Weekend Update: Busy and Wonderful!

It was, I won’t lie, an exhausting weekend here. Mumfest happened in a big way! I had a chance to connect with a lot of readers and potential readers, a few aspiring writers, old and new friends. Fantastic!

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With the help of my friend Noel, my purple tent was transformed from this…

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…to this magical place!

I was lucky enough to be able to partner with a very talented artist, Noel McKelvey of Blissworks. (You can see some more of her lovely creations on her Facebook page.) Her artwork grabbed a lot of attention, and I’m thrilled to say she sold several of her lovely paintings! Yay, Noel! Added bonus, some of the folks who stopped to admire her art also took a moment to check out my books. So good for me, too, right? I sold a few, talked to lots of neat people and basically regained a little of my ambition, which can easily be lost when you sit in your office day after day writing words and wondering if anyone will ever read them.

Added added bonus, theater friends also stopped by. I reconnected with several cast and members of Anne of Green Gables and A Christmas Carol. Which was timely since Dickens Magic, which is set in Rivertowne Players’ Masonic Theatre, comes out in just over two weeks!! Though I swear I never base any of my books on actual events in my life, I will say that those two plays gave me the experience I needed to write a story from the point-of-view of an actor/director. Sort of intensive research, I suppose!

So, overall, a great experience. I hope “The Artist and the Author” will make another appearance at another location one day. Noel and I made a good team. Plus, we now have the banner and the tent!

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In other news, my virtual tour for Becoming Magic continues today. Check out my interview on Bookaholic where I discuss the difficulty of writing a romance with a #metoo theme—and why I wanted to do it in the first place.

Write the change you want to see: A Birthday Thank You for a Friend

Special Note: I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of teachers in my life. Some of these people probably don’t even realize I was their pupil at one point or another. I’d like to dedicate this blog post to a friend who greeted me in the hallowed halls of the Zoetrope writers workshop at the true beginning of my writing career. Her example and kind words of encouragement have helped many a writer over the years, whether it was as an editor or reviewer or friend. Happy birthday, Beverly!IMG_4047

Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think writers have another obligation. Write the change. It’s the charge given to each of us with this calling to write our feelings and dreams down and send them out on paper airplanes into the world.

Don’t like the world with less opportunity for lower classes? Imagine it different. Write the change.

Don’t like racism? Write a world with more tolerance.

Don’t like partisan politics? Erase them with a few strokes of the keyboard—in your writing, anyway.

Horrified by the attitudes that resulted in the #metoo movement? Write a world where consent is actually romanticized. For instance:

She loved and trusted this man. Nothing they chose to do together could be wrong or destructive. —Dickens Magic, coming October 31, 2018

I’m not saying you’ll change the world with your stories. I’m saying it’s up to the writers and dreamers to reach out to others and show them what the world could be. Imagine a world where the rights of every human being are respected. Imagine a world where technology aids instead of replaces human interaction. Imagine a world where everyone is valued for what they bring to the world, no matter what their skill is.

Imagine it and write it.

Writing “those” scenes in the age of #metoo

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Never has writing romance been more of a balancing act than it is now, at least if you want to be sensitive to the #metoo movement and yet still satisfy your readers’ cravings for romantic escapism. Let’s face it, first of all, the day of the alpha hero who demands what he wants from a simpering heroine is—or at least should be—over. Flirting that goes too far is also dangerous ground. And writing one of those scenes—sex, that is—well, that’s harder than ever, and writing good ones has never been easy.

If you take all that away from romance, you don’t have much left—though I admit I wave a cheerful good-bye to the alpha hero. But the rest? What is romance without anticipation, flirting, and, ultimately—because we are human—sex? At our cores, we are animals looking for a mate, and that’s what the whole romance genre is based on.

I struggled with this for a long time. I want to believe I’m a liberated liberal woman, but I believe in love and romance. I believe in the value of finding your soul mate and building a life together. The #metoo movement and the ugly stories I heard about things that have happened to women seeking that same thing made me rethink myself. I looked back at my past work and found a number of mistakes and missteps. How could I call myself a feminist if I wrote this?

I put away one work-in-progress without writing that scene for a few weeks, went back and wrote a very bad, almost robotic one with no feeling in it, and finally, a couple of weeks ago, did what I should have done in the first place. I examined my characters’ motivations, especially the heroine’s. Why did she want to have sex at this particular time, with this particular person? I knew she was going to leave him right after, so why did she decide on him in the first place? Once I had the answers, I wrote probably the best one of “those” scenes I’ve ever written.

