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There Can Be Only One

Sexy fit manToday’s MANhandler photo is favorite of mine. Of course, they’re all favorites of mine. Go figure. Enjoy!

The topic for today’s post came in and I panicked. I’m not talking a little “oh no, what will I write about” panic. I’m talking “holy crap, there is no way to do this in less than a doctoral thesis” panic. The topic? Discussing our favorite book. I know, I know — I see the panic on your face. I felt the same way. How can I choose just one book? Impossible. This isn’t a remake of Highlander and there are no swords and beheadings and stuff. But I’m still talking books. Just a little off center.

Reading is a huge part of my life. I’ve been a compulsive reader ever since I was a kid. Some of my favorite memories center on the mailman delivering my Disney reader books every month. Remember those little square, cardboard-cover books? Yeah, those. I still have all of mine, even the ones my evil little brother defaced with crayons. He almost had his eyebrows shaved for that one. If only Mom hadn’t caught me with the straight razor… There’s still time, though.

When I entered elementary school, I was exposed to the Serendipity books. They were a huge turning point for me. It was like this creative switch was turned on in my brain and I fell in love with reading. It was then that I knew I wanted to write. I wanted to create stories that made people think and feel and get lost in the words. I was six.

As I got older, I continued to read. As a child, my absolute favorite book was Watership Down. I didn’t understand all of the social implications of the book, but the story was incredibly engaging and it made me think. I was nine when I first read it.

I also loved anything by Shel Silverstein, particularly A Light in the Attic. The man was a brilliant voice for children. One of the favorite things I have ever written is a silly poem. It won awards. It made me realize humor had to be part of my literary voice.

book with pages in shape of a heartIn college, I read romance. Lots and lots of romance. Anything I could get my hands on — historical, contemporary, paranormal. I realized that romance gave me an outlet to get lost in a world where the outcome was much more predictable than anything I was facing at the time. And, though predictable happy endings occurred, I never knew which path the author would take to get me there. Of course, my favorite book then was Outlander, though I know the author isn’t keen on having her book categorized as straight romance. That book taught me the value of complex world building and reader engagement.

In my thirties, I glommed onto paranormal romance like it was an illicit $5.99 drug. Yes, paperbacks were still $5.99. I read Kresley Cole, Larissa Ione, JR Ward and a few Sherrylin Kenyon. I found Nora Roberts’s different trilogies and ate up anything with recurring characters. I discovered I’m madly passionate about stories where I get to experience characters over and over. A main character in one book who cameos in the series? My favorite setup ever.

It wasn’t until my mid- to late-thirties that I discovered “good” erotica — stories with an actual plot that were sexy as hell. Thank you, Denise Rossetti and Robin Rotham. I discovered that closed-door sex scenes annoy the crap out of me and, therefore, have no place in my writing.

I entered my forties last January. I’ve discovered Gena Showalter. Why it took so long is beyond me, but it did. I’ve devoured everything of hers this summer. Her paranormal romances have indulged my love of world-building in a contemporary setting.

So many authors have had so much influence on my love of reading that it seems horribly unfair of me to limit myself to one favorite. In forty years, I’ve collected favorite books and favorite authors and favorite themes and favorite… You get the idea.

What about you? Are you able to identify one book that is, above all others, The One?

Series Love: Read, Relive, Rejoice

Sexy muscular man isolated on blackWell, my beloved MANhandlers, this week’s little bit o’ sexiness is here, ready for some serious appreciation. Gorgeous, isn’t he?

There is a simple truth in my life: I’m a literary series whore. Yes, yes. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I’m a total Alpha leader in the SLUT regime. (SLUT = Series Lovers Uniting Together). I read my first series in college and was hooked. The book? Outlander by the infamous Diana Gabaldon. Again, I know it’s shocking. I blame her for my series love, and rightly so.

Three of my favorite series of all times are Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld (LotU) and Larissa Ione’s Demonica and Lords of Deliverance series. Why? Recurring characters done well. When I get into a series, I’m almost obsessive compulsive about it. I have to real All the Books. But there are some series I just can’t get into. I won’t name names because it’s pointless — it’s just my taste and says nothing about the quality of the authors’ works. Knowing I’m going to get a little nutty about reading everything in a series (and in order, thanks), I tend to be a little snobbish about the series I pick up. But Gena and Larissa? Doesn’t matter what they write — I’ll read it. And if it’s in a series, new or old, I’m all over it.

Pile of books on a black backgroundThe greatest thrill for me in reading a series is meeting secondary characters who, at some point, get their own books. It’s like literary foreplay, isn’t it? Teasing and tempting and yet waiting for the big payoff? And when it gets there, and it’s done right, it’s so worth the wait! I typically go through and re-read the series when a new book is coming out, just so I’m emotionally connected to the players. It’s just my modus operandi. The appeal that a series is so well-written that I can read and re-read it and still receive ridiculous satisfaction? That’s a long-term love affair right there.

As for writing, I’ve found series flip my switch. I fall in love with the characters in a much more intimate way and want to play in their world agains. I love to create secondary characters readers want stories for (hello, Darius fans!). My aim is to scratch that itch at some point. Always.

I’m seriously interested in finding out whether or not I’m on a sparsely populated island of series lovers or if the world is rich with them. Give me a shout out and let me know what you think about the value of series. Cheers!

Muppet-flailing, Fangirling and Restraining Orders

Alright, my fellow MANhandlers. I searched through many files to bring you this week’s delightful pic. Too delish.

This blog cycle, we’re talking about the author we’ve always wanted to be. This is a hard one for me because there are a so many authors I I seriously admire. Picking one would be like trying to pick my favorite MANhandler pic. Can’t I just love them all? Okay, okay. Let me think…

It’s no secret that I love Diana Gabaldon with a crazy passion that probably alarmed her a little the first time I met her. I’m 6’1″ and a naturally exuberant person. She’s probably 5’3″ and incredibly soft-spoken and even a bit reserved. It’s impossible to be as tall as I am and not feel like I’m looming over such petite people. And then, when the conference coordinators have her seated to meet her fans, I have to either bend over to shake her hand or kneel in front of her. Of course I knelt. What did security think would happen? Yeesh. Anyway, Diana’s literary voice is rich and varied, and I’ve coveted the almost melodic “sound” of her storytelling since I read the first page of Outlander. I’d love to create the passion in readers that she’s cultivated over the last twenty years. I’d also like to find myself still writing after that long. Above all, I’d like to look back over the stories that will create my legacy and know I touched readers, gave them respite from the world’s demands if only for a while and helped them fall in love with my characters the way I have.

Another un-secret is my passion for absolutely anything written by Larissa Ione. When we started chatting on social media and privately, there was some very private Muppet-flailing and a few total fangirl moments. When she first emailed me? I may or may not have screamed, depending on your definition of “scream.” She’s been amazing to me, and I want to do the same for other authors who are finding their way through the difficult world of publishing. But back to the point of this paragraph — I’ve found that, the more I write, the harder it is for me to read. I can’t turn off my internal editor. It seems like I’m always rearranging scenes, catching typos, counting the “to be” verbs — all the things we authors aren’t supposed to do if we want to find success. With Larissa’s books, I get sucked into the vibrant world, the relationships, the (hawt) sex, the storylines. I admire her ability to write such clean, crisp stories. Her creativity is off the charts. The way she crafts her worlds and scenes engage every one of the readers senses. That, that, is what I want to look back and know I’ve done.

Finally? I have to be very frank and admit that I want to be me. What I spend my days doing is a total dream come true. There’s no way to describe the feeling of getting that first contract, landing a superstar agent, having your editor call you (insert your definition of “spastic” here), or finding out your book received an awesome review from Romantic Times magazine. All of these things and more have come to mean more to me than I can explain. I love what I do. I’m passionate about it. It’s everything I ever dreamed it would be. It’s also infinitely more difficult, unbelievably frustrating, guaranteed tear-inducing at times and worth every damn minute.

There’s no one author I want to be, but the two listed above are people whose talent, compassion and magic I admire and aspire to. If I could mash their skill together and mix it in a potion, I’d drink it right down. At the very least, I’d end up with a restraining order. At best? I’d be everything I want to be. Instead of scaring these two lovely ladies, I think I’ll just bust my ass and do my best to follow in their footsteps. It might take longer, but it’s the only way I want to get there. Plus I don’t have bail money.  😀

Who are the authors that inspire you? If you could be any author in the world for a day and experience what it’s like to have their skill, who would it be?

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