Where has all the decency gone?

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Several years ago I briefly watched Celebrity Apprentice. Cyndi Lauper was on and well, I like Cyndi Lauper. I never had an interest in the show and my curiosity squelched quickly. I found Donald Trump repulsive, arrogant, narcissistic, privileged and unprofessional. I decided at that moment to never allow him in my family room again. I didn’t cause a stink, after all it was his show, his business, his game, and not my cup of tea. Reality television never sustained my interest. I’m not fond of most reality television stars.

Fast forward and Trump is my President.

Where does someone like me go from here? How do I embrace someone I have absolutely no respect for? My vote is irrelevant. I’d be writing a similar blog-post if Clinton was my President. I’m not particularly fond of some of her business dealings and policies. However, before you respond with a million and one reasons why Hillary is bad, read these next few words… this. Is. Not. About. Hillary. This. Is about. Our. President.

Things I know; our country is dangerously divided and this election has conjured hate at an unprecedented level. Things I assume; if Hillary won, fifty percent of America would be protesting and raising questions about her every move, just as we are seeing with Trump. This election ran too close to home to believe otherwise.

I’ve disliked politicians in the past, yet I’ve sometimes respected how those politicians conducted themselves. Sarah Palin for example, endeared herself to millions of Americans and against adversity, she held her head high. I don’t like her, but she tried. Additionally, when Tina Fey was butchering Palin on SNL, the real Palin went to the show and jokingly helped the hairdresser perfect her hairstyle. In my opinion, that was a display of professional conduct, because SNL has been mocking politicians since the beginning of the show. SNL is part of our American Pop Culture.

We’ve all heard the saying, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Trump is President. The bitter campaigning is over. In my opinion, it’s time to exercise some verbal control. As my President, he should be diplomatic and professional. His aggressive and divisive manners do not display the behavior I expect from a good leader.

I’m often in meetings and I watch my colleagues add fuel to issues rather than take responsibility and or diffuse volatile situations. I often wonder if those colleagues understand the power of their words and their actions. There is a way to be firm, in control, and professional. In fact, in my opinion a good leader is a master at the art of carefully choosing appropriate manners and words to lead with respect and manage with diplomacy.

Though at work and in my personal life there is always that person who believes they are either privileged or untouchable and they can therefore, act according to their own rules rather than rules of decency.

Ah, but this is a free country and we strongly believe in freedom of speech. Trump has every right to say and or do anything he wants. Just as his supporters and non-supporters have the right to voice their opinions.

When though, is it better to keep quiet? When is it better to hold your tongue, and find ways to get along?

Again I am going to bring up something personal. At work I have a colleague and we do not agree on something…someone actually. We’ve both stated our opinions and we know we stand on opposite sides. However, we have agreed to disagree. We still have respect for each other and we work together to make our department successful. I have never insulted her or degraded her contributions or thoughts. Behavior like that is counterproductive and does not belong in the workplace. Actually, it doesn’t belong in healthy relationships of any kind.

She has the right to her opinion, as I do mine. Still, we are better people for learning to work together and respect each other.

Sometimes though, an issue is so personal, we cannot let go and we feel it’s important to take a stand. Good. Malala took a stand for girls to get educations. MLK took a stand against racism. Joan of Arc took a stand to protect France. Gandhi for Indian independence.

Are people taking a stand when they bully their friends and family over differing opinions about Trump? Are they taking a stand when they make blanket statements that they have no room in their lives for anyone against them? Anyone with differing opinions?

In my opinion, taking a stand requires an action that leads to improvement or support for your cause. How exactly is unfriending people or surrounding yourself with only like-minded people, taking a stand? Sounds more like intolerance, even bullying. Sounds to me like people displaying this type of behavior feel that their opinion is the only important ideal. Sounds to me like these people are like the coworkers I mentioned, somehow untouchable, privileged, or beyond reproach.

