The Boys of Summer: Available again Monday Dec 21!

BoysofSummer[The]FSI’m very pleased to announce that the award-winning M/M romance, The Boys of Summer, will be re-released on Monday, December 21st, 2015!

This story, without a doubt a personal favorite of mine, also has the deepest emotional meaning for me. It’s the best story I’ve ever written, and yet it is also the one that probably the fewest people have heard of because it was my very first self-publishing effort, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. Therefore it is with great pleasure that I can say this revised version is a work I can truly be proud of.

 

I’ll be doing blog posts and giveaways in various places over the next couple of weeks, including a Twitter Takeover of the Dreamspinner Twitter account Tues, Dec 22 from 7-9 EST. Be sure to join me for some lighthearted chat about books, movies, heroes, and what makes us love them so much! I’ll be taking part in Divine Magazine.net’s 12 Days of Christmas celebration on Dec 18th (my post is here–be sure to stop in for my famous sausage ball recipe, as well as the giveaway!) and K-lee Klein’s marvelous 31 Days of Gratitude posts and giveaways and Aisling Mancy’s site on Dec 21st, as well as stopping by to visit with my good friend Anna Butler. So come join the fun and enter to win in one of the many on-going giveaways!

You can pre-order The Boys of Summer now from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance ebooks and many other third party vendors.

The Boys of Summer (novel) :

David McIntyre has been enjoying the heck out of his current assignment: touring the Hawaiian Islands in search of the ideal shooting locations for a series of film company projects. What’s not to like? Stunning scenery, great food, sunny beaches…and a secret crush on his hot, ex-Air Force pilot, Rick Sutton.

Everything changes when a tropical storm and engine failure force a crash landing on a deserted atoll with a WWII listening post. Rick’s injuries, and a lack of food and water, make rescue imperative, but it takes an intensely vivid dream about the war to make David see that Rick is more than just a pilot to him. Will David gather his courage to confess his feelings to Rick—before it’s too late? Finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. Nominated Best Historical in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards. Selected as a Best Read in 2013 by Jessewave and a Top Pick Read by The Romance Reviews. Winner of Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards.

On: Amazon. Barnes and Noble. All Romance e-books.

The Romance ReviewFinalistSMHonorableMentionSMBest_Historical.N (1)1st place

Walk a Mile is a finalist in the Rainbow Awards–and on sale!

WalkAMileGreat Scott! You could have knocked me over with a feather this morning when I received the email that Walk a Mile (Sixth Sense series Book 2) was a finalist in the 2015 Rainbow Awards! Believe me, I was tickled when it received an Honorable Mention, but I didn’t think it would progress any further in the awards than that. I almost didn’t even enter the awards this year because I wasn’t certain I had a worthy contender that qualified. I decided to enter in the end because all the proceeds go to charity, which just goes to show that we aren’t necessarily the best judge of our own material. 🙂

 

The awards are being announced tonight, and though I have no real hopes of winning–this is one of those situations in which it truly is an honor to be on the same list with such great stories–I can’t help but keep refreshing the page. However, the moderator is taking a break for a couple of hours and I’ve decided to just go to bed and see what the results are in the morning. 🙂 My congratulations go out to all the winners named thus far and the ones that will be announced shortly. Update: Walk a Mile came in 7th in the gay paranormal romance division–a delightful achievement–my thanks to everyone involved in the Rainbow Awards, and congratulations to the winners! A special thanks to the organizers of the awards, and the volunteers who helped make it possible. This year over $17,000 was raised for charity, donating to GLBTQ organizations!

The Boys of Summer400x600I’m also looking forward to the re-release of The Boys of Summer through Dreamspinner Press two weeks from today! This story is very dear to my heart and I hope that many new readers will discover it through DSP. There will be a book tour in January, with a chance to win an e-copy of this combination contemporary/WW2 historical story.

As part of K-lee Klein‘s 31 Days of Gratitude, I’ll be sharing with you a post about my own experimentation in practicing gratitude on a daily basis–and giving you another chance to win an e-copy of The Boys of Summer, as my post will go live Dec 21.

I’ll also be doing a Twitter Takeover of the Dreamspinner Twitter account on Dec 22, from 7-9 pm EST, so if you want to join me and chat about the upcoming Star Wars and Marvel Universe movies, hot pilots and the men who love them, what I’m working on next and where you might be able to meet up with me in person in 2016, then come join in the fun! There will be links to free stories, pics of hot heroes, and a good time will be had by all.

It’s not too late to go vote for your favorite author and stories in the 2015 Divine Magazine Awards. You might find my name there in a few places… *cough-cough* 🙂 I’ll also be taking part in Divine Magazine’s 12 Days of Christmas event, in which guest authors will be posting about what Christmas means to them, as well as offering terrific prizes in a Rafflecopter. Be sure to check it out! Among other things, I’ll be giving out the recipe for my ‘famous’ sausage balls. 🙂

UndertheMistletoe_DSPsiteAnd before I sign off the for the night, I must tell you that Dreamspinner Press is holding a 25% off sale on the entire story from Dec 8-11–which means you can grab any of my stories for a great price! Do check it out!

