Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dead Letter Day, 1st Person and Jennifer Lawrence...

So I haven’t read Dead Letter Day yet as I’m committed to finishing my RITA books first. For now it sits on my Kindle waiting for me to devour. But given this is Eileen’s release week I thought I would talk about my love for the Messenger Series in general and why in particular I think it works.

Oh yeah – and I’m going to try and tie this to Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar too.

The series is told in first person from Melina’s point of view. First person stories are always hit or miss for me. Sometimes I love them and sometimes I loathe them. There was that point in chick-lit where everything was being written in first person and the heroines were all funny and quippy and snarky ala Bridget Jones.
And that can be a fun read, but often I would feel as if I was missing out on the depth of a person. We’re not funny and snarky and witty ALL the time.
I think that’s why I fell in love with Melina so quickly. There was more to her than just one liners. I felt like I knew her. I felt her struggle and her pain when she lost her mentor. More importantly I felt like we could be friends. We would connect on a personal level… and go kick paranormal butt together of course.
And that’s when it occurred to me why first person can be so tricky. For me, I have to like this person. I have to connect with her. Otherwise I can’t put myself in the character and look at the story from her POV. If I don’t, the funny and the snarky feels flat. The person seems one dimensional.
Which of course brings me to Jennifer Lawrence and what makes her special. Twenty-two and already a two time Oscar nominee and 1 time winner. Why? I’m sure you might say – good acting. That’s a given. But I think it goes beyond that. I think ultimately people identify with her. The person behind the character. She’s real and genuine and if you watched her interview with George Stephanopoulos after she won you totally wanted to hang out with her and be her friend.
I think it’s because of that openness of spirit - it allows you to watch her play a difficult character and still relate to her. I get that with great acting you shouldn’t “see” the real person. But I think people like Meryl Streep and Sally Field and now Jennifer Lawrence have a… quality. An honesty about who they are and that resonates through the character they are playing.
I think the same is true for writers and their voice. And I think this is especially critical in books with 1ST person POV. I have to believe this character. I have to want to be inside their head with him which means to an extent I’m inside the writer’s head as well.
It’s why I can’t wait to read this book. I can’t wait to get back into Eileen’s amazing head through Melina!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dead Letter Day!

Yep! It's here. Release day for Dead Letter Day!!!

I got me a whole big box of 'em in the mail.

Can't you just smell that new book smell?

This is the 3rd novel in my Messenger series and my 10th published novel overall. I know 10 isn't that significant for some folks Molly , but it feels like a pretty big milestone to me. I'll be celebrating on Friday over at the Avid Reader in Davis at 7:30 p.m. I bought a bunch of bottles of Prosecco so come on by and have a glass of something bubbly to help me celebrate.

Oh, and I'll have to say something at this shindig. What do you like to hear about from an author? I'm thinking about telling everyone about something they made me take out of the book, but I'm not sure that will be enough. Any suggestions?

Dear Ben Affleck (again)....

In an effort to catch up on Oscar movies before the big show, I watched ARGO on Friday night. After which I engaged in a twenty minute fantasy, that somehow you and your wife and kids ended up at my house for dinner. It was awkward at first, Adam burned the steaks, I spilled wine all over your kids - but then because in this fantasy you are so normal so like us but with more money and an extra kid - we became fast friends. You invited the Damon's over and we all played Trivia Pursuit. It was a good fantasy - I might have even acted some of it out.

I am not even embarrassed about this. I'm not.

I wish I could say it was all ARGO's fault. ARGO is a great movie, you managed to go from small scale picture, to big scale picture without missing a beat. It was deft and nuanced. You made cohesive, tension-mounting plot points out of small moments, tiny details. You didn't spoon feed us, or pander. I really liked it. The world-building and your commitment to it, just like those movies set in Boston - it's fantastic. And your casting was perfection. As the captain of the ARGO ship - you absolutely nailed it.

And you! In the last letter I wrote, I gave you such a hard time for casting yourself as the lead in your own movie. Because you were the weakest link in The Town. But in ARGO, you seem to have found your niche - very few lines. In the vein of Bruce Willis, you shouldn't talk too much. You managed to be more real, the less you said. The scene at the end, when your character asked his wife if he could come in - I believed it. It was the same sort of moment you perfected in Good Will Hunting, when Will wasn't at his house, and you knew what that meant.

That said - stop casting yourself. Really. You are Ben Affleck and you just aren't good enough to make people forget that you are Ben Affleck. There aren't many actors who can - in fact the few that exist were all nominated last night. You weren't. And I think the fact that you weren't nominated for Best Director, is probably because you cast yourself in that role. You manage to get amazing actors to support yourself with - actors I imagine who don't need a lot of help from you in terms of character choices or motivations. I want to see how you do with someone like you - but not you.

The reason why I unabashedly have the friendship fantasy was brought home last night during your acceptance speech. While so many others are emotionless robots, or incredibly smooth and gracious practiced winners - you were so real. You were red-faced and emotional. You made bad jokes and might have offended your wife - though I doubt it. You revealed a little too much, swerved off topic and managed to be so totally real, through out it all.

The Oscar show was a poorly directed, weird hodge-podge last night and we almost gave up to watch the Saturday Night Live we had taped - but I'm glad we didn't. You were worth it, Ben. You've been worth it all along.

PS Your wife's dress was one of my favorites.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty and absolutely no backstory

So finally got around to watching Zero Dark Thirty, and loved it. It's complex and fascinating and tense and that Kathryn Bigelow didn't get a best director oscar nod - well, that's for another post.

But the main reason I loved it is because of the main character, Maya played by Jessica Chastain. The movie covers the ten year search for Bin Laden, and we see it almost entirely through the eyes of one woman, a CIA analyst, who never even picks up a gun, but does all the tedious, painstaking work of chasing clues to the whereabouts of America's number one enemy.

And the character evolves through the movie, from wide eyed and relatively innocent to hard edged, whose focus is almost the bane of her superiors. It's an utterly fascinating character study, more so, because aside from one short scene, we never see her in anything but a work situation.

At the end of the movie, we know this woman is the force(and I mean that literally, there are some amazing scenes where she hounds her superiors to do something with the leads she has uncovered)behind the search, but we know almost nothing else about her, except that she's single.

We don't know if she has parents, friends, any other interests, although, I suspect not, or any childhood traumas. We don't even know why she has a drive to find Bin Laden, even after every other person she works with has given up, we just know she's stubborn past all reasonableness.

And it's amazing. I'm left with all these questions that I've been answering, inventing a backstory, ideas of where she might be now, and it's why the movie is still fresh in my mind.

And even though the idea of a character without backstory is tempting, it's almost impossible to do in book form with your main protagonist, but really fun to think about with secondary characters, whose character is revealed entirely but what they do, and not what they've done.

I'm trying to think of an example and nothing comes to mind, but it's something I want to play with a little bit.

Has anyone else seen the movie? Maya is my favourite character of the year by far.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Downton Abbey makes cliches work...

Since we’re talking a lot about TV this week I thought I would throw my recent favorite into the mix. I love Downton Abbey. For the time period, for the costumes, and sadly yes… for the clichés.
I’ve never seen a show more riddled with cliché plot lines in my life. It’s as if Julian Fellows (writer and creator) has said to his staff… find me every ridiculous cliché that’s ever been beaten to death and write a scene with it.

A list which includes:
1.      I can’t marry you because I’m already married but my wife is crazy and lives in an asylum. (See Jane Eyre.)

2.      Watch out for the bar of soap on the floor because you’re pregnant and if you slip, you will miscarry. (Why does the person getting out of the bathtub never see the soap? Ever wonder that?)

3.      Youngest daughter falls in love with chauffer. Only to get married, get pregnant and die of… eclampsia. (It’s as if no woman who died in childbirth did so from anything else.)

4.      Everything is working out so well in my life. I’m so happy. I think I’ll take a drive with the top down. (I won’t tell you what happened here – but I’m assuming you can guess.)

This shouldn’t work. Anyone watching should shrug and say been there and done that and this is nothing new. But this show is a tremendous hit. It’s up for acting awards. It has a huge following.
I saw that car on the road and knew immediately what was coming, but still I was riveted. Riveted and screaming at my television… Nooooo!!!!

Total cliché. Absolutely worked. Does that mean we should all revert to clichés? No of course not. I try really really hard to avoid them… like the plague.
But Downton does teach us that if done well, compelling drama, can break all the rules.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Morally Ambiguous Heroes(ines)

Eileen's post yesterday got me thinking some more about introducing characters, especially ones who  have a lot of moral ambiguity.

And then I went to see Identity Thief. And it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be.

I think there are several "tricks" or techniques writers can use to make us like morally ambiguous characters. And here are some thoughts on the ones I can think of right now...

Give the protagonist an enemy who is way worse than they are. That is, if the hero is morally ambiguous, put them up against someone who is so morally corrupt that the hero/heroine looks better in comparison.

On the TV show Banshee that Sinead I were talking about. The hero/protagonist is a thief. He's a murderer. He's out of prison now but is definitely not reformed or repentant. And in a fairly far-fetched scenario (the whole show is intentionally far-fetched and over-the-top) he ends up impersonating the sheriff of a small town.

But in spite of his criminal past (and present) we like the dude. We're rooting for him. Why? Because he has a man searching for him who is *really* scary. And because there's yet another bad guy in town who's a more immediate threat who's also really scary. And because he obviously loves someone--a lot--which gives at least his initial motivation for being in the town.

Another way to deal with this is to keep the audience/reader guessing. In the first season of Homeland they made us think that Carrie was crazy (or at least wrong) while we were building sympathy for Brody--his wife is sleeping with his best friend; he loves his kids and family; he went through a terrible ordeal; he's really trying to adjust; etc. We see things to make us think Carrie is right too, but we're kept guessing. And then by the time we knew the truth about him (sorry for spoilers if you haven't seen it) a much worse enemy has already been established in Abu Nazir (or two worse enemies, if you count the Vice President).

And thinking about it, one of the many reasons we sympathize with Tara Jean Sweet in Molly's Can't Buy Me Love is because Lyle is such a villain. Sure. What's she's doing is a tad slimy. But what Lyle's doing and has done in the past is so much worse, which makes Tara Jean look less bad in comparison. And what she's doing for him, even if it's morally ambiguous, is nice. She's trying to help a dying old man reunite with his kids.

In Identity Thief... In the beginning the Melissa McCarthy character is fairly unlikeable because of what she's doing. And at the start you believe that Jason Bateman is the protagonist and she's the antagonist... but by the end, I think she's the protagonist and he's the side kick/facilitator/mentor character. The one who helps her on her journey and transformation. Hmmm.. Yup. They change each other, but she changes the most.

And how do we first meet her? In her opening scene, she takes a stolen credit card, goes to a bar, and tries to make friends with everyone by buying them drinks. And we see how desperately lonely she is. And then when things get out of hand and the bartender says something mean to her... we really feel her pain along with her. These little hints of vulnerability continue to come through in the movie so that, by the time we learn the real depth of her sense of abandonment it's heartbreaking.

And the movie also uses the "have worse antagonists" technique. She may have done something bad, but way worse people are after her...

It's far from a fabulous movie, but I was entertained. I know it's getting mostly terrible reviews, but I thought Melissa McCarthy was amazing. Going from wacky, OTT comedy to serious drama on a dime.  A life-of-the-party, bold character, who can be cut down in an instant by a cruel word that hits home. Masterful really.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Good Guys and Bad Guys . . I can't tell the difference anymore

I am a simple girl. I like things to be straightforward. I am getting very confused as to who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in some of my favorite TV shows.

First up: Scandal.

I loved the first season. Wow. I loved the cases they took and how they solved them. This season? I'm having trouble. I'm sure I'm going to end up putting SPOILERS in here so please be ALERTED, okay? So . . . Olivia Pope who I just adored for being smart and brave and tough, but still vulnerable, did something really really terrible in the past. She is continuing to do terrible things (some to people she cares about) to cover it all up.

Now, I love stories where people do the right thing for the wrong reasons or the wrong thing for the right reasons. Those stories intrigue me and that's how this story began. She did a wrong thing for a right reason. Now, however, she's just doing wrong things to cover her ass. She suffered a terrible emotional blow a week ago and I actually thought she deserved it. I think it's probably not good when I root for the heroine to have her heart broken. Sort of reminds of why I stopped reading Nevada Barr books. I found myself hoping that the heroine got murdered because I found her so obnoxious.

Second up: Southland.

Always very gritty. Always ethically gray. The trials and tribulations of the officers in the show really resonated with me. There was a real nobility to them even when things went wrong. I was super excited to see it show back up on my DVR and then I was super disappointed in the first episode. Again, SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER.

Suddenly, they're all jerks. Every one of them. There's nothing noble about hanging out with drunk, high strippers in a parking lot. What are you thinking? And Lydia, did it not occur to you that being a detective and being a single mom would be difficult? And Sammy? Control yourself. You know your ex-wife is bat sh*t crazy. Why are you letting her bait you like that? You were an idiot for marrying her in the first place. You're still an idiot.

Third: House of Cards

I've only watched one episode. It's Netflix's first (I think) original series. It's a political thriller starring Kevin Spacey. I can't tell if he's a good guy or a bad guy. I don't know if I'm supposed to root for him or against him. I do think the weird Sex and the City talk to the camera things are a little bizarre, but he does them really well. Anyone else watching this one? What do you think?

Monday, February 18, 2013


Hey! So we did a lot of loving this week. Three great authors - lots of comments and now, three winners. Thanks for stopping by - and Stay Tuned for Eileen's DEAD LETTER DAY release week. It will be EPIC!!

So here are our winners

A digital copy of Ruthie Knox's fabulous novella - HOW TO MISBEHAVE - JOY ALLEN
A Paper or digital copy of K.M. Jackson's debut THROUGH THE LENS - Deborah O'Neill Cordes
A paper or digital copy of Laura Florand's CHOCOLATE THIEF - Michele S

Drop me an email through my website and we'll get these out to you! Thanks again for coming by.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What we love... Laura Florand Books!

So I can't be anymore excited than to introduce to our our readers Laura Florand. She was gracious enough to join us here at Storytelling Rules for our special What We Love Valentines Week extravaganza. Her books are amazing and getting a chance to interview her was a thrill for me. Did I mention she writes about Chocolate and really hot French guys?

Laura is giving a print copy away of The Chocolate Thief to one lucky commentator. Leave a message and we'll select a winner at random. The winner will be announced on Monday.

I first found you through a review at Dear Author. I think it might have been Sunita who raved about the Chocolate Thief – but I actually hesitated because I saw that it was released in Trade because I wasn’t sure if it was a traditional romance. Now it was anything but traditional with how wonderful and unique the setting was, but it was also an absolutely satisfying romance. Can you speak a little about why your publisher decided to go that route? Was it just because of the foreign setting or were there other factors?

            I asked Alicia Condon, my wonderful editor at Kensington, if she could speak to that, and this is from her:  We decided to publish in trade because we felt that the book would appeal both to traditional romance readers and women who tend to read women’s fiction and look for their selections in  trade format.  The explorations of Paris, artisanal chocolate making and fairytale themes will intrigue women’s fiction readers, while the intense sexual tension between Cade and Sylvain will more than satisfy lovers of romance.  And the to-die-for descriptions of the chocolate itself?  That’s a treat everyone will enjoy!”
            Isn’t she nice?  I could never have said that about myself!  So I’m going to just keep my mouth shut now and say, “Thank you, Alicia!”
Can you tell us how when/how you started writing? Do you consider yourself a romance author? Or simply a contemporary author who writes stories with romance in them. Do you think there is a difference?   
            Are you ready for this level of drama?  Third grade, two girls, best friends and rivals for teacher’s pet.  We were told to write a two-page story, so I was pretty proud of myself when I wrote four pages.  Then she called, and she was at five!  Fifteen minutes later, I called her back—six.  And so it went.  The next day, I had an incredible nine pages...and she had twelve.  I’ve really never gotten over it.  I probably should dedicate a book to her one day.

            I don’t know if I set out to write a romance in the sense of giving myself a set of parameters and trying to fulfill them.  My first published book was a memoir.  (And let’s not talk about all the many, many unpublished books I wrote to completion and should now probably burn, between the age of nine and thirty-four, when BLAME IT ON PARIS was published.)
            But absolutely, my books could be called romances.  They’re romantic, they have a happy ending, the love story is the central narrative arc, and they’re, in addition, very sensual.  I don’t really know how to write a story where falling in love isn’t the central narrative arc; when people have asked me to write another memoir, this one about when I lived in Tahiti, I never can, because there’s no love story to drive the narrative. 

            Can my books also be called contemporary stories with romance in them?  I don’t think it’s a contradiction in terms, really, since to me, to fall in love and establish a happy relationship means that both characters have to successfully negotiate that balance between self and other—how are you going to keep one and integrate well with the other?  Especially since very few people come into a relationship with a completely whole, healthy, and happy sense of self, and the love story becomes part of the process of establishing a happy self as well.  (If they do have a completely whole, healthy, happy sense of self, they might think twice and even fifty times about letting someone else in close enough where they could hurt that happiness, which is also an interesting story.) 
            This negotiation of self and love is a really complex and challenging thing to do in real life—many, many people fail at it, and sometimes you can’t even tell they’ve failed at it from your outside viewpoint, and you think you’re observing a happy, healthy couple.  But many people succeed as well, and it’s that process that compells me. 

            It can be an ongoing process.  For example, I love Turning Up the Heat so much because it’s a love story ten years later, where everyone involved, wife, husband, their social circle, all thought they were such a happy couple, and yet they both so desperately need to renegotiate who they are and how that fits with the person each loves.  A good love story is a neverending story, and you renew it when you need to.
            It’s not a simple story, or a light story, even though it can be told in simple, light, fun ways.  To me it’s one of the most fundamental stories of human existence, so I think you can say you’re writing a love story, writing a romance, and writing a work of literature that reaches into the very heart of what it is to be a human being, and have them all be true.

            I don’t expect other people to necessarily think of my work that way—if they just feel happy reading a good, fun romance, that’s all I need—but I approach writing that way, really trying to get at the heart.
            Trying to get at the heart...I was going to say that’s the essence of writing a romance, but then I, it’s the essence of almost any great book.

Turning Up the Heat might be one of my favorite novellas of all time. This was a self-published effort. Can you talk about why you chose to self-publish? Did you plan to self-publish something and this story just fit? Or did you feel like this story was better served publishing it yourself?

            Thank you, Stephanie.  Turning Up the Heat is a very vulnerable, emotional story for me, and it means a lot to me when it speaks to someone. 
            In terms of my decision: On the one hand, I did have a growing awareness of self-publishing and just purely from the business perspective, I did have the increasingly strong conviction that writers who were being traditionally published would do well to experiment with some self-publishing as well.  I certainly wanted to try it at some point, yes.

             But the real reason is this.  Most publishing contracts have in them a clause along these lines:  “The publisher shall have sole discretion in deciding upon cover and title of the Work.  The Publisher shall have the right to copyedit the Work and to make such other changes to the Work as the Publisher sees fit.

            Or:  The Publisher shall have sole discretion to change the title of the Work and to make deletions, revisions or additions to the manuscript or any edition, and to use the name of the Author as Author of such varied Work.

            I have a great deal of difficulty with this.  I have held up contract negotiations for multiple rounds just to get the word “reasonable” inserted before “additions” in clauses like that.  There is something so profoundly wrong in the attitude towards an author and her work, and the ownership of the same, that you might say my whole being rises up in revolt against it.  Imagine Sylvain Marquis being told that someone else could do whatever they wanted to his chocolate and put his name on it—his reaction would be my reaction.
            And at the time, I had just been through a fight against a ghastly copy edit.  You can get wonderful copy edits, that help you realize you’ve used the same word fifty times, or that a sentence isn’t clear, or that you said someone had lived somewhere twelve years in one place and eleven in another.  But this one just went in and tried to stamp some giant personal cookie cutter down over my work.  It was really bad.

            It was scarring, as a writer, to see what my book might have been turned into because I had released control of it. Fortunately, my editor supported me.  But the thing is...if I had had a bad editor, the contracts would have allowed the house to make these changes and utterly ruin the story.  I really couldn’t stand it.  I love that book.  Some people say, It’s a business, let it go.  It’s not so much a business to me.  My chocolatiers and I are very different, but in some ways, we come from the same spot about our work.   Money’s always nice, don’t get me wrong.  But telling the story I want to tell is more important.
            So I just couldn’t turn Turning Up the Heat over to anyone else, not on the heels of that copy edit battle.  I couldn’t.  If you read it, and like it—if it’s a story that speaks to you—you might see why.  It’s a deeply emotional story and just too close to me and tender.  I wanted to keep complete possession of it, and yet share it, too.  To me, self-publishing was a way to do that.

            I honestly think all writers should be mixing a little bit of self-publishing with their traditional publishing.  Not so much for the income, although it is VERY smart to experiment with sources that aren’t dependent on one publisher, but because it is good for a writer not to yield all control of what she pulls out of her heart.  It makes you too cynical, or makes you see your stories as a commodity you owe to other people.
            That seems to me a very sad thing.  But I’m not the most practical of people.

One of my concerns with the self-publishing is authors putting the work into the “publishing” part of the book. Some people use friends, I paid a copyeditor a pretty significant amount of money, what is your process for polishing the product before you “publish”? 

            I am obsessive.  I polish and polish and polish.  I’ve talked to writers who write it through, revise structure, polish—just 3 rounds—and send it off.  But that is not remotely my process.  I do value keen outside eyes—that person who says, “I don’t get this, what’s your reference?”  or, “Are you sure this belongs here?  It’s cute, but I feel like it really interrupted the pace, maybe cut?”  Or, “His jaw has tightened five times in the past two pages.  I know she’s annoying, but still...”.  But the buck stops with me.  That’s actually one of the joys of self-publishing for me—it really does stop with me.  No one else can change a word of it, they can only make suggestions.  That final document is in my hands.
            Meanwhile, if you have a good team working with you, one of the joys of traditional publishing can be knowing it doesn’t stop with you!  That you have a wonderful editor, a great production manager, an experienced cover artist, a top-notch publicist, a great marketing team.  I think I’m very fortunate to be writing at a time and in a situation that permits me to juggle both right now and to enjoy the benefits of both, to my writing and my ability to get the story I want to tell, in the best form possible, to readers.

Paris is without a doubt my favorite place on this planet. I hope to go back next year. So maybe I have a built in love for your stories. Why did you chose to write a French setting? Are there other places or nationalities you want to explore? Would you consider a book set in the US?
            A French setting because I’ve lived that setting so much, and really is there any better place for love and romance and adventure than Paris?  There’s certainly no better place for chocolate!  Although...I’m really enjoying writing this new series in Provence.  That’s such a vivid world.

            Definitely I would consider a book set in the U.S.  In fact, I have plenty of ideas and scenes jotted down, for U.S.-set books, but there are so many more books I want to write than I can ever actually fit in, and the next story is always the one that just kind of drives itself to the top and takes over against all the others in my brain.
            For other nations, besides France or the U.S.—Turning Up the Heat is in Tahiti, or rather one of the more remote French Polynesian islands that often get grouped under “Tahiti”, but I used to live in Tahiti.  I don’t like superficial use of setting and I really dislike superficial use of people from other countries—you know, the Frenchmen written by someone who has never actually met one.  When I was in Italy for The Chocolate Thief’s book launch there, everyone wanted to know when I would write an Italian hero, in an Italian setting, and the problem is—how would I know what a real Italian might feel or do or think?  I can’t just give him big gestures and dark hair and make him say Grazie and mio caro, as if that means someone is Italian.  I mean, I could if I knew the other side of those stereotypes and how to question them and play with the humor in them, which is a bit what I do with Sylvain in The Chocolate Thief, but I couldn’t just from a superficial knowledge.  That doesn’t work from me.

 This week at Storytelling Rules is all about things we love. Paris, Chocolate and Laura Florand books is a good start for me. Add red wine to that list and I’m pretty much the happiest person in the world. What about you? Who do you love to read? What do you love to eat and drink?   
            Besides Stephanie Doyle and Molly O’Keefe? :) read, I mean, not to eat.

            I love Martha Wells, Lois McMaster Bujold, Sarah Addison Allen, Ilona Andrews, Thea Harrison.  I laughed my head off at Elyssa Patrick’s butt-shaking hero in her novella One Hit Wonder—he was so much fun—and hope she’ll write more.  I loved the island setting of Donna Kauffman’s Cupcake series and Virginia Kantra’s Dare Island series. 

            You can probably guess what I love to eat from the titles of half my books.  But honestly, I love exploring food.  I always pick the weirdest thing on the menu...and then steal bites of my husband’s steak when my weird thing turns out to be not nearly as good as that rare beef.  Being French, he sometimes orders tripe or steak tartare to spike my guns, because I do have a few more limits to my palate than he does.  But mostly...I just love food.  Good food, I mean, that someone has put some attention and care into.  I reviewed restaurants for a while in Paris, and I can’t say I always liked the purple octopus tentacles I could find myself trying, in fulfillment of my duties, was fun. 

Finally everyone should know that The Chocolate Kiss is now available in stores and on line. And if you haven’t read it check out Turning up the Heat too for only 2.99. What’s next up for you? More Chocolate?… Which can’t be anything but a good thing.
Yes, at least two more in the Chocolate series: in August, THE CHOCOLATE TOUCH, the story of CHOCOLATE THIEF hero Sylvain’s mortal enemy, chocolate rebel Dominique Richard, and Cade’s younger sister Jaime.  (Hint:  the development of this relationship is going to be very hard on Sylvain.)  And a fourth book in December.  There will be 2 more books in the Chocolate series as well, but I can’t say much on when, where, and how yet; not this year!  Meanwhile, you’ll see the start of my Provence series in a novella in a Christmas anthology with Kensington in October. 


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Storytelling Rules Welcomes K.M. Jackson

I'm excited to introduce today's guest, K.M. Jackson. K.M. (known to many of us as Kwana) is a frequent commenter here on Storytelling Rules. Her first novel, Through the Lens, came out in November of last year.

Mika Walters, the heroine of Through the Lens, is a normal-sized woman working in the not-so-normal world of New York fashion. As longtime assistant to uber-sexy photographer Alejandro Vega, she's tired of being the girl in the background. Now she has her chance. A travel mishap leaves Mika and Alejandro together on an island for three days.

And now, here's K.M. Jackson!

Thanks so much for having me here at Storytelling Rules, Eileen. What an absolute treat this is! To say I’m a little nervous is an understatement.

Relax! We're all friends here and we're excited to have you here. So, what's your drink of choice?

Now I’d love to be able to answer this with some super cool drink, but alas I can’t. I suffer from awful migraines and most alcoholic drinks can trigger one so I drink very sparingly. That said, if I do have a drink I like to make it worth my while. It’s usually one of my husband’s Cosmos. His are so good that he’s ruined going out for Cosmos for me and all my friends.

Ooh! Your own personal bartender? That sounds like a truly special treat. In Through the Lens, Mika is a fashion photographer. I know you studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Are you a photographer, too?

I’d secretly love to be a photographer. I studied a bit of photography when I was in high school and though it was just the coolest. I think there is so much beauty in the everyday. Be it a model in a couture gown or a fallen leaf about to go down a sewer grate. Photography is something that I’d really like to pick up again, I mean past just my sad cell phone pictures.

Did your background in fashion inform how you wrote Mika? How?

In some ways it did. I couldn’t help drawing on my past experiences and being on shoots where though I wasn’t the photographers assistant I was there to help out and in many cases I was the only one above a size 2 in the room. So yeah, I know what it’s like to feel a bit abnormal when in reality you are the norm.

What made you start writing romance?

I’ve loved romance since I slipped off with my grandmother’s old Harlequins as a kid. Reading was always a passion of mine and I was always a bit of a dreamer coming up with stories in my head. After leaving fashion once my twins were in grade school and we lost yet, another fab sitter, I decided to one day give writing a try and then like magic, POOF, over ten years later I was published.

Ah, so you're another one of those overnight success stories. So are you a pantser? Plotter? Do characters come first or conflict?

I’m such a Pantser, but I’m in currently therapy for it. Seriously, this now selling on a proposal thing is like scared straight for the Pantser. Talk about painful, but I’ll make it through I’m sure. With me it’s funny, I usually get a bit of each at the same time, character and plot. It’s what if that happened to this person and I have an, “oh that would be wild moment!” and then a story builds from there.

We talk a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a writer. What is something that you feel like you struggle with in writing?

For me the clear answer is self doubt. Sometimes my fear of writing a good story paralyzes me and in turn wastes time which then causes greater frustration. If I could ever get over the fear thing I’d probably be pretty prolific, but then again, I may get cocky and lose my voice. We are who we are. Besides, I’m not sure I’d care for an "I’m All That" writer. A little self doubt is not the worst thing. Makes you strive to be better.

True that. What's next for you?

Next up I have book 2 in my Creative Hearts Series, tentatively titled STILL LIFE which is about a troubled artist and the sexy biker who loves her. After that we have BY DESIGN which is about an up and coming designer living and loving in the not so glam world of New York fashion. I can’t wait to get to that one. I may need a therapist on speed dial for it. LOL.
Thanks so much once again for having me here today. As I said it was a real treat and such and honor.

We're thrilled to have you! Look for K.M. at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Things I Love: Ruthie Knox

This Valentine's Week, we are celebrating all the things we love and I really adore Ruthie Knox. I adore her characters, her voice, her utterly revealing and human but still smoking hot sex scenes. I love her tweets, and the occasionally hilarious stories she tells me from the front lines of her life (which are the front lines of most of our lives, kids, family, home - her's just sound more fun). And I really like Ruthie. She's a person I wished lived closer. She's smart, funny, sincere and all of that shines through her books. Her last two Novellas - Room At The Inn and How To Misbehave are incredible examples of the power a great novella can have. And the best part is - she's very busy right now, so there's alot more of Ruthie's work to come, including a trilogy starting with Along Came Trouble, which I've had the pleasure of reading - and it's everything I've come to expect in a Ruthie Knox story. I strongly encourage you to check this woman out if you haven't.

I asked Ruthie a few questions at about 3:30 in the morning, and she answered at about 3:30 the following morning - another thing I love about her. And for one lucky commentor there will be a digital copy of How To Misbehave!!

How did you get into romance writing? Was it something you always wanted to do? You were a freelance academic editor, right? With a
secret life? A longing in your soul?

Totally. I was an academic first (I did a history Ph.D.), then a freelance academic editor and obsessive knitter, and then I had a baby, and I
didn't sleep for 11 months. The knitting kind of ground to a halt, because whereas I used to do it early in the morning with a cup of tea and in the hour or so before bed, now I spent those periods of time laying on any flat surface, either sleeping or wishing I were dead. Um, in the normal way for new mothers. Not the actually suicidal way.

So there I was, taking care of my kid and editing about 30 hours a week,and very tired, and I bought a Kindle to help me with the reading-while-breastfeeding thing. And Harlequin was giving away a six-pack of romances for free, so of course! I read those, and then I read 9,000 more--mostly Harlequin Blaze--and then one day at yoga, I
had an idea for a Blaze of my own, so I wrote it. Then I wrote another one (which, revised, became About Last Night), and a third one (Ride with Me), which I used to get an agent and sold to Loveswept. From putting my very first words of my first manuscript on the page to selling to Loveswept took eight months--which means that everything sincehas been a pretty wild ride.

I didn't always want to be a writer. I love to read and liked to edit,enjoyed writing papers in college, didn't mind writing a
dissertation--but I thought I had no ideas for stories. What category romance gave me was a structure to work with--a sort of mental
scaffolding to build a story around. And if it weren't for that scaffolding, I never even would have*tried* to write a book. It is the trying that teaches you how, of
course. I never knew that, but now I get it. The only way to become a writer is to write some books.


But the progression from historian to editor-who-knits to romance writer felt very natural, odd as that may sound. I consider myself to be a
rational, analytical person, but I have this streak of (mostly) buried romanticism, and I'm also deeply interested in what makes people tick.
Throughout my life, I've balanced thinky pursuits with art-making of one sort or another. Romance writing is, for me, a lovely mix of the
creative and the analytical/rational.

How did Ride With Me happen?

Well. Yes. So I was writing in something like total isolation (though I did manage to befriend the lovely Serenity Woods early on -- but even
she wasn't reading my daily output), and while I had a vague idea that I might someday wish to be published, it didn't dictate my decisions in any significant way. Writing was still something I was doing for fun, kind of on a lark. I got a copy of Adventure Cycling magazine in the mail, which is the publication of the Adventure Cycling Association. This is a group I belong to that exists to promote long-distance travel by bicycle. They have a "Companion Wanted" page in the magazine where people write little personal ads to find someone
to ride with them across the U.S. or in Peru or wherever. And I thought, "That would be a great way for a hero and heroine to meet. Especially if they HATED each other." Since there wasn't anyone around to tell me *not* to write it, I wrote it. It was great fun. I got some help on the early chapters from Harlequin Blaze author Isabel Sharpe,
but for the most part Ride with Me was the result of me writing about something I found entertaining and fun and sexy, sort of figuring that ifI liked all this stuff, someone else probably would, too.

When I'd finished, I thought it was pretty good, so I pitched it to agents. "I am writing to inquire about your interest in representing COMPANION WANTED, a contemporary erotic romance novel with bicycles."This worked on exactly one agent, which was, luckily, the number of agents I needed. :-)

You have written full length, 100,000 word books, shorter almost category length and novellas - do you have a preference? Is there something you've learned about writing each of those - I keep wanting to say distances. I'm amazed by your novellas. For my money, you and Courtney Milan own that length (distance) - do you have a sense when thinking of an idea, what story is better suited to which length?

I don't think I have a preference. As a reader, I like longer books best,because I read quickly and I'm stingy. But as a writer, I find I enjoy something different about every length. When you write a manuscript that's 110,000 words long, it's harder to keep from getting lost in the middle, and it's more difficult to manage the inevitable anxiety that's part of the writing process--I don't know what I'm doing, this is boring, there's no story here, these characters make no sense, I don't know what happens next, blah blah blah failpants. For a
20,000-word novella, it might take me a week to get the first draft down; a 100,000-word book will take me six weeks or two months. It's
hard to maintain my love for the story, my confidence in its worth, for that long. It's all just much BIGGER. But by the same token, I often love the long books more in the end, for what I've managed to achieve with them. So there are pluses and minuses.

To be compared to Courtney Milan on any metric is a thrill for me. Itseems to me (having written only three short things in my entire life) that in a novella, it's more important to have a tight concept--one problem to solve, a strong inciting incident, something with a lot of muscle that will pull the reader in and propel the story along. There is less space to develop character and no words to waste. The biggest challenge in a romantic novella, I think, is to sell the romance itself, especially if you have a short timeline. Give me 100,000
words, and I can convince you my characters fell in love in three days.But in 30,000 words? Tough to do.

You seoem to be a totally natural social media user - do you like social media? At times it's such an awkward balance between promotion and friendship - and courting readers and reviewers, but somehow knowing when to stay out of the conversation and when to join - I'm at a loss at times. How big a piece of the pie is it for you in terms of promo?
Do you have guidelines you try to follow?

I love Twitter. I like Facebook sometimes, dislike it other times, but don't mind using it as a tool to connect to readers who prefer it. I like answering email and making friends online. I love talking about romance with readers, reviewers, other writers--just *love* it. Could doit all day.

I agree, the balance between promotion and friendship can be awkward. I find it helps to slough off the pointless worry as much as I can. Not everyone will like everything I do on the Internet. There isn't any perfect way to do it. So I just try to be me, and have fun, and let the chips fall.

I think most people appreciate authenticity and honesty, so that even if they get irritated with me for excessive retweeting or using the f-word or whatever it is I'm doing "wrong" today, they won't hold it against me.

It probably helps that I'm deeply conflict averse and a serious people-pleaser. My default mode is, "Let's all be friends!" Not a bad default mode for social media.

You have a lot of books coming out this year, and more in the works and you are the mom to a busy four year old - what's your schedule like?
What time of day is your "I can never get anything done in my life because I am constantly cleaning up dropped toast and lego!" freak out?

My schedule is adequate but fragile. I have about 30 hours of babysitting a week, which I spend in my office working while my son plays with the
sitter out in the living room. There's a morning shift and an afternoon shift; my husband and I split the middle of the day, late afternoon / bedtime, and morning before the sitter comes. We have a schedule that governs when we get a workout. I usually get up at 3:30 a.m. to write, because it's dark and quiet and no one needs me. I love that time of day the best.

I tend not to freak out except when the schedule gets broken, which it does pretty often. Whenever our son gets sick, or a babysitter gets sick, or a babysitter randomly flakes, or my husband has to travel for work, etc., everything falls apart and I start hyperventilating. But, you know, "most precious days of our lives" and all that. I try to get several hikes/runs/walks/bike rides in every week and endeavor not to take myself too seriously. That helps, too.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Learning about romance through The Bachelor

Reading Steph's post yesterday got me thinking about The Bachelor, and how often it repeats the same things over and over in each season.

I've watched more seasons than I'm proud to admit, but not all of them, and truthfully, this year, I'm trying not to get sucked in, but it is really hard. There are elements that I enjoy about the series, but the constant repetition, the bitching and the crying are not those things.

I do like watching how people act in what is a very unreal environment. Take 25 lovely women, who in real life, would probably be the prettiest girl amongst their crowd of friends, and put them in a room where all the girls are gorgeous and they have to fight for the attention of one man.

Genius, right! That Burnett guy is really smart. The one thing I have noticed is that in almost every season where it's the guy doing the choosing, the girl he is attracted to the most that first night goes really, really far. A classic case of the little bachelor doing a lot of the thinking for him.

He likes the way she looks, and speaks and walks and determines his impression of her and it's done. It takes a lot for him not to choose that girl in the end, no matter how many other girls try to tell him she's a horrible person. See, this current season, Ben's season, Jake's season and more.

And the girl who gets that attention, loves, loves, loves that she beat out all those other women. Because really, it's about the competition and not finding love. There isn't an internet dating site out there that has a worse track record of creating lasting relationships than the Bachelor, and I'm counting Ashley Madison in there.

Genius again, and it's why I like the Bachelor better than the Bachelorette, because in general women form a first impression that can be altered, by the guy's behaviour.

So the Bachelor shows us a lot about human nature, nothing about romance, no matter how many roses, jewellery and scenic views they throw into the mix. But it is facinating to watch.

Drat! I think I just talked myself into watching again.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Love's Reality

So many who follow this blog may know that my guilty secret is the show the Bachelor/Bachelorette and yes, Bachelor Pad (which by far is the worst and the most fun to watch.) This season’s Bachelor featured 25 Beautiful women… as usual. Although one girl was missing part of her left arm: Sarah. She was quite pretty and explained she’d been born with the deformity. Sean, the Bachelor, took her out on a one on one date and seemed interested at first, but eventually that interest dissipated as his interest in other girls took hold.

Once he decided he wasn’t keeping her around, he didn’t wait for a rose ceremony but instead let her go immediately. I think he thought he was sparing her not being picked. He had previously set a precedent for being somewhat unconventional.
Part of me thought that he treated her differently because of her deformity – which makes him a jerk. Part of me thought since he had previously done things differently and this was just another example of that it might have nothing to do with her deformity. He could have just been a sensitive guy.

But all of me felt bad for Sarah. Because as she left, like so many other jilted girls before her on this show, she cried and said how she had heard it all before. How sweet she was. How nice she was. How pretty she was. How “someday” she was going to make someone so lucky… but how that “day” never came for her.
And again – was this only because of her arm? Was this the one thing separating her from a lifetime of happiness? And that’s when it hit me… Maybe. Or maybe not.

It’s really hard to know what triggers two people into falling in love. It’s just as hard to know what stops them. I write books all the time about the myriad of reasons that have kept people from falling in love for so long only to suddenly find it with that one special person.
So many of us, basically all of us not in love with someone right now, probably have a reason. Sarah thinks it might be her arm. Some probably think it’s their weight. Some because they have acne or one leg is shorter than the other. Or maybe because they live at home, or don’t have a job, or whatever.

The reality is that yes, the “thing” MIGHT be the reason. There are people out there who won’t be interested in another person because of XY or Z. However, it also might NOT be the reason, because the truth about love is that it can be mysterious and elusive.
I guess I don’t have a point other than I had this sad feeling about how hard it might be for a young girl who is different to find love. But then I immediately realized not only a) as brave as she was to go on this show she certainly doesn’t want my pity - but more importantly b) we’re ALL a little different.

Love is magic. As we get ready for our big Valentines Day bonanza week at Storytelling Rules… I just wanted to remind all of you who are happy in love how special it really really is. You too probably had a reason to as to why you weren't in love... right up until the point you were.


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Warm Bodies and World Views

I went to see Warm Bodies the other night, and while I liked it, I didn't love it.

I think this movie, for me anyway, suffered from a great trailer that increased my expectations far too high.  Or perhaps suffered from my seeing the movie after a long day of banging my fingers and head against my keyboard...

And after I got home, I started thinking about a lot of writerly things. Not so much about the nuts and bolts of storytelling but about themes and world views and the elements that underlie fiction.

One expects, in certain kinds of fiction, for there to be a message. Something deeper that makes you think; perhaps something that not every casual reader recognizes or understands without the help of academic analysis... (And often academics see things in fiction that the author never intended...)

But even in most genre fiction, (which most academics dismiss), a writer's world view comes through in his or her voice and storytelling choices. Again, often many/most readers "miss" the themes or deep questions the work raises. In fact, I would argue that these themes are missed by readers more often in genre fiction, because these books are such quick, fun reads that readers don't stop to reflect. And that's okay. I think all fiction needs to engage readers first and foremost. There is nothing wrong with reading for entertainment and a lot right about the value of reading as opposed to TV or movies or playing video games...

And I also don't mind (that much) when my books are accused of being shallow or fluff -- even though I think both words are highly derogatory terms to assign to something that an author has spent their time and effort on, and has shed blood or tears over. But whatever.

Regardless of how shallow some people might think my stories are, I do think about things like theme. A lot. In fact, I might think about them too much and let questions of what a reader might glean from my characters' actions sway how I choose to have them act or react. I want my books to reflect things I believe in, for the most part.

And in that, I'm starting to wonder if maybe I hold myself back at times. Maybe I interfere too much with my characters.... I mean... if I'd had a similar idea to Stephenie Meyers at the same time she did, and had written a teen vampire book--even with the same world building rules and basic story line--mine would have been different, because I would not have wanted to be promoting stalkerish, emotionally abusive boyfriends or abstinence-above-all-else or anti-abortion messages or teen marriage... And as a result, it's possible I wouldn't have written such an emotionally compelling trilogy that captured as many fans as she did. Who knows...

While writing Deviants, I worried--a lot--about how the Burn character comes off, and whether or not my heroine, Glory, might seem like a battered girlfriend who's forgives the violence of a boy who can't control his temper because she gives him the excuse of: it's not his fault.

Well, if you've read the book, you know it's not his fault. Not totally, anyway. And she's done things that are even harder to forgive. But, what if my book gives a subtle message to girls in abusive relationships that they should forgive their boyfriends? Hmmm... This upsets me.
Of course, in all my reviews so far, I don't think even one person has said this. Not in a review I've read the whole way through, anyway.

And Warm Bodies made me think of something else I've been struggling with as I finish The Dust Chronicles trilogy. Something I may have been thinking about/worrying about too much.


You see, in Warm Bodies, the zombies can recover. They can become alive again. They are sentient beings trapped in dead bodies. The science of this re-animation doesn't make any sense, but it is fiction after all.

But the deeper question it raises is: Is it ethically okay to kill a monster, when it's possible, just possible, that the monster might one day recover from being a monster?

The author of Warm Bodies (I assume in the book as well as the movie) solves this by basically having two levels of monsters... And that's something I've considered too, as I wrap up The Dust Chronicles. But I'm not sure. I actually think my "resolution" of this moral/ethical question might have more to do with self-defense as an excuse to kill, rather than "it's okay to kill a monster". We'll see. Revisions await, which is normally when I get all these things straight.

And perhaps only over-analytical nerds like me notice or worry about things like this. 

Most people don't watch Warm Bodies and think about issues like murder and euthanasia, or stealing someone's memories and emotions, or addiction and recovery and redemption.

Rather, they think: that dude is cute for a zombie and true love saved the world. Awe. How sweet.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Burns Supper

I've been going on and on about this for a while, so I apologize if you're sick of it. I can't seem to stop myself, though. I attended my first ever Burns Supper on Saturday. I know it wasn't really Burns night, but my Scottish friends were in Long Beach on the correct night and figured better late than never.

So at about 7:00 on Saturday, a group of us showed up at the home of fabulous author Catriona McPherson and her handsome husband Neil McRoberts. We had quite an eclectic crew. Some academics, some writers, a software engineer/musician/photographer and an irrepressible Frenchman, to name a few.

My sweetheart gave the Toast to the Lassies and it was incredibly sweet. I was then charged with giving the Lassie's Reply, which I took quite seriously. Mainly. At any rate, I read a lot of Robert Burns' poetry and picked up a few handy biographical facts.

The highlight of the whole thing, however, was Neil giving the Immortal Memory. He gave it all an historical context, tied Burns' poetry to both the French Revolution and the creation of the Constitution and, I must say, looked mighty fine in a kilt.

It was all topped off then by this fabulous trifle, which had undergone a serious transplant from one dish to another earlier in the day and yet still made what I now know is the required farting noise of a good trifle.

Oh, and the haggis wasn't half bad either! Especially when you mushed it up with the potatoes and the turnips.

Crazy Thing Called Love World Tour!! Or making my mom feel bad...

Ha. Not really. But let me tell you a little story... so, every Thanksgiving when my family and I move in with my parents for about a week, my mom says ABOUT A MILLION TIMES "it would be so great if you could come down just you. And we could shopping and see movies..." I totally understand, and this sounds kind of dreamy to me too. Visiting my hometown, catching up with old friends, sleeping in in the bed I discovered sleeping in, in. HA! So, I decided I would come down near the release of Crazy Thing Called Love - I'd do some signings, some other fun promo stuff and let my mom buy me a pedicure. I organized some events, told my mom the dates A MILLION TIMES and was ready to go.

Last month we were talking about this trip and mom asked me what the dates were again. This has happened about a million times, so I told her and then there was a deadly silence and then mom moaned. Come to find out, Mom and Dad planned to go to Florida that week. Yes. That week. Mom got the dates confused. And then couldn't get her money back on the deposit. And so, I am heading down to see my parents for about twelve hours. And then it's just me. And a rental car. And man, I'm getting the deluxe pedicure. DELUXE!

But I'm also doing some fun promo events. So, if you are in the area - come see me!!

Tuesday February 5 - Lady Jane Salon - Naperville 7pm
I’ll be reading from CRAZY THING CALLED LOVE. There will be fantastic giveaways, books on sale and my parents will be there!
Reading Salon Location:
Le Chocolat du Bouchard
2nd Floor (aka The Loft)
129 South Washington Street
Naperville, IL 60540

Friday February 8 - The Cypress House 4pm - 6pm
The Cypress House is a fantastic shop in Northern Illinois with beautiful and unique gifts and for the event, Kurn’s Chocolate will be having a tasting of some of their best-selling chocolates.
718 Tenth Avenue
Rochelle, IL 61068

Saturday February 9 - The Books Connection 2pm - 4pm
19043 Middlebelt Road
Livonia, MI 48152

Wednesday, February 13 - Windy City RWA Meeting 7-9pm
The Naperville Chamber of Commerce Meeting room, downtown Naperville

Friday, February 01, 2013

Celebrity and truth

One of the things I really loved about Crazy Thing Called Love was the idea of two celebrities in their own fields, who appeared on the outside to be successful and in control and underneath were a mass of insecurity. And it was insecurity that drove Maddy and Billy to work as hard as they did.

There is a lovely truth to that idea, something missing a lot in this weird cult of celebrity that drives a lot of our entertainment reporting.

Because even in "candid" moments, most celebrities are trying to sell us something. Jessica Simpson is selling weight loss, with the tagline,"if I can do it, then so can you." But what she never talks about is the personal trainer, the nutritionist, the chef and the team of nannies that  are there to ensure she doesn't fail, or the $4 million dollars she was paid to lose the weight.

Or when a celebrity becomes an expert on motherhood. Jessica Alba is becoming one of those, with a line of eco diapers, but again, never mentions the team of nannies that are constantly in her house to help her day and night.

To me it's a lie by omission, because the tag line is out there, "I can do it and so can you", without discussing the help behind the scenes.

One person who does speak pretty candidly is Elizabeth Banks, who recently gave an interview where she talked about giving her nannies(yep, plural) two weeks off at Christmas, and those two weeks, with two young children were tough. It was hard for her and her husband, and that she admitted it makes her rare.

I love fiction because it gets to the truth behind a person, we get deep into their psyche and see what makes them tick, and maybe because of that it's made me more annoyed by the lack of truth out there.

From now on when someone is touted as a weight loss, or parenting role model, I'd like them to have achieved something by themselves. So the woman who lost 100 pounds, while working and raising a family is far more interesting to me. Give me the single mom who raised six college educated children, because she has knowledge to impart and no more of this celebrity fiction.

I'd like more truth in my celebrity reporting, please.
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