absolute awesomeness addiction Adversity An Uncommon Whore angels animal rescue animal welfare Anne Kane anxiety aquamarine author corner bad angels bad weather Barbara Elsborg BDSM bdsm romance belinda mcbride BelindaPalooza Belindapendence Belle Starr beverages bisexual bisexual romance Black Planet Blacque/Bleu blog hop Broken Cancer CAPA changeling press characters cherise sinclair China chronic pain Coming Out contests cooking courage craft creativity culinary competion custom art cyber punk Dark Haven deadlines Deeply blog demons depression dog shows dogs Doms of Dark Haven Dos Lunas Dragon's Blood drawings druids election embarrassment EPIC Winner erotic romance erotica expressive writing faith family fantasy fear femme domme fiction Film fire firefighters France free reads full moon futuristic genre hopping ghosts goldenwolfen grand prize greco-roman culture halloween happiness haunted mansions head/desk health heroines hide my head in shame Hong Kong human trafficking Iditarod Inspirational jessica freely Jessica Freely jianne carlo Kate Roman KC Burn Lance Mackey las vegas Last Call Europe lena austin lex valentine LGBT lifestyle linda suzane Lisabet Sarai little Dragon Little Dragon Little Foxes loose Id lost pets love scenes lucky in red lynn lorenz m/m m/m romance Madly martial arts martini mary winter meditation menage romance menege mental illness My Birthday mythology NaNoWriMo New Concepts Publishing new release New Year's Giveaway News nutrition overcoming pack politics paranormal paranormal romance Paris Passion in Print passionate plume pearls personal pet peeves PETA PL Nunn positivity procrastination Rainbow book awards real life release dates Review Risk romance save the quiet kitty science fiction Sele selena illyria shape shifters Sheri Lewis Wohl shunga siberian husky sidhe sierra cartwright slavery smoke snow snowfire: chrysalis space opera speculative fiction St John and St Thomas stupid mistakes succubus survival Suzanne Rock Tara Lain terrorism The Next Big Thing The Romance Reviews Tiger Eyes time off TMI Tony Leung travel Truckee Wolves Truly urban fantasy valentine's day vampires vampiropolis weight weight loss well being werewolves When I Fall wicca wildlife witches wolves World building world events writer's block writer's health writers block writing writing habits yacht

Monday, December 14, 2015

Be the Amazing Person You Are

One of the things about dog showing is that a lot of travel is involved. Usually travel with a vehicle full of dogs. (well...yeah!) Once or twice a year we hear about a judge or a handler or an exhibitor who had a heart attack while driving. Sometimes there's a wreck or some other catastrophe. But really, considering the vans full of dogs, the number of catastrophes is really pretty minimal. So when something happens, it hits us all hard.

 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

Queer Sci Fi Holiday Blog Hop

QueerSciFi is running our first ever holiday blog hop. Our members will be sharing a number of our great holiday-themed titles on their blogs - it's a great way to find speculative-fiction themed LGBT holiday books! We've included buy links for each of the books below - books are listed in alphabetical order by title. Happy Holidays!
candleinthedarkCandle 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:


christmascactusforthegeneralA 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:


darkestmidnightindecemberThe 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:


FruitcakesFruitcakes 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:


holidaylightsHoliday 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:


ilyaandthewolfIlya 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 HeroLion'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:


lovingblitzLoving 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 ChristmasThe 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:


nicolasNicolas 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:


scrudgeandbarleyScrudge & 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:


silversteelSilver/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 GiftsSpindrift 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:


temptedfromtheoakTempted 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

Je Suis Paris

The object of terrorism is to strike fear into the hearts of the people, and to sow discord among our leaders. The objective is to cripple the populace and in turn, damage the economy, and the very culture.  In years past, it was the last chance weapon of the powerless, but has now devolved to become a tool of the unhinged. Today's technology serves to put catastrophic power into the hands of a few individuals. Whether they are building pressure cooker bombs, shooting crowds in movie theatres or bombing a government building, they have the same objective: to inflict maximum damage and to demoralize on a large scale. The only way to defeat the purpose of these faceless people is to not bow down to the fear they seek to sow.

In the winter of 2002, I got on a plane and flew to JFK with my dog Logan. We were going to the Westminster Kennel Club Dogshow. When I flew, the plane was nearly empty. When we landed, portions of the airport seemed abandoned. I remember that my mother was horrified that I'd take such a risk, and my friend Kazu just shook his head when I explained that I refused to be afraid.

