Dear Internet: I Want My Life Back

cell-phone-2-1525544-1280x960Periodically, I decide I need to break up with the Internet.

It usually comes after a week fraught with huge blowups among my circle: meltdowns and high drama, like the exposure of a catfisher or outrage over someone/something that is Absolutely Wrong.

More and more these days, it comes as a result of feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the future of my country and the planet as a whole, especially when we’re constantly bombarded with images and messages that tell us to be afraid, be very afraid.

As Internet Addictions go, I don’t think my case is too bad (though isn’t that what all addicts say?). Sure, my boyfriend jokes about how I reach for my cell phone first thing in the morning, but that’s about a morning ritual of checking messages and my Twitter feed that allows me to spend another ten minutes or so in bed before I have to get up. No, really.

I don’t have Facebook on my phone. I don’t have a tablet. With the exception of Twitter, I don’t check any of my social media platforms on my phone–that waits until I’m seated at the computer.

But I do spend hours every day at the computer, circling social media sites looking for something interesting to read or start a conversation. I get online to ‘catch up’ and ‘unwind’ and the next thing I know, I’ve wasted most of the evening. Would I have been more productive if I’d stayed offline? Hard to say. Probably. But most days I’m so fried when I get home that faffling around on the internet is about all I’m good for.

Earlier in the week, I read this post by social media guru, Kristen Lamb. She talks about the fine balance between maintaining a social media presence online and losing five hours of your life to LOL cat videos. She has some good things to say about the way mindless tech use can kill your muse (not to mention your life in general). I read the post, nodding along, knowing I needed to institute some of the same measures mentioned. My friend Shira Anthony calls her tactics “Ninja Facebooking”, which is to log in, share some information, comment on a few posts, and get out again before the time sink effect kicks in. It’s a smart way of handling things, I think. By the way, she’s got a great new release upcoming up that’s available for pre-order now–Take Two from Dreamspinner Press. You should check it out.

Pokemon HoundsYesterday, while I was out with the dogs for a short run, I almost walked into a couple coming from the opposite direction. I looked up just in time before my muddy dogs and I plowed into them and I was horribly embarrassed that I hadn’t been paying attention. Why had I been so oblivious? Because I’d opened a game on my phone (ostensibly with the purpose of deleting it, only I started playing it instead) and I wasn’t even aware of their approach until it had almost become a social disaster.

Lately, I’ve been noticing just how much time I spend answering emails, sharing posts and tweets, and participating in online conversations… and I seriously believe that I do this far less than the average person. I’ve been noticing how much of the evening is devoted to sitting on the couch beside the boyfriend while we both tickety-tap away on our devices–me on Facebook or Live Journal, and him on Reddit or playing games. Just the other day, I met a man with a toddler who had very little verbal skills, but he was a demon on the smartphone. His little fingers flew over the screen, scrolling through images until he found the video he wanted to watch. The kid probably knew how to work his father’s smartphone better than I know how to use mine. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know. Perhaps it is a matter of trading one skill set for another, exchanging one form of learning for a new one. However, I can’t help but wonder about the scores of young adults I know with crippling social anxiety, and whether the willingness of the younger generation to put every aspect of their lives online for public scrutiny has anything to do with that.

I met with my critique group this morning, and toward the end of our conversation we began discussing how much online presence writers need today. Where the boundaries are. How much should we share. How much time to spend doing it. That sort of thing. To my surprise, my group members seem to think I’m some social media whiz-bang. We were discussing the success of my latest story, and my friends gave much of the credit to my marketing skills. I had to make the squinty–face at them because I’ve been doing about the same thing as always on the media front–the surprising success of Fool’s Gold was probably due to several factors but I don’t think my ability to ‘work it’ on social media had as much impact on sales as decisions I made on pricing and which platform to offer it in.

Yes, I post to Facebook and Twitter regularly, and I share other people’s posts, too. Yes, I post to the blog semi-regularly, but then I *like* writing blog posts. Nothing has changed in that regard since my previous book was released.

But I agreed with much of what they had to say. It resonated with many of the things I’d been thinking lately.

computer-keyboard-1188763So I sat down here with the firm resolution to write the Internet a Dear John Letter. I wasn’t going to ‘take a break’ because I found being online overwhelming. I wasn’t shutting off my browser so I could finish a WIP. I was going to make a full-fledged declaration that the Internet was bad for me and I needed to be strong and walk away. To take that time and spend it more wisely. To reconnect with the living things in my life on a daily basis. To live my life before I woke up one day and discovered it was over.

And then I read this post by The Bloggess, who put things a little in perspective for me. And I remembered that my online life has allowed me to stay in touch with people I’d never see otherwise. I’ve made friends all over the world. I’ve traveled to meet up with my online friends, too. Hell, I met my boyfriend online, and next month will mark eight years of our being together. We had a blast playing Pokemon Go together at a local street festival a few weeks ago (just wait until he finds out I caught a Pikachu!), too.

