RWA Conference

The Romance Writers of America national conference took place this last weekend in Denver, CO. I had no idea what to expect as it would be my first ever conference, but I knew there would be interesting and informational panels, book signings, award ceremonies, and luncheons.

Pitching session slots had all been filled, so I wasn’t worried about that, and I knew I had an amazing, supportive friend at my back for the whole weekend. What I didn’t know was how spellbound I’d be by the whole experience, and the incredible kismet raining down upon me. Seriously, it felt like the universe was making up for a lot of missed chances and poor choices because I’d decided to step up and fight for myself. I wound up making it in to pitch to agents, spoke with established authors, and collected an awesome group of people.

Twice I chatted with Beverly Jenkins. I accidentally dubbed Gail Carriger as Ms. Dapper and made my friend nearly piss herself when she realized we were sitting across the aisle from her at the keynotes luncheon.

Fellow writers remembered me and sought me out. I danced in a hotel lobby and hiked up my pant leg to my thigh in the middle of the crowd to gush over tattoos. I met so many women with purple hair! And it turns out paranormal romance writers are my people. Through and through.

I walked away with new friends, tons of swag, and a dozen manuscript requests. I’ve never been in such a supportive group of people, and the fact that it was 95% women made me want to sing. So many sisters, and no matter the subgenre of romance, we all had each other. I left Denver feeling like I’d started my career, never mind the years of writing I already have under my belt, that was all practice. This was my beginning.

Find your tribe, no matter your work and goals. They matter. They’ll get you there. I’ve always believed in myself, but after the conference, I know it’s just a matter of time until I shine.

PitMad!

This week I’m gearing up to pitch my book in a super short, one to two sentence style elevator pitch on Twitter. The event is called #PitMad (pitch madness) and will happen this Thursday. If you want to see the chaos, hop on Twitter and retweet my pitch anytime Thursday (tagging anyone else who might enjoy it), but don’t like it, as that’s what agents will do to signify a request for the query. I’ll need all the help I can get, so if you don’t follow me search for @McNameeT. If you don’t use Twitter, then you should probably keep it that way. That place is yet another social media black hole, and I’m sucked in deep now.

And yes, I know I said I was taking time off, but we all know I’m a work-a-holic when it comes to book stuff. I might complain, but secretly, I love the pain.

INFJ

Grains of salt are recommended with this post, like as salty as the smoked salmon omelette my friends choked down yesterday.

The 16 personality types (like the Meyers-Briggs test, but free) is a fun way to learn a little about yourself with a little bit of soft psychology. As I’ve warned, some skepticism is recommended because we’re human and often don’t fit in to simplified categories.

I’ve tested as an INFJ since college. Periodically I re-test, because I firmly believe that a person may change as they age and as life events create periods of upheaval.  After my car accident, I stayed stagnant in every portion of my life for seven years. I was dependent on my husband and lost my sense of identity. Then, a year and a half ago, I found EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and after four months I was comfortable driving myself around, being on my own at places like the grocery store, and was finally developing a backbone. It was a massive change and I thought, “perhaps my personality has changed.”

Nope!

I’ve changed what parts of my personality are more lively, more seen, but at my core, I’m still a weird little introvert who lives in a rich world of my thoughts and creativity. Being and INFJ feels like no one understands all the facets of me, like there’s a different me for every situation, but  I’ve been collecting other INFJ’s over time, and they are my favorite people. They skip small-talk and get right to the meat of what it means to be human.

Today I’m thankful for them. They help me feel less isolated in my oddities.

 

 

Nudist Vampires

We are finally in our new (rented) house. One of the joys of moving is finding how other people arrange their homes. The fun little additions and odd quirks that make a place unique are a lot of fun to discover.

Our new place must have been previously lived in by nudist vampires. Let me explain.

The house is set in a new community of cookie cutter homes with strict HOA requirements. (None of which we’re particularly concerned with since we’re only renting.) There is a 6′ fence separating us from the neighbors, but our fence also happens to be completely covered by twelve foot arborvitae shrubs, turning our back yard into a mini oasis. But you wouldn’t want too much sun in rainy Seattle, so there’s also a covered deck, a sun umbrella, roll down bamboo shades, and an additional gazebo over the hot tub (yes, this place has a hot tub—which I’ve never had to mess with before so it could get interesting). I don’t know about you, but to me that just screams hot tub skinny dipping.

