Robert had taken LSD three hours ago and now he was trapped in the bathroom. It was a small bathroom in a small beach house. The place looked out over the Pacific Ocean and could only be reached by climbing a hundred wooden steps or riding a cable-driven cargo trolley. The place belonged to Linda, Robert’s acquaintance, a woman who made tie dye and batik clothing.
Robert wasn’t a casual taker of psychedelic drugs, but he was with good people: yoga practitioners, Tai Chi enthusiasts. He felt safe. His friend Pam was at the party, and his room mate Steve.
It was an intimate gathering, about a dozen people agreeing to share an experience in a beautiful setting. Linda dispensed a tab of LSD to each arrival. Now it was getting towards evening and the group had settled into serious tripping. There was a bit of talk. Some giggles from a couple on the sofa. It was quiet.
The sound of the surf tumbled in the background.
Robert was hallucinating but when nature called she could not be denied. He viewed the act of taking a shit as a comedic episode, a meeting of the sacred and profane. He made a little mantra from it, mentally chanting the words to a samba beat: how could a thing so huge still have to take a poo. He danced a little samba step as he crossed the room to the bathroom. How could a thing so huge… still have to take a poo. The Huge was himself, in his expanded universe, the hyper-galactic infinite divine. And yet, way way down there in the microcosmic world, his body still had to eliminate the dross from his intestine. It all came down to the most common things.
The bathroom was a cubby hole. It had a toilet, a small window and a wooden stand that held an incense burner and a couple of magazines. An old tarnished mirror hung on the wall opposite the throne.
Before the toilet episode began, Robert had been watching Linda move about, with her bun of blonde hair trailing cute little wisps. She wore a sleeveless batik dress of luminous green and a necklace of silver and turquoise. Robert liked the shape of her. She was well toned, contained in a nice little parcel of soft firmness. Her breasts lifted the neckline of the dress and the effect was mesmerizing. Linda was single, Linda was beautiful, and Linda had given him a smile as she dispensed the tablet of LSD. Robert interpreted this smile as an invitation. He thought Linda was conveying a message. “Ask me to make love,” he thought she was beaming at him, “ask me.”
The problem…. that is, the problem before getting trapped in the bathroom, was working up the nerve to ask Linda to make love. Other couples were pairing up and vanishing into various nooks on the property, riding the sound of the mighty surf into psychedelic splendor.
The party’s social math, the indices of affinity seemed to put Robert and Linda together. Robert had never done this kind of thing before. He had never approached a woman to ask if she wanted to “go somewhere quiet”. The complexities of an LSD high built a scaffold atop Robert’s shyness. How do I do that? he wondered, how do I come right out and ask a woman to make love? He wondered and feared, and wondered and feared, and tried to engage Linda in pleasant conversation but an acid conversation can be very weird. There are multiple interpretations layered on every word and phrase.
If he said, “Hi,” well, okay, there you go. Was he greeting her or was he making an insipid observation on his state of psychic elevation?
“You’re beautiful” he said, at one point. “You look stunning in that dress.” That was not ambiguous. Linda merely said “Thank You” and the conversation jumped off a cliff and went splat. If only she would make things easier for him! Maybe he was wrong. Maybe she didn’t send the signal he thought she sent. But her fingers had lingered on his hand as she offered him the white tablet. She had given him a deep soulful look.
Then his stomach sent him another kind of signal. The bathroom was directly off the one large room of the house. The room was virtually the entire living space. There was a counter, a kitchenette, and a short fight of stairs that led to a loft bedroom. A thin plywood door separated the bathroom from everything else.
Robert’s poo was a loose disgusting mess and he was about to turn the flush handle when the thought occurred to him: what if the sound of the toilet flushing sends someone into a bad trip? Or worse, what if it sends everyone into a bad trip?
The house was high on the bluff and the toilet flushed with a distinct sound as the water forcefully drained. Sploosh! it said, splodda splodda splodda splodda, and all the pipes in the house rumbled and whooshed for what seemed hours.
Everyone is so high! Robert thought. If I suddenly introduce these sounds with all their associations, they will drown out the Ravi Shankar on the record player and they will enter people’s LSD-saturated inner landscapes as a downward spiral that will carry them into the underworld! People on acid are so suggestible! I’ll ruin the party!
He couldn’t look at the poo. He had closed the lid and was frantically using a National Geographic to fan the fumes outside. He was on the verge of puking, which would add another dimension to his problem. There was a box of incense and a pack of matches, which he now used as he attempted to work his way out of this mess.
What am I going to do? What am I going to do?
Another part of Robert’s psyche was laughing at him, saying, oh this is pathetic, you’re wasting your whole fucking trip on idiotic paranoia. Robert fought back. It’s unselfish paranoia! he replied. I just don’t want to send anyone down the toilet. Acid’s unpredictable. It can be a catalyst for deeply buried psychic material. I can’t take that chance!
It seemed that hours passed. Robert fanned fumes out the window, lit incense, lit matches until the pack was gone. There finally came a breaking point.
