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Posts Tagged ‘This Can’t Be Love’

yellodaisyMany of us experience trepidations when we offer something of ourselves to others.

The classic and often humorous question, “Suppose I give a Party and nobody comes?” is all the more poignant for actors, dancers, artists and writers who are always at the mercy of “invited” guests when they exhibit, perform or publish a work of their own creation.

A saying in the performing arts goes, “As long as there are more people in the audience than on stage…” but imagine what you feel when that is not the case.

A writer is always a singularity—in no danger of being in the majority—as long as you have more than one reader.

As one of my colleagues once commented, “If one person reads your book and loves it, you are a best-selling author.”

There is no monetary security in the Arts, probably least of all in the written word. Here are the statistics one author presented to a workshop a few years ago (regarding fiction authors):

  • Only 3% of authors/writers are ever published.
  • Only 3% of those authors who are published get their name of the cover of the book.
  • Only 3% of published authors with their name on the cover of the book make a living from writing.

That works out to .00027% or roughly 8100 authors out of an estimated 30,000,000 writers.

1384050607361Do not quit your day job until you get that movie deal.

Many more of us in this century can tick off the first two of the statistics largely due to the advent of independent/entrepreneurial publishing. Some of us were among the fortunate .009% who ticked off the first two in traditional/legacy publishing but are still far from being among the 8100 who can make a living from writing alone.

Like most creative people, writers find other ways to bring in the payola, bread, dough, green, bacon. Some of us find employment in a field related to our vocation such as writing copy, journalism, grant-writing, advertising, web content—hoping that such activity won’t kill our creative impulses. Others make our daily bread from sideshows such as teaching, talks, workshops.

1384050603906And many choose to work in jobs and professions that have nothing to do with writing and everything to do with keeping a roof over our heads and food in our children’s mouths.

Fortunately for all of us, we live in a culture and society that gives us the freedom and tools we need to create and dream and speak our minds.

Imagine if we didn’t.

What kind of party would that be?

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Disappointments come at every juncture of our lives. As children we face rejection as players on teams, aren’t invited to a classmate’s birthday party, fail a test or don’t get the grade we wanted on a paper. These are all learning experiences and prepare us for the inevitable rough treatment we will face in the adult world. As one of the teachers in my children’s school replied to a request that party invitations not be distributed publicly to save the ‘feelings’ of the uninvited, “They have to learn they won’t always be invited. Better they learn it now.”

A hard lesson for a six or seven year old when they are one of only a few who are not going. As parents, we want to protect our children from such heartaches but preparing them for the real world also requires we make some tough choices ourselves. Who among us has not faced the disappointments we hope our children will not? If we remember how our own parents’ handled our disappointment, we may have some insight into establishing emotional resilience in our offspring.

If we are not as fortunate, we may find other sources of support and strength. Motivational speakers and writers provide inspiration and occasionally help us clear the emotional blocks that stop us from achieving the success we want.

Writers are told to thicken their skins. We will need armor for what the world of agents, publishers, reviewers and readers throw in our direction. Several years ago, I attended a writers’ day workshop during which the audience was given a catalogue of the percentages of success of all the millions of us who aspire to publish (and especially to be read).

One statistic was that only 3% of writers are ever published. An even smaller percentage at that time saw their names on the cover of a published book. Self- and indie publishing has made a significant dent in those numbers. What hasn’t changed is the need for armor.

However, no matter what we write or the genre we write in, the foundation of our stories is the conflict of the individual versus the group. Our heroes and heroines stand up to evil and injustice, even if they are borderline immoral (scoundrels, vamps, tarts, disgraced cops etc) in their own right. Most of our primary characters have faced disappointments that have given them a mark which distinguishes them from their antagonists. And how they respond to that disappointment is their defining moment.

8aa17-51jt0rtvrl-_sl500_aa300_In my novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, Eric Wasserman sacrifices his best interests to those of his closest friend. Eric has several reasons for this, one of which is his past experience of inferiority in comparison to Steven Langdon’s presumed success.  The truth comes to light when the now divorced Sylviana Langdon searches for the man she fell in love with fifteen years before, surmounting her own disappointment and risking her happiness on the slim hope she and Eric can have a future together.

Although my publisher praised this novel as a ‘terrific romance,’ my armor was dented a little by the occasional harsh review.

I went on to write three more novels and am working on a fifth.

Not getting chosen for the volley ball team or not receiving an invitation to a sleepover is good preparation for the knocks we all face when we begin our professional work. Being shielded from any negativity in our formative years makes us weaker and more vulnerable to the real hurts coming our way.

Either that or we seek safety in the group, subvert our thoughts, talents and futures to the will of others, too delicate to face opposition and too easily damaged to be of use to ourselves or our society.

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All of my novels are available on AllRomance eBooks, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iBookstore, Kobo and Smashwords, as well as many other related sites. Further information is also available on my website, Leigh Verrill-Rhys.
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Writing!

And as soon as I had thought of the title for this blog, I recalled an encounter that made a mark and was instrumental in guiding me forward.

Years ago, I attended a literary event and had a conversation with an escapee from a New England family. I believed, being also from New England, we might have a common ground or two. We did, but not as I initially expected.

Aside from our Downeaster background, we both put pen to paper. I had a few short stories in small literary magazines and a prize or two (magazine subscriptions, nice writing implements—they all count!) to my credit. My eastern compadre had not yet committed to his chosen art form sufficiently to venture into the public arena.

In fact, he had difficulty admitting he was a writer, certainly not by acknowledging his desire to engage in the enterprise by speaking its name. When asked what he did, he made a gesture with his hand of writing in the air. When asked what he wrote, he muttered, “My dreams.” And he meant exactly that—not a list of goals or wishful future accomplishments.

He spent his days recording the activities of his sub-conscious.

At this point in my life—graduate student working an 8-hour nightshift—I didn’t have days or much of nights, but finding time to write was not a problem; I didn’t do much else.

My fellow writer lived on an allowance from his family and had all the hours of the normal day but could not commit to his chosen vocation without embarassment. He may now be a bestselling author or a billionaire or the CEO of his own company…I pass no judgment, only speculate that his family may have been instrumental in his lack of confidence.

I sympathize. My mother’s response to my announcement that I intended to be a writer? “Don’t be ridiculous.”

I blazed on regardless—not without many moments (read that as YEARS) of self-doubt. I am still learning my craft, even with ten novels and three volumes of nonfiction, I can never know enough but I do sometimes wonder if my mother was right.

But then again, I know she was only looking out for me.

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A short reminder that tonight is the last opportunity to buy my ebook titles at the 65% discount rate offered through the month of March. The sale will end tonight at midnight, Eastern Time.

The sale includes:

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Also, my publisher, Amazon is offering my debut novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime at a discount.

 

 

 

And also included are the 6 installment stories that make up the Nights Before novel (available only in print). The stories as individual ebooks are at 100% discount (free!) onKobo, AllRomanceEbooks, and Smashwords.

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8d4ff-wllcoverMontlake Publishing (my publisher for my debut novel) will, on Amazon, be offering Wait a Lonely Lifetime at 1/3 the usual price (99¢) from Friday, March 4th through Monday, April 4th.

In the spirit of this Spring Sale from Montlake Publishing, I will be offering the same amazing deal for ALL my books currently listed on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords during the same time period, approximately 65%.  Books that are currently available for 99¢ will be FREE (except Barnes&Noble & Amazon) for the duration of the sale.

Beginning on March 4th, this March Madness Sale is the perfect opportunity to get ready for your Summer Reading Adventure!

My part of the sale will also include my historical novels set Wales! Details about those are on Lily Dewaruile: Welsh Medieval Romance.

All of my ebook titles will be on sale until April 4th:

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‘Twas the Night Before New Year FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Valentine’s Day FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Mother’s Day FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Labor Day FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Veteran’s Day FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Eve FREE

Wait a Lonely Lifetime 99¢ (Only available on Amazon)
Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls $1.65 
This Can’t Be Love 99¢

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We know the counterpart to the title of this blog, starting with sugar but enough is said about the Spice and Nice. About twenty years ago, I learned the counterpoint regarding boys from a book titled, Bringing Up Boys. I have three.

ytrinaVariously known as “the mother of those three” and “so you’re the one responsible for those three,” I had a requirement for some backup to my theory that boys are different and the school system, though designed by men was made for girls.

“They always have to be first” was the constant cry from beleaguered schoolmarms. “They get into everything.” “They cannot sit quietly.” “They have to win.” My response to all of which was then and still is “Your point being?”

Lately, I have met an increasing number of women who are in the same position I was twenty years ago. I tell them to enjoy every wild moment. Boys are wonderful. Teenage boys are nut-cases but still wonderful. Young men are fragile and wonderful. Grown men, raised from the start as uniquely boys, are the best there can ever be of the male. They make good husbands and fathers, prepared to take on the hard work of raising their own sons and daughters.

Besides my own good husband and the good father who showed me everything I ever needed to know about men, I had help from a colleague, Liz Brady – a child psychologist with whom I worked while serving on the Community Health Council for Carmarthenshire. Herself a mother of two sons and a daughter, her special interest was in the development and mental health of adolescents. One aspect of her field of study was the extreme suicide rate of boys and men between the ages of 14 and 35.

I took notice.

Brady’s research revealed that young men engage in dangerous behavior and activities that result in death far more frequently than do any other sex or age group. They are four times as likely to commit suicide—intentional or unintentional. During my eldest son’s teenage years, he attended the funerals of four of his schoolmates, all of whom were under the age of twenty.

One hung himself in the garage of his parents’ home, driven to desperation by his drug addiction. One slammed his head into a cast iron drain pipe while speeding on his motorcycle—without a helmet—through the shopping district early one morning. The third was hurled through the roof of a car because he did not wear a seatbelt—the driver fell asleep and ran up the tail end of a cattle truck. And the fourth jumped in front of a train in a neighboring town, overcome by depression.

All were young men with aspirations and talent, families that loved them.

Keeping my sons alive became my raison d’etre.

BringingUpBoysHow do you do that in a society that vilifies masculinity, and yet, will not allow men to embrace their fragility either? When social media hacks rant about a tacky shirt to the detriment of a great scientific achievement?

Yes, little boys are naughty and rough, they torment little girls and test the fire extinguishers in the swank hotels. Give them any encouragement, they demand even more. They try our patience and go out of their way to annoy and challenge any restriction.

They also explore fearlessly. Boys are the reason our species crawled from the mud and went to the moon—most probably because a girl said she wanted a chunk of rock. Boys are hard-wired to achieve, largely at the behest of sugar & spice dishes they want to impress. Why? Instinct. Survival of the species.

The smartest girls choose the male most likely to provide a safe environment for offspring and that means he already owns a house or has “prospects” or “status” likely to enable him to achieve some or all of these.

Except when they want or have to impress, men don’t care how they dress—one pair of shoes is enough for some. Rightly, they figure their achievements count for a lot more than a Hawaiian shirt. We can understand their thinking when creepy 70 year old men are snapping up the prettiest girls in the twenty-something age group.

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My sons are not out of the dark days yet. What gives me hope for their survival is their choice of wives and girl friends. Or more likely, the women who have liked what they’ve seen when these three young men are on their best behavior (and occasionally, their worst).

After all, has your heart ever not melted when you see a big guy holding a child for whom he has accepted responsibility?

To all the parents who are raising boys, I strongly recommend Dobson’s work in Bringing Up Boys. You’ll enjoy your male children more, accept they are a challenge and understand the important service you are providing to the women of the future. And, by all means, teach them to iron shirts and soft-boil eggs.

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ThisCantBeLoveCoverFinal200.jpgWhen I first started writing This Can’t Be Love, my focus was exclusively on the relationship between Mike Argent and Jakki Hunter. Once the antagonist, Gavin Andrews, hit the stage, one of the ideas driving my characterization of the ‘bad guy’ was his arrogance and his presumption that he could do whatever he liked, with impunity, because of his position in society.

The same presumption of right enables David Gitano’s parents-in-law, Elizabeth and Donald Seger-Tomlin, in Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, to harass and undermine him and his small family at every opportunity.

Fiction thrives on conflict. Without that tension between characters, stories struggle to move ahead. The adversarial relationship enlivens and motivates the fictitious situation and we pit one against the other, doing our utmost to ensure that good conquers evil.

The interpretation of what constitutes evil is a matter of personal discernment and social mores. In classic literature of the Victorian era, the tension between good and evil was often demonstrated through the thwarting of the personal happiness of a character by a more powerful actor. George Eliot’s Middlemarch is an example where the scholarly, Edward Casaubon, allows his jealousy of his young wife, Dorothea’s friendship with Tertius Lydgate, to rule his judgment and seeks to punish her after his death. Charles Dickens allowed his ‘evil’ character, Scrooge,  redemption in A Christmas Carol and is ferocious in his portrayal of the manipulative criminal, Fagin, in Oliver Twist.

Both Casaubon and Fagin exert undue influence over others and assume they have the right to do so because they have power. This the basis of abuse in all circumstances regarding the interchange between human beings. While it makes for good reading in literature of all genres, we consider this behavior unacceptable in real life.

Or do we?

My portrayal of Gavin Andrews (This Can’t Be Love) is based on documented mob behavior. He is likened to Robespierre and his victim, Jakki Hunter, is seen by Mike Argent (the hero of the tale) as Marie Antoinette. If we read documented historical evidence of the brutality of the French Revolution, we can’t help but see the mob for what it was, bloodthirsty and vengeful. Robespierre suffered the fate of his victims when the mob turned on him. In my most recent novel, the ‘mob’ of Gavin’s making fades away every time they are confronted with the consequences of their actions.

SDwPtPBCover831In the instance of the miscreant parents-in-law (Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls) who plan to get custody of their grandchild in order to have access to David Gitano’s finances, I ensured that the Seger-Tomlins failed in their attempt, yet it is not David’s understanding of the law but Emily’s understanding of human nature that wins the day.

As the writer, I am in control of the situation—although my characters make wild and wily attempts to lead me astray.

In real life, the circumstances are different. Although taking personal responsibility for our actions and their consequences is the first lesson of adulthood, we step away from consequences, hide in the anonymity of the being ‘connected,’ behave as badly as we choose toward our fellow citizens – secure in the fallacy of unaccountability. When we abdicate our responsibility and ignore the consequences of our actions, we are more easily swept into the mob.

We fall back on the impulsive, thoughtless behavior of children. We throw tantrums of rage when we don’t get what we want. We shout and scream and storm away if we perceive we have been denied our due. We call other people hateful names if we disagree with them and are outraged when they do the same to us. We cover our ears when we don’t want to listen to another point of view, just like spoiled teenagers.

Writers are ultimately observers of human behavior. We also have the unique opportunity to expose and comment on what we see. After all, we can always put that in a book and we do. Abdicating that responsibility is not a decision we make without recognizing its own consequences.

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