I ache for my country and fellow Americans. I fear our divide will weaken our democracy. I foresee hate clouding our judgement. I pray decency will show up and take a stand in my President and with the American people.

The Day After… “I am the master of my fate” (Henley).

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invictusToday I feel we showed the world our hate. We taught the world it is not only okay to hate, but it’s acceptable. I don’t mean a hate for Trump or Clinton. No, that is harmless. I am referring to a complete contempt for each other. A comprehensive divide of our country. Facebook was a proverbial battle ground for hate. People shared with their so-called friends and family the most disrespectful, rude, and bullish memes that branded each other monsters, bigots, racists, baby killers, deplorable, and ignorant fools. Then they hid behind their right to freedom of speech and their right to support their candidate. When in fact, that was hate, not support. Not to mention 90% of the memes weren’t based on any semblance of fact. 

However, we fell for it. We fell for the propaganda and rhetoric. The very thing the nation feels it did to show the establishment who is boss by voting for Trump, did it based on false truths and intangible promises. They fell victim to their own manufactured illusionism they blame the media using to poison our minds. Or the rug voters for Hillary hid under to shut their eyes from years of likely ‘political’ falsehoods. Then there was the ‘lesser-of-two evils’ vote. We surely lost all sense of democracy with that one.

So I hate you and you hate me. Well La-Tee-Da! But look at the popular vote, not the electoral vote. We The People are split right down the middle. We’ve been split before, but never with this much hate and uncertainty. Now Trump supporters are telling so-called liberals to suck it up and stop being sore losers. Guess what? If Hillary won, the ‘liberals’ would be saying the same thing to the upset Trump supporters. Hate. Care for each other would show grace on both sides. Care would recognize this was the most impassioned and grueling campaign in history. We’ve all been pulled through the depths of hell. Have some compassion, not hate.

Instead, we continue to pull our skeletons out of the closet and put them up in neon lights for the world to see that we are weak and divided right now. That we formed a Tea Party to promote hate. That we humiliate our President into showing his birth certificate. That we dig up tapes to slander a man, when in fact, we ourselves have probably said some things in our lives we aren’t proud of. Or we blame Hillary for ISIS? Come on. Or blame Trump for racism. Seriously?

Get real America. Just over 50% of eligible voters in America voted yesterday. Even a smaller percentage of the eligible Hispanic voters went out to vote.  This means, millions and millions of Americans stayed home when one of the most important votes in history took place.

So stop America with the hateful memes and ridiculous lies. Admittedly, I posted a couple funny and I think fairly harmless memes… that one with the promise of Mark Ruffolo “Full Monty” in his next movie if we vote. Wait, is that promise coming true? I voted. I want Mark. And SNL killed it this campaign. Let’s hope Alec will have a regular gig and keep us entertained.

We are at the tipping point America. What way are we going to go? Ask yourself this… How much damage did you cause? Were you a hater during the campaign? Did you put down and demean your ‘friends’ and hide behind your right to hate? If so, what will your next move be?

For me, I will go to work tomorrow and do what I can for people I feel have not been given the same opportunities as I was given when I was young. I will fight for people who do not have the same advantages as I have. It doesn’t matter if they are white, black, Hispanic, Muslim, or disabled. I will do my part. One of my characters said the four letter word she could not tolerate was HATE.

I am going to do my best to avoid being a hater.

As Henley so eloquently wrote, “I am the captain of my soul.”  

Those Three Magical Words

blog napRecently someone said to me she had sex for three hours. As a romance writer my reaction should have been one of awe or amazement. In reality, I couldn’t think beyond several sarcastic responses.

I stared at her and wondered how a woman gets three, uninterrupted hours to do anything! I have to hide in the bathroom to get three minutes to myself. Even then, as soon as I’m out of sight, all hell breaks loose in my house. Everything could be calm and perfect and I swear the moment I sit on the toilet the most asinine things happen on the other side of the closed door.

