Saturday, December 24, 2011

Profound thinking about great gifts

This is a tough TED talk to watch because the woman's story is heart wrenching. I chose to share it partly because this woman is a walking miracle. I chose to share it despite the story being a 5-tissue-worthy tale. I chose to share it because in this season of gift giving it reminded me that the greatest gift we often give each other is personal support in times of need.

The gifts this woman received also came from sources often overlooked in our society. Love and kindness really are the most powerful energies on our planet.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kallypso Masters talks about alternative romances (Guest Author)

Today's author interview is with Kallypso Masters. Kally and I met in a local writer's group. I asked her for an interview as a writer/representative of an alternative-lifestyle sub-genre because her debut novel this year just happened to be one.

A word of caution here to readers of this post, Kally's work is definitely meant for the 18 and over age crowd and her blog site requires that you attest to your age in order to gain access. 

In my blog post The Naked Truth or why I write romances, I mentioned that the romance genre has expanded over the many years I've been a reader to include stories that focus on "alternative lifestyle" relationships. While I don't write these stories myself, many authors of traditional romance novels also write in some of these edgier sub-genres. In Kally's case, she chose to debut her full-time authoring career writing a series about friends in the BDSM alternative-lifestyle. For those who don't recognize the acronym, "BDSM" stands for bondage-discipline-domination-submission-sadism-masochism and possibly other things. While these words can have negative connotation to some readers, if you check sales of these books, it is obvious that they are sought by many readers. I think I have mentioned before, but will iterate again--some readers of my books also read Kally's books and many others. Minimally, every romance author should be aware of all the books that sell alongside their own.

Though she is going to talk about her romances, Kally says Master at Arms is not "classically" a romance. She instead describes her first book as an introduction to her series. Interestingly, Masters at Arms (with it's great cover) has been on Amazon's best-seller "war" genre fiction list almost since it debuted in August. It provides prequels to romances for three Marines (including a Navy Corpsman), two of whom actually have their "first-meet" scenes with their future heroines in this book. There are no HEAs in Masters at Arms which is why it's not strictly a romance. Kally says the first four books in the series are not stand-alone stories, so she recommends readers wanting to read the series start with the first one.

For a free copy through Dec. 31, go to Smashwords and use coupon code LN28Q at checkout.

Donna:   So, let's get started. Hi Kally. Welcome to my blog. Will you describe yourself (in 1 or 2 sentences) for my readers?

Kally:  Hi, Donna! Thanks for having me! I'm 53, live in Kentucky, and have been writing romances on and off (mostly off) since high school more than 35 years ago, but only ventured into getting one published this year. I've been married for 28 years and have two grown children.

Donna:  Will you describe your writing for the benefit of readers who don't know you?

Kally:  Cherise Sinclair is my favorite author (and a good friend and mentor) I used to love the "bodice-rippers" back in the 1970s and 1980s--Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, and Johanna Lindsey among my favorites—who also wrote about dominant men and submissive women (and sometimes the women were chained to the beds—long before there was a BDSM subgenre).

I fell in love with erotic BDSM romances after reading Cherise Sinclair's Club Shadowlands two years ago. Before that, my opinion was that BDSM was about violence, rape, and humiliation. I was a women's studies minor in college—so that didn't sit well with me. But with Sinclair's books, I saw the healthy, loving side of the lifestyle—strong women and equally strong alpha men who provided for their women's needs to be dominated sexually, but in a safe, sane, consensual, and very erotic way.

I write extremely emotional stories about broken people who find rescue, redemption, healing, and love while exploring their sexual interests in some aspect of the BDSM "spectrum" lifestyle. (My characters will be all over the BDSM spectrum, from bondage/discipline with domination/submission in the bedroom or club scene only to safe, sane, and consensual sado-masochism.) People often ask me how I know so much about activity in the BDSM lifestyle and I tell them I'm not a Marine either, but the military folks who have read Masters often compliment me on getting that correct. It's research, plain and simple. I correspond with many people in the lifestyle and they share their stories, feelings, and emotions with me.

Donna: What do you think is the difference between "erotica" and "erotic romances"? You and I have had this discussion, but I thought it would be interesting and informative for my blog readers.

