Monday Mayhem – Our heroines

Most women share a common source when it comes to learning what it means to be a woman – our mothers. In some cases, we learn by example; in others, we get a cautionary tale. But all in all, I don’t think there’s anyone who has more of an impact on how we are shaped than our mothers.

I look like my father. Same eyes, nose, chin, and mouth. Same sinuses. (Thanks, Daddy.) Robert E. used to like to say I was created in his image. But there were times when he’d look at me, shake his head, and say, “How can anyone who looks so much like me, act so much like her?” My mother and I shared the same sort of no BS, straight-to-the point attitude toward life. And we weren’t shy about expressing our opinions – popular or not.

Last February, one of my best friends and I lost our mothers within days of one another. Julie’s loss of her mother, Joyce, was shocking and untimely.

Julie and her mom were best friends. They told one another everything, hung out like girlfriends, and were squarely by each other’s side at every twist and turn. They were pals. Just like Lorelai and Rory…the early days.

Wind Beneath My Wings

After suffering debilitating strokes and all the accompanying complications, my mother’s passing was one of those heart-breaking blessings.

Suzanne and I were not like Julie and Joyce, or even Lorelai and Rory. There was definitely more of an Emily and Lorelai vibe, minus the overt animosity.

We didn’t talk about anything personal, if we could help it. But that didn’t mean we didn’t love each other. In a weird way, it was just the opposite. Mostly we kept quiet to protect one another from being confronted with things we did not need or want to know. Things that would worry, upset, or hurt the other.

I don’t think people ever quite get over losing a parent. We lost my dad 19 years ago, and I know we all still miss him deeply. But mothers and daughters…there’s no human relationship more complex, more fraught with pitfalls and packed with joy, than the constant push-me-pull-you that goes on between mothers and daughters.

No matter how old we are, we will always, ALWAYS, have moment when we wish we could call mom and ask her what to do. It doesn’t matter if nine times out of ten we went out and did the exact opposite of what she advised. That’s what makes the mother-daughter dynamic the relationship most worthy of ‘It’s Complicated’ status, in my opinion.

Soon, Jewels and I will pass the one year mark since that god-awful week. Since then, I’ve had no less that four other girlfriends lose their mothers as well. Each time, my heart ached.

For them.

For me.

For all the things we didn’t get a chance to ask and all the news we didn’t get to share.

Or not share.

You know, for their own good.

 

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Monday Mayhem – March on

Feminist.

A word that many women, including myself, have been reluctant to own. Over the past few years, I’ve grown more conscious of my own of my place in the world. Like many people who’ve reached the mid-point in their lives, I’ve been examining my priorities, and the impact I make as a woman, as an American, and as a member of the human race.

Though this self-exploration, I became less afraid of calling myself a feminist. I do admit that sometimes I felt the need to add some over-explaination to something that should be self-evident, but I’m making a mindful effort to stop doing that.

Feminists believe that women are equal to men.

Full stop.

Nothing more, nothing less. Equal.

I guess if there’s one good thing that came out of 2016, it’s that women are becoming more vocal in their belief in equality. Others can call us what they want, but we know who we are.

We are women. Some of us are Americans. We are human beings deserving of respect.

I marched here in Little Rock on Saturday. It wasn’t the biggest march to take place, but it was still a hell of a lot larger than the organizers expected. And in a ‘red’ state, no less.

 

It was moving, so moving, to be part of this peaceful and positive assembly.

Best of all, my husband was by my side.

Because the strongest heroes are the ones who know how to love a strong woman.

And if you find yourself mired in the morass, remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

 

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Monday Mayhem – Fresh Starts

I’m still working on finishing the draft of Easy Bake Lovin’ (Play Dates #2), but with the start of the Build a Book 365 day challenge I gave myself permission to play with one of the Silver Fox ideas I have rattling around in my head.

Meet Leonardo Sbaraglia. He doesn’t know it, but he’s currently serving as my hero inspiration. I promise, I will try to do him right. Ahem. I mean do right by him.

Finding photographs of heroes and heroines who fit the images in my head is not always easy, but I knew the minute I saw him, he was my man. More specifically, the man to model my hero, Dominic Mann on.

I’ll be sharing pictures of people who remind me of my characters as the year progresses. We have a lot of books coming in 2017-2018. I hope you’re ready to meet them all!

How about you? Do you picture famous people portraying the heroes and heroines as you read? Care to share some thoughts?

News and notes:

In case you missed it, LOVE & ROCKETS received another fabulous 5 star review! This one from Epilogue Book Blog. Check it out!

Also, GOING DEEP (Coastal Heat #1) and A WILL AND A WAY (Worth the Wait Romance) are both on sale for $0.99! Tell your friends!

Snowed in? Give LONG DISTANCE LOVE a shot. You won’t regret getting to know Jack and Ellie better!

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – My stories, at the core

Last week, I asked what you expect when you open one of my books. Your responses were so moving. Thank you. You let me know that I am indeed already hitting some of the key points in what I want to write.

I spent a lot of time in 2016 examining my work, and trying to identify the elements I think are essential to what I wanted to say – what’s known as a writer’s core story.

(This may freak those of you who know me out, but I’m posting a picture of fruit:)

Trying to suss out one’s core story it a little like nibbling at an apple (or so I hear). I started with reviewing some of my books and works in progress as a whole, then began to examine certain elements in small bites. When I got down to the center, I had a better handle on the parts that were so important to me that they re-appear in novel after novel.

Here’s what I think my core story is:

Heroines: Powerful, independent, unapologetically sex positive, and feminist. Their journeys mostly involve examining, adjusting, and reestablishing their expectations of life and love.

Heroes: Confident and strong, but not the stereotypical Alpha male. They appreciate complex women and are up to the challenge.

My emphasis is almost always on character growth and reinvestment in themselves. In my books, women are not always relationship seekers and men do not necessarily flee from commitment.

Humor will always be an important part of my writing. I require moments of it in all forms of entertainment – even the most gut-wrenching dramas. To swipe a quote from Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” It’s true. If I can move a reader to one or both-or even at the same time-I consider it a win.

So how did my vision match up with your expectations?

Well, we got the humor bit down. A couple of you mentioned tears, strong heroines, and guys who are up for meeting their match, so I must be doing some things right.

This is the interesting thing about being a writer. The themes we tackle in our work grow and evolve as we do. If you’d asked me in 2011 if I considered myself a feminist, I may have hemmed and hawed a bit, shying away from the label. Now, I wear it proudly. Sex-positive? I never really thought much about how we view and judge female sexuality. The norms and constraints simply were what they were. Yeah, um, no.

But we’ll talk more about those topics in another post.

My point is, life is all about evolution. Conscious or subconscious, I’ve been seeing some shifts in my own work over the last year or two. Thanks so much for your replies last week. Your feedback is vital to me. After all, I’m telling these stories in hopes that you will connect with them.

As we type, I’m working on a few different things. I have sent the first book in the upcoming Play Dates series to the fabulous Julie Evelyn Joyce for critique. I’m inching my way toward the end of the draft on book #2 and hope to have it done by the end of the month.

Just for fun, I’m participating in a 1 page per day challenge for 2017, and for that I’m playing with something entirely different. There are a bunch of current and aspiring authors participating. It’s not too late to join in. There’s also a super secret Facebook group where we babble about what we’re doing. If you want to participate, tag me. 🙂

So now you know what I think I should be writing. This time I’ll ask a different question: How do you think I’m measuring up? Are there areas where you (as a reader) think I’m falling short? Maybe one or two where I hit it out of the park?

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Monday Mayhem – The heart of the matter

Welcome 2017! I’m making an effort to start the new year off with positivity. So far, it’s been pretty easy since I’ve been in my favorite place (home), with my favorite person (Fodder), doing my favorite things (a little writing, a little reading, making some chicken salad, taking a nap). I’m really good at napping. And, as my new author shots prove, hanging off lamp posts:

2017 marks my fifth year of blogging. Yep. If you check the sidebar, you will see that I type the truth. The archive dates back to January 2012.

It’s pretty much been five years of my checking in once a week or so and babbling at you. Well, I plan to continue to do so, but I do think I’m going to make a couple of minor tweaks. I still plan to let you know what I’ve been up to over the course of the week, share writing news, and dish out a little personal TMI, but I want to try to make my posts more topical.

2016 was a year of upheaval for me and for many people I know. Like many, I turned inward. I spent a good deal more time in introspection, trying to sort out what’s important to me, and how I plan to proceed in the midst of the social-political chaos that’s swirls around us now.

In the coming months, you’ll probably hear more from me on more serious topics than those we’ve discussed before. These are the bits of me that have been stealthily weaving their threads into my stories without me really realizing it.

I’ve stopped telling people that I write contemporary romance with a lot of kissing and stuff. Of course, I do, but that’s not what I think is at the heart of my stories anymore. You’ll probably be hearing a lot from me about my ‘core story’ in the coming months. By core story, I mean the common themes that you, as a reader, can expect to find in any Margaret Ethridge/Maggie Wells novel.

 

But before I start telling you what I think they are, I’d be curious to know what your expectations are when you open one of my books. I’m not looking for flattery (though I am open to it), just your initial reaction/expectation when you hear that I have a new book available.

I look forward hearing what you have to say, as well as sharing my thoughts with you, but for now, I hope that your 2016 at least had a happy ending, and here’s to a passel more happily ever after in 2017 and beyond!

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