Fuck this, Robert decided. It’s inevitable. I have to flush the toilet. He reached out and touched the cold metal handle with its contoured shape. He caressed it for a moment. Then, in an act of passionate courage, he pressed down and released the water.
Sploosh! Oh god it was deafening! Splodda splodda splodda, down down and down into the depths of the underworld. The pipes went Whhhsssssh like Boeing 707’s lining up on a runway before takeoff. There were at least eight people just a few feet away from this sonic pandemonium. They might tear him to pieces when he emerged. He, personally, had bummed their trip! They might ostracize him forever, banish him from other weekend retreats at other beautiful houses full of beautiful women.
His heart was beating frantically. Okay, he decided, let’s face the consequences of my irresistible evacuation. Robert turned the knob and exited the bathroom, closing the door with the barest of clicks.
It was almost dark. Sitar music came gently through the speakers, playing an evening raga. Candles were lit and most of the group sat rocking to and fro, lying on beanbag chairs or prone on yoga mats. Nothing had happened as a result of Robert’s flush. Nothing at all.
A candle had been set in the middle of the room. Linda was alone on a cushion, sitting in yoga posture, meditating on the flickering light. Her eyes were open and appeared radiant and enormous. She glanced at Robert without reproach. The whole episode had passed without a ripple, it was a product of Robert’s self-conscious agony.
What the hell, he thought, just do it. He found a cushion and sat next to Linda, replicating her full lotus, displaying his credentials as a yogi. His feet rested easily on his thighs and his spine straightened as he gathered the nerve to approach this gorgeous woman.
Linda’s shoulder looked velvety in the candle light. Robert gently put his fingers on her body, just the four tips of the fingers of his right hand, touching her oh so lightly. He watched Linda’s response. She didn’t flinch or move away from him. Nor did she move towards him. She was set in her own center. That’s okay, Robert thought. That’s okay. Again, his heart beat fast, his stomach turned over with anxiety. I’ve got to do this, he urged himself. I’ve got to break through my fear. You get nothing when you don’t ask. So just ask while you have the chance.
“Linda,” he said, “You’re beautiful. Your skin is amazing.”
She smiled a subtle little smile but remained facing forward. Robert was about to commit himself but he realized that he hadn’t prepared his words. How should he put it? “Linda, will you make love with me?” Or more commanding. “Linda, make love with me.” That might seem too aggressive. How about “I would love to make love to you, Linda.” Oh, that was clumsy. Love to make love. Oh fuck it. He leaned close to her and quietly spoke into her ear. “Linda, love make me, oh, uh, you know, I really dig you, um, um, this is hard. What I mean to say is I want you to make love to you. I mean me.. I want.to make love to you. There! Whew!”
Linda’s head turned with agonizing slowness. The huge shining eyes rotated until they met Robert’s eyes. She was a sacred dakini, a deva, a goddess!
“Robert,” she said, “you’re sweet, but you’re just not my type.”
Robert squeezed the pillow, almost pulling it out from under himself. “Okay, okay, that’s cool, I understand that, it’s just that, well, okay… thanks.”
He stood up holding the pillow in front of his body, then dropped it back to the floor and walked onto the deck. He could see the last of the sun’s rays as they vanished into the starry night. His vulnerable heart opened and wept. After a time, as he watched the sky, he realized that at last he was free from all the ridiculous bullshit he had just put himself through. He didn’t have to hook up with Linda. He didn’t have to hook up with anyone.
The Milky Way was alive, writhing with creative force as gods and Buddhas contemplated the infinite void. The sky was the most beautiful thing Robert had ever seen.
Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.
Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.
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Heat: book one, by Jade C. Jamison is a prequel to her Heat: The Complete Series, which can be read in a single sitting. Jamison has a talent for drawing readers in and immersing them in the character, making them almost active participants in the story, and Heat is no exception. This brief tale is an introduction, featuring one of the most sensual messages ever imagined for the reader to relax and enjoy.
In Heat, we meet Rachel Donahue, a busy investment broker who needs to unwind at least once a week. And we meet Spike, a sexy and talented male masseuse who really knows how to make a girl feel really, really good. Maybe too good. What happens when Rachel meets her new client and realizes that Sergio and Spike are one and the same, and she is going t be working very closely with him, leaves the reader wanting more. You won’t be able to resist buying Heat: The Complete Series to find out the rest of the story.
Sizzling hot erotic romance that leaves readers longing for more, I give Heat: book one five quills.
When I requested to review this latest book in Amy Cecil’s Knights of Silence MC series, she was concerned that readers who hadn’t read the previous books wouldn’t know what was happening, since Sainte is the completion of the series. When I read the second book in the series,Ice on Fire, for review back in 2017, I had no problem following what was happening in the still new series, so she agreed to let me give it a go now, with the last book.
She needn’t have worried. With Sainte, I was immediately pulled into the story. Enough was revealed through dialog and character thoughts and memories to clue me in to many of the events referred to from the previous books and follow along with the action. Cecil’s superbly crafted use of first person, present tense, (not a small feat), allows the reader to have insight into character motivations, as well as providing needed information that helps the reader to keep pace with the story.