Was that woman a witch and she cast a spell on everyone she knows to leave her alone? One thing I knew for sure, she wasn’t married with children because no wife likes her husband that much. And no mom can get away for that long.

Which brings me to my second thought…Three hours! Do you know what I could do with three hours? My whole life could change with three magical, uninterrupted hours.

I could take a nap.

I could watch two, maybe three episodes of a long list of television programs I have recorded.

I could match up all the socks with a mate.

I could finally do one of those deep conditioning treatments on my hair.

Shit, I could rule the world with three full hours of time.

Mostly I wondered what keeps a girl going for three hours. Yes, Yes… I write sexy scenes. I can give a few guesses. Maybe some clarification is needed. There are only three words in the English language that can get me excited for three hours…

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Where has all the fun gone?

IMG_9160Recently on a family camping trip my son asked if grown-ups stop having fun when they become adults. As I sat there by the campfire with a beer in my hand and eating chips and guacamole I thought fun was had by all. However, his question disturbed me. My husband looked at me curious of the answer too.

I told my son adults just have fun in different ways than kids. We outgrow certain things like jumping on rocks and wrestling in the dirt with our siblings.

Yet that didn’t seem like a complete and acceptable answer.

Do we stop having fun? Or does the meaning of fun change?

Certainly the meaning of fun changes, but does the new kind of ‘fun’ hold the same lighthearted joyfulness our childhoods brought? Is wandering an art museum, something I love to do, fun or enjoyable? I cannot admit that the two are always the same. But for my kids, the two are the same. They have two switches, fun and not-so-fun. Wandering the Louvre is not fun for my boys.

On that same camping trip we took a mighty bike ride. We rode up a mountain for a lifetime. It was tough work but very enjoyable. We stopped several times and laughed about silly things, took selfies, and admired the scenery. It was good family time and highly enjoyable.

The fun didn’t surface until we began the long downhill ride. That part of the ride was exhilarating and dare I say, fun! When we reached the bottom, we all admitted that the uphill trek was well worth it for the ride down.

I consider myself a ‘fun’ mom. I hike, swim, laugh, joke around, insert gads of sarcasm into our lives, ski, skate, bike, dance, travel, play games, and enjoy life. So how is it possible that looking at me my son wondered where all the fun went?

If I had answered him honestly I would have told him taking naps is fun. Drinking a fine wine is fun, but I don’t want him thinking drinking alcohol is fun; though we adults know it is. Laughing with my friends is fun. Road trips with my girlfriends is fun. Buying new shoes is fun. Finding the time to sit down and read a good book is fun.

Or wait…. Are all those things enjoyable?

Stifled by Love

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Stifled by Love

We all know the cliché, opposites attract. Maybe this is true. However, I’m constantly wondering if a relationship of opposites can survive.

Romance writers thrive on the success ability of two estranged individuals, opposite in every way, coming together and finding everlasting love. Heck, many of us have lived the classic saga of girl meets boy, boy is all wrong for girl, but girl and boy somehow cannot live without each other.

My concern is, how do boy and girl make it? How can their differences thrive instead of becoming stifled?

I believe the relationship can flourish if the differences are accepted and even celebrated. Let’s take a creative person married to an uptight person for example. Said creative person has always immersed herself in a community and career that centered on her free spirit and creativity. Her spouse however, cannot accept her creative outlets and constantly undermines her artistic nature. Undoubtedly, her spirit, no matter how committed or in love, would suffer from the lack of support and badgering negativity. Her choice for love would also be the very thing killing her.

This scenario is occurring in marriages and relationships every day. In my opinion, most people learn to accept the ruin of their creativity and end up losing sight of their dreams and true self. Hence, depriving the world of their creative gestures and work.

I am not stating opposites cannot cohabitate and flourish happily. I’m simply stressing the importance of ensuring you’re able to explore your individuality and special talents within your relationship. Stifling one aspect of a person hinders their growth and suffocates their voice.