What are you waiting for? Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever holiday you celebrate at this time! 🙂

Today only: Unspeakable Words is free!

UnspeakableWordscoverWhat a whirlwind the last few weeks it has been! It seems like only a few days ago, I was saying, “Halloween already?” and now Thanksgiving has come and gone.

I have more to say on gratitude later, but I had to take a moment to get the word out: for today only, Unspeakable Words (Sixth Sense series Book 1) is FREE. That’s right, free! Snag a copyfree-sign from Dreamspinner Press until midnight tonight, EST. Even better, you can get the entire Sixth Sense series on sale until 11/30! Wait, not only the entire Sixth Sense series, but ALL my books are on sale! I know, right? That’s because Dreamspinner is having a 35% off sale  on the entire store until 11/30.15. In fact, you can even pre-order The Boys of Summer at the sale price (release date 12/21/15). So what are you waiting for? Go, shop, enjoy!

Have the Guts to Gut Your Story

frustrated-writerWell, it’s November, which means almost everyone I know is doing NaNoWrMo–the challenge to write a 50 K novel in 30 days. At least, it seems that everyone I know is doing it, based on the way my social media is exploding with word counts and updates, as well as posts on NaNo. Not me. I applaud anyone who does NaNo, I love the idea of having that network of support pushing you to write some every day. It *is* the best way to complete a story. But it doesn’t work for me. I don’t mean the part about working on your story a little bit every day–that is good advice and the best way I know to stay connected–and committed–to the story at hand. No, for me, the hard part about NaNo is the stricture that you not go back and self-edit, that you move ahead with the story as written each day. No massaging of text or tweaking the previously written material.

This is so much the antithesis of how I write that the one and only time I attempted NaNo, it sent me in to my first (and worst) case of writer’s block. NOT the intention of the challenge, I suspect. For me there’s a fine balance between moving forward and making sure your story has a strong enough foundation to support it.

Siege_of_Peking,_Boxer_RebellionThat’s the problem I’m having with my current WIP. I’m a good enough carpenter to know when something is off-kilter and out of balance, and yet I’ve been struggling for the better part of the last six months to make this story work as written because Jeez Louise, it’s sitting at 45 K, which means it’s halfway done. To stop now and have to go back to pull down walls because the floor isn’t level? Argh! Surely that can be overlooked, right? No one will notice. To say I’m at the halfway point is arbitrary anyway. There’s no set story-length. All those ‘rules’ of story-telling were created by the publishing industry in order to create a cost-effective and marketable printed book. All bets are off in the digital era, right? I don’t need your stinkin’ rules!

Um, no. It doesn’t quite work that way. In fact, the reason I’ve been struggling with this story for so long now is I can feel that the balance is off. I know in my gut that it’s wrong and I can’t keep forging ahead in the hope that it will somehow come out right in the end. In fact, the further out you go from a crooked starting point, the worse the deviation from the correct path becomes. And the last thing I want to do is pull down an entire house because there’s a serious crack in the foundation. Much better to solve the problem now, even if it means gutting a good bit of the existing work.

Yeah. Because I’m looking at having to cut about 15 K of extraneous story to get back to the structure of the thing and make it right. And ouch. That hurts. It hurts because some of those scenes are fun, and we all need fun in our lives. It hurts because we’ve been trained to think of word counts as the ultimate sign of a day’s progress, and yikes–this is like back-tracking several weeks for me.

But word counts are NOT the end-all and be-all of writing. To strain the metaphor further, at the end of the construction, what we want is a solid, sturdily-built house that will hold up for the next thirty or forty years–longer if we’re really lucky. And while the ‘rules’ of storytelling should be somewhat fluid, in that we shouldn’t wed ourselves to formulaic guidelines simply because that’s how it has always been done, most of us recognize when a story is off-balance. We know it because we read a LOT and we know what feels right. We know the difference between good storytelling and bad. You shouldn’t ignore that inner writer’s instinct that tells you when something isn’t working.

crumpleI’m not talking about that point in the story (and we all reach it) where you’re convinced you’re holding a sack of crap and nothing in the universe can transmute it into anything else. For me, that’s usually the 3/4 mark of any story, the point at which the writing becomes hard, when I’m certain I’m an idiot and there’s no hope for the story. No. I’m not talking about that. We need to learn our own writing cycles and when to ignore the routine run-of-the-mill crippling self-doubt. This is far more subtle. It’s sensing that an engine is running at less-than-optimum efficiency. It’s noticing that the floor is warped and things tend to roll to the right. It’s the certain knowledge that if you put a level to your story, the bubble wouldn’t be in the center.

