Friday, July 22, 2011

Is a person ever too old to enjoy romance and sex?

I actually had to research this medically because I've been writing mostly from my gut which insistently screams "no" to this question. Part of me can't help laughing at the very idea that after 50 a person would simply wake up one day, turn a year older, and bam--all lascivious thoughts would simply stop. I'm not saying there aren't changes, but those happen between 18 and 21, after childbirth, after accidents, etc and so on. It would take a lot to convince me that age alone is a factor. Most medical sites stipulated a 50+ audience as if that birthday were a milestone after which every experience for the remaining 20-50 years of a person's life is too similar to merit separate discussion. Here is one site that seemed clued in to reality in a much more realistic way. I at least found the information more impartial about the matter. I ignored the others I found in a burst of Baby Boomer stubbornness.

I have a single title (non-series) book out to beta readers and my editor who I hope will be looking at this one twice. In this story is a sexy scene featuring a 72 yr old man and 68 year old woman. It's a little more steamy even than what you might find in movies like "Cocoon" that tried years ago to bust the myth that people simply got too old to want the basic human connection that romantic love offers. That movie clearly showed the "want".

There is also a scene in my story where the son (Morgan--aka my hero) asks his father (Gerald--my 72 old) a question about how he manages to have relationship luck with so many women in his life. Morgan was mostly teasing and being sarcastic. I made the father completely unrepentant in his reply which involves a honest revelation the son wasn't quite expecting.

“Go back and convince Thea that your interest in Amy is friendship and your interest in her is more. It’s not rocket science,” Gerald told his son, amused at the distress on Morgan’s face.

“How the hell do I do that?” Morgan demanded, exasperated that everyone seemed to know but him. There was a good reason he didn’t have any experience. He had never in his life chased a woman who had given him such a obvious brush-off.

“For starters, keep showing up at the restaurant. Get in Thea’s face,” Gerald said, shrugging. “Surely you know what to do once you get that far.”

Morgan threw a roll at his father who let it bounce off his shoulder as he laughed. “Get in her face. That’s your expert advice. How in the hell do you have every woman in this town falling all over you?”

Gerald pulled the pill he’d carried all day out of his shirt pocket and pushed it over to Morgan.

Curious, Morgan picked it up and read the side of it to see what kind of supplement it was. Once he did, he immediately returned the pill to his father’s side of the table, his face flushing while his father laughed. Morgan couldn’t hold his gaze and had to look at the table.

“Well, you asked to know my secret. That’s how I keep one of them very interested. Some women are more complicated,” Gerald said, grinning at the flush still on Morgan’s face. “Sorry if I embarrassed you. I thought we covered this when you were seventeen. No one told me adult kids would need a refresher course. I’d have talked to you in your thirties. At forty-four, you’re almost too old to change your ways now.”

“Damn it, Dad,” Morgan said, finally leaning his face into his hand and laughing himself. “I don’t need physical assistance—or at least not yet. I need to know how to talk to Althea right.”

Gerald leaned back in his chair. “You know, Sedona agrees with you, Morgan. You’re getting smarter every day you’re here.”

Morgan snorted in disbelief. “So you going to seriously help me or not?”

“Show up. Compliment the food. Let Thea catch you staring at her so she’s clear about your intentions,” Gerald said. “That should get the ball rolling. Hopefully, Amy will have cleared up the incident from today. Cross your fingers for timing and good luck.”

“And these are your best suggestions?” Morgan demanded, shaking his head in disbelief again. “It can’t be that easy.” 
“Easy? Boy have you got a lot to learn,” Gerald said, digging into his pasta again.  

It's not the first time I've mentioned male enhancement drugs in my stories. It's not even the first time I've shown a father talking to his son about sex. It likely won't be my last for either if I continue to write romantic stories featuring older characters. Morgan is my hero of this story, but if a book ever has two, Gerald is definitely the second. He is modeled after my late grandfather who I believe was romantically involved with women well into his late seventies.

To date, Gerald is my oldest romantic character, and I love his joie de vivre concerning women and romance. He has a very complex view of love that reflects all his life experiences of it. Though the word is French and not English, most English dictionaries contain it and list "enjoyment" as a synonym. Enjoyment is the "pleasure felt when having a good time". What Gerald has learned from his years of experience is the value of living in the moment and taking the time to enjoy everything.

When I look 20+ years ahead of where I am right now, I am hoping to be exactly where Gerald is or at least to have someone like him in my life. In the meantime, I'm working on my own joie de vivre.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dating A Metro Man (Update on Release)

As of July 15, the book has shipped to Apple.  It should be available for sale at ibooks shortly.  It still has not shipped to Barnes and Noble or Sony.  It has shipped to Kobo, Diesel, and Scrollmotion.

