Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Batman Was A Gemini (Updated with photo)

My perpetually child-like, incredibly fun Gemini fiancee rides a motorcycle which he bought initially for the purpose of saving gas when commuting to work. He loves toys, but he is also extremely frugal. Since the purchase, he has fallen in love with the bike, which I knew was going to happen. Not only does it look like a fun toy, but it is also mechanically fascinating.

To understand, you have to know that my fiancee is the only man I've ever met who would tell the nearly naked woman in spike heels draped over the hood in the Ford Mustang car magazine ad to move so he could look at the engine. While this ability to ignore other nearly naked females sounds wonderful initially, the simple truth is that he also would say the same to me if I were the one draped over the mechanical toy in spike heels. It makes spending money on personal maintenance to impress him at the very least ironic, and at best a sore topic of our "Did you do something different?" conversation where I make up wild awful stuff in retaliation for him not noticing my freshly painted toenails. Word to you Gemini guys that live in your heads--never ignore a woman who has spent her hard-earned cash on a pedicure. But I digress--this is not a blog about that.

Lately my fiancee lusts for an even bigger, badder bike, and I am greatly enjoying the opportunity to  harass him about his "dream" motorcycle. It's near the top of the line in his brand and comes in a manly black and silver with the sleek look of a two wheel beamer. But it only comes in black and silver. That's it. No colors. The sportier bike it's based on comes in bright shades of green, blue, and red. He wants his dream machine in the signature green of the brand. So okay, you paint it, right? No. He also wants the ability to revert it to the original black and silver when we ride it together because he suspects (rightly) that a woman who paints her toes is into "image" and that I prefer the bike I'm riding to look more bad-ass than fun.

Laughing, I look over my glasses at him and say, "You are such a Gemini". Now I no longer follow horoscopes like I did as a teenager, but I still find the general sun sign information helpful in the categorization of annoying traits. Especially traits like this one because he does this have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too thing all the time. The man changes his mind constantly from moment to moment, and stays in a state of two minds about everything he's relatively sure of even. Before his twelve years with me, being in the Marines for nine years was the longest decision he'd ever made.

Mildly irritated, and hoping to discourage him from whining for days about motorcycle color schemes, I pushed hard on his innate frugality button and told him he was just going to have to spend the small fortune it costs and buy a second set of bike panels to have painted green.

He considered it for a few seconds, then laughed and said, "Who am I? I am Batman."

His impression of Christian Bale (yet another Gemini trait) was dead on, and that, combined with his rough sexy voice, gave me an epiphany.

"So the character wasn't crazy after all," I said amazed, "Batman was a Gemini. That makes so much sense to me."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pass Me A Fluffy Bunny

I am currently working on "Created In Fire" which is Book 2 of Art of Love Series. Some books are fluffy bunny stories and easy to write. Others like this one are very hard. Like all the hard books, when the writing is about two-thirds of the way done, I give up on the story, the characters, and myself.  It's always at the point in the story where the most change has to occur, but where there is also the most resistance to changing. Sometimes the characters are suffering or being insufferable. Sometimes the characters are standing with arms crossed refusing to move forward with the original idea I had in mind. While I believe in the possibility of an HEA ending a lot more than most people, I know all too well that it doesn't always get to happen. My characters are skeptical of things working out because I am. Eventually the writing just stops until I figure it out.

Tom Hanks and Julie Roberts teamed up recently to do a new movie called Larry Crowne. Hanks helped write the script. It's about an older ex-Navy guy in this bad economy who loses his job due to his lack of education. So he goes to junior college (aka community college) and falls for one of his teachers. It's using a fluffy bunny love story to tell a harder story of having to reinvent yourself to succeed. The harder story is an important one about something very real happening to a lot of people these days, but it is the love story that provides a dose of hope and laughter to get the character through it. The trailers and clips on Facebook are all about the funny parts of the movie.  I'm also including a interview link that I enjoyed if you're interested in reading what Hanks and Roberts said personally about the movie.

In both my real life and my writing life, I need all the reminders I can get about how change can be a good thing. The last thing I want is more horror, more trauma, or more endlessly long hours spent with little or no hope. A year ago, I was living in hospitals, sleeping on the floor, and taking care of a person I loved who was dying. I did this for months and could not change anything. I've had enough hard stories for a lifetime. In fact, I hereby officially beg the universe to provide all my future life lessons about change in a kind, gentle manner. I would be really happy to have as many as possible be packaged as fluffy bunny, hopeful, funny stories--including my own.

Okay, I'm going back to seriously writing now. In the entire Art of Love series and my recent non-series book, "The Right Thing" (available at e-book retailers now), change is not coming as easily to my damaged heroes and heroines. They need me to show them. Then I swear I'm going to work on another series that is as light-hearted and fun as the Never Too Late one. Well, except for Lauren and Jim in Book 3 which was a bit tough, but it was still full of humor and fun.

So with a big sigh, I'm going back to "Created In Fire" today and fix the mess I created for my characters. After the research I did for this blog, I'm back to believing there's an HEA for Michael and Carrie who are patiently waiting for me to help them find it. Maybe I'll get them to uncross their arms and believe in it, too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

THE RIGHT THING -- New Release!

The Right Thing is available today at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

It will unfortunately be 1-2 weeks before it is available at Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and Scroll Motion. 

To Apple iPhone users who hate to wait--first, let me just say that I love you all LOL--some tech savvy readers have written to share that they download the .mobi file from Smashwords and read it on a Kindle app on their iPhones. I'm not suggesting you do this, no-no-no, just mentioning what I've been told. I have also been told that the Smashwords ePub file can be read on the iPhone. I can't personally validate either of these yet, but next month in September I hope to purchase an iPhone at last. I'll blog, post, or otherwise let you know for sure about these things then.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Reader's Right To Choose (Smashwords' Adult Filter)

Smashwords.com has upgraded their site and created a more robust "Adult Filter" which is turned on by default. Readers and visitors browsing the site have to turn that filter off to see my work. Since my books contain language (aka cursing) and some explicitness (aka sex scenes), I choose to add an "over 17" warning to every romance I write. Since I think this filter is a necessary choice to offer readers and visitors to the site, I am just going to ask that you either search for me by name or toggle the filter to "off" to find my books.

For the record, I agree and support Smashwords' use of the filter because children and their parents should be able to visit the Smashwords site and search for YA (Young Adult) books and others together without having to be exposed to what they don't want to see and would never buy. I have a 13 year old niece and one day I will want to show her my YA book at Smashwords without having to expose her to all the various kinds of books that are available. Filtering seems like a good solution to me.

Don't get me wrong--I don't support censorship. I have a Master's Degree in English. I read more salacious material in my postmodern classics course in college than any erotica writer could ever dream up. I won't list the books I read in college here because frankly I prefer not to think about them anymore. If you want to know what they were, send me a note at email@donnamcdonaldauthor.com Those postmodern books are a good part of the reason I chose a middle of the road heat level in my sex scenes and that I require emotional involvement of my characters before they get to that point. If you want to read more about my thoughts on the romance genre and the various heat levels, click here to go to that blog post.

Smashwords is my distributor and I still like them as much as I did when I started with them back in March. I just wanted to go on record saying that I support placing control of the browsing of material for sale in the hands of the reader visiting the site, or at least I do for now. To me, the "adult filter" is about empowering readers to choose what they wish to see and be offered for sale. As an avid reader, I want that myself.

When it comes down to it, I wouldn't be an Indie author if I didn't support the reader's right to choose.

Here's a link to the company explanation if you want to read it:   Smashwords blog about the "Adult Filter"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dating A Cougar Book 1 Downloads (Updated August 9)

I keep coming back and updating this blog entry because it remains a popular one. I am not sure who is interested in this information or why they are checking it so frequently. This is likely going to be my last update of the information unless someone asks me specifically to do it again.

Since publishing on March 11, downloads at the Smashwords site for Dating A Cougar are now over 11,500 as of August 9.

Downloads of the book are above 120,000 at Amazon who made it free in the UK just before the end of May and free in the US in mid-June. Dating A Cougar hit several #1 rankings in late May and early June, and is still in top 200 or so free books. It remains high in the humor category, not just in romance, which makes me happy because I like to think I am making people laugh.