A shoddy contractor would be tempted to hide this fact before it became apparent to everyone else. That’s a mistake. Because if it is apparent to you as the author, it sure as hell will be apparent to the reader. The longer you plug away at an inherently flawed story without fixing the underlying problem, the harder the edits will be too. And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with NaNo. Sometimes it’s smarter to stop what you’re doing and fix the problem before you cover it up with brilliant work that will only have to be torn down again. It’s easier to write a clean copy the first time than to repair a damaged one.

So don’t feel bad if NaNo is not for you. And don’t be afraid to follow your gut instincts and gut a story that isn’t working out. In the end, the revised story will be the better for your efforts. You’ll see.

In other news, Truth and Consequences was listed as an October Recommended Read by Prism Book Alliance, and there’s a giveaway going on at their page. Truth and Consequences has received stellar reviews from Rainbow Book Reviews and the Paranormal Romance Guild, among others, which just makes my heart sing.

Looking ahead to next month, The Boys of Summer will be re-released as a revised version Dec 21, so Merry Christmas to everyone!

 

Frenzied, Frazzled, but Still Having Fun: the Truth and Consequences Book Tour continues!

T&C spotlightI confess, I’ve fallen down on the job a bit here with the book tour… thankfully, the tour took a brief hiatus over the weekend, so perhaps I can catch up now!

Truth and Consequences is climbing the bestseller charts, and I’ve been delighted by its reception! Readers are emailing me, wanting to know more about the series and when they can expect the next installment–sadly, it will not be next week, as some people have hoped! 🙂 What I can tell you is that there will be more from Jerry Lee and John–and yes, we will be dealing with the Grimm Fairy Tale killer at long last–as well as John’s nemesis, who possesses the same powers he does, only he uses them for evil.

I also have plans to write more in the Crying for the Moon universe–Nick and Peter are begging for their backstory, and Viktor is not yet done with Alex and Tate, either! I’ve also got a Regency in the works, as well as contemporary romance set in the exciting world of sport horses and eventing–and in December, I’ll be re-releasing a revised version of The Boys of Summer! Such happy-making plans. The only problem is finding the time to write.

Branch ManagerThis past weekend was a good example. I trapped, neutered, and vaccinated the feral tom that has been hanging around picking fights with the other porch cats. The heavy rains and early leaf fall produced a bumper crop of mushrooms in the yard–and I caught one of the dogs eating a toxic Aminita species, so I had to induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal. I’m trying to sell a house, deal with an insurance claim, cover barn duty for friends out of town dealing with their own family crises, field emergency calls, and put in a full day’s work. I might have been a bit cranky last night when I finally got home!

Still, I’d rather have tons of ideas and little time to write than all the time in the word but I stared a blinking cursor, not knowing what to say next! So be patient with me–I’m writing as fast as I can! Hopefully you’ll get new stories to read in a timely fashion. The very fact people are excited about the next one coming out just makes my day. You guys rock!

Here’s my tour schedule if you’d like to join in and check out the fun! Be sure to enter the giveaway too!

Tour Dates & Stops:

14-Oct: VWFOhMy!, The Blogger Girls, MM Good Book Reviews

15-Oct: Jessie G. Books, Divine Magazine, Lee Brazil

16-Oct: Iyana Jenna, Three Books Over The Rainbow, KathyMac Reviews

19-Oct: Kimi-Chan, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

20-Oct: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat, Emotion in Motion, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves

21-Oct: Full Moon Dreaming, Happily Ever Chapter

22-Oct: The Hat Party, Bayou Book Junkie

23-Oct: Hearts on Fire, Love Bytes, My Fiction Nook

26-Oct: BFD Book Blog

27-Oct: Molly Lolly, Inked Rainbow Reads, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings 

Bicker versus Banter: Learn the Difference between True Love and a Hot Mess

chemistry“The main characters had no chemistry together.”

One of the most damning sentences that any creative artist can read in a review. I don’t care if you’re an author, or a scriptwriter, or a producer—the words make you cringe, and strike fear deep in your heart. Lack of chemistry between your lead characters can turn a potential blockbuster or bestseller into a mediocre mess. The opposite is true as well—if people like your leads and love the interaction between them, then they will forgive you just about everything. Plot holes the size of Detroit, incorrect grammar, inconsistent POV…none of it will matter to the reader who loves your characters. The majority of those enthralled readers simply will not see these problems in the first place.

I came across these words recently in reference to one of my stories, and I have to admit, I did a classic cartoon double-take when I saw them. Hey, my flaws as a writer are legion, but people usually like my characters!

How could they have no chemistry together? What about that scene in the basement, that fairly crackled with sexual tension? Or when they are pressed up against the wall—and they can hear someone else on the other side engaged in the same activity?