As of July 11, the distributor still hasn't shipped the book to all channels yet. This moves the shipping to the end of this week and the availability at Apple, Sony, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, and Scrollmotion to the week of July 18.  I'm sorry Apple iPhone readers who keep writing to ask. I know you're waiting. When it reaches the channels, I will come back and update this blog entry.

Dating a Metro Man is currently available at Amazon and Smashwords. Smashwords has outputs that work on most eReaders if you want to check them out.  Also, Smashwords is having a July sale which means a discount on many books.

This is the last book in the Never Too Late series so I included two weddings in it to make sure we had enough closure on these characters. I doubled the HEA. One wedding might surprise you.

Thanks to all of you who have written to ask about it. Hope you enjoy the book.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Q&A DATING A SAINT Part 2 (sympathetic characters)

What was the inspiration for Lauren's character?

A good friend and beta reader didn't like Lauren very well in Books One and Two. She said something to the effect that Lauren was a little too whiny and weak and not someone she would want to read about more. She had a similar reaction to Jim's character as well when he interacted with Lauren in Book Two. I didn't feel this way at the time, but have the wisdom of multiple writing careers behind me, so I knew I needed to listen and to improve the experience of knowing Lauren.

To me, Lauren is that quiet friend we all have that you find out so many amazing things about and wonder why on earth she never said anything to let you know the wonderful things in all the time you've known her. Then you realize that your friend is a private person, doesn't like to share, and you haven't been letting her get a chance to express herself much because she's been dealing with you and your volatile nature. Or at least, that was my explanation for Lauren's evolution in her own story.

Anti-wimpy was easy to fix. I made Lauren a martial artist. End of debate.

Whiny was harder because she had to cure that one for herself. To help her along, I gave her a nasty temper and kept putting her in situations that tested the limits of her losing it. She'd been holding back from just about everyone that knew her, including her mother, her ex, her friends, and Jim. The person who knew the real her was her sensei, and he was insisting she fix herself. When she finally starting letting her real self out--mostly because of her interactions with Jim, it turned into a deluge of revelation for all the characters. Fortunately, Lauren had two great friends in Alexa and Regina who ultimately decided to support her efforts to become herself.

Setup for this sample scene: Alexa and Regina have talked Lauren into dating which she hates doing, but continues to do at this point, even though her patience with it is diminishing. She does not see that it's helping, nor is it making her happy. Alexa and Regina, who are sure they know best, think the tipping point is just right around the corner. And they love her enough to try and make her do what is right for herself.

“All I really want is something simple and easy,” Lauren demanded, tossing her hair as she talked. She was growing it out, a visible rebellion to the perfectly coiffed bob she’d worn for years. The animated motions of her hands sent the glittering bracelets she wore with her silver dress tinkling.
“Now what did I tell you about wishing for something simple?” Alexa asked, the question really a warning.
Lauren looked at the table. “Stop acting like my mother, Alexa. You might be wrong, you know.”
“I might, but I’m not,” Alexa denied archly. “Regina knows sex. I know men. Be careful what you wish for, Lauren. The man you want has been holding back as much and almost as long as you have. If his reasons are half as intense as yours, all hell might break loose when he lets go.”
“Do you two have to be right all the time?” Lauren shook her head and stood, too mad to stay any longer. “Well, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hoping Jim might eventually have sex with me. That man could write the damn saint’s handbook on how to deny yourself sexual gratification,” she said, rolling back her shoulders. “Since evidently I’m not alluring enough to seduce him into changing his mind, I guess I’ll just go kiss another damn frog.”
Alexa and Regina burst out laughing when Lauren was finally out of sight and earshot.
“Well, she’s awake—and very aware it seems,” Regina said happily. “I hope Jim isn’t suffering too much.”
“Casey said he’s ill from the thought of her dating,” Alexa said, smiling.
“Gee, that’s too bad,” Regina said. “Lauren’s the first woman Jim has let get so close. I’m glad you warned her about Jim. He’s definitely holding back with her. He wants her bad.”
“You can tell how much from the way he looks at her. But what exactly are you most worried about?” Alexa asked, laughing. “Maybe I could cover it in my next lecture.”
“When Jim’s composure crumbles, the sex isn’t going to be pretty, sister,” Regina said, doing a happy chair dance as she finished the excellent pizza.
“Tell me about it,” Alexa said. “I’m actually a little worried about their big moment myself.”
Regina laid a hand on Alexa’s arm. “Lauren’s a big girl, Mom. She’s going to be fine. Trust me, I go through this all the time with clients.”
“Well, she has us at least,” Alexa said, picking up her own pizza and taking a bite.
“Yes,” Regina agreed. “Lauren has us to help her get through this transition. She’ll emerge a beautiful sexual butterfly from her celibate cocoon one day.”
“Butterfly? Yeah, I guess that fits Lauren, but I like the frog analogy better. I really want to hear more about frog sex,” Alexa said around a smile and bite of pizza.
“Do an internet search on it then,” Regina suggested, laughing as Alexa looked at her oddly. “I don’t know anything about frog sex. I just said that stuff to get Lauren riled up.”

