How Do I Keep This?

That was the question I asked myself the other day when I was lounging on my couch outside under the little pavilion I put up, on a perfect summer’s day, with a good book to read, and my dog sleeping at my feet.

It was one of those moments when you know you’re content with life and you think, “Ah, if every day could be like this, I’d be happy.”

But the answer to “How do I keep this?” is “You don’t.”

The weather changes, the next book isn’t as good, time passes and we lose those we love.

I had six weeks in 2010 that were almost perfect. I was living in New Zealand, learning how to skydive, in love, making incredibly good money on a challenging project that let me take the reins and run with it. But that passed. The man I was in love with didn’t feel the same, I hurt my knee and quit jumping, the work slowed down, the next project was a miserable slog, and eventually New Zealand said they didn’t want me there anymore.

Life happens.

All you can do is try to be in the moment enough to enjoy the good ones while they last and be prepared enough to adjust as needed when they pass.

(And remember when the dark times come that they too will pass.)

Library Reminder

Just a quick reminder to folks that all of the titles listed on this site are available wide, which means they’re available through Overdrive which is a company who supplies ebooks to libraries and through CreateSpace who sells paperbacks to libraries.

So if you ever have an interest in one of my books but can’t afford it, be sure to check with your local library about ordering in either a paperback copy or an ebook copy. I fully, wholeheartedly support people reading through their library.

Loved the Idea, Hated the Execution

I just finished watching the first season of a show called Crossing Lines. I remember trying to watch it a year or so ago and noping out of it almost immediately when it opened with some scared woman running through the woods being chased by some killer and then being found naked the next day.

But this time I pushed through and watched it anyway. (I should’ve known…)

I love the premise of the show. An international cast of characters from all over Europe identifying and solving cross-border crimes. That’s exactly the kind of show I can really sink my teeth into. Not only was the team well mixed in terms of geography, they were well mixed in terms of gender, too. I think there were three female main characters and four male main characters on the team in the first episode.

This is a type of show I could watch for years if it were good. And parts of it really were.

But…

SPOILER ALERT – STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW

By the end of the first season they’d killed off two of the main female characters. One in the first episode. And they gave that one just enough of a romantic potential to be motivation for one of the other characters. Sort of. Maybe. Not really.

(Everyone seems to have some intense backstory but the emotion really isn’t there except for a few limited scenes here or there and the rest of the time they seem to forget that they have this deep backstory.)

The other female character they just killed for no real good reason. Maybe contract negotiations. But I have to tell you television writer people: there are other ways to have a character leave a series than to kill them. Just sayin’.

So this series that started out with an interesting premise and seemed to have men and women in equal roles had, by the end of the first season, shown itself to be a show that includes female main characters as window dressing instead of legitimate central characters.

(Contrast this with Law & Order: SVU. I watched the first season recently and I don’t think they had a cliched “woman raped and murdered by a man” episode until at least midway through the first season. I want to say the first victim was a man and the second involved a woman as the killer. And Olivia holds her own as a detective, she’s not just there to check a box.)

What’s interesting is that maybe ten years ago I would’ve kept watching Crossing Lines. But maybe it was NCIS killing off at least three female lead characters (Kate, the Director, and Ziva) over the years. Or maybe it’s just heightened awareness of these issues through social media and discussions. But I have no patience anymore for shows that only kill their female main characters.

Life’s too short to support writers who see the world that way. (There are some fiction writers I’ve stopped reading for similar reasons.)

It’s too bad. I’d love to see more shows with an international flair…

What Was I Thinking?

It’s official. I am far more interested in doing my own thing than in making lots of money from my writing activities.

Because rather than write the next romance novel (the best plan), or the next fantasy series (a potentially good plan), or even a new non-fiction title (could be fantastic, could be a dud), I am working on video courses for my non-fiction titles.

Now. On one hand, this is a logical thing to do. The Excel courses lend themselves to a video course format. Much easier to learn when you can see what the instructor is talking about. And it’s a good way to extend the books and reach a new market for them.

