Friday, December 26, 2014

Turning Point

Most novels have at least one scene that is a turning point in the story. Something changes.  It could be an outer turning point where something happens to change the way the story evolves or an inner turning point where the person’s inner resolve or attitude changes. Maybe this change affects a character so that after this point, nothing will ever be the same for him or her. Some turning points are dramatic; some are more subtle. – Anneli Purchase

EMBROILED by Darlene Jones

Emily doesn’t believe in heaven, but she has an insane desire to go “up there.” A yearning that’s so strong that she can no longer function in daily life. Even the wonderful Dr. David can’t help her find the answers she needs.
Then a stranger arrives claiming to be her soulmate, claiming to have loved her in other lives. She is inexorably drawn to him even as she runs from him.
To prove what he says is true, Yves takes her to his world. There she meets gods and Powers and people rescued from doomed planets—living the perfect heavenly life. She knows she belongs “up there” with Yves, but all is not as idyllic as it appears. Emily is the only one who sees the danger. Can she leave her family and friends to stay with Yves? Will she be able to save him and his world?

Turning Point
Excerpt from Embroiled
Yves ordered a second round of liqueurs. They sipped and sat in tense silence. At least, for Emily, it was tense. She clasped her hands in her lap. It’s now or never, girl. “Yves, did you … did you make the kids … that is … did you influence the kids to go back to school?”
Emily felt her mouth drop open. “How on Earth did you do that?”
Yves hesitated. Emily’s heart dropped and her stomach fluttered. What story was he formulating in the pause? What lies would he tell?
“That’s not an easy question to answer, Em.”
“It has to do with your world and mine.”
Emily frowned. “Your world? What world is that?” She laughed nervously. “Are you saying you’re an alien?” Asking the question, she felt like an idiot.
“Sort of.”
Emily went cold. Her heart seemed to drop right out of her. “Sort of!?” She was so flustered she choked on her words. Aware of odd looks from the people at neighboring tables, she struggled for control. She took a deep breath and hissed, “What the hell does that mean?”
Yves winced at her sharp tone. “It’s a long story.”
“They always are.” Emily gathered her handbag and keys and slid from her chair, more disappointed than she ever thought she could be. The keys fell from her trembling hand. She reached down to scoop them up.
Yves was faster. He caught her hand and wrapped her fingers around her keys without letting go. “Please don’t leave.” He slapped some money on the table and stood. “I promised you an explanation, but I think it would be best if I showed you.”
“Showed me what?”
“My world.”
Emily stalked off to her car, as majestically as one could stalk off in flat sandals. “From another world. Yeah! Right!”
“Em, wait up,” Yves called. “You said, you believed.”
Without slowing down or looking back, Emily clicked the fob to unlock her car, opened the driver’s door, and tossed her purse inside. If Yves wanted to show her where he lived, she’d go along. Truth be told, she’d go anywhere with him. God, girl, you are so stupid. What if this guy is on the lam from some loony bin? “Where to?” she asked.
Yves’s face lit up. A sort of halo wavered around his head. Too much alcohol tonight, she thought. She closed her eyes for a moment and gave herself a mental shake, but, when she looked again, the halo was still there.
“You’ll come?” Yves asked. She nodded and saw his face glow. “We won’t need your car.” Emily clicked the lock button and pocketed the keys. “Take my hands and close your eyes.”
With a shiver of apprehension, Emily did as he asked. Her feet seemed to lift from the ground. The air felt cool on her face. Then grass tickled her toes and Yves was telling her to open her eyes. Emily glanced down. Yes, it was grass. But they’d been in the paved parking lot just a second ago. Turning full circle to examine her surroundings, she knew she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Maybe if she clicked her heels together…. “Where are we?”

“This is my home,” Yves said softly.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas far from home


My first Christmas away from home was in Mali. My friend and I were volunteers with CUSO*. We made pie crust from buerre de karite (yes, the same karite that’s used in skin care products). We found the karite oil in a big barrel at the market, bought some and took it home not knowing what it was. We put it in the fridge and a few hours later decided, by the texture and taste, that we had a perfect shortening. We bought canned apples from China and made a pie. It was a huge success with all the Canadian CUSO volunteers. And no, we did not have a turkey.

Two years later I celebrated Christmas in Hawaii. Santa wore red shorts, red flip-flops and a perfect Santa hat to go with the long white beard that covered most of his bare chest. Pineapple and poi for dinner? No. Instead, we enjoyed a traditional turkey feast at the hotel.

A number of years later it was back to Mali and off to the village of Faladye to spend Christmas Day with our friend’s family. We took French bread and bottled water with us. Raymond’s mother butchered a chicken Christmas Eve and we gnawed on the tough old bird which was served with millet liberally mixed with sand and grit.