What was the inspiration for Jim's character?

See the epic explanation for the storyline in Part 1 of this Q&A, and then imagine writer shock for me when the secret Jim had in Book Two for not pursuing Lauren turned out to be a wife in Book Three. The hardest part for me was deciding how good the hero had to be to deserve the heroine's continual faith in him when he felt so torn about his absent wife. So I gave him and Lauren similar hangups and values about love and sex, and let them struggle for who got over them first so they could be together. I was gratefully relieved when Jim finally decided to tell Casey and Ben the whole truth and let my left brain rule that it happened EARLY in the story. I have to admit the deepening friendship between all three heroes of the first three books became one of my favorite parts of Book Three and allowed me many opportunities for humor. (Excerpt edited for clarity and to remove spoiler info--LOL.)

“I have never shared this with anyone but those who absolutely had to know. I couldn’t risk the press or anyone else distressing her. I felt you needed to join the category of those who need to know, but now I’m going to ask you not to share it. Regina knows. Please don’t tell Alexa until—,” Jim faltered.
“—until you decide if you want to tell Lauren?” Casey finished, suddenly understanding. “Don’t lose a minute’s sleep over it. Regina isn’t the only one with ethics in this group. You can trust us, Jim.”
“No doubt,” Jim replied. Trust is what he’d been learning about Casey for weeks. Kaiser, he already knew had a heart of gold. “If you’ll excuse me for just a bit, I need to deal with some paperwork. Feel free to look around. We can meet here in about twenty minutes and go to lunch.”
Jim walked quickly down the hall and through some glass doors into an office area.
Ben and Casey remained where he’d left them, too stunned to move.
“Holy shit,” Casey said softly, putting a hand over his mouth to keep everything else he was thinking from just pouring out in a further flood of swearing.
“You can say that again,” Ben said. “Damn it, I knew Jim was a good man, but hell—he’s more a saint than even Lauren.”
Casey just shook his head from side to side, unable to fathom how a man could live with such a situation.
“Ben, your wife keeps stuff like this to herself all the time. I can’t even imagine carrying this kind of emotional burden around. I think I’d be the crazy one. No wonder Jim’s struggling over his attraction to Lauren,” Casey said.
“I think Jim would have problems with any woman, but at least Lauren is trustworthy,” Ben commented. “I hope like hell he tells her. Not that it would fix everything, but at least there would be some honest communication between them.”
They stood there in silence for a couple of minutes as they tried to absorb the shock of what they had learned.
Casey finally broke the silence.
“Don’t look now, Benjamin, but Regina is starting to rub off on you,” Casey remarked with a smirk. “You’re sounding like her more and more.”
“Not surprising,” Ben said proudly. “I spend a lot of time rubbing us together. That much friction has to cause some transference.”
A low laugh rumbled in Casey’s chest. “You can never make fun of my military euphemisms again.”
“Deal,” Ben said with a wicked grin. 

What have readers said about this book so far?

Several have said it was very different from first two. Two or three mentioned loving the ending. Some readers said it was the most interesting of the first three. I've heard very few complaints about it. The highest praise was probably from those who said something to the effect of each book in the series being a very different story but still connecting the characters well. I got to sigh in relief hearing that feedback.

Personally, I loved the evolution of Jim's character as much I loved the evolution of Lauren's.  I would like to write more complicated books, but sssshushhh!!....please don't tell the muses yet. Thanks. :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Q&A DATING A SAINT Part 1 (pushing boundaries)

 What was the inspiration for the unusual storyline?

Epic answer--sorry it's so long, but my story about it is as complicated as the book I wrote.

During the summer of 2009 while I was recovering from leaving a career that had lasted for eighteen years, I spent a lot of time staring at the walls and listening to audiobooks. One was called LEAP! What will we do with the rest of our lives? by Sarah Davidson. The material was very good and overall served to provide me the self-help inspiration I was seeking. One of the tracks (I bought the CD version) was about how the meaning of "love" changes as you get older. In that exploration, Davidson recounted a story that she declared had redefined love for her. And it ended up doing the same for me. Don't tie me to the exact details of the story, but here is the gist of it as it lives in my mind as inspiration.

