Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reblog: Growing Up Poor and the HEA

I love the Wonkomance blog for a number of reasons. It centers around the romance genre, but it's so much more than the typical author, reader, or reviewer blog (not that there is anything wrong with any of those typical blogs). If you want insightful commentary and content that really cuts to the heart of the sometimes hidden, sometimes ignored, sometimes overlooked aspects of romance and the romance genre, Wonkomance is the place to go.

Yesterday, authors Audra North and Charlotte Stein created a joint post titled Perspectives: Growing Up Poor and the HEA. Wow. Just wow. I'm used to high quality content from Wonkomance, but this particular post struck me dumb. I've written and deleted 3 different attempts to explain why I think this is such an important conversation, and just how beautifully I think they handled it, but ultimately my bumbling attempts at addressing the way this post made me feel adds nothing to the conversation. And so, I will simply say read this post. Just, read it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Of Harry Potter and Fond Worlds Revisited

JK Rowling has released an obscure tweet (and several hints about it) that seem to indicate another Harry Potter novel will be forthcoming.

Some fans have taken it to be an anagram that translates as: “Harry returns! Wont say any details now. A week off. No comment.

Rowling has denied this, saying instead it is in reference Newt Scamander and the upcoming screenplay she's penning about his adventures in early 20th century New York. The anagram, it seems, is properly translated as "Newt Scamander only meant to stay in New York for a few hours".

As a Potterhead, I'm happy to accept whatever expansion of the wonderful, magical world of Harry Potter that Rowling is prepared to give us. Because she is such a master of deception, though, and so skilled at placing red herrings and subtle, often overlooked hints in plain sight, I can only hope we will someday have further adventures of Harry and his friends to grace our bookshelves and ereaders. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Of Pinterest Inspiration, Decoupaged High Heels, and Harry Potter

Sometimes I like to play it a little fast and loose with the Mod Podge. I like crafting. What I lack in skill I make up for in blind enthusiasm and crafty naïveté. Because of this, Pinterest is a dark, dangerous place for me to lurk. Life can be going along at a merry pace when suddenly Pinterest pulls up in a van marked "free candy" or "DIY crafts" and I'm suckered in for the long haul.

Let's be honest, a Pinterest van would look WAY better than this
[photo credit: Randy Stewart via photopin ccAlterations by Gretchen Stull]

Have you seen the trend of upcyling old high heels by decoupaging them to fit your interests? Pinterest has dozens of examples. We're talking Deadpool, Disney, Doctor Who, and romance novels, to name just a few. As always, my thoughts quickly went from "That's so cool!" to "I can totally do that." And I had just the heels to start with:

Sure, they don't look like much, but these are the heels that taught me to love high heels. The perfect height and as comfortable as a pair of sneakers. I *love* these heels, and it shows--they're beaten to complete hell. So scuffed, I can't wear them anymore. And yet, I couldn't find it within me to part with them. Now, I'm glad I didn't.

Now the next step, what to decoupage them with? I had Mod Podge (I always have Mod Podge), but in terms of subject matter, the options were endless. I have a lot of fandoms. A ridiculous number of beloved nerdy fandoms.What to choose? When in doubt, go with the obvious. Because I had a very batter copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone lying around, and because the Harry Potter series will always be a great love of mine, I decided to turn my favorite heels into Harry Potter heels.

After a bit of snipping, a bunch of Mod Podge, and more time than I'd like to admit, here's the end result (excuse the awful lighting):

The uppers I covered with my favorite quotes from the book, overlapping them and securing each layer with a coat of Mod Podge (I could be a spokesperson for this product, I swear. "Change your life, buy Mod Podge!").

For the backs, I used the title and author name from the title page. 

I used an x-acto knife to cut "Harry Potter" from the gold foil embossing on the cover, and attached the name to the toes of the shoes.  