Kally: It's really quite simple (in my mind)—so why can't publishers and readers figure it out? I'm being sarcastic. It's like the word "obscene". Ask 100 people to define it and you'll get 100 different answers.

To me, "erotica" focuses more on the sexual relationship and "erotic romances" focus more on the romantic relationship, but with sexually explicit love scenes that use earthy language, rather than euphemisms to describe the act and body parts involved. There also are some edgier types of sex scenes—not just "vanilla," as those in the lifestyle describe non-BDSM relationships/sex.

I tried writing erotica (hey, sex sells and I needed to make a living, too), but discovered that I am much more interested in exploring the psychological and emotional connections in the relationships than focusing mainly on sex. Some of my characters can go for many chapters without being involved in a sex scene while I take them through a more realistic journey toward their "Happily Ever After" ending, or at least a "Happy For Now" with a commitment to each other.

But I love to read in all genres, as long as the books are long-ish (short stories frustrate me—give me at least 50,000 words). They also need to be well-written, have compelling characters I can sympathize with, and tell a good story. Like people who read "sweet" stories who can't read erotic romances, I'm just the opposite. Close the door before a sex scene and I may close the book, or at the very least scream in frustration.

Donna:  How many more books are you planning in your series? I noticed your third book in the series is releasing soon.

Kally:  Yes, Nobody's Hero will be releasing in about a month. At this point, my series is limitless, like Gabaldon's Outlander (and just as much of a saga, with two main characters—Adam and Karla—who will continue to be prominent throughout the series). I love having cliffhangers in an epilogue at the end of each novel that sets up the next novel in the series. I also like to bring couples from earlier romances back into later books to show how they are progressing toward or maintaining their HEA endings. Let's face is, HEAs take work in real life, as in my books.

Some of my novels take place over a short span of time, too, (like six days) so an HEA ending isn't as believable to me in just one book. But I do make sure the main couple in each romance will be at least "Happy for Now" at the end of their romance. To date, I have seven books planned through the beginning of 2013 (about three per year). But I am sure there are many other secondary characters who will want me to tell their stories, as well. (I just haven't met them or their significant others yet.)

My books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, BookStrand, and All Romance eBooks.

Donna:  Last question--how can readers contact you? I will also remind my readers that your blog requires an age 18 or over verification to gain access.

Kally:  Thanks for having me here, Donna, and for encouraging the discussion of the various romance genres and the labels used for each. The saying "don't judge a book by its cover" is as true now as ever. There are some pretty racy covers out there with some heart-wrenching, beautiful romances. So, if your blog readers have an adventurous streak, they should give some alternative romances a try!

My blog, Ahh, Kallypso…the stories you tell, is where I publish excerpts of current and upcoming novels, share guest blogs, and have other content on at least a weekly basis. I'm also available by e-mail at and love to hear from readers. I always respond, so if you don't hear back, rattle my cage again because it might have gotten lost in ether.

Those preferring snail mail can write to me at Kallypso Masters, PO Box 206122, Louisville, KY 40250.

But the best way to reach me is via Facebook ( where I hang out many times a day (I'm an extrovert—and they feed me the energy to keep writing), and on Twitter (@kallypsomasters), which I check every few days.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Erotica, Porn, and Other Labels

This post turned into a college paper. There is so much to say on this subject. I recently joined a new networking group comprised of readers looking for romance books involving older characters. They invited me to post the link to Dating A Cougar which I promptly did. Based on concerned comments to the DAC post, I felt the need to warn worried group members about the somewhat explicit language and lovemaking scenes in the book. With my revelation, comments started including words like erotica and porn. Those words were not being used in connection to my book to pass judgement, but rather to ask questions. Those labels are the only terms many know.

Let me first say that I completely understood their concerns. They wanted to know up front what to expect from the book, and several had experiences of unpleasant surprises from books other than mine. I followed my posting discussion for days trying to get all the comments answered. The ones that liked the book have mostly joined me on Facebook.

That experience got me thinking about the purpose genre labels serve.

If you read my previous post titled "How much sex does your romance story need?" you already know my philosophy on lovemaking among my characters and how I let each book determine that sort of thing. I tend to see my work as mid-range sexually explicit, but I put the "over 17" warning in the edition notes. While trying to get traditionally published, I got feedback in a rejection from one small press with a romance line for older characters that the scenes in Dating A Cougar were too hot. The advice was to make the lovemaking slower, not happen so quickly in the storyline, and dial down the desire to the level of hand-holding. And no, it wasn't a Christian romance line nor a "sweet" line with closed door sex. They were fine with my verbs. It was the level of desire between the characters they disagreed with in my prose.

Ten books and many happy older readers later, I am so thankful I laughed at that rejection and kept on writing.

But I think the members of the new group I joined have a perfect right to ask me or any author to disclose what is really in story content. Readers have a right to be able to trust author assigned labels to help them choose what to read. As a reader, I certainly want this. As an author, I feel like I should at least attempt to describe content to the best of my ability.

There are several ebook retailers where my books get the "erotica" or "erotic romance" tag. My reviews at those sites say things like "not a lot of detail, but the scenes were hot enough" which is low praise for a label that promises a lot of focus on sexual interactions. Even though "hot enough" wasn't exactly a goal for Dating A Cougar, I am not going to be offended or become apologetic about pleasing readers in the erotica loving audience. I appreciate all readers.

Also, there is a tremendous amount of variety out there in the romance genre now. Going forward we will probably see even more labels being applied as readers start demanding more help in selecting books for their particular reading tastes. It's getting harder and harder to know what you are buying when you choose a romance. Important note to authors here: there are good surprises (great characters, fun romance, emotional connection) and bad surprises (I didn't know this was a menage story!!!! Why didn't it say so? OR This wasn't even a whole story. It was just a couple scenes.).

Next week, my guest author is a writer of romances that consistently get the erotica tag. Kallypso Masters, author of Masters At Arms, is a member of a writing group I belong to and is one of the hardest working writers I've ever met. Perplexed by the stigma of terms and their effect, I asked Kally to blog with me about definitions and labels assigned to her work.

Frankly, the only labeling that bothers me is hearing my stories referred to as "soft porn" or "porn for women". Words have power and the "porn" one has some power over me. Most romance writing gets that label attached to it at some point, so it's not like I'm the first or anything. But it's still the only one that offends me.

The dictionary on my Mac had a definition of porn as "printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings". The romances I choose to read have to contain the emotional connection component between characters to hold my interest. However, really good romances strive to "stimulate erotic AND emotional feelings".

The origin of the word pornography comes from the Greek word "pornographos" which means "writing about prostitutes". Okay. Ancient Greece had unmarried priestesses (holy women) who had sacred sex with men who made donations to their temples and it also had women who earned a living from selling sex for money (prostitutes). The actions were the same, but one sexuality was okay and one sexuality was not okay.  Now we've circled around to the age-old debate of a society (any society) attempting to regulate a female's sexuality by establishing a system of rules around her bed partners.

Fast forward to women today who read romances. Whether they live what they like to read or not in real life, they are certainly refusing to have their fantasy sex life regulated. Research shows the largest audience of M/M (male/male) romances is women. And you can probably extend the statistical logic out to every other mega-selling erotica or erotic romance label.

So now it's really confusing, but is it porn? 

Once I considered most men's magazines as porn. I sold a gazillon of them on the Army base where I worked at 19 (to be fair, I sold both Playgirl and Playboy). Everyone knows what's in those. Then I went to college in my 30's and had to read Burrough's Naked Lunch and Pynchon Gravity's Rainbow. Both of these literary works graphically describe all manner of sexual acts--many painfully perverse to me, some were downright disgusting--all were told with far less kind words than anything I've ever come across in any commercial fiction book of any sort, especially in the romance genre. When I tell people I'm a romance writer, it's hard to convince them later--if/when the subject comes up--that my broad sexual knowledge was mostly acquired in my Postmodern Literature class in college.

Somewhere in my 30's, I stopped resenting magazines and books dubbed as "male pornography". I stopped being offended when a woman chose to bend over while naked, grab her ankles, and talk to a Playboy article writer through her legs about how she liked going to movies, taking long walks on the beach, and was wanting world peace. If you are female and such things still bother you, hum the Beatles "Let It Be" song and it might help. True liberation really only exists in the absence of judgement.

Modern day romance writing is just as murky as the priestess/prostitute debate of ancient Greece, but I'm starting to connect the dots in my career. One person's porn is definitely another person's literature.

In a recent discussion with fellow romance writer friend, Dave Thome, Author of Fast Lane, we talked about the large appeal that many female readers seem to have these days for romances featuring what I think of as alternative sexual lifestyles such as BDSM, M/M, M/M/F, F/F, and others. We had our age 50+ theories about it which included the whole Women's Liberation movement, but came to no conclusions.

Personally, I cannot read BDSM at all and I have my reasons, but I have read pieces of Kally's erotic stories because I respect and like her. She has a full storyline in her books that takes you inside the lives of her characters. She shows you the damage, the healing, and the whole story. This has not been the case for some erotica labeled books that I have tried to read and failed to be able to.

As a romance reader, I would like to see more descriptive labeling of some sort used within our industry. As a reader, I want the author to tell me honestly what is in the content. Don't label a single scene with no HEA other than orgasm as a full romance novel. Tell me what the piece of writing really is.  If I want what you have written, I will still buy it, but give me the option. Carina Press (a Harlequin company) lost me recently as reader because a story I downloaded was calling itself a spicy romance. The story was a single sex scene of less than 10k words which did not develop the characters at all. I felt tricked. What they sold me was not a full, real romance. Now I don't trust them anymore. For less than $3 they lost me as a reader.

As an author, I'm going to work to not do that to my readers and lose their trust. If you ever have any questions about one of my books, and it's not clear what is in it or how big it is, write and ask me. You can also read my free book, Dating A Cougar. It is representative of all my work so far.

It's bad enough to struggle with labels among author peers of similar work and those outside the industry passing judgement. Inside the industry where they can be useful, genre and sub-genre labels and book descriptions should help readers, not just be exploited as marketing tools. Write what you want to write by all means, but don't wimp out at the selling stage and pretend your book is something it is not. If it is just a long sex scene, sell it as that. Just tell me the truth and let me as a reader of your work make an honest decision. This is the only way an author will get repeat business.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sondra Allan Carr talks about story themes (Guest Author)

My guest author today is Sondra Allan Carr. I read mostly contemporary and paranormal romances, but now and again a historical book comes along that catches my eye. Sondra's book A Bed of Thorns and Roses is one of those. Just FYI in case you're into reading reviews, out of the 11 reviews the book has at Amazon, there are 9 five star and 2 four star.

Donna: Why did you use a Beatuy and the Beast theme for your books?

Available at Amazon
Sondra: I’ve always been intrigued by the tale of Beauty and the Beast. On the surface, the story is a simple one: Beauty sees past the Beast’s hideous exterior and comes to love him for the quality of his character. Her love breaks the curse and turns the Beast back into a man. But when you dig a little deeper, the story isn’t so simple at all. It raises all sorts of profound questions about the very nature of love. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder—a phrase coined by a romance novelist, by the way—then what does one person see in another that encourages this feeling we call love? Does Beauty fall in love with the Beast because she sees a certain quality in him that is appealing? Does the Beast fall in love with her because she sees him as he hopes to be, not as he is?

I think we all want to be appreciated for our best selves, yet loved even when our worst selves are apparent. Perhaps love is not just how we feel about the other person, but how that person makes us feel about ourselves. In A Bed of Thorns and Roses, I explore the disconnect between an individual’s self-perception and the way he or she is perceived by others. The hero, Jonathan Nashe, has been horribly disfigured in a tragic fire. He considers himself a monster and hides from the world rather than suffer the disgust of others. The heroine, Isabelle Tate, is outwardly a beauty, but she, too, has something to hide, a terrible secret from her past that makes her feel every bit as much an outcast from society as Jonathan's.