There was an older man (late 60's I believe) who had had to put his older wife of many years with some sort of "not remembering" problem into a nursing home because she required constant care he could no longer provide. While in facility, his wife completely forgot her relationship to her husband and developed one with someone else. The husband was devastated at first, but eventually accepted his wife's new relationship and supported it because he saw how much pleasure it gave his wife, even in her limited condition.

(Now you're where I was thinking this was bad enough, but there was more.)

The family of his wife's new beau developed financial problems and were going to have to take the wife's beau out of the facility. The husband, understanding the devastating effect losing the new beau would have on his wife, sought and found a job just so he could help pay the wife's beau's fees there. If Davidson mentioned the ending to the story, I don't recall it. I shut it out of my mind because it was more personal sacrifice than I could bear thinking about one loving, faithful man making.

I cried for two weeks after every time I thought about the story, mostly because I knew there was no simple HEA possible for that incredible man. I realized how limited my view of love was in this world. And the romantic in me, the one that was trying to write about love because hearing this pre-dated the creation and release of my books, knew that given the slightest provocation, I was going write a similar story with a happy ending that might balance out my personal grief for this unknown man. It would be my humble homage to a love that runs the hell over all the boundaries of what is morally or socially right and goes straight on to unconditional romantic love redefined. He was the best of heroes.

So in the third book of a series about friendship that I was determined to keep light and funny, I was working on turning a very quiet, repressed Lauren into a fully rounded heroine when suddenly up pops my hero with a background that fit my promise to myself. I thought, "No Donna, don't go there. It's too risky. The first two books are doing well. Readers like them. You know you can't start a romance with one of the characters being married. Everyone will hate that and the book as a result."

I covertly wrote ten chapters, and then spent several weeks pondering the meaning of life. For me this usually means modest debauchery and lubrication of some sort because I want to avoid all else.  When I surfaced again, I realized that I had to go forward, but that I would do so VERY CAREFULLY and take great care in making the characters really, really sympathetic and likeable. I balanced the storyline with loads of humor--slapstick, verbal, all of it. But there was simply no running from the crux--the homage I had promised. I have never worked so hard to find an HEA. Most of them are self-evident early on in books. It's just a matter of how you get there. My problem was that I was committed to a full-blown working out of ALL roadblocks.

I think if I had refused to finish that specific storyline and gone for another, the muses would have called me a coward and dusted off their hands as they walked away. I had as many butterflies putting out Dating A Saint for sale as I did posting the first book as an unknown. Now it is one of the books I am most proud of writing. Maybe I became a real writer in that book. I think it has one of the best endings I have written to date.

And whether or not it turned out to be the homage I intended, I still like to think of that story as balancing the unhappy love karma in the universe.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Q&A for Dating Dr. Notorious (speaking your truth)

First let me just say that this ENTIRE series holds and will always hold a special place in my writer's heart. It's like having multiple children. You love them all and never would pick a favorite. However, I confess I LOVED this book long before any reader did. I confess to blog readers that this one actually ended up being the first one I ever finished in the Never Too Late Series. There I was, happily writing "Dating A Cougar", when Regina tugged at me and made her demands. The night before I had dreamed of Ben and then--BAM--next thing I knew I was writing Book Two over Thanksgiving holiday last year, instead of finishing Book One. It took me like five weeks because it just rolled out of me. I was writing into the wee hours trying to get it out fast enough. I laughed from the first word of this book until the last. I loved, loved, loved walking in Regina's shoes.

What was the inspiration for Regina's character?
Mostly it was Dr. Ruth. Do you know her? She is a brave, brave woman. I used to stay up late to watch her on TV and used to secretly listen to her radio broadcasts when I was married. I would never have been able to hide her books without being found out, so I never bought then. My ex would have cringed, but I found her fascinating. She used the REAL NAMES for body parts and talked openly about sex. I was raised in a household where I wasn't allowed to use the word "period" regarding my menstrual cycle. In fact, I wasn't allowed to talk about being a woman at all. Dr. Ruth helped me correct this in my own household. It was not a problem for my two daughters, but my son is still a bit traumatized from me insisting he use the terms "vagina" and "penis" when he was eight and wanted to ask me questions (he had two older sisters and LOTS of questions). Like many males he had his pet name for his "man parts" and I said that was fine, but insisted he use correct terms when we talked. I was in practice to be Regina then and didn't know it. There was always a lot of laughter in these discussions. My son grew to be a very good man who never had a shortage of beautiful women in his life. This has not been not a surprise to me.