Even my critique group, with its bicoastal and international membership, originated out of online communities and we ‘meet’ via Skype. Last weekend, I attended Writer’s Police Academy–an organization I learned about from friends met online–and I met up with fellow authors there. I’ll be posting about my experiences at WPA in the future, but the point is I’m not going to be breaking up with the Internet at all. The Internet and social media aren’t inherently good or bad. They are tools, that’s all. And like any tool, we need to learn how to use them appropriately and with common sense.

I wouldn’t carry a hammer to a wedding (it’s not Game of Thrones, peeps!), nor out horseback riding or to the grocery store. But if I need to fix a fence or replace a board, I’m going to use one. Be smart. Turn off the device from time to time and check out the world around you. Don’t walk into hikers or off cliffs or into bears because you weren’t paying attention. Pay attention. Life is worth it.

Fool’s Gold Nominated in the 2016 Indie Book Awards!

Fool'sGold-400x600It’s been two weeks since the launch of Fool’s Gold, and I’m pleased to say the reception has been outstanding! I knew the subject matter might be a bit of a hard sell for anyone except a die-hard horse lover, but to my delight, most of the reviews have been enthusiastic.

Sales have been strong, the best I’ve ever had for a new story. I’m sort of gobsmacked by that, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting that!

Today I discovered Fool’s Gold has been nominated for the first annual 2016 Indie Book Awards, hosted by Metamorph Publishing. I have no idea who nominated it, but thank you, whoever you are!

Now I have this shiny new badge to show off. 🙂

nominee newestFool’s Gold is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Dear Church Lady: Why Do You Care What I Read?

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Angry woman: freeimage.com

This post was prompted by an article that was being shared around on Facebook the other day, in which a Christian woman held up romance novels as one of the ‘new’, great evils of all time, sucking hapless female victims into their thrall. I’m not going to link to it here because it’s not necessary to drive more traffic to her blog post. There’s enough of that sort of thing out there as it is. In fact, the GOP has declared pornography a public health crisis that is ‘destroying the lives of millions.’

Think about that for a moment. Now, I’ll be the first to say that anything taken to excess can be a problem—even a health crisis. Alcohol, for example, or doughnuts. But along with controlling reproductive rights and standing for the most anti-GLBT platform in the history of the party, the GOP has deemed pornography as one of the main things it must battle in the upcoming election.

Not the fact that climate change is destroying our world.

Not the fact that scarcely a day goes by without a mass shooting here in the U.S. In fact, the U.S. outstrips all other countries when it comes to violent acts, accounting for 31% of all mass shootings in the world since 1966.

Not the fact the U.S. has an abysmal ranking for infant mortality, child poverty, and health care out of all other developed nations. Or that we’re sadly behind other industrialized nations in math and science.

No, what is most important to the GOP is what goes on in the privacy of our own bedrooms between consenting adults. And for this particular Church Lady, this includes what’s on my Kindle.

Not that she represents all Church Ladies. I grew up knowing some fantastic women, stalwart and forthright Church Ladies who would appear on your doorstep with a casserole and a hug at a death in the family, and a crocheted blanket for your newborn baby. They run the after-school programs for the latch-key kids, and the soup kitchen for the homeless. They don’t criminalize you for being poor. And when they raise money for the Church, it’s because the roof really does need repair, not because someone believes a multi-million dollar complex is what God needs from his faithful.

As you can probably tell by now, I was born and raised in a Christian household. I have very strong beliefs, and yet I broke with the Church some time ago. In part, because I didn’t believe that religion and politics should be bedfellows, and I don’t like being told from the pulpit how I should vote. In part, because I believe in the separation of Church and State. But also because I believe very strongly in free will. I believe in God. I no longer believe in the Church. And while someone has every right to come along and tell me I’m going to burn in hell for what I say and do, their right to dictate what I say or do or think ends when it infringes on mine. I suppose that’s where all the legislation comes from. There are states where any sexual position other than ‘missionary’ is illegal, where oral sex is illegal, where sex outside of marriage is illegal and so on. Probably so some fiercely intrusive neighbor can rail at you, “But it’s against the law!”

I call it the Sodom and Gomorrah effect. In this Old Testament story, God announces he will smite the people of these two cities because of their ungodly behavior. Not just the wicked and the guilty, mind you. ALL OF THEM. Abraham negotiated with God’s messengers, who said they would spare the towns if fifty righteous men could be found. Abraham talked them down to ten, but in the end, ten men could not be found. Before the smiting began, God’s angels allowed Lot and his family to escape.

Historians believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were actual cities struck by a natural disaster, which makes sense because earthquakes, wildfires, tornados, and the like wipe out everything in their path with little regard for your religious affiliations. Today, Sodom and Gomorrah are synonymous with evil and immortality—and there is a strong belief among some religious groups that the actions of your neighbor affects your own moral standing. That someday, everyone will be smote by association, regardless of how fervently you pray in your own home. I believe this is the fear that drives most of these anti-everything legislations. The willingness of some to stick their noses where they do not belong because on some level, they believe the entire nation will suffer hellfire and damnation for the actions of their neighbors.

