The Long and Winding Road

I’m on the fourth draft of this WIP. What makes the situation unique, for me, is that I haven’t finished the first draft yet.

Usually, when I write a novel, I go all the way to the end before making any significant changes. There have been exceptions. Sometimes I’ll get the feeling the book isn’t working. Not in a small, niggling way, but a big, ‘two plus two does not equal five’ way. The motivation isn’t quite right or the ultimate conflict—the plot climax or the ultimate relationship test—feels forced. At that point, I’ll load what I have onto my tablet, read it, try to pinpoint the moment the book goes off the rails and make some notes to redirect it. This happened with both To See the Sun and Purple Haze. It wasn’t a big deal. In the case of To See the Sun, I had to go back and add a villain, which meant fleshing out an existing character and giving him a larger role in the overall plot. Simply done. Purple Haze was a little more difficult, but once I solved Dillon’s GMC (what did he really want?), I figured out what he needed to, er, sacrifice to get it done.

He and Lang got their happy ever after, okay? That’s all you need to know.

This book… Take a deep breath with me and let it out again. Yeah. This book has been a journey. Continue reading “The Long and Winding Road”

2020

I’m having trouble processing the fact we’ve just embarked upon a new decade. This might have something to do with the fact I still haven’t accepted the fact we’re twenty years into a new millennium. When? How?

Despite having a hard time with the math, however, I have done a lot over the past ten years and I’d like to take a look at that before I plan forward. Continue reading “2020”

The Intersection of Hardship and Hard Work

As I sit here, preparing to share my thoughts on the NaNoWriMo 2019 experience, I’m listening to the generator growl outside. We’ve been without power for nearly twenty-four hours and may endure for twenty-four hours more before it is restored. Speaking of twenty-four, that’s about how many degrees it is outside. Fahrenheit. I’m wearing two shirts under my fleece and I have socks on with my slippers.

20191203_071853This is not the longest we’ve been without power. We survived eight days a few years ago. I know, I say it like we were caught on the windy side of a mountain without shelter. But with temperatures only a little more friendly than they are now and no water—the house runs on well water and a septic system—those days were hard. I had to haul buckets of water from the creek at the back of the property to flush the toilet and boil bottled water for washing. We stored the food from the freezer out on the deck (where it remained nearly frozen) and cooked whatever thawed first on the grill.

Now we have a generator to power the fridge, the water pump, and, luxury of all luxuries, the hot water heater. I argued against the water heater at first, ever mindful of using too much gas. But when you’ve been without power for six or seven days, there’s nothing like an almost hot shower to restore your humanity. Continue reading “The Intersection of Hardship and Hard Work”

RWA 2019

While pondering possible titles for this blog post, I considered “Misery Loves Company” which might have enticed you to read, but would have started us out on the wrong tone. My trip to New York for the Romance Writers of America 2019 National Conference was far from miserable. It was, in fact, one of the most enjoyable conference experiences of my career.

So what’s that other title about? Writing is a fairly solitary exercise and while I belong to three wonderfully supportive groups up here in the Poconos, none of them are romance focused, so I always look forward to an RWA conference as a way to connect with my peers in the romance genre, and with writers whose books, like mine, feature LGBTQ characters. I’m also looking to connect with writers who are at the same stage of their career so we can swap notes, perhaps commiserate a little, and cheer each other on to the next step.

BadgeThis year, in particular, I was hoping to do all of that and also find a reason to keep going. To, nevertheless, persist. My fatigue this year hasn’t all been due to external forces. As a writer and a romance novelist, I’m also exhausted by what’s happening in the marketplace. Thankfully, I’m not alone. My first workshop of the conference was appropriately named #Tired: Wielding Your Pen When the World’s on Fire and everyone in that room was tired. There are other writers out there who felt as though we now need to take two steps to cover the same distance as one. That everyone else is writing faster and harder and better. That our lives outside of writing hours have become stupidly complicated, meaning that sometimes three steps are required when we are back in the zone. And, we all agreed, the absolute dumpster fire that is social media just makes it all worse.

Our lovely panelists, Kianna Alexander and Synithia Williams, were prepared for us, though, with a number of ways for us to Realize, Reset, Recharge, and Restart.

Next up was the PAN Keynote with Jennifer Probst, who also talked about this overwhelming fatigue, to a wave of emphatic nods from the audience. I walked out of this session with five paragraphs scrawled into my notebook—all five written down at the encouragement of our speaker. Why I came to the conference, my fears regarding my career, my dreams, when my writing felt the worst, and when it felt the best. These paragraphs will slot nicely into the reset phase of my working plan from the first session.

