Thirty-one Days of Halloweenie Day 9: Jenny Schwartz Goes Blank In The Night

SandrabooksYearbookYourself_1958Are any of you kids waiting for the creature from the Black Lagoon to come to your door? Or are you just dying to smash a pumpkin or have candy hurtled your way?

Is anyone wondering what the hell I was thinking about when I went into that machine that morphed my DNA with my dog’s? I know Jenny Schwartz, my guest today, is a little wary of something, but she totally understands Halloween. You wait and see.

Jenny Schwarz

Jenny Schwartz

Fear and Halloween… I typed those words on a blank screen page and contemplated whether anyone other than another writer would understand a Halloween costume that was simply a huge, blank piece of paper. A blank page is terrifying. I’m instantly compelled to find words to fill it…and what if one day those words don’t come?

What if one day I have no more stories to tell?

Being a writer, a novelist, is my dream job. The thought of losing it, of fate wrenching it from me, is terrifying. Yet life does things like that. We devote years to a specific goal and then WHOA! the path we’re on rears up and throws us off.

In my new release, Kiss It Better, the heroine Cassie has always dreamed of nursingKissItBetter in Africa and she achieves her dream, only to burn out. Angry, depressed and generally wanting to scream at the world, she meets Theo and her frustrations find a new focus. But Theo has his own problems and as their lives collide, both have to reassess who they are and what they’re willing to risk to build new lives.

Reading fiction is a lot like Halloween (See? Jenny agrees with me! –Sandra), but instead of dressing up as pirates, axe murderers or clowns, we try on other people’s lives by losing ourselves in books. Either way, we get to explore our fears in a safe way. It’s an emotional thrill ride, with the safety harness on.

Happy Halloween! Thanks for the invitation to post here, Sandra, and may you never be haunted by a blank page.

Kiss It Better

All Cassie Freedom wants to do is save the world, and she could, if only she were able to. But her dream of nursing in Africa is shattered, and she returns home to Jardin Bay, where familiarity, security, and a sense of her own failure threaten to drown her. Dr. Theo Morrigan knows a thing or two about responsibility, leaving his own medical practice to take over a family business. He knows his mind, his future, and how he wants to live his life – until an old secret resurfaces and rocks his whole world. Suddenly, the man who needed no one needs a broken-hearted nurse, and a nurse who thinks she’s too weak will find her own strength.

Find Kiss it Better here ! (via Amazon)

Jenny Schwartz is an Australian contemporary romance author. Her books celebrate the joy of falling in love and the freedom of choosing to follow your heart. She has a degree in Sociology and History — people watching and digging into the past — and a passion for reading, especially books with a guaranteed happy ever after. Her Jardin Bay series captures her love for Australia, and for sexy heroes and the determined women who drive them wild.

Website: jennyschwartz.com

Thirty-one Days of Halloweenie Day 7: Rhyll Scares, Talks Stealing Candy

SandrabooksI was made for writing books featuring coffee, peanut butter, and cookies, Kiss Was Made For Lovin’ You, while author Rhyll Biest was made for Halloween. Naughty , bare-chested Halloween.

Holly Unthanks, heroine of my November release with Escape Unrestrained, has a fairly unique outlook on life. Here’s her thoughts on Halloween:

  1. I’m not afraid of Halloween, but Halloween is afraid of me.
  2. Witches are not scary. And who else are you going to swap recipes for placenta cookies and bone marrow bread with?
  3. Ghosts are not scary. In fact, when I see the ghosts of boyfriends I’ve done in, I get the warm fuzzies.halloween pumpkin witch dog
  4. Vampires are not scary. They were, before Twilight took the horror value of vampires around the back of a shed and shot it in the head, but not anymore.
  5. Zombies are not scary. They shuffle. Even my thoroughly unaerobicised ass can outrun them.
  6. Werewolves are not scary. Toss a Shmacko in the opposite direction, bolt, and you’re good.
  7. Trick or treating and children ARE scary. I vote myself the person most likely to steal candy from children. Thankfully, the quarantine tape across my front door deters visitors.

unrestrained smallMade for Halloween, Rhyll Biest was born a curmudgeon and now writes romance for curmudgeons (who love to see hero and heroine SUFFER before they find happiness). Her life ambition is a guest spot on Grumpy Old Women. She tried smiling and being nice—once—and decided it wasn’t for her. Instead she now focuses on writing and doesn’t worry about anything else. Find out more about Rhyll at Biestbooks.com.