The other inspiration was Beyonce. Didn't see that coming, did you? By accident, I ended up watching a biography of Beyonce on TV. She shared about how hard it was always having to try to hide her identity to go out in public and. . .to date. The biggest idea light bulb I've ever had turned on in my head and it lit up my entire being. The writer in me got so excited that I was literally vibrating with inspiration. I thought--OMG--how difficult would it be to have to be incognito all the time to date? But personally I also thought it sounded a bit fun, too. So Regina's and Ben's dilemma was born. Actually, I hate that lack of privacy for celebrities and personally think it would awful to live that way. I am a private person myself and the social media work I do is excruciating enough. I can't even imagine living that way. Or at least I couldn't until I walked in Regina's shoes while she was wearing her brunette disguise. (FYI for those that haven't read the book, Regina is a red-head.)

Not expecting company, Ben checked the peephole first. Outside the door stood a dark-haired girl wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, a short black leather skirt, and ankle boots. She was holding a steaming pizza box. It was so fresh Ben could smell it through the door.
He opened the door a crack, leaving the safety chain in place.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Pizza delivery for Kaiser,” the girl said, her voice impatient with him.
“Sorry. You have the wrong address. I didn’t order pizza,” Ben told her, alarm bells going off inside him.
“Order was from a Logan to deliver to a Ben Kaiser at this address,” she explained tersely. “It’s already paid for, mister. You want the pizza or not?”
“Just a minute.” Ben couldn’t imagine why Regina had ordered a pizza for him, but he closed the door and slid the safety chain away.
When he opened the door again, the girl barged passed him to get inside.
“Excuse me—,” Ben began only to be interrupted.
“Close the door,” she demanded, whipping off her glasses.
It took Ben a couple of beats to recognize the pizza delivery girl was Regina in disguise. He smiled and shook his head as he took in her outfit.
“Nice skirt. Black leather looks good on you,” he told her as his gaze dropped to her legs before coming to rest on her face and hair. “Being a brunette definitely does not suit you though.”
“You’d be surprised, Benjamin. No one recognizes me in this outfit. I can go anywhere,” Regina told him, pushing the still hot pizza into his hands. “Hungry?”
Ben answered her by claiming a searing kiss before heading to the kitchen with the pizza.
Regina tagged along behind him, pulling off the cap and attached wig as she paused in the doorway of his tiny kitchen.
Ben put the pizza on the counter and started setting a small table for two.
“Aren’t you going to grill me about my disguise? Question me about why I’m here?” Regina asked before grinning at the don’t-be-ridiculous look Ben gave her.
As she watched Ben set the table, Regina unpinned her hair and let it fall to her shoulders, finger combing the waves. She needed a mirror, but she didn’t want to give Ben too much time to dwell on why she had shown up at his house uninvited.
“No. We’re going to talk about this incognito stuff over dinner and decide what we’re going to do about it,” Ben said rationally, proud of himself for not instantly trying to wrestle her out of the skirt.

What was the inspiration for Ben's character?
In the larger sense, the "all good men in the world" sense, my son-in-law was the inspiration for Ben's character. In June of 2010, my oldest daughter died after a year long battle with cancer. I am convinced that no man ever loved a woman more than my son-in-law loved her. I practically lived with them that whole year she was ill and I saw evidence daily. And when we were reduced those last four to five months to virtually endless hospital stays, I saw clones of my son-in-law in every room in the oncology ward. Good men. Loving men. Strong, caring men. Loving and losing is hard, but not loving when life is so very, very short is too sad to contemplate. This world is hard and everyone needs comfort. It is my sincere wish that the man my daughter left behind finds love again. He is capable of so much of it.

In the smaller sense, I made Ben as perfect as I could based on Regina's specifications. I thought Regina deserved to have every fantasy and every wish she had ever secretly harbored in her life come true. As a therapist, her job is to fix people for a living. In my mind, there is no higher calling. I wanted to serve up the perfect man for her character, but someone she wouldn't have to fix. I wanted him to be motivated to find solutions for their relationship issues because being with her was worth it to him. And I liked that Ben was older, knew his own mind, struggled on his own, went looking for help, and last but not least, was willing to change some pretty fundamental things in his life to be with her. I actually know several 50 year old men with this kind of open mind to love. And yeah, that's pretty much the description of perfect in my mind. It seems many of you agree with me because I've heard as much about Ben in notes as I have about Casey (LOL). Variety is good, right?