Downloads at other channels like Apple, Sony, and Barnes & Noble are also high, but the exact number is hard to calculate. Diesel, Kobo, and Scrollmotion are nominal.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Coming Soon: THE RIGHT THING (single-title)

NOTE: I am using "single-title" to denote that this book is not part of a series. However, I will add a tiny teaser that a minor character in this story will show up in a later series.

Click this link to read excerpts from Chapters 1 & 2 in Facebook (friend me if you need access).

Here's the long book description

When a gunshot wound puts him on six months medical leave, 44 yr old fraud investigator Morgan Reed spends two months alone and lonely in Las Vegas before deciding to spend the remaining four months in Sedona visiting his elderly father. The last thing Morgan expects to find there is that his 72 yr old father has become a local playboy and is being scammed for money by one of the many females in his life. Though it pains Morgan to investigate the man who raised him, doing surveillance on Althea Carmichael gets even more complicated when Morgan discovers how badly he wants to believe the woman professing to be his father's friend is innocent in the matter. He knows that talking a fraud suspect and potential criminal into a having romantic relationship would definitely not be a good thing to do, even if it is the first time he has ever been in love.

At age 54, Althea Carmichael is deeply unhappy with her life. Her decade long widowhood saddled her with a restaurant business she still doesn't want, and then recently with a sick mother-in-law in a nursing home who is under her care. Thea's life is a endless series of hectic work days trying to boost the now failing business. She had little else until Morgan Reed came along and made her want something more again. Despite the fact that Thea doesn't want the complications of a relationship, Morgan Reed talks his way around her reservations and into her bed. Now she is practically addicted to the man and he's leaving in a few months. His looming departure is difficult enough to handle, but nothing compares to discovering Morgan’s real agenda for getting close to her. She is crushed to learn Morgan honestly believes Thea is scamming money from his elderly father. Angry at herself as much as at him, Thea does the only sane thing she can and kicks the jaded, cynical man out of her life for good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Q&A DATING A METRO MAN Part 2 (closing the loops)

Why didn't you just write Allen's story as another book in the series?

<Sigh> I want to finish the Art of Love series (2 more books), and a single title (1 book), and I have a draft of another series of three divorced women friends making themselves over (3 books), a YA for my 13 yr old niece (1 book, but she wants 6--sheesh), and some others that sound like fun to do now (paranormal vs contemporary). I actually wrote paranormal romances (not vamps and weres, but everything else) before I ever wrote contemporaries. I just haven't published any. When I get to a point of doing nothing but this for a living, I have a lot of plans.

So please know that I simply had to wrap Allen's story up inside this one because I didn't want to leave him broken up from Jenna and hanging with no love in his life. He was such a great guy.

What was the inspiration for Allen's character?

Well, at first I wanted to give Casey someone else in the military to interact with in the books. I made him young enough to have a more modern view of military service and wanted to show how he transitioned to a non-military life. A soldier serving as a military policeman has to be able to subdue those with equal training, but also has to have the emotional maturity not to abuse his physical power. I also liked that Allen was walking the line of what is readily accepted as masculine (MP service, security guard, weight lifter) and typically feminine (working as an assistant to a woman, working in a lingerie company, designing clothes). I hoped Allen came across as a guy's guy enough that it would be believable that the uber-macho Casey, as well as the "metro man" Seth, could relate to him. That said, here is an example of his obvious macho side.

Allen Stedman stood outside the door of the luxury duplex thinking that letting Seth Carter talk him into meeting a woman he refused to tell him anything about was a bit like unwrapping a present from your grandmother at Christmas. It could be an ugly sweater she made for you or something she knew you really, really wanted. He savored the anticipation a few moments more, took a final deep breath, and then rang the doorbell.
While he waited, Allen moved the clipboard to a single arm where it covered the discreet company name on his polo. He fished his security badge out of his wallet for identification as he heard someone on the other side of the door. When the door opened, Allen stood almost nose-to-nose with an exotic fantasy.
She had straight black hair drawn up into a long pony tail, a tight fitted T-shirt that stretched taut across both breasts, and short yoga pants that barely covered her knees. The clothing revealed curvy hips and long legs which drew so much of his attention that he had a hard time meeting her gaze again. When he did, he saw dark lashes and brows framing dark chocolate eyes, which looked surprisingly relieved to see him.
“Talia Martin?” Allen asked, hoping like hell the woman said yes.
“Yes. Thank you for coming quickly. The condo office said you left several boxes against the building. They’re throwing a bloody fit. I can’t go get the boxes myself right now, so please retrieve them for me. I’ll leave the door unlocked for you,” Talia said, waving a hand at the ID in his hand. “I don’t need that anymore. You look enough like a mover to me. I trust my instincts.”
“Well, actually—I,” Allen stopped. She just blinked at him, looking impatient, and he found himself getting turned on at the idea of arguing with her. Then he saw a little boy in braces walking toward them. His attention swiftly shifted.
“Hey,” Mason told Allen, “you guys forgot stuff and Mom was talking ugly on the phone. You’re not s’posed to make her mad. Seth said you were to be nice to us.”
Allen smiled at the mention of Seth’s name. It had been sneaky of Carter not to tell him anything about the woman in advance.
“I’m sorry,” Allen said, apologizing for the missing movers, who he promptly decided needed their asses kicked for not treating this family right. “Will you watch my clipboard until I get back?”
Allen held out the clipboard to the boy, who took it eagerly, studying the writing on it intently like it was secret code. Allen supposed that was what it was like when you couldn’t yet read.
“These words are all too big,” Mason said sadly. “You should use small words.”
“I’ll tell my boss you said that,” Allen said. “Let me get the boxes and I’ll be right back.”
After he left, Talia took the clipboard from Mason and read the paper it contained.
“Security checklist,” Talia read, biting her lip even as she laughed at herself. “Uh-oh Mason. He wasn’t a mover after all.”

And Allen is that kind of guy who literally could talk any female into sinning because he is both hot AND nice. Of course, he's not really as safe as he seems, but he makes Talia feel safe with him. It's a delicate balance. A woman with a man like this would think "Oh, doing this with him is okay. He'll stop if I want," which might be true, but then she'd also be saying "Bring it on," just like Talia because you want to go just that little bit more with him, right up to the danger point.

Most love scenes I write spring from my often wishful thinking for my characters combined with scholarly research, collected stories, and many other resources. Just this once I admit that I purposely patterned Allen's lovemaking after my first serious boyfriend now 37 years ago in my past. What can I say? The boy (17 to my 16 at the time) was unforgettable. He taught me french kissing and how to do some really fun things without removing a single stitch of clothing. If he'd had a better sense of humor, I might have. . .no, probably not.

What was the inspiration for Talia's character?

My UK, Canadian, Australian, and other world-wide fans. Several of my UK fans and readers write me with such wonderfully descriptive praise that it lifts my creative soul to heights I'm sure only Shakespeare and scores of dead poets have known. It's been a long time since I visited Europe. I would like to go again someday. In the meantime, I created the lovely Talia Martin who was brilliant, from Boston, and also originally from England. I have American friends that live in Scotland now. It is possible to be from two places and love them both. I have a jet setting nephew who teaches English to grade school children around the world who just recently came home from a teaching stint in Poland. He misses the US when he's gone, but also is sad when he has to come back. I understand this love of all things geographically strange because I too have wanderlust. I like to walk on new ground. I want to go to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, England, and my list is very, very long. Travel feeds my creative mind in a way nothing else does.

The other thing I wanted to do in Talia's character was to show a sexy mom. I often didn't feel sexy when I was a mother. It took a lot of flirting and validation from the man in my life to get me there. I wanted Allen to see Talia's mothering abilities, but also the rest of the woman package. I was very pleased when he did. Maybe not quite as much as she was, but probably a close second.

 Am I planning to write more in the Never Too Late series?

No. Sorry. I am not. But I do plan to write another series that is as full of humor among friends as this one turned out to be. The one I have in mind is not too far in the future. I just had some slightly more serious stories I had to get out first.

 Am I planning to write more books?

I plan to write for as long as the stories keep rolling out of me and readers keep buying them. I figure it's a win-win. Readers pay for my food through sales and I spend my time creating something new for them. I always make sure I offer sampling of new work in the 20-25% range so readers can decide if they want to take a chance on a particular storyline or not. I understand the need to laugh. I do. Trust me. I really do. Life is hard. Life is short. And I have decided it is to be my remaining life's work to entertain every one of you I can.

