Monday, February 27, 2023

Everything is Politics: an Open Book Blog Hop post

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you tackle current political turmoil in your stories or avoid it? Tell us why.  
Oh dear. 

Now that's a doozy of a question. 

Here's the thing: there's no such thing as apolitical. 

Here. Other people have said it better than I can: 

Even choosing not to "be political" is a political choice, because it is a choice not to challenge or engage with the status quo. Silence is a statement, and leaves it to others to interpret what it means. They'll probably assume you agree with them. 

But, at the same time, I don't see the point in constant outrage and confrontation. Choose your battles, as they say. Save your strongest voice for things you feel the strongest about. Otherwise you're just angry all the time, and all the yelling will leave you raw. I don't want confrontation just for confrontation's sake, but there are moments when I will feel myself a coward if I don't speak. 

I don't shy away from talking about big issues in my writing, but I don't necessary focus on "current political turmoil" either, preferring mostly to stay a little more timeless than that. 

My Menopausal Superheroes series has a lot to say about aging, living as a woman, work-life balance, friendship, boundaries, sexism, racism, ageism, and many other issues, but it's in the story indirectly, as it affects the characters. They don't spout off about their political views for no reason--but because something happening in the story makes them take action or say something. 

Sometimes the problem with writing about very timely topics is that your work has an expiration date. 

All the same…

The most directly I tackled current political turmoil in one of my stories was in my short story, "No Country for Young Women," published in Post Roe Alternatives: Fighting Back

Given the title of the anthology, you can probably figure out what political issue the stories within are tackling. 

My story was mostly about the need for people to take notice of what's going on around them, and realize that what affects one human should matter to us all. It's about the dangers of not engaging. 

It's not the most overtly political story in the anthology, but then again, it doesn't shy away from frank assessment. 

If you read it, you'll have no doubt how the characters feel, and you'll have some suspicions of what the author might think and believe, too. 

It was a different kind of writing for me, more realistic than most of my work and I found it cathartic to write, but it's not my usual cup of tea. It was one of those moments, though, when I felt I would feel myself a coward if I did not speak. 
I do find that readers sometimes conflate the writer and her characters. I have written characters who feel very differently about the world and the people in it than I do, and in the reviews, I see that some readers assume that if my character espouses a view, it must be my view, too. That's not always true. 

I write to understand--to understand myself, others, and the world. That means grappling with things that scare and upset me, even if I do so through a lens of speculative fiction and have a heck of a lot of fun while I'm doing it. 

For me, writing is an act of empathy, and I want to understand what all my imaginary people are going through, to live it as if it is my own experience and grow from that effort. So, yes, it's political. It can't help but be so. 

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Monday, February 20, 2023

Saturdays with Godzilla, a Open Book Blog Hop Post

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Is there a movie from childhood that still holds a special place with you? 

I enjoyed a variety of television and movies with my family when I was a little one, but I think the ones that give me the biggest warm fuzzies are Godzilla and other kaiju movies, like Gamera and Mothra. 

My dad and I used to watch them together. The silliness of the rubber suits undercut the scariness of the destruction (poor Tokyo--destroyed over and over again).  We'd sit together eating popcorn, laughing and fascinated in turn. Mom would tease us about our bad taste in movies. I have very fond memories of those Saturday afternoons, still in my pajamas after lunch, sitting with my dad, cheering for monsters.

I still love kaiju movies to this day. In fact, I'm now sharing that love with the next generation. A local theatre is bringing all these old films to the big screen again as part of Kaiju-Quest and we try never to miss one!

image source

Godzilla has been reinterpreted and rebooted many times, and through this movie series I'm getting a new view into the craft, politics, and philosophy that underpin these monster flicks. Of all of them we've been the cinema to watch, I think my favorite was Destroy All Monsters! I suspect it's because so many of the monsters were together in a single film. It almost felt like a family reunion (though there's less destruction of landscape at MY family reunions). 