When Regina raised her face to his, Ben saw fear and doubt, but also hope. He was sad that not a lot of people had come through for Regina in her life. It made him more determined to be one person who did.
Regina put an arm around Ben’s shoulders and hugged. “I believe you love me enough to try, which is more than I ever thought I would have with a man. I know it’s my job causing the problems for us. I’m happy for every day you don’t run away from our problems or me.”
Ben lifted Regina into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. He lay down with her on the couch and tucked them together. She barely struggled anymore no matter how macho he acted with her. It was incredibly arousing and incredibly loving.
Ben hugged her tight and sighed against her.
Regina snuggled closer, sighing herself at the comfort Ben brought to her. “I’ve thought about fading back a little in my field, Ben. The problem is my work isn’t done yet. Being out front in my field draws a lot of publicity bullets, but it also draws hundreds of people to hear what I have to say. I am helping people. I know I make a difference. If I wasn’t so sure, I would find other work and just be content to be your wife.”
Ben tightened his jaw as he stroked a hand down her back. Lauren had been absolutely right. He was never going to be able to have Regina without taking Dr. Logan as well. Fine, Ben decided. He wanted all of her anyway.
“Now that I know you, I could never ask you to give up your work. I admire all you’ve accomplished. You handle the press badgering you or a room full of doctors arguing with you the same confident way you drive a car. I find all of it sexy and wouldn’t change any of it. You’ve fought too damn hard to get where you are to give your work up for anyone,” Ben said logically, “including me.”
It was amazing, Regina decided, just how much she had longed for those words from someone in her life, and equally amazing the effect hearing them from Ben had on her.
She wanted to cry, and cry hard, but crying wouldn’t help either of them. So she swallowed the tears, promising herself she’d indulge later. She cleared her throat against Ben’s chest.
What else was going on in this novel (aka what I hoped was going into it)?
I wanted to create a less-than-perfect woman that found love anyway. You're laughing. I can tell even if I can't see you. Regina swears worse than any man, has a vile temper that scares her friends, and drinks to handle stress. She is loving, but not really "nurturing" in the typical sense. Her career takes too much of her. Caring for patients is probably all she can handle in her life. She is about as far from the ideal woman as it gets in a female and would not be a restful person to spend time with daily. But I doubt I have ever created a woman character who is more real. Every woman I have ever met either IS like Regina in some way or would like to be when it comes to self-expression. My generation was taught to "be nice", be a lady, and keep your unpleasant thoughts to yourself missy. And for pity's sake, don't be too honest or say what you want in bed or. . .fill-in-the-blank. Then again, we grew up in the age of Gloria Steinem, bra burning, and women's liberation. Baby boomer women have lived very conflicted lives until this point. Some amazing personal growth happens between the ages of 40 and 50.  Well, maybe I will never be as brave as Regina in reality, but oh how wonderful it is to be a writer at a time in my life when I no longer care about impressing people with my "niceness". I am as good as I'm going to get and all grown-up at 53. I like who I am. I like to create heroines who are comfortable with who they are or at least on their way to being so.

Do I share any of Regina's chutzpah? Let me think. Yes. I do. My children know, and most of my friends know, that if they ask me an embarrassingly tough question I will answer it no matter how embarrassing the answer is to either of us. I have to dig deep, but it partially gives me back the personal power I was socially trained from the cradle to give away to everyone else. It took me most of my life, but I have learned that speaking your truth; however hard, is a much, much more satisfying way to live.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Q&A for CARVED IN STONE (being an artist)

I uploaded a revised version of Carved In Stone today where I fixed a math error a reviewer had mentioned.  In thinking about that, I decided to do a Q&A on this book to give readers a bit of insight into the story if they were interested in reading this second series. 

What was the inspiration for Will's character?
Despite the fact that I am a first generation high school graduate (not to mention my college and advanced degree), several of my current family are educators, including myself as a college English instructor. I am well acquainted with the challenges of teaching at many levels. Never has teaching been more challenging than it is currently. I wanted to show the real "humanity" of teachers which is a subject rarely talked about. I made Will a retired principal and his ex-wife a math teacher (okay I guess both psuedo-"bad guys" in this novel are math teachers). I also wanted Will to have a sexy, interesting alter-ego and I personally am a fan of nude sculptures. William Everett Larson was born in combining all that into one character. However, Will became a hero to me as he interacted with his adult sons in the novel and met my heroine. I wanted to celebrate his faithfulness to himself, his values, and the people in his life which is not often treasured as much as it should be. And I have always had a soft spot for bald guys and continue to find them very attractive. I liked the idea of Will reinventing himself and of his sons helping him. I did this myself after my divorce. I think it's a rite of passage in most cases. 