The U.S. has always had a strong Puritan streak. These days, however, certain factions in government have forgotten the Puritans came to America to avoid religious persecution. They have forgotten the words of our Founders written so that others may have the right to worship as they see fit. They have forgotten the precepts of our Declaration of Independence. They want to amend these documents to say, “Only for those people who believe exactly what I believe” when they themselves are splintered into so many subsets within their own religions that this is impossible.

So I say to the Church Lady: yes, child pornography is wrong and it is a crime. What two consenting adults choose to do is not, even if they film it for sale under the rules of the industry. Yes, there are probably people who watch too much porn, just as there are people who drink too much. Yes, porn has probably led to unreal expectations and caused more than one marriage to buckle—but I suspect it was only a catalyst to an already unstable situation. And no, explicit romance novels aren’t new. They’ve been around for a long time. Yes, they’ve been called ‘soft porn’ for a long time, too. Why am I not hearing any ‘slippery slope’ arguments coming from you on this one, as so many do with gun control? Probably because you believe everything should be banned. Do you really think this is where you need to focus your energies right now?

I am perfectly happy with your decision, Dear Church Lady, not to read romances, or allow porn of any sort in your house. You can raise your children to believe sex is somehow wrong unless it is for the specific purpose of procreation, and wonder why they turn to other sources to learn more about one of the strongest human drives there is. You can wonder, too, why spouses stray or hire sex workers. Could it be on some level, they’re missing something in their love life? Some joy, some spontaneity, some freedom from the belief that sex, as an act in and of itself, is bad? In fact, it seems to me those that shout the loudest about controlling the thoughts and private lives of others should check to see if their houses are made of glass before picking up those stones.

Maybe that’s not the case for this particular Church Lady. It’s hard to know exactly what motivates someone to try to hold everyone around them to their specific standards. Just because I decide to go on a diet, it doesn’t mean I get to force everyone around me to do the same. Self-control and willpower are my responsibility, and no one else’s. And keep your nose out of my Kindle.

In the original draft of this post, I was prepared to go on ad nauseum about certain uptight women who think they should have say over what I read and write. (Never mind who I actually sleep with, or my right to access birth control) Who believe the ‘moral decay’ in America is more important than feeding the hungry, providing health care, or creating a strong economic base with the understanding that everyone benefits when there is more discretionary income—even the ultra-wealthy will see business profits go up when there is a strong economy. Tempting as it was, I canned that first draft.

Instead, I decided to share with you why I write romances.

I write because for most of us, life is fairly sucky and we need the distraction of being taken out of our lives for a few hours every now and then. Seriously. You had a crappy day at work? Lose yourself in the fantasy of meeting a wealthy billionaire who will sweep you off your feet and take care of you for the rest of your life. Put in a 12 hour day at the office only to come home and take care of small children and/or elderly parents? Immerse yourself in a different world for a few minutes before bedtime, a place where exciting things happen to characters that you’d like to be.

We need to believe that things can turn out okay. That we can get our happy endings.

We need to see depictions of healthy relationships. And yes, for the vast majority of us, this includes sex. It isn’t a dirty word, not to be spoken except under the covers and with a sense of guilt.  And yes, perhaps there are readers who get off on our words, who are titillated by the scenes of passion we’ve created. You know what? THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.

Perhaps the reader is single and has no other recourse to relieve a physical need.

Perhaps the reader has had his or her trust violated, and is not in a position to let someone into their lives at the moment.

Perhaps the reader has reached a point in their lives where they are comfortable being alone.

Perhaps the reader is in a relationship, and for various reasons, their partner can’t meet their needs. Maybe it’s due to illness, travel, or stress. For whatever reason, maybe this reader uses romance novels to keep them satisfied until their partner is ready for them. Maybe they understand that their partner’s needs will always be different from theirs and this is how they remain faithful.

Perhaps the reader simply needs more than his or her partner can offer, and uses stories to help get them in the mood for a loving session with that partner. Things change, either because of illness, age, or workload. Reading a sexy scene can stoke the fires for a truly passionate session with one’s partner.

Or~gasp~maybe the reader just enjoys it.

Whatever the reason, I’ll let you in on a little secret here. You may think the reason people read romances with explicit sex scenes is because of the sex. It isn’t. People read because of the romance. They want to see a particular set of characters work out their differences, overcome obstacles, and come together for a happily ever after in the end. If there is some smokin’ hot sex along the way, for some of us that’s just icing on the cake.

So I say to you, Dear Church Lady, I have no problems if you only want to eat broccoli, and shun all sweets and confectionaries. I applaud your willpower for passing up bread and pasta, instead noshing down on zucchini and Brussels sprouts. Hey, there are days when that’s what I want to eat as well. But don’t come down with righteous indignation because I also like crusty French bread hot out of the oven brushed with melted butter. Don’t curl your lip because I dip my strawberries in heated chocolate, or try and legislate away my right to eat brownies. If your religion forbids such things, more power to you. Mine doesn’t. And I certainly wish the government would stop trying to legislate what goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults.

Here’s a thought: why not check out a little spicy romance? Who knows, it may rock your world in more ways than one.