The soles may be my favorite part. I lacquered the bottoms purple, then used images cut from the cover to lay over the lacquering. It may be difficult to see with the glare (we have mainly natural light in my house, which is great for humans, bad for pictures), but it's Harry reaching for the snitch on the left sole, and the snitch zooming in over the words "The Sorcerer's Stone" on the right sole. 

I need to hit them with one last coat of finishing spray, and they'll be ready to wear. I have to say, I'm quite pleased with the results. 

What do you think? Up for decoupaging a pair of your own heels? What subject/fandom should be covered next? How would you improve upon the basic decoupaging scheme (does it include glitter? I bet it includes glitter...)? Let me know in the comments. Happy crafting!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Of NetGalley Approvals and Declines

In addition to writing and editing, I work as a virtual assistant for several romance authors. The duties I perform vary depending on client need and preference, but one of the things I do for several clients is manage NetGalley requests.

If you aren't familiar with NetGalley, it's a service that allows "professional readers" to request free digital copies of upcoming releases (generally Advanced Reader Copies or ARCs), ideally in exchange for a review. From their website:

Do you love to discover new books? Do you review and recommend books online, in print, for your bookstore, library patrons, blog readers, or classroom? Then you are what we call a "professional reader," and NetGalley is for you. Registration is free, and allows you to request or be invited to read titles, often advance reading copies, on your favorite device. ...
NetGalley is a service to promote titles to professional readers of influence. If you are a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or in the media, you can use NetGalley for FREE to request, read and provide feedback about forthcoming titles. Your feedback and recommendations are essential to publishers and readers alike.
There are pros and cons to NetGalley, as there are with everything. It can be a great vehicle for generating pre-release buzz. At the same time, some people like to use it as a library, requesting but never reviewing, or hoarding books without even reading. So yeah, pros and cons.

But after months of managing NetGalley requests (deciding whether to approve or deny a request for a title), and an angry email or two from declined requesters, I thought it may help everyone involved if the readers using NetGalley understood what can lead to a request being accepted or declined.

These are the methods I use. They are not rules put forth by NetGalley, nor are they standards that are universal. But, from this NetGalley manager's perspective, here's what I look for when decided whether or not to grant a request:

  1. Is your NetGalley profile complete? Have you populated your bio and interests? What about your sites and contact info? Have you uploaded a photo? Simple things, but if you aren't willing to spend the time to complete your profile, I don't have reason to expect you'll spend the time to review the title. I'll likely decline your request.
  2. Is your NetGalley profile complete with useful information? There are literally hundreds of user profiles that read like a love letter to the act of reading: "I've been reading since I was 3 years old." "Books have always been my solace." "I love to read!!!" All of that may be true, but NetGalley is a professional service. Not to sound callous, but I don't care if you've been reading since you were in-utero; the love of reading in and of itself does not help my clients (remember, these are FREE books you are getting, and authors get paid for SALES). So, if you are a NetGalley user, make sure your profile has useful information. Do you review for a known reviewer site? On a personal blog? At Amazon or Barnes & Noble? THIS is information that is useful to my clients, because those reviews can help other readers--paying readers--find their books. This is information that should be in your NetGalley profile. State that you review and, most importantly, provide links to your review profiles/sites. Make it easy, because if I have to search to find you...I'm not going to. Hundreds of requests come through at a time, I don't have the time to run a full Google search on each requester to determine whether or not approving their request will benefit my clients. Make it easy on the person approving the requests--use your profile to show them how you can help lead to books sales--and you're more likely to be approved. 
  3. What is your Approval to Feedback ratio? AKA, are you reviewing? NetGalley provides all managers with the number of titles you've requested, had approved, had declined, and the number of times you've left feedback on NetGalley. I know not everyone leaves feedback on NetGalley, and that's fine IF you are reviewing elsewhere. And if that's the case, send a quick note to the author (which can be done in NetGalley) providing the link where the review can be found. Why is this important? I understand that not every user is going to review every title; some readers will not review titles unless they can honestly provide a 4 or 5 star rating. But if you've requested 3 or 4 titles in a series or from a single author and not reviewed any of them, I'm not thinking you've chosen not to review because you didn't like the titles (why else would you keep requesting?); I'm assuming you want free copies of a series/author you enjoy, but aren't taking the time to review. That makes you a reader, not a professional reader, and that's what stores and libraries are for. This doesn't help my clients, so I'm not likely to continue approving your requests. 
  4. If you list as your primary review site, is your profile set to public? This is more a pet peeve, but there are a number of NetGalley users who only review at goodreads (according to their profiles), but have their goodreads profile restricted to friends-only. Unless you have thousands of friends, that review isn't helping my clients because it isn't being seen by more than a handful of people. I'll likely decline your request.
  5. Do you like the series/author you're requesting? This should be a no-brainer, but still. If you've requested a number of earlier books in a series/from an author and consistently given negative 1 and 2 star reviews, why would you continue to request books from this series/author? To be clear, I don't have a problem with the negative reviews. They definitely have their place, and I wouldn't ask anyone to artificially inflate a review or not review simply because they didn't like a title. Moreover, I'd argue that every series/author has a book or two (or more, depending on how prolific they are) that doesn't meet with expectations. But if you consistently dislike every book an author has to offer, why put yourself through the agony of continuing to read them when there are so many other options? There will come a time when I stop approving the requests. 
There are other criteria I use, but these are the big 5 determining factors on whether or not I'll approve your NetGalley request. If you are a NetGalley account manager, do you use similar criteria when deciding to approve or deny? If you are a NetGalley user, do you find these criteria fair, or do you think I'm missing something? Feel free to discuss in the comments. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Of Bunnies and Burrows

I am not what you would call an "outdoor girl." That's my polite shorthand when declining requests to join activities of an outdoorsy nature (I'm hating myself for that pun so you don't have to), when what I really want to do is scream "NO, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL, IT BURNS!". Having the complexion of Casper and being forced outside far more than I've liked in my life, I can in fact attest that sunlight does burn. So there.

photo credit: corrine klug via photopin cc

Alas, I have a child now, who enjoys forcing me from the pleasant dark hole of my comfort zone, so nature and I have had to build a tentative tolerance of each other. It generally doesn't end well for one of us. That one of us is generally me.

From Madagascar, and so very accurate.

Yesterday, The Boy and I were traipsing through the backyard in blatant defiance of centuries of natural evolution--like people didn't evolve to build houses and move indoors for a reason--and came across a spot in the newly mowed grass that seemed to be writhing. I wondered what new fresh hell nature had in store for me (locusts? woman-eating grass? la chupacabra?), but stepped closer anyway. Why not go out flailing and screaming in terror? is my motto. That's when I saw this:

So...not exactly terrifying.
photo credit: Gretchen Stull

Without knowing it, The Husband had accidentally mowed over a rabbit burrow. Thankfully, none of the babies were hurt (there appear to be 4 or 5); the only damage done was to the burrow covering. I awwwed a bit, then ushered The Boy back into the house, to leave the babies in peace for their mother to return and rebuild their covering. Despite my general disdain for the natural world, I worried about those bunnies. All. Night. Long. Seriously, I must be going soft in my more advanced years. Then I woke up this morning to the sound of rain.

Want to guess what happened next?

If you've guessed that the self-professed indoor girl was outside in the rain braiding leaves together to form a natural canopy to keep the water off the babies until their mother can properly rebuild their covering, you are correct. Yep, definitely going soft. 

Really though, look at those ears. It's possible nature isn't ALL evil...

photo credit: Gretchen Stull

[For anyone worried about the bunnies, I've done my research. Rabbits do not abandon their young even if the scent of human is present--I did not handle the bunnies, but I did handle the leaves to make the covering--and mother rabbits tend to visit their babies twice a day, so it's likely she'd returned and just not yet rebuilt the cover. I will be keeping an eye on them to make sure she returns to care for them, and if she doesn't I'll contact the proper rescue and rehabilitation services.]