Cecil’s characters have depth and back story enough to carry the story. This book centers around two characters and one romance, but references to what has come before in the series involving the other members of the MC to get them to this point are skillfully woven into the story. After reading Sainte, I want to go back and read the rest to get better acquainted with members of the club who were not the main focus of this story.
Even though I’m wasn’t familiar with events referenced from earlier in the series, a little patience usually reveals more detail, and I was easily able to follow along. Do I know everything that happened in this series from this one book? No. Am I intrigued enough to read the rest of the series to find out? Yes, but I really feel it does fine as a stand alone novel, as well.
I’m getting older and it’s been a long time since I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish a book, but Amy Cecil managed to get me to do just that. Sainte is an excellent romance story. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Happily Ever Afters. I give it five quills.
Note: There is some erotica in this story, as there seems to be with all of Cecil’s works, but she handles the love scenes with tact and only puts them where they serve a purpose to move the story forward. Cecil’s romances are all class.
Why is Saint Valentine’s Day in February? Where I live, February is a cold month, not associated with love and warmth. So, Writing to be Read is turning up the heat this month by taking a look at erotic romance. Now, I’m not talking about erotica, which in my opinion is just sex for the sake of sex with no real story line and love has nothing to do with it, nor do plots. These stories can be rank and raunchy and downright smutty, but they are not erotic romance. (For more about the differences between romance, erotic romance and erotica see this article on The Productive Indie Fiction Writer.) I enjoy sex scenes like the best of them, but I’m also a sucker for the happily ever after.
Erotic romance features both romance and sex, and ranges in temperature from steamy to hot to sizzling. The romance story line usually carries the story, but the sexual elements keep the pages turning. This month we’re going to meet some erotic romance authors and take a look at some of their works. My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be romance author Amy Cecil, whose contemporary romance stories get pretty steamy, and guests for the supporting interviews are erotic romance authors Nicky F. Grant and Jade C. Jamison. I’ll also be reviewing Sainte, the last book in Amy Cecil’s Knights of Silence MC series, and Heat book 1, a prequel short to Heat: The Complete Series, by Jade C. Jamison.
Just as authors each have their different heat levels in which they like to write, as readers we all have our own temperature preferences, too. Let me know how hot you like it, to read or to write, in the comments. Then, join me as we turn up the heat and start warming things up with a look at erotic romance in February on Writing to be Read!
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September’s theme on Writing to be Read is Christian fiction. To start things off today, it’s my pleasure to interview western Christian romance author Davalynn Spencer. Her writing career came as a journalist covering the rodeo circuit, after marrying a man who made a living as a rodeo bullfighter and following the rodeo circuit became a way of life for her. Her son has followed in his father’s foot steps, so she has two guys out in the arena facing off with the bulls, and she has become an award winning author with seventeen published books. She is also one of the authors with a book in the newly released Thanksgiving Books and Blessings collection. Be sure to catch my review of her contribution, Mail Order Misfire on Friday. But for now, let’s welcome her and find out what the writing world is like from her unique point of view.
Kaye: You were an award-winning journalist before becoming a novelist. How did that transition come about?
Davalynn: For several years I contributed regularly to the Prorodeo Sports News, the trade paper for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. My husband fought bulls and worked clown acts for PRCA rodeos across the country, so our family joined him on the road in our rodeo rig. I also wrote for American Cowboy and other publications. My first award was from the Prorodeo Sports News for a two-part feature I did on former rodeo cowboys who transitioned into training thoroughbred racehorses. After we parked permanently in Colorado, I served as editor for the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys, Inc., a national nonprofit, and followed that with several years as a daily newspaper reporter covering crime and features. I won awards from the Colorado Press Association and the
Associated Press. But I’d long wanted to be a novelist and had written a few manuscripts. I decided it was time to pursue my dream.
Kaye: What draws you to write in the Christian romance genre?
Davalynn: I’ve always been drawn to romance – the happy ending, the way all the difficulties and obstacles are tackled and worked out. That happy ending is what defines the romance genre and separates it from say, love stories. Think Romeo and Juliet, a classic love story. Not a romance. I choose to write from an inspirational or Christian perspective because I don’t separate my faith from my fiction. My stories address daily life situations, and in my personal life, faith figures highly. Readers of Christian fiction enjoy the genre because they see faith put into action, and they draw encouragement from characters who conquer their foes and fears. They read Christian romance with confidence that they will experience the passion and emotional satisfaction they long for in “escape reading” yet without the explicit sexual details, ribald language, and graphic
violence found in some mainstream commercial romance.
Kaye: In your mind, what distinguishes Christian fiction from fiction in general?
Davalynn: Fiction readers want escape, entertainment, and encouragement. With Christian fiction, readers can relax knowing they won’t experience overkill on sexual detail, language, or violence.
That is not to say there is no sexual tension, emotional passion, creative language, life-
threatening danger, or depictions of life’s uglier side. There must be for a good story. But in Christian fiction there is also hope – something our world has in short supply.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing Christian romance for you?