What movies from your childhood still strike a chord with the adult version of you? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

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Monday, February 13, 2023

A Piano I Play By Ear: Grammar Rules (an open book blog hop post)

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

What grammar rules have you broken on purpose?

I don't set out to break grammar rules in my writing, but I also believe in using the right words for what I'm doing. Here, on my blog, for example, I strive for a breezy, friendly, conversational style. Sentence fragments, idiosyncratic spacing, and slangy vocabulary are common. 

When I'm writing something formal, like a letter to a lawyer or documentation for school or work, I'm much more careful, avoiding even contractions lest my message be misconstrued. 

In my fiction, the main narrative is generally grammatical, but there are some things that I was taught as rules that I don't consider that important. Things like: never start a sentence with and or but, don't split infinitives, don't end a sentence with a preposition. How the language feels is more important to me than the strictest of grammatical interpretations. 

I worry about genre expectations and tone and voice appropriateness more than all of that. Plus, it makes a difference what point of view I'm writing in. A first person narrative must be "spoken" the way that character would talk, which may or may not be traditionally correct. 

That said, I'm a big believer in professional editing and proofreading. I don't want a reader distracted by small errors to the point that they are pulled out of the story! My work has been through peer editing in my critique group before it goes to the publisher, then it goes through several rounds of editing and proofreading once it's in the publisher's hands, too. 

image source

Some errors always seem to still make it through, which I guess is proof it was worked on by humans and not AI generated :-)

Are there grammar rules you choose not to follow? Or ones that really get under your skin when others don't follow them? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Monday, February 6, 2023

Writing Memes: An Open Book Blog Hop post


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

What are your favorite writing-related memes?

I do enjoy a good writing meme. I think my favorite are the classic literature takes: 

This might be because I co-host the monthly classics book club at my library. But I think I'm also charmed by the mixture of something so old (classic lit) with something much newer (memes). These memes always seem to hit on the heart of why these works endure, too. 

I am also fond of the "you should be writing" memes. 

A little humor alongside the nudge to focus is always appreciated. There's always something to get between a writer and her words, and I seem to always run across one of these when I'm procrastinating or letting myself get distracted. 

Then, there's the gallows humor, commiseration over the difficulties, like these "writer problem" themed ones: 

They make me smile, because they're both true and funny. 

How about you? Are there any particular writing or reading life memes that you love? I'd love to hear about them in the comments. And don't forget to check out the rest of the blog hop at the link below!

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Sunday, February 5, 2023

It's Cold Outside, So Stay Inside and Read! (January-ish reads)


If you've ever read my blog before then you know that I'm a big reader. Not just that, I'm a book club junkie, because I love talking about what I've read maybe as much as I love the reading itself. 

So, since the calendar flipped a leaf, I've finished nine books. My goal is one book a week, so I'm a little ahead of schedule right now. 

For my bookclubs, I read Matrix by Lauren Groff and Native Son by Richard Wright. The former is historical fiction, based on the life of Marie de France, and the latter, at this point, I guess is historical fiction, too, though much more recent, exploring a mixture of politics, race, and culture. I'm glad I read both of them, though I had some complaints about both. I found Matrix meandering and episodic; I found Native Son unable to trust the reader and devolving into philosophical monologues in the end. But both gave me a lot to think about and some great conversations with my book club friends. 

How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert was also a book club read, this one for my day-job. You might remember that I left teaching to work as a content strategist at a big financial company last spring. This book is about information architecture, a field I'm learning more about in my new role. I'm not sure how useful it is yet. It's more like a workbook and I think I need to apply the system to a problem and see how it serves me before I'll know what I think. Just reading about it isn't the same thing. 

Coppice & Brake edited by Rachel Brune, Doctor Watson and the Mayfair Cannibals by Alexandra Chrstian, and The Devil Makes Three by Lucy Blue, are all books by colleagues. At this point, I'm a fan of the work of all three of these women, and would probably read them no matter what, but I started reading all three of them because of our professional connections. (This is why Amazon doesn't let me review books there anymore). 

