Don’t forget our peeps down South

Hi, friends–quick post tonight; I’ll probably do a longer one in a few days.

Just wanted to remind people that Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast really super hard including communities like Houma (HOME-uh) in Louisiana.

Here are links to organizations that are helping on the ground; please consider donating if you can; spreading the word helps, too. Let’s not forget that people will be without power for weeks and another storm is bearing down on the area.

Foodtank has links to orgs you probably didn’t know existed, like House of Tulip (which helps trans and gender nonconforming people in Louisiana); Cajun Navy (geared to help rescue and provide relief supplies); Mercy Chefs; Another Gulf is Possible (led by WOC).

I’m partial to local orgs, but some big orgs are doing good work (though I’m side-eyeing Salvation Army and Red Cross rn). Here are other sources with links, including to those:

Accuweather how to help
USAToday how to help

Share the luv as you can, and help as you can if you’re so inclined. Thanks, all.

yes, bad books get published by the big houses

So. Look. There are lots of things about publishing and editing and writing that I still don’t know even though I’ve been doing all of that for…um…over 20 years. YES I’M OLDER. WHATEVER. AND I AM CRANKY ABOUT THIS BOOK. DOUBLE WHATEVER.

And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when I read a book published by one of the big houses that leaves me wondering “how the hell did this even get accepted in the first place?” because well, shit gets through. That’s the nature of the game. And maybe somebody out there read this thing that I ended up skimming and thought it was great. Thoughts and prayers to that person.

Anyway, there are so many indie authors out there, for example, who write really good stuff but maybe couldn’t get a book deal with a big house (presuming that they tried and wanted to) but then a serious case of WTAF gets published by a reputable big house and it just makes me wonder. Like, who thought publishing this was a good idea? And clearly, experts were not consulted to read the manuscript and ascertain whether it worked or not.

I’m not going to name this book or the house; no point to that. It was published around 2014, so we’re not talking back in the day, when our present context makes reading some older books cringe-inducing. And this isn’t about all the white supremacist presses currently operating that are re-printing horrendous racist and antisemitic crap and publishing new horrendous racist and antisemitic crap. Or about the big conservative houses that are pumping out pseudoscience about LGBTQ+ people and abortion and publish crap by white people freaking out about critical race theory. I mean, stop it with that.

This is about a book that’s trying to be a mystery/thriller set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I checked it out at the library because I’m from Albuquerque, and I like to read books set there. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy reading this one for many reasons, and a lot of those have to do with the mechanics of writing. Here’s what I mean:

  • This book needed a (better?) developmental editor. Which means it needed somebody to help the author work on plot and make sure that the elements therein made sense, that the characters made sense, that the arcs all worked. As it stands, this book was not developed very well and after 40 pages I literally couldn’t take it anymore and had to skim the rest of it. Why did I bother? Because I wanted to see if maybe it tightened up later. Spoiler: it didn’t.
  • Character development. Everybody in this book felt interchangeable, which is a sign that your characters need work. Describing a character’s physical attributes does not character development make.
  • Dialogue. Only one character had a dialogue quirk. The rest were interchangeable with the same affect. Dialogue is an extension of a character. As a reader, I need to believe that a particular character is saying a particular thing, and I will “hear” the character in their dialogue if the character is well-developed.
  • Setting is a major factor in books like this; it’s another character. As it stands, descriptions were either barely there or something like a room was described in excruciating and wholly unnecessary detail. This is supposed to be a mystery/thriller. You need to pace it a certain way, and you don’t need a lot of grocery list details about mundane things unless it’s playing into some larger element of the plot or playing a role in grounding the characters in their overall setting.
  • More about that setting thing. This is supposed to be set in Albuquerque, but it seemed the author had never been there from the writing. Vague references to streets that do exist and a couple of specific places that do exist, but overall, this was Generic-land, USA. Goddammit, if you’re going to set a book in a specific place, then give it local flavor. Otherwise, what’s the point of setting a book in a specific place? And a specific place with very specific local flavors like Albuquerque? I know that city and I know New Mexico and this book pissed me off with its lack of attention to setting. That’s something the publisher should have done, is gotten someone familiar with New Mexico and Albuquerque to assess it. There are plenty of readers and writers based in that area who could have done it. And now I’m wondering if they did do that and the reader was all WTF, offered corrections and suggestions, and the publisher was all “nope” and went ahead with the manuscript. (caveat–there is a possibility that the publisher axed many Albuquerque and NM details)
  • Sensitivity readers. A main character was allegedly Diné. But if I read this manuscript without knowledge of the writer’s name or background, I would assume it was written by a white person stuck in a “noble Indian” interpretation of Diné culture, regardless of the author’s actual background. This book is not written for Indigenous people. It’s written for white people, most of whom have stereotypical views of Indigenous cultures if they even think about Indigenous people at all. (Reminder: publishing is a majority-white industry; so, no surprise about the representation in this book) Maybe the author thought they were educating white people and maybe the publisher didn’t allow much along those lines. Regardless, it didn’t work for me.
  • Plot issues. Basically, the book’s premise is that a couple of dudes end up buying a small business in Albuquerque and end up doing a homicide investigation in conjunction with law enforcement. It seems to just sort of happen, that they’re involved and they have a friend who is cop who feeds them information as they’re all going behind the lead detective’s back. So many problematic things there. Police procedure? What’s that? And why are these two guys allowed to do whatever? How did the inside cop not lose their job or get reprimanded? If you’re going to incorporate a law enforcement element like this, then make it realistic and make it work. Make me, the reader, believe that it COULD happen.
  • Clunky writing. This feels like an early draft; a lot of “as you know, Bob” and telling and not showing. These are things that happen usually with a beginning author. I know. I was one. And I did those things, which is why I’m sensitive to them now.

The point is, even books that need a lot of work get published by big-ass houses, aside from my having gripes about the lack of true ABQ and NM rep. What comes out of a book like this is I have no desire to read follow-ups in this series, even if the writer improved because my experience reading this one book just turned me off to the rest of them.

Writing is a craft and an art form. Most of us suck at it when starting out. We can all learn things to get better at it, and we have to work our asses off to do it, and most of us do. But when a book like this gets published by a big house, a little part of my soul withers because there are so many talented writers out there who aren’t getting the recognition they should or the resources a big house can provide (should a writer want to go that route with their career). It didn’t have to be that way. Maybe the author wasn’t edited effectively. Or maybe the author refused to accept edits. Maybe there was a huge fight about it. Who knows. The point is, this could have been a much stronger and well-constructed story and it wasn’t. And we sure as hell aren’t richer for it. Boo.

Source.

What the fckity fck

HI PEEPS!

Yeah, so, trying to avoid any weird-ass AI censorship with that title. LOL

How are y’all? It’s been a minnit and I apologize profusely. The truth is, this whole pandemic shit has basically wiped writing off the face of my earth, because guess what? Life gets in the way.

During this pandemic, I have been taking care of some elderly relatives in addition to myself, and our world shrank to a microcosm during pre-vax lockdowns. I’m in the States, and some jerkwad state governments have loosened restrictions this year, which means a tidal wave of the unvaxxed amidst Delta variant creating problems for those of us who are vaxxed and who, like me, are still living like we’re in lockdown. I’m masking when I have to go out and still social distancing because I don’t want to bring cooties home to the older folx, you dig? Even though we’re all vaxxed.

And let’s just clear this up now — just because you’re vaxxed (hopefully) doesn’t mean you still can’t get COVID. The difference is, the vax will hopefully decrease your symptoms and keep the majority of the vaxxed out of the hospital, and that’s a primary purpose, is to free up hospitals/healthcare resources and hospital workers so they’re not burning out/dying.

Getting a vax is community love. Continuing to mask is also community love. It shows that you care, and that you don’t want to spread cooties to your community and friends and family.

Anyway, writing.

A lot of my fellow writers have confided to me that they’re experiencing writers’ block and other issues with regard to writing, and they’ve been experiencing this since lockdowns and, between you and me, the anxiety engendered by the previous US administration.

Y’all, that’s legit. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not able to write. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not able to deal with all the apocalyptic bullshit going on and you just can’t do X, Y, Z or whatever. That’s fine. Say no to loading your plate. Set your boundaries. If you are a creator and you’re having trouble creating, it’s okay. Everything has been a hot mess for months (who are we kidding–centuries), and in this country, at least, we’ve all seen the cracks in our infrastructure and the systemic inequity undermining everything. We’re also seeing a surge of anti-rights movements and people who have no problem resorting to violence against their fellow travelers to get whatever weird conspiracy-addled crap they want.

So be gentle and kind to yourself as you start navigating this new world. Because the truth is, the pandemic is not over and COVID is not going to go away. It’s another disease that we will have to learn to live with, and until we have managed to build up natural immunity as a species, we need to be careful and protect ourselves and others. We are not ever going to go back to pre-COVID life. And that’s not entirely a bad thing.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to get the creative coffee percolating:

  • Reading. I’ve been reading a fuck-ton of fiction, including nutty Florida stories by Carl Hiaasen; another Florida thriller writer Randy Wayne White; a historical mystery series set in New York City by Victoria Thompson; a translated dark Swedish thriller by Stefan Ahnhem; the new Star Wars novels in the new ‘verse, and lots of nonfiction, including Lillian Faderman’s The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle. I pretty much read every day, now, and it not only provides an escape, but also inspiration.
  • Watch some TV. Go ahead. If you can, binge watch your guilty pleasures. I’ve been watching the Brokenwood mysteries on Acorn TV and Murder, She Wrote on Peacock. I find that watching stuff I enjoy helps me unwind and also inspires me to create.
  • Work out. I have a regular workout regimen, so I work out 4-6 days a week via workout programs on TeamBodyProject.com. But it doesn’t have to be that way; if you take a mile walk every day, you’re getting good exercise and it helps clear your head. Just be careful out there and always carry a mask. 🙂
  • Garden. This is something I picked up during the pandemic and it brings me a lot of joy and peace to be working with plants. I have flowers and veggie plants, now, and I find that working with them and learning more about how to be a better cultivator is really meditative.
  • Doing jigsaw puzzles. By hand. Over the past year I’ve worked dozens of these on an old card table. I really like the thousand-piecers for a challenge. I do landscape images, seascapes, and Americana. It’s really relaxing and meditative for me.
  • Therapy. Yeah, I said it. I’m in therapy (again — I’ve done therapy quite a few times during my life). I started back up last year because I realized I needed some extra help on working some shit out, and I am a huge proponent of therapy. Just make sure you find the right therapist for you, within your means.
  • Podcasts. JFC, people. I’m a podcast addict. I listen to several true crime podcasts but also this great oral history podcast called Making Gay History. And I listen to some excellent news podcasts including In The Thick (news from a POC perspective). Stay away from news channels. All kinds. And do NOT get your news from social media. Podcasts, legit blogsites, and newspapers (indie and LA Times enewspapers) are, I’ve found, the best way for me to stay informed and absorb information and mull it over without the constant bombardment of reality-show news. That shit is designed to fill you with fear and dread, which contributes to the divisiveness around us. So remove yourself.

Those are a few of the things I’m doing and you know what? I actually am writing again. I’ll be posting some fanfic soon and I’m finishing up expanding a short story into a novella that I hope to publish soon. It’s different — YA teen detective kinda stuff.

So, yeah. There’s a lot of horrible shit going on, and you are totally legit in not feeling very creative if that’s where you are. But try to find a little bit of joy in each day, and remember to be kind to yourself and others. There seems to be a dearth of that.

Love and peace! And I think I’m gonna make this blog shit a regular thing again. MUAH!

You can choose to be childless

Hi, friends. Some thoughts.

Women and Words

Hi, all–

Just putting in some thoughts even as Women and Words winds down to its hiatus (which begins June 1, ICYMI).

I read an essay today on Feminist Giant by Mona Eltahawy titled Essay: Unmothering.” Eltahawy is a feminist author and speaker.

It starts thus:

I am childfree by choice.

My maternal grandmother had 11 children. My mother is the eldest of those children and she has three children of her own. I am the eldest of those children and I am glad to have none of my own.

It is still a taboo to say that.

She continues, discussing her realization that she didn’t want kids and that she never wanted them. And I think about all the ciswomen out there who have been pressured or felt pressured to reproduce. Eltahawy did marry a guy, but divorced a couple years later:

If marrying him was the biggest…

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Online promo tips for your book!

Hi, all–

If you’re working on a first manuscript, you need to start thinking about how to publicize your book. Whether you’re indie or working with a publishing house, the brunt of getting the word out fall on YOU, the author.

If you’re an already published author, then you’re always trying to find new ways to get the word out about your book, and we’ve all had to adjust in this pandemic era.

To that end, I ran across this great post by historian Lindsay Chervinsky who writes nonfiction, but she has some awesome tips about publicizing your book online. She posted these tips over at Medium, so

HAVE A LOOK.


Some good ideas, there, and a lot of them dovetail with some of the things I’ve posted here over the years. You can’t not promote, anymore. But there are ways to do it without being tedious. Think outside the box. Think about themes. Think about cool stuff for a newsletter. Think about doing podcasts (that is, being a guest on one). No venue is too small if you’re passionate about what you’re writing.

And don’t just stick to finding out what fiction writers are doing, if that’s your gig. Have a look at promotion of nonfiction, too. Chervinsky is focused primarily on nonfiction, but you can adjust these tips to your own use and figure out creative ways to approach your own material. Don’t feel you’re limited to just listening to other fiction authors. Branch out. 🙂

Hope everyone is having a fab day.

Yeah…about that whole Pride thing…

Hi, friends. Thought I’d share this post I did over at Women and Words, my other hangout. Take care of each other.

Women and Words

Hi, Queerfolx.

Especially white queerfolx.

Okay, relax. If it makes it any easier, white peeps, I’m white, too. So maybe you’ll be more comfortable with a white person telling you to think about some things.

Let’s talk a bit about a galvanizing reason behind these protests. And as I write this, US military forces are literally being deployed to possibly enact lethal force on their fellow Americans — in response to peaceful protests of thousands of POC and their allies.

Please think about that, too, as you read this. About the United States military being sent to possibly employ lethal force against American citizens.

Primarily, think about police brutality, because that’s a major driver of the current protests.

I wanted to bring this up today because June is Pride month, and it’s important to remember that the modern LGBTQ rights movement was launched in the early morning hours of June…

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LOL still not writing, but I am publishing. And podcasting.

Hi, friends–

JFC I just have not been in the mood to write. And for writers, that might be a problem. But whatever. I’m trying to hold down a fort here with some relatives who are in higher-risk groups for COVID-19, so I’m making a lot of decisions about how we get supplies and what they can or can’t do. They’re not always happy about it, but then, nobody is truly happy right now, so we’re all just sucking it up and being responsible toward each other and our larger communities.

I have, however, been doing a bunch of editing and prepping as the publishing house I co-own is putting out a couple of things in the next couple of months. Check out the Dirt Road Books Facebook page or Twitter account (@DirtRoadBooks) for deets.

I’ve also been able to do some small projects around the house like painting and doing some grounds cleaning and other stuff of that nature. I’m still podcasting biweekly with author and colleague Lise MacTague — we do the Lez Geek Out! podcast, which deals with queer and feminist rep in various media. We just posted episode #76, which is about representation and gender in media, and we had awesome queer book reviewer Tara Scott with us to talk about things gender-related like gender expression, gender presentation, gender vs. sex, butch and femme, gender queer, gender nonconforming…you get the point.

You can check that out HERE on Apple podcasts (but we’re on a bunch of other platforms you can think of, too). If you dig it, please like and subscribe so others can find us, too. 😀

And you can find Lez Geek Out! on our website at lezgeekoutcasts.com and on Twitter (@LGOpodcast).

A couple of reminders. May is Mental Health Awareness Month (super important, but maybe now more than ever). Here are some links for resources:
Mental Health America
Mental Health America resources that are COVID-19 specific
National Alliance on Mental Health
NAMI’s LGBTQ resources
Human Rights Campaign and LGBTQ people (HRC partners with Mental Health America)
National Council for Behavioral Health
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
15 mental health podcasts for people of color
Project LETS, resources for people of color

It’s okay to feel like poo. It’s okay to not be okay and to talk about it.

Take care of yourselves and others as you can, and if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.

Still not writing, but I’m damn sure talking about it

Hi, friends! My colleague and friend Lise MacTague (if you haven’t read her stuff, omg, DO SO NOW and hit the link to check out her website) and I do the Lez Geek Out! podcast, and we just dropped episode 75, in which we talk about the joys and pitfalls of writing book series.

You can find Lez Geek Out! on all the major podcast platforms if you’re interested or you can go to our website to check out previous episodes, which involves talking about fangirl stuff, books and authors we love, movies we watch, and TV shows and comics we’re checking out. We’re all about queer and feminist rep.

Here’s the link to our website:

RIGHT HERE!

Here’s the direct link to episode 75 on iTunes: HERE

So if you’d like to hang out with us this week as we chat about our experience writing series. please do!

And you can find us on Twitter: @LGOPodcast. Let us know if there’s something queer/feminist rep you’re into and maybe we’ll get into it on one of our episodes!

Take care, everyone. Stay safe.

I’m not f*cking writing; it’s an apocalypse

Hi, friends–

I really, really hope you’re all doing well and staying safe and I hope that you’re able to find the resources you need to get through this giant bucket of fuck that has beset us.

I’ve been talking to my writer friends and some are throwing themselves into their next writing projects while others just can’t and they’re feeling really freaked out about not writing to which I say:

It’s all right.

These are fucked-up times, and we all have to figure out what works for us to get through. Some of us are struggling with anxiety and depression. Some with hunger. Some are struggling with no jobs. Some are struggling because they’re trying to balance what work they have with suddenly homeschooling kids in the house. And some are dealing with ill family members (blood-related or not) or dealing with illness themselves or, goddess forbid, dealing with a loss as a result of this pandemic.

I’m trying to keep a household with a couple of older relatives even-keel; we’re passing depression and anxiety around like a soccer ball but I’m working on getting household projects assigned practically every day so we all have things to do that maybe have needed to be done in the past.

All these little podunk projects that we laughed off in the past now have profound meaning because they engage us and keep us routinized and no matter how small the task or project, I feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s done. It’s grounding, in seriously ungrounded times.

So don’t feel guilty if you’re not finding the time or the drive to write. It’s okay to freak out and try to deal with things in other ways (please make those healthy things). These are incredibly difficult times, and we’re all trying to figure out how to help ourselves and help others when a lot of us are confined to our households.

So here are a few things I’ve been doing to deal with things while I’m not fucking writing:

  • I’ve gotten a routine going. I’m fortunate in that I still have a day job and though it’s remote, now, I keep regular hours at it and treat it like going to an office. After I’m done for the day, I do evening stuff — make dinner, clean up a bit, then do emails for my writing and publishing stuff (not actual writing) and check in with friends and family.
  • On weekends, I do bunches of little projects. I’ve been painting some trim in my house, for example, and doing some clean-up of the grounds (weather permitting).
  • I’m trying to be kind to myself. So you try to be kind to yourself, too, no matter what form that might take. If you have a few hours and you don’t want to do anything except binge something on TV and you have that luxury, do it. I recommend you watch stuff that isn’t going to increase your anxiety or depression, though. If you can grab a few minutes outside by yourself or with others in your household to play a quick game of catch or something as you’re able, do it. Something that makes you feel good and connected to yourself and maybe others might help alleviate some of the internal turmoil you may be feeling, at least for a little while.
  • If you’re not dealing with as much anxiety and depression as others in your life, check in with those folks and see if they need you to do a regular check-in at the same time every day to help them establish a new routine. It might help you, too, if that becomes part of YOUR routine.
  • Try to do something physical every day. Even if it’s some kind of jerry-rigged home workout using stuff around your house and your body weight. 15-20 mins a day with a set physical routine can do wonders for your state of mind (I also like to dance around my house with earbuds in…SILENT DANCE PARTY!).
  • Make goofy videos or photos to share with your friends and family. And hell, if you want to, post them on social media. Or do like some people and re-create famous artworks with whatever you’ve got.

Point being, shit is real right now, and if you can’t bring yourself to write — if you’re in survival mode however that looks for you — that’s okay. Really. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and help how you can.

Take care, all. And if Easter is your thing, I hope it’s safe and happy.