A Bed of Thorns and Roses clocks in at more than 140,000 words, but I barely scratched the surface of the Beauty and the Beast theme. The tale is a veritable gold mine for romance writers. Isolation, shame, transformation, to name just a few—there’s an inexhaustible wealth of subject matter here. What’s not to like?

Donna: Why do you like to explore the darkness in your characters? This is something very obvious in your book.

Sondra: What was it Tolstoy said about happy families? They all resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. While I certainly don’t want to write a book that resembles anybody else’s, maybe a more honest answer would be that darkness is easier to write. It’s so much more difficult to make goodness entertaining!

But seriously, when I write it’s all about the characters’ psychology. It’s all about emotions, the more deeply felt, the better. That’s not to say all my stories are doom and gloom and gnashing of teeth. I do have my lighter moments (said with a grin). First and foremost, my stories are romances, which means they end with a happily ever after—no matter how much I torture my characters before they get there. One of the things I love about the romance genre is its bedrock of optimism. 

Donna: What’s next for you creatively?

Sondra: Something that may surprise my readers who are expecting another historical romance. I’m working on a series that I’ve been describing as an alternate pre-history. It’s called The World of Pangaea and is based on the premise of a world where the continents never separated. Different cultures have developed similar to those in our own history, some more advanced than others. One of the recurring themes of the series is prejudice and how ignorance leads to wrong assumptions, mistrust, and even hatred.

Book One in the series is called The Beast (yes, as in Beauty and). The hero is a young king whose father literally went over to the dark side, courting demons to gain power and going mad in the process. Book Two, The Savage, in the series picks up the story nearly twenty years later.

During the first part of 2012, I plan to publish a prequel to the series. It is a short story titled The King’s Witch which will be an introduction to The World of Pangaea series. I’ll offer it free on (Amazon will probably make me charge 99 cents for it, but if enough people complain that they can get it for free elsewhere, Amazon may come around to free as well.) In the meantime, you can read the prologue to Book One, The Beast, on my web site. You can look for The Savage to be published as an e-book by early summer. 

The King’s Witch, as well as the entire Pangaea series, is darker than A Bed of Thorns and Roses, and though I wouldn’t categorize it or any of the books in the series as erotica, the sex scenes are more graphic. Certain scenes touch on what some people might consider edgy subject matter, though I don’t dwell on such topics. The central focus in all my novels is the romance between the hero and heroine.

Sondra: Can I add just a little more? I know this is a long post.
Donna: Sure
Sondra: Thanks for inviting me to share a little bit about my work and upcoming projects. With all the changes going on in the publishing industry, it’s an exciting time to be a writer. I have to say before I go that your openness about your own experience as an indie writer has been a great help to me. In fact, you are truly an inspiration to all of us who, like yourself, have decided to go for the dream. In my case, beginning my writing adventure just a few years shy of retirement from my day job, I often think of the title of your first series and remind myself that it’s Never Too Late.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Profound thinking about reCAPTCHAs

Most of my work these days involves hours and hours being online. Many websites I interact with leave me feeling frustrated and resigned, or at the least feeling reduced to being a trained animal learning to jump through hoops for what I want from them. Even though you know the security measures are for necessary and good, it's still difficult not to get jaded and cynical about logins, passwords, verifications, and every other sort of prove-your-identity harassment.

I honestly never thought anything could so completely change my view of these annoying mundane activities until I watched this TED talk.

I've watched this more than once and have decided that Luis von Ahn's Duolingo project is possibly a path to peace in our global world. His wonderfully out-of-the-box creative programmer's mind shows how large quantities of normal thinking people doing simple everyday online things can make a tremendous difference.

What a wonderful, yet simple gift his work is to us. I smile now when I answer the CAPTCHA questions.

He is also a very entertaining man. The presentation makes me wish I could take some of his classes at Carnegie Mellon University.

Duolingo website

Thursday, December 8, 2011

JM Madden talks about writing across genres (Guest Author)

Donna:  Welcome to my blog JM! Why don't you start by telling readers how you got started writing romances.