BEWARE! The Thirty-One Days of Halloweenie is COMING!

punkinbud

PunkinBudman

Remember how last month and the month before I was all in your face with phobias and other irrational fears?

I play with fear a lot in Driving In Neutral and For Your Eyes Only. October continues with that theme of terror because, you know, it ends with Halloween and it’s only 31 days long, and has Reese’s Peanut Butter items and candy corn involved.

supercreepweenie

How creepy is this kid?

You may recall that I like to write about fear, especially when it comes to falling in love, but perhaps you’ll also recall how the previous 75 Days of Phobias series theme’ highlighted that the two things that freak y’all out the most are spiders and CLOWNS! Starting This Wednesday, it’s gonna be a (mostly) Clown-free Freaky Festival o’ Facts, Fun, Frankenstein, FrankenBud, Frankenbrides (like Ella in Driving in Neutral) and Fear, finishing on Friday 31 October.

Join me for a little friggin’ fun. There will be coffee, cookies, giveaways, treats, and maybe even a couple of tricks. Oh, YEAH MAMA!

Sandrabooks

When Good Characters Behave Badly

baddog3I’ve been waiting to do this post. I mean REALLY waiting. I wasn’t sure how long it would be before someone made mention of a lead character’s less-than-stellar behavior in Driving in Neutral once it was published.

It only took a week (Thank you, Dear Author!).

I’ve been waiting because this book has a history, and not just a 75 days long blog series on fear history. Yes, kids, I spent 75 days focused on phobias. As a lead-in to the release of Driving in Neutral, the romcom I call my ‘love story about claustrophobia,’ guests dropped by to talk about their fears. For 75 days.

Bear with me. I’ll get to the history bit soon.

The 75 Days Series should have highlighted that I like writing about fear. I like using fear as the key to hindering or unraveling a relationship, but I also like that a character eventually triumphs over fear, after all, I write romance where love triumphs over all. Love is a scary thing. Love can make a person feel vulnerable. Love can make a person act impulsively, and do dumb things. Love is primitive, emotional. People may be unable to filter their actions because love has jacked up their hormonal system. Everything is overloaded. So, let’s backtrack to the bit about vulnerability because like love, fear has a similar effect on a person. Fear is primitive, emotional. A person may be unable to filter their actions because fear has jacked up their hormonal system. In both cases, the amygdala, the centre of emotional behaviour, is doing all the work, while the Baddog2pre-fontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates behavior, that is, the part of the brain that tells you what is right and what is wrong, is sort of on hold.

Fear can make people act in ways that seem out of character, can make a good person do something bad. When it comes to a character pushing the boundaries of behavior, what crosses the line between an acceptable response and a reprehensible response to fear? Is retribution ever justifiable, or understandable within a character’s behaviour? Or is revenge always just plain wrong? This is what I wanted to explore.

Lead characters in romance fiction are often held to a higher standard of behavior; they are perceived by many readers to be a ‘better’ form of a human being, one who frequently rises above petty or malicious behavior. As a result of this, when a romance hero or heroine acts in a primitive way, when impulsivity gets the better of them and these good people do bad things, some readers will protest and deem that character to be unlikable, un-heroic, and unworthy of baddog1being a romantic lead. Other readers don’t care.