Granted, one person’s idea of smokin’ hot is another person’s idea of tame, so I usually take statements like this for what they are: one person’s opinion. But this time, I got to thinking about how someone could fail to see the unwilling attraction and heat between these two characters—and then it hit me.

They didn’t fight with each other.

They didn’t yell or throw things. They didn’t slam each other into the wall, or punch each other out. They didn’t say terrible, nasty things to each other. No whiskey bottles were shattered, there were no slamming doors, no one peeled out of the driveway with a squeal of burning rubber and a desire to do self-destructive things.

I find the idea that these things are necessary to show ‘chemistry’ a disturbing trend in romantic fiction. Now, mind you, I understand how difficult it is to tell a story without introducing conflict. It’s conflict that makes for drama, which engages the reader and draws them in. One of the hardest things any television show can do is successfully maintain audience interest once the UST been the lead characters has been resolved. I can only think of a handful of shows that did it well. Why? Because happy couples make for nice endings, not interesting story-telling.

But to me, there’s a big difference between bicker and banter. I’ve seen bickering couples in real life; they’re no fun to be around. Banter, on the other hand, sucks me in every time. Take Castle in the early seasons. Okay, pretty much an unbelievable premise. But because the dialog was so clever and because there was clearly chemistry between the characters, I suspended disbelief and fell in line whole-heartedly with the series.

There’s a scene where Castle and Beckett are standing in a hallway, about to knock on the door of a witness. As Beckett knocks, Castle says something about inspiration. Beckett glances at him with a sly smile and says, “I thought I was your inspiration, Castle.”

“You are, you are,” Castle hastens to assure her.

“Well be careful,” she says, still smiling slightly. “You might find that inspiration will strike you sooner than you think.”

It’s witty, and clever, and she is obviously teasing him, even as she is still being dismissive of his presence in her investigation. It was dialog like this that made me a Castle fan.

Banter is teasing. It can be exasperated, but it is seldom irritated. It’s a quick, snappy trade of one-liners that should have the reader following the thread of conversation like a sports fan at a tennis match. It can be slightly mean, but it is never angry or aggressive. It worries me that aggression is so often seen as attraction in fiction or entertainment. I don’t want to live my life like a soap opera, and my characters don’t want to love like that either.

What’s wrong with depicting healthy relationships?

Nothing, except from a writer’s perspective, it’s a heck of a lot harder. To me, it’s a bit of a cheat to make your characters angrily and abusively attracted to one another for the sake of dramatic effect unless you’ve laid out the background for why these people are so damaged in the first place. And then, if you want me to believe in their True Love at the end of your story, you have to show me that they’ve worked through these issues. You also have to show me why they are worth the effort. Telling me that they are so unbelievably hot doesn’t cut it.

south beach sunsetThere was an episode of CSI: Miami in which Joe Flanigan played an abusive boyfriend that was a suspect in a murder investigation. It turned out that his girlfriend was not the murder victim, and he was cleared to go. However, Horatio tried to convince the woman to press assault and battery charges against him. She refuses, looking doe-eyed and helpless as she walks over to Flanigan, where he is seated on a bench, wearing handcuffs.

Joe Flanigan is incredibly hot anyway, but in this role, with his smoldering anger and his three day stubble, he could have carried the part based on his looks alone. His character has beaten this woman, has threatened to kill her, but she won’t leave him. He’s good-looking enough that as an audience, we would have bought it right there. But when she sits down beside him, this man who’d frightened her so badly that she’d run away from him, turns to her and gently presses his lips against her bare shoulder. For the first time ever, I could understand how someone could stay in an abusive relationship. I got it. But only because Flanigan made me believe it.

But it was not a healthy relationship. It was clear from the start that Flanigan’s character was a bad guy, if not THE bad guy. Lest you think I’m not about Bad Boys, let me tell you, some of my favorite characters are Bad Boys. I adore the Tortured Hero. More than anything, I love watching his path to redemption through finding love with the right person.

And I don’t think fists need to fly for sparks to fly.

Bio: Sarah Madison is a writer with several cats, a large dog, an even larger horse, and a very patient boyfriend. She writes M/M erotic romances in her copious spare time and relies heavily on the smoke detector to tell her when dinner is ready.

Coming this fall, book 3 in the Sixth Sense series: Truth and Consequences.  Also, be on the lookout for the re-release of The Boys of Summer!

Suck It Up and Deal

HelpSometimes, like it or not, you just have to suck it up and deal.

I won’t kid you. The last couple of years have been fairly crappy for me. I’ve had to make some tough choices concerning my job, my writing, and my life in general. I’ve been battling low-level chronic health disorders, a bout of depression, and some serious financial woes. Every sacrifice I’ve made has been with the idea of making things better, of crawling out of that hole, of moving forward with life instead of just treading water.

2015 started out hopeful. My publisher, Dreamspinner Press, accepted the third book in the Sixth Sense series, Truth and Consequences, and not twenty minutes later, I received an email with generous offer to retool and re-release The Boys of Summer. For once, instead of chewing my nails while waiting to hear if my submitted manuscript was accepted, I’d decided to do the smart, adult writer-thing and had begun working on the next story right away. I’d been pleased with my writing progress on the new story when things in my life fell apart in a big way. To the point where friends began asking me if I was a serial killer in a previous life or if someone out there had a voodoo doll in my name, sticking pins into it. This is why I don’t believe in karma, to be honest. I know I don’t deserve any of this crap right now. There was a time, however, when I’d have wondered what I’d done to bring the wrath of the universe down on me.

Snow closeupI’m not going to bore you with all the multi-generational family stuff going on. Everyone has stuff like that going on in their lives. Nor all the animal health crises, of which there is always something when you have as many animals (especially as many geriatrics) as I do. The biggest problem, the one that outweighs all others, is that I’ve done a number on my shoulder. I probably have a torn rotator cuff, and let me tell you, I have never experienced so much pain in my entire life. Even with the ‘good’ drugs, I’ve lost ten pounds in the last couple of weeks. I’m waiting to get an MRI, but it’s very likely they will tell me I need surgery.

And I can’t do it. I just can’t. I live alone. I have big animals I take care of. Taking six weeks off from work isn’t an option, either. For days I stewed about the pain, and the possible need for surgery, and what would happen to me if I didn’t get surgery. I made my decision the other day: no matter what the MRI says, I will not pursue surgery at this time. Right now, I have about 40% use of my arm and I can deal with the pain fairly well until I try to sleep at night. I’ve got an elaborate system of pillows I use to prop the various parts, however, and I seem to have found a compromise I can live with. I’m functional enough that I can do my job. Each day I seem to be getting a tiny bit better, as long as I don’t overdo. I’ve come to terms with the decision, which has already meant missing one planned event and probably cancelling another one in July. I know, attending conventions is probably the last thing I should be worried about, but these are the bright spots in a rather grinding existence, so canceling them has been a downer. However, it is what it is. Suck it up and deal.

RockandSand pendant1A friend of mine sent me a pendant consisting of this tiny jar filled with sand and a small rock within. She pointed out that like the rock, I always rose to the surface no matter how much sand was dumped over me. It’s true, no matter how you turn the glass jar, the rock always breaks the surface of the sand. It’s kind of awesome having people who believe in you like that. Friends who have your back and help you out in so many ways. Asking for help is not easy for me. My friends make it easier to accept it when it’s offered. 🙂

The one thing I seem to still be struggling with is the story I’m working on. It’s not a particularly happy story, and the characters have to work through some hard stuff. I find that I’m just not in the headspace to work on it right now. In fact, I sort of loathe it. Writing it is like pulling teeth. I decided the other evening that it wasn’t the story I should be working on at the moment. I needed to write something I enjoyed while I was sucking it up and dealing. I think that’s only fair, right?

So I’ve set aside the contemplative and angsty story I’ve been working on these last few months and have started a project I’ve been putting off for the last couple of years. I’ve been putting it off because I was afraid of not getting it right, of screwing it up. Truth be told, I’ve been holding this project in reserve as a kind of trump card, and have been afraid it wouldn’t live up to the test. As long as I didn’t play it, I could tell myself it was going to save my butt one day. Playing it, and discovering that it wasn’t as good a card as I’d hoped, was a reality I didn’t want to face. But a trump card never played ceases to have any value. So there you are. I’m setting aside a project that holds no appeal for me at the moment in order to play with one that does. It might be a dismal failure. But at least I will enjoy the process, and right now, I need a little something to enjoy in my life. The story is a totally different direction for me–but I think that’s exactly what I need.

Mountain Laurel

 

 

Why Peggy Carter resonates with so many women today

Value2Anyone who knows me even slightly knows I am a HUGE fan of Peggy Carter. Captain America: The First Avenger is one of my favorite movies, in part because I adored Peggy Carter in it. (I also might have a thing for the time period, seeing as I wrote The Boys of Summer 🙂 ) I’ve written about why I think Steve Rogers is the kind of hero we need, and I’ve written a little about my adventures in cosplaying Carter. I’m obsessed in the way only a fangirl can be. If you search this website for references to Peggy Carter, you’ll see what I mean.

Ever since Captain America:TFA came out, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing what would happen to characters like these after the war. After their brilliant, adrenaline-driven careers were no longer necessary, and they had to meld into suburban America. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a series under the pen name Madison Dean, a kind of X-Files meets Ward and June Cleaver. I thought it would be fun, and I was enjoying the research for it. Then Agent Carter came out, and I realized that I’m going to have to change much of how I envisioned my original characters in order to prevent it from feeling derivative.

Besame 1940 PerfumeYou know what? I don’t care. Because I enjoyed Agent Carter as a television show so much, it doesn’t bother me that it might have shot down my brilliant idea for a romantic adventure series. I enjoyed it so much, it even knocked Queen Elsa off the throne for my current fangirl obsession. (Lord knows, I’ve posted a lot about Frozen, too! You should do a site search on that one if you want to read them all…)

Yesterday, I got a text from a friend off at Emerald City Comic Con, saying she had a surprise for me. Now, I’ve been running on fumes this last week, dealing with an injured horse needing round-the-clock treatment in an effort to save his eye. So when I got her text, it piqued my curiosity but I’d forgotten where she’d gone this weekend. Then she sent me a photo of my surprise: an autograph from Hayley Atwell! Those high-pitched dolphin squeals of glee you heard around the world yesterday? Yeah, that was me.

I showed the image to the BF last night at dinner, and he said he’d been looking for some sort of Agent Carter-related thing to get me ever since the series came out, but he’d had trouble finding anything he liked. Which gave me the warm fuzzies, you know? We watched Agent Carter together each week when it was on–it was our one Must See Live television show, and I believe he looked forward to it almost as much as me (given the amount of teasing I got, I’m sure of it!). The fact that he’s been looking for something Carter-related as a gift shows he *gets* me.

Besame Red VelvetWhich got me thinking this morning, why Peggy Carter? Why not Black Widow, or Wonder Woman, or Kate Beckett, or Brenda Leigh Johnson, or any of a number of excellent female characters over the years? What is it about Peggy that strikes such a chord? Why did Twitter explode with live tweeting during Agent Carter? It’s not just because Hayley Atwell is adorable (have you seen the pictures she posts of her sleeping almost anywhere on almost anything? The one of her in the suitcase is my favorite) but because Peggy Carter herself really struck a cord with a lot of viewers.

For a heroine, she’s super-feminine in a way that is disarming. She’s not in a catsuit. She doesn’t look like she could break your nose with her elbow, despite the fact she can. She is under-appreciated at work, and her male superiors dismiss her abilities while at the same time take advantage of them. I love the fact that she anticipates the mission’s needs and has the information ready to provide before her bosses can even ask for it. I confess, I was disconcerted by the scene where she takes a male co-worker to task for standing up for her–I thought she should have rewarded him for being progressive, after all! But I realized that she dressed him down for intervening because no one should have to intervene on her behalf. To have a man back her in that scenario meant that her presence and usefulness was only allowed if validated by a male co-worker. It was an interesting distinction to make, and one far more subtle than the average comic-book show.

Cinnamon Sweet resizedBut she can ditch the feminine look to get dirty in the trenches. She can knock back Scotch with the best of her male companions, the ones who know her true value and don’t question what she brings to the team. Her hand shakes when she diffuses a bomb. She’s known heartbreak, and personal loss. She’s made mistakes, ones that have gotten people killed, and she’s suffered the guilt, as well as the consequences of her actions. She eats out at restaurants a lot, because seriously, when does she have time to cook? She curses when she hits her head. She is tempted by the luxury of staying a night in Howard Stark’s townhouse, so far removed from a life sharing flats with other women. She is wonderfully realized as a character. She is human. And she is a damn sight closer to most of us than the average role model we see on screen.

One of the best moments in the series is depicted on the mug above: Peggy states clearly that she doesn’t need outside validation to know her worth. She doesn’t expect it. She’s learned to live without it. She’s learned that the only person she mustn’t disappoint is herself. Praise from others is nice, but she doesn’t need it to know she’s done her best.

Forites shoes 1That is a wonderful, amazing, empowering mindset. Seriously, it is everything we could ever hope for in a role model. No, we’re not going to be able to take out bad guys with a mean right hook, but we can look smashing while we go about our business, do our jobs to the very best of our abilities, and we can hold our heads–and our standards–high when the rest of the world would put us down. Without whining.

I sincerely hope Marvel and ABC decide to renew the series for another season. It was by far the best thing I’ve seen on television in years. We need more female characters like this in television, movies, and books. And she’s inspired me to create some of my own.

A friend, knowing my obsession, linked me to this wonderful, amazing essay on Agent Carter and the power of friendship. Do check it out. You won’t be sorry. 🙂

 

Fabulous Five Blog Post: What’s Your Writing Style?

I was invited by Anne Barwell to take place in the Fabulous Five Author Blog Hop. The idea is that we answer a specific set of questions and tag five more authors to do the same. The hardest part of the challenge has been finding someone who isn’t already doing this! The best part, however, has been reading what everyone is working on and what their writing process is like. So here I go!

UnspeakableWordscover1. What am I working on?