Monday, June 2, 2014

Of Inspiration and Secret Projects

One week at RT is apparently all it takes to blow my blogging schedule straight to hell. But, I'm tentatively back on track (I say tentatively, because I've learned better than to anger the schedule gods by being cocky enough to think I'm in control of my own schedule), and back to blogging.

May was a busyBUSYbusyBUSY month and my own writing took a bit of a backseat to other projects and commitments. Now that it's June, I'm back to the grindstone. Today's writing project is a bit of a break from my WIP, so I'm dubbing it "The Secret Project" to make it sound as cool as I hope it turns out to be. I'm not going to say anything more about it now, but it was inspired--at least in part--by Josh Ritter's The Curse.

Josh Ritter is a master of ballads. He's a must-listen for anyone who enjoys stories.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Of RT and Exhaustion

I missed Monday's post, and I almost missed today's post as well. I am having a bit of a hard time returning to a normal schedule after RT, it would seem.

I have pictures to post and stories to recap and excited flailing to do...and I don't have the energy to do it right now. So what I will say is RT is amazing and fun and exhausting. GO. Just...go.

Dallas 2015. I'll see you there.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Of RT and Excitement

When this post goes live, I'll already be at the airport, waiting for my flight to New Orleans and the 2014 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention.

This is my first time going to RT, and I am so beyond excited. The fact that it's in NOLA is just a bonus. If you're heading to RT as well, safe travels and hopefully I'll see you there!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Reblog: Ants or Zombie Ants? I Prefer the Latter.

"So, while I invest heavily in the Raid corporation and whip up every "guaranteed non-toxic ant killer" recipe Pinterest has available, I'm seeking comfort from the encroaching horde the only way I know how... by wishing zombieism on each and every one of the nasty vermin. And for once, this isn't just a wild hope (not that I actively hope for a zombie apocalypse or anything, I just believe in preparation). Unlike humans, ants ARE susceptible to a parasite that causes zombie-like tendencies and, you know, a horrific death that is really just, in my mind, a bonus."

To read the rest of this post and see a short video about the fungus that turns ants into zombies, please visit The Otherworld Diner today.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Of Making Friends and Influencing People: The "You're Doing It Wrong" Edition

For many years I had an overactive guilt complex. Simple statement, anything but simple issue. I didn't have boundaries. Or, more accurately, I had poorly placed boundaries. I didn't have a problem standing up for myself against people who had proven themselves to be cruel, callous, or unkind; I had a problem standing up to everyone else.

I let friends, family, and even casual acquaintances walk all over me. I didn't consider myself a doormat because I could stand up for myself, I just didn't always realize when I needed to.

photo credit:

Why this trip into self-therapy? Because over the last several years I've worked hard to make positive changes in my life. I've worked to become more positive in my outlook, more realistic in my expectations, more discerning in who I allow to lay claim to my time and emotional energy. It hasn't been easy, but it's been right. Part of this has been putting up boundaries, deciding who is allowed to traverse those boundaries, and who has no right to petition for entry. In doing this, I've learned there are a LOT of people who think that by virtue of them being upright and breathing, they have the right to make demands (often shrouded in the guise of social convention or an offer of friendship) and place expectations on others. Where am I seeing this A LOT right now? Social media. But I'm going to speak directly about something that happened on Twitter a little while ago.

I have a Twitter account. I also have Facebook, Tumblr, multiple jobs, a toddler, 2 cats, an overly needy dachshund, a husband I don't talk to nearly enough, and a house that starts to cave in on itself if it isn't cleaned at least once a quarter. My point? Twitter doesn't come too high on my list of priorities. That's not a judgment on anyone who has all of the aforementioned and more and still loves their Twitter. We all prioritize differently, and my personal social media time tends to go to Facebook. To each their own. I often forget Twitter entirely until someone messages or follows me and I get an email about it (or until I need a response from Comcast, because for real, that's the only way to get one). People follow me. When I realize it, I check out their profile and generally follow back. If I get an immediate DM with a request to buy their stuff, I give their avatar the side eye and hit unfollow (it's social media, not direct marketing central). It's all pretty standard. And then I received this tweet.