Walking through Manhattan with my dog, I could see pain and despair in the eyes of New Yorkers. They made eye contact with strangers, and even the most strident store-keepers were subdued. More than one person took the opportunity to pet and cuddle Logan, who was a licensed therapy dog. At the show, one woman sat with him and melted into tears, her face buried in his neck. After a good, hard cry, she got up, wiped her eyes and left without a word. She was courageous in her grief. 
We visited Ground Zero, and in spite of the crowds filing in to pay their respects, the site was deafeningly silent.  It was one of the more powerful places I've ever been in my life.

I was raised in a Mormon family and there's been a lot of talk about this being the Last Days. I do not believe that. I do not believe in fate and I do not believe in living without hope. I do not believe in letting fear rule my life. After all, simply being born brings myriad hazards with it. Every time we take a step out our doors, we run all sorts of risks. And if we let fear have its way, they've won. 

We live in frightening times, and I don't know what the answers are. I do know that our world leaders are failing on a monumental basis. I know that a radical change will have to come over the world of the future. More violence? Hunting down and killing terrorist leaders? My initial thought was that its time to resurrect Madame Guillotine and Iron Masks. 

But no.
Perhaps we should be force feeding IS members anti-psychotic drugs and broadcast episodes of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood into their households. Heck, medical marijuana might be the answer. I don't know. I don't know. 

But look up at the image at the beginning of the article. She's the symbol of the French Revolution, which might have been one of the single most bloody, horrific episodes in history, but from that revolution, American revolutionaries drew inspiration.

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. 
When we needed them, the French were there for us.  Now we are there for them. This is not the time for fear. This is not the time for politics. In fact, I wish all the candidates and talking heads would just go crawl into their respective holes and shut their mouths. But they won't. They'll politicize the event and try to gain traction and sow fear in order to rise in the polls. Which in its way is a form of terrorism. But I digress.

Je Suis Paris.

I am Paris. And tonight, my heart aches 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

So Let's Talk Inspirational--The Great Alone Review

(Oh no, not another Lance Mackey post...)

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. 

Official Trailer: The Great Alone

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Belindapendence: Be The Change You Want to See

All right, Belindapendence time. This is for authors. You may not like it.

Tough titties.

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

From the Archives: Finding the Me in the Manuscript

This was originally posted waaaay back in 2009 and first posted at Long and Short Reviews:

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

When Voters Vote and Judges Judge - Part Two: Let Us Pray

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:

·         People have to nominate
·         People have to vote
·         People have to talk about and share what they love

IIn the case of the RITAs, and other juried awards, judges have to judge. Authors have to enter. And readers must get behind the books they are passionate about. 

Authors: Do you have a book with non-Christian inspirational, spiritual elements? I know it seems like a a waste of entry fees, but if your non-conforming romance feels like it qualifies, enter it in the Inspirational category. That is your right. And you know what? I think its our obligation.
Judges: When you get your application to judge, do not refuse any category, even if you hate it. Because we are the control group. We are the ones who keep this kind of shit from happening. 
Readers: Read. Talk. Review fairly. Don't go on Amazon or Goodreads and review a book you haven't read. That's opinion and there are other forums for opinion. If you want to review it, read it. Use your blog, your Facebook page or reader groups. Don't bully. That makes the offending author a martyr.  If you feel strongly about something, tell the author. If its offensive, tell the publisher. You are the heartbeat of the industry. Yours is the voice with the power.


We the readers, judges and authors are the only ones who can prevent this from happening again. Don't just blow hot air in the comments of a blog post, make a list of what you can do. If you qualify, apply to judge. If its a fan competition, nominate. Vote. If you are an author and you think your work is special, enter.  

We are not powerless. We are not without a voice. Use it and use it well. 



When Voters Vote and Judges Judge. Part One: You Made the Puppy Cry!

So evidently a bunch of like-minded “guys” (who knows, there might be a female or two in there)  didn’t like the way the Hugo Awards were getting so literary, PC and boring and decided to make a change. Well, that itself isn’t bad. But what they did was to create a slate, not much different from that of a political party. They listed their candidates, pushed their agenda, and crowned themselves with a treacly, cutesy name that insults lovable canines everywhere. Then some other like-minded, but more extreme individuals who are kinda creepy in that “never made it out of Grandma’s basement” kinda way got in the act and built on that platform. And lo and behold, they found a foothold out there in fanboy land. I’m not going into the whole nasty business. If you haven’t heard of it, just Google it. Or better yet, visit Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog. 