I wasn’t sure which lead character would push the boundary for some readers, since both the hero and heroine in Driving in Neutral behave quite badly. Getting trapped in an elevator brings out the worst in claustrophobic Maxwell. He raves and verbally abuses Olivia, the woman trapped with him. His reaction is completely childish and base. He is overwhelmed by his fear, is unable to filter, and works from a primitive space. He’s all amygdala function.

When Olivia’s fear surfaces she, too, is in amygdala overdrive. So jacked up is her response to her fear she misbehaves. Terribly. There are 4 reasons for misbehaving: attention, power, inadequacy, revenge.

Olivia feels aggrieved, exposed, and acts impulsively, which, at that moment when it all spins out of control, is her best way of coping with being vulnerable. Her reaction is completely childish, and base. What she does to Emerson is cruel, and, just as he feels remorse for abusing her, she feels remorse for her behaviour…eventually, once her hormonal system is back at a normal operating level.baddog5

Now the history bit. A while back, I entered Driving in Neutral in a writing contest. A judge took issue with Emerson Maxwell’s verbal abuse of Olivia, particularly with name-calling. I was scolded with, “A hero would never call a heroine names.”  In case you’re wondering, those names were ‘wet rodent’ and ‘waterlogged hamster.’ Not exactly ear-scorching or profane, but I knew, based on that reaction, that Maxwell and my writing had crossed the line for that reader-judge.

What I want to know is this: Does the context for a character’s bad behaviour matter to you, or is bad behaviour always a no-go zone for romance leads, because romance heroes and heroines must maintain that ‘better’ form?

Fear can make a person act in ways that seem out of character, can make a good person do something bad. When it comes to a romance hero or heroine pushing the boundaries of behavior, what, to you, crosses the line between an acceptable response and a reprehensible behaviour? Is retribution ever justifiable, or understandable within the circumstances of a character’s behaviour? Or is name-calling and revenge always just plain wrong?

baddog6So what do I think, where do I stand on all this behaving badly stuff? My friend Swell, a longtime romance reader, sums up how I feel about lead characters behaving badly in a romance novel. Swell says that if the “reaction is realistic and a part of the character, and the reaction is used to complete the relationship between the hero and heroine, then I will feel that the response was appropriate for the character.” Amen sister.

 

Driving in Neutral, A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only on sale now!

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A Farewell to Elvie

And hello new dog nightmares. As if flashback dog horror doesn’t happen every time I hear the theme from Flashdance, I now have a new hell to haunt me.

Know how sometimes you get that bone-deep feeling of foreboding? I think it’s pretty obvious I had that sort of thing happening with the ongoing Elvie Saga. Sadly, very sadly, Elvie is no more, and he met his end in a way that made me very angry.  No, he did not jump the fence, run off and get hit by a car, as you may have expected (see previous 3 blog entries). It only took a few minutes. He died in his backyard, in the middle of the day, his chain wrapped around the chain post, shade and water out of reach. You hear about idiots who leave their animals inside their cars in the middle of summer. Dogs die in hot cars. Dogs die the same way in back yards in the beginning of summer too.

I feel responsible. Although there is no reason that I should, I still feel like it’s my fault. I saw Elvie on his shortened chain, and he was jerking on it as usual, barking too. It made me uneasy. I had a sense of dread, but this was something I’d seen and heard before so I figured…Yes, when I saw him, at 2pm, I could have climbed over the fence and given him some slack, but I was wary of him, especially when he was riled up, anxious, and in HIS territory. We know this. I told y’all how I thought I was out of my league with this muscled-up dog.

So, because he was in his yard instead of mine, I did nothing.

Well, that’s not completely true. I checked on him a little while later, maybe 15-20 minutes later, and he was lying down in the grass–albeit in the full sun. Since he’d stopped barking, I thought his owner had come home. But she hadn’t.

Elvie’s owners may not have had any intention for their dog’s demise, but it happened due to their negligence.

I hugged Budman and said a little prayer for Elvie. Maybe you will too.