While most Malians are Muslim or animist, Raymond’s family is Catholic and the village boasts a large brick church. I’m not religious, but as we walked to church along with the villagers that night for midnight mass, it seemed perfectly natural to anticipate meeting Mary and Joseph around the next corner. Turning our gaze from the mud-brick walls to the star filled sky, a sense of peace washed over us, heightened no doubt by the silence of the savanna. 

The service and songs were in Bambara, the carols played on a balafon. When we joined in the “fa la la la“ chorus, the children in front of us spun around to stare, wide eyed, mouths agape. We winked and continued singing. After the service everyone lined up outside the church to shake our hands.

For the past number of years, we’ve been in Mexico for Christmas. We have had tamales and flan, both of which are delicious, but we missed the traditional dinner especially the leftovers for breakfast the next morning which is the best part of a turkey dinner so now we cook a turkey on the barbecue.  We also have a piñata on Christmas Eve for the kids and we spend part of Christmas afternoon body boarding.

All so different from the white Christmas of home in Canada, with snow, and frost and sleigh rides, and Santa’s reindeer, but all equally enjoyable.

Joyeux Noël! Felix Navidad! Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Wanted: Book Assassin

Yes, you read right. Please come and bash my books. Tell everyone they are anti-religion, profane, and wicked. The louder you yell, the more strident you are, the better. Tell the world they’re more than sci-fi with otherworldly beings. Say that the action and love story are a ruse to disguise subversive social commentary.

Someone needs to write to the New York Times and complain about my books, slam them for all depravities contained therein. I don’t really care what you say as long as it garners attention.

Oh, wait. It would be best to brand them anti-Christian. I’d sell millions. Just ask Dan Brown. Religious controversy worked for him.

I didn’t think I’d written anything controversial until readers gave me feedback. Some say my books are very anti-religion. Others ask if Yves is God. I admit that my goal was to get people thinking about world conditions. But, such strong responses from what started out to be an adventure romance with a little sci-fi thrown in for the magical element it could bring to the story?  

These reactions startled me and beg the questions for authors.

Is there anything controversial in your book?

Should there be anything controversial in your book?

Can your novel be successful without controversy?

I’ve heard it said that if you want to stay friends with someone, you must avoid three topics—sex, politics, and religion. Is the same true for novels?

Doesn’t seem so when it comes to sex. Many novels, certainly not just in the romance genre, are replete with sex and they sell.

Novels featuring political themes are popular too. Who doesn’t love the intrigue of political machinations? Add some sex and you’ve got a best seller on your hands and, in real life, juicy headlines that threaten to topple even those highest on the ladder.

And religious controversy in books … well, remember Salman Rushdie?  

Controversy grabs attention. Controversy sets people talking and arguing. Controversy sells.

Should an author deliberately write something to cause controversy? And, if so, what? 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Humor in Novels

Humor can be anything from a belly laugh and the giggles to a chuckle or a smile. As long as it makes us happy to some degree, humor is doing its job. Here’s an excerpt from my novel EMPOWERED—an example of humor in a book that is not meant to be a comedy.

Victor grabbed Jasmine’s arm and dragged her to his office. “Don’t you guys all have something to do?” he said over his shoulder, but none of the men moved. He saw Jasmine look back at them and wink.
“You tell her, Vic,” one of the guys hollered just as he slammed the door.
“Woman, what were you thinking when you came here? It’s not safe and you stand out like a sore thumb.” Victor glared at her. “Please, tell me you’re not that dumb.”
“Belize, I think.”
“Belize for our honeymoon.”
“Honeymoon!” He heard the guys hooting on the other side of the door and imagined a whole lot of high-fives taking place out there.
“Yes, good snorkeling. We’ll have to have a society wedding of course. But we can keep it small and limit the photographers.”
“You’re totally nuts.” Victor shook his head in disbelief.
“We’ll make beautiful babies,” she cooed smiling up at him.
“Babies?  Babies!” Victor screeched. “Get this straight. We. Are. Not. Getting. Married. We. Are. Not. Making. Babies.” What did it take to make her understand?
“We are,” she said in a matter of fact way that enraged him even more. “We have to.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Victor, I love you. I can feel you in every atom of my body. My bones feel like jelly when I’m with you. Can’t you—?”
“You don’t even know me,” he yelled as he yanked the door open. The guys scrambled out of the way. With one hand on Jasmine’s arm and the other on the small of her back, he propelled her out the door to the waiting men. Jasmine stopped abruptly and Victor’s forward momentum caused him to press against her. He jerked back as if scalded. Jasmine turned to the audience in the doorway and mouthed, “I’ll be back.” Five thumbs turned up.
“No, you won’t!” Vic deposited her with her bodyguards and stomped back to his office. “Jesus H. Christ! Miss Jasmine Wade Berdin you are one hundred percent certifiably insane,” he said to no one in particular as he sagged heavily into his chair. His bones felt like jelly.