Inside is lit with soft lights on dimable switches. Every window has heavy wood blinds that block out almost all the light, but the two largest windows also have electronic sun screens that roll down at the press of a button. Add in that the massive hedges also block out a fair bit of light and we’re looking at a dark, cool cave of a living space. I mean come on. It screams vampire!

I’m just hoping it’s this vampire:

 

Wish us luck as we continue to settle in!

Book Shelf

I almost wrote “book self” and if that doesn’t sum up the reading experience, then nothing will.

My goal this year, and most every year, is to read 100 books. To some people this is an insurmountable mountain of reading. Others, complete this goal monthly.  Alas, I am a slow reader, and so far I’ve yet to win my challenge, but I always read something interesting no matter how close I come to completion.

Yesterday, I binge read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. I woke at four in the morning, unable to sleep, and decided to start a new book. After the first chapter I thought “eh, I’m not hooked, but I’ll give it one more chapter.” Well, somewhere in that second chapter I completely lost myself, never fell back asleep, and continued reading all day. By four that evening I’d finished the book and felt utterly lost—so I put a hold on the sequel. To me, the book is a fantasy twist on an Empire similar to the First Order from Star Wars, only darker. You already know Star Wars is WWII in space, well, welcome to the YA version in fantasy with a sweet romance tied in.

I’m a few chapters into Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, by Paul Krueger, but other than the quaint idea of cocktails acting as magical potions, I’m not particularly intrigued. But, as you may remember, I have quirky tastes in books.

Just before that, I stumbled upon Reflection by Elizabeth Lim, which is a twisted Disney book with the premise of “What if Shang was injured, instead of Mulan?” It was interesting, but more so for the idea that someone could write canonized world books from their favorite fandoms and get paid for it. Life goal? Maaaaybe.

Otherwise my list of books has outgrown all my shelves and all my time. I will die with a list of books to finish, but I’ll keep chipping away one at a time.

 

 

 

Flash Fiction—Coffee Stop

It’s only a cup of coffee. People get coffee every day. I can do this.

First, open the door. I pulled, then read push. Correcting my error, I stepped inside, scoped out a deserted corner, and eyed the display board. Nobody saw my mistake. Probably.

I loosened my scarf, then decided on my order. Tall Americano, with a pump of chocolate, in a grande cup. Easy. Straightening my grey shirt, I checked to make sure my black pants were still clean. They matched my black scarf, and my black shoes. If I stayed still I might blend into the shadows.

Come on, I could do this. The nervous energy coursing through me made my hands shake. I stepped up to the line, mentally rehearsing my order, and kept exactly two feet of distance between myself and the man in front of me. Someone entered the queue too close behind me.  I evened out my personal bubble, and then angled to see both patrons.

“Seriously lady? It’s not that hard to get an order right.” The man behind me nodded at the barista while speaking to me. The woman was training and her manager was correcting a blunder. I tried to ignore him, but people latched on to me like a cat does a visitor who hates cats.

“It’s not like any of us have important things to do, right?” His white teeth were the same shade as his crisp dress shirt. I smiled reluctantly, then dug through my purse and pulled out my credit card, spinning it to the optimal position for the new employee to use.

My turn at the front. I took a deep breath and said, “Tallamericanowithchocolateinagrandecupplease.”

The woman blinked. I blushed. She asked me again and I slowed down until she got it. The credit card fumbled in my shaking hand and dropped through her fingers. We battled apologies until she handed me the card and my receipt. The man behind me seemed to breathe down my neck. I retreated to the safety of the corner and waited for my order. 

He followed me, all predatory grace and cunning smiles. “Mind if I join you?”

“Um…” I hesitated, which he took as an acquiescence. 

“Thanks. I haven’t seen you here before, do you live in the area?”

“Yeah, but uh, where do you work?” My deflection worked. He launched into a tedious explanation about managing a retail center. I bounced on my toes. This was a terrible idea. Why did I come here? Why did people always think I wanted to talk?

“Liza?” a barista called.

I jerked like I’d been struck. “That’s me. Gotta run.”

“Wait, would you like to sit with me?” His words were rushed, but I’d already moved out of reach and conveniently choose not to hear him.