My point, I suppose, is that romance is a genre in flux right now. I believe you’ll see fewer alpha heroes making demands and fewer simpering victim heroines. If authors of romance are willing to make a change, I think the genre has an opportunity to make an impact—to take us all on a journey away from the #metoo movement to a world where women and their partners can create a world that is safer for our daughters. And isn’t that a world worth escaping to?

Disregarding the Oracles

I love science fiction. As early as the 1800s, science fiction authors were predicting today’s everyday things like motion-sensing doors and credit cards. Pretty commonplace by today’s standards, but imagine how out-of-this-world it must have seemed when Jules Verne described his “phonotelephote” which allowed “the transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires”. And yet today we take things like Skype and FaceTime for granted.

Other predictions have hit close to the mark as well. H.G. Wells predicted the atomic bomb. Tom Clancy wrote about a terrorist attack that was very similar to September 11. Writers have predicted everything from the World Wide Web to skywriting and lunar modules launching from Florida. So what is my point?

Yesterday I happened on this petition: Writers on Trump. It said many of the same things I have felt for most of this election season, which is, basically, that Donald Trump as president of the United States would be a disaster. I’ve kept my political views off this blog for the largest portion of the election season, but I’m crossing the line now. Here it goes.

This petition, which I did add my name to, is signed by some of today’s leading writers. Bestselling authors. Household names. Stephen King. Amy Tan. Jane Smiley. The authors whose names are bigger than the titles of their works. The ones whose new releases have long reserve list even though the library splurged and bought thirteen copies.

Today’s oracles.

Writers see the world differently. Writers observe, but they also influence. When Aldous Huxley wrote about mood-enhancing drugs in 1932, perhaps it sparked the invention of anti-depressants? But it is very difficult to understand how Jonathan Swift in 1735 could predict that Mars actually had two moons, a fact that was not discovered until 1877.

What are today’s writers predicting? Dystopia seems more prevalent than Utopia these days. Apocalyptic futures abound. Are these prophecies unavoidable, self-fulfilling or just warnings of what might be?

The Writers on Trump petition is pretty damn clear, and here’s the part you may want to pay attention to:

“Because the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response…we, the undersigned, as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States.”

Warning or self-fulfilling prophecy? History will decide.

What happened next…

Author’s note: I have been encouraged to continue my sequel to Labyrinth. Understanding that what I write on my blog comes directly out of the files in my head—and therefore is completely unedited and unpolished—I’ve decided to undertake the challenge this month and post the story, serial-style, right here on my blog. So, direct from my brain’s writing den, here are a few more paragraphs chronicling the adventures of Sarah and her misguided brother Toby. If you missed the first part of the story, you can find it at the end of this post: Writers write…even when they’re not at a computer.

Sarah feverishly stuffed the backpack with all the things she wished she’d taken into the Labyrinth before. Water, protein bars, tissues. Thirteen hours was a long time, and Toby would make sure the Labyrinth didn’t supply any of her needs. Quietly cursing Toby for getting her into this mess in the beginning, she shouldered the backpack and turned.

Stephen stood in the doorway, his expression concerned. “Sweetheart, there’s someone here to see you.”

She forced herself to take a deep breath. She’d already told her husband she didn’t want to see a doctor, didn’t want a sedative, didn’t want to rest. Would he never give up? Why wouldn’t he leave her alone to do what she had to do? “I won’t take any drugs.”

“It’s not a doctor.” Her husband squeezed her hand and stepped aside.

Another man entered the room after him. Older, graying, a cloud of worry hanging over his face. He summoned a little smile for her—cautious even now. After all the years that had passed between them, he still looked ready to cringe away from a fight with his daughter.

“Dad.” Sarah nodded. “Hi.” She turned back to her packing. “I’m really sorry I don’t have time to catch up right now. I’m a little busy.” She considered telling him she was going after Toby, but knew it was useless. He hadn’t believed her back when Toby disappeared. He wouldn’t believe her now.

“Sarah.” Her father spoke so gently, she closed her eyes. Why did she still want his approval? Why did it matter anymore?

In spite of herself, she turned. “Dad.”

“Stephen says you think Toby took Davey.”

“I do.” She nodded. “Actually, I don’t just think he took him. I know he did.”

“Honey.” Her father stepped forward and put his hands on her shoulders. “Your brother has been gone a long time. He…he’s probably dead.” His features twisted a little in remembered pain.

Sarah knew her father had accepted Toby’s death long before. Drugs, he thought. A tragedy, losing a son to drugs, but Toby had been withdrawn for a long time before he disappeared.