Not a big deal, right? The message hit my email, I rolled my eyes because I have no idea who this person is in real life or virtually, and clicked to go to their account. That's what you do, right? That's the final piece of the reciprocal relationship. They followed me, they tweeted me (not DM, actual tweet) to let me know they followed me, and now it's my job is to go follow back. That's how it works.

That's what pissed me off.

I don't know this person, in real life or virtually. I did not ask this person to go to my Twitter page and follow me. Hell, I'm not even on Twitter more than a handful of times a year. And yet, because this person made the choice to seek me out (likely through a key word search that brought up writers and my general geographic area), I'm supposed to reciprocate their action. If I don't, well, I'm being mean, right? This person is being nice and offering friendship and they're already following me, so the nice thing for me to do is follow back.

This is manipulation. And I'm not dumb; it's also a really poor marketing strategy. This is a writer marketing to other writers (i.e. not readers), hoping to beg, borrow, or steal someone else's platform (i.e. friends and acquaintances) in an effort to launch their own platform and career. Someone looking to bump their sales by getting onto as many feeds as possible. If that's friendship, Verizon and I are best buds because I get promo emails with "forward me" links from them constantly. I'm calling out this specific example because it's on my mind, but this is by no means the first message of this nature I've received. I'm equally sure it won't be the last. Why not just delete it and go on about my merry way? Partially because I want any writer who stumbles across this post to realize this is NOT a good marketing idea. If you're doing it, knock it off! It makes you look like an amateur, at best. If you want to join the online writer community, than join it authentically. Enter the conversations. Ask questions. Forge actual relationships. Friend and be friended organically by being a real person; someone other real people want to support and see succeed. The other part of the reason? This has been bothering me for a while, and I wanted to finally put into words why it rubs me the wrong way.

The sender of the above tweet writes in a genre I neither write nor read, and from the tweets popping up on the first page of their feed, is obviously fiercely conservative in their views and very vocal about their related opinions. I have no issue with this person's belief system; the reason I mention it is because this person's particular set of beliefs, as indicated by their statements in their feed, proves they didn't make it any further than my Twitter bio before hitting "Follow" and tweeting me their 140 character guilt trip (tweeting, not DMing). My language alone would have this person blocking me, not following me, had they bothered even a casual glance at my social media presence. But, this person never saw me in my Twitter avatar; they saw a potential client. A source for free marketing. A warm body (or active account) that could be used to up their number of followers and hopefully tweet and retweet about their books. This person doesn't want a friend, this person wants sales, and sees me (if seeing "me" at all) as merely the means to an end. THIS is what pisses me off.

If you see me online and what to know more about me, by all means ask. I tend to be open about almost anything. I'm not unapproachable. Friend me, follow me, start a conversation with me and odds are, I'll friend or follow you back to keep the conversation going. I like the online community, especially the online community of writers. I have been helped and aided by many fantastic, knowledgeable, amazing authors to get where I am (not that I'm by any means an important fixture in the writing world), and I'm happy to pay it forward. But, and this is the important part, the relationship has to come first. I will promote my friends to the ends of the earth because they are diligent, creative, hardworking people who deserve every ounce of success that comes their way. I care about them as people, so I act out of that caring. It's not faked, it can't be purchased, and it sure as hell can't be guilted out of me. But to try to (at best) increase your Twitter follow count with a thoughtless "I did this for you so you should so this for me" public message--again, I don't think this would bother me as much if it were a direct message--or (at worst) to co-opt my friends as an extension of your marketing platform to endlessly Tweet messages for your benefit while not at all caring about their needs or interests?

I'm not a stepping stone, and neither are those I care about. Furthermore, an action I didn't request has no power to manipulate me into a reciprocal action.

