Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Black Sails

I will freely admit that I started watching Black Sails last year because of Tom Hopper. Because...well, look at him:

But this second season has been astonishing. I loved the reveal about Flint's past with Thomas Hamilton, I loved the new stuff we learned about Jack and Anne Bonny, and I loved how even more insidious Silver became. It's totally one big pirate soap opera, with fluid sexualities, dark pasts, and arms that look like Tom Hopper's.

How is that not a win?

Season three can't start soon enough. In the meantime, I've got Outlander coming back this weekend, and Call the Midwife finally hit US soil Sunday night. Apparently, TV is all about the period drama for me these days.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Free Short Story - One More Bloom

I got the rights back to me for the short story I wrote for Kallysten's first breast cancer charity anthology in 2013, so I decided to pass it along to Amber Quill as a free read. It came out yesterday.

Lovers Adam and Rachel have been cursed for more than a century, doomed because the world wasn’t ready to see past the colors of their skin.

But now, under the canopy of Washington DC’s cherry blossoms, Adam finally has the means to put an end to the curse, once and for all.


It's a sweet ending to what's been a tragic love story for over a century, when Creole Adam was condemned to walk the earth forever because he fell in love with a white woman.

In addition, there are excerpts from other stories I have at Amber Quill, including Blood of Souls, Born to Be Wild, and Ruby Red Rebels.

Check it out! It's free, so what do you have to lose?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Older characters in genre fiction

Romance is about the fantasy most of the time, which is why characters tend to be young and on the prettier side. That's not to say there's not diversity within that group, but finding protagonists that fall outside the norm isn't an easy task. Like having people in their 40s, 50, and upward as the central characters.

The same holds true for urban fantasy. I think the rationale is they need to be younger and fit to handle the badassery that usually comes with books like that, but it sounds like rubbish to me, mostly because I can think of plenty of people in both age demographics that defy that expectation.

So when I saw this article about why Harry Connolly writes what he dubs "attack novels," I kind of fell in love. He has an urban fantasy book with a heroine in her 60s. Guess who owns that now?

I adore protagonists that defy common tropes, especially if they're older. They bring wisdom and maturity that younger characters often lack, though in some cases, they can be more impetuous because they don't have the patience for stupidity or incompetence any more.

Do you have any favorites you'd recommend? I don't care too much about genre. I read everything from sci-fi to romance to mystery to western. What I care about is a good story and unforgettable characters.

Rec away!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Playing to the Public

I've taken guitar lessons off and on for the past ten years. I started out on an acoustic but switched over to electric fairly early and now do everything on my wood Fender strat. His name is William, by the way. Delilah, my acoustic, was very annoyed with me when I abandoned her for his blond sleek good looks.

Anyway, I just noodle. I don't practice much because it always seems like there's something else I should be doing, but I love my teacher and I love having a half hour each week that's just for me, so I keep at it.

My problem is, he's nagging me about playing for his recital. I've gotten out of it the past few times with other conflicts, and frankly, I'm hoping RT conflicts with it this year, but I know I'm letting him down when I back out of it. But the truth is, it doesn't matter how good I might be at home. I'm not nearly comfortable with my skills to play in front of strangers. Music isn't my forte. I know this. It's not like when I was acting. I never really had any doubts about my abilities then. But this...man, it's terrifying.

He's giving me options, either play an ensemble piece that's harder or a solo piece that's simpler. I don't like either one, but I have to choose today. If I pick the ensemble and then screw up, I'm letting down other people which is frankly worse than sounding bad on my own. But the latter is scarier by a mile. I would very likely do "Beautiful Boy" which is a song I love.

Decisions, decisions.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Trash by Dorothy Allison

In 2009, I attended a night called Writers with Drinks in San Francisco. It's an event with a mix of writers that basically get in front of this crowd in a bar and read some of their work for ten or fifteen minutes. The only reason it caught my eye in the first place is because Adam Savage was presenting, and since my husband and I both love Mythbusters, it seemed like a fun date night. And it was. But not just because of Adam.

One of the authors there that night was Dorothy Allison. I'd never heard of her before then, though I'd heard of her biggest book, Bastard Out of Carolina. Adam was predictably funny, but she was the one I walked away most intrigued by. She was funny and smart, and from the second her Southern accent rang out through the room, I wanted to know more about her. I went looking for some of her work not long after and picked up a collection of short stories called Trash. Then it promptly got buried on my TBR pile (which really is that scary).

Until I was packing for EPICon. I took it with me to read.

Trash is a collection of short stories that all read like memoir. Allison has been blunt about her poor Southern upbringing, the abuses she suffered, and it's all reflected in these tidbits. The stories aren't overtly long, but each one reads like a new chapter in this young woman's life as she grows up surrounded by poverty, violence, ignorance, and shame, with momentary glimpses into true beauty, and then moves out into the world. They aren't easy reads. She doesn't hold back on anything. But her language is provocative, and her fearlessness in exposing everything, the good and the bad, is breathtaking.