Only Sarah knew the real reason for that. Only Sarah knew Toby had gone looking for the man who’d kidnapped him as a baby, answering a call he didn’t quite understand until she told him the story of the Goblin King who took him…because she asked him to.

Damn Jareth.

She should say, Toby’s not dead, Dad. And you have to stop blaming yourself. You aren’t to blame. I’m the one who did it. I’m the one who asked the Goblin King to take him and I’m the one who went to get him back. And now he’s looking for revenge. Probably Jareth, too.

Instead, her heart full of remorse and worry and guilt, she gritted her teeth and blamed the only person she could think to blame right then. She shook off her father’s hands. “He’s not dead, Dad. He took Davey, and I’m going to get him back.” She shouldered her backpack and turned to face them. “Spoiled brat always was taking my stuff.”

Stephen caught her hand. “Sweetheart—”

But it wasn’t him who stopped her. Her eyes were caught by a face in the mirror. A face she recognized though she hadn’t seen it in more than two decades. She froze, her heart beating so wildly she couldn’t hear her father or her brother. She couldn’t even hear her own voice though she thought she called out.

Jareth.

And then everything around her went black.

Writers: Don’t Wait. Write a Banned Book Today.

“If a story is in you, it has got to come out.” –William Faulkner

I love that quote by Faulkner. It’s how I’ve always felt about my best writing. When the story is in there, it just needs to come out, and the only way is through my fingertips. It’s a wonderful feeling.

What isn’t a wonderful feeling is how I feel about the publishing industry right now. I feel like writers are becoming less of artists because they’re at the mercy of publishers and consumerism. Will a story sell? If a publisher, editor or agent says no, too often the story is never written. Or if a writer sneaks and writes it between his/her agent-approved projects, it becomes one of Stephen King’s “trunk novels.” Filed away in a forgotten place.

When did writers start writing what everybody else WANTS them to write? If that were always the case, there’d be no banned books week (September 27-October 3, just fyi). Can you imagine Huxley pitching A Brave New World? Or Ray Bradbury trying to sell an agent on Fahrenheit 451? What if, at the time these books were being written, the publishing world said no and the writers didn’t write them? What if those books had never been there to inspire thoughts and feelings that aren’t always pleasant, but nonetheless help us to become a better place?

I believe it is the duty of writers and artists to bring things into the world that wouldn’t otherwise be there. If it’s a story that sells a million copies, great. The important thing is to get it on your computer screen and out of your head. Then do your damnedest to send it out into the world. Through the normal channels, through a small publisher, in ebook form or pamphlet or on your own blog, if need be.

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, onto paper.” –Ray Bradbury

Because that’s your job. That’s why you’re a writer.

In honor of banned books week, I’d like to urge all my fellow writers to join me next week in writing something they want to write. Don’t write it because somebody else thinks it will sell. Write it because it’s in your heart. You may rediscover that joy that writing used to bring you.

Standing on the Verge: Another Release Day

Today’s the day. Release day for Close Up Magic, yet another book I’m cutting the cord on and sending out into the bittersweet world of readers. I’ve called Close Up Magic the book of my dreams, the one I’ve always wanted to write, and it’s true. So today as I stand on the edge of the cliff getting ready to jump into who knows what, I know it matters a lot what happens from here. I’m throwing myself behind my book with all my weight. I’ve already started two more in this series, so the fate of Close Up Magic really does matter a lot. It’s time to put up or shut up.

Release day has to be nerve-wracking for all authors. You know, to the reader it’s another book to pick up or cast aside. But to us, it’s much more. It’s our heart and soul. It’s not ink that book is printed in. It’s blood and sweat and tears.

So here goes. One step and I’m off. Just one link to post and the ball is in your court. But before I do, I’d like to point out that advance readers and reviewers have said Close Up Magic is “magical”, “insightful”, “smart”, “fun to read”, “entertaining”, “humorous” and “passionate”, among other complimentary adjectives. I neither threatened these people nor paid them off, and none of them are related to me in any way. So maybe you’d like to check out Close Up Magic, and just in case you’re of the “try before you buy” mindset, you can read the entire Chapter 1 right here: Close Up Magic Chapter 1.

And with no further ado, here’s my leap. Buy Close Up Magic Now on Amazon!

Final note: Don’t forget to join me on Twitter and Facebook today for pictures of me in fabulous Las Vegas holding a copy of Close Up Magic! And check back a little later to find out who won the Kindle Paperwhite and the $20 Amazon gift card giveaways!