(My first video course is actually going to be the AMS book. I think that one lends itself well to video as well and I needed a course that wouldn’t be a waste to produce but would allow a little room for growing pains. Don’t want my first video course to be Excel for Beginners when the competition in that space is fierce.)

So there’s some logic to what I’m doing.

On the other hand, am I frickin’ crazy?

Because it’s a completely new skill set. I had to convert my walk-in closet into a little recording area, which meant learning all those requirements and hanging a ton of blankets all over the place. Plus I had to learn a video editing software I’ve never used before. (Camtasia, which is fantastic, by the way.) Not to mention the time I spent converting each book into PowerPoint slides I could use in the videos.

And then there was overcoming the fact that my natural speaking voice sounds like a twelve-year-old valley girl. (I tend to end sentences on an up note when I’m not thinking about it.) So I’ve been using my “I’m in a business meeting and no one is listening to me but I have a point to make damn it” voice. While trying to sound friendly and warm at the same time.

It’s actually been fun. And I’m putting in good hours on it. But it’s a lot. And a significant shift in direction.

I do think it has the potential to be a good move. But maybe, you know, following up on what I’d already done with the audiences I’d already attracted would’ve been a better idea? You know, just a thought.

But that’s me for ya. Far more interested in doing something new I haven’t mastered before than doing the same ol, same ol.

(Of course, my pup does need to be kept in kibble and have a nice yard to play in so I really should be thinking about balancing what I want and paying the bills…But not this month it seems.)

Giving Advice

This week I had a friend of a friend who’s a new author reach out for some writing advice. And of course there are always folks finding their way to the various forums who want advice as well.

And it’s tricky.

Because I’ve found my path and how I want to approach this. (Subject to change, of course.) But it isn’t how I started out and I don’t know that telling someone to do things the way I do them is necessarily appropriate.

Especially since this industry is changing so much and so fast.

For example, one of the folks who was looking for advice on self-publishing was looking for advice on how to get their first novel into print. Now, I could have a lengthy discussion with that person about whether print is the best choice. And point out to them that a large majority of their sales will (likely) be in ebook if they self-publish and talk about how once you put that book out in print that listing will be on Amazon probably longer than they’re alive and that maybe that’s something worth considering when you’re new and not yet good at figuring out your book’s title and cover, etc. and are probably going to publish it under your real name.

Or…

I could just point them to CreateSpace instead of having them pay a few grand for something that should cost less than $500 and could actually be done for free if they want to put in the effort.

If that’s all that person wants–to see their book in print–who am I to try to turn them into a full-blown self-publishing business looking to make a profit? Will they later start to learn more about self-publishing? Maybe. Or maybe all they ever wanted was physical copies of their book to give to friends and family.

So be it.

Same with the newer writer who approached me. Right now that writer wants to go the trade publishing route. So I told them how to do it and that money should flow to the writer in that case. Could I have launched into a lengthy discussion about contract terms from the Big 5 and agent pitfalls, etc, etc.? And maybe even suggested that self-publishing was the better option for that novel given what they’d told me about it?

Sure.

But that’s not where that author is mentally. And I don’t think it’s my place to drag them down that path. Hopefully they’ll learn and either adapt to fit into the path they do want to take or choose a different path, one better suited to what they’ve already written. That’s up to them, not me. All I can do is give them that starter bit of knowledge that will let them decide.

Or so I think.

Hopefully I’m right.

 

You Don’t See What I See

So I’m a woman. I don’t always point that out but part of why I started this blog was so that when I wanted to talk about issues relevant to that fact, I could. And today is one of those days.

Two things are prompting this post. First is a thread that’s been blowing up on Kboards the last couple days that is probably soon to be locked. It wasn’t the main point of the thread, but it came up during that discussion that there is at least one top-100-ranking male romance author (and possibly far more) using a female pen name, representing themselves to their fans as a woman, and interacting with their fans as a woman. Sometimes it seems as a black woman (although it wasn’t clear to me whether that was also in romance or not).

This male author said that they had gone so far as to have conversations with their readers on Facebook about their book boyfriends, etc. So it wasn’t simply a matter of using a female pen name and a stock photo or photo of the author’s wife. This also involves back and forth conversations with fans creating a space where they can talk to their favorite author about the interests they share. All the while knowing that on their side it’s complete bullshit.

The second thing that prompted this post is a thread over on Twitter where a woman was talking about being approached while walking her dog by a man who was at first friendly but then started asking uncomfortable questions about where she lived and if she lived alone and actually followed her and hugged her against her will.

Part of that thread was full of the well-meaning but completely lacking in understanding men who had to provide their perspectives on what she should’ve done. You know. The usual. Maybe the guy was just socially clueless. Or she should report him to the police. Or carry mace or a taser or…

Or why can’t you just be nice to guys instead of assuming they’re all creepers. If you just smiled at men and said hi this wouldn’t happen

Enough.

(Oh, and this post is prompted by a third thing. On Seth Godin’s blog the other day he included a comment that “…you have a theory that smiling at a stranger increases the chances that you’ll have a good interaction” and I laughed out loud when I read that because that was so clearly written by a man.)

So here is my PSA to men. And I’m not saying that any of the men who read this blog even need it, but this is my little place on the internet to share my experiences, so this is where it’s going:

You don’t see what I see.

You do not experience the world the way I experience it.

A man like Seth Godin can smile at a stranger and have them smile back and it’s a good interaction. I smile at a strange man, he follows me for four blocks trying to chat me up because he thinks that smile must mean I want to have sex with him. Right now. In that alley.

And before anyone jumps in with not every man or that’s doesn’t happen often, let me tell you…If it was just once that I had made eye contact with a man I didn’t know or smiled at a man I didn’t know and had an awkward experience, I would still make eye contact with men I don’t know or smile at them. I don’t.

I reached a point between working in big cities (Washington, DC and New York) and traveling in countries where men are very forward (France, Greece, etc.) that I found my best strategy was to (1) not react to any sound in my immediate vicinity because it was more often than not a man trying to get my attention, (2) not look directly at anyone because if I made eye contact with a man about nine times out of ten that would result in him seeing it as an opening and trying to chat me up, (3) not smile in public because see #2 (also see number 1 for how the “you should smile more” thing misses with me–I just don’t hear it).

Because of how I now am (no reaction to sounds, no eye contact, no smile), I sometimes get called a standoffish bitch. Or cold. Or frigid. (Thanks for that one, Jimmy.)

Men don’t understand. They don’t experience what I experience. They don’t get in taxi cabs and have the driver ask them if they’re single and then have to suffer through a twenty minute conversation about how they should find a man or (when they lie and say they’re in a relationship) questions about where their man is because clearly he shouldn’t let his woman out in public alone.

Men don’t get followed down the street by a guy who’s “just being persistent.” They don’t get stuck on a register at work with a guy who won’t leave and have to be polite to him because he’s a customer. They don’t walk out to their car after a late shift and see that same guy lingering around outside waiting for a chance to ask them out.

Men don’t get it because they don’t experience the world the way women do. So when these situations come up, they don’t put themselves in a woman’s shoes and try to see the world from her perspective. They look at it from theirs. They don’t see how a woman couldn’t look up from her book while riding the bus for fear of being stuck in an unwanted conversation with a guy who might follow her to her car. They think instead of that attractive girl who was sitting across from them on the bus last week who would’ve been perfect for them if only she’d looked up. (Not realizing they stared at her for five minutes straight like a true creeper.)

Men don’t get it. They’ve never tried to politely tell a man they aren’t interested and have the man go from “Hey, sexy, what’s up?” to “Fuck you, bitch. You’re not that hot anyway” in less than a minute.

So all that helpful advice about how being nice works? Bullshit.

Of course, I haven’t talked yet about the other advice women get. The advice that says call the cops. Or take the guy’s photo. Or carry mace. Or a taser. Or…

Look.

The girl who started that Twitter thread said what I was thinking: If I called the cops on every guy who was a creeper towards me I’d never leave the courtroom.

And if I took photos of every guy who was a creeper, my phone would be full of dudes. (Not to mention that would escalate the situation.)

Now, I’m fortunate. I’m not petite. So I don’t get physically grabbed by men. They hover, they follow, they lean in, they linger, but they don’t grab. They just annoy. And cuss when I ignore them. So I don’t have it as bad as some women.

As for carrying a weapon…This shit goes down fast. With a true predator–a man who is going to try to harm you rather than cajole you–I’m not convinced that I could adequately use a weapon against him in the timeframe I’d need to use it.

It’s like using bear spray. By the time the bear is standing there in front of you, do you really think you can dig it out of your pack, get the safety off, and spray it before the bear attacks?

It’s not like a woman can walk home with mace in her hand and wave it at every man who gets within five feet. (Even if some days it feels like that’s the only safe option.)

Plus, most women learn that the average guy can be ignored or awkwardly avoided until he gives up. Pulling a taser or mace is likely to escalate a situation that could’ve been kept to awkward and uncomfortable.

So when this shit happens and a woman shares her experience, if you’re a guy maybe stop yourself before you reply.

You don’t need to tell a woman how to navigate this world. We get trained in it every fucking day. If a woman is in her thirties and not horribly scarred by terrible events, chances are she’s figured out how to handle all but the psycho predators. You don’t see it, because you don’t have to do it, but every woman around you has ways of handling her interactions with men (including you) to keep herself as safe as she can. She doesn’t need your suggestions.

If you do need to respond, a “That sucks. I’m sorry that happened to you,” will work just fine.

And as for that male author who is pretending to be a woman with his fans? I don’t care if a male author uses a female pen name. Or a fake bio. Or a fake photo. (I don’t like it, because I don’t think it’s honest, but I get that it happens.)

But when you engage in conversation with women, pretending to be a woman, talking to them about their lives? In order to make a little extra money off of them? (Because, really, if you write the right book you don’t need social media to sell it.) That’s just fucking predatory.

That’s using someone’s openness and desire to connect with others against them. It makes the world a worse place. And it’s an all too familiar violation for women who have had men lie about who they are to get close.

Remember, you don’t see the world women see. You don’t understand how doing that is right up there with the worst kind of crap that men pull. Don’t do it. Find a better way.

Happy Holidays

Hard to believe another year is almost over. I’m just glad I was able to spend a nice holiday with my family which seems to get smaller every year since none of us that are stateside have had kids. The only casualty for the day was my thumb which has an inch-wide blister at the moment. (Note to self: Do not touch a roasting pan that has been in the oven for close to two hours with your bare hand.) At least a combination of running it under cool water, holding the inside of an aloe leaf to it, and then walking around with a wet rag pressed to the blister for the next couple hours seems to have done the trick. It’s amazing how much you use your thumbs.

Anyway.

I figured I’d share this cool picture I took of the pup this morning. I’ve lived in snowy states most of my life and I’m sure I’ve seen single snowflakes before, but for some reason this time I really noticed how cool it is that you can see the pattern in a snowflake without needing a microscope. I was going for the snowflake at the bottom left but captured three of them in this part of the photo:

IMG_4433 (4) - Copy

Added bonus that it was on the pup’s nose.

For those of you who find yourselves with a little extra holiday money, there’s a Boxing Day sale on at Kobo with tons of books 60% off. That link should take you to the page where they’re all listed. Don’t forget to use the promo code when you check out. (My title The How to Meet A Woman Collection is one of the titles. It includes Online Dating for Men: The Basics, Don’t Be a Douchebag, and You Have a Date, Don’t F It Up. At full-price that’s three for the price of two and with this discount it’s even better. So if any men out there have been thinking about finding love in the new year, might be worth checking out. If not there are lots and lots of other titles included in the promo.)

I’m wrapped up on all the writing I’d planned to do for the year, so might take a few days off to just relax before I hit the ground running in January. (Who am I kidding? I’ll probably be back at work on something by tomorrow…Unless someone can recommend some really really good books to me? I’ve had a run lately of okay but not amazing reads and am dying for a book that can really suck me in and make me put everything aside until I finish it.)