Sunday, April 23, 2023

Research Rabbit Holes and Other Fun Trips, an Open Book Blog Hop post

image of a globe with the Open Book Blog Hop logo

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 resources for research? 

Research is a lot of fun. Dangerously so, actually. I could easily spend all my time on research and never get to the actual writing. I love learning, and have been known to take a wander that had nothing at all to do with my project because I followed an interesting thread that led to another one and another one and another one after that. 

Doing Research for a novel. Avengers scene where Tony says he became an expert last night.
image source

Where I look for information depends on what I'm researching. A simple google search will do for for quick information, though I'm careful to consider the source and whether it's reliable when I get there. 

When I'm looking for an overview of something to get me started, I look to wikipedia. Sometimes you have to learn a little about something before you can effectively search for it. 

panicked man insisting that his internet history was research for a book. You gotta believe me!
image source

When I want to immerse more fully, I read non-fiction books or sometimes fiction books with the right setting or set of circumstances to suit my needs. 

The best is when I can go somewhere and learn by direct observation and experience because then I get to combine three loves: learning, travel, and writing! 

How about you? What are your go-tos when you need to research something? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 

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Monday, April 17, 2023

Any Place, Any Time, Any World: An Open Book Blog Hop Post

A globe and the Open Book Blog Hop logo

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.

If you could live in any place, any time, any world, where would you want to live? 

Well, if I can really live in any place, any time, any world, then why would I limit myself to one? Even just the question has my wanderlust aflame. Even with the limits of time and space I currently live within, I want to go everywhere!

But for the sake of discussion, let's pick a few options. 

1. Any Place: New Zealand

a lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains and verdant green hills
image source

I first became enamored of New Zealand as a child. My family and I attended the World's Fair in Knoxville in 1982. I was 11 years old. We wandered into the exhibit on New Zealand, and images like the one above adorned the walls. Already a fan of wild vistas, I gasped. This attracted the attention of one of the workers, a lovely woman who had been well-selected for her job for her winning personality and ability to wield that charming Kiwi accent to make sure that visitors fell in love with the idea of visiting the place she was from. 

Later, in the early 2000s, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand, and watching those films reignited my interest in visiting. I haven't made it there yet, though I still hold out hope. I want a Hobbiton movie set tour as well as time exploring some of the exciting scenery, like volcanoes, geysers, and glaciers. 

2. Any Time: late Victorian England and between-the-wars America

Time travel is a tricksy proposition. But we'll assume that I can do so safely, and that my life won't be at risk because of my inappropriate clothing or because I was a woman or a Jewish person in the wrong place and time. I'd also want to avoid any Ray Bradbury situations, where I destroy the world by stepping on a butterfly. 

An English Victorian street showing thatched-roof houses.
image source

Since I've got two back-burnered projects that are back-burnered because I need to do more research about the time periods before I can continue, I'd be interested in the period between WWI and WWII in Indianapolis (for my historical fiction trilogy based on a family legend, working title Cold Spring) and 1890s rural England (for my Gothic romance, working title The Architect and the Heir). 

Visiting would be way more immersive (and probably more fun) then trying to glean the details I want from nonfiction books and internet research. 

3. Any World: Wakanda!

If you've been reading this blog, then you already know that I'm a superhero fan. 

There are a lot of cool worlds in superhero stories: Themyscira, home of Wonder Woman; Atlantis, home of Aquaman; Krypton, home of Superman. But my very favorite is Wakanda, especially as portrayed in the recent Black Panther movies. Sleek and sophisticated, efficient and beautiful, a utopia of artistry and industry interwoven. 

Cityscape of Wakanda, as seen in Black Panther.
image source

In the films, we don't see much outside the main city, but that city is spectacular. Even a confirmed small-town girl like me would love the chance to explore it. 

So, there you go, given the chance to go somewhere, the hardest part would be choosing. I want to go everywhere! 

How about you? With all barriers removed, where would you choose to live? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 

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Monday, April 10, 2023

What do superheroes eat? An Open Book Blog Hop post

A loaf of homemade bread and the Open Book Blog Hope logo

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 does the food your characters eat reveal about their personality?

Food comes up surprisingly often in the Menopausal Superheroes novels. Maybe this is just because I lean towards being a foodie myself, or maybe it's because I like to show my heroes in domestic settings and food is a part of that. 

But let's take this hero by hero. 

Jessica "Flygirl" Roark: Even before she became a superhero, Jessica had no interest in cooking. 

Her bestie, Leonel, despairs of the beautiful kitchen in her fancy house "going to waste." 

In her first marriage, she and her husband bought a lot of pre-prepared foods or picked up takeout when they were out. During her cancer treatments, they used a meal service. 

In her single-mom years, she tried to do a little better, but it was hard to develop kitchen skills and save the city in her new role as Flygirl, so her boys had their favorite pizza place on speed dial. 

