Friday, April 29, 2016

Don't You Know it's Different for... Writers

Now and then I like to read fashion magazines. I mean, it can't be world news every minute, and I like to keep up with developments in skin care and um...stuff. Obviously I understand that the models are all airbrushed and twenty-four years old (which is kind of the same thing). And most of the pages are filled with clothes I couldn't afford even if they were designed for real life. I'm bemused that there are people out there who will pay $500. for a swimsuit (you know you'll be dunking it into chlorine and saltwater, right?) but I like nice things. I'm not going to judge. And I've certainly made my share of dumb investments--and not even got a swim date out of them, so...

These magazines usually have interviews with cover models or celebrities wherein the interviewee shares her beauty secrets and "fashion philosophy". I realize that these interviews are primarily about product placement, but I admit I find them interesting--kind of in the same way I can watch Animal Planet for hours on end. I like learning about other species.

But holy moly the life of a writer is different from the life of a fashion model/actress/Adele. So I thought for today's blog (which is actually last week's missed blog) I would grant a fashion magazine interview and Reveal What Really Goes on in Her--er MY--Daily Life.

The Josh Lanyon New York Fashion Magazine Interview

What is your morning beauty routine?


Wait. I see I already got the first question wrong. So the previous interviewee tells about rubbing organic rosehip oil all over her body and taking a freezing shower. WTH? I can't compete with that. Soap and toothpaste and deodorant when I'm not writing. When I'm writing...well, fortunately I don't see many people when I'm working. I did read in one magazine where the interviewee talked about using coffee grounds as a facial scrub, so maybe my first answer was correct. Let's go with that.

Do you have an exercise regimen?

Oh no. I'm failing my first NY fashion magazine interview!!! Okay, I do try. In the summer I swim. In the winter... I think about resuming yoga. I think about the summer when I can swim again. I think a lot about finding something to do that I like as much as swimming. I think about the fact that blood is congealing in my extremities--and my contemporaries--as we sit typing all day.

Writers should make time for exercise. I do sincerely believe that. So that's a start.

Physically speaking, how do you feel about aging?

I'm puzzling over this question. Physically, am I aging spiritually as well? Hm. Well, I am all in favor of aging, given the alternative. Which, by the way, is even harder on one's looks.

Favorite designer?

I know this one! Levi Strauss. Dahling, you should see his summer line! What that man doesn't understand about bleached denim isn't worth knowing! Also Woolrich does a faboo line of plaid bathrobes that NO serious writer should be without.

You seem very comfortable with nudity. Has that always been the case?

Whaaa--??!! Well, I mean it's hard to shower without... Oh, you must mean in my BOOKS. Yes, this has always been the case. My characters have no qualms about taking their clothes off for the reader. And I understand that many readers also take their clothes off. But really that's between the characters and the readers.

What is the best fashion advice you've received?

Squinting makes wrinkles. Quit pretending you don't need glasses.

Friday, April 15, 2016

What? Time for ANOTHER Blog?

I'm writing! I'm writing!

And I'm slightly behind schedule because of the whole down with the flu thing.

Wait. That sounds like I'm "down" with the flu, and in fact NO sane person is down with the flu. But I was indeed laid low by the flu. And that was not pleasant, and I will do my best not to breathe on you. STAND BACK!!!! For your own sake keep your distance.

Which, in a way is a kind of segue into this morning's topic, I topic I find boring almost beyond articulation, and that is the topic of Authors vs Reviewers.

Yes, apparently that is a thing again (HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?) according to the esteemed Heidi Cullinan who posts at great length here.

One thing that caught my attention is this peculiar notion that authors are responsible for the actions of their readers. I mean, if that were true, we'd be responsible for the actions of the people who hate us and post teh crazy as well as the people who love us and post teh crazy, wouldn't we?


Think about that for a second. Why wouldn't it be true?

I'm pretty comfortable with my readers. I attract a slightly older (no, let's say mature) demographic and, almost by definition, they are -- male or female -- a civilized and generally well-educated bunch. I never worry about what they will say or do in public because they are not the type to get into online brawls. Anymore than *I* am the type.

I've been around for a bit and I've now sold (and given away) well over half a million** copies of my stories. That's a conservative estimate because, like I said, I've been around for over a decade and I didn't used to keep track.

It should not come as a shock to anyone that I don't personally know everyone who has bought a copy of my work.

In fact, as I often tell aspiring scribes, if you personally know everyone who buys and reviews your're not selling enough books to make a living. You're not selling enough books, period.

I don't know the vast majority of my readers. I surmise that they aren't online, or if they are, they aren't spending time posting on Goodreads or social media. Certainly the letters I get indicate that these are not people spending time tweeting. :-D  In fact, the idea is kind of funny given the little bit of background they share.

I tend to read my reviews in batches. I think it's a good way of keeping it real. There's nothing like a row of I HATE HER to keep your head properly sized to your hat. And contrariwise, all those LOVE HERs help to balance the paragraph upon paragraph of why someone thinks you shouldn't be allowed near a computer keyboard. EVER. AGAIN. :-D

But I did read something the other day that troubled me. There was a comment following a critical review that hinted at harsh repercussions to be reaped by anyone who dared to criticize me. Which is ridiculous--and that was proved in that both the comment and the original review were met with total lack of interest or response.

As I would expect.

That kind of's insulting. It's insulting to me, sure. The idea that I would be so incensed at a critical review that I would--like the Wicked Witch of the West summon my flying monkeys--is certainly insulting. But it's also insulting to my readers, who just aren't like that.

MOST readers are not like that.

Not even the same species.

I mean, I get it. The people writing ever-so-many paragraphs of I HATE YOU must be very disheartened to think nobody cares--let alone the notion that nobody is even reading. But that's pretty much the case. I certainly don't care. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I respect your right to your opinion.

That doesn't mean I agree.

And it doesn't mean my readers agree. And if a readers should contest an opinion, it doesn't negate your opinion. Also, it doesn't mean you're being denied free speech or being bullied.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. The inherent (and dangerous) fallacious logic of insisting our opinions go unchallenged based on our right to free speech.

 We really do have to stop calling every difference of opinion "bullying," because a big part of freedom of speech is debate. We all focus on the speechifying, but that's only half of the equation. Freedom of speech is, in fact, the ability to intelligently and civilly disagree.

It is about the right to argue your point of view.

This is what worries me most these days. Not critical reviews, not my writing, what really alarms me is our inability as a community and--because it's more widespread than that--a society to intelligently disagree. To debate.

To be able to freely debate someone else's opinion is a fundamental building block of free speech. The inability to successfully defend a dearly held position means one of two things: the position is too weak to defend or you do not have the skill to argue without devolving into name-calling and rhetoric.

We need to hang on to the notion of civil disagreement. We need to retain the ability to rationally defend our opinions--which should be based on more than raw emotion--without becoming enraged that someone is questioning us. I don't care if it's over a book review or your support of equal rights, you need to be able to summon reason as well as emotion if you hope to change anyone's mind--let alone, heart.

**Proof that cold meds are still in my system, I mean one hundred thousand copies, not a million. Ha ha ha ha. I WISH I'd sold half a million. Although with 33,000 audio units, 83,000 units at Carina, Fatal Shadows...maybe. But then a lot of those are repeat customers. ANYWAY, my point is I don't know even a hundred thousand of my readers let alone know them well enough to exert mind control. Although if you can hear my voice, PLEEEEAASE buyyyyyy all my booooooks....

Friday, April 8, 2016

It's Flu Season

And I got it bad.

Or maybe I'm mixing my songs up. But basically this last week -- last Friday thru today was spent under the weather. And heavy weather it was.

I'd forgotten how nasty the flu is. I used to get sick like clockwork -- a broken, smashed clock -- every flipping year. Right around the holidays, generally, but never did a winter pass (and rarely a summer) that I was not laid low by the extremely unsexy business of flu. My immune system is a lot sturdier now days because I actually went a bit over two years -- including traveling the world -- without catching much of anything. I think this new found healthiness is due to a more sane work schedule and things like juicing, walking, swimming...suppers with my husband. A life that stretched beyond my desk and desktop.

Still. As healthy as all that is, I am not impervious to germs -- and thus the horrors of the last week.