So no, I do not care to follow you back. This is my boundary, and it has a No Solicitation sign posted on the door.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Of Comcast and Customer Rage

When trying to decide what to blog about today (I'm trying to adhere to a new Monday/Friday schedule) I was interrupted by a call from Comcast. Comcast, both as a company and a top-notch example of how to fail in every aspect of "customer service," has been bleeding my energy lately. Not in the sexy way, like current pop culture vampires who are all brooding and sensual. No, in the disgusting way, like a tick who doesn't realize it's a parasitic drain on resources.

"Circle round people, we need to talk about first quarter returns."
An actual Comcast executive.
photo credit: graftedno1 via photopin cc

Since April 1, my Internet-the only service I have through Comcast-has been unstable. This wouldn't be such a major problem if 1) both I and my husband didn't work from home and 2) if I weren't paying nearly $100/month for a service Comcast doesn't seem all too interested in providing. What follows is an abbreviated version of the epic journey I've undertaken over the last 28 days.

I called the number provided by Comcast, which was my first mistake. I've been transferred, disconnected, blatantly lied to, deliberately hung up on, accidentally hung up on (she didn't know how to use a phone, bless her heart), given false information, condescended to, and generally fooled around until I have actually gone over my monthly allotment of cell phone minutes. When's the last time I went over cell minutes? WHEN MY SON WAS BORN. In context, that means Comcast has taken more of my time and energy than anything except physically birthing a tiny human. Honestly, it's also been more painful.

In addition to calling, I've emailed. I've direct messaged. I've done everything but send up smoke signals and beat out some Morse code. You can probably guess the competency of the response I've received in return. The only thing Comcast representatives seem able to do with any small scrap of ability is attempt to sell additional services. Yeah, the ones I'm paying for now aren't working, so let me go ahead and start forking over more cash based on promises of impending competency. That's exactly what I'm going to do, just after I go check out a bridge that's up for sale in Brooklyn.

I finally thought I'd gotten it straightened out after yesterday's stroll through the halls of bungling blather (i.e. "Customer Service"). Finally, FINALLY, a technician has been scheduled to physically come to my home on Tuesday and discover the source of the problem. It's my fault, really, for being naive enough to believe. I may as well have clapped my hands and hoped Tinkerbell would show up with a new modem and wireless router.

Tink doesn't want to be associated with Comcast any more than the rest of us
photo credit: Dustin Diaz via photopin cc

The call I got this morning was to apologize for ALL the inconvenience (special note to Comcast: click here) and confirm my appointment for Thursday.

Well, it is the only other day starting with a "T" in the name, so I guess they get credit for that. But no, my most specialest of special snowflakes, the day in question, the one I rearranged my entire schedule to be available for? Yeah, that's a Tuesday. The day after Monday. The day before Wednesday. I know it's a hard concept. There are 7 whole days to memorize, and the organizational pattern, where one ALWAYS follows the next? Yeah, that's tricky.

What makes this all even sadder? I'm 100% certain the only reason Comcast "Customer Service" (no, I really can't write it without irony quotes) contacted me is because I gave my frustration the 140 character treatment. That's right, I tweeted about it, and hashtagged Comcast when doing so. Had I not bothered, had I just been the victim of ridiculously bad "customer service" but kept it to myself, Comcast would not have cared one bit. Why should they? They're still getting my money and they have a monopoly in my area; they have no reason to care. But because that tweet has the potential to add to the ongoing dialog of how horrible they are at providing even the simplest services, the services their company is supposedly known for, now I'm a liability that must be mitigated.

Helpful hint to those on the problem mitigation squad: PROVIDE THE SERVICE I'M PAYING YOU FOR. Bastards.

Pretty much accurate.
Picture from the Comcast Sucks Balls Blog. If it's yours, let me know and I'll happily provide credit. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Of Love and Family

I get a decent amount of stuff posted to my Facebook wall. I try to keep up with it, often fall behind, and respond when I can. The response time will run longer if the post is a video. 30 seconds or 3 hours, it doesn't really matter. I do most Facebooking (totally a verb) from my phone, while in public.

