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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Just Add Water...INSTA-LOVE...!

 Only true love is love at first sight; second sight dispels it.
---- Israel Zangwill

One of the most common foul words in the world of romance book reviews. Insta-Love. Yet, no matter how many times the concept gets zapped in a review, it just keeps thriving. And thriving. 

I've been knuckle-knocked for it myself. You probably have, too, at one time or another. The comments, you know them well...Loved the characters, hated the insta-love. Insta-love, not my cup o' tea. Ugh. Inta-Love. Sorry, just could not buy the insta-love. Insta-Love did not work for me. 

So what is it about this thing called Insta-Love? The old proverbial sweeping one off their feet? The love at firs sight? The it was meant to be idea of romance? Fate. Eyes locking and the knowing two characters were made for each other? 

And why is it such a thorn in the side of romance readers? Please know I'm not criticizing this dislike for the "I" word. In fact, I heed the warnings enough that I try, really try hard, not to incorporate it into my own fictional romances. 

I try. 

But...but...sometimes...just sometimes, you know...it just feels so damn right to let our characters fall victim to that fire-cracker-sparkling-blinded-by-love type of relationship. Oh, who am I kidding? We don't let our characters do anything. They call the shots. And, gosh darn it, thy just sometimes do those crazy things. 

Okay...take good ol' Romeo and Juliet. 

 Romeo and Juliet

I ask you. How many folks have snapped these two kids over the heads for falling prey to the old monster of romance, the big bad wolf of fiction----insta-love? We bought their profession of instant attraction, fated love, a glance across a room that was so strong it drove them to defy their families and die beside each other. 

What about real-life falling head over heels the minute you look into their eyes?

 Singer Edith Piaf and Marcel Cerdan

French singer Edith Piaf met married prizefighter Marcel Cerdan and...yes...she went and did it. She said she knew she would love him, she knew he was going to be the love of her life. By looking into his eyes. And---this is a true story, remember---she was right. Until his early tragic death in an airplane crash, theirs was an affair that only few of us every experience in its passion.  

 One of my favorite contemporary examples of love at first sight is the film, Sleepless in Seattle.

 Sleepless in Seattle

I believed that you just...know theme of the film with all my heart. I believe that concept with all my heart.

Yes, then, I confess. I believe in insta-love. I even find myself, like I said, writing it. 

But---in all fairness---let me explain why this falling head over heels overnight philosophy sometimes does not work in romance fiction. For me, anyway. 

It all boils down to one thing. One huge thing.   


And just how does that huge thing---this believability---come about? 

It all starts with the characters. Getting the reader to invest in them, to believe in them, to feel they are real.  

If you think about it, believability in characters is pretty much the very delicate but very crucial denominator in getting a reader to believe insta-love can really happen. 

Fleshing out the characters. Painting life and breath into them. Projecting their souls so vividly that I believe anything they do. Letting me know their hearts and souls to back up the preposterous.  

One of the most common wishes among readers---and I feel a viable one---is the desire to feel what one character feels for another. You see, I feel in my heart that the insta-love complaint isn't necessarily one of the concept itself. Because everyone knows---it does happen. And it happens often. 

The complaint is often one of non-dimensional characters. Void of life, spirit, color, emotion. I, as a reader, long to see the emotions in a character. If I'm allowed to get to know him intimately---through whatever way the author chooses to portray him to me---I'll pretty much buy anything the author tells me about him/her. I'll believe he fell in love with just one glance. I'll believe, like Romeo and Juliet, that a pair of kids could fall so deeply, so quickly in love and that their love was so consuming it drove them to rebel against their families. 

Believability.  Draw those characters so true, so deep, that I feel as though I am them. Let me inside them, let me look at the world from their eyes and hearts. 

If you do, then I'll buy pretty much anything you throw at me. Because by doing that, you've made me feel as though I'm part of them. And if I feel that close, I'll know why they do what they do. I'll feel exactly what they feel, insta-love and all. 

Yes, much of the time love takes longer to develop. And---if that is what's to be between two characters---then that's just the way it is for them. 

Either way. If the MC's fall head over heels with one touch, one lock of the eyes, I will embrace it if I can feel it, too. Don't just let me see what they see in each other. Let...me...FEEL it. 

Oh, hey. I almost forgot.

This is kind of a celebration for me today. I finally, finally, finally bought a Kindle. Only thing is, I feel the big step----the FIRST book---of my brand new Kindle is a big deal. What the hell book do I buy for that first download? 


Would you like to help me decide? 

Here' what I'd love. Comment and suggest a book for me, for my very first bought book on Kindle. 

Not just ANY book. Nope. I want a...yes, you guessed it...a suggestion of what YOU think is the best Insta-Love Romance you ever read. 

And, yes, if you're an author, tell me what YOUR best insta-love romance is. A reader? Who wrote YOUR favorite?

I'll have a drawing later in the week and I'll buy whichever book that is randomly chosen. 

And YOU---YOU---for being the person who helps me to christen my new Kindle---will get to buy some books of your own with a $25.00 Amazon gift card.


C'mon. Put your book lover mind to work and help me find a delicious Insta-Love Romance!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder...

Do everything in love.  ---1 Corinthians 16:14

 A few weeks ago, I ran into my former pastor in Walmart. I ran into him often there, as well as other members of the church I used to attend. 

He asked his usual question: Are you attending church anywhere?

You know what? In the past, when he asked me this, I stammered, blushed and could not look him in the face when I answered, "Not yet."

The truth? I wasn't looking for a church to attend. I had spent five years in this particular church and, after all that time, never felt welcome. Hey, I felt that, after that long, I ought to have felt comfortable, a part of the church family. But I did not. 

This time, when confronted with his query, I---from somewhere inside me---just smiled and said with no shame, "No, sir, I'm not." 

He just smiled and shook his head. But he didn't seem---as I'd expected---judgmental. Just smiled. 

Want to know what finally gave me courage, backbone, to face him without shame? 

I'd written a book. The book is now published, and it's titled Glory Lands.

I'm proud of this book. 

And I'm not incorporating a buy link, because I'm not here selling it, but facing why I wrote it. 

This book, in a way so powerful that no one but me could ever know intimately, freed me of years and years of perceptions of what is 'godly', what a minster is, what his job is, how much of an impact he /she should have on my life.

I'd been raised in a religious community. Southern Baptist. Thou shalt not drink. Thou shalt not dance. Thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not. But thou shall judge thy neighbor, even though the good book says thou shall not.

I'd spent years where every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday were spent in church. And that didn't include Vacation Bible School and church camp. Round-the-clock church in which the Sabbath was round-the-clock, 24/7. 

It would be so damn easy for me to judge ministers, given all the force-fed religion. Every book I read, every single book, represents ministers as evil, all of them hating and judging, everyone of them hating homosexuals, everyone of them condemning divorced folks, everyone of them denouncing alcohol, denouncing everything. Especially Southern preachers.

But, even with all my religious upbringing, I still recalled so clearly many men who were ministers of the gospel---ministers of many different denominations---who were so far removed from this stereotype that I felt a need to present a portrait of a man who was such a pastor.

And he was my character, Pastor Charles Haddon Logan in Glory Lands

I'd read one too many books of preachers as the ultimate bad guy in the big scheme of things when homosexuality was involved. All presented as devils, as scripture-spewing monsters who condemned all gays to hell. 

Then I thought of my mother. 

A beautiful woman, an image of what a Christian ought to be. A woman who never taught me that folks came in different colors, they didn't come in different genders or religions. They were just folks and they were to be respected----all of them---by me. 

This wonderful woman, my mother, was an 'outcast' from the religious community, our church, when I was growing up. Because she smoked. Yes, she was one of those women. And yet she was and is---to this day---one of the most beautiful models of love and grace and a true non-judgmental spirit. 

And get this. Of all the folks at this church who condemned her...oddly, beautifully, the minister did not. No, he did not. He treated her equally, he saw the soul of her, not what she did outwardly. He respected her. In his mind, her smoking was a far lesser evil than the gossip of the people who pointed fingers at her. 

This man was a true minister. 

I chose to write Glory Lands after hearing a first-hand account of an incident that had taken place years ago in a rural east Texas community. A cold-blooded act committed by a sheriff in the town. I wondered what a man with so much prejudice would do if he encountered homosexuality in his town. And, using this man from real life (name, town, year changed), my story was born.

But what if this man of prejudice met head-on with a pastor? A man of the ministry who had always felt so secure in his beliefs? A man who not only taught love every day, but was now forced----upon the threat of losing his son, who was a homosexual---to back up what he preached? 

The writing of this book was a necessity for me. To answer so many questions in my head. To teach me that religion isn't bad. Religion has some bad folks in it, just like everywhere else. That all folks who call themselves Christians aren't monsters who hate everyone. That love and faith are not within walls of any building, but in hearts. That true faith, although many through the years have turned the very name into a mockery, can be a loving thing. 

The book was for my mother. For me. For ministers like Charles who get a bad wrap and get thrown into the mix with 'men of God' who really are prejudice and who really do condemn folks for their sexuality or race. This book was for preachers who are forced to see themselves painted in fiction as caricatures of evil. For men who just happen to minister but really, really do embrace love for all mankind. Who really do believe in equality. 

Men like my Pastor Charles. (who, for some reason, was always Clive Owen in my head...lol). 

I had to come to terms with myself while writing this book because, while I can't stand to see judgmental folks lump everything 'different' into a melting pot of things they can't tolerate----I realized I was doing the same thing by condemning all ministers just because they were...ministers. 

And, having written this book, I was somehow freed from that embarrassment at having to admit to my former pastor that---no----I did not attend church anywhere at this moment. I was liberated from that feeling that I was not a 'good' person because I didn't sit in a pew on Sunday mornings. 

Having searched my soul to write this book, I came to terms with a lot of things. And---although I don't practice religion in an organized congregation, and although I might do lots of things that some would consider sins---I feel that, if there really is a role and it really is called up yonder someday, I figure I'm as worthy to be called up as anyone else.