Davalynne: I paint character portraits. However, my medium is words rather than watercolors, oils, or acrylics. Choosing the right words is always the biggest challenge, whether writing nonfiction or novels of any ilk.
Kaye: What is the most fun thing about writing Christian romance?
Davalynn: For me, the payoff is hope and redemption. Our world has very little real hope in it – hence the high percentage of fiction readers, particularly in the romance market. Both hope and redemption speak to second chances, and who doesn’t want a second chance? My goal is that from reading my stories (that I deliberately make non-preachy), people will see there are avenues along the way in which they can find real hope and redemption. It’s never “too late” to involve God in their lives.
Kaye: Your book Mail-Order Misfire is a part of the Thanksgiving Books & Blessings collection. What can you tell me about that book?
Davalynn: I enjoy mail-order bride stories, and as I prepared to write for this collection, I wondered what it would be like for a child to request a mail-order mate for a parent—but without telling the parent. Instant tension and obstacles! In Mail-Order Misfire, nine-year-old Gracie Stidham writes for a “helper” for her widowed father who is both the sheriff and interim preacher in the fictional town of Lockton, Colorado. Another pastor gets involved in the scheme and encourages one of his parishioners to answer the letter – a woman who is recently widowed and dancing mere footsteps ahead of a creditor who wants more than her money. What could go wrong?
Kaye: You are the recipient of the Will Rogers Medallion Award, the Romance Writers of America Readers’ Choice Award, the American Fiction Award, among others. What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as an author?
Davalynn: The awards are wonderful confirmations along the way but hearing from readers who are moved by the stories is far more rewarding. One person recently wrote to me after reading one of my books and said, “Aha! Someone who writes ‘Christian Fiction’ that is truly lifestyle, not just a nod to a scripture or two tucked in to satisfy the category!” I treasure that observation.
Kaye: Did you also receive a Christian Indie Award?
Davalynn: I won the Christian Indie Award for Book 1 of my Front Range Brides series, An Improper Proposal– the same book that won the RWA Readers’ Choice Award. These awards validated my goals because this particular story was turned down by a major publisher. Evidently, others thought it worthy!
Kaye: Your husband and son are rodeo bullfighters. Does that make you a real cowgirl by
Davalynn: What a great question! I’d have to say no, though I ride, have pushed cows, bucked my share of hay, and done plenty of chores. But I never competed in rodeos. My work was mainly behind the scenes supporting my husband, taking photographs, writing news stories, and singing the National Anthem before rodeo performances – a song lovingly referred to by cowboys as “Bareback Riders Get Ready.”
Davalynn’s son in the arena
Kaye: What is something your readers would never guess about you?
Davalynn: One summer evening at the Estes Park, Colorado, rodeo where my husband was fighting bulls, a bull rider “hung up” to the bull – trapped himself in his bull rope by falling off on the wrong side. My husband ran in to rescue the rider—which he did—but not without taking a hit to the chest that knocked him down. The bull ran over him, breaking ribs and tearing off his left ear. The surgeon who repaired my husband’s ear made it clear that he was not to return to the arena under any circumstances, yet we had a contract for three more performances that week. So I dressed up in my husband’s clown clothes and filled in for him during his comedy routines. No, I didn’t fight the bulls (my mama didn’t raise no fool), I just worked the acts and another bullfighter covered the bull riding. As they say, the show must go on, and when you’ve got a
contract, you’ve got a contract. Trying to be funny is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Kaye: What do your readers have to look forward to? What’s next for Davalynn Spencer?
Davalynn: November 1 is the release date for my Christmas novella, Just in Time. It’s the second High-Country Christmas novella, and in December will release in a collection of two novellas, Snow Angeland Just in Time, both set in the glorious Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
I want to thank Davalynn for sharing with us today. She’s been an eye opener for me in regards to Christian fiction and hopefully for my readers, as well. You can learn more about Davalynn Spencer and her books at the links below. And don’t forget to drop by “Writing to be Read” this coming Friday, September 6, to read my review of her novella, Mail Order Misfire.
Some might cliam that the paranormal and western genres don’t go together, but A Slip on Golden Stairs, by Joanne Sundell does an excellent job of melding past with present, offering readers a romantic ghostly tale that you won’t want to put down. This well-crafted story conjures ghosts from the Alaska gold rush days, when many risked everything, including their lives, for a chance to strike it rich, telling their story through their connection to the present.
Abby Gray doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she can find no other explanation for the the mysterious figure of a woman in the second floor window of what was once a brothel, or the handsome stranger who appears when she least expects it, or the unexplained man’s voice calling her name, that no one else seems to hear. What starts out as a summer of chasing gold mining history, turns into a ghost hunting adventure into the past that ends in love. Through her search for answers, we learn the story of Abigail Grayson, a tough young girl, determined to find her freedom and independence in the Alaskan gold fields. The connection between the two women and their beaus is revealed slowly, with each turn of the page, as the love between Abigail and Elias navigates the obstacles along the way, and Abby searches for a man who can’t possibly exist. Abby believes she might be losing her mind. After all, can one fall in love with a ghost?