What else are you supposed to do in grocery lines, interact with other human beings? Psh!
Photo credit: Consumerist Dot Com via photopin cc

If it requires sound, like a video, I'm not likely to watch it until I'm in the comfort of my author-hole (aka office) where I and my technology can be as loud as we want with out attracting nervous glances.

A friend of mine posted a Honey Maid video to my Facebook wall almost a month ago. Now, I enjoy the occasional swiped Teddy Graham as much as the next mother of a toddler, but nothing about Honey Maid or my idea of what they could possibly have put in a video really excited me. Does it have snarky cats or hot men or snarky cats getting the better of hot men? Because if not, let me introduce you to the rest of the Internet. I'd watch it, but I was in no real hurry.

And this is why I need to trust my friends more when they say "Watch this, you'll love it." My friends, they know me. They're also a pretty awesome group of people.

This video is beautiful. That's really the only word for it. To see a large corporation like Honey Maid, who literally succeeds or fails based on their image, take a stand and refuse to bow to criticism and hate from a fraction of the populace is a hopeful thing. The initial message is powerful in its simplicity; family is family, love is love. Their response to the negative comments they received in regards to that message is the best they could have made. Watch this, you'll love it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Of Toddlers and Truisms

I follow a lot of different writers for a lot of different reasons. On social media, I mean. Not in an unmarked panel van down dimly lit streets or anything like that.

Don't mind me, I'm just chilling in my Stalker Van
Photo credit: djwudi via photopin cc

Some offer great craft advice, some are business savvy gurus, and some are living the type of career I want. Then there are a few who are just the entire package. For whatever reason, I can identify with what they're saying, whether it's about writing, business, or any of the random absurdities that make up life in general. One of the authors on my "must-read" social media list for precisely this reason is Chuck Wendig. His foul-mouthed, no holds barred approach to discussing writing, life, and the writing life works for me. One particular post had me rolling this morning.

Anyone who knows me knows that The Boy (my number 1 and only progeny) is a toddler. Actually, he'll be turning 2 in just under 2 weeks. Chuck has a child around the same age. Being the parent of a toddler immediately places you in community of toddler parents, or Parents of Toddlers, Stressed & Delirious (PTSD for short, and no the acronym is not an accident). We've seen the battle, been on the frontline for more tantrums than we care to count, and we have the battle scars and clothing stains to prove it. Those who have come before us, who've raised their respective offspring into adolescence, teenagerdom, or even adulthood remember the toddler years and sympathize, but they often do it through the rose-colored lens of memory and time passed. Or, they all-too-well remember the fresh trials each new phase of advancement brings and truly miss the simplicity of a 45 minute sobbing fit brought on because the doggie walked too close to the toy truck and in Toddlerlandia (where logic dare not go) this breaks all rules of decorum and is punishable by wailing. Wailing, incidentally, is the primary form of both punishment and torture in Toddlerlandia, and they have not adopted the Geneva Convention. Be warned.

What can I say, parenting is work. And while I truly appreciate the advice and encouragement of all those who've gone before, you can't help but feel a kinship to those currently laboring in the trenches beside you.

On March 24, Chuck posted 25 Things You Should Know About Life with a Toddler. If you have a toddler, have had a toddler, think you may someday want a baby that will inevitably become a toddler, or just know that you will be unable to avoid all toddlers for the rest of your life, read this post. It is hilarious. It is sadly and depressingly (in some places) true. One of the parts that struck me as most true is number 5:
5. Without Food and Sleep They Are Basically Hill Cannibals:
Two guaranteed meltdown triggers, however, are: hungry and tired. May the gods help you if both the SLEEP and FOOD boxes remain unchecked because I’m pretty sure that’s how you get the Reavers from Firefly.
Um, yes. This exactly. The Reavers may have been self-mutilating, cannibalistic , murder crazy ragebeasts without conscience or morals, but you let a toddler stay up too late and then fail to produce the requested sippy cup within moments of the screamed, repeated one word request (JUICE! JUICE! JUICE!), and by God that toddler will turn into a thrashing creature of violence and despair who makes Reavers look civilized.

Photo credit: Gretchen Stull

The toddler years are crazy, but they aren't all bad. They aren't even half bad, truth be told. There's something amazing about watching this little human being trying to make sense of a world that is all-too-often insensible. And for every lost moment of sleep and extra load of laundry and 800th re-watching of Elmo's Adventures in Grouchland (Mandy Patikin now haunts my dreams), there's an unexpected hug or an eerily accurate observation or something so damn cute you want to instagram it immediately for the world to see. I love my son and I can't imagine life without him. But even though toddlers can be fun, they are definitely exhausting. And I have learned to always, ALWAYS have snacks on hand.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pitch Contest Now Open

Music City Romance Writers’ annual PITCH contest is now open! Whether the "pitch" is for back cover copy that you plan to self-publish, or that oh-so-perfect query letter blurb, we want to help you get it right!
Contest Information:
·    Enter 200 word max. This would be the back cover copy or pitch letter blurb.
·    $15 entry fee
·    Accepting a max of 100 entries only, so get yours in soon!
·    There will be time to revise after round one.
·    All genres accepted.
·    Published and non-published authors accepted, as long as the entry is not published.
·    Judged fully by PAN members, three judges per entry.
·    Top 10% move on to the final round.
·    All final round entries will be seen by all final round judges.
·    Terrific panel of final round judges!!!
·    Deadline to enter: 11:59pm CST April 15
·    Finalists announced: May 5
·    Winner announced: June 1

Final Judges:
·         Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary
·         Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, Foreword Literary
·         Lauren MacCleod, Strothman Agency
·         Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Agency
·         Holly Root, Waxman Leavell Agency
·         Elizabeth Poteet, Assistant Editor, St. Martin’s Press

See website for the great list of prizes to be won, along with additional entry details. For questions, please contact the PITCH coordinators at

Monday, January 27, 2014

Of Tough Love and Good Advice

I came across a blog post about bad reviews, professional irritations, and learning to let go by Dani Collins a month or so ago, and her frank, honest advice hit me in ways I needed to be hit. I bookmarked it, and reread it again today. The whole post is fantastic, and I recommend it to anyone who's been in this crazy publishing business long enough to get discouraged and need a kick in the pants. She doesn't sugarcoat things, but I prefer my advice bitter to the taste; if it's hard to swallow, it probably holds an uncomfortable truth. What stood out to me the most, both on the first reading and again tonight, is her last point for what to do if the world of publishing as gotten you down:
8. Quit
Publishing, that is. If you really enjoy writing, write. If you want to publish, accept that there will be things about this job that you can’t control. It is a job, by the way, and people get downsized every day.  [Dani Collins]
Some people may find this discouraging, but I LOVE IT. For me, it puts the business of publishing fully into perspective, as a business. I live in a world of writers, and so often we talk about writing as a passion, a compulsion, and an art form. It's all of those things, but it's also a job. I don't know anyone outside of the writing world who 100% loves their job. It's the nature of work; even if you're doing something you love, there will be aspects of it you don't. Writing is no different. There are good parts and bad parts and those differ for each person. I truly believe anyone can write, because writing in its most literal form is putting words to paper (or program). Those words don't have to be structured, sensical, or even spelled correctly to fulfill the most basic requirement of "writing." If you want to publish, however, you have a lot of work ahead of you.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Reblog: Undead Resolutions

New Year, new you. That's the goal, right? Join me at The Otherworld Diner to explore what resolutions the undead would make, if given the chance.

Zombie Resolutions:

  1. Brains! Eat more of them, but choose judiciously. Humans holed up in a McDonald’s are probably eating the food served there. Skip the trans fats and target those who’ve taken shelter in Whole Foods.
  2. Don’t lose weight; keep all limbs firmly attached. Your excitement at seeing your goal weight on the scale will be hampered by the realization it took the loss of 2 arms and a leg to achieve it.