Posted in Uncategorized

Invisible Stagnation

You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging much lately, but probably not. I’ve wanted to keep this blog an upbeat sort of space and in terms of writing news, I haven’t had a whole lot to share. The same goes for social media, which I’ve been on less and less lately. And when I do post or share, the algorithms work against infrequent posts.

I’m becoming invisible. There is a risk of stagnation – of not doing more because it’s not like anyone cares but me. Except I don’t think that’s the case. I have to consider what is the best use of my time.

I have read a lot of books on marketing, plotting, character development, the writing process, and algorithms. Reading and posting on social media won’t get the book written, revised, and ready for publication. I may be a faint shimmer by the time I reemerge, but I’m going to fight disappearing altogether.

And in case I haven’t said it enough lately, I appreciate you. You are wonderful.

Posted in ethics, organization

Don’t open the invoice email

Dear readers,

I’ve been hacked. Someone got hold of my Mailchimp newsletter mailing list and sent out a whole bunch of invoices in my name. I am livid and I bet you are too.

PLEASE Delete the emails and above all do not download any files.

The hackers have broken my promise to you the reader to protect your information and use it only for my quarterly newsletter. They have destroyed my integrity with some of you and made me lose some of you.

I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I sincerely regret any inconvenience this has caused you.

Image of one of the hacked emails
DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINKS IN THIS EMAIL
Posted in Environment

Earth Day 2019

If you’ve seen my previous Earth Day/ environmental posts, you might remember my commitment to small steps every year that are beneficial for the Earth. If I can figure out the new blog format, I’ll share links here otherwise, search for EARTH DAY in my search bar.

Change 1: Bees Wrap

As much as I love baking bread, I’m uncomfortable with all the recipes that say “cover with plastic wrap and let rise.” My grandma used a damp cotton towel and if the bowl is big enough, that works pretty well, but if the dough gets into the towel, it’s a mess. I got Bees Wrap at Christmas and WOW! Bees Wrap is perfect for covering bowls. I also use it to keep the bread fresh on the counter. It washes up easily with cold water, and dough doesn’t stick! We still keep plastic wrap in the house but we’ve cut our household use of plastic wrap in half, thanks to Bees Wrap. They have an Earth Day special, which is a great excuse to check out Bees Wrap for yourself.

Change 2: Reusable Straws.

My kids are hooked on straws and they love sea turtles. After learning about the sea turtle found with a straw in its nose, they wanted to make a change. I bought stainless steel collapsible straws with fancy silicone covers so a) you could identify your straw and b) you could protect your lips from overly cold or hot drink temps. Frankly, this change has been a bust. We haven’t used straws at home for years and for the reusable straws to work away from home, you have to take the straws with you. We have remembered to carry them exactly twice. We’re not big straw people, so for us, it’s easier to decline straws at restaurants and other venues rather than carrying our stainless steel ones. If you are a straw fan and want to make the change to reusable straws, there are plenty of choices in various widths and most are dishwasher safe. For my family “refuse” turned out to be a more sustainable choice than “reuse.”

Change 3: Less Liquid Soap

I’m not going to lie, I love my health and beauty liquid soaps. Shared bar soap creeps me out. I picture little germs dancing on the bar and I hate picking up a slimy bar. It’s a tactile thing for me. Yet somehow, we’re making progress. Instead of traditional hand soap, we make our own foamy soap using liquid dish detergent. I found a pump at TJ MaXX that has lines for the right dish soap to water ratio. I cannot imagine giving up my favorite Redkin shampoo, but I am using less because I wash my hair once a week.

The biggest switch for me has been using bar soap in the shower. My household has to be careful with naturally made soaps because my daughter is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Almond extract may sound wonderful to you, but it could trigger an allergic event in my house. If we can’t find an ingredient list, we won’t get it. My local grocery (Fresh Thyme) carries a fantastic line of bulk bar soap that is free of nut oils. My favorite has crushed up mint leaves for an exfoliation bonus, but other family members prefer different scents.

This Earth Day, I hope you commit to making a small change to help the earth. We are the stewards of this hunk of the solar system. Few of us are saintly enough to live a zero-waste lifestyle, but all of us can make more earth friendly choices some of the time. I grew up with the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but in the wake of straw and bag bans, I’ve learned of a new version “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse.”