Hah, this might as well read ‘what should you be working on?’ I’ve just finished the sequel to my FBI/paranormal story Unspeakable Words. Walk a Mile will be coming out with Dreamspinner Press in early October. I’ve started the sequel to that story as well, tentatively titled Truth and Consequences, because I left things on a bit of a cliff-hanger and I didn’t want my audience to suffer too long! I had a good session with my critique group today, and realized that I’m going to have to separate my plot lines and go for a fourth story in the series—there’s just too much going on to wrap it up in three books! I’ve just finished the galley proofs on Walk a Mile, and am anxiously anticipating the cover reveal. You know how it is with covers: it’s like finding out the sex of your unborn baby. You’ll love your child no matter what, but you want to know, right? I’ll be sharing the cover just as soon as I get it, believe me!

I recently had a short story published as part of The Not Quite Shakespeare Anthology, also from Dreamspinner. I also have several WIPs that need some serious attention—the kind where you evaluate the story and decide if it is dead in the water or simply needs more time to simmer. 🙂 I have a contemporary story that deals with the difficult topic of job burnout and depression, and another that’s a Regency romp. I want to get back to writing some science fiction as well.

I am seriously considering stepping a toe in to the traditional romance market, so I’ve been doing a lot of reading as a result. To be honest, I’m not sure I can write a heroine for a traditional romance story. I suspect when I launch the Madison Dean line of stories, I’ll be writing the same kind of quirky, non-traditional main characters, mixing a little humor, a little drama, some hot, sexy times, and a touch of paranormal activity together into story that’s a little bit out there. I have plans for a new series of stories set in the 1950s, in which my main characters are undercover agents investigating paranormal events in a small Southern town. Think of it as Ward and June Cleaver meets Area 51. 🙂 I’m excited about the idea of centering a heroine in the post-WW2 era. She’s come back from the war in which she’s done exciting, dangerous things, and is expected just to re-assimilate her life as a 50’s homemaker. Her partner, paired with her because he is the science to her soldier, has secrets of his own, one of which is that he took a pilot as a lover during the war. Writing M/F romance is a big departure for me, as Sarah Madison writes almost exclusively in the M/M romance genre. This is important to me, however. These are stories I want to tell.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Boys of Summer400x600I frequently describe my stories as being ‘romances with a twist’. I find odd things interesting. I spend most of my time running around thinking, ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…?’ What that means is that you’ll seldom find a straightforward romance among my stories. As you can see from above, I describe Unspeakable Words as a ‘FBI/paranormal story’. The Boys of Summer is a contemporary story, but it has a long historical sequence within it. Crying for the Moon is about a vampire who wants to live a ‘normal’ life. The fun of writing for me is to create a set of characters and put them in a crucible of sorts–to put them in hot water and see how strong they are. It may be an odd confession for a romance writer, but romance in and of itself is not the driving force behind my stories. I’m interested in the characters and how they interact. Falling in love is icing on the cake. I wouldn’t want to eat just the frosting, though, would you? There has to be some tart to balance all the sweet.

3. Why do I write what I do?

108267663_8Whew-boy. That’s a tough one. I wish I knew. I write stories that appeal to me. I’m aware they don’t work for everyone. Sometimes I wish my own thought processes were a little more mainstream.:-) I’m aware that I’m your basic mid-list author and that I will never rise to NYT bestseller status. The idea of writing outside the M/M genre is stemming from a desire to try my hand at something new, but also because I like the idea of challenging myself to create a heroine I can admire. One that goes against some of the common tropes. One of the reasons I enjoying writing M/M romance is because there is something incredibly liberating about writing from a male point of view. I love the fact that when two male characters come together in a romance, they meet on equal terms. No one is dominant or submissive to the needs of the other (unless that is part of the story). They each bring different things to the table. They each take turns rescuing or being the one needing to be rescued. The best part? While I may be called upon to defend my right as a straight woman to write M/M romance, I’ve never been taken to task for the portrayal of the characters themselves.

I *adore* strong female characters. Give me the Zoe from Firefly, or Peggy Carter from Captain America, or Kate Beckett from Castle. Creating a heroine of my own that I like and respect will be tricky, though. Heroines seem to come in for a lot more criticism than heroes. If she stands up for herself, she’s a bitch. If she is vulnerable, she’s weak. If she sleeps with the hero without a major show of reluctance and some resistance that needs to be broken down, she’s a slut. If she doesn’t sleep with the hero at all, she’s a tease. I think it is very difficult to write a three dimensional female character without inviting the world to heap coals of fire on her head for failing to meet the mythical standard of womanly perfection. You know that cell they had you study in biology class? With the nucleolus and the ribosomes and the Golgi bodies? Do you remember that in the fine print, the textbook said that no cell contained all the parts we were studying? They just put them all in this one imaginary cell so that you could learn all the different parts possible in a cell.

