Saturday, January 30, 2016

On judging and on "nice"

I read the first of my slate of Rita books that I am judging and started the second. Rita? Who's she? It's the Romance Writers of America annual award for best books in each sub-category (as defined by them/us).

I am finally a Published Author with RWA! Well, I'm "Provisional" so far. When I earn their minimum on a single book, I'll be big-league. Still, I'm published, I entered, and this is exciting for me. I know some authors are jaded and worn out by judging the Rita, especially when books they don't think are any good are finalists or even win.

I'm not allowed to say what books I am judging or tell anyone what I think of them. All I can say is that I have books from several categories, not including my own (a short historical novel). I have heard of some of the authors, but not all. None are my friends. Some are from big presses, some from small, and at least one is self-published.

And I hope that whoever is reading my book is having a reaction like I'm having to the second one I'm reading. One of: hmmm...I hadn't heard of her before, but if this keeps going well, I'll check out the rest of her series.

And that is all I will say on that.

But on judging in general? I tend to be a little too honest in my Goodreads and Amazon reviews. I'd rather give 3 or 4 stars and say what did and didn't work for me than five stars and claim everything was great. It's not like I have people hanging on my every word, but I like to think I have integrity. Since publishing, I've tended to tone down my reviews: I'll give three stars, just with no commentary. I don't write a review for everything I read, so I hope it's not too noticeable when I'm just being "nice."

Whoops, just gave away all my secrets...

I know some people don't like Smart Bitches Trashy Books and some of the less "nice" reviewers because they tend to say what they're thinking, good or bad. They occasionally post what they term "F+" reviews for things that were so awful that they're funny. They take reviews from their regular reviewers and from others that are long rants about how stupid a book or a particular trope or the attitude of some critic is. Odd thing is that because they say what they do and don't like about a book, they have sometimes boosted an author's career by panning their book--because what their reviewer hated was something a reader loves.

While I don't want them to rant on my book like that, I have to point out that they also gush about other books. They've brought several new authors to my attention over the years. I'd like to be one of those authors.

But most importantly, the Smart Bitches, especially Sarah, one of the founders (the other dropped off long ago due to time constraints and there are others "on staff" now), has been an advocate for the romance genre. They make me laugh, make me think, call out the haters, and advocate for us all (or at least for the ones who don't make them snark or puke or whatever).

And when I--and they--say we didn't like a book and explain why, I think it demonstrates that we expect books to be well-written. If it means that I am not "nice" enough, I'm sorry. It only means that I had problems with the book, not that everyone will. If we sit back and everyone remains "nice" about romance novels, no one will ever take any of us seriously. We have enough of a problem in that regard already.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

How old I am!

I went for a long walk yesterday to the library and back to sort books for the Friends of the Library. I am the youngest volunteer in our group. So I am young.

After my long walk, my hips and legs ached and my back feels like it's been welded into place. I am old.

Two of my kids are teens and the third is almost eight. I had my first one when I was 30, which makes me.... Old? Young? And that I had my last one when almost forty really makes me old, while keeping me young?

I've been having my midlife crisis while I still have kids at home.

Age is a number.

Age is a state of mind.

You're only as old as you think you are.

When I was young, I was always older. I was not wise nor necessarily mature, but I was always thinking and feeling. I related better to grown-ups than to kids my age. I was also a good target for the class bully because she could make me angry and/or cry. Wheee...

By high school, I was done with reacting to mean people. Luckily, my high school was bigger than my elementary and junior high school, so I could walk away from mean people, for the most part. I guess that makes me wise. I also found people who were goofy and fun and who liked me without trying to manipulate me (much), so some of high school was like a new happy childhood.

Wow, this started as a fluff piece about laughing at how old I am and I've drifted into the same place therapy always takes me: sixth grade. *shudder*

So anyway, I'll go take my anti-inflammatory and heat up my heating pad, maybe read a book. I might go for a slow walk later.

Dang kids, get off my lawn.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

That panicky feeling

I had to drive on the highway in heavy traffic through rain this morning.

I got my box of Rita (the Romance Writers of America annual award) books and get to judge them. I'm excited about this one, because it's my first year to enter and to judge. But there are eight and I'm not sure when I'm going to have the time.

My email account decided to change its password without me today, then didn't want to accept the new one. So I might or might not be able to get back into email tomorrow.

I have to get my middle kid signed up for high school before the 22nd, which is only three days away now. We're still waiting for a transcript from his current school. On the 22nd itself I'll be driving my daughter on a field trip, which leaves me tomorrow and Thursday.

