Monday, December 14, 2015
In September, a pro handler I know was in a tragic accident. He wasn't traveling for a show, only he and his wife were in the car. His wife was killed and he was paralyzed, with only slight movement remaining in his hands.
He'll never be able to pursue his passion again. And believe me, handlers who are as successful and he, and who make it their life do so out of passion for dogs. He didn't get to say goodbye to his wife, and he can't hold his grandchildren. He's now in rehab and in the photos his family shares, he's smiling. He's off the respirator and is now setting goals. He doesn't want to be a burden to his friends and family. He wants to go places. (there's a Go Fund Me for a van for his family to transport him)
He wants to go to a coffee shop and order his own coffee, and he wants to go to dog shows again. There's footage of him with his new service dog...not a Golden Retriever (his breed) but a quiet, calm Saluki who is learning to negotiate the electric wheelchair with her new owner. He's posting on Facebook. He's moving forward into a new reality. My guess is we'll see him again in the ring, if not handling from his chair, then as a judge, and most certainly as a mentor to many. He'll be smiling because he's truly that kind of man.
Life tosses some truly awful stuff our way sometimes. I stress about writer's block and low sales and my messy house. I want to slam my computer shut every time I read of some new idiocy in the online world. But this year, Mom is still aging, but she's not hallucinating or in the ER constantly. My daughters are doing well and living good lives. While my day job keeps me tied to the house, I can write and create as I wish. Right now, I'm in a warm, quiet living room with five dogs sleeping soundly and all is good in my world.
It's not perfect and not what I envisioned it would be. I didn't think my life's journey would make me a caregiver instead of a history teacher. I also didn't believe I'd be a writer. Or have some of the amazing friends I have, or that I'd go to Hong Kong for a movie premiere or see the start of the Iditarod from inside the chute. Live can surprise you that way.
Learn what's important in life. Turn off the TV and close the computer. Talk to a stranger. Listen to the world around you. If someone needs help and you can do something, however small, give them a hand. Get out of your head and set aside the shit that's occupying your brain.
Today, amaze yourself.
Then tomorrow, do it again.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Candle in the Dark Anthology Author: Various Price: $5.00 eBook / $10.00 Paperback Summary: In almost all traditions, winter has been a time to huddle around the fire and be thankful for those the fire is shared with. The holidays grew out of a need to celebrate that time, from Christmas to Chanukah to Solstice. The longest night of the year has always held some special mystery, and we’re proud to present you with several stories of how those mysteries bear fruit. In the first story, Patrick receives a mysterious invitation to dine at the most exclusive restaurant for men. His server, Gio, encourages him to Savor the experience... Buy Links:
A Christmas Cactus for the General Author: Angel Martinez Price: $3.99 eBook Summary: Exiled to Earth for perhaps the worst failure in Irasolan history, General Teer must assimilate or die. Earth is too warm, too wet, too foreign, but he does the best he can even though human males are loud, childish louts whom he can't imitate successfully. When a grieving seaplane pilot strikes up a strange and uneasy friendship with him, he finds he may have been too quick to judge human males. They are strange to look at, but perhaps not as unbearable as he thought. Buy Links:
The Darkest Midnight in December Author: Jana Denardo Price: $3.99 eBook Summary: The year is 1930, and something is hunting infants and young couples in Economy Village, PA. When a local priest begins to suspect a demon may be the culprit, the sheriff calls in a team of Soldiers of the Sun. Caleb, Agni, Temple, and Li specialize in demon hunting, but they can’t rule out an old religious sect as the true culprit. Prejudice, distraught parents, and angry townspeople don’t make the team’s job any easier. And if something goes wrong, their own their own, because by the time their backup arrives, it will be too late. Buy Links:
Fruitcakes Author: Renee George Price: $1.99 eBook Summary: Losing your boyfriend because you see monsters...not good. Getting locked up in the local mental hospital because you accused your boss of being an actual ogre…also not good. Falling for your crazy roommate, who thinks he’s one of Santa's elves…so not good! Or is it? Come along for a sexy ride as Donner and Bran try to escape the locked ward before Christmas Eve so Bran doesn't lose the only job important to him. USA Today Bestselling author Renee George pens a laugh-out-loud MM Fairytale Christmas…Nuts included! Buy Links:
Holiday Lights Author: Jana Denardo Price: Free Summary: Aaron asks Rhys for some help with putting up the tree and finalizing their holiday plans, even though he knows Rhys will have something to say about all of Aaron's geeky ornaments. Rhys puts his own special touches on the holiday decorating as only a fae could. Buy Links:
Ilya and the Wolf Author: Rory Ni Coileain Price: $1.99 eBook Summary: Ilya, the youngest son of a Moscow oligarch, is so deep in the closet he’d find Narnia if that weren’t a decadent Western story. On Christmas Eve, his brothers lure him into the forest, intending to murder him and erase the shame he inflicts on their family by existing. However, the attempt is interrupted by Volyk, a wolf who carries the blood of the ancient oboroten’ —shapeshifters. Ilya never imagined a Christmas gift like the handsome wolf, but accepting what Volyk offers will have consequences that change both of their lives forever. Buy Links:
Lion's Hero Author: Alexis Woods Price: $.99 eBook Summary: Eight nights to fall in love. Ari has a mission: meet and fall in love with a man chosen for him by God. The catch: he only has eight nights to complete it—the eight nights of Chanukah Gabriel has a test of faith. Reaching out to a young man, he finds himself confronted with the unbelievable. Believe, and the Festival of Lights may herald a miracle. Buy Links:
Loving Blitz Author: Charlie Cochet Price: $3.99 eBook Summary: From North Pole City to Winter Wonderland, preparations are underway after a royal announcement sweeps everyone into a frenzy of festivity. At the heart of the celebration are the city’s most beloved elf pilots, the Rein Dears. Once the Big Flight is behind them, the pilots prepare for the royal event. Assigned a special task of finding an Elska rose, Cupid and Blitzen are unaware of how their friendship is about to change forever. Yet not all that glitters is gold. The sweet, angelic Cupid hides a dark secret, one that threatens to destroy his Rein Dear status, his friends, and the elf who’s captured his heart. It’s up to Blitzen to help Cupid see the light in the darkness and show him that together they can mend broken hearts. Buy Links:
The Magic of Christmas Author: Pelaam Price: $2.99 eBook Summary: Jared joins his four best friends on an early Christmas holiday in a beautiful winter wonderland. He's been in love with the talented and extroverted Casey for years, but lacked the courage to say anything. Casey loves Jared, but despite his gregarious exterior, inside lurks someone shy and insecure and so he's never spoken up. Both men are about to experience real Christmas magic. Buy Links:
MLR BOOKS | AMAZON
Nicolas Author: Dianne Hartsock Price: $6.99 eBook / $14.99 Paperback Summary: Betrayed by a lover, Jamie rents an isolated cabin on Lake Huron, wanting only to be left alone. Instead, he is pulled from his solitary existence as an artist and tumbles headlong into the legend of Saint Nicolas. As a young man, Nicolas accidentally killed a man intent on murdering three children, only to have the man's malicious spirit rise up against him. Fleeing through the centuries from the Krampus, the evil troll-like creature that dogs his steps, Nico finds refuge with the young artist who takes him into his home and bed. But Jamie has questions. Who is Nicolas, and why does the Krampus want to destroy him? Buy Links:
No One to Greet the Season Author: Elizabeth Barrette Price: Free (poem) Summary: Victor Frankenstein and Igor have a queerplatonic relationship and a constructed son. Igor's deformed back causes him more trouble in cold weather, which makes Christmas more of a challenge. Victor helps him through it. Gothic fluff, holiday hurt/comfort. Buy Links:
Scrudge & Barley, Inc Author: John Inman Price: $6.99 eBook / $14.99 Paperback Summary: A classic tale takes off in sexy new directions! Poor Mr. Dickens must be twirling in his grave. When E.B. Scrudge, putz extraordinaire and all-around numbnuts, is visited by his dead ex on Christmas Eve, he can’t imagine how his life could sink any lower. But the three ghostly spirits that come along after are even worse! Good lord, a dyke, a drag queen, and rounding out the trio, a big, hunky bear with nipple rings and a butt plug! What’s next? What’s next is a good deal of soul-searching and some hard lessons learned with a dash of redemption thrown in for good measure. Buy Links:
Silver/Steel Author: Belinda McBride Price: $6.99 eBook Summary: When dream hunter Dylan Ryve spots a beautiful shapeshifter raising hell in a bar, he knows he wants the wild young man. But Travis Feris is more to Dylan than a few hot minutes outside in the snow; he's the assassin's ticket into the magical town of Arcada. He didn't plan to rescue the kid, but when he found the shifter being attacked, the opportunity to play hero was too good to pass up. Through the solitude of a long winter night, Dylan walks in Travis's fevered dreams, learning about Arcada and the pack, and showing the shifter the man he'd been so very long ago. Buy Links:
Spindrift Gifts Author: Aidee Ladnier Price: $3.99 Summary: Scars and a tattoo may be the only physical reminders from his years as a slave, but when Jimenez suffers a setback in his medical treatment, the only option is a therapy that will wipe away his all memories of the past including his time with Teo. Teo, torn between supporting his lover's decisions and the good intentions of his family, sets out to teach Jimenez about Spindrift Gifts and how memories are celebrated on Celos even when they are painful. Can Teo and Jimenez weather the storm to find their happily-ever-after on Celos? Buy Links:
Tempted from the Oak Author: Rory Ni Coileain Price: $5.60 eBook Summary: With his blue eyes and heart-melting smile, Gavin could have been made-to-order to entice Tearlach, a lonely tree spirit. But the human is the one who’s been enticed—stolen from snow-buried Minneapolis to the Scottish Highlands by Tearlach’s darag, the ancient oak tree of which he is the living spirit. Tearlach is trapped within the darag by the terrible memory of his own death—hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago, but as recent to him as his last heartbeat. And if desire for the handsome human fails to tempt him out, spirit and oak are both doomed. Buy Links:
Friday, November 13, 2015
Saturday, October 24, 2015
There's been a lot of discussion about what makes a book or movie or song "Inspirational." To me, it has little to do with religion, but more with the uplifting nature of the work. I recently saw the award winning film The Great Alone, which is about the life of musher Lance Mackey. It's billed as a sports documentary, but is so, so much more.
This movie totally hits the mark for defining Inspirational. Lance was born to a legendary racing family in Alaska. After his parents split, he became mired in substance abuse by the age of nine. That's right...nine. He pulled himself from that hole, straightened out his life and decided to follow the family tradition of sled racing and eventually entered the Iditarod.
And then the cancer came.
The story of his life is inspirational. Lance entered the race again, while he was still being treated for throat cancer. He scratched when the contents of his feeding tube kept freezing. Yes, he ran 500 miles of a thousand mile race while on a feeding tube.
Eventually, he went on to win the Iditarod. Then he won it again. And again. And again.
He also won the Yukon Quest 4 times, garnering awards for the excellent care of his animals and for having the most valuable team on the trail. He was given the title of "World's Toughest Athlete." Its unlikely that some of his accomplishments will ever be repeated.
He's battered, scarred and torn apart from the cancer and the subsequent treatment. He lost his salivary glands and eventually his teeth. His voice is gravelly. The bones in his jaw eroded. He had a finger amputated because of unrelenting nerve pain. His eyes are often reddened from the medical marijuana he uses to ease his pain. He can't use that when he races. But he still races.
He can't raise his arm over his head, because it might put enough stress on his jugular to tear the artery.
He has Reynaud's Syndrome, which causes his extremities to lose circulation and freeze easily.
And he's never given up. Never quit. When someone tells him he can't do something, Lance says, "Watch. This."
In all the years he's run those major races, he's never had a major corporate sponsor. He's funded by small businesses, friends and fans.
And the driving force in his life is the well being of his dogs. You wonder why I idolize this guy?
There's a reason that "Superman Wears Lance Mackey Pajamas."