“Dad, you know Michael and I love you. At least let me give you my best dating advice,” Shane said, sliding into the nearest chair. He heaped six pancakes on his plate and covered them with a lake of syrup before he paused and schooled his voice into the businesslike tone he had learned from the man he addressed.
“Shave your head, get an earring, and ride your bike around town. Your body is great for a man over fifty. You could be picking up the kind of women I do. Look, I got a tongue stud. You need to get one of these. Women love this kind of stuff.” Shane stuck out his tongue to show his father, who only rolled his eyes. He heard his brother snickering around a mouthful of pancakes, but merely ignored his jealous sibling.
Will studied the tongue stud with a mixture of horror and shock. He looked at Michael, who only laughed, shrugged, and went on eating.

What was the inspiration for Jessica Daniels?
When my daughter gave birth in Feb of this year, there was a piece of art in the waiting area that her in-laws and I were joking about because it was so obviously symbolizing breasts. My daughter's mother-in-law and I were putting our hands on it and discussing the ample attributes it represented. It was a funny, precious moment in the midst of our joint concern for my laboring daughter. My writer's mind then started looking around and asking "Who makes art for birthing centers?". When I combined the creation of female body art with Jessica being an art teacher at a local high school, her character just evolved so naturally that it was a surprise to me. But then so was her traumatic past, which is what happens to me in the process of discovering. About five chapters into the book, I realized that I had a chance to say someone significant about a woman who found a unique way to survive and thrive after something so horrible. I did not want Jessica to be a victim of her past. I wanted her to be a warrior with battle scars instead. 

Will sighed, and gritted his teeth. “Okay, yes. I knew you wanted me, but this is not the right time. I’m not going to take advantage of you. And being with you is sure as hell not the same thing as being with Ellen.”
“Oh, you made that very clear just now,” Jessica said harshly. She sat up and swung her feet to floor, giving Will her back so he wouldn’t see how much his rejection had hurt her. “I get that I’m damaged goods, a fragile woman, someone you can’t be passionately honest with now. Don’t you think I’ve been down this road before?”
“That is not what I meant,” Will said, surprised and hurt by her interpretation of his self-control. “Look—can we talk about this tonight? I know you have to go to work shortly.”
Jessica stood, grabbed her shoes, walked to the chair and started putting them on. “No. We can’t talk tonight. I have plans tonight.”
“You got something more important to do than talking this out?” Will asked, fighting not to be seriously hurt by her refusal.
“Yes. I have a date with a man who doesn’t know anything about me other than I seem like a fun woman. It beats the hell out of looking at the pity in your eyes any day,” she said honestly.

What is this story about other than the romance between Will and Jessica?
I always say the Never Too Late series was about the friendships among the characters and I believe it was. I want to do more of those types of stories.

Having a similar focus, the Art of Love series is about family. There is the loving, supportive, but very male bonding between Will and his two adult sons. There is the bickering and teasing among the two brothers, but also their uniting to help their father and Jessica. There is the aspect of children dealing with divorced parents and trying to love and support both of them. There is the accepting of new people into the fragmented family unit, such as stepfather not much older than the oldest son. And finally, there are divorced spouses of 30+ years trying to hammer out some kind of friendship so their children still have as much stability as possible. Here is a sample from the book that I think explains the process of forgiving that must happen for this to work (Ellen is Will's ex-wife, Luke is her new husband, Shane is Will's and Ellen's youngest son who is getting a Doctorate in Psychology):

Ellen laughed, leaned her head back, and closed her eyes. “Reckless heathens. Your sons are heathens, but brilliant, handsome ones. Thank you for being a good father, William. I truly am grateful for that and how you stay so involved in their lives. Luke’s daughter barely even talks to him.”
“Well, you always wanted a girl. Maybe you can win her back to the family,” Will said easily. “It can be another chapter in Shane’s book. We’ll be that weird blended family everyone talks about, and we’ll sue Shane for a share of the money he makes during the TV interviews about us.”
Ellen was openly laughing now. “Shane and his damn book. Are we really that awful?” 
Will stopping laughing and glanced over at the woman he’d spent most of his life with, but no longer wanted in the same way.
“We’re not awful at all. We’re just changing and trying to do it with as much grace as possible,” he said.

Why did I choose Lexington for a location?
As well as being surrounded by incredibly beautiful horse farms, Lexington, Kentucky also has a tremendous number of colleges. Recently I saw a billboard downtown announcing that a significant percentage of the population had advanced degrees. I would say that is true from my experience of the town. I am from rural Kentucky natively, but have lived in Lexington and surrounding areas for over twelve years. I like it here. It is a friendly town with lots to do when you want to be entertained. The community is diverse and the people wonderful to interact with as business owners and friends. Most of the stories I read that are set in my location play up the rural aspect of my state, but not the growing reality. Other writers, like Jennifer Crusie from Ohio, writes and mentions Kentucky sometimes in her novels. The Kentucky she describes is one I am familiar with and live in myself. So I decided in this series to set all three books here even though I am fictionally creating the businesses, the houses, etc.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Q&A DATING A COUGAR (Epic of a free book)

Thanks to Amazon making this book free in June, downloads were in the 60k range at the end of the month. I've received so many nice emails, messages, notes, and posts thanking me for making the book free. I think I've written bits before about why I did this and have answered other questions about the book, but the questions are still coming in so it seemed to make sense to talk about this book one more time in a post dedicated to it.  Now I can include this blog in my reply.

