20 November 2018

Tuesday Talk with my guest: Cindy Fazzi

Why Is Romance Maligned So Much?
     Three Ways to Overcome the Bias
          By Cindy Fazzi
Let’s face it, romance is the most maligned genre today. Some critics have called the genre beloved by women as “crap” and “moronic.” If you’re a romance writer or reader or both, let me share a few thoughts about overcoming such prejudice.
    I mulled over the prevalent anti-romance sentiment when I wrote my first romance book in 2013. I have written two romance novels so far and both were published traditionally. I decided to use the pen name Vina Arno for my romance books because I was too aware of the anti-romance bias. I was afraid my non-romance novels would not be acquired by traditional publishers unless I separated them from my genre work.
    The real test for me has arrived with the publication of My MacArthur, my first “serious” novel using my real name. It’s a fictionalized account of General Douglas MacArthur’s interracial, May-December love affair with Isabel Rosario Cooper, a Filipino actress, in the 1930s. Sand Hill Review Press, an award-winning small publisher in the San Francisco Bay area, published it on Nov.1. How will My MacArthur fare given my previous genre work? It remains to be seen.

Anti-Romance Bias
First, let’s explore the reasons why some people love to hate romance. At the height of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, critics described the book (and romance genre as a whole) as a “moronic craze,” a “preponderance of crap,” and “Mommy porn.”
    It takes just one book like Fifty Shades to denigrate all romance writers and readers alike. The immense popularity of romance also drives the haters nuts. The romance-novel industry is worth $1.08 billion. You can criticize Fifty Shades all you want, but the trilogy sold 100 million copies. I’m not a Fifty Shades fan, but I respect its success and I don’t judge the people who like it.
   Women love romance novels—82 percent of romance readers are female, according to the Romance Writers of America. It’s not surprising that insults hurled at the genre are similar to insults associated with women. We all know the “dumb blonde” stereotype. Well, romance suffers from the “dumb and glib genre” stereotype.

Overcoming the Bias: Three Ways
If you’re a romance reader or writer or both, you are likely to encounter the anti-romance bias in one form or another, if you haven’t already. It’s particularly hard for new romance writers like me, who must contend with such prejudice on top of other publishing and marketing challenges. For what they’re worth, I’d like to share some tips.

#1 Write well. In the “high brow versus low brow” debate, the romance genre gets pummeled because of the writing quality. Again, it takes one Fifty Shades to affect the entire genre. The best way to overcome such prejudice is to write your very best romance book. Take your craft to the highest level by attending writing workshops or courses, getting meaningful critiques, and revising like crazy until your writing shines to the point of blinding the haters!
    I will never forget what Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo, one of my favorite literary authors, said at the 2017 WritersDigest Annual Conference: “The best genre fiction is as good as the best literary fiction.” If you write well, you will never have to apologize for writing romance. I certainly don’t.

#2 Embrace the risk. There’s a lot of similarity between writing and gambling, perhaps more than writers are willing to accept. Like gamblers, we take a chance every time we write a new manuscript. Like gamblers, we’re addicted. Otherwise, why do we endure years of rejections and heartaches? 
The anti-romance bias is just one of the risks we face. Once we accept and embrace such risk, we can face it with aplomb and focus on writing well (read #1 tip again).

#3 Nurture your creativity. Romance books are often criticized for their lack of creativity and originality. As authors, we have to follow the HEA/HFN formula because that’s part of our agreement with the romance reader. Apart from that, there’s no excuse for sticking to cardboard characters and tired tropes. Don’t just mimic the latest fad; find your unique voice.
    To paraphrase Russo, romance is just as creative as literary fiction, so prove it and take your craft seriously. Never mind the haters. They don’t know what they’re missing.

© Cindy Fazzi

About the Author
Cindy Fazzi is a Filipino-American writer and former Associated Press reporter. My MacArthur, published by Sand Hill Review Press, is her literary debut. She writes romance novels under the pen name Vina Arno. Her first romance book, InHis Corner, was published by Lyrical Press, while her second romance novel, Finder Keeper of My Heart, was published by Painted Hearts Publishing. Her short stories have been published in Snake Nation Review, Copperfield Review, and SN Review.