Things are looking up now that she's remarried. Walter is a scientist, and cooking is a science of sorts. He's got a penchant for pancakes and other carb-heavy meals, but superhero work requires a fair number of calories, so it's working out well!

Leonel "Fuerte" Alvarez: The foodie of the group. 

Before the mad-science changes that gave him super-strength and changed his gender, Leonel was abuelita to several grandchildren, spoiling them with tamales, biscochitos, conchitas, enchiladas, posole, and countless other Mexican-American masterpieces. 

That hasn't changed, though the fancy meal prep happens a little less often now that he's on call to rescue the citizens of Springfield when the need arises. 

He still loves to spend the morning in the kitchen and the evening watching everyone he loves enjoy his creations. 

His husband, David, has learned that sometimes a tres leches cake means there's bad news coming, but it doesn't stop him from digging in. Bonus! Their house nearly always smells of coffee and cinnamon.

Patricia "Lizard Woman" O'Neill: Patricia likes the finer things in life. Designer bags, expensive travel, theater tickets, visits to the spa, and fine dining. 

Overcoming her humble beginnings as the eldest daughter of an often-married and just as often divorced mother, she worked hard and made personal sacrifices to get to a position where she could afford to indulge. 

She is proud of making her way up to Vice President even though she started her career in the later 1970s, when the glass ceiling was definitely still firmly in place. 

Her condo is provisioned with the basics and she can whip up an omelet like nobody's business, but after spending her younger years flipping burgers and slinging milkshakes, she thinks her time is better spent on something other than cooking. 

Sometimes she and Suzie, her girlfriend and sometimes sidekick, like to stay home and get takeout Chinese, but they're definitely first in line when a new restaurant opens in Springfield, ready to find out if the fuss is worth it. 

The other characters in the series have some opinions about food, too, but I'll save them for another day. Does food play a big role in books you write or like to read? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

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Wednesday, April 5, 2023

IWSG: How it Started, How It's Going: My Writing Life

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: Jemima Pett, Nancy Gideon, and Natalie Aguirre!

April 5 question Do you remember writing your first book? What were your thoughts about a career path on writing? Where are you now and how is it working out for you? If you're at the start of the journey, what are your goals?


I feel like I just wrote my first book yesterday, though I'm realizing that it's been a decade now. Wow! I guess it's not just my kids that prove that time flies. (Let's not discuss the fact that the youngest is working on learning to drive). 

But yes, my forty-second birthday was the one where I finally made a real and lasting commitment to my writing life, and started finishing and submitting things. Though I was always "going to be a writer" starting around first grade, it was always a far-flung "someday" kind of dream up until then, waters I waded into from time to time, when the weather was nice, but nothing I worked at consistently. 

And here I am now about to turn fifty-two, so yep, that makes ten years. 

From one book to 32 books (counting anthologies)

In 2013, I finished Going Through the Change, the first novel in the Menopausal Superhero series. It was the second book I'd ever gotten all the way to "the end" on, and the one to earn me my first publishing contract. I had pretty big dreams about the difference that writing contract would make in my life--fame and fortune looming large. 

In reality, I have had slow, steady sales in the intervening years as I continued to write more books, survived the closing of a publisher and signed with another one. My biggest paycheck to date meant that my children were extra spoiled come winter holidays, but it wasn't life-changing. 

But in the meantime, my dreams have changed. I don't actually want to be famous. I wouldn't mind at all if my books got famous--optioned and made into a Netflix series or discovered by Reese Witherspoon's book club or something. But the small glimpses into public life I get when I give readings or serve as a guest at a convention have shown me that I don't actually want the kind of fame where people get nosy about your private life. 

I'm more focused on the joy writing brings me, and staying disciplined so that I get to tell all the stories teeming in my brain. 

I'm working on the fifth and final novel in the Menopausal Superheroes series right now, and have hopes of finishing a draft by summer. 

Four novels, two novellas, a short story collection, and all the short works in one volume. 

My publisher (Falstaff Books of Charlotte, NC) plans to release the first of a two-volume omnibus edition this summer, then the final novel in 2024, and the second half of the omnibus edition. Not bad for a little idea that came about because I was frustrated that superhero characters were always so darn young. 

While I've worked on these books, I've also dabbled in short fiction, mostly horror, and have seen my work included in twenty-three anthologies at this point (with another one on the near horizon).  

It's really nice to feel like I'm closing this chapter of my writing life and can jump into some of the other stories I haven't been able to tell--that Gothic romance I started a couple of years back, my witch-craft themed middle grades idea, the historical fiction trilogy based loosely on a family legend, etc. 

So, I'm not rich or famous, but I'm happier than I've ever been before and writing is at the heart of who I am now instead of a someday-I-will dream. 

Thanks to all my friends and family (and fellow IWSGers) who have traveled this road with me so far. I can't wait to see what's around the next bend!