There are a lot of stories about various stages of lesbian relationships. Allison came out in the 60s and was a part of the feminist movement in the 70s, so be prepared for those influences to permeate each of the stories. Sometimes, it's hard to keep each one separate, because the natural response is to string them together and create a single narrative (since the women in each are so strikingly familiar), but I'm not sure that's a detriment in the long run.

If you haven't read any of her work, I highly recommend seeking her out. She's a Lambda Literary Award winner and well worth it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Theo James

Let's get one thing out of the way. I'm not a fan of the Divergent books. I read them for my daughter, who asked me to before we saw the first movie. Though I do occasionally fall for one, YA books in general aren't really my thing, so I have a bit of a distance when it comes to this series. The first movie was okay, but I'll be 100% honest. I'm totally committed to seeing Insurgent next week. For only one reason.

Theo James.

Seriously. This guy makes it all worth it for me.

And on that note...have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cookbook Recommendation - Thug Kitchen

I'm a bit of a cookbook junkie. I love to cook, I love to try new recipes, and if something is pretty, I'll grab it. Seriously. I just recently did a culling because I was running out of room, and I still have 72 cookbooks I'm not ready to get rid of.

So when somebody recently suggested Thug Kitchen to me, I shouldn't have listened. I should've plugged up my ears, started whistling, and pretended I hadn't noticed. Except I did. And I went to Amazon. And I hit buy within sixty seconds of scanning the reviews.

It's a vegan cookbook, but I bought it anyway because my family and I are trying to get more vegetables in our lives in more interesting ways. It arrived while I was away, so I wasn't able to start trying any of the recipes until Tuesday. First on the docket was a simple quinoa oatmeal. I've been craving oatmeal lately, and I hadn't tried steelcut oats yet. It made the choice easy.

Verdict? Good. Easy. Try another recipe.

I picked out a recipe to fix for dinner last night that would require minimal shopping on my part. The winner was this roasted chickpea and broccoli burrito. It was a little heavier on the spices than I usually can tolerate, but I figured if it was too hot, I could just bury it in sour cream.

Turns out, I didn't need to, a fact I picked up on when I nicked a piece halfway through roasting:

Everybody devoured the burritos when they were done, even my thirteen year-old son. I am totally making these again. 

We already picked out the next recipe to try, a mushroom and spinach lasagna. I have high expectations.

But what makes this cookbook so much fun isn't just the recipes. It's the tone. For those unfamiliar with Thug Kitchen, it's unpretentious and no holds barred, definitely R-rated for language. I sat and actually read the first twenty pages of the cookbook (before the recipes) and laughed/smiled through the whole thing. It's a refreshingly blunt way of looking at vegetarian/vegan cooking, bringing it back to the food rather than the holier than thou atmosphere that often permeates this type of cuisine.

How can you not love a cookbook that calls salads, "plant nachos?"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cover Art - Silences of Fallen Stars

I have more cover art to share! My April release, Silences of Fallen Stars, is part of the 60s pax at Amber Allure. It's the story of two high school best friends reconnecting when the Vietnam war and life have come between them. I love how moody the cover turned out!

Release date on this is April 19. More details as we get closer!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Making Time Work for Me

The workshop I got the most out of at EPICon was all about time management. Presented by Cindi Myers, it was a real boon for me, mostly because I am completely obsessive about schedules and getting things done. I have to be. I have two very active teenagers, a husband who works from home 75% of the time, a house to take care of, and a writing career I'm hoping to grow as my kids get older. Some people might argue that the house is everyone's responsibility, which it is--I have zero problem delegating--but I know from experience that if I don't stay on top of things, stuff doesn't happen.

My trip to San Antonio is a great example. Not only did my daughter miss her piano lesson because my husband got it into his head that nothing happened on Fridays and thus didn't bother checking the calendar I had ensured was complete and up to date before leaving, but the fresh produce I had bought at their request so they wouldn't have to worry about getting groceries while I was gone went untouched. I threw it all out yesterday morning and went shopping again to replenish the pantry. Apparently, their meals consisted of a lot of English pancakes, pork ribs, and pie. For them, those are the major food groups all covered.

In the aftermath of my trip, I'm going through my notes to start trying to find elements I can incorporate into my daily life. The first thing I did was purchase a book Cindi recommended, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron. It's only $.99 in Kindle format, so I'm passing the recommendation along to all of you. I haven't had the chance to read it yet, but it's first on the list to sit down and go through.

Another thing she suggested was the Pomodoro Technique. I'm not bothering with any of the reading or the app that's on the website, but the basic idea is to break your day up. You pick something to work on (writing), work on it for a short period of time without interruption (for example, 25 minutes), then take a short break. I actually did this quite a bit without realizing it, mostly because I have a lot of things that break up my day. I'm going to try and make it a little bit more organized and see how it works.

Cindi suggested a lot of different things to get past writer's block as well, in order to take advantage of your time. I'm going to blog about those later on sometime after I've had the chance to try a few. Because we all hit that wall. It would be nice to be able to climb over it, right?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Home again

My intentions are always good when I go to conventions, but my follow-through pretty much sucks. I got some good information from the workshops, though, and I live-tweeted the results of the e-Book Awards for people who couldn't be there.