About the Book
The year is 1930. The place: Manila. Douglas MacArthur is the most powerful man in the Philippines, a United States colony. He is fifty years old, divorced, and he falls in love at first sight with a ravishing young Filipino woman. He writes her a love note on the spot. Her name is Isabel Rosario Cooper, an aspiring movie actress. One glance at his note and she thinks of him as 'my MacArthur'.

MacArthur pursues his romantic obsession even though he’s breaking numerous taboos. She reciprocates his affection because he could open doors for her financially struggling family. That MacArthur happens to be handsome compensates for the fact that he’s as old as her father.

When MacArthur is appointed the U.S. Army chief of staff, he becomes the youngest four-star general and one of America’s most powerful men. Out of hubris, he takes Isabel with him to America without marrying her.

Amid the backdrop of the Great Depression, MacArthur and Isabel’s relationship persists like 'a perilous voyage on turbulent waters,' as she describes it. In 1934, after four years of relationship, MacArthur leaves Isabel for fear of a political scandal.

The General goes on to become the iconic hero of World War II, liberating the Philippines and rebuilding Japan. Isabel drifts in Los Angeles, unable to muster the courage to return to Manila.

Douglas MacArthur. Her pulse quickened as she read the name. His neat handwriting exuded confidence, but just the same, his note struck her as an anomaly, a mistake. The white man who acted as his messenger stood next to her at the bar.
   Men of all ages filled the Olympic Boxing Club, waiting for the fight to begin. Filipinos, Americans, and Europeans caroused and mingled freely here, unlike the Elks or the Army and Navy Club, which banned Filipinos. The foreigners sat at the tables, drank Cerveza San Miguel, and smoked cigars. The Filipinos stood at the cheap section of the club, jostled and bet among themselves.
   “I’m Captain Ed Marsh, by the way.” The messenger extended his hand.
   An American officer in civilian clothes. It was Saturday night, after all
   “A pleasure to meet you, sir.” She shook his hand, but withheld her name.
   Isabel Rosario Cooper came to the club in search of her brother, or rather his car. She needed Ben to drive her to the Manila Carnival.
   Women didn’t come here because they didn’t watch boxing, so when she stepped inside the club, she’d grabbed everyone’s attention without trying. The men had erupted in whistles and cheers. The crowd had parted as she crossed the room. Just the way she liked it. She was born to part crowds—to turn heads. For an aspiring actress, every place was a stage.
   Who knew MacArthur sat amid the boisterous horde? She read the note again. I can’t help but notice your gracious presence. I would love it if you can favor me with your company. Please join me for dinner at The Grand.
   This time, the words made sense. Not a blunder on his part or a misinterpretation on hers. The message hit her like a jackpot—bigger than the Carnival Queen title that her best friend, Nenita, aimed for. He was the most important man in the Philippine Islands. He could open doors for her and her family.
   She stopped herself from blurting out a yes!  She couldn’t afford to give herself away. Nothing compelled a man to pursue a woman more than her lack of interest.
   “Who’s Douglas MacArthur?” She stood with the note in one hand and her silk purse in the other hand. Chin up and chest out, despite the sweat underneath her lace blouse. Her skirt squeezed her waist and constricted her breathing, but she’d worn it because it displayed her figure. The stifling humidity now made her regret her choice. Even the garter belt and stockings itched in such heat.
   “You’ve never heard of Douglas MacArthur?” His eyes widened.
   She shook her head. A saxophone wailed, distracting them both. They turned toward the elevated boxing ring—empty. Below it, a band warmed up.
    Captain Marsh offered her a pack of Lucky Strike. “Care for a cigarette?”
   “Why, thank you.” She tucked her purse under her armpit and took one stick, which he lit with a lighter. They stood side by side, watching the band.
    “Do you see the gentleman in the middle?” He pointed at a table not far from the band. “White suit. Gray-striped tie. Do you see him?”
    “That is Douglas MacArthur.”
   The man stared at her while smoking a long-stemmed pipe, the bowl shaped like a corncob. He didn’t smile. The band played a jazz-style rendition of a Filipino folk song. The audience, packed ten deep, hooted and screamed for the fight to begin, but MacArthur didn’t even blink.
    She glanced at his note again before inserting it in her purse.  “This is nice. But I don’t know him.”
    “It’s unbelievable. You really don’t know him?”
    She shook her head and shifted her weight to one hip.
    “He’s the Big Cheese!”
    She arched her eyebrow.
    “Major General MacArthur is the most powerful American not just in the Philippines, but in Asia.”
    She took a drag on her cigarette. “I know what big cheese means, thank you.”
   MacArthur stood out in his expensive suit, slicked-back hair, and intimidating pipe, but he was as old as her father, if not older. His title was commander of the U.S. Army’s Philippine Division, though everyone treated him like a king.
    He stared with a cool expression, pretending to be uninterested. The man was an actor. Perhaps they were not too different.