 

Save The Reviews

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Let’s talk reviews. Reviews are by far the most coveted gift given by readers to indie authors. So what is this I hear about Amazon removing reviews? Yes, Amazon is on a quest to remove reviews that they feel are somehow misleading because the reviewer is in some way connected to the author.

I’ll be the first to admit, I have a few friends in my personal life I ask to read my books and review. But only a few, not enough to make an impact. Now that I think about it, none of them have gotten around to reading or reviewing my latest release.

Are their reviews biased? Well, I hope not, but it’s possible, after all, they will ask me to pick up little Johnny from soccer or feed their cats when they are out of town. Again, I express the low number of personal friends I have asked to read and review my books. Maybe I just don’t have as many friends as other authors? Maybe there are authors out there receiving 50 plus reviews from their bingo club or the PTA??? If that’s the case, are the offenders so countless that Amazon feels the need to police the review process?

Personally, I do not feel I’ve ever been misled by reviews. Oh, except that time critics gave the movie The Holiday terrible reviews. I absolutely loved that movie and I was close to skipping it because of the reviews.

I heard some musings that an author with a small multitude of five star reviews must be hocking reviews at the local Starbucks because no way could anyone like a book to the tune of 45 or more 5 star reviews. Could they? No really, could they? Well, I believe they can. There is such a thing as a ‘good book.’ Look it up Amazon peeps. If you are stuck, I can give you a few suggestions.

One aspect about being an indie author I was unaware of is the importance of making contacts through social media. Indie authors work tirelessly on social media to create connections, network, and make friends to gain supporters and readers. Through this process many folks become our friends and ‘pimp’ (yes that’s a book term) authors and the books they love. And yes, these pimps are considered friends. So will Amazon remove their reviews too?

I do worry about my precious reviews. I don’t want anything to happen to them. One thing that concerns me is the fact that I happen to love sugar-free strawberry gum. What if someone who reviews my books loves the same unique flavor of gum? Can Amazon find out? Will they accuse me of wagering for reviews at the grocery check-out? I sure hope not.

Please Amazon, leave my pretties alone.

My Fear No Longer Rules Me

thNWEB3RN3The dedication in my newest release mentions taking chances when fear is present. I’m certain most artists suffer the same fear I am experiencing; the fear of inadequacy and rejection. Logic speaks to me. Hell, logic has knocked me in the head. I know art is subjective and not everyone shares similar tastes. My fear is not very sophisticated and doesn’t carry over through many dimensions. No, my fear is simple. I fear that my fans will not like my second attempt to woo and entertain.

I think fear paralyzed my fingers for nearly a year. In fact, I know it took a giant leap of faith to feel the fear, and do it anyway. The initial leap was wholly the result of my friends and fans offering support and little nudges. I made a promise to tell a story and I had to follow through.

Putting on paper an entire new set of characters was a challenge. My first main characters were large and filled the space on the pages. Not all characters can perform the same. I was mostly concerned with the fact that I didn’t necessarily deliver the alpha everyone is expecting. I had to stay true to my vision of him and not the overwhelming dimension the romance world is demanding.

I pushed a boundary and showed a side of the newest craze that isn’t discussed. I spoke of a lifestyle and not a trend. I suggest that lifestyles ebb and flow with the characters involved and the circumstances they encounter. Even if etched in stone, over time, the elements of nature will encourage change.

As with any artist, my vision will be criticized and scrutinized, or at least I can hope I’m worthy enough of such musings. Though, as a hopeful person, I hold my breath to learn if my work is once again liked.

Nevertheless, by releasing my second book, my fear no longer rules me.

CreateSpace, Lightning Source, Ingram Sparks, Oh my! Why large box retailers won’t shelve my POD.

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Print On Demand is a popular way for indie authors to offer their books in print. This however, does not mean bookstores will shelve your book. Many authors do not understand, and often ask, why?