JM:   Hi Donna! Thanks so much for having me here today. It's a real privilege, because I think you've done a fantastic job with your writing career so far, and I'm anxious to see what new hurdles you're going to overcome.
Available at Amazon
I went a different direction from what you did. I joined Kentucky Romance Writers back in 2008, because I wanted to explore what I considered to be a hobby at the time, my writing. I received a lot of helpful guidance, and in 2010 finally got up the nerve to start submitting to some publishing houses. I loved that e-books were on the rise, and a brand new company had caught my eye- Decadent Publishing. They had fantastic covers and appealed to me as a contemporary writer. Within 3 days, I had an acceptance email (which made me bawl like a baby).  I released Second Time Around at the end of December 2010.

Second Time Around is a contemporary romance, and the heroine is a cop. The biggest piece of advice I was ever given as a writer was to write about what you know. I was a deputy sheriff for nine years, so it seemed natural to me to go in that direction. And living in Kentucky, the horse industry is predominant in everyday life. Add in a broken romance, a secret child and a naughty horse and you have a romance.

So, it released, and my fingers were flying with new enthusiasm. I didn't even care if I sold one book. I was now a published author.

Available at Amazon
Donna: In 2011, you have become a published author across multiple romance genres. Is there one genre you identify with most? For example, you and I both tend to classify ourselves as "contemporary romance" writers at times, but your work has gone way beyond that now.

JM:  When the chance came around to write an Urban Fantasy for a second publisher I knew, I jumped on it. It was fascinating to me to build my own little world in my mind and on paper. I can't imagine ever writing historical romances, because your details and research have to be spot on, but with genres like fantasy/urban fantasy/sci-fi, you can make the details your own. You can shape the world how ever you want. It was very freeing to stretch my writing legs, so to speak. Burning Moonlight, featured in the Urban Moon Anthology, was written within about two weeks, and it was a blast to write. I really feel like I learned a lot from the experience.

Available at Amazon.
Contemporary romance is my niche though, and when Decadent created the 1NightStand series, I was immediately interested. Wet Dream was created in about two weeks. It was definitely spicier than anything I had written before, but it flowed so easily. The heroine is a strong woman (mandatory for all my romances!) and the hero is a wounded veteran trying to rescue her from an embarrassing situation. Ginger, the woman, just happens to be Cameron's version of a walking wet dream, so when she propositions him, how can he possibly say no? I've gotten a lot of feedback on Wet Dream, and I'm thinking about a follow-up, where the two meet again for their happy ever after.

 Turquoise Morning Press
I like variety in my writing, and I like erotica, so I've recently released a fourth book under another pen name, Jade Morgan. Texas Iron is a male/ male romance, and another chance to stretch my writing legs. I've personally never seen two men together, so it was kind of like writing the urban fantasy, you create your own details.

Donna: What's next for you creatively?

JM:  I think I'm going to jump into the self-publishing pool. I'm working hard on a returning veteran series, tentatively titled 'Coming Home'. It's about a detective bureau staffed entirely by disabled veterans. It will definitely be romance, but it will (hopefully) be suspenseful as well. I'd like to have the first of the series out January/February, with the second out a couple months after that. With all the veterans returning home, I hope it does well and reaches an audience.

I can't seem to limit myself to one genre though, so I'm also working on a post-apocolyptic dragon series that has me fascinated. Serious world building. It, too, will be self-published. In fact, I'm booked well into 2012 with self-pubbing, but if a new sumbission call tickles my fancy, I may squeeze something else in. It's all about reaching a wider audience with your work.

Donna: This is not another question, but rather a note to my blog readers.  I'm not just a fellow author, I'm also a fan of your contemporary work. I've read both Second Time Around and Wet Dream. Both were good, but I loved, loved, loved the couple in Wet Dream. And I'd love to read more of their story. It was a pleasure to host you today.

JM: Donna, thank you so much for having me here! It's been a blast recapping the past year, and I'm amazed at what I've done. And super excited about what's coming! Happy Holidays to everybody!

See all JM books on the web:
Follow her on Twitter:  @authorjmmadden

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Is The Color Of Love?