For all that I write, I have no words adequate enough to communicate to each and every reader how honored I am that you read this last book and the others in this series. You have made my dreams come true. It seems like it's the least I can do to return the favor a few thousand words at a time.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Q&A DATING A METRO MAN Part 1 (technology+love=?)

My primary motivation when I was writing this book was the group of readers who had written to me asking about when it would be done. One reader mentioned wanting to see all the couples again and how they got along. Another mentioned being interested to see what kind of advice they would give Jenna and Seth as they worked things out. And of course, some readers really, really liked Allen. Well and I did too by the time he'd been around for several books. This leads me to admit my secondary motivation was to close the loops. I think I did everything except show Lauren having the baby which I just didn't want to go into in the story. So you just have to pretend with me that Lauren and Jim will be excellent parents, the baby will not have colic, will sleep all night, and. . .wait, are you laughing at me again? They call it fiction for a reason, you know.

What was the inspiration for Jenna's character?
My daughters and every other female under 30. At the risk of sounding like someone's grandmother (no wisecracks from those who know me), younger women these days are much more honest about themselves than I was at their age. However, I discovered through research and other sneaky methods that they are really no closer to knowing what they want from the men in their lives.

In researching the "metro man" label, I came across a blog where women were commenting that metro men were wonderful in many ways including being outstanding lovers because of their sensitivity, but there were several things the women really, really didn't like about them. The list included competition for looking good in public, competition for shopping dollars for clothing, competition for bathroom time, and the pressure they felt to always look "as good" as the metro man which everyone knows is an easier and cheaper process for males in general. Fortunately, I was at home so my hysterical laughter as I was rolling on the floor did not embarrass anyone.

Want to know what the bottom line was for the woman who commented? Many had left the "metro man" for an old-fashioned guy that held doors open for them but who had to be reminded to shower and shave. They professed to be much happier without the I-look-as-good-as- you competition thing. OMG. My ROFLMAO lasted for days as I began writing this book. My empathy for women under twenty-five can now fill a stadium to overflowing.

One thing I knew for sure going into this story was that Jenna was not trying to be like Alexa, even though she looked enough like her mother to go that direction if she chose. I wanted it to be clear that Jenna was choosing not to be focused on her femininity as compared to the femininity of other women. Instead, I wanted to show that Jenna was trying to reconcile who she was as a person. Part of this of course was comparing herself to her mother. Every daughter does this. Plus, as the daughter of a rich, notorious, successful business woman, Jenna's unconventional childhood had some lingering effects in her as an adult. She understood that she had some faults AND that they had an impact on her relationships. But being really busy climbing her career ladder, she had little time or patience to work on "fixing herself" just to make a relationship work. It took a lot of investment in her relationship with Seth to convince Jenna to modify her behavior.

Admittedly, Jenna's character is not that of an easy woman nor do I think she turned out to be typical, but I know she is "real" in many respects. I have a daughter the same age as the character who is very career focused. She is a supermom, but also there is a superdad close by shouldering his fair share of the load. Why does Jenna suit Seth so well in the story? One good reason is that there is a physical honesty between them that few relationships manage. Also, it is highly unlikely a woman like Jenna will ever let a man like Seth have all the power over her that he exerts over everything else in his life. Like a counter-weight on a scale, Jenna helps Seth find balance.

What was the inspiration for Seth's character?

I can't tell you. Not won't, but can't. Let's just say his propensity for being too attached to his electronics grew from some personal grievances with the effects I see electronics has on romance and love. I have seen and heard too much of "Wow, you look amazing in that outfit. . .wait, the phone is ringing. Hello?" Aaaarghhhh!!!!! Okay, I'm calming down again now. I'm pretty sure I can finish this post without a meltdown.

Thanks to my technology and love poll for Dating A Metro Man, I collected a more balanced view of modern romance and technology's effect on it than the one I hold personally. Men like Seth are everywhere. So are women. As my poll takers explained to me, it is "just how it is now". Urban Dictionary has a term called technosexual which has two pages of suggested definitions. I think this defines the problem well enough.