Let’s say an average large box book retailer carries 60,000 titles. Linear footage in a store is limited, so retailers work tirelessly to utilize space with books that sell. A store is in constant flux of managing underperforming titles.

I’m not saying indie books won’t sell. In fact many would sell.

An algorithm is created for each store. For example, let’s take a classic like Lord of the Flies. A store will carry X number of copies of Lord of the Flies based on sales. Once the number of books falls below the recommended quantity, the system will automatically reorder. Certain times of the year, a title like Lord of the Flies will sell beyond the recommended quantity, like for local summer reading programs, or a movie release. The store staff or home office staff will increase their order quantity for seasonal and market fluxes in sales. But they know, with a strong title, they will sell through their stock at some point.

Forecasting sales for new releases is more challenging. If a misjudgment in the forecast occurs, the store can return the overstock of titles back to the publisher after the preliminary release period.

If both bookstores and publishers have improperly forecasted sales for a title, then the publisher may approve of a discount at store level to move the title. Otherwise the publisher would get inundated with returned copies of the book, and then have to sell it to a discount retailer, or mark it down to a bargain title and send it back out.

Still, indie authors wonder what all this has to do with their titles? The main factor in this process is that the books are returnable to the publisher so the bookstore does not have to take a hit on their margin profit by discounting the book. Print on Demand books are not returnable to the distributor or publisher, hence offering higher risk. Once a bookstore puts that book on their shelf, they own it forever. If the book underperforms, the store takes a loss.

There are ways around this for special events such as local book signings, but for the most part, large retailers will not stock Print on Demand books.

This is not necessarily the case for indie bookstores or your local bookstore. Some bookstores will shelve Print on Demand books because local demand is high. Many may also work with the author or publisher on consignment.

Some Print on Demand publishers, like Ingram Sparks, use Ingram for distribution. This means your POD can be ordered through major book retailers’ sites. This does not mean your local Barnes & Noble will shelve your book.

Trust me, as an indie author, this news is disappointing to me too.

However, more and more readers are shopping digitally for their books and offering your title in multiple formats through multiple retailers is good sense for self-promotion.

POV or Head-Hopping in Romance Novels

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I’m from the school with the belief that head-hopping is a weakness in writing. A good writer should achieve character depth and complexity with a single POV. Especially in romance writing, authors are head-hopping more and more. Some authors even write entire novels to demonstrate multiple POVs.

I must admit, my stringent idea about POV has slowly changed. Though, I don’t believe I will ever be a fan of publishing consecutive novels in different POVs.

In my first book, Without End, I head-hopped in the last several chapters. The dastardly short-cut, as I always thought, fit well when the original character couldn’t narrate for herself. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. Readers enjoyed getting inside the head of the male character. Do I think they fell deeper in love with him? No, not necessarily. I do believe my readers built a greater appreciation for his struggles and embraced his drive to let go of the past and surge forward. Maybe some readers felt a stronger bond between the hero and heroine.

One belief I strongly accept, is the fact that book boyfriends are more popular now than they’ve ever been. Authors take immense care choosing muses and models for their covers. Book boyfriends drive sales, and it’s likely, fans love to hear directly from them. So maybe a little head-hopping is good?

My current WIP includes head-hopping. I’m growing as a writer and I need the little-added push to build my characters. Early in the writing process for Without Words, I asked some friends their opinions about multiple POVs. I didn’t receive a negative response from anyone.

Admittedly, BB Bartholomew steps up and gives readers his narrative early on in the book. He makes several appearances. The result? Readers get a firsthand glimpse of his struggles and personal growth. Through the use of head-hopping, we get to see an authentic and raw quality that would have otherwise been lost.

My point? What’s old can become new and vice versa. In the world of writing and publishing, it seems the rules are in constant flux, and readers’ tastes could care less about stuffy rules.  I will continue to open my mind and try new techniques.