Where did the idea of a "cougar" book come from? 
I am a cougar myself with a 13 year age difference in my relationship. I had not read any books that focused on the doubts and insecurities of trying to be in a relationship like mine, especially when you are the older woman. So I decided to have a go at trying to show some of them through my characters and some possibilities for compromise. This type of male-female dynamic is often extreme, being both very exciting on one end of it and very exasperating on the other. I wouldn't trade my relationship for the world, but it is seriously hard work like all of the good ones end up being. Many fellow "cougar" readers have written to tell me they feel the same. I can see myself writing more "cougar" stories in the future as well as some "puma" ones. I am defining a "cougar" as a woman who is more than 8 years older than the man in her life. A "puma" is 1-8 years difference. When I find the article where I got these definitions, I will amend this post to include it. The terms originated in Canada I believe.

Why did I choose to write about older characters?
See this post.

Where did I get the inspiration for Alexa's character?
Well (she says with a laugh) Alexa is not me. She is perhaps a wish I have to be tall, beautiful, and look great in sexy lingerie at 50+. The last one is the only possibility and then it must be the right person doing the viewing. I am five foot, moderately trim, but still have a real woman's body. I am more like Lauren only shorter. I am more like Regina in my head and attitudes. Alexa--well, Alexa is an amalgamation of every beautiful aging model I still see in magazines and on TV over the age of 40. These are women with businesses, wealth, and families. You hear they marry and divorce and remarry. The best of them still look great, and in most cases they are not trying to look 20. At 50, they might still shoot for looking like 35 or 40, but that's as low as they go. What I admire most is their grace during the transition. When I turned 40, I went looking for a role model and found some of these women. The 40's were a hard decade for me, but I am absolutely loving my 50's.

Where did I get the inspiration for Casey's character?
The war. In my day job I am a college English teacher at several schools. I have seen many, many soldiers coming home and had them as students in my courses when they were trying to reinvent themselves. Many of them were injured. And of those injured, many of them were more "mentally" injured than physically harmed. They seem to have lost more than just some physical ability while serving our country. They lost a belief that they could ever be as good as they were before the war. So I made a hero that was obviously military, or at least I did my best to do so, and one that was also obviously working on rebuilding his sense of self. One of the qualities that makes a hero truly sexy, admirable, and desirable to a woman is how he handles what happens to him, because that is the outlook he brings to the relationship. Casey is one of my favorite heroes because he is very real. Just look around you. You can find heroes like him everywhere these days. (Also heroines, but that will have to wait for it's own story.)

Why did I decide to turn stories with older characters into a series?
I wanted to focus on older women and the importance of friendship. The relationship the three primary heroines have with each other was every bit as much fun to write as their relationships to the men in their lives. A real woman friend will tell you the truth, and then pass tissues or let you swear at them. She will sit there until the crisis passes, ask if you are done, and then hug you. She will support you even if you're wrong and take care of you if you're drunk. She will also embarrass you, restrain you, or whatever else it takes to stop you from doing evil. Unless she agrees with your evil, and then she will help. She will email you search terms for finding the sex scenes in your books to keep you on your toes. She will read your work even though she would otherwise never, ever have picked up a romance in her life. Friendships are where the quality fun is as you get older. Also, friends often remain when the men have moved on (not my heroes of course).

Why did I choose to make the book free?
I was new to publishing and an unknown author. A fellow Indie writer, who I credit with mentoring me to get my first two books published, used this strategy himself as a way to let people try his work. It made a lot of sense to me. The only sacrifice was that I invested more in the book initially and it was very hard to think I was never going to be paid for it. Now of course I understand some five books later that the other books have sold mostly because of all the readers who loved the free one. Dating A Cougar is still one of my best stories and I see it being much like the pilot for a new TV sitcom. The pilot has to be great for a person to want to watch the show or record it on the DVR each week. I still believe this book tells a great story and many readers have contacted me through some means to tell me they agree. Making it free to download in as many places as I could was some of the best start-up self-publishing advice I ever got.

If you have any other questions about this book, please let me know in the comments and I will do my best to answer.