I am the least political, least activist person among most of my friends, so this kind of post is hard for me to write. First let me get the rant over with which is to say just once I'd like to see something amazing and positive about Kentucky hit the news. I rant this because recently my state made it into an article for the Huffington Post and I'm still reeling from what I read because I am naive enough to hope it was some sort of mistake.

Having grown up during the Civil Rights Movement and Women's Liberation, I am unable to read articles like this and remain unaffected. But as a romance author, it's also hitting my heart. I refuse to think that love is bound by color, by ethnicity, or any other man-made label used to catalog differences between people. Differences should enrich our lives with each other, not be used to try to legalistically bind our souls.

This is why I think so many romance authors are drawn to writing and creating paranormal worlds where characters are committing eternally to a werewolf or a vampire or some other immortal creature with bizarre differences from the human character who opts to love them. Committing for centuries certainly ranks above the human "until death do you part" on the fidelity scale. Then there are the cases where committing to an immortal ties your life to theirs which means if they die, you do too. That's a bit more connected than most of us ever want to be to a spouse.

The timing of me seeing this article is ironic, especially since I hadn't even opened my Huffington Post email in a week or more. Yet in Captured In Ink which released over the weekend, I start to delve into what are still referred to as "interracial relationships". I don't think of them that way, or at least I rebel strongly at thinking of them that way, but certainly there are still many people who do think of them as outside the norm judging from the Huff opinion poll at the bottom of the article.

In my fifty years of observation, a person moves along through life until romantic love steps into their path, and the human container for that love is always a bit of surprise for most of us. Odds are the person we connect to will likely be someone closely matching us in appearance or beliefs, but that is about math facts, population distribution, and the landscape of current society. Sociologists can explain this much more succinctly, but my point is that is certainly NOT the only option.

I joke about my family being it's own United Nations group. My sister-in-law is Japanese. My step-brother met and married her while he was serving in the Navy and stationed on a ship near Tokoyo. She is fiesty and fun and speaks English with a Kentucky accent because of my mother.
My son with his Scots-Irish-Cherokee heritage is in love with a woman from Kawait who is truly one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, both inside and out. If they marry, their children will be incredibly attractive. In both these cases, it just seems normal in my family that these unique couples work out their cultural differences to be as inclusive as possible, for their sakes and ours. Love provides a bridge for that. Lots of famous writers before me have pointed out that love is the only bridge that ever works. It is not a new idea to love everyone like you love yourself.

Bruce is from Indiana, of Scots-German origins, but very worldly because of his military travels. I'm from Eastern Kentucky and won't even go into the background I hale from except to say I'm from a nationally famous feudal family of Scots-Irish-Cherokee descent. But I didn't start dating Bruce for or despite his physical characteristics or even his novelty as a younger man. He was raised Catholic and Lutheran while I am Protestant in ways I typically refuse to acknowledge ever having been. He's Republican and I'm--well, not Republican. Believe me when I say I would not have had to look hard to find reasons to exclude the man I loved above all others from my life. I just chose not to.

Where do you draw the line at what differences matter to the heart?

Love is meant to be inclusive, not exclusive. That's it's natural motivation within us and that's the love I will always write about in my books. I just hope with everything in me that my grandchildren living in the connected global world of the future have the wisdom to accept the love they find for themselves without stopping to question things like the alleged acceptability of the color of the package it comes in.

Beauty is subjective and that's as it should be. We want to draw to ourselves the kind of connections that help us become more than what we are alone.

To grant permission to yourself and others to admire beauty outside the norm is soul expanding. That permission is true progress. I just get sad when articles like the one I read come along because they make me realize that I probably won't live to see that permission become the typical thinking of the future. But then neither did Dr. King.

I guess I'll have to be content with knowing I did what I could by creating a better world in my books.
Addendum Note:  In double-checking the link in this article, I discovered there was a second article. Apparently, the initial decision is being "reconsidered" due to flood of angry protesting from the national church group and local attendees. Turns out the vote was 9 people out of 35-40.  Now I'm admittedly not great at math, but seems like the others could have axed the idea before it got that far by voting against it. Coming from a small town myself, I suspect small-town-people politics were involved. So the end result isn't great, but it's at least better. Perhaps there is some hope for this world after all.