I didn't win, but I can't be upset. I lost to Caitlyn Willows, who I absolutely adore. There were a lot of excellent authors who won, in fact, including the talented KC Burn, LA Witt, and LC Chase. You should definitely go check out all the winners. I almost guarantee you'll find something there you'd love to read. Make sure to check out the other finalists, too. I always use it as a potential reading list and end up discovering new authors every time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Leaving for EPICon

This time tomorrow, I'll be on a plane to San Antonio for EPICon, EPIC's annual convention. Blogging will be sporadic unless I'm really inspired, so if you don't hear from me until next Monday, that will be why!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cover Art - One More Bloom

I've been contributing short stories for Kallysten's breast cancer charity anthology the past couple years. Since the rights revert back to us after the the charity drive is over, I've been sitting on these two tales for a little while, trying to figure out what to do with them. I've decided I'll expand the one from 2014, but the 2013 het interracial paranormal, One More Bloom, will be available as a free story at Amber Quill later this month.

In the meantime, I have a cover for it. Since it spans over a hundred years, it's hard to find a single image or setting for it. However, it starts and ends with the cherry blossom festival in DC, hence...

I'll keep you updated with more details as they become available!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Enthralled in Silver on sale

Next week at this time, I'll be in San Antonio for EPICon, which ends with the awards banquet on Saturday night for the EPIC awards. My novella, Enthralled in Silver, is a finalist in the Erotica category.

To celebrate, Enthralled in Silver is 50% off right now! Check it out!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

New Contract - Wild Fragile Vines

The epistolary short story I wrote for the upcoming second chances pax at Amber Allure is now officially contracted! I posted a snippet from Wild Fragile Vines once already, but here's the official blurb:

When his boss’s twenty-year-old son announced he wanted to be more than friends, Tim Kammerling told him no. He wasn’t ready to have a relationship with someone more than ten years younger than him. Devin knew he couldn’t stick around Napa and honor the status quo, however. He left town, and the two became long distance friends instead.

A lot can happen in eighteen years. Letters are sent. Calls get made.

Lives are changed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Older Gays Offering Advice

I saw this video the other day where someone interviewed some older gay Americans about what they'd say to current generations and ended it in tears. You must watch.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Reader

Do you ever watch a movie and then ask yourself, "Why did I wait so long to see this?" That was me and The Reader. I didn't know much about the story other that it had an crossgeneration love affair in it, and that it was historical of some sort. Other than that, the details eluded me.

I finished the movie in tears. In fact, I watched the last forty-five minutes with tears streaming down my face.

On the surface, it's about Hanna, a 36 y/o tram worker, who begins an affair with 15 y/o Michael. They stumble across each other's lives - she helps him get home on the eve of his falling ill with scarlet fever - and the affair only lasts for a single summer before she disappears from his life. She makes a request that he read to her before they have sex, which he does so gladly. He's pretty broken when he discovers she's gone, but like any resilient youth, gets on with his life.

It jumps to years later when he's a law student and discovers Hanna is on trial for crimes committed during the war (before they had their affair). I won't spoil the story for anyone who hasn't seen it. What's important is that this is the point where the many, many layers to it become apparent.

These are not perfect people. They are deeply flawed human beings struggling to survive in the ways they know best. One of the books that Michael reads to Hanna that becomes pivotal to the plot is the Chekhov short story, "The Lady with the Little Dog." It wasn't chosen willy-nilly, just like the fact that the very first book he ever reads to her is Homer's The Odyssey (it's more than just the fact that it's a journey, it's the return home after a city's destruction). There's a line in Chekov's story that completely sums up what The Reader is about.

"Every personal existence was upheld by a secret."

Secrets and how people respond to them, live with them, is what defines The Reader. Both leads make choices that lead to how they act later on in life, and it's those journeys that are so utterly compelling to watch. Winslet is stunning to behold. She doesn't actually have a lot of lines for being the lead. What makes her so mesmerizing is what she does physically. The way she holds herself. The minute expressions that slip through the mask she struggles to keep in place. Playing opposite that are the more mercurial young Michael (portrayed by a superb David Kross) and the equally enigmatic older Michael (portrayed by the inimitable Ralph Fiennes). It's impossible to look away, even when you can see the pain that is coming for everybody.

It's not an easy movie, by any means. The ending is ambiguous. The characters are far from black or white. But it's one that's going to linger with me for a very long time.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Do I replace my Fitbit?

So...my Fitbit died over the weekend. After owning it for only two months.

Needless to say, I'm not impressed.

I won't be buying a new one. From the looks of it, it's not really worth it to bug customer service about getting a replacement, either. They seem to be good about that, but the short life on it seems to be endemic to the brand. I'd rather not go through a cycle of having to get a new one every couple months.

Is it worth it to look at other monitors? I don't know. Do you have one you like?