In their story, Seth has to modify his interactions with his electronics and I gave him the one motivation guaranteed to work. He wanted a physical relationship--and with Jenna--a woman who hated his attention to technology.  To be fair to Seth, he had good reasons for its use given the business he was building. I show Seth torn about taking a call vs taking Jenna to bed. I show him throwing a ringing phone in the floor in middle of things and even let Jenna make sarcastic remarks about it.

Okay and so maybe I made his character extraordinarily talented between the sheets because a part of me couldn't imagine any other reason a woman would put up with his techno-obsessions. Yes. Writing is therapy. I'm kidding. Okay, no--I'm not kidding. Oh hell, I don't know. I wrote the book and still don't know. Okay. I don't know. There. That's the truth. I did really like Seth as heroes go and I did think he handled things well with an often unpleasant Jenna all throughout. I guess I need to give credit where credit is due. (Again, excerpt slightly changed for PG-13 rating.)

Jenna looked away from Seth’s gaze. She could feel tears threatening. “It’s like we’ve switched places. You spent the whole time we were dating before ignoring me. Now it’s like I want to keep my emotional distance, and in the process I end up being just as bad to you as you ever were to me.”
Jenna sniffed a little when she felt Seth moving her work things and sitting down beside her. “When you’re nice to me, Seth, it’s hard to remember that I’m still seeking retribution.”
“Don’t worry—I’m sure to make you mad at me again within a few days,” Seth said softly. “Right now I just want to take care of you a little. I’m trying to be more attentive to what’s going on in your life than I was before. I can’t undo the past, Jenna. I can only be nice to you now.”
“Congratulations,” she said, sniffing as tears rolled down her cheeks. “You’re doing a great job of being nice to me at this very moment. It has the same impact on me that this fireplace has on the house.”
“I know you’re too tired for a hug. Can I kiss you instead?” he asked, dipping his head even as she nodded.
Seth lifted her into his lap and kissed her softly, lovingly, uncaring that the truth of his heart was in every move. “Whatever our problems, I have always cared for you. I was just really bad at showing you before. But I’m learning. I’m sorry it took me so long to figure it out.”

What did I see as the core problem Jenna had with Seth?

The technology was annoying, but the real problem was that Jenna did not think she was more interesting or even as equally interesting to Seth as the rest of his life. She wisely feared subjecting herself to ongoing and constant invalidation. However, when you love someone. . .what can you do? Some relationships are just worth the trouble.

In the story, Alexa gives her daughter some good advice about emotional risk, both motherly and woman-to-woman.

Jenna squirmed in her seat and wrestled with herself. Her mother was baiting her. That was obvious. The question was why. Her mother had never been a fan of her and Seth’s relationship. But now Jenna didn’t buy her innocent it-doesn’t-matter-to-me look either.
“Do you want me to date Seth? Do you honestly think he deserves another chance to break my heart?” Jenna demanded.
“No. If he breaks your heart again, I’ll probably kill him. I liked Allen and was happy you were dating him. He’d have been good for you, and to you. I like Cristo, but don’t think the handsome Spanish weight-lifter is going to score either. He’s not even half as charming as Allen,” Alexa said pointedly. “I want you happy in all aspects of your life, Jenna. Seth is either the answer or he’s in the way of it happening. Your obsession with him is making another man an impossibility.”
“If I dated Seth it would just be to scratch a long-time sexual itch,” Jenna said harshly. “I seriously don’t like him. The more I date other men, the more I realize Seth was incredibly rude to me while we were together. He was constantly working and rarely finished more than five minutes of conversation with me before I had to share his attention with a text, an email, or a call. I am not going back to that.”
“Good,” Alexa said. “You don’t deserve to be ignored. No one does. But if you can’t keep your hands off the man when he’s around, something has to give honey. Trust me. Denial is not healthy or fun.”
“What if I can’t move on afterward?” Jenna asked, realizing as she asked that it was her true fear. “What if I like being with Seth so much that I end up being ignored in every other way for the rest of my life? I do not want to be a human slave to a freaking technosexual.”
“Never going to happen, baby. That’s just you not trusting yourself,” Alexa said, reaching out and linking her fingers with her daughter’s. “Just because you watched me unsuccessfully pine for a man doesn’t mean you can’t do better with the one you so obviously want. Maybe you’ll end up being the only thing that draws Seth out of business mode to have a real life.”