Monday, February 29, 2016

We Need Diverse Romance

This is an article I wrote for my local RWA chapter's newsletter (which I edit, so I am assured of getting my work into it, right? I've only published my own stuff about 3 times in the 5 years I've put it together). I had already planned this topic before RWA made its statement on diversity.
I originally wrote an article, trying to give my credentials as a white woman who has friends and family who are diverse in various ways. But then decided to instead send everyone to read what other people have to say. I didn't want to be "that liberal lady, armchair pundit, Social Justice Warrior." I mean, it's about signal boosting and leveling the playing field, opening channels, etc.

 “White Privilege is your history being part of the core curriculum and mine being taught as an elective.”

As a straight, white woman, raised in middle-class, Midwestern America as a Protestant Christian, I’m not the best person to talk about diversity, no matter who my family and friends are. I’m also extremely socially awkward, so if I don’t remember your name, it’s not because of racism, it’s because I know only that I met “a nice woman with glasses,” but today you’re wearing contacts.
What I want to talk about is “Signal Boosting.”
It’s seeking out authors whose works I haven’t read before and reading romance that is outside the straight, white paradigm and appreciating it and reviewing it, just as I do other books.
It’s following non-straight, non-white authors on social media and not telling them that they are wrong when they get angry at mistreatment.
It’s listening to how I might not have been as open-minded as I thought I was. If I’ve had struggles as a woman, imagine the struggles non-straight, non-white people have had.
It’s not “Political Correctness” to talk to and about other people in the way they wish to be addressed.
It’s respect.
It’s compassion.
It’s not about feeling like you are appreciating something exotic. It’s appreciating that these other human beings have a story to tell.
It’s about leveling the playing field. It’s about giving the same opportunities to all authors and rewarding talent.
It’s listening to the reaction of people of conscience to an inspirational romance set in a Nazi death camp. Between a Jewish woman and a Nazi officer. That ends by her converting to Christianity. I’m still horrified. But I’d rather you to go see what Rose Lerner had to say about it and tell you to read True Pretenses, a Regency-England-set romance novel with a Jewish con artist hero.
It’s reading Nalini Singh and Barbara Ferrer and Beverly Jenkins and Sonali Dev and Courtney Milan and Jeannie Lin—because they are great authors.
It’s asking your library and bookstores to stock them.
And asking your publisher why they only publish romance novels by a few Persons of Color. Or they only publish African American books in a separate imprint that gets shelved separately. Where is the rest of humanity?
It’s visiting Women of Color in Romance and finding new books and new authors.
It’s gaining a new perspective.
And yes, please add diverse characters to your books. BUT if you have a POC or LGBTQ or other diverse character, please make them NOT:
a) The only diverse character, like some non-white guy who happens to hang around with white people,
b) The only diverse character and the villain,
c) A stereotype.
There are a lot of people who say it all much better than I do. Here are a few more of them:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Under the Weather

I was going to gripe about my various symptoms and the way they make my brain sluggish. Just call me Great Aunt Pippa and listen to me whine about fiber and lumbago.

But instead I've looked up where the expression "Under the Weather" comes from.

Apparently, when a sailor got sick, they'd send him under the decks to recover. If you go low down in a ship, you don't get as seasick, apparently. But anyway, he would be under the weather instead of out in the weather.

(Someone on Urban Dictionary said it was because if a lot of sailors got sick at once, they'd have to list the overflow in the next column of their captain's log, which was supposed to be for weather. Since that's the only place that makes that claim, I will say that it's probably not so.)

I'm not sure that completely adds up, but I'm about ready to go back to bed, but have a full day ahead of me and I'm not sick enough to get out of everything.

And you're likely to be "under the weather" the morning after you were "three sheets to the wind." I promise it's not my problem today. Just fighting off whatever germs are attacking me, mixed in with the glory of spring in central California.

Peaches are delicious! Peach pollen is the very devil!

And today, we have to meet with our homeschool adviser, go do a science experiment with 30 or so other homeschooled kids, and my high-schooler needs to go downtown to his Mock Trial competition. But I didn't promise to drive and while I would have liked to have gone, my body says NO. And I have the Book Club in a Box to hand out to my book club tonight. I even read the book for this month!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ode to libraries

Some of my earliest memories are from the library in my hometown.

I vaguely remember when it was in the corner shop behind the water tower in the center of town. The front door opened at the corner of a rectangular building. If you turned right when you exited, you were in the alley behind the Methodist Church (though we weren't yet Methodists).

I remember when the new library was opened just a few blocks away and it was so big! and modern! I remember running out of kids' books and being underwhelmed with the YA books, so my mom signed to allow me to go upstairs and check out whatever I wanted from the adult section upstairs.

We joked with the librarians about how the city made a sign for the back parking lot, announcing the lot was "Soley" for library patrons. Hooray for literacy!

I read everything. Not everything in the library, because it was bigger than that, but especially on vacations, I would check out eight books a week and read them all. I didn't own a lot of books, but I had a library card.

It wasn't a great spot to research things, especially as papers got harder in high school, but it was a college town, so I could get what I needed from the university libraries. I can't remember if I got a special card through the library or used my dad's ID or something?

It expanded when I was in college, maybe just after. And now, they've opened a new library, which I am looking forward to seeing when I visit Ohio in the summer.

Library tourism.

Today, though, I walked over to my current public library, where I volunteer for the Friends of the Library, sorting books donated and pulled from the library collections. We sell some in the back of the library and box up the rest for the big annual book sale.

We've recently joined the county-wide effort to pull out the books that might be worth more than a buck and if they're worth $10 or more on Amazon Marketplace, we bundle them off to the central Friends, who list them and give us some of the proceeds. We could do it ourselves, but it's a lot of work and we don't have that many volunteers.

I love the library. It's in a strip mall and though they expanded it and updated it a few years ago, it's pretty underwhelming. We're supposed to get a new one in the next couple of years. They promised it before the recession and have now finally got around to working with an architect.

I try to not rack up the fines and pay them fairly quickly. Having the system online for requesting and renewing has been a huge boon for me!

Nowadays, I have several shelves of books at home, but am mostly buying on my Nook. It's not the same, no, but much more convenient. I don't often buy them new from a bookstore and don't buy as many used ones from the library. Except at the annual book sale, where I always end up with at least a huge box full, though some of those have been homeschool books.

I have about ten books checked out right now, not all of which I'm going to get around to reading. Plus five more for homeschool (most of those are on my son's card, but sometimes I end up with them on mine).

I have few books that I donate back. Maybe that's why I give an hour or so every week.

Public libraries make me happy. I love books. I also love that they have computers and other resources there. And librarians who can answer questions, no matter how odd.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

What love is...?

I write romance novels. I tend to write fairly realistic ones, I hope. I don't write the most beautiful people (I try to leave most of it up to the reader's imagination, but part of that is because I'm bad at facial recognition and the details of clothing). No billionaires. No dukes. One Count, so far, which isn't far down the French hierarchy, but he loses everything in the first few pages and realizes his wife and his family are more important than any of it. Most of the rest of the books in the series so far have been younger siblings and the children of younger siblings.

I try to be low key about love and passion. Maybe too low key. I want to emphasize that true love also means working things out when your psychological foibles crash up against your partner's psychological foibles. And if you don't talk about it, be patient, and figure things out, love won't last.

Now, don't mentally shake your head at me. (And authors, stop "mentally" performing actions in your books. So awkward. So overused.) I just mean that maybe love at first sight exists, but that's physical and chemical. It takes time and will to make it work. It takes holding on through separations and arguments. It takes holding on to the idea that the other person is trying, too, even when it feels like s/he hurt you on purpose. It's trust and stubbornness. I'm an old cynic in spite of being married for almost 18 years now. Or maybe that's why I've been married for almost 18 years.

But I write romance novels. So obviously I believe that love works. I try, when I get to the happy ending, to give the characters enough attraction and passion to get started, but enough insight into each other and the will to work out the problems that it seems like they're going to be happy together forever. Or at least sticking together through the hard times and coming out happy on the other side.

One book I'm halfway through writing features some characters from an earlier book in secondary roles. Their adult son (the hero's cousin and one of his best friends), is going through a really horrible time. I'm going to write this as a huge strain on their marriage, though they've been through hard times before in their 22 years together. They're Catholic in the late seventeenth century and would never get divorced.

And though I'm not Catholic and disagree about giving people a hard time about divorce, I can appreciate how religion might force people to keep trying.

And it's the trying that's true love.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Promo part two: Electric Boogaloo


Come over to Goodreads and click that you plan to read Châteaux and Shadows 2: The Honorable Officer.

Or click on this handy little button:

The Honorable Officer (Châteaux and Shadows, #2)

I have the PDF file, if anyone wants to read it early and give me a review. I should have the Kindle and EPUB files soon. Let me know if you want one when I start sending out e-copies for review.

I'll be adding links to pre-orders as I get them.

The release date is April 6th! APRIL! SIXTH! Getting excited over here....

Another note: It will be priced at $5.99 for the ebook and $16.99 for the print. It's about 80 pages longer than Indispensable Wife, which costs slightly less. Which means more book for you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Zipless Draft

This post originally appeared on  (talented author who writes contemporary paranormal romance) back in October when my first book came out. Then I put it in the newsletter of my local RWA chapter. For some reason, I thought I had posted it here, but it shows Draft in my blog post list. I was about to refer to it in a new post and was looking for the link and.... uh oh.

So here it is:

With one book coming out, another with my editor (which will soon be back with me), and a third that I'm editing to submit, I've been thinking about editing a lot lately.

When my brain is not stopping me in the middle of the rest of my life and saying, "AH! I think she needs to be laced up the FRONT not the BACK!" or "You know, that cute toddler needs to throw a tantrum....every day!" or "Wait, does she even know he used to have a twin?" I also think about how to edit.

I'm not a plotter. I am not 100% pantser either. 

Pantser: one who writes by the seat of his/her pants. That's trousers to you British-speakers. A trouser-er?
I tend to think of a couple of characters, think about what will happen when I drop them into their world, think of the main plot, and then the subplots and 500 secondary characters show up. And I figure out the culprit (if there's a mystery) sometime near the end.

The first draft wanders, meanders, goes off cliffs, backs up, starts over, and is highlighted in red because really I'm going to have to cut those pages later....maybe.

NaNoWriMo 2015 is coming up. I always try to clear my calendar and get at least 50,000 words done, which is a huge chunk of a rough draft. The goal of NaNo is to get your fingers flying and your internal editor out of the game. I find I write by fits and starts. If I get stuck, I have to walk away for a while. 

My approach to editing:
First pass: Reread the manuscript. Fix awkward sentences, notice that Chapter Three could be a summary that says, "Are we there yet?" twenty times. Marvel at my fabulous story-telling skills. Think of a hundred things I meant to say. Keep flipping back to the beginning and to note stuff that needs to layer in right from the start. And the bad guys still need names. Xavier and Yves, the nasty dudes in Indispensable Wife started out as X, Y, and Z. Z disappeared, unlamented, in edits. Put in clues and red herrings.

Second pass: SLASH and BURN, BABY! Though I tend to love my stuff and not want to remove anything, much like my husband's collection of old computer cables, some of this garbage just has to GO. ALSO, the turning points need to fit in the right places. No wonder Chapter Three drags so much; they're not changing and growing and making decisions. SLASH and BURN.

Third through ninth pass: Still not totally working for me... I should do A. I should erase the B. That secondary character needs his own point of view. We need some more scenes about C. I need to add a secondary character who will be in a later book, whose first draft I started. And she has a brooch! It's important!

I drop into the middle of the book, take a look around, and blow it up. I'll either knock it down to rebuild it or build from where it is. Ditto for the turning points at approximately 25% and 75% of the book. It's time for analysis and making sure the chapters aren't either 2 pages long or 35. Lots of considerations.

Tenth pass: I think I'm about done. I am wrong, of course. Time for my critique partners to read it!

Synopsis: Writing a synopsis is its own ring of hell. But in some ways, it helps clarify what that book was about. Oh lordy, I hate synopsis writing. I'm good at long form, not summaries. OK, OK, take out the subplots. And the important stuff. And...yes, tell not show.

This is both the most boring and the vaguest synopsis ever in the history of writing.

Blurb: Seriously? The whole story? In 200-ish words? I mean, where are the secondary characters and plot lines? What do you mean, I have to try to make people read this book?  Are you TRYING to make me cry?

It's a cliché. The whole thing is a cliché. My writing is a cliché. I'm doomed.

Logline: I... One sentence?... No more...I can't... Please...stop... Kill me now...

And then revisions come from critique partners and my editor. And I start all over again.

Yes, this is totally a messed-up process which takes a long time.
I'm going to have to come up with a better process. I need to find the process that takes me
from  this:

to this:

in a more efficient manner.

The title of this essay refers to Erica Jong, who, in The Fear of Flying, claimed to be searching for the perfect love affair with an anonymous stranger, with no awkwardness: The Zipless F***. And no matter how much that book got on my nerves (Her husband took her back? Was he crazy? Why did she want him back? Did she learn anything at all? No?) and how Jong dissed the entire romance genre a few years ago, she was a bit ahead of her time as far as women seeking fulfillment, having sex, looking for themselves (in all the wrong places), and generally being individuals who live, love, make mistakes, and don't have to die horribly because they're sluuuuuuuuts (See: Mme Bovary. See also: The Awakening. See also: slut-shaming of every sort.)

One magical day in the future...I will be such a talented author that I write the Editless Manuscript. The Zipless Draft.

Perfection. Right up front. And I won't even have to plot it out ahead of time or do a synopsis on spec. Because that is off the table.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Random Ramblings for a Saturday Where Nothing is Planned

Lazy Saturday morning. I'll be ambitious later in this beautiful weather (sunny and 65 predicted) and walk up to the library to sort books. It's about two miles each way.

Yesterday, I did so much walking that I set a personal best on my Fitbit (12K steps). But I have it sync with my online food tracker and while it gave me a 400 calorie bonus the day before for about 9K steps, it only gave me about 170 for 12K. And I know it doesn't matter, because I know how far I walked and how sore my legs are today, but it's frustrating that whatever logarithm they're using isn't consistent. I'm tempted to turn the sync off and log it manually as distance. I mean, so I can eat more without feeling I've failed. Then I remind myself that the point is "I gained 20 pounds in the past year," not "How can I game the system?"

Baby Cat is helping me type.

I'd like to say any typos are his fault. But I can edit and he can't.

One of the things I walked to and from yesterday (or from and to) was leaving my car at the nearby tire/alignment/etc place to see if they could figure out what the rubbing noise was. They couldn't, but said our struts and tires are almost worn out. So that's going to be expensive. And we still need to get the old car looked over. The poor thing sits outside since we got the newer car a few years ago and it's deteriorating.

The kids and my husband play Dungeons and Dragons a couple of times a month with a couple of my sons' friends. Today they might or might not be playing. No one has contacted the friends yet. And the middle child is going to a friend's house to build stuff out of bamboo.

I have some yard work to do, too. I wonder if the frost is done for the year here. According to the chart I looked at (based on National Climatic Data Center (part of NOAA) data), the risk is over on average by Feb 18th. It's been a warm winter so far... anyway, do I put my potted plants back outside or not?

I just told middle child to not belt his pants so tightly because a little looser would look cooler.

I also said that, as a family, we are ALL ABOUT being cool.

And that statement, from someone who just said her husband and kids play D&D and her big plans for the day are going to the library and yard work, is the one you should laugh at.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Philippe and the Italian Vice

I titled this post and then got stuck. Because what do I know about homosexuality in 17th century France? It was illegal. That's pretty much all I know.

But the Louis XIV's little brother, Philippe Duc d'Orleans, called "Monsieur", was notorious for having male lovers and wild parties. When he was little, his mom dressed him up like a girl for a while, apparently to imprint on him that he shouldn't rival his big brother in any way.

He had at least one woman mistress and did father some legitimate children for the good of France....though there were rumors that Louis XIV fathered those kids, too. His branch of the family married into all the European monarchies, including back into the French monarchy (he and his brother were both great-grandfathers to Louis XV) and one of his male line descendants was king of France for a few years during one of the restoration periods after the French Revolution.

The European Monarchy family tree doesn't branch much.

Oh, and his first wife was his first cousin, Henrietta of England, the daughter of Charles I. You know, the probably-too-Catholic guy who got his head chopped off by Oliver Cromwell. And the fact that England got rid of the king for a while? I'm sure it made France verrrrry nervous.

During the Restoration Period in England, France signed a treaty (negotiated at least in part by Henrietta) to help return England to the Catholic Church. And yet, the English people were welcoming in French Protestants who told them all about the terrible treatment at the hands of the French Catholics and had a notion that, uh, maybe a Catholic English King would be very, very bad for them. So voilà, the Glorious Revolution and the importation of William and Mary from the Netherlands.

It's all connected. Largely by this guy:

Philippe, rocking the bow tie.
  • A parenthetical, gossipy part: (Louis XIV only had the one surviving legitimate heir, who never got to be king because he died before his father, but luckily fathered a boy, who fathered the boy who would become Louis XV.  Louis XIV slept with everything in skirts and had quite a few legitimated children, plus a bunch more. He was trying to start something with his sister-in-law at the moment that he started something instead (or also?) with Louise de la Vallière, his first official mistress. It's thought that his nephew was actually his son). 

So anyway, Henrietta died fairly young and Philippe remarried and had some more children.

But his lifelong partner is said to be the Chevalier de Lorraine, a nasty piece of work and a member of the de Guise family, which was a powerful Catholic family in the Wars of Religion. At first, they were, you know, "just friends", but as Lorraine controlled a lot of Philippe's life and the people he hung out with -- handsome young men -- Henrietta convinced the king to imprison him. Eventually, Philippe talked his brother into letting him out. They were accused (probably falsely) of poisoning Henrietta when she died.

Lorraine was imprisoned again later for seducing one of Louis XIV's legitimated sons. That's just going too far, apparently.

Oh, and Philippe was an officer in the army and led his troops to great victories until he got bored and decided to redecorate his tent instead. I'm not sure how true that is, because it sounds like a huge problematic stereotype. He later won more honors in war and Louis XIV even got a bit nervous about his brother being in charge of the army.

And here is as far as Wikipedia will take me on this issue.

Since the novella I've been writing and editing has a gay couple, I'm delving deeper into the attitudes and laws than this. I've just got a book on inter-library loan, (Homosexuality in early modern France : a documentary collection / edited by Jeffrey Merrick, Bryant T. Ragan, Jr. ) which I will now of.

I'm not so dedicated a scholar-author as to research the issue as if I were writing a thesis on it. In fact, I'm a fairly lazy scholar.

I'm not lazy, I'm efficient.

As a footnote: One of the current pretenders to the French throne is an Orleanist. Another is a Bourbon (the pre-revolutionary line, which also had a restoration after the Revolution). Another is a descendant of Napoleon. And there's some other guy trying to become the French king who is the descendant of a German who, along with 20 or so other men, claimed to be Louis XVII, the lost dauphin.
Though they're more and more sure the lost dauphin died. They had his embalmed heart or something? And from everything I've said thus far, you know that the Lost Dauphin was also Philippe's descendant.

Pretty much everyone is descended from Philippe. Except maybe the British kings. Though they're cousins, somehow, when you go back up to James I and Mary Queen of Scots. Oh, my head aches.