The Complete Tour

November 5th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Stop by Women on Writing's blog and read an interview with the author Cindy Fazzi and enter to win a copy of the book My MacArthur.

November 6th @ Coffee with Lacey
Get your coffee and stop by Lacey's blog where she share her thoughts on the book My MacArthur. 

November 7th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Stop by Beverley's blog and find out what she thought about Cindy Fazzi's book My MacArthur. This book is sure to entice historical fiction readers everywhere!

November 8th @ The Frugalista Mom
Stop by Rozelyn's blog and catch her thoughts on the historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 9th @ The Frozen Mind
Grab a blanket and stop by the blog The Frozen Mind and read their thoughts on the incredible historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 11th @ Bring on Lemons
If life hands you lemons, read a book! Come by Crystal's blog Bring on Lemons and find out what she had to say about the book My MacArthur.

November 13th @ Mommy Daze: Say What??
Want to know what this mom had to say about the book? Stop by Ashley's blog and read her thoughts on the historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 16th @ Amanda's Diaries
Find out what Amanda had to say about Cindy Fazzi's historical fiction book My MacArthur in her review today.

November 16th @ Chapters Through Life
Stop by Danielle's blog where she spotlight's Cindy Fazzi's book My MacArthur.

November 19th @ Madeline Sharples Blog
Be sure to catch today's post over at Madeline's blog author Cindy Fazzi shares her tips for writing fiction about a famous person.

November 20th Here

November 21st @ Mam's Rants and Reviews
Stop by Shan's blog where she shares her thoughts on the historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 25th @ The World of My Imagination
Catch Nicole's review of the book My MacArthur and find out what she had to say about this fantastic book.

November 26th @ Break Even Books
Stop by the Break Even Books blog and read Cindy Fazzi's article on the pros and cons of using a pen name.

November 28th @ Charmed Book Haven Reviews
Visit Cayce's blog and check out her thoughts on the book My MacArthur by Cindy Fazzi.

November 29th @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Start your journey today at Kathleen's blog Memoir Writer's Journey where author Cindy Fazzi talks about the challenges of writing different genres.

November 30th @ Joyful Antidotes Blog
Want a joyful way to start your day? Stop by Joy's blog where she reviews the incredible historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 30th @ The Uncorked Librarian
Make sure you stop by Christine's blog and read what she thinks about the book My MacArthur.

December 1st @ Charmed Book Haven Reviews
Visit Cacye's blog again and read her interview with author Cindy Fazzi.

December 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Start your morning out right by reading Anthony Avina's review of the book My MacArthur. 

December 2rd @ 2 Turn the Page Book Reviews
Visit Renee's blog when she reviews Cindy Fazzi's book My MacArthur and interviews the author.

Thank you for visiting, do please leave a comment below

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16 November 2018

Novel Conversations with Susan Appleyard and Ludwig, the King of Bavaria

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
today we have royalty! Let's meet him...

Ludwig, King of Bavaria

Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Susan Appleyard’s novel Dark Spirit. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?   
A: Mmm. Thank you. How did you know I adore chocolate? I am Ludwig, King of Bavaria, of the Wittelsbach family, and I am of course the lead character in Ms. Appleyard’s book.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: It’s a historical novel that relates the last months of my life and my er… unfortunate demise.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!) 
A: Oh, what a difficult question Miss Helen. I am only human and at the same time a king. I think it is true to say that I am a better human being than king. I never wanted to be king, you see. I just am not made that way. I don’t like crowds, and I HATE war, which is not very kingly. I am criticised for spending too much money on my palaces, but if you’ve seen them and are a person of refinement, I hope you will agree that I did created something wonderful there. Also, I am always kind to my subjects. I love driving out on my sleigh on winter nights to visit them in their cottages and give them presents.

