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Thoughts and Reviews

I do a lot of thinking. Some might say too much. I’ve been thinking a lot recently in light of the Time’s Up movement in Hollywood and around the nation about how my genre of writing needs to evolve—if at all.

I’m a romantic who’s been blessed in the love and family department. It’s not always easy to see life from the viewpoint of the victimized when you live in a safe bubble. I’ve never really needed to be feminist, though I’ve had my own small #metoo moments. Still, I’ve been wondering…how do I as a romance writer make this situation better? How can I write about the flirtation and romance between men and women when so much negativity is associated with such flirtation and romance crossing a line into something much darker?

I’ve always tried to write strong female characters and caring male characters, but I’ve never considered how their romantic interactions could read to someone who has been victimized. Consider the pirate scene in Movie Magic, for instance. Or the scene in Secrets of the Lotus where the rich guy just chooses a woman at random to kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve. In Winter Solstice, the two main characters are co-workers. Island Magic is basically about a kidnapping—a good-natured and necessary one, but still. In almost every one of my books, looking back, there is something that might be frowned upon by a feminist or trigger a victim. The only one of my books with a real feminist as a heroine is Escape Magic, which I wrote in response to my disgust over 50 Shades of Grey.

I haven’t solved this romance/feminism quandary, by the way. I’m keeping it in mind in my writing, however, so it’s most likely going to show up eventually.

On to better news. Today, in spite of its possible problematic elements, Movie Magic received TWO great reviews. See below for details and stop by to give my reviewers some love and for your last chance to enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card:

“A sudden storm brings the characters together, and very much like the Shakespearean play, “The Tempest”, the characters are introduced and the story unfolds against a background of nature, the elements, and magic. Movie Magic is a charming romance!” —Jennifer Macaire

“…for the most part I really did enjoy Mrs. Flye’s writing style as she was superior on detail.  She carefully thought-out certain passages that when I read them I wasn’t reading them – I was seeing them!  Perhaps like my own little movie magic occurring!” —Fabulous and Brunette

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Five stars on Amazon and an excerpt from Movie Magic

Currently Movie Magic has five stars on both Amazon and Smashwords. If you enjoy romance (and possibly even if you don’t), you’ll like Movie Magic. I’m confident about that. It has everything. I realized that when I was coming up with tags for searches on Beaches, small town, Hollywood, contemporary romance, movies, movie making, California…the list goes on. I could even have included “pirates” in it, but I didn’t. What are you waiting for? It’s only $2.99 for an ebook! Here’s an excerpt to help you make the decision to commit to reading Movie Magic:

During a lull in their work, she laid her head on the sofa arm and closed her eyes. The storm raged on outside. She opened her eyes to see Walt sitting beside the sofa, his gaze locked on the fire. He held a beer in one hand, his elbow resting on the knee of one long, denim-clad leg. She smiled a little, watching the dance of the firelight on his beard. “A sandy cowboy and a sexy pirate.” She yawned. “Hollywood really would love you.”

He glanced at her. “I thought you were asleep.”

“Mm. Maybe I will. I bet my dreams will be sweet.”

“Did you have more wine than I thought you did or are your internal censors busted?” He took a sip of the beer.

“Just sleepy and a little high off a job well done.” She reached out to touch the stack of crumpled paper on the coffee table.

He smiled, turning back to the fire. “Get some rest.”

“Where will you sleep?”

Did his smile deepen a little bit? His voice rumbled with amusement when he answered. “Everything you say right now sounds like an invitation, you know.” He took a sip of his beer. “And I’m having a really tough time not replying in the affirmative.”

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Writers write…even when they’re not at a computer.

“Are you writing anything new?”

Every writer gets this very excellent question, although many of the askers don’t even realize how appropriate it probably is. Because if you’re talking to a writer, chances are, they’re writing something.

I’m writing all the time. So my answer should always be yes, but sometimes I equivocate. “Yes, when I have time.” “Yes, but not as much as I’d like.” “Well, it’s been busy with the kids and all.”

But that’s not true. I’m writing even when I’m answering the question. In some back room of my brain, I’m scribbling away at an old-fashioned desk…using a feathered quill on parchment, probably. Sunlight streams in through a yellow-paned window and the pages I’ve written litter the floor.

Yeah, that’s why I sometimes stare vaguely at a green light until somebody honks at me.

I didn’t consciously realize this about myself until the other day when I read an article about of all things, a possible remake or sequel to the movie “Labyrinth”. I was still listening exclusively to David Bowie, not really mourning his death, but definitely feeling the loss of it. My immediate, visceral reaction was a total rejection of the idea. How could you remake “Labyrinth” without the Goblin King himself?

