to work with me. Okay?”

A light frown creased his handsome forehead. His eyes were very serious and he nodded. “Noted.”

In a probably vain attempt to keep from looking too vulnerable, she forced herself to take a deep breath. “I would also like to say that I don’t like dirty jokes. They make me uncomfortable and are mostly just rude, not funny.”

The frown on his forehead had deepened. But he just nodded. “Got it.”

“And finally, I don’t like to be touched. I’m not going to let you touch me to further my career, and I don’t care if you fire me. So don’t go for the brush-the-boob casual move or the light hand on my back or pinching my butt or whatever. None of it. I don’t enjoy it and if I don’t enjoy it, you have no right to enjoy it.”

He sat for a moment after she finished speaking, his expression very sober. Then he stood. For a moment, she thought he would just walk out of the room and she wondered what would happen if he went to Sabrina or Walt with what she’d just said. Her heartbeat pounded in her chest, thundering against her ribcage. But she raised her chin in defiance. If she was going to be working in Hollywood again, she was damn well going to do it her way.

He didn’t leave the room, however. After a moment, he asked politely, “Was there anything else?”

She’d expected indignation. His polite acceptance took her by surprise. “Umm, no.”

“Then we can get to work.” He held out a hand and she took it, bemused. He shook her hand and dropped it. “One condition of my own, however. I’d appreciate not being lumped into the same category as an abuser when I don’t think I’ve earned it.”

Excerpt #2:

“What were you feeling right then?”

“Right then?” He studied the screen. “Betrayed, I think. She was supposed to accept the rose. She was supposed to kiss me and later, she was supposed to make love to me. Because it was magic.” He shrugged, then glanced at her. “Sorry, was that too much information?”

“Maybe a little, but I did ask.” She watched onscreen Connor walk away—toward his trailer, probably.

“Why did you ask?”

“Why did you answer?” She countered him neatly, then hit the pause button. “But since you did, I’ll answer your other question. Yes. There are so many things I’d cut from my life if I had a delete button. Things that I worry not only delayed my reaching my eventual goal but may actually prevent it.”

“Like what?”

She hesitated, again torn between blurting out her whole sordid story and hiding it away in the dark reaches of her soul. Hiding won. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

He reached across and caught her hand. “That’s not really fair.” His thumb caressed her knuckles. “I told you mine.”

“Your what?” Her heart pounded in her throat.

“My secret. My too much information. It’s only fair if you share yours.”

Why did his lightest touch set her skin afire? It was so hard to think. And whatever the wine was, it must have a much higher alcohol content than she was used to. Or maybe he’d refilled it more often than she’d thought. At any rate, she felt like everything pleasant was intensified—like the feel of his light caress—and everything unpleasant had faded to the background. How much did Hollywood even matter, anyway?

She answered herself almost instantly, jerked back to reality by her need to conceal her too much information. “It’s not the same thing.”

“How so?” He closed his fingers over hers.

“I—mine isn’t so pleasant. Even yours is romantic and sweet. You just wanted her to love you as much as you loved her. But mine is—not that.”

Excerpt #3:

“How do you do that, anyway?”

“Do what?” He blinked innocently.

“Charm everyone. Her. The waitress the other night. Sabrina and Walt—”

“Oh, if you’d heard the talking to Walt gave me about none other than little old you, you’d know he’s not so charmed.”

“Oh, he’s charmed. But anyway, other people. People you’ve never even met like my sister. They’re all so taken with you. I don’t get it.”

“Well, that’s flattering.” He quirked an eyebrow at her.

She laughed a little. “I mean, I do get it. Sort of. But you and I—well, we know each other a little better, don’t we? It’s not like we’re passing acquaintances and I’m already charmed by you. I mean…”

She trailed off, but he nodded understanding. “Yes, that’s true. We’ve both seen a little of what makes each other tick. You’re wondering how others can see I’m someone worth investing in.”

“Well, yeah.” She shrugged. “For want of a better way of putting it.”

He paused, thinking. “I believe it’s like anything. It’s like picking up a book by an author you’ve never read before and deciding you want to read it. Or even listening to a song all the way through. You don’t know you’re going to like it. You might even hate it. But you sort of judge it from the beginning notes of the song or the first line of the book. I’ve got a good beginning note, I guess.”

She smiled. “I like that way of putting it. Like choosing a dessert. I can tell from the smell that you have some ingredients I like.” Her glance caught his and she felt her face heat up a little as she realized what she had said. “Or something like that.”

Thanks for reading. Hope your day is magical!

Six Days to Becoming Magic and I feel bad for Laura Ingalls Wilder

In six days my new book Becoming Magic will be unleashed upon the world. I’m calling it “a new kind of romance” because I think it’s time my genre addresses the #metoo movement and accepts that, in the past, our books have been part of the problem—and can now be part of the solution.

Just yesterday, the Association of Library Services to Children played a key role in a cautionary tale for all authors who don’t pay attention to changing times. They removed the name of one of America’s great pioneer women authors from an award. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award will now be known as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award because Wilder’s famous Little House series contains a number of racist (by today’s standards) references to Native Americans and black people.

Understand, first and foremost, that I get it. I read these books as a child and never thought twice about “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” or the reference to blackface. I’m reading them again with my daughter and am extremely grateful that she has a good, analytical head on her eleven-year-old shoulders. She knows those statements are wrong. She didn’t understand the blackface and “darkie” reference until I explained them, and then she knew they were wrong, too. We talked about how times and people’s perceptions change and evolve, and while Wilder may not have thought twice about writing those passages, they are considered wrong now.

She got it.

With all that said, I feel for Wilder. Her writing accurately reflected the social attitudes of her time. And now it is a victim of today’s more evolved social sensibility. Wilder even apologized for some of her writing during her lifetime and lived to see one passage changed from saying “no people, only Indians” to “no settlers, only Indians”, which shows she actually at least partially got it, too. I’m glad to know that.

I hope the removal of Wilder’s name from the award does not mean her books will someday be removed from library shelves. Read with the correct context, these books are invaluable to understanding and remembering our history and the history of our literature. Along with Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, these books form a map to remind us of where we’ve been so we don’t go back there.

And, Laura Ingalls Wilder, rest assured I get it, too. Writing of any genre may reflect the current time and sensibility, but eventually those times and sensibilities—and sensitivities—will change.

Eight Days to Becoming Magic: Last Steps and Nerves

So many things can go wrong.

What if I miss a huge typo that changes the meaning of something? Think that can’t happen? In 1631, The Holy Bible was printed without a very important word. It earned the nickname “The Wicked Bible” for saying, in black and white, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

What if my formatting is wrong? This problem is universal to independently published and traditionally published books. No matter how many times you go through a book in word and even pdf format, spaces vanish, indents undent themselves and typefaces may turn to gibberish. My first few independently published ebooks have several reviews that mention “head-hopping” as being a problem. At first I couldn’t figure this out. I usually tell my stories from two POVs—hero and heroine—but I never change POVs without leaving white space. Well, turns out white space alone doesn’t translate to Kindle or other ebooks very well. It just vanishes, leaving your poor reader with no indication that your story is about to hop to another head.

And finally, what if nobody gets it? I don’t mean, what if nobody buys it. That’s a whole different problem. I’m talking about what if nobody who reads it understands why I wrote it? Why spend hundreds of hours sitting at my computer writing something nobody understands? If nobody gets it, why did I waste my time? I mean, I’m not writing Salman Rushdie type books or a Codex Seraphinianus here. (Google that if you want to get sucked down a rabbit hole!) So basically, if I don’t get my point across, that’s on me.

So it’s eight days to publication. Eight days til I find out the best and the worst.

Eight days to Becoming Magic.

Nine days to Becoming Magic: What do I know about #metoo?

It’s a fair question. I’m happily married to a wonderful man. I’ve never been sexually assaulted. Not by a significant other, a trusted family member, a stranger, a friend. I know people who have, though. Several.

Think about that for a minute. I know several people (I could name about six) who have been a victim of a violent crime. If I know 600 people (and that’s generous because I’m practically a hermit) and I could name six who have told me what happened to them (and it varies all along the spectrum of sexual assault from date rape to outright attack), then one out of a hundred people I know have suffered from this crime. If you count the number of women who have been sexually harassed or touched inappropriately against their will, that number skyrockets. It’s probably more like one in five.

That’s where #metoo gets its power. The sheer number of women who have suffered from this crime is overwhelming. And the rest of us? We live in fear of it. That’s me. When my mother sent me off to college it was after a strict talking to about what could happen. I already knew of course. Even in my small town, bad things happened. A teenage girl my older brother knew was raped and killed when I was a child. During my sophomore year in college, a woman was raped and killed about a block away from my apartment.

Now I’m a middle age woman and I’m still aware of how men look at me. Over the years I’ve read more and more about sexual assaults and I know better than ever what men can do to a woman. I have had moments when I’ve been certain I was in danger, when I would reach for my keys and line them up between my knuckles like claws (a move I was taught in a self-defense course), when I would go into the nearest lighted building because I thought maybe someone was following me.

And now I have a daughter.

#Metoo isn’t just about having survived an attack. It’s about women banding together to prevent those attacks from happening. It’s about creating a world where our daughters don’t have to live in fear and wear their keys like weapons. It’s about taking charge of our lives and our happiness. And that’s what Becoming Magic is about. As a romance writer, I can’t do much to change the world, but I can refuse to put the dangerous fantasies in my books. I’m changing. I hope my genre will change, too.

She looked around, spotting Connor almost immediately. She took a half step toward him and froze, stumbling a little, her eyes on the dark-haired man at the next table. He was the large, powerful type you got used to seeing in Hollywood. The kind who worked out at a gym first thing in the morning and then again at night. He was good-looking in a slick, well-kept way. Nothing about this man was an accident.

And nothing about his appearance should make her want to find the nearest potted plant and puke in it, but that was exactly how she felt, nonetheless. She felt hot and cold in quick fluctuations. She swallowed hard against the bile that rose in her throat and wheeled around, knocking into a waiter with a tray full of glasses as she did, sending them flying with a crystalline clatter.

The icy water erased the need to throw up, but not the need to flee. She wanted to look over her shoulder, to see if Connor had seen, but nothing mattered except getting away now. The world whirled and refocused on a narrow aisle leading her away and she followed.