Whether readers are into westerns, ghosts or romance, A Slip on Golden Stairs is sure to satisfy. The two stories are woven together in a masterful blend of multiple genres. I give it five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
My author guest today is a prolific writer, who must publish an average of at least six books per year, in numerous romance series. Patricia PacJac Carroll writes historical and western Christian romance at a rate that I find amazing. The books on her Amazon Author page scroll in what seems like a never ending flow. In addition to her own series, which are many, on occasion, she’s invited to participate in series with a collection of other authors, as is the case with her most recent release. Let’s see what she has to share with us today.
Kaye: In what ways is writing a Christian western romance different from writing a western romance?
Patricia: For me, saying it is Christian means at least some of the characters have a Christian world view. Faith and hope in the Lord are evident in their lives. No preaching or sermons or a lot of verses, only faith as it relates to the story and the characters.
Kaye: Your latest book was recently released, Sandra’s Journey. Would you like to tell me a little about the story?
Patricia: Sandra is struggling, she’s walled herself in away from others. Her little brother’s death and the fact that a fiance left for Calfornia the year before and she only received one letter from him, have stolen her courage. She meets a corporal who is escorting the wagon train, and he challenges her to dream. Romance blossoms along the California trail where by trails end she will have to choose between the two men. A story of courage rediscovered and dreams coming alive.
Kaye: Sandra’s Journey recently came out as a part of a historical western series with a wagon train theme, which includes your book and those of several other Christian western authors. Would you like to tell me about the Lockets and Lace series?
Patricia:The Locket and Lace series is made up of several different authors. I was asked to join in 2018 and wrote Oregon Dreams for the Locket and Lace series for 2018. And then this year again for the Locket and Lace series for this year with Sandra’s Journey.
Every book has a connection to the Bavarian Jeweler in St. Joseph, Missouri. They have a locket that was made in the shop and a piece of lace. We had 9 books last year and 10 this year. They are all wonderful books
Kaye: The Lockets and Lace series books are not the only books you’ve written, by far. You have written several other series, including the Mail Order Brides and The Law Keepers series. How many books have you written? How long have you been writing?
Patricia: I have been writing seriously for thirteen years and began publishing in 2012. I have 40 books out right now and plans for many more. I have several series ~ Mail Order Brides of Hickory Stick, Montant Brides of Solomon’s Valley, and several others.
Kaye: Tell me a little about your author’s journey, if you would?
Patricia: I began writing and attending critique groups in 2006. I loved it, but my friends would call me the book of the week person because story ideas would attack me. I love the thrill of a new story and still do. Finally, I decided I better finish a book and my first book was Liberty Belle that I published in 2012.
Kaye: Your husband is instrumental in your writing, so much so that you’ve incorporated both of your initials into your author’s name – PacJac. Would you talk about how he enables you to write?
Patricia: My husband is a wonderful prince of a man who gives me the time to do what I love. He let me retire in 2006 so I could write. And now, my writing has enabled him to retire. We are a wonderful team and are enjoying our lives. I added the PacJac to my writing name because I found there were other Patricia Carroll’s out there in the writing world. It works well though because you put PacJac in Amazon and it will pop up my books.
Kaye: Your female characters of the contemporary strong and independent variety, or do they follow the traditional damsel in distress variety of heroine?
Patricia: I’d say they are a combination. While I want to be historically correct, readers live in the 21st century. I do like spunky women, but I also enjoy writing about a character who grows in courage and strength, too.
Kaye: What part of writing do you find to be the biggest challenge?
Patricia: The self-discipline. I am a seat-of-the-pants writer, and I tend to live my life the same way. I enjoy fun, family, and friends as well as writing so at times the need to balance comes into play.
Kaye: Where does your inspiration come from?
Patricia: The Lord. He gives me the stories. I am amazed at how He has made sure I understand that. One time I had the opportunity to put a Christmas story in an anthology and had a weekend to write it as it was due Monday at noon. Now, I had bragged that if you just give me a name and a place, I will come up with a story. Well, after my haughty attitude, my friends gave me a name and place and my imagination heard crickets. Nothing. Nada. No story. Now, that was a bit scary to me. A writer isn’t much without a story. So I figured I missed the anthology. But then at 5:30 Monday morning I woke up with a picture in my mind of a cowboy on a horse pulling a Christmas tree and knew I had a story. And I wrote it and turned it in before noon. You can find that story in my book Christmas in Texas. The Richest Christmas. So I will give the Lord all the credit for anything good that I do. Any mistakes are mine.
Kaye: Your books obviously are portrayed in a western landscape, based on historical times and events. What kinds of research do you find yourself doing for your books?
Patricia: Documentaries, books on the old west. I have always loved the west and westerns.
Kaye: Do you feel you draw pieces from your own life into your stories? How so?
Patricia: Yes, and I tell my friends anything may be used in a story. I know I often have my characters state “How hard can it be?” That is all me.
Kaye: What is the most fun part of writing western romance for you?
Patricia: I enjoy the characters and the things they get themselves into. Plus horses, I love horses and they have always been part of the draw to westerns for me. I also love the idea of the wide open wild country.
Kaye: What is something many of your readers wouldn’t guess about you?