All of these run a little dark, but, if we're being honest, so do I, at least sometimes. 

  • Coppice & Brake is a collection of horror shorts. What I always love about anthologies is the chance to try on a new writer small scale, and to get a complete story in a single sitting, but know that if I come back later, I can have another story. Rachel's taste in horror is lot like my own--disturbing, thoughtful, feminist, sometimes angry--and I've loved all the anthologies she's put out with Crone Girls Press. I'm so proud to have my work in two of them (soon to be three!). 
  • Doctor Watson and the Mayfair Cannibals is a Shadow Council Archives novella. This is the third one I've read and I adore them. The series takes up Doctor Watson after the death of Sherlock Holmes and sends him out on cases with a supernatural bent. I love this version of those beloved characters, and the witty dialogue that Alexandra brings to all her work. 
  • The Devil Makes Three is a Southern Gothic, complete with generational trauma and a wonderful old house where something tragic happened. I've been a fan of Lucy's Stella Hart Romantic Mysteries for a while, but the tone of this one is definitely far darker. Turns out that Lucy is just as good at imagining what's out there in the darkness as she is at develop romantic tension. 
The other books I read this month were all "buzz books," meaning books I'd heard a lot about. 

I loved two of them, and I was interested by the third, but in the end decided it wasn't for me. 

The one that wasn't for me was Pretty Deadly. I was sure I was going to love it--weird wild west is becoming one of my favorite genres. But I guess I'm a bit more of a traditionalist when it comes to my reading--I need more of a plot through line than I got, and I need to feel like I came to understand a character rather then having my curiosity continually whetted but never satisfied. This graphic novel had wonderful moments, but didn't hold together well enough for me to really enjoy the ride.

Babel by RF Kuang seemed to be on everyone's end of year summary lists for 2022 as one of the best books they read, so I decided to bump it up my TBR. I was really glad I did. There's definitely been an anti-colonial bent to my reading life in recent years, and this scratched that itch while delivering a story of complicated friendship in an interest alternate history setting. 

Speaking of complicated, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid was a wonderfully exploration of a complicated woman and her life-long quest to find love. I liked it so much, I wished there actually was an Evelyn Hugo and that I could go watch her movie after I finished reading. 

How has your year in books been so far? Did you find something new to love? Please, share in the comments. There's always more room in my TBR list! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

IWSG: What's in a cover?

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. This month's co-hosts are: Jacqui Murray, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Pat Garcia, and Gwen Gardner!

February 1 question - If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover?


As of this writing, I'm a traditionally published author, with most of my work held by small presses. I do, however, have ambitions of becoming a hybrid author with the release of my first all-indie project later this year. It's daunting, but I feel like it's time. I've hired the cover already (I hired one of the artists who worked on my novels as a side, freelance job), so I just need to do the rest of the work--layout, formatting, ISBN, etc. and one more editing pass, and then I can send that baby out there into the world. 

For my traditionally published work, I've been fortunate to always work with folks who listen to my opinions and keep me involved in the process, but I'm the first to say that I am not a graphic artist, so while I will offer feedback and opinions, I trust to the professionals when it comes to things like branding across a series and making images that work not just on the book, but in thumbnail images on social media and anyplace else we might need to use them. 

These are my Menopausal Superhero books (so far--the fifth and final novel is still in the works) with Falstaff Books. 

The top row are the novels, and I love the way they work together, using the cityscape and pastels that become more vibrant as we move deeper into the series. They definitely let you know right away that these are women-centered, superhero works. 

The bottom row are the short works, and I love the way the stripes work to brand them all as a set, and the silhouettes echo the novels, to show how those connect. Agents of Change, is a collection of all the short works in a larger, single volume, so it kind of bridges the two looks. 

I can hardly wait to see what they come up with for that fifth and final novel and for the Omnibus editions we've been talking about! 

Fellow authors, what's your experience with book covers been like? And readers, what attracts or turns you off in cover art? I'd love to hear you thoughts in the comments!