Fool'sGold-400x600For those of you who are interested in such things, check out my latest release, Fool’s Gold. Now available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

 

 

Grace Duncan’s Book Tour & Giveaway: Acceptance

Just a bit of housekeeping before I turn things over to Grace–if you’re looking for Divine Magazine’s Summer Blog Hop post, it’s here!

Today, Grace Duncan is here to share with you about her latest release, Acceptance. Be sure to check out the Rafflecopter Giveaway down below!

Hey, thank you so much to Sarah for letting me take up space today! We’re winding down the Acceptance blog tour, but the giveaway will be live for a while yet and you can always go back and catch what you missed. There’s a link below the tour graphic that’ll get you to a page with the rest.

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So, at Drops of Ink and Tempeste O’Riley’s blog, I shared a couple of conversations–one via text and one via email–between Quincy and Miles during the couple of months between the epilogue in Patience and the opening chapter of Acceptance. Today, I’d like to share an IM conversation with you between them.

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I hope you enjoyed Quincy and Miles’s conversation! To all those who followed the tour, thank you! Be sure to catch the last few stops and go back to read the rest, if you missed them.

Be sure to follow the tour here: http://www.grace-duncan.com/acceptance-blog-tour

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Blurb:

Dr. Miles Grant acknowledges that his destined mate could be either gender even though his bisexuality cost him his family and his pack. Luckily he found the Forbes Pack, who happily accept him just as he is. What he never counted on was finding his mate in Pittsburgh or for his mate to be another species entirely—a cat!

Quincy Archer isn’t just any jaguar shifter. He is the heir to the leadership of his pride. Destined mates are nothing but legend to the nearly extinct and generally solitary jaguars, and Quincy certainly never expected to find one for himself, much less a male… or a wolf.

However, finding each other and coming to terms with their species is the least of their worries. Quincy is expected to select a proper female mate, father a cub, and take his place as heir to the pride. Except Quincy refuses, having no interest in women or leadership and knowing he isn’t right for it. But his father will stop at nothing—not even attempting to kill Miles—to get his way. Quincy and Miles must overcome many obstacles to stay together as the destined mates they’re meant to be.

Dreamspinner Press: eBookPaperbook
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/acceptance/id1126559228?mt=11
Amz: https://www.amazon.com/Acceptance-Forbes-Mates-Book-3-ebook/dp/B01H8325Q8
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/acceptance-grace-r-duncan/1123943161?ean=9781634774055
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/acceptance-19
ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-acceptance-2060133-341.html

 

About Grace

Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many grace_nohateof which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.

A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.

Find Grace here:

WebsiteFacebookTwitter ◊ Youtube

New Release by Sarah Madison: Fool’s Gold

It’s here! It’s finally here at last! The buy links for Fool’s Gold went live this afternoon. I’m sure my constantly refreshing the Amazon page hurried things along. 🙂

If you’re looking for Divine Magazine’s Summer Blog Hop, go here. Great prizes, so you should check it out!

As for Fool’s Gold, I decided to go with KDP select and Kindle Unlimited on a trial basis. I’ll let you know what I think in a couple of months. In the meantime, you can borrow it through KU or order it from Amazon. If you prefer a print copy, you can get it here. Hey, if you run into me at a convention and you have one of my books with you, I’ll be happy to sign it for you, too!

I’m planning a book tour, which will hopefully coincide with the beginning of the Summer Games in Rio, so be sure to come back (or follow my blog) for more updates as they come. Fool’s Gold is a story of loves loves and second chances, set in the exciting world of competitive sport horses. It’s also a love letter to my own sport, eventing, and all the horses I’ve ever known. 🙂

In the meantime, the dogs managed to get themselves skunked tonight, so I’m off to bathe… well, everything.

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Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

Divine Magazine’s 2016 Summer Blog Hop & Giveaway!

summer-2016-blog-hopI’ll be the first to admit, I’m not really a fan of summer. To me summer is unbearable heat and humidity, mosquitoes and ticks, poison ivy and sweat. I don’t enjoy fireworks and I’d just as soon eat my picnic food indoors to avoid the gnats and ants. Summer is when I consider chopping off all my hair, until I remember that I look like an angry hedgehog with short hair, and believe me, that’s not a good look on me.

 

 

 

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Right now, it’s so hot, even the cats have melted! 🙂 You can see why I’m tempted to cut off all my hair.

So why, you might ask, am I participating in Divine Magazine’s Summer Blog Hop?

It’s a good question. I suspect the answer is I love blog hops, but I also love seasons. I’m fortunate to live in an area that has definitive seasons. Each one comes in its turn on a fairly predictable schedule. I love it it when the cold mud and snow of winter evolves into budding blossoms and balmy mornings where you don’t need that heavy coat. I adore autumn–that first time the temperatures drop twenty degrees, or the sound of dry leaves skittering across the pavement. I spend countless hours photographing my dogs in the snow, and I love hunkering down in front of a fireplace with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate.

Summer, I mostly endure.

But it has its moments as well. When I was a child, summer meant we went off to stay with our grandparents for a good bit of the season. Spending the summer with the grandparents was always fun because though there were still rules, the rules were different and somehow easier to follow. Summer meant fresh vegetables grown in their garden and cooked as only my grandmother could do. It meant staying up past my bedtime to watch my grandparents’ favorite television shows–programs we’d never be allowed to view at home. It was bowls of Cheerios as a bedtime snack, and up at sunrise to catch the bus for Vacation Bible School.

Leaping H_FBThat’s why we were sent–because of the wonderful Bible School. I know what you’re thinking, but this was Bible School done right. We spent an hour each morning with our lessons, and then the rest of the day we swam like fishes at the church lake. Every afternoon, we’d pile back into the bus, sunburnt and with ravenous appetites, to head home. On rainy days, we did crafts under wide pavilions, the damp misty air blowing cool on our skins. Or we played cards: Go Fish, Rook, Hearts, Jack-Change-It–I learned them all. I learned how to play chess, too–albeit badly. And some kind teenager, whose name I’ve forgotten, taught me how to swim as well.

There was no pressure. There was no push. It wasn’t a stepping stone to a better school or a rung in the ladder of personal achievements. The best part of it all was that the religious teaching didn’t come loaded with so much of what I see and hear now–or perhaps I just wasn’t aware of it then. It felt simple, however, without judgement or anger. More New Testament and less Old. And the rest of the time, we were allowed to be children.

I think I’d enjoy summer if it was like that again!

There is a GREAT giveaway going for this blog hop–some participants are doing an individual giveaway but the Grand Prize has it all: jewelry, a promotional tour, and gift cards from Dreamspinner Press! To enter the Rafflecopter for the Grand Prize, you must click on the link and leave a comment on the page there. As part of my giveaway here, if you leave a comment telling me what your favorite thing to eat on a hot summer day is, I’ll randomly select someone to win their choice from my backlist. Also, I just released my latest M/M contemporary romance–Fool’s Gold!

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Now Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited: Just in time for the 2016 Summer Games!

Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

So be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or sign up to follow the blog and newsletter (links on the right side bar here) to get all the latest news on the newest releases.

The Summer Blog Hop Lineup is right here for easy access, too!

 

 

Sometimes a Social Media Break is Necessary…

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Sardinia–freeimage.com

Lately, I’ve been paying attention to what my favorite authors do on social media.

Some aren’t very good at it, in the sense that you never see them at all. Some aren’t very good at it because they manage to enrage a good portion of their fanbase without meaning to do so.

But others bear watching. I’ve been impressed at how J.K. Rowling has dealt with everything from international crises, to Brexit, to people commenting on decisions she made regarding her characters. She’s a class act, let me tell you.

I’ve been a published author for about six years now, and there are things I wish I had done differently from the beginning if I was allowed that famous ‘do-over.’ I’d be less forthcoming with stuff about my personal life, I’d pay less attention to reviews, and I’d have planned my releases better. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have let real-life get in the way of my production to the degree that it did.

There are lots of reasons for that. An unforgiving day job, a health crisis,  and so on. These are things most people have to deal with, and yet others still manage to be productive in the face of tougher challenges than mine. So why did I go from producing the equivalent of a novella a month to barely managing a novel a year?

One of the big reasons was a shift from Live Journal as the place I hung out and chatted with friends to Facebook. I’ll be the first to admit, I miss LJ. I still go to my journal, but the community is gone. People have moved on to other, more active platforms. One of the things I see that bothers me is that many of these platforms seem to need you to be there all the time in order to be a part of the community.

How does anyone get anything done?

I’ve posted before on what I see as the problems with Facebook; especially the way it causes you to compare your life with others (and come up short). But there’s another problem with Facebook and Tumblr and their ilk that I think is an even bigger issue: they are addictive time sinks.

When I am stressed and tired, I tell myself I need to unwind a little before attempting to to write. What happens is I spend some of my best writing time wandering in circles from one social media platform to another. Sometimes I start conversations, only to have to go back and respond to the comments I generated with my post. Sometimes,  I just scroll along, liking or RTing posts as I come to them, drugging my brain with a constant barrage of images.

Over the last five years, I would say there has been a big increase in my base level of anxiety. The sidebar on Facebook is typically filled with horrible news or events that are trending at the time. Friends will post heartbreaking images I’d rather not see, or post support of political and social ideologies I find unbearable. Lately, with all the heartache in the world, I find myself needing to take more and more breaks from social media. As we come into the Presidential elections here in the U.S., I can’t imagine I will be able to bear the fever pitch of hostility and polarization that the political rhetoric has created.

And yet I worry: surely if I abandon my social media platforms, I run the risk of dropping the ball on my marketing, right? After all, I’ve worked so hard to make sure my voice is heard among the sea of many who are out there plugging their craft, same as me.

Well, I’m beginning to think that’s not the case. Last month, I wrote a post on this website about my frustrations with readers who justify pirating and illegally uploading books to torrents. It automatically crossposted to Facebook and Twitter, and I went on with my day. To my utter surprise, it went viral. I had over 60 K hits on the website in a 24 hour window, and at last count, the post has been shared over 10K times.

And I did nothing to ‘promote’ it. I wrote it in a fit of frustration and clicked ‘publish’. Apparently some of the things I said struck a chord with a LOT of people, and it was shared accordingly. I strongly suspect nothing I ever write again will trigger that kind of reaction. I can’t say as I saw a big bump in sales, either. But my point is this: I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that self-promotion is a big waste of time. And while I think it’s perfectly fine to hang out with your BFFs on your favorite social media platform, keep in mind it is taking time from your best promotion effort ever: your next story.

So this is what I see successful authors do with social media:

  1. They do what my friend Shira Anthony refers to as ‘ninja posting’. They pop in, make a quick post, and close the browser before they’ve lost the best hours of the day to endless scrolling.
  2. They avoid the controversial and the political–something I have a tough time doing. Sometimes things are so egregious, something must be said. But shouting to the choir on your side probably isn’t the best way to go about changing minds.
  3. They post upbeat or interesting things–such as photos of their latest trips, or their reaction to the wildly popular television show everyone is watching right now.
  4. They are themselves–but with makeup on. You know what I mean. It’s the person you are when you go out on that first date, as opposed to the one who’s been in a relationship for 20 years. Yes, it’s you, but the best you. The polished you.
  5. They spend more time writing than promoting or socializing.

So perhaps now is as good a time as any to spend less time on social media for a while. Not just because I need a break from all the bad news in the world (seriously 2016, go home–you’re a mean drunk!), but because I’ve got things to do. Places to go. Stories to write. Life to live.

More on KU , a Rafflecopter, and the upcoming release of Fool’s Gold!

Today I’m over at at Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate talking about my ongoing internal debate about whether or not to give KU a chance with my upcoming release of Fool’s Gold. I’ve posted about this before, but I have gathered new information since then, and guess what? It hasn’t made the decision any easier.

dangerI think what it’s going to come down to is doing it on a trial basis and seeing how it compares to the kinds of sales I’d expect otherwise. I mean, I won’t really know unless I try it myself, right? But if you’re also sitting on the KU fence, you’d be wise to read my cautionary tales in the Authors Speak post! Heck, even if you’re not sitting on the fence–if you have stories in KU, you’d better keep an eye on things!

In other news, we’re holding a Rafflecopter giveaway for those who sign up to follow the Authors Speak blog! Check out this post to participate and find out what you could win!

On the home front, I’m pleased to say by this time next month I’ll be attending Writer’s Police Academy! To say I’m looking forward to this is a bit of an understatement. I don’t get to travel much, so I’m looking forward to being in a different venue, but oh! The fun I will have! In addition to the regular seminars, I won lotteries to courses on ballistics and death scene investigations. I’m so excited! The hard part is going to be choosing between seminars held at the same time. I’m also looking forward to using the knowledge gained in upcoming stories, so be prepared for some gritty action in my future romances. 🙂

I’m also pleased to announce that Unspeakable Words is getting a makeover, with additional scenes that will expand it into a full-length novel! Unspeakable Words is the first major story I ever had published, and this revision is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. It only makes sense to have all the stories in the Sixth Sense series in the same format, and it had always bugged me just a little that UW was only a novella while the other stories were novels. So yay for Dreamspinner to allow me to publish a second addition! Hopefully it will be out by March of 2017.

I’m also pleased to announce Dreamspinner has picked up my Christmas-themed story called Holiday House Swap! When a reclusive writer on a tight deadline trades homes for the holidays in order to get fresh perspective, the last thing he expects to find is the actual owner in residence. Misinformation, misapprehensions, and general hi-jinks ensue. It’s one of my favorite tropes–the home for the holidays story. I think you’ll find it loads of fun. 🙂 Tentative release planned for December 2016.

But before both of those, I’ll be releasing my sport horse story, Fool’s Gold. It’s being formatted now, and I hope to have it available within the next few weeks–I’m timing it for the 2016 Summer Games, as it has an Olympic storyline. There will be a book tour soon, and I’ll be posting some excerpts as well. This story has a lot of personal meaning to me, as I used to event myself before I had to retire my mare from competition due to arthritis.

Fool'sGold-400x600Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

 

So that’s all the news in Lake Wobegone for the moment. 🙂 Stay tuned for updates as they become available. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

What Do Creators Owe Their Fans? Or: Say It Ain’t So: Captain America is Hydra and Fans Say NO.

I’m just now coming up for air after working hard to meet a deadline. I have a story I’ve been revising for re-release in an expanded version, and another in edits. Now that I’ve finished the revision, I’m taking a few days break before looking at the one in edits again–I find letting the story ‘rest’ a bit is better for the final read-through. I’m waiting to hear back from my publisher on a third story as well–so let’s just say I’m happy with my production at the moment.

Cap intervenes2When I take a break from writing, I allow myself indulgences I restrict at other times. That’s not to say I don’t read books or watch television when I’m in the middle of a story, but I only have so much time in the day. When I’m working on a story on a deadline, I can’t binge-watch on Netflix or stay up all night reading fanfic. But now that I’m on break, I can poke around my favorite fandoms and see if there’s anything that grabs my fancy. One of the beauties of fandom is pretty much no matter what happens in canon, there’s plenty of ‘fixit’ fanfic to go around.

Something that happened recently in the Marvel fandom had me wondering just what exactly do writers and creators owe their fans? In May 2016, the editors at Marvel Comics announced that Steve Rogers had been–and always will be–an agent of HYDRA.

The fans HOWLED their outrage, taking to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other social media outlets to shriek at this latest plot twist in the long-running series. #SayItAintSo became a hastag on Twitter, with even actor Chris Evans, who portrays Steve Rogers in the movies, weighing in. I don’t blame them. HYDRA is the antithesis of everything Steve Rogers stands for–the idea that he could be a secret HYDRA agent is so out of character the soul recoils at the declaration.

Captainamerica1

Captain America Cover #1 Source wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not to mention the ghosts of the original creators. Steve Rogers/Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, two Jewish writers at a time when the Nazi regime was herding thousands of Jewish nationals into prison camps where they suffered and died. It’s no coincidence Captain America was depicted on the first cover of his series punching Hitler in the face. It was a conscious decision on the part of the writers, who were repulsed by the Nazis and felt war with the Axis powers was inevitable. If the current writers of the Captain America comics wanted to stir things up, they certainly got their wish. Pleas of ‘please stay calm’ fall on deaf ears as head writer Nick Spence was attacked so hard on Twitter, he received death threats. I’m not surprised, frankly. Not after skewering a character that’s been beloved for 75 years. Not after laughing about his plans and boasting that this isn’t a temporary plot twist, and had readers been paying attention, they would have seen the clues all along.

Cap and Bucky 1You know what? That’s his prerogative: to spit on the memories of the original creators of Captain America and enrage the fan base. I recall a WTF moment when J.K. Rowling paired Hermione and Ron, despite the fact Harry and Hermione had tons more chemistry together and were much more similar in mindset to make a logical pairing. I remember shaking my head when Charlaine Harris received death threats because fans were in an uproar over how her Sookie Stackhouse series ended and who she paired the main character with in the end. But I’m a big girl. I can stuff my fingers in my ears and sing ‘la-la-la’ if the writers/creators of a beloved series take it in a direction that is unpalatable to me. I wouldn’t dream of sending death threats or hate mail to the people who, in many cases, are the original creators of the characters I’ve become so invested in. They aren’t mine, even if they are beloved.

In all honesty, I suspect I know why Nick Spence is taking the series in the current direction. It’s because as it stands now, many people find Captain America the most boring of all the Avengers. He was hugely popular during WW2, and then his popularity fizzled when there were no clear enemies to fight. He’s been recast, reincarnated, and resurrected many times. The franchise has to keep the bottom line (and dollar) in mind. I’m reminded of the scene in Legend in which Lily is seduced by the darkness–and becomes ten times more interesting than she was before. Oh, I get it. Villains are simply more fun to write.

I have problems with the mentality that we need flawed heroes so they can be more relatable to us. I feel like I need to have Inigo Montoya say, “You keep using that word. I don’t think you know what it means.” I’ve written previously about why I don’t think Captain America is boring, as well as why we need heroes. See, here’s the thing. We need something–someone–to believe in. We need someone to look up to. Relatable? Yes, perhaps in the way that frail little Steve Rogers became a Superhero. But what some people seem to forget is that Steve already had the heart of a hero even when he was too ill to fight. Relatable doesn’t mean feet of clay, or stark betrayal. We love our heroes because they give us something to cling to in an ever-increasingly scary world. We love our heroes because they give us the courage to stand up to bullies and say the right thing and refuse to give in to intolerance and hate. We need our heroes to be better than we are because we need someone we can strive to emulate–not relate to in our failings.

Cap and Bucky 2So yes, I’m an adult. I can walk away from any franchise if it utterly disappoints me. That’s my right, just as it is the right of the creators to perform outright character assassination, should they choose. I can make up my own endings, tell my own stories. I can ‘fixit.’ But here’s the thing. I am an ADULT.

What do we say to those kids holding up their action figures, their belief in their hero smashed beyond redemption, when they ask, “Is Cap really a bad guy?”

Because you as a creator may not owe anything to me, but when you’re dealing with such an iconic character as Captain America, I think you do owe something to those young fans. Particularly if the character is not your creation, you’ve merely stepped into the creators shoes.

As for me, I leave you with this classic Bonnie Tyler song. Ignore the 80s style production values, close your eyes and listen to the lyrics. Because we all need heroes.

Dear Women’s Fashion: Size 12 is not XL

Okay, fair warning. I have my Ranty McRant pants on again.

This time the subject that’s been weighing on my mind recently is the ridiculous–and unfair–standards when it comes to women’s clothing. My musings on the subject began a while back when everyone was sharing a post written by Kallie Provencher for Rantchic.com called “24 Things Women Over 30 Should Stop Wearing.” No, I’m not going to share the link here because the post is pure clickbait. My reaction to it when everyone was talking about it was to tweet “The one thing women over 30 should stop wearing is the censure of random strangers on the internet.” Suffice to say, there was a lot of eye-rolling. I feel bad for the author, actually. If she’s lucky, she’s going to spend more time over thirty than under it, and according to her, life is over at twenty-nine and counting.

A beautiful rebuttal was written here, however. WarningCurvesAhead posted a brilliant collection of classy, sassy women wearing whatever pleased them–and looking smashing while doing so. I want to be these women when I grow up. I wish I had a fraction of their sense of style and their confidence in carrying off what looks great on them.

But one of the things Kallie Provencher frowned upon women over thirty wearing was graphic t-shirts. Which brings me to today’s subject: sizing of women’s clothing. Now, I’m a sci-fi geek. You can pretty much ask me about any sci-fi universe and if I can’t whip your butt playing Trivial Pursuit, I will at least have heard of it and am familiar with it. And I love my fandoms; Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate… I love mashups and crossovers. I love fanfic, fanart, and fan vids. My friends know the way to make me squeal in the ultrasonic range, so high I can only be heard by dogs, is to surprise me with something from one of my favorite shows. Just this evening, the BF surprised me with a CD of ambient engine noise from ST:TNG. Just think, now I can hear the murmur of the Enterprise’s engines lulling me to sleep on an endless loop instead of the usual white noise machine.

One of the things I love doing is sharing my fandom pride with graphic tees.

About the same time these previously mentioned posts circulated, another post caught my eye: Man Tries on Girlfriend’s “XL” Clothing and Gets Pissed About Double Standards.

Yeah, because my friends and I have been talking about this, too.

Now, for the record, let me state I am a solid size 12. There was a period of time when I was closer to a 10–there are days when I’m closer to a 14, but 90% of the time, I’m a hard 12. I wear a 36 C sized bra. Now I know in these pictures, I might look ginormous, but remember, the camera adds ten pounds. (I know what you’re thinking here, but trust me, only ONE camera is pointed at me in these photos…)

Let’s start out with a T-shirt I bought a few years ago. It’s a medium, but unisex. This is important, as you’ll see later on. NOT a men’s shirt, not a women’s shirt, unisex.

Medium UnisexYou can’t see it clearly, but it’s a “Hello, My Name is” shirt, with “Inigo Montoya–you killed my father, prepare to die” penned in. It’s also autographed. That’s neither here nor there. What’s important is the size.

This is a medium WOMEN’S T-shirt. I love Agent Carter, and this was sent to me by a friend. A friend who knows what I look like, and assumed I would wear a medium T-shirt.

Medium Women FittedOkay. I got into it, though I look a sausage encased in Saran Wrap. That’s what it felt like, too. And believe me, getting out of it was interesting. I seriously thought about using a pair of scissors… I was very disappointed, needless to say. I love this character, the show, and this sentiment. I should point out as well, that many of the graphic T-shirts I would order, like this one, do not come in a men’s or unisex option.

Right, then obviously, a medium is too small. So, when I ordered a T-shirt for myself (a lovely mashup of Frozen and Doctor Who), I ordered a large.

Large Womens Fitted

Um, I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t look all that much bigger than the medium to me. Okay, so maybe the material isn’t cutting off my circulation, but it is still sucking down to my skin like it was painted on. At this point, I *finally* took a good look at the sizing chart. That’s when I saw that a size 12 is an XL on most sizing charts for the graphic T-shirts I like.

Excuse me, WTF? 12 is considered XL? Since when? Since when does the size of the average woman in the U.S.–which is 12-14 by a Google search–considered extra-large? It brings me back to the pissed of boyfriend and the double standards of the clothing industry.

Okay. Deep breath. Order the XL. You like the shirt and you want to be comfortable. And you don’t want your arms to go numb when you’re wearing it. Exchange the large for an XL.

Here’s the XL:

XL Womens FittedNo, I am not kidding. This is the XL. It is microscopically different from the large, but honestly, it looks so much like the large I had to look at the time stamps to make sure I wasn’t posting the same picture twice. AND, I would like to point out, the shirt only comes one size larger–the XXL. That is insane. No, I’m sorry. It’s just wrong. What kind of message are we sending to young women (because obviously women over 30 shouldn’t be wearing graphic tees, right?) when 12 is considered XL? When there is so little difference between sizes that someone has to get the very largest size a product comes in just to be comfortable?

I honestly don’t know which is worse: vanity sizing, in which clothing companies mislabel clothing as being a smaller size than it is so women will feel good about buying it, or this. It  feels like a slap in the face either way.

BoysofSummer[The]FSOkay, rant over. In other news, Dreamspinner Press is continuing the Lazy Days of Summer sale until June 24th, which means you can get a copy of my award-winning The Boys of Summer for only a dollar! It’s the perfect beach read at the perfect price–but it won’t last long!

On Dreamspinner/Amazon/AllRomance

 

 

 

Fool'sGold-400x600And coming up next month, I’ll be releasing Fool’s Gold, a story about Olympic level eventing–just in time for the 2016 Games!