Patricia: For twenty years, I owned and ran a pet store. Sea Horse Pets in Arlington, Texas. As you can guess I love animals. And people. I love to write, and my heart is that readers will enjoy my stories and be strengthened and encouraged by reading them. I enjoy making readers happy.
I want to thank Patricia for joining me today to share her thoughts with us. I don’t know about all my readers, but I am astounded by the sheer volume of her works. You can learn more about Patricia at the links below. Stop in and see if you too are not awed by the books she’s produced within the span of the past seven years.
Romance is one of the most popular genres around, not because everyone is reading them, but because romance readers read a lot. Romance comes in a wide variety of sub-genres: contemporary romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, western romance, Christian romance, adventure romance, dark romance, and of course, erotic romance, just to name a few. Each type of romance can be very different, because they are after all different types of stories, and there are romantic elements in many types of storiest a romantic subplot has strong emphasis, such as romantic thrillers, romantic mysteries, romantic fantasies, or romantic time travel novels.
So, why is romance so popular? I think it is due in part to the fact that romance is such a vital part of life. Most people have experienced romantic relationships, and if they haven’t, they are searching for such a relationship, because we all need to give love and feel loved. But, romance readers aren’t just love starved singles whose dreams lay just beyond their reach, they also include plenty of happily married people, (mostly women, both married or single), who just like to relive those positive feeling they get from a good love story. Romance is something we all can relate to in one way or another. Romance novels offer a way for us to satisfy our inner longings viscareally or relate and relive our own experiences.
Every romance story or subplot has three things in common: two flawed main characters and a happily ever after, or at least a happily for now. In between, the characters must overcome many obstacles and conflicts. Sometimes these are external, such as others trying to keep them apart, but often they are internal, trying to convince themselves that they should be together, because they won’t admit that this is what they want, even to themselves. In the past the two characters were a boy and a girl, or a man and a woman, but in these changing times it is acceptable, perhaps even desirable, to write or read LBGT romances, where the characters may be of the same sex, or even questionable gender. Today romances may also be rated by the how much and how graphic the sex scenes are, from sweet to steamy to downright hot, and everything in between.
Romance is the genre theme for April, with interviews with “Chatting with the Pros” guest author historical romance author, Maya Rodale, and paranormal romance author Chris Barili (A.K.A. B.T. Clearwater). This month also featured reviews of an historical erotic romance, Ripper, by Amy Cecil, and a science fiction time travel romance, The Christmas Cruise, by Tammy Tate. As a special bonus, Jordan Elizabeth talked about writing her paranormal western romance, Treasure Darkly on her segment of “Writing for a Y.A. Audience“. Two reviews is hardly enough to be examples of all of the wide variety of forms and sub-genres which romance takes, so below you will find links to other past reviews of the romance genre, both good and not so good, to allow you to explore a wider variety of romance. As you can see from the varied selection, even though each contains the basic romance elements, all romances are not alike.
For my reviews of YA romances:Rotham Race, by Jordan Elizabeth (dystopian, apocalyptic); Runners & Riders, by Jordan Elizabeth (steampunk); Bottled, by Carol Riggs (romance fantasy); Treasure Darkly, by Jordan Elizabeth (dark western steampunk fantasy romance)
I hope you enjoyed our exploration of romance this month, and I hope you will join me in May for a closer look at Westerns. My “Chatting with the Pros” guest will be western author Juliette Douglas, with a supporting interview with Patricia PacJac Carroll, who writes Christian western romances. My book reviews will be on Chance Damnation, by DeAnna Knippling and Not Just Any Man, by Loretta Miles Tollefson. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are, too.
In April, we also had a special Saturday bonus interview with Shiju Pallithazheth to celebrate the release of his new book of magical realism stories, Katashi Tales. We also talk about the work he is doing to aknowledge contributors to world literature. We need more stories which spread love and acceptance of one another. I hope you’ll drop by to catch that one, too.
Remember, tomorrow is the deadline for the WordCrafter paranormal story entries. So, submit your paranormal short now, before it’s too late. I’ve already received some good ones, but there’s room for more. Winner gets a spot in the WordCrafter paranormal anthology and a $25 Amazon gift card. Other qualifying entries may get invitations to the anthology, as well. It’s only $5 to enter, so you really can’t go wrong. Full submission details here.) Send me your story while there’s still time. Hurry!
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Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author Chris Barili, and although he’s written in other genres, and his latest release is the fantasy novel Shadow Blade, which I reviewed last month, he also writes romance under the name B.T. Clearwater. You can read my review of his paranormal romance, Smothered, here.
In January, we talked to women’s fiction author Barbara Chepaitis and western author Loretta Miles Tollefson about the fact that women authors still are encouraged to use sex neutral pen names when writing certain genres, but here we have a male author who uses one when writing romance. We’re going with talk to Chris about writing romance and why there aren’t more male romance authors today. Or are there? Let’s find out what Chris Barili has to say about it.
Kaye: You have fiction published under your own name, but when it came to Smothered, your publisher suggested you publish as B.T. Clearwater. This is the reverse of what many female authors experience when publishing in certain genres, such as western. Did you feel like there is discrimination toward male romance authors?