I attended other workshops and sessions, but these two set the tone for my conference by reminding me that I wasn’t alone and that if <insert any author here> could keep going, I could too. I just had to want to.

Another aspect of this conference that resonated was how many authors took a moment to speak to the need for more diverse representation, not only in the awards arena, but in our chapters, on our boards, and in our books. The reminder that this starts at the chapter level is timely, and ties directly into why I’ve always tried to be active in my own chapters. Change starts within, and we will only get out of this organization what we put into it.

KHOn to the social stuff! The social happenings are the highlight of every conference and one of my favourite authors, Kristan Higgins, totally made my day on Thursday by posing for a picture with me. She is as lovely in person as she is in her reader group! I was thrilled to finally meet her.

I also ran into Liz Jacobs and Roan Parrish, both writers I adore! We’d been friends online for years, but it’s totally different to meet in person. I nearly convinced Liz to move to San Francisco, because for some reason I thought she already lived there and had what we agreed was a lovely mental image of her and her wife and cute dog all sitting on a sunny balcony overlooking the water. Roan has the boundless energy I recognize from her books. I was excited to applaud her efforts when the board recognized her fundraising activities.

I met and caught up with several members of the Rainbow Romance Writers chapter, both on Wednesday evening and Thursday evening. One of the challenges of an online chapter is the connectivity that comes with meeting regularly. Hopefully, putting some names to faces will enable our members to feel closer as a group. Robin Covington is going to do a fantastic job as chapter president next year and will need the support of our membership!

Beer drink

Thursday night, I caught my first Uber (after taxi overheated and dumped us on West 9th) to Brooklyn to watch E.J. Russell’s sons dance. Oh, my. Gina Night, Jenna Bayley Burke, E.J. and I stopped by the brewery next door first, then took our seats for three hours of scantily clad beauty. The skin! The dancing. The singing! The music! The show was called Queen of Hearts and performed by Company XIV at their theatre in Bushwick. An amazing show. Even if you don’t appreciate dance, just the experience of so many talented people moving and working together will blow you away. More objectively—so many lovely bodies. I could have watched these beautiful young people move all night.

Friday afternoon, I got together with Judith Utz (A Novel Take PR), Liz Jacobs, Jenn Burke, and Kini (Smexy Books) for a drink. We touched on the subject of industry fatigue and what seem to be the popular subgenres of romance right now. We also enjoyed delicious cocktails and each other’s company.

SmackDinner out with Jenn, J. Leigh Bailey, and Shae Connor was another highlight. We found the most amazing Turkish restaurant and enjoyed hours and hours of conversation about writing, publishing, and just being human. Later, we indulged in Schmackary’s cookies as recommended by Amanda Weaver. Nom, nom, nom.

I attended multiple signings and gathered many books. I plan to read all of them. I’ll try to read all of them. I’m thinking of writing a blog series about my attempt to read all of them. I’m always up for a challenge! After my first RWA (San Diego 2014) I dragged 37lbs of books home. I think you’ll agree I was much more restrained this time.

I finally met Vanessa North! She’s as gorgeous in person. I also met Cat Sebastian and Ruby Lang. I cannot wait to read Ruby’s book! I met a dozen other authors as well and enjoyed chatting with everyone about their stories.

BooksI picked the books in this picture for two reasons: I liked the author and wanted to read more, or the cover called me across the room. One thing I did notice this year was a distinct lack of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance. A good thing, as there are fewer books in my haul. But a sad thing as those are among my favourite romance genres. This year, I picked up a lot of light-hearted reads and books that veer more into women’s fiction territory.

Finally, on Saturday, Jenn and I caught the subway downtown for a while, so she could see a little more of Manhattan. I took her to Washington Square Park where I tried and mostly failed to take a selfie of us standing in front of the arch. Then we popped into a few bookshops on our way back up to Union Square and ended our trip with another subway ride back to Times Square just in time to pick up our luggage and hoof it to the bus back to Pennsylvania.

WSP TAT

Back home again, I took Jenn to meet my tattoo artist, Rob, and she got an amazing tattoo! One final dinner out and we all came back to my place and collapses. Sunday officially didn’t happen. I did laundry and gamed.

All in all, it was a great conference. If you’re a romance writer or a member of the RWA, I highly recommend attending at least one national conference near you. If not just for the workshops and signings, but to mingle with your people. Exchange ideas, congratulation someone in person for their achievements, and learn a little more about the people behind the books you love. If you’re a reader, there is always a huge book fair on the Saturday where you can do pretty much the same thing. Meet your fellow readers (many of who are writers too!) and line up to meet the author of the book that changed your life.

My Summer Daze is still in effect. I still have to cover all the vacation shifts at the shop, get my daughter to college, prepare for my father’s visit and mow the lawn (again and again), but I now have some ideas—if not story ideas, then plans—for what I’ll be working on in September. I feel refreshed in regards to my career and, most importantly, as if there is still a place out there for my voice and my stories.

The hardest part of getting back to work is probably going to be choosing which project to work on, but I have some ideas about that, too. ❤

Everyday People

This is one of my favourite posts! It’s all about why I love to read and write queer contemporary romance. ❤

While building a better website (you can check it out here), I compiled a list of posts hosted elsewhere for one of the features. This post was originally written for Queer Romance Month back in 2015, and the host website is no longer active. So I’m reposting it here, on my own blog.

Reading it over this over this morning, I felt no urge to change a single word. This post is as true today as it was four years ago. It’s why I write the stories I do, and why I continue to seek them out.

Enjoy–and let me know if you clicked the link at the end. (quiet, but evil laughter)


Everyday People

Ever since the debut episode of Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show, I’ve had this ditty running through my head:

There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one

Doesn’t make a lot of sense, eh? In fact, the whole song is full of such nonsense. But the refrain makes very clear what it’s all about:

I am everyday people, yeah yeah

It’s also very catchy and needs to get out of my head. But while it’s there, I’d going to talk about what this song means to me and, more specifically, the stories I like to read. The song is called “Everyday People” by Sly & the Family Stone and the sentiment isn’t new, but it’s one most of us can appreciate. No matter our race, colour, gender, size, profession, we’re everyday people. No matter who we love, we’re everyday people.

We all start out young and full of hope. We all have dreams. Most of us are looking for love and companionship. We’re looking for purpose. We crave success, and the feeling of being established. Many of us want families. We love our friends. We are heroes, and in need of rescuing. We are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. Sons and daughters. We can be either, or, or other.

We are parents swallowing tears as our eighteen-year-olds leave home for college. They think they’re adults, but they’ll forever be our children. We are moving into our first apartment and think the couch we found on the side of the road will smell better after three separate applications of Febreze. Despite what anyone else says, we believe pizza is a balanced meal. We are charmingly naïve and worldly at the same time. We are human, and we’re everyday people.

These are the stories I like to read.

Despite the fact I write science fiction and will read pretty much anything written, contemporary romance is one of my favourite genres. I love to immerse myself in the lives of others, and I don’t really care how ordinary they are, because love makes all of us feel extraordinary. We don’t need to be super soldiers, firefighters, werewolves, or telepathically linked to the Old One in order to save those we love. We just need to be there. In contemporary romance, we just have to love hard enough.

In particular, I like queer contemporary romance. I love the stories about couples who have been married or partnered for over a decade and are battling the same issues every enduring couple must face: growing within a relationship, romantic complacency, aging gracefully and raising children who think ramen is a balanced meal. Pizza is a much better choice, obviously.

To me, what makes these stories special—outside of the fact I can identify with all of these situations—is that it doesn’t matter what gender you are, or who you love. Regardless of our orientation, we’re still going to plan stupidly mundane vacations to the shore. We’re going to get sucked in by that Sunday morning advertisement for the FootLog, only to realise we’ve spent fifty dollars on a roll of Legos—and just about all of us know what it feels like to step on those evil little pieces of plastic.

I want to read about young hopefuls going off to college and/or leaving for the big city. I want to read about househusbands trying out new recipes and setting the kitchen on fire. I want to read about the guy next door falling for the guy next door. I want my sister to be comfortable with who she is. I want her to have her wedding, and—sadly for her—I want her tux, or grass skirt, or unitard emblazoned with a pocket logo of the rings of Saturn to show up wrinkled and maybe in the wrong colour.

Because these are the things that happen to everyday people.

Arguably, one of the delights of reading queer romance is the triumph over adversity—whether bigotry, fear, or a lack of self-esteem and awareness. And I do like reading these stories. There is no greater victory than against the odds.

But what I really love to read are stories about normal people doing normal things. Doing what I have done or might do. Stories I can identify with because I’m a human being. Because I have a partner who is lover and best friend. Because I have a child. Because I burn myself every time I make toast, and forbid my child to use the stairs when I’m not in the house. Because, honestly, while I look pretty “normal”, really, I’m not. We’re all a little queer—some of us more than others. And we all deserve stories, because we’re all…

Yep, I’m going to pull the song title out again…

We’re all everyday people and we’re all more than little bit interesting.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUUhDoCx8zc

Click it, you know you wanna. And I need someone else to have this song stuck in their head.

(featured image created using Canva)