And the field trip? They're predicting rain.

I still don't know my precise publication date for book 2.

We still need to get the kids' health insurance sorted out.

All of us except my husband need new passports.

Sometimes, I have to sit and breathe deeply until the tightness in my chest fades.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mostly RWA and writing

Our semester is fully underway now. My homeschool boy started his math, science, and art classes on Tuesday and Thursday this week, so we're still getting used to that again.

We had our RWA chapter board planning meeting. I'm not a voting member of the board because newsletter is about all the human interaction I can take. I don't want to have to organize anything or anyone since I have enough trouble keeping myself in line. But it looks like it's going to be another good year.

We've changed meeting sites because the hotel where we were kept raising rates and charged for food we didn't eat. (Seriously? Room fee, PLUS $8 per person for a plate of flavorless muffins and a couple pots of coffee?) We will have our chapter meeting in the new place next Saturday, so hold us in the light that it's a good venue.

Anna J Stewart, author with Berkley and Harlequin, will talk about writing novellas as bridges between longer works. Visit our website for more info.

And otherwise, I'm not getting as much editing done as I would like on my novella. I think right now I am too close to it. I know what I need to do, but just can't focus on it right now.

My release date for Book #2, The Honorable Officer, will probably be early April. And I turned in all my stuff for Book #3, The Chevalier, so the ball is in everyone else's court for creating a cover, editing, and so on. I'm hoping it won't be another six months.

SO PRETTY! I can hardly wait for pre-order links and the files so I can send out review requests and all that stuff. WOOOOOO!

And tonight I'm bushed. Meeting, then a short stint sorting books in the library (I volunteer with the used book selling with Friends of the Library), then by the time I hit the grocery store, the ambient noise and light bugged my headache and made it seem like everyone was speaking a foreign language (which would not be a new migraine symptom for me, but my headache hasn't progressed to that).

Off to read a book. WILD WILD Saturday night.

And tomorrow morning, I'll go for a walk with a friend.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sportsing (A ramble about objectification and diversity)

I am not a sporty person. I walk, not run. I'm not involved in any team activities except a small walking group that goes for a hike about once every two months. I watch whatever sports my kids are doing. Luckily, my kids don't do a lot of sports.

We also don't watch a lot of sports. In the charter school where the boys went, the PE class was assigned about once a year to watch a football (American football) game and we had to find something on YouTube because we don't have cable and really, who can be bothered to find out what is on and available through our weak antenna? I mean, the years we actually remembered to do it, they watched. Poor dears got dinged on their PE grades a few times. For the last couple years, my (now teenager) boys have gone over to a friend's house to watch the Super Bowl (and ended up gaming with them and occasionally looking up to check the score).

I used to watch baseball as a child--growing up near Cincinnati in the years of the Big Red Machine (gosh, I'm old) and having a baseball-loving older brother did that. Even on summer breaks from college and grad school, I would turn on a Reds game in the background and do other stuff. There's a sort of Zen to sitting and watching something that is sooooooo slooooowwwww.

I also like high school and college basketball because it moves fast. Not so much pro basketball, because it seems to be: Easy shot, other team makes easy shot, first team makes anther shot. Oh look! Slam dunk! Final score: 120-110.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered I liked books with sportsing people in them. Mostly romance novels, of course, since that's my type of book.

I'm a fan of my local-author-friend, Kristina Mathews' baseball books. Not so much Susan Elizabeth Phillips' football books, though they have their moments. I recently finished Slamdunked by Love by Jamie Wesley on the recommendation of...someone (I thought it was the Smart Bitches blog, but can't find it there now. So this is my oops and a correction. Sorry!) and loved it. Interestingly, the hero is the point guard and only 6'3" or so and not 7' tall.

What I want next is a WNBA player. And then a massive linebacker on the football team, not one of the slim, trim guys like running backs and quarterbacks. I want the massive blocker, the outrageously tall Big Man under the basket, the major league pitcher with a belly, the women's soccer star, the tiny jockey, and the people who are not beautiful...

If we're going to talk about diversity, let's talk about them, too.

I mean about us. Those of us who aren't "perfect" and "ideal."

There are lots of romance novels about women who are overweight. Some hinge on the woman losing weight so the hero will love her, which is a less-satisfactory plot device. Some, like Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me, hinge on the woman being overweight and the man liking her a lot and convincing her she's beautiful the way she is.