Posted in ethics, For Writers, plagarism, Writing

Plagiarism vs. Romance

If you’re on Twitter, you may have noticed #CopyPasteCris trending and wondered (as I did) what the heck is going on. In a word, PLAGARISM. I’m livid as an author and as a reader, for reasons I’ll explain below.

First an overview (as I understand the issue). Best selling “author” Cristiane Serruya got busted for stitching together books that contained large swaths of words originally written by Courtney Milan, Tessa Dare, and Bella Andre, among others. It gets worse. She blamed the ghost-writer she found on fiverr for the “error.” Romance Writers of America and a slew of lawyers are on the case. You can go to twitter and read through the thread to see both how blatant the rip offs were and how fierce romance writers are.

Author me is pissed that this person made the best seller list by buying up other people’s words and then somehow further gaming the system to get on list. Someone who would misrepresent their work in such an egregious way would likely have no ethical problem paying a bot-farm or some such other nonsense to download enough books to get on a trending list and get enough attention that unwitting readers buy the book in good faith. Author me knows how hard it is to get a book noticed. I cracked the Amazon top 250 ebooks list once, in a bundle with six other books. Author me also knows how often I’m solicited with offers to “guarantee” me a “bestseller” for $XXX dollars. I don’t click. I have ethics. So do most working authors.

Author me is also irritated by voices in publishing shouting that you can’t make money unless you publish a book a month or better yet two. I can understand putting out 3 books in 3 months if it is a trilogy with a long lead time coming up to it, but very few authors (if any) can put out a quality, full length book in a month. Readers buy these books on the “can’t miss” pre-order sale, but I have to wonder how many sit unread on the e-reader or how many are abandoned due to quality issues.

As a reader, I’m angry about this plagiarism, too. I didn’t buy any of Cris Serruya’s books, but if I had, I’d demand my money back. I don’t typically return books because I appreciate the amount of work that went into a book, even if I don’t like it. Cris Serruya stole money from both readers and my fellow authors. I’m angry that someone got paid for a cut and paste job and that the “author” with her name on the cover didn’t care enough about “her work” to look at it, because it was all in the name of the increasingly meaningless “bestseller” tag.

If I spend my money on a book (which I often do), I want the money to go to the people who pulled it all together, the writer, the cover designer, the editor. I want a clean product, where the character names don’t change half way through and the story is coherent. As a reader, I’ve fallen for authors that start off with a strong series (I read a lot of cozy mysteries), and then they get another idea, and another idea, and soon they have three series each kicking out a book a month and there is no quality control and the writing differs so much from series to series that you have to assume they are ghost-written or maybe—in light of recent incidents—copy-pasted for speed. I have a growing list of authors I will not read because they have poisoned their brand in pursuit of speed and fame. As a reader, I’ve become jaded and less willing to take a chance on an unfamiliar author, especially one self-pubbed.

That last point hurts. If you want to know why I have not had a new release in the last two years it is because as a reader and a writer, I want to put out a quality product. I have completed manuscripts making the rounds with publishers and agents. I may self-publish the one that has had full manuscript interest from multiple parties but no room in anyone’s publishing calendar. But there’s one problem. I don’t earn enough from my books full of my blood and tears and ethics because plagiarized crap and unprofessional “writers” are stealing money from all of us.

Thanks for reading my rant. These words are free to read, unprofessionally edited, and from the same source as all my other words—my heart, my head, and my fingertips.

Posted in Uncategorized

Sports Romance

Can’t get enough of Sport Romance? Try these.

Christa Maurice

Love means saying you’re sorry, and proving it.

Sonny Black was the star quarterback in high school who couldn’t possibly be in love with the geekiest girl in school, Mandy Daws. He’d been seeing her under the guise of chemistry tutoring, but when his buddies found out there was a little more going on, he lied and said she was a slut, wrecking her life and earning her enduring hatred.

Eleven years later, Sonny is headed for the Super Bowl despite amazing bad luck that has earned him the nickname Sonny Black Cloud. When someone mentions that the bad luck must stem from someone he failed in the past, the first name that comes to mind is Mandy’s. He tracks her down at the small university where she teaches chemistry and tries to seduce, beg or win her forgiveness, and he needs it before the Super Bowl.

