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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?

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?

Hot to the Third Power

For my fellow MANhandlers, I offer the following deliciousness:  MANhandler

Today’s post is about our favorite love scene…specifically, mine. This topic actually made me squirm in my seat because I’m a little shy, believe it or not. 🙂  So I’m going to dive in and just get the blushing over with.

I have two and a half favorites, actually. The first one is, predictably, from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. It’s the first time Jamie and Claire have sex, and it just kills me every time I read it. He’s a virgin. Everything that leads up to this moment lets your know how important it is to him and how awkward it is for her. They talk, marking the time passing by a ringed candle (one ring burned away for each hour). Then Jamie begins to touch her. He talks about gentling her, not sure what he’s supposed to do. It’s the sweetest love scene. It’s poignant in a way that, knowing their story, just kills me.

The “half” is actually from the same story. Jamie and Claire are in an underground cavern with a pool, sort of a warm spring. They’re rediscovering each other, finding their way back to what they were. I absolutely love, love, love Diana’s description of this love scene. It’s passionate and emotionally deep. The connection is so far from physical. I absolutely get chills thinking about it. If you haven’t read this book, go forth and do so. Now.

Alright. Here’s the other favorite. It’s hands down my very favorite erotic scene in the entire world. Ever. Without exception. It’s written by Denise Rossetti. The book? Gift of the Goddess (Phoenix Rising, Book One)The main hero, Brin…just thinking about him makes the seams of my jammies begin to unravel. He’s hawt to the millionth degree, folks. I’m talking spontaneous-panty-combusting hawt. He’s absolutely everything that flips my switch, from alpha to compassionate to smart to self-sacrificing. I want to eat him up, one slow bite at a time. So which scene is my favorite? I’m going to be honest and tell you that if he’s in the scene, it’s my favorite. I’ve never been a fan of straight fantasy (which this book is), but this book made me learn to look twice.

Brin is a shaman of Lufra’s, the goddess of pleasure (basic summary). He’s been trained to pleasure a woman beyond her wildest dreams, and he’s really, really…gifted. (fans self) I’d offer myself up as a sacrifice. Let’s just leave it at that.

If you haven’t read either of these books, you should give them a shot. I love them both for entirely different reasons.

What’s your favorite love scene? Is it passionate or emotional? Subtle or graphic? In one book or ten? I love to hear from readers, so feel free to chime in!

Sassenachs and Ruddadills

Yummy KiltFor all my MANhandlers, today’s picture is a .gif taken from Google images. Given my penchant for men in kilts, particularly with Doc Marten’s (or, in this case, work boots), I thought this was totally appropriate. I want under his man-skirt in a bad way. LOL

Today’s blog topic is about favorite literary classics, past or present. I have to admit that my mind immediately went to Diana Gabaldon. There is no other book that moves me quite like Outlander. That this is the novel’s 20th anniversary only makes this blog post sweeter from me. I love all of the books that follow Outlander, provided they have Jamie Fraser in them, though Outlander will always be the first thing to cross my mind when someone asks me to name my favorite book. It was like losing my literary virginity in so many ways — thrilling, poignant, slightly painful, something worth doing sober and definitely worth the wait.

Diana’s tale covers Claire Randall, a Sassenach (foreigner) and nurse who served in World War II, who has just reunited with her husband in Scotland after (essentially) a seven year separation. Through an innocent turn of events, she passes through Craigh na Dun, a small standing stone circle and ends up in 1743. She’s subjected to a series of events that result in her marrying Jamie Fraser out of necessity despite the fact she’s still married to Frank Randall in 1947. She struggles with the morality of it, but she and Jamie ultimately fall in love. Real love. That kind of love that transcends time, space, distance, separation and the worst mankind can do to one another. Their love is rich and bitter and sweet, so real that I still get swept up in the tale every time I read it.

What is it about Diana Gabaldon that makes her writing so off-the-chain crazy good? It’s her ability to deal in human emotions, wrapping the story with actual significant historical events (i.e. the Scottish Uprising with the Bonnie Prince Charlie). There’s intrigue, family dynamics, politics, murder and more. I’m getting pulled into the memory of the story just writing this. I can see a re-read coming on. They’re going to make a mini-series out of the novel. The cable channel, Starz, has purchased the rights. I hope like mad they don’t screw it up. I haven’t decided if I’ll watch it or not. I don’t want it to ruin the images I have in my head of what the characters look like, Jamie Fraser in particular. Sometimes the classics should just be left alone.

My other favorite story is Watership Down. I first read this story in 5th grade. Yes, 5th grade. I had an amazingly gifted English teacher. While I didn’t understand the political position of the novel for years, this novel cemented my desire to write, particularly in worlds that parallel our own. The story covers a warren of rabbits who are driven from their home and forced to relocate to a safer place. There are dangers at every turn. “Ruddadills” (sp?) were cars. I remember the terror of having to cross the highway with the rabbits. I remember the emotions evoked in this tale of resettlement and the struggle to survive. That such a novel would stick with me for thirty years, that it would be one I can re-read even now and pick up new nuances, still amazes me. Ironically, this novel was made into a movie. It can’t hold a candle to the book.

Both books are classics, though very different. It strikes me now, as I write, that both deal in love and loss and political unrest. Strange that they both appeal to me so much and for such disparate and similar reasons. I’m off to ponder this, take a deeper look at meanings and messages and such.

Drop me a line and let me know what your favorite novel(s) is/are. I’m always on the lookout to find “new” classics. And what better place to get a recommended read than from a reader?

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