There is a growing movement toward diversity in books: people of color, disabled people, LGBTQ people, in other words, people who aren't mainstream white people, all deserve to see themselves and their lives. Publishing needs to open up more. With the rise in small presses and self-publishing, this is rapidly coming true, and yet the biggest, richest publishing houses are still hesitant. They don't want to spend money on an author who might not earn out, so they're trimming their mid-list authors anyway. Why add someone whose base audience is 10% of the entire population? Never mind that all the POC, LGBTQ, disabled, etc people are expected to want to read books about straight, white people, we should not expect white people to read about anyone else. Or something.

There's often some lighthearted confusion and laughter among my British friends when they talk about seeing the name "Chris Evans" and thinking of the UK radio and TV personality and not the guy who played Captain America. And yet I'd like to see someone who looks like the "wrong" Chris Evans get his romance novel, too. Is that weird of me? Perhaps.

Which made me think of the objectification of men. 

I know women have it a lot worse (having been dismissed all my life by so many people for not having a tiny butt and big boobs, being too tall, too tough looking, not pretty, etc., I know this from personal experience. And yet I'm not so extreme that people laugh at me... much... as far as I know. OMIGOD, They're looking at me right now, aren't they?). There's something a bit off about drooling over a man's chest and arms and legs. Believe me, I take a good, long look, too, because I am female, but as I get older, it feels more awkward to stare for long at some 20-year-old's massive pecs and defined abs. My kids are a little younger, but I have friends whose sons are that old. Just babies, really.

There's a growing discomfort among men as more pictures of Hot Guys show up all over the place. There's more anorexia among young men, more guys who date the gym, and guys who give up because they're never going to look like that.

There's an episode of The Simpsons where Marge goes in for liposuction (and is accidentally given breast implants) because she thinks Homer has lost interest in her. In one scene, the truly awful plastic surgeon looks at a picture of Homer and is SHOCKED that she could ever hold on to him, looking the way she does.

That one little scene broke my heart for all of us.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Plotting (rubs hands together) (mouahahaha)

I've been editing my novella the last couple of days. And even with just editing, I was stuck. Something is wrong....but what?

Then another author, Cindy Nord, who writes historical romance set in the American Civil War era, posted a picture of Christopher Vogler's Hero's Journey with the plot and character development tracked together and... well, let's just say I knew the plot needed something and the characters needed to grow and change, but I hadn't quite figure out how to organize it, yet.

And now, by stepping away from my computer for a bit and outlining my plot more or less based on that (at least on the 3 act structure), I know what to do now. Probably.

One downfall of being a "pantser" as a writer is that when you think of a new element to the story late in the writing, you have to go back and layer it through the whole thing. Mostly, I need to establish at least glimmers of the bits of conflict in the first quarter so we know what our heroes are facing. Or something...

Mostly, I needed to take a step back and look at the bare bones of the story. What happens when? Is it all happening at the right time? Should I move this scene over there? And I really need another scene over THERE.

Overall, it makes today feel productive when it was mostly feeling like rainy day with some guys banging on stuff in the garage installing a heater. So we have heat AND I have a direction. 

And now I can move on. WOOT!

And school starts tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be an exceptionally busy day, but I'll probably have time in the evening to work.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I don't wannaaaaa

School starts again on Wednesday. *dramatic music* I'm lucky because we don't have to go back tomorrow.

But I'm not ready! And I don't want to get back to the early mornings and the grind and all that!

I still need to brainstorm my (mostly) homeschooled 8th grader's History and English curriculum. I have this whole spreadsheet tracking history to literature from or about the time periods, though we don't always get to everything on it.

We're going to need to do some essay writing (with a dictation program as he's dyslexic), since we didn't do that at home last semester. He was in a creative writing class to try to get his ideas to come out the end of his pencil, but it wasn't really working. So anyway, I need to think about what we're going to read and see if the library can deliver it in a timely fashion.

We also need to take him in to the district office and register him for high school next year. Oh, and there's some paperwork I have to do.

And my daughter needs to be convinced that school is awesome and she doesn't want to stay home with mom. Because really, home with mom is no fun (and when middle child is in school next year, she had better be, too, because I need to find a part-time job or get really serious about writing and start making money at it).

And my oldest will be starting all new classes (he's on a block schedule where they cover the whole year's curriculum in one semester in 4 classes at a time). Please, oh please, let it not be as heavy a load of homework as his statistics class last semester. Oy.

Anyway, I need to pull out the history book and think. Which these days, with my brain on vacation, is pretty tough.