Amazon : Barnes…

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Posted in Books, Winter Fairy

Winter Fairy is back!

Winter Fairy_edited-1-3I’m pleased to share with all of you that Winter Fairy is once again available for purchase, but with a whole new look.  Also new, this universal buy link. If it works, you should be directed to the retailer of your choice. If it doesn’t work, let me know.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to get Winter Fairy republished. This is my “little book that could,” and I’m glad so many of you have read and recommended it to friends looking for a holiday romance.

Currently, Winter Fairy is only available as an ebook, but if I get enough requests for paper or audio, I’ll see if I can make that happen.

Posted in Environment, Family life, Uncategorized

Kicking the plastic habit

Ever since a stint living in Germany in the 1990s, I’ve tried to be thoughtful about my use of plastic. Twenty years ago, cashiers didn’t know what to do when I brought my own love_birds_2pkreusable bags to stores. One even called a manager! Could you imagine that happening in 2018? I average one case of plastic bottled water a year. I do keep some in the house (and in the car) in case of emergency, but I never drink it at home (unless there is a drinking water emergency) and I rarely buy water out because I use a refillable water bottle. I buy resealable plastic bags for school supply lists, but lunchboxes I use these sandwich bags and other refillable containers.

With China’s announcement that they will no longer accept the world’s plastic for recycling, I’m looking for more plastic alternatives.  I’ll share a few things I currently do, a few changes I’ve started to implement, and a few wishes. I’d love to know how YOU reduce plastic.

WHAT I DO (in addition to those above):hk048-sap

  1. refuse straws
  2. use glass containers for storage
  3. skip plastic in home decor items
  4. seek out clothing and other fabrics made from recycled water bottles. If you are in the market for a new purse or backpack, I love Haiku bags. I recently bought a second one – not because the first wore out, but because after 6 years, I wanted a different pattern.
  5. shop the farmer’s markets. Less packaging = less plastic.

WHAT CHANGES I’M MAKING NOW:

  1. Switching back to bar soap. This one hurts. I love body wash and hate slimy soap, but I love our planet enough that I’m giving up the bottle.
  2. Bamboo toothbrushes.

MY WISH LIST: (Can you help?)

  1. Alternative to plastic wrap in the kitchen. I want something to protect oddly shaped food (say cut avocados) from the air and to cover bowls of rising bread dough.
  2. A peanut and tree-nut allergy safe place for buying food in bulk. Every single place I’ve seen has potential for cross contamination and I won’t risk my daughter’s life.
  3. plastic free toothpaste.
  4. Lip balm in non-plastic container.
  5. antiperspirant in non-plastic container.

I would love to hear ideas and suggestions from you. How do you reduce plastic in your life? I’m on the lookout for new ideas.

Posted in On Writing, organization

GDPR makes my brain hurt

I’m neither a lawyer nor a web developer and legalese gives me a headache. I’ve been wading through a sea of information for nearly two weeks and I still can’t figure out if this blog is GDPR compliant. I’ve been in what feels like an endless loop of developers, font providers, hosts and big fancy words to try and avoid getting in trouble with my European followers.

I haven’t figured it out, yet, but I will tell you this. If you want to sign up for my newsletter, I’ll need your email address and your permission. If you want to comment on my site, I’m asking for a name and email because it cuts down on the amount of spam comments unrelated to the reason you came to this site. Plus, if you decide to follow the thread, it will send you an email if there are changes in the response. If you sign up to follow this blog, you will get an email when I post.

The only thing I personally do with the data on this site, is get excited when I see a map of my visitors. Thank you for letting me do that. I love maps.

Sometimes ads appear at the bottom of this site, so I suppose cookies are collected somewhere and used by someone. I’ll keep digging through the GDPR words until I find answers that satisfy me.

Posted in Christmas, Family life, Writing

Rethinking the calendar

Over 15″ of snow fell on my driveway this weekend, and I’m not counting the drifts. This would have been welcome and fun in December, but in April, not so much.  We barely had snow in December, the month when we sing songs celebrating the joy of snow. Something is wrong.