This movie is what inspirational storytelling is all about. There's no mention of God or religion in this film, just a man, a second chance and a love of nature, mushing and his dogs. This is a man who's faced impossible challenges again and again, and prevailed. Lance is perfectly imperfect. He screws up, falls down and gets back on his feet. He knows the meaning of his life. How many of us can say the same?
The Great Alone is a tour de force directed by Greg Kohs. It's shot in a remote, hostile environment. The cinematography is exquisite. The soundtrack is gripping and ethereal. The story-telling is seamless. This is a story about a man, a race, his family and his dogs. In Lance's words: Watch this.
The Great Alone is currently on the festival circuit, and will go into general release in 2016. See their Facebook Page for screenings and guest appearances by Lance, his dog Amp and various guests.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Stuff happens. People do things/say things/write things we don't like, so we all clutch our virtual pearls and write scathing comments and reviews, and then vent our spleen on Facebook.
So what did you actually accomplish other than to dump a shitload of negativity on the world?
Probably not much.
We all get tired of mansplaining. Of being belittled for daring to write science fiction without a cock to dip into the inkstand. Of authors who behave badly or use horrible judgement in what they write.
I'm not saying you shouldn't bitch and vent. Its just not necessary to belabor the issue and then abandon it for the next issue that pushes your button.
Did you know that being angry all the time is bad for your health?
Anyhow. Flip that anger. Work it. Use it. Make it productive. Then let it the fuck go and move on.
The RITAs are coming. We all know about the shocking event that transpired last year. Well, that was last year. Water under the Pultney Bridge. (Yes, I'm in Bath.) Now take a moment to consider what you can do to prevent it from happening again.
If you have a great book that qualifies as inspirational...even if its not mainstream Christian, enter it. Yes, it might feel like a throw away, but it isn't. The existing judges need to be exposed to diversity. The genre needs to be redefined. Give them your gay, interracial Taoist love story.
If you enter a book you have to also serve as a judge, so when it comes time to pick and choose the genre you'll judge, say yes to all. And judge fairly.
Are you a PAN member? Go sign up to judge. They need you. Sign-ups happen on September 22. Volunteer to judge all categories. That book was preaching to the choir. We must make that choir much, much larger.
Make 2016 the year of action and diversity. Do something. Talk about books you love. Nominate them for Hugos or whatever is applicable. Judge. Vote. Be actively engaged in the process. When someone tiffs you off, (especially when its something as silly as a Go Fund Me campaign), shrug it off and move forward.
Declare your independence from the ugly, trolly side of our community, because we are a community. Lets try to make it better by acting and not reacting.
Monday, September 14, 2015
The Writer’s voice
* “I’m so unhappy with my editor. I’m afraid she’s taking away my voice in this piece.”
* “I don’t want to submit my story. It’s a part of me. What if they don’t understand my voice?”
* “My voice will be lost if I worry about the mechanics of writing.”
*+ “Your writer’s voice is so distinct.”
These are comments I’ve heard on and off over the past couple of years, and frankly, this concept of voice still puzzles me a bit. What is it? Our style? Our accent? At a writer’s forum I attended recently, several writers worried about their voices. To be honest, that’s really the last thing I think about when I write...if I think about it at all.
Okay, I do believe that every writer has a distinct voice. I don’t think we can escape it. To me, it’s a little like how where you live affects how you speak. Frankly, I’ve always believed that I speak in unaccented American…you know, like the news anchors? But as I’ve traveled around, people in different areas of the US have mentioned my accent.
I’m from Northern California. Not the Bay Area, but north of the Sacramento Valley, and oddly enough, I’ve come to realize that we do have a regional accent. You know the actor Sam Elliot? He’s got that silky, sexy drawl that we love to hear in the beer commercials. He’s from Texas, right? The South? Nope. He was raised in the Sacramento Valley. My brother’s accent is exactly the same.
In fact, my oldest daughter works on a private yacht with an international crew. She’s the chef, and has been known to launch into the occasional verbal tirade when she’s alone in the galley. She says the Kiwis like to come in and listen to her tantrums because of her “redneck accent.”