Chris: My publisher didn’t encourage the pseudonym, actually. That was advice from a mentor and college professor, who recommended different pen names for different genres due to perceptions in the industry that if you write one genre well, you’re limited to that genre. I also publish westerns under a different pen name, T.C. Barlow.
And while I didn’t experience discrimination toward me as a male romance writer, I did get some raised eyebrows and comments like, “You write THAT?” So I had my youngest daughter think up a pen name that used my initials, and that sounded gender neutral. She came up with B.T. Clearwater.
Kaye: Do you think it is harder for male authors to make it in the romance genre than it is for female authors? Why?
Chris: I think it’s harder because not enough men have tried, so there’s no benchmark for it, no evidence to the doubters that men can do it. Men tend to avoid it because of the stigma associated with writing “that” kind of fiction.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing romance for you?
Chris: Probably making it “juicy” enough for a modern audience. I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I like love stories, and I tend to focus on the emotional relationship rather than the sexual one. Many (not all, but many) romance readers are looking for the steamy stuff, and that just isn’t me.
Kaye: You have a family, and are involved in cycling and martial arts, yet you find time to write and attend conferences and seminars. What are your secrets for juggling writing with your home life?
Chris: Mostly, I neglect my dog. 😊 No, that’s only a little true. As with anything, finding time for writing is a matter of discipline and sacrificing things that are less important. I had to remove a video game from my computer because it was distracting me from writing. Similarly, my DVR is 90% full of programs I fully intended to watch, but can’t get to because of writing. You have to make writing THAT important. My priorities are: my family, my health, the day job, writing. Everything else comes later.
Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in? Why?
Chris: I’m actually published in every fiction genre: fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, western, and crime. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I do most of my writing in the fantasy and romance genres. They’re all fun to write, and one of the things I learned during my MFA studies under Russell Davis at Western is to let the story find its genre. Don’t try to force it into one you’re comfortable writing.
Kaye: If Smothered was made into a film, who would you like to see play male and female leads?
Chris: Interestingly, when I develop a character, I often choose a model, actor, public figure, etc to roughly model their looks. In this case, I used actor James Denton as a rough look-a-like for Mike, and Annie was loosely modeled on Jeanine Garofalo. So yeah, them.
Kaye: What’s is the single most important element in a romance story?
Chris: Damage. The lead female character has to be broken somehow, and the only way she can heal herself is to be with the male lead. It’s corner, and not a great way to base a real relationship, but that’s kind of the trope of romance. She has to realize she cannot live without him.
Kaye: Where did you find the inspiration for Smothered?
Chris: Again, my MFA studies, only this time in a class with Michaela Roessner. She had us write a sex scene that gets interrupted somehow, and I had mine interrupted by the ghost of the woman’s late mother, who appears at the foot of the bed. That interested me so much that it grew into a novel, which was my MFA thesis.
Kaye: What was the most fun part of writing a romance for you?
Chris: Romance is a very formulaic genre, and the fun part, for me anyway, is finding a way to make that formula sound new. They say there are no new stories, only new ways of telling old ones, and I think that’s what I like about romance. Proving to doubters that it CAN be original and unique.
Kaye: Is there a future for B.T. Clearwater? Can readers expect to see more from this author?
Chris: Oh yeah, B.T. has a novella published in Gwyn McNamee’s Last Resort Motel series, called “Room Fifty-Eight.” That came out a few months ago, and will appear in a box set soon. And B.T.’s latest novel, Rise and Fall, needs to go off to the freelance editor soon for a work-over. I decided to take B.T. full indie, to self-publish those stories, because self-pubbed romances can do very well. Gwyn has given me some tips on how to get it right. So when Rise and Fall and the next two in that series are ready, I’ll upload them and see how they do.
Kaye: Chris Barili has a fantasy novel coming out in June, Shadow Blade, which I recently reviewed. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that one?
Chris: Shadow Blade was actually my backup thesis. Yeah, I had a backup. Outlined both, but wrote Smothered and saved Shadow Blade for after graduation due to the world-building it needed. It tells the story of Ashai Larish, an assassin for the feared Denari Lai order. The Denari Lai are a religious order that keeps their killers loyal by addicting them to the very magic that makes them so effective at killing. In Ashai’s case, he is sent to kill a king and his daughter, but falls in love with the princess, and finds himself fighting to keep her alive rather than to kill her.
Shadow Blade is being published by WordFire Press, as a “Kevin J. Anderson Presents” title, where the best-selling author highlights a new author “to watch.” It’s on a review tour now, and should come out in e-book and hard cover in May, and by the time this article airs, it will be out as part of WordFire’s “Epic Fantasy” bundle at StoryBundle.com.
Today on “Chatting with the Pros” my guest author is a historical romance novelist, Maya Rodale. She writes strong female characters who stand up for themselves and still manage to maintain their feminity. Her books have appeared on the USA Today bestselling list and have been published in several languages. Her novel, The Wicked Wallflower won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best historical hero, and What a Wallflower Wants was labeled as a romance novel for the #MeToo movement. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to chat with her today and learn her thoughts on romance, female authors and women’s place in the world.
Kaye: Your stories favor strong heroines for your main characters. Do you think romance is usually a female domain?
Maya: Romance has been traditionally a female domain, though 18% of readers today are men! I would love to see more men openly reading romance, but I also hope it never loses it’s focus on the female experience and the empowerment it brings to so many women in publishing.
Kaye: Perusing your website and checking out your book covers, one gets the impression that your romances are a bit risqué. How steamy can you get before you cross over into the land of erotica? Do your books cross that line?
Maya: Romance Writers of America provides the best succinct definition of erotica: “Romance novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline.”
So it’s not a matter of how much sex is portrayed but how the sex engages with the plot. My historicals definitely have some steamy sexy times on the page, but I wouldn’t classify them as true erotica.
Kaye: How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?
Maya: A title needs agreement from both the publishing team and myself; sometimes the title I pitch is the one we go with. Sometimes the story is nearly done and we’re frantically brainstorming at the last minute to find something that works.
Fun behind the scenes story: I wrote The Tattooed Duke thinking the title would be Brave New Lord which I LOVE but my pub team thought The Tattooed Duke had better sales potential, so that’s the one we went with.
Kaye: Your books feature strong female heroines, who stand up for themselves and what they believe against the men around them and societal beliefs. Why do you think your readers relate to them?
Maya: I think this is the experience for most women: we are constantly having to stand up and assert our humanity. I like to think that my heroines help real women have the courage and confidence to do this. And for those readers who don’t feel it’s necessary, I hope they see that it is.
Kaye: What are some tips for writing strong female characters in a time period when there weren’t many to be found, and making them believable?
Maya: The more I dig deeper in my research of history the more I believe that this is a myth. Women have always gotten out of the house and done great, wonderful, terrible things; but it hasn’t been recorded, or their stories haven’t been told, or (male) historians deemed it unimportant. Women have never been boring, silent bystanders to the world.
I think we’ve been (maybe deliberately) shut out of history books and as a result we don’t know the long and full history of women being active participants in the world. Start with a look at theNew York Times Overlooked Obituaries,for example.
The problem isn’t that strong historical female characters aren’t accurate, the problem is that we have been made to believe they are. And in the name of “historical accuracy” we unwittingly perpetuate that in our novels.
My tip for writers: find those stories, write those stories! And then explain your research in the author’s note. And my advice for readers: check your biases and preconceived notions and let yourself get swept up in the story. You may just learn something new about history too.
Kaye: What’s the biggest challenge in writing romance for you?
Maya: Protecting my time! It’s my day job and still there are so many demands on my time and energy that make it hard to focus on my books.
Kaye: You wrote a nonfiction book titled Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained. Can you explain briefly why romance has a bad rep and it is justified?
Maya: Romance novels have a bad reputation because they’re so powerful—they are the only art that consistently portray women triumphing in a world that doesn’t want women to triumph. Mocking them as “trashy books” or just “mommy porn” or “unrealistic” is a way to diminish their power. If we valued women and women’s work more, we’d value romance novels more!
Kaye: How many different countries and languages are your books sold in?
Maya: I do love being the all powerful Goddess of fictional worlds. And not having to get dressed up for work 😉
Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a romance story?
Maya: The development of the romantic relationship! And the happy ever after, of course.
Kaye: Where does inspiration for your stories come from?
Maya: Story inspiration is everywhere if you open your heart and mind to it! Right now I’m finding the New York Times “overlooked obituaries” of historical women to be a gold mine of story ideas for historical romance. I just need more time to write them…
Kaye: You have a new book in your Gilded Age series coming out in June, Some Like it Scandalous. Would you like to tell us about it?
Maya: Longtime enemies embark on a sham engagement and end up falling in love! The only way for society darling Theo Prescott to survive his most recent, unspeakably outrageous scandal is marry someone respectable. Someone sensible. Someone like Daisy Swan. But she has plans that do not include a loveless marriage to anyone. Instead, she aspires to sell cosmetics that she has created. But this brainy scientist needs a smooth talking charmer’s flair for words and eye for beauty to make it a success. Before long, Daisy and Theo are trading kisses. And secrets. And discovering that despite appearances, they might be the perfect couple after all.
Kaye: As a romance writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?
Maya: I do A LOT of research. Everything from reading biographies, non-fiction, histories, other novels to trips to the library or visits to museums. Or just googling. There’s general research to do about the time period—for example, I had to learn all about the Gilded Age (1860-1900) in Manhattan for my new seriesThe Gilded Age Girl’s Club.And then there’s research necessary for each particular book. For the next book in the series, Some Like It Scandalous I had to do a deep dive into the invention and popularization of cosmetics, since the heroine launches a cosmetics company with the hero.
Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring romance authors?
Maya: My best advice I think comes from Nora Roberts: “Ass in the chair. Words on the page.” Also, my friend once told me “If you’re not getting a rejection once a week you’re not trying hard enough.” Brutal, but effective.