I blame our collective attachment to the Georgian calendar, the one predominately used today. The Georgian calendar has been kicking around since the 1580s.  Prior to that, the Roman Calendar provided dating in Western Civilizations. That problematic calendar had only 10 months and was about 60 days too short for Earth’s journey around the Sun. Adapting a new calendar is not out of the realm of historical possibility.

Change is tough and I suspect song writing is too. But something is not matching up. Those lazy hazy days of Summer are not likely to roll around until September.  We need a new system with different names. Now, I’m not a scientific expert, and I really like the handy way of remembering how many days are in each month by counting on the knuckles, so I’ll keep the dates the same, but the months get new names. Any holidays deeply tied to a specific month will move to appropriate “new” month.  Also – this is a bit North-hemisphere -entric. My brain is too cold to fully think through all the consequences, that’s because my foolish brain still associates April with Spring.

February becomes “Newano.” By starting the calendar on the old Feb first, we will better align with the traditional Chinese New Year.

March becomes “Midwinter.” I would suggest moving Groundhog’s day to Midwinter, but some of us are ready to choke the little rodent so maybe not.

April becomes “Stillwinter.” St. Patrick’s day brightens up the snow with a bit of much longed for greenery.

May becomes “Frostend.” You can begin to put out garden plants, but chances are high your crocus will end up covered in snow.

June becomes “Junette.” It’s a light name befitting long hours of sunshine and springlike warmth against your skin.

July stays July.

August becomes “Highsummer.” The temperatures soar during this peak summer month.

September becomes “Lingersommer.” The long summer has become stale. Parents are counting the days until back to school.

October becomes “Threeano.” The month has been misnamed so long, why break with tradition. School starts.

November becomes “Plantend.” Harvest the last of your tomatoes before Halloween night.

December becomes “Monthopause.” The calendar year is transitioning. The linguistic gymnastics burn an extra calorie or two so you don’t need to feel guilty about that extra slice of pie on Thanksgiving.

January becomes “December.” Just because I’m reinventing the calendar, I don’t have to throw away all our mental associations with December. Let’s keep the last month the same, except with more snow and a more realistic expectation of how long we have to wait until spring.

 

Posted in For Writers, On Writing, Writing

Romance is necessary

I’m currently serving as president of Midwest Fiction Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. The time I spend in service to my chapter comes at the expense of time spent updating my blog, but maybe I can double dip from time to time.

Each month, I write a “From the President” letter for our newsletter. Some are more chapter oriented, but others are not. All require me to think about what it means to be part of Romancelandia and the world of publishing.  I know a number of authors who are frustrated with the business and the world at the moment. Please don’t quit. This one is for you.

Between the #metoo movement, children dying at school, and all the other forces at work highlighting the chaos and cruelty in the world, writing romance can be a real challenge. Whether in social media or in conversations, I’ve heard a lot of writers question how they can continue to write romance in this climate. I myself have days where the news of the world both far-flung and close to home overwhelm my senses. Combine this with the struggle I’ve had to find a publishing home for my last two manuscripts, and giving up seems like a rational solution. Except, it isn’t.

To paraphrase Damon Suede, Romance is the literature of hope. Our happily ever afters (or nows) come only after the characters have struggled and sunk to their lowest points. Only by finding inner strength can our characters overcome obstacles and find themselves in better places by the end of the story. We can much learn from our fictional creations.

Our stories can help readers find hope. We provide a valuable service to our readers and the community at large. We don’t know exactly what word or plot line will resonate with any given reader. Maybe our words bring a smile to someone’s face. Maybe that person shares the smile with the next person they see. Maybe our stories offer aspirational relationships and help someone leave a toxic relationship, or maybe our stories help deepen already strong bonds by reminding a reader of what made them love their partner in the first place. Maybe our stories make someone feel less alone and that is enough to help that person reconnect with the world. That was certainly the case for me.

For those days writing hope does not come easy, please find ways to take care of yourself. Turn off the news and meet up with a friend or fellow writer for coffee. Take a walk in nature—sans earbuds—and tune into the sensory experience around you. Go to a concert or a party and leave your phone at home. Try something new or rediscover an old passion. We need you. We need your stories. We need your hope.