Next thing you know, the Hugo nominations close and when the finals are announced, several of the categories were stacked with their candidates. And the Hugos were declared dead. Ruined. *le sigh…*


Public outrage ensues. It’s all that anyone talks about…at least until the Nazi romance makes it to the RITA finals. More on that later. But yes, they’re talking about this on Facebook and Twitter and in countless forums everywhere. And the more people are pissed, the more get swept up in the community outrage. In spite of the fury, no one managed to get behind alternate nominees, other than in the novel section. 

Membership in the World Science Fiction Society balloons. When World Con convenes in August, they have record high attendance and voting numbers swelled. As always, controversy is good for business. 

Here’s where it gets very interesting. And this is what I observed.

The fans at this event are a tribe. For the first couple days I was there, it felt like a closed tribe, and I couldn’t find a way in. (especially since I’m a total social cripple.) But I was patient, put myself out of my comfort zone and just wandered around and listened. On Friday, I got pulled into two conversations about the Puppies controversy and speculation about how the voting would turn out. One of the men I spoke with was particularly baffled. He has been part of this fandom all his teen and adult life and he just didn’t understand the malice. He was broken-hearted.

 Over at the costume display, clusters of fans were quietly circulating, informing the uninformed. A young man nervously approached me and handed me a cheap plastic kazoo. On it was printed, “The Hugos Matter.” He told me, “This is important.” 

And yes, they really do matter. And I could tell it took all his courage to walk up to this strange woman and say something that might be controversial. I wanted to hug him.

I took notes at the award ceremony. Several luminaries weighed in on the situation. (I’m sorry, I didn’t get names, but you should be able to view the podcast.) It was like the elephant in the room. The groups who shall not be named. Once George RR Martin said the word “puppies” it loosened the rest of the panel up. No one choked and died. Vox Day didn’t suddenly manifest there on the screen. They discussed changing rules and the long term implications the controversy might have. They talked about what might happen at the evening’s ceremony. (They were spot on.)  Here are salient points the guests made during interviews:

  • ·         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. 

From George R. R. Martin: 

  • ·         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)

The Hugo ballot lists the five nominees in the category, and in addition, has a selection where the member can vote that no award shall be given. In the entire history of the Hugo awards, this option has been the voter’s selection a total of five times. 

Last night, the voters withheld the award from five categories, thus shutting out the slate of finalists supported by the puppies. Yes, some other candidates were shut out too, and that’s sad. But in the novella category, all five of the finalists were from Castalia Press. (Seriously…is no one else writing novellas?)  As the hosts read those results, they said, “And the voters have decided no award will be given in that category.” And every time, the audience cheered. There were a few “boos…” but David Gerrold quickly shut them down. 

Two major wins went to translated works. In spite of the dearth of women nominated, they were actually well represented in the wins. In spite of all the efforts to hijack the awards, it wound up being truly diverse indeed.

I actually did my homework for these awards. I read the entries and voted for my favorites. Some of my picks won, some didn’t. I won’t hide the fact that I voted to withhold on several categories, and so did the majority of the voters. 

I’ve heard it said that passive aggression won the night and I strongly disagree. To withhold the award is an active vote. And I’ve heard it was a wash. In what way? I’m sad for the few finalists caught up in those categories, but at least three nominees had the wisdom to withdraw their names from the vote, presumably because they were backed by the petulant pooches.  Good for them. I’d have done the same thing. 

I think. 

The Hugos are not a judged, juried contest. Its winners are decided by the fans. The voters. And that’s us. And if you care, pay for your membership, join the conversation, nominate and vote. We live in an anti-PC world where Americans are falling in line behind an ugly, bombastic, arrogant businessman. We are being told it’s not okay to be “other.” To be brown or female or to embrace alternate sexuality or gender or faith is wrong. We’re told its bad and our fault if we are poor. We are told that teachers are vile and greedy and that billionaires have our best interests at heart.  We are encouraged not to think…just to listen to sound bites. 

 The world of science fiction is better than that. We are about ideas. Hope. The journey to becoming one people, in spite of….or perhaps because of our diversity. 

I’m tired. I don’t know if I want to write about Nazis right now. Maybe later. *sigh…* 

But I have something to say about that, too. Part Two is on its way. And yes, in a strange way, it relates to all this.