That’s how it is with heroines. It is ridiculous to assume they will contain ALL the possible characteristics that go into making the perfect heroine. No matter how you create her, someone’s going to hate what you’ve done. That’s okay. As long as I love her, I won’t mind.

So yeah. There are days when I dream of writing a ridiculously runaway bestseller like 50 Shades of Gray. Sadly, that kind of story doesn’t interest me as a reader or a writer. I’d die happy if I created a series heroine I adored, though.

Black ShoesAnd I love shoes. 🙂 So, creating my own kick-ass heroine makes sense, right? I can give her the impeccable style I don’t have.

4. How does my writing process work?

Well, it usually starts with a ‘what if’ idea. What if rooftop gargoyles came to life every night? What if they were fascinated by humans, read their books, observed their activities? Or what if a vampire decided to shun his old existence and attempt to live life as a moral? What if a hard-ass FBI agent accidentally touched an artifact and developed paranormal powers? I LOVE ‘what if’ questions. They take my mind on a wild journey where improbable dangers and cheesily romantic things happen. I play around with these ideas for a while, daydreaming over chores or before I drift off to sleep at night. Eventually the characters take form and I tone down the more ludicrous aspects of my fantasy. And lo, a story is born. 🙂

So there you have it! Now I’m going to some fabulous authors to answer the same questions next week on their own blogs and tag more authors themselves. And so on, and so on. Sometime during the first week of September, check out the blogs of Raine O’Tierney, Whitley Gray, Elizabeth Noble, and Eden Winters–and find out who they are tagging, too!

The Sound of My People: The Equal Rights Blog Hop

equal_rights_blog_hop_buttonWelcome to the Equal Rights Blog Hop! Each year, members of the the GLBTQ community and their supporters gather to celebrate the battle for equal rights. This year, thirty different authors have joined in the hop, and there are prizes galore! Be sure to check out the entire prize list at Queertown Abbey and see how you can enter to win the rafflecopter–as well as the Master List of Participating Authors.

Last year at my annual weekend gathering of fandom friends, where we meet up to stuff ourselves silly with each others best recipes and stay up until all hours talking about our fandom loves, there was a moment when all of us were busy on our laptops checking our emails, updating our status, or working on stories. The only sound in the room was the clattering of keys. One of my friends looked up and said with a happy sigh, “Ah, the sound of my people.”

We all laughed, and it has become a catch-phrase for us ever since.

You know what she meant, though. It’s true, as a species, we like to say ‘us, not them’ and form communities while at the same time, shutting some people out. The very thing that makes us recognize ‘alike’ makes us suspicious and leery of ‘other’. That need to separate people into tribes, into ‘us vs. them’ can be both a good and a bad thing.

This post was supposed to be about my first experience with the GLBTQ community, and I’d originally planned a nice sweet little blog post about how I did a lot of theater in high school and how my friends were neither my gay nor straight friends but my theater friends. I didn’t identify them as to their sexual orientation. It wasn’t a big deal. Ricky was the one who could hold a note for 16 bars without taking a breath. Amy was the one who made me laugh. Tom was the one I had a mad crush on, despite my friends telling me I couldn’t have a crush on him–and I knew it would never work, but I had a thing for talent, you see. Yeah, short and sweet, that was going to be my original post.

Then the whole thing with SCOTUS and their ruling on the Hobby Lobby case came down, and I have to tell you, I was both stunned and appalled. I’ve spent most of the week being seriously pissed. I’m sure I’ve annoyed and alienated many of my friends (and potential readers, too) with how angry I’ve been. I posted about it yesterday, as a matter of fact, and why I believe that the only thing that scares the GOP more than the mythical ‘gay agenda’ is the single, independent woman.

But here’s the thing. Almost every one of my GLBTQ friends have been just as upset, vocal, and angry by this ruling as I am–and for many of them, it has no direct bearing on them and their lifestyle. They resent it, however, for what it represents: discrimination on the part of one group of people against another group of people based on religious, economic, and political beliefs. They resent it in the same way that I resent seeing states pass laws banning equal marriage rights, or allowing discriminatory hiring/firing practices. Because it is wrong. Because no one group should be able to impose their will on others to this degree. All those times I stood up and cheered for my friends finally getting married, or I voted for someone who vowed to stand up for civil liberties across the board, or I fought to see some measure passed that would protect my friends? Well, yeah, they’ve got my back, too. And that, my friends, is what community is all about. I love you guys. 🙂

If you enter the Rafflecopter, you’re entered to win an e-copy of my award-winning novel, The Boys of Summer. I have a short story out in the newly released Not Quite Shakespeare anthology from Dreamspinner Press, and will be releasing Walk a Mile, the sequel to Unspeakable Words, in Sept/Oct 2014. Good luck, and happy hopping!