So what does this have to do with your voice as a writer? Well, it’s there. You can’t really escape it, unless you’re spending a lot of time with technical or academic writing. If an editor wants you to clean up the grammar of your narrative, she’s not asking you to stifle your voice, she wants you to do your job and write properly. As a general rule, your editor will respect your writing and her advice will make your story better without robbing you of your voice.
There are times when I feel that my voice has become stiff and uninspired. I’m not talking about writer’s block. That’s when nothing comes at all. Sometimes I feel like the words are coming out by force, like maybe I’m not the one writing at all.
Perhaps there is stress in the household or I’m simply disconnected from the story that I’m trying to tell. Or maybe I’ve just finished a project and have turned to another, and haven’t captured the new personalities that I’m working with. When that happens, I have a few tricks to loosen up my mind and free that elusive voice.
* I have conversations in character. Okay, that might seem a bit weird. I used to act so walking around verbalizing is something I did to learn lines. If you can’t open your mouth and let your character speak, do it in your head. Go sit in a comfy chair, or lie down on the sofa and ask your characters what’s going on. Visualize the scenario they are in, and watch their actions and reactions to each other. Know your characters! I prefer to worry about the voices of my characters rather than my voice as a writer.
* Listen to music. Music digs into our brains on various levels. You know how a song gets stuck in your head? Music is a great tool for learning, as well as for setting mood. Try listening to the Beatles or Chopin or Barry White. Listen to the mood of the music. Many authors have soundtracks for stories. Belle Starr was written to the music from the Japanese Anime Cowboy Bebop. It’s a wild, fierce jazz number by a band called Tank. I think that single song really shaped the entire story.
* Read poetry. Find a writer that works for you. It might be Bob Dylan or John Donne. Poetry is the height of language and has an inherent flow and meter. You’ll expand your vocabulary and I’ve found my narrative moves better when I’ve taken a poetry break. Right now I’m reading Silky Thefts by Michael Jennings.
* Sing. Dance. That’s taking the music and poetry and moving it to another level. You’re integrating your body into the rhythm of the music and getting your circulation moving.
* Just tell the story. Frankly, that’s a pretty good avenue to take. So it might be stiff and ugly, but if you sit down and hammer out the story, you’ve got the framework finished. That’s the hard part. When you’re feeling more inspired, go back and fluff it up. Indulge in your creativity and play with your characters. Have fun. It’s easier to do when you have the roadmap instead of the roadblock.
Writing is certainly a creative art, but it’s also a craft…a discipline. If you approach it as a job that needs to be done, you will learn to work through the rough times. Your voice is there because it’s the part of the story that is inherently you. If you belabor the idea of your ‘voice’ your writing will become self-aware. It’s like watching an actor on stage who is aware of the fact that they are acting. Don’t act the role, be the role! In writing, don’t worry about your voice or it will become just another character on your page.
So when you sit in front of that blank page with your list of things to worry about, strike “Voice” off that list. It’s there if you let it come out. And no one can take it away. Not even your editor.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
I find myself fresh out of humor on this topic. OK, I know its been ground into the dirt over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, on forums, Facebook and Amazon.
But as usual, I have something to say.
Growing up, my best friend's life was disrupted when her grandmother moved in with the family. Because her parents both worked, caring for the elderly woman fell on her shoulders (bear in mind, we were about ten years old) and eventually, her grandmother's sister moved in as well. They were Babcha (Grandma) and Chucha Manya. (Aunt)
Babcha was soft and round and tall. She had a temper, but got over it quickly. She loved to teach me naughty words in Polish. Chucha was thin, quiet and often dressed in black. Even as an elderly woman, she was beautiful and so very sweet.
One day we were cleaning their little apartment and my friend put a book into a drawer at the bedside table. She found something else and brought it to me. It was a card, it had a photo of Babcha as a young woman. All the writing was in German, but we were able to make out her name, numbers and the word "Auschwitz."
Marta knew what that was. I didn't.
"I saw a tattoo on her arm but she won't talk about it. Its the same number on the card." My friend was very distressed and my education in horror began at that moment. You see, my father is a white supremacist. (never mind that he's largely Native American.) He's a holocaust denier. And that day, I saw incontrovertible proof that it was real and it happened. I went to the library and looked at books.
I looked up Auschwitz.
And that's when I stopped loving my father. Because even when he couldn't deny anymore, he said it was necessary.
Babcha and Chucha weren't Jewish, they were Polish Catholics. During their time in Auschwitz, they endured brutal treatment, starvation, rape, illness, and in Chucha's case, surgical experimentation.
They sterilized her without anesthesia.
So when I read about Kate Breslin's book "For Such a Time" making the finals in the RWA RITA awards, I was floored.
If you haven't heard about it, its an Inspirational Romance in which a half Jewish concentration camp prisoner is rescued by the camp's commandant, who makes her his secretary, falls in love with her and they both convert to Christianity. And they lived happily ever after.
I have not read the book. I don't want to. I don't want the author and publisher to have my money. To get a grip on my revulsion with the topic, I tried to imagine what Babcha and Chucha might feel about this. And you know what? I have something to say to the author:
Kate Breslin, if real live concentration camp survivors like my friend's grandma and auntie heard about this book, they'd come at you with drawn blades. And if you don't understand why, then you lack normal empathy and I can only pity you.
So how the fuck did this travesty make it to the finals of the romance genre's most prestigious awards?
Well, its my fault. And its your fault.
As I noted in my post about the Hugos, the fans voted this year and they knocked a toxic trainload of rabid canines off the rails. But here in romance land, we didn't see this coming. But we let it happen.
Its not the fault of RWA so leave them to the side. Oddly, its not the fault of the author and her supporters, because weird as it is, they are true believers. And true believers of any religion or philosophy lack the empathy to see the other side.
In romance, we tend to consider the Inspirational category as being Christian. Well, that's wrong. Inspirational should encompass all creeds as well as non-sectarian works with spiritual elements. I may not embrace religion, but I view myself as spiritual. I think it reflects in my writing, particularly in my m/m science fiction book The Prince of Faith. But you know, I would never consider entering that in the Inspirational category. All that sweaty man-sex would peel the skin off the judge's faces. How could a gay romance possibly have inspirational elements? Granted, mine is erotic, but even a sweet m/m romance wouldn't fly in that category.
And there we have the problem in a nutshell. The Inspy world is an insular one. When I got my ballot to judge, I asked not to judge Inspirational or YA. I don't like them. I would never consider entering my work into that category. My guess is, the vast majority of RITA judges do the same thing. Thus, Kate Breslin wrote a book that was offensive to most sane humans, except for the people who think and believe as she does.
And those are the people who judge that category of romance.
Let that sink in and remember what George R. R. Martin said in my other post.
If just three moderately open-minded judges had agreed to judge Inspirational, this might not have happened. Because how can this book have a satisfying ending? How does one redeem a war criminal, who will probably stand trial at Nuremberg and be hanged? If just 3 judges had looked at that book with even a grain of empathy and historical vision, it would have been disqualified.
How can a novel about Jewish woman and a Nazi officer play out as anything but the echo of a tasteless porn plot? This "hero" has the blood of innocents on his hands. Jesus might have died for our sins, but damn. There's gotta be a limit. There's still a worldly price to pay. This guy would have stood trial at Nuremberg and have been hanged. Or imprisoned for life. This is not romance. He is not a bad boy or an anti-hero or a tortured soul. He's a war criminal.
And having them both convert to Christianity to make it all good? Fuck. Fuckity fuckfuckfuck.
Back to King George:
- · To campaign for a Hugo is an empty victory. (In this case, it was a Phyrric Victory)
- · It’s fine to get behind a book or artist or other candidate, but do it because you love their work, not because you want to block everyone else.
- · The Hugo Awards are the will of the fans.
- · The Hugo finalists should be raised in prestige simply by being on that final list. Make this your reading list for the year.
- Don't write for the award. Never write for the award. Write for the joy and to write the best damned story you can.
- · People have to nominate
- · People have to vote
- · People have to talk about and share what they love
- · The 2017 World Con will be held in Helsinki, Finland! (they beat out DC, Montreal and Osaka, Japan)