Literary Fiction Love

Ah, Literary Fiction. The hallowed pedestal of writing. These are the books you would read in a University English class, as opposed to picking up from the pop-culture section of the shelves. They are Novels full of depth, gravitas and insights on the human experience. Oh and metaphors.

Literary Fiction is all about the new and dizzying heights that evocative writing can bring to the reader. Does this shining beacon of literature have clichés? You bet it does.

Each trope is accompanied by a book recommendation that uses it well, as opposed to falling into the trope trap.

1.Eye color indicates everything you need to know about the character. If they have crystal blue eyes we know they’re pure and innocent and waif-like. Cold blue eyes means they’re the villain or have something to hide. Green or hazel eyes equals quirky, unique fairy. Grey eyes denote the bad guy or someone with a closed off, steely personality. And the brown-eyed character in the story must be practical, earthy, someone you can trust.

If the author mentions something like silver or purple eyes you’ve probably wