Friday, February 27, 2009

Brooke's Travels - Asia

I've put together a slideshow of my travels through Asia using my photographs - Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and India. Enjoy!!


video

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stupid Character Syndrome

Those of us who read romance novels have all seen it. You know what I'm talking about - the woman in danger thing where the heroine has rocks in her head and can't resist following the bad guy into obvious danger even though you KNOW it's the dumbest idea since...well, EVER. Personally, I see a "heroine" do this and I feel like slapping the character and then banging my head against the wall in frustration.

I watched a movie on television today, based on a romance novel, and this type of thing happened. Of course, the woman character got caught when she should have been fleeing the scene as fast as a gazelle on the Serengeti. She couldn't even bother to flee through the woods. No, she had to run down the middle of the road in high heels where her evil ex-husband could not only see her (he'd be blind to miss her) but could aim a weapon at her and shout at her to stop from a distance of 100 yards. Hell, even I know that if you zigzag while running, he's unlikely to hit you, even from a much closer range. And it would draw attention and other people who could help would be alerted. But noooo, the character does the most stupid, asinine thing possible and stops. This, my friends, this is Stupid Character Syndrome.

Of course, it doesn't only happen in romance novels/movies - it happens in horror movies too. A group of teenagers decide to split up to explore a haunted house. Let me slap my hand against my forehead now.  All I can think is, "Can't you hear the scary music? You're all going to get whacked!" And sure enough, within ten minutes those kids are swiss cheese. 

So why do writers continue to write this kind of thing? Is it to make the reader feel so much more superior and intelligent than the character? Is it to ratchet up the suspense? Is this the way writers see women in general? Or is it just to annoy the hell out of their readers/viewers?

Fortunately, in romance novels, this kind of thing is dying a well-deserved death. Readers want to be able to respect and identify with an intelligent, gutsy heroine. Who wants to identify with a total airhead? I know I don't and I'm guessing that no one else does either. But every once in a while, I come across this type of character behavior and I literally throw the book to the floor and sometimes I stomp on it for good measure (only paperbacks though, hard cover books leave dents - I have hardwood floors). Of course, then I have to pick up the thing and dump it into recycling. And I know I have wasted $8 on a book with an idiotic heroine. I HATE that.

I realize that a tragedy is more about a character's flaws and that's what makes the tragedy. If only the character had made different choices, there would have been a chance at a decent ending. And I know that romance novels guarantee a happy ending. But quite honestly, if a character is that dumb, do they deserve a happy ending? Let her gutsy friend have the happy ending, instead of the victim. 

With so many women reading romance novels (and I know this because sales of romance novels account for 60% of book sales, so you're out there, don't bother to deny it), I think women characters should be portrayed as intelligent, strong, gutsy and vulnerable.  Just like real women. The hero and heroine characters should be role-models - showing how one can go from despair and fear to triumph against the odds, overcoming obstacles and achieving self-awareness and courage. Courage isn't a lack of fear, courage is doing something despite the fear, sometimes because of the fear. Those are the people we admire in real life, so why should fiction be any different?

So many people say that they would never have the guts to do one or another thing. Go back to school, love after disappointment, travel, change careers, change jobs, move. You name it, people have said they don't have the guts. People allow their fears to define them negatively. I can't do this, I can't do that. Yadda, yadda, yawn, snore, zzzzzz. And so, some people read romance novels where the character grow and learn, because they wish they could be the same but they're too intimidated to do what they really want to do in their own lives.

I think writers have a responsibility to their readers. To show what's possible. To show what's achievable. Air new ideas and perspectives. And to show that even though circumstances are not ideal, that there are always decisions to be made, even if you don't like the choices. 

Whether the outcome is happiness or sadness, triumph or defeat, the characters should grow and hopefully not make too many ill-advised decisions. Like running down the middle of the road in stilettos where someone can shoot them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Interview with Erotica Author Keta Diablo

Brooke London: Hi Keta, welcome to the blog. According to your website, it seems that you’ve been interested in writing and books from an early age. Can you tell me what kinds of stories you first wrote? What was the first book you really enjoyed and why?

Keta: Hi Brooke, thank you for having me here today. It’s a pleasure. I can remember as a child writing down stories and placing them into notebook form. Then at about ten, a teacher must have noticed my fondness for writing. She introduced me to Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve been hooked every since.

B.L.: You were once a reporter for a newspaper. How did this help you develop your writing style? How would you define your writing style?

Keta: Reporters must listen carefully and be accurate on their details of the story. If nothing else, this helps when it comes to researching a book, particularly historicals. I’m not sure how I would define my writing style. I think it changes a little depending on the genre. When I write fantasy, I’ve been told my writing is more descriptive. Perhaps this is because of the alternate world a writer must create. When I write erotica historical, I lean more toward dialogue than narrative. I try not to break the big rules pounded into our heads, POV, dangling modifier abuse, repetitious words, congruent sentence structure and all that, but heck, sometimes rules have to be broken. And I’m sure on occasion I break them.

B.L.: How are you feeling about the release of your book Land of Falling Stars?

Keta: I’m very happy over the success of Land of Falling Stars. The book has been on the top ten best sellers’ list at Ravenous Romance several times and it’s number five on Fictionwise for Ravenous Romance. I’ve had many wonderful reader reviews/comments on the book, so this really pleases me.

B.L.: What inspired you to pick the pen up one day and create the particular characters and story that appear in Land of Falling Stars? Did your interest in genealogy contribute to the book? How so?

Keta: Genealogy always seems to filter in somehow. Actually, I was reading a true story about cousins who fought in the Civil War on opposite sides and how that affected their families. My brain took flight; I started with the “what ifs”. What if two men who loved the same woman fought on opposite sides? What if one shot the other accidentally on a smoke-filled battlefield, and one was left to break the news to the heroine? So you can see where this led me. Sophia, was a pampered, coddled child and promised to Jesse in marriage since they day she was born. But it’s really Gavin, her childhood friend that owns her heart. Now, if she can only admit it. Many have asked where the title came from so I’m about to tell you . . . As children, Sophia, Gavin and Jesse would lay under the star-bangled canopy of heaven and pretend they lived in the Land of Falling Stars.

B.L.: What do you feel is the most important thing that a pre-published author should know?

Keta: The market; what’s selling, what do readers crave, what are publisher’s looking for. And they should learn as much about the craft as they can. So many people say, “Hey, I’m going to write a book.” It’s much harder than it looks, and there are many rules writers should follow in order to be recognized in the publishing arena. That’s not to say you must follow all of them, but know when it’s okay to break one. A pre-published author should know it is very tough competition and you have to be very thick-skinned to survive. There are always those who won’t like one of your books, readers, review sites, etc. You have to take it with a grain of salt and attribute to different tastes in people. Nothing should be taken personally.

B.L.: What goals do you hope to attain in your writing career during the next few years?

Keta: Oh, this is a tough one. I don’t generally set long-term goals but just see where the writing leads me. I’m much further ahead than I was two years ago, and in two more years, I hope to have more books published, more reader interest, etc.

B.L.: Sometimes people envision an author’s life as being really exotic and exciting. Authors are real people like everyone else, so tell us what’s the most unexciting, un-exotic thing you’ve done in the past week?

Keta: If they only knew! Most days will find me at the computer, perhaps in jeans and a very unglamorous T-shirt. The cat is perched by my mouse. For some reason, she’s fascinated with it, so we’re always competing. And there is a big old dog curled up by me feet. The nice thing about animals – they don’t care if you forgot your deodorant that morning. They still love you. A writer’s life is lonely, not glamorous. At least mine isn’t. The most unglamorous thing I did this week – three times – empty Emma’s litter box!

B.L.: Land of Falling Stars is on Ravenous Romance. How long have you been with them and why do you like them?

Keta: Ravenous Romance is actually quite new, but they’ve have made tremendous strides in the publishing world since opening. I’m one of their first authors, along with a host of others who joined before they opened. I was thrilled when they accepted Land of Falling Stars and think we’ll hear big things from Ravenous in the future. I’m told there are quite a few New York authors on their roster, so to have Land of Falling Stars make the top ten is a real honor. Soon I’ll be editing an anthology for them on Gods and Goddesses. Again, I was honored to be assigned this project. Watch for it on their web site in the coming month.

B.L.: What books have you bought but haven’t read yet?

Keta: I received a gift certificate for Barnes and Noble for Christmas and just completed some shopping online. Here’s what I purchased, Red Fire by Deidre Knight, The Lady Flees Her Lord, Michele Young, Forbidden, Helen Kirkman and about six others. My TBR pile is enormous and my time so precious, but I’ll get to all of them before spring. Promise.

B.L.: How many books are currently in your library and who is your all-time favorite author? Why is she/he your favorite author?

Keta: Hundreds of books make up my library. I recently had to add a new shelf to the wall to hold thirty more. My all-time favorite author is a husband and wife team that wrote in the 1980’s under the pen name Laura London. Their book Windflower is my all time favorite of any book I’ve ever read. For some reason that book resonated with me. I’ve read it so many times the pages are worn and tattered. Hmmm, I’ll have to get a new copy. I related to the characters, Merry, Devon and Cat. So many times reading it in bed at night I’d laugh out loud. I received some strange looks from my Sheltie, but that didn’t stop me. I was so drawn in by their descriptive writing and felt as if I was right there, scooping sea water out of a sinking skiff with a moccasin. Kudos to them, and how I wish they were still writing.

B.L.: If you could live in any time period, what period would that be and who would you like to be?

Keta: I think in old time Scotland or Ireland where the men who ruled were larger than life, heart-stopping gorgeous and sexy beyond words. I know the living conditions at the time were very crude but I think the Highland warrior would compensate for that.

B.L.: You’re the heroine of your book, why do you fall in love with the hero?

Keta: Because he can stare death in the face and laugh, can slay the most vicious of enemies and yet be loving and caring to his woman. He would have to be funny and have the ability to laugh at himself. And I don’t want him to be perfect, mind-blowing handsome, yes, but he has to have some flaws, cuz Lord knows, I do.

B.L.: Keta, thank you so much for being here, and before we sign off, could you let us know what’s next for you?

Thank you for having me, Brooke, and thank you for asking about my upcoming releases. My first Male/Male novellas and shorts are being released soon. Look for Valentine’s Vindication at Noble Romance on the 14th of February, and Crossroads and Crossroads Revisited coming from Phaze in March and May. And I just signed a new contract with The Dark Roast Press for Carnal Cravings. There is a huge demand for GLBT and Male/Male romance. If it’s not your cup of tea, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ll still be writing more erotica historicals for Ravenous, Noble and Siren Publishing in the future.

Short Author Bio: Keta lives in the Midwest portion of the US and in her spare time (spare time?) loves to read and garden. She writes for five publishers under Keta Diablo and for two publishers under a pen name. She loves to hear from readers, so please find here on the internet: http://www.ketadiablo.com and here at Keta’s Keep, her author blog: http://www.ketaskeep.blogspot.com.


About Land of Falling Stars:
Better men than Gavin had been knocked low by Sophia’s beauty. Hell, every man who looked at her left a piece of his soul behind. Beyond her loveliness resided an indomitable spirit, but Sophia had always been a bundle of contradictions—fire and ice, a scorching temptress one minute, an icy bitch the next. And everything about her drew him like a hapless fly on the fringe of a giant spider web.
Years and distance, not even the war had cooled his infuriating desire for her. The woman slithered around him like a sleek, dark cat, her young, supple body sheathing him in a fiery web of unleashed passion. Oh yes, deep passion smoldered in the woman, an untapped reserve of simmering lust. Jesse, with his staunch moral upbringing and dandified ways had never dared compromise precious Sophia. Jesse had never tossed her in the hay or ravished her in the tall swamp grass of the Mill Pond to sate his hunger. Jesse had his chance, and all those years Gavin stood idly by and watched from the sidelines. He wanted her and now she wanted him. He felt it with every beat of his tormented heart.
She stood in front of him with a checkered napkin in her small hands. He fought an elemental need to crush her against him, devour her mouth, if only to prove the paltry tingling she’d felt when Jesse kissed her paled next to how she would feel when he had finished with her.

keta-diablo-land_of_falling_stars2

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Better to Have Loved and Lost than to Live with the Psycho for the Rest of Your Life

Well, it finally, FINALLY happened - yesterday, I dragged my flu-ridden body down to my mail box and, lo-and-behold, my divorce order was sitting in my cubby-hole. I've been waiting for it for what seemed forever - the para-legal said I'd have the order in three to four weeks which turned into five and a half weeks. Yes, I was counting days.

The title of this blog came from a fridge magnet that a friend of mine gave to me a few years ago before I decided to divorce my husband. Hmmmm. Apparently she knew before I did. LOL. My friend knows me pretty well, I'd say. 

It was not an easy marriage, not even in the beginning, but like so many other people, I thought I could make it work.  I made a vow to this man, which I had every intention of keeping. During the ten years we were married, the marriage deteriorated to the point where we could barely tolerate each other. It's amazing that something that started out with such hope and promise swirled down the toilet with such stunning speed. Counseling didn't save the marriage - it just clarified what I needed to do for me, in the end.

I can honestly say now that I should have left the marriage three weeks after we were married. Something happened before the marriage that I did not find out about until after the marriage. I thought I could forgive and forget, but I couldn't. I know now that I never really trusted him again. But at three weeks into marriage, the thought of divorce seemed outrageous. All that money, all that fuss, all those people who saw us take marriage vows. And I didn't want to fail in such a spectacular way - I mean, who gets divorced after three weeks unless you're a screwed up Hollywood-type?

If I had been more pragmatic and more realistic, I would have left three weeks into the marriage. I should have known myself better. I should have known that I couldn't forgive this type of betrayal. I should have tossed him out the door and let his butt bounce off the curb. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I can do nothing about it now. I have done the only thing I could - I divorced him.  I have closed, finally, the door to that miserable period of my life.

My reaction yesterday, holding the divorce order, ran the gambit from a very few tears for what had been lost to an overwhelmingly immense sense of relief. I was OUT. It was finally OVER. And now, I have my whole life ahead of me to do with as I please.

I am myself again.

Hi, my name is Brooke. I'm pleased to meet you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sun, Sand and Sangria

Sun, sand and sangria. Sounds good right about now, doesn't it? Well, it does if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and are in the midst of winter's snow and cold. Unless you're one of those polar bear club people who have decided to embrace winter against all reason and common sense. Hey, if it makes you happy, go for it. Just don't complain to me if your heart stops from utter shock. Embracing winter makes a lot of sense when you live in a northern climate - skiing, sledding, snowball fights, skating - and why DO winter activities seem to start with an S anyway? To match the S in snow?? Another question for the ages. After all, who wants to be stuck indoors for  six months of the year?

Personally, I  don't appreciate the cold. I'd rather move south for winter and come back for summer. I can be one of those snow birds (no, not Canadian Geese). I want to be a beach bunny, one who hangs out on the sand with cabana boys handing me sangria or margaritas. Keep 'em coming.

The problem is that I cannot afford that lifestyle. For short periods of time, yes, but extended, no. It is such a shame that cash is needed. Sighhhhh. Warm sun and sandy beaches with blue-green crystal clear ocean should be free of charge. I sometimes think that there should be some way of taking the land mass of Canada out of North American and plunking it down somewhere in the South Pacific. There's room, we could fit! (I think). But that would cause problems for the rest of the world and so I will need to stop fantasizing about this happening. 

I receive emails from various travel websites and every time I see one I can't resist selecting the links that would take me to the sun destinations. And then I look at the price. Not so bad until I realize that the taxes for the vacation cost more than the vacation itself! I don't understand how taxes can be more that the actual price. Of anything. There is something seriously wrong with the math here. 150% tax?? I don't THINK so.

So I am stranded in the ice and snow until Spring peeks into the Northern Hemisphere and decides it's time to stay. It could be worse: I could live at the North Pole - the snow and ice never leave there.

It's February now; Spring is only three months or so away. I guess I could turn up the temperature in my home to tropical levels, but I don't want to waste energy. Maybe if I got a small wading pool, a sun lamp and some sand, it would be a close enough facsimile. Paint the ceiling blue with white fluffy clouds. Pretend there's a cabana boy with sangria. 

Nah. I'm just going to have to wait. I want the real thing.