I snagged my coffee, added cream up to the brim, and bolted—pulling the door correctly this time. As I glanced back my inadvertent line buddy waved. He was far less alarming from a distance. Had I made a monster from a mouse? I returned his wave, but retreated to safety, just in case.

The sweet victory in my hand was worth the conversation with a stranger and looking foolish. I took a sip, the swirling creamy coffee and chocolate making my cheeks tingle with glee. 

Maybe I’ll go back once my nerves calm down…  in a month or two. 

 

Change Ahead

Eight months of waiting and BAM! The universe has dumped everything into our lap all in the same week and without any sense of order.

Our things are being delivered. Two jobs are in the running. Houses have been viewed. We have no answers, nothing set in stone, and no way of knowing which way the wind will blow, but I’m ready.

Eight months of trying to be creative in a house where I have no control, no room, and no self. I’ve been existing, but not living. I’m ready to breathe again.

And yes, I know. Boo-hoo, poor baby got to live with her in-laws rent free. Trust me, there was a cost, it just wasn’t money.

Book Club—Born a Crime

Twice now I’ve branched outside my nerdy book world and found some gems. Personally, I think Trevor Noah is still a nerdy choice, I mean he’s the star of The Daily Show!

For his book I nerded out in other ways. I’m facinated by how we separate ourselves from others, how the identifiers we adopt define and distance us from our peers. Noah’s memoir is sprinkled with clever observations on life, race, and of course humor, all while examining the most base of all human drives: where do I belong?

Strangely, I recommend getting this on audio book. It’s great to hear the languages and names spoken by the man himself.


For the full printable version, visit the Nerdy Book Club page!

 

Story Engineering: Review

This is a Ravenclaw’s dream resource for understanding story structure and the elements that create a binge-worthy book. Author Larry Brooks loves his metaphors and sometimes takes a while to make his point, but he does eventually make it. He’s a little obsessive on picking apart The Da Vinci Code and Top Gun.

The book helps identify your writing weaknesses and strengths. I would recommend this to ANY new writer who does not yet understand how the art of novel writing (for genre fiction) begins with a basic foundation. This would also be great for seasoned writers who struggle to create publishable works with regularity.

Story Engineering doesn’t shy away from harsh truths and emphasizes the amount of work necessary to write a manuscript. It doesn’t delve into the “six core competencies” with overwhelming detail, but provides readers with a sense of how to separate other writing craft books into specific skill categories for future reference.

What Black Panther and Wonder Woman Have in Common

Subtext. Though sometimes it’s less subby and more in-your-face text.

First, if you’ve never understood the concept of subtext, lets break it down. It’s defined as the underlying theme of a narrative. Well, great, but don’t you also have to have a regular theme overlying your story? Yup. Which is why subtext is not called theme. Let’s make sure theme is understood, too, so we know the difference.

Theme is what you’re trying to say about some aspect of the human condition. Subtext is the social or cultural forces that play out underneath (acting as a backdrop) to the characters and plot that ramps up the conflict.

According to this article, Black Panther’s theme is about the “good, bad, and ugly side of family.” Underneath is the subtext of racism in America brought to light by Killmonger’s character. Killmonger, because of his past experiences with racism (and that thing with his dad), is driven to face his family. This creates conflict between the characters, which drives the emotional journey for T’Challa .

Black Panther uses both the theme of family and the subtext of race to deliver a powerful and entertaining film.

Then let’s look at Wonder Woman. Feminism. Amiright? Black Panther also embraced a feminist flare, but Wonder Woman ran with it. Set during WWI, Wonder Woman’s sense of confidence, power, and refusal to do as men demand sets her against expectations of the time—many of which still stand today.

But is feminism the theme? No. The theme revolves around how violence and war don’t solve anything. Which would make the underlying gender issues of the time drive the undercurrent of character conflict as Diana tries to find and defeat Aries.

Here’s a quick test. Is Wonder Woman about feminism? No, but it makes quite the commentary on it anyway. Is it about saving mankind from itself? Yes. Is Black Panther about racism? No, but it hits some powerful notes along the way. Is it about accepting all facets of family? Hell yeah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two movies, totally different in their approach and meaning, yet by using juicy subtext, each excels at conflict, motivation, plot, and especially character.

Just shut up and take my money.