Then I left to pick up my kids and while I was in the car, I started to write the sequel to “Labyrinth” myself. By the time I was done, I had the whole story. It even stars Jennifer Connelly. And David Bowie (computer animated?) makes a cameo appearance.

I haven’t written any of it down—not even an outline—because, you know, what are the chances that Hollywood is going to call me and ask me to write Labyrinth II? But it’s all up there in my head, scribbled on yellow parchment and lying in a neat stack in a square of sunshine. And I wrote it while in the carpool lane, while picking up groceries, while chatting with friends and doing laundry.

Am I writing anything new? Yes, I just haven’t decided if I want to share it yet.

Author’s note: The following is just for fun and about as fresh off the press as it’s possible to be (read VERY rough draft). If you are a fan of Labyrinth, you might enjoy it. You might not. It’s really just a bit of fan fic about how I’d like the sequel to start out. 

The horrible feeling that something was very wrong built in Sarah’s chest. So when she rounded the corner and saw the flashing lights, she was barely surprised. When she pushed open the car door and rushed toward the house, she was almost calm.

She saw Davey’s tricycle on its side in the middle of the road, but there were no ambulances. Cassidy sat on the front steps, obviously crying, with a police officer in front of her, writing something on a pad of paper.

“Cassidy.” Sarah spoke sharply. “What have you done?”

The fear on the babysitter’s face echoed in Sarah’s heart. “Mrs. Lawrence, I swear, I barely took my eyes off him. One second he was there and the next…” She swept her arm around the empty yard with its emerald grass and ruby roses and no laughing little boy with sapphire eyes running to greet his mother.

“Mrs. Lawrence, we’re conducting a search. We think your son just wandered off…couldn’t go far…” The voices faded into the background and Sarah closed her eyes.

It’s happening again.

She felt hands on her shoulders. “Mrs. Lawrence? Can we call someone for you? Your husband?”

She shook them off, opening her eyes and facing them. “You can call off the search. I know who has my son. And he’ll only give him back to me.”

“You know where he is?”

“God help me, yes.” Sarah glanced at her watch. How long ago had Davey disappeared? Twenty minutes? Thirty? How much of the thirteen hours was left? “My brother has him.”

She knew how it must sound. Her brother Toby—her only sibling—had disappeared ten years ago at the age of sixteen. Everyone knew about that disappearance. Nobody knew about the one that had happened when he was still a baby. And nobody knew the two were connected.

Except me. And now he’s taken my baby. Her lips curved in a little smile. She already knew the rules, she already knew the way. She knew nothing would be fair and certainly not easy. Toby would do everything he could to keep her from making it through the labyrinth. But Toby had made a mistake Jareth would never have made. Jareth had only taken her brother. Toby had taken her son.

Don’t worry, Davey. Mama’s coming.

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Let’s be honest: We can’t blame E.L. James.

So, E.L. James decides to try to do what many authors do. In an attempt at promoting her new book Grey, James went live on Twitter, allowing other Tweeters to ask her questions using #AskELJames. What ensued was…troubling. Tweeters used the opportunity to criticize James’s writing and to accuse her of everything from glorifying abuse to setting back women’s rights a good fifty years.

Now, I’m not a fan of 50 Shades. I read the first one, or at least started it, after hearing a great deal of buzz about it. I ended up skipping through a good bit of it, and when I reached the end, I was actually disappointed to learn that there were two sequels. I’m no fan of E.L. James, but I don’t blame her, and I certainly would never have participated in the monstrous activity that took place on Twitter.

E.L. James is a writer. Maybe not a great one, but she did write, as of last count, four enormously popular books. Is it her fault that a publisher chose to publish her books, a gazillion people chose to buy and read them, and a movie producer chose to make a movie—which another gazillion people went to see? Not really.

So who is there left to blame if the author is out of bounds? The publisher for pulling 50 Shades out of the slush pile and giving it the type of promotion that most authors can only dream of? Maybe, but publishers are, in the end, just salesmen. They see a need in the market and they try to be the first to fill it.

The troubling thing about the whole 50 Shades phenomenon is that, at the end of the day, there was a market for the book. In spite of its disturbing thematic material. In spite of its sub-par writing. In spite of the fact that “those type” of books (which have been around for many, many years) were once hidden at the back of the bookstore, not prominently displayed at the front door to greet me and my children when we go in looking for summer reading.

So don’t blame E.L. James for writing what a large part of our society now wants to read. Writers write. Publishers publish. Readers buy the books.

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