Flu is a streaming, steaming and generally disgusting business. There is nothing romantic about it, and it really makes it difficult to function. I don't think flu is captured accurately in fiction. No one who has flu wants sex. And no one who has flu is desired by any sane person. That's the first thing writers of romance often get wrong about flu.

The second thing is how long it takes to get over flu. Even when I was a hale and feckless twenty year old, flu used to lay me low for at least a week. And now that I am a hale and not-so-feckless not-twenty year old, flu lays me low nearly as long. I will say this, I don't get AS sick nor stay sick as long. Which is kind of interesting. Or maybe not, given that I was teaching for many of my early years and children are designed primarily to carry deadly germs.

That is their main purpose in life.


Anyway. Today, for the first day in what feels like a month (but is only sevenish days), I am much improved (although the SO informs me that I still sound like an escapee from Sea World) and will soon be back at work on Murder Takes the High Road.

Murder has been lying low these last few days, engine idling while I blearily watched documentaries on things like Hitler of the Andes (I KNEW it!!!), Murder of anything moving (I concur!), Walt Disney ( childhood!!!), the Paleo diet (Rarraw!!) and the Dead Sea Scrolls ( I KNEW it!!!!).

This was the first time in history Nyquil failed me. I mean EVERYTHING failed me. Nothing could stem the fountain of my head. Ugh. So today the question is...favorite flu remedies? When was the last time you had the flu -- and what did you do about it?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring Fever -- and The Mermaid Murders book trailer

I really don't have much to say today. I've got a scratchy throat, which I hope is due to all the pollen in the air. My favorite aunt is in town and we've been spending time visiting, and I gots this book to write, AND the marathon that's known as our tax appointment was on Wednesday...

So. Yeah. I got nothing this morning.

But in case you missed this fabulous trailer for The Mermaid Murders...

This is courtesy of my film editor Brother-in-Law (a man of mystery -- and huge talent) and my ultra brilliant sister Laura Browne Sorenson. I have tried for years to get them to go into the book trailer biz, but so far no luck.


Friday, March 25, 2016

The Quick Brown Fox

It's that time again.

The starting-work-on-a-new book time. I don't like to dramatize writing. Yes, it is work. The amount of focus required to produce a decent mystery novel is pretty intense. And, weirdly, the longer you've been writing, the more difficult it is.

That saying about pride going before a fall? I was aching with the impact of my landing as I stood in the bar area of the Caledonian Inn, trying not to watch Trevor and his new boyfriend meeting and greeting our fellow tour members that first night in Scotland.

Well. Sort of. I mean the technical parts of writing--how to construct a plot, how to write believable conflict, how to create real-seeming characters--all that kind of thing, how to stack the building blocks of fiction, is obviously, after *cough*-many years no longer a giant question mark. What is a giant question mark, remains forever a giant question mark, is coming up with a fresh take, a fresh angle, figuring out how to use the old words in new ways.

Because...that's part of the test for all writers who last any length of time. Eventually you use up all those first ideas, those initial ideas you were burning to write for so many years. Eventually you've used all the good words a million times. I mean, there are only so many ways to say it -- whatever "it" might be -- and some words and phrases are just more effective than others. Yes, you could say it a different way. But can you say it a better way?

I've held all kinds of jobs, and though writing has its challenges, it's sure as hell not as difficult as teaching. Even my rule as an evil corporate overlord was tougher in some ways than writing for a living--despite the fact that I always knew I was going to walk away from being an evil overlord the minute I saw a crack in the wall. But a successful writing career is still a demanding profession/sentence. The pay is irregular, there are no health or retirement benefits, no safety net at all really, because the industry is always, always in flux.

I honestly don't think that's what makes writing so tough though. I think a large part of the reason I dread the start of a new project (and I do) is because it's almost like willingly sinking yourself into a manic state--BRING ME THE HALLUCINOGENS!! Or like a medium submitting herself to a dangerous trance. However cerebral and rational the writing of a new project feels at the start, it always reaches that point of complete immersion, where the imaginary world becomes more real than the real world...and every disruption is enough to send me into fury, like the Wicked Witch of the West shrieking for her flying monkeys.

Oh, those first few painful pages...

Vance leaned over to whisper in Trevor’s ear and for a second I couldn’t remember what Rose was talking about. Oh, right. This ten-day tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands specially tailored to fans of famed mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Every stop and every stay was planned around settings in the Rayburn books. The high point of the tour were the four days to be spent at Vanessa’s own castle on the island of Samhradh Beag.

Even after all this time the first, say, third of a new book leaves me feeling does this work? Is this how I do it? It's like reinventing the wheel Every. Single. Time. There is nothing so flat as the first words of a new story landing on a blank page.

I might as well be writing The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs a hundred times. That's pretty much how it feels. In fact, those are probably the opening words to my autobiography.

The start of every new book is an act of faith on the part of the author. However it feels--and it always feels like what am I doing here?!--eventually the story takes over and it's all you can do to keep up with it.

So this is where we are. MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD destined for Carina Press and a first week in December release. Watch for it!  And by "watch for it," I mean don't fall across the tracks because this train has no brakes...

Friday, March 18, 2016

And I'M Offended That YOU'RE Offended That I'm Offended

room at the table for all
Here's a question for you: Is it possible to listen with an open mind, sincerely sympathize, even respect and understand someone's view point...and yet still disagree?

Yes. It is.

As shocking as it is, sometimes smart, sensitive, educated and caring people do not see eye to eye. They disagree. Passionately. Sometimes they disagree in areas where you would have bet money they'd be in complete accord.

It is disappointing, even hurtful, when the answer to something we care so deeply about, is no. But that is life. That is the human condition. Sometimes d├ętente cannot be reached. Sometimes you must agree to disagree.

I'm not suggesting there should not be discussion. I am suggesting that respect for someone else's opinion and their right to free speech only kicks in when you are in disagreement. Hitting "like" on a post or comment you agree with is not a noble demonstration of your respect for someone else's opinion. Allowing those with opposing viewpoints to have their say without vilifying them or denigrating them...that's actually showing respect for someone else's opinion, that's actually living up to the ideal of free speech.

At the same time, disagreement is not disrespect. Disagreement is not the same as forbidding people the right to speak. It is disagreement with what has been said.

Over the past two years the genre formerly known as M/M Romance has experienced more than it's share of rancorous disagreement on a number of issues, and sadly the divisions seem to be getting worse, not better. I'm not here to tell you how to fix that. I don't see a way to fix it that doesn't involve a hell of a lot more open-mindedness, imagination and empathy on the part of everyone involved.

This I can tell you. Diversity is good. It is good for society. It is good for the book business.


yes, that person has wings

[dih-vur-si-tee, dahy-]   
noun, plural diversities. 

1. the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness:
diversity of opinion.

2. variety; multiformity.

3. the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.:
diversity in the workplace.

4. a point of difference

Look at it this way. Maybe I write cupcakes with sprinkles and buttercream frosting and you write hearty oatmeal muffins that nourish and sustain. Maybe my cupcakes outsell your oatmeal muffins. Maybe you outsell me with readers looking to be nourished and sustained. But in a genre this small, there’s a good chance that our readerships will occasionally, maybe more than occasionally, overlap. Nobody likes cupcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yet man shall not live by hearty oatmeal muffin alone. You see what I’m saying? My cupcakes may be the gateway to your oatmeal muffin. Maybe not. But if we only serve oatmeal muffins, then a lot of readers with a lot of dollars will never wander over here because they don’t think they like oatmeal and the selection is so small.

It is to all of our benefit to maintain a healthy, thriving genre that attracts a variety of readers who are willing to pay to read many books written by unique and multiple talents.

Do we need gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual romance written specifically by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, authors? Of course we do! It is crucial.
a knotty problem

But believe it or not, it is also crucial to have stories by those with other ideas, perspectives, insights. Unless you’re literally a hermit and have no outside contact with the world, there is no exclusive or isolate human experience. All of our experiences are tempered by our relationships with others and the world around us. Nobody lives in a vacuum.

Get over the idea that all these other writers cluttering up the bookshelves are robbing you of your rightful readers. There is no such thing in publishing. Readers are not prisoners of war to be taken by the winners of some bizarre battle of genre gerrymandering.

A multitude of voices and experiences and viewpoints means by default that we are not all going to understand or appreciate everything written by our peers--but that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit in practical, cultural and even spiritual ways from being around people who are, you know, different from us.