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe you’re a arch enemy! 
A: Dr Gudden. Can you believe that despicable fellow declared me insane without ever examining me? We had only met briefly several years earlier when I called on him to treat my poor brother Otto. Doesn’t that tell you a great deal about him? Oh, but I expect you want more. Well, you won’t hear anything good from me. He is a conscienceless cad who destroyed my life.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series? 
A: This is the only one and it is, in fact, a novella. I do hope Ms Appleyard will resurrect me. I believe she’s thinking about it.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?  

A: The scene where I am seized by Dr Gudden and the policemen. I’m sure you will agree it is very sad.

Q: And your favourite scene?  
A: The day I drove in my sleigh up to the royal hunting lodge in the Vorderiss for lunch with my head ranger and his family. Frau Thoma managed to produce a bouquet of Alpenrosen which she presented to me. The women had set up a table in a meadow where the view was the finest while the apple-cheeked children played in the snow. That was the day I took up an axe and chopped wood. They thought I would chop off my leg, but I showed them. Ha! Ha! They almost fell over in surprise.  

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books? 
A: Oh, yes, many. Two were published by what you people call traditional publishers, and seven she published herself.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment? 
A: Yes, and I’ve had to speak to her quite sharply about her predilection for tragic stories, but she takes no notice of me. She’s presently working on a novel about the Albigensian Crusade, which took place in the 13th century.

Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally? 
A: She does wish someone would make Goodreads a little more user-friendly. Is that the sort of thing you mean? Otherwise there is so much help to be had on social media and the net, so many kind people devoting their time and knowledge to help others. Authors are very fortunate that way.
Q: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion, does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else he/she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve? 
A: My author is very proud to have received IndieBRAG medallions for several of her books. She cannot think what more IndieBRAG could do.

Helen: Thank you, King Ludwig, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? While she does so, may I pour you more wine, and I think I might have another box of chocolaes somewhere, the one beside you appears to be empty.
Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!  

The first snow of the year had begun to fall in Munich when Karl Hesselschwerdt, the king’s beefy, red-faced stable quartermaster, ducked into a café and was surprised to see the aide who had been chosen to go to Persia and beg a loan from a millionaire.
“Haven’t you gone yet or are you back?” he asked with a smirk.
The man was clearly embarrassed to be caught out. “Do me a favour. Tell the king that by the time I got there the fellow had died of cholera.”
“I’d like to oblige, but I can’t,” Hesselschwerdt replied with a grin. “I’m supposed to be in Naples to find a loan for the king. I’m not due back until Wednesday.”

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full guest list: click here

13 November 2018

My Tuesday Talk Guest: Fanny Price of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park: A Proto-feminist?

by Brooke West

No one has ever accused Fanny Price of being witty or exciting. She is barely beautiful and is wholly dependent upon wealthier relations for any standing in society or comfort at home. Everything that happens, happens to or around her, never because of her. When I first read Mansfield Park, I was exasperated with Fanny. I puzzled over why Fanny’s story was worth being told.

During my first read, Henry owned my heart and I kept thinking that maybe if I just wished hard enough, Fanny would see in him what I saw and finally, finally accept him. Fanny did no such thing and all my wishing was for naught. I ended the book frustrated and disgusted by her acceptance of Edmund. Edmund, who never seemed to listen to Fanny and constantly overlooked her, got the girl? I could only imagine his proposal was akin to Ron Weasley asking Hermione Granger to the ball: “Hey, you’re a girl….” Austen told us Fanny was happy with Edmund, but all I could think was, “What could have compelled Fanny to want that man?”

Publicity still of Billie Piper as Fanny Price in 2007 adaptation of Mansfield Park.

I avoided Mansfield Park for years after the first read—only turning my attention to it long enough to consider making it into a horror story (I may still do this. Stay tuned.). When I finally did re-read it, I was struck dumb by a simple realization: Fanny was right. Henry was an ill fit. I realized I had fallen into the trap of thinking that just because a man wants a woman badly enough, he should have her. Just because he starts being nice to her, even though he’s still terrible to everyone else, he earned her. That it should be sufficient for the woman that the somewhat-handsome and well-off man loves her.

I had done Fanny wrong.

I had thought Fanny was the antithesis of a feminist. I had thought her acceptance of Edmund was a capitulation to a misogynistic marriage ideal that rewarded women for being dutiful and moral and quiet. Instead, I finally saw her inner strength had allowed her to remain true to her principles. Fanny was no fool. She saw what life with Henry would be and she rejected it. Not out of fear or insecurity, but out of her strong moral sensibilities. She wasn’t, as I’d first thought, being uncharitable and not allowing Henry to make a change for the better. She had the good sense to see that he had not and would not change, even though he seemed to try and managed to accomplish some very good deeds.

Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price
 in the 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park.

That every woman should have the freedom to decide how she lives her life is, to me, the foundational tenet of feminism. Fanny—while too early to be termed a “feminist”—lived that ideal. I was stunned by that realization and ashamed at how poorly I’d judged her. Fanny was to be admired and emulated. I could finally see her steely core and the resolve that allowed her to stand up to her family when her nature compelled her to concede to their wishes to make them happy.

The Bertrams, her Portsmouth family, Henry, Maria—everyone took advantage of her nature, her desire to please and to not disappoint. Though it pained her to do so, she held fast when it mattered. Fanny had a rational mind, but was not unfeeling.

Fanny Price exemplifies what I find to be the pure heart of feminism: the strength, the determination to find what is right for you and to live that truth. The unwillingness to be swayed by opinion or expectation. Fanny may be intensely moral, but her morals have no bearing on her feminism; feminism does not depend upon morality, though a woman’s morality certainly would inform her choices. Mary Crawford is, to my mind, as much a feminist symbol as is Fanny Price. Her morality (or lack of) does not diminish the brilliance of her independent spirit. She lost her love in the pages of Mansfield Park, but no one can doubt she lands on her feet, eventually.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean you always win. It means you’re true to yourself and make room for other people’s truths, even if they differ from yours.  You make your own choices and allow others the same freedom. So, Fanny made a choice and stuck with it. She rejected Henry, again and again. I, finally, could respect that.

But then she made another choice—to marry Edmund.

This, I could not fathom. Taking Fanny as the rational, clear-headed, intelligent, self-possessed woman I now saw her to be, I was at a loss to explain how she overcame every failing I saw in Edmund and chose to marry him.

Surely there was a lot that happened off the page that we never saw. Austen herself glossed their courtship. It couldn’t be that Fanny succumbed to a childish infatuation or married him out of obligation. Not after all she’d been through! After some pondering, I found my answer. It’s the only answer that would allow Fanny to take Edmund as a husband: she said yes because she wanted to, because it made sense for her to do so. And that is good enough for me.

Fanny Price taught me to be a more honest feminist, and for that I’ll always cherish Mansfield Park.

Still, I only tolerate Edmund because Fanny loves him.

Brooke West 

Brooke West is one of sixteen Austen-inspired authors in the anthology Rational Creatures, writing Fanny Price’s story “The Meaning of Wife”. West always loved the strong women of literature and thinks the best leading women have complex inner lives. When she’s not spinning tales of rakish men and daring women, Brooke spends her time in the kitchen baking or at the gym working off all that baking. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and son and their three mischievous cats. Brooke co-authored the IPPY award winning novel The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy and the short story “Holiday Mix Tape” in Then Comes Winter. She also authored the short story “Last Letter to Mansfield,” which you can find in Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. Find 

Brooke on Twitter @WordyWest.

About Rational Creatures:
“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion
 Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.
 In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.
 Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.
 “Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft
Stories by: Elizabeth Adams * Nicole Clarkston * Karen M Cox * J. Marie Croft * Amy D’Orazio * Jenetta James * Jessie Lewis * KaraLynne Mackrory * Lona Manning * Christina Morland * Beau North * Sophia Rose * Anngela Schroeder * Joana Starnes * Caitlin Williams * Edited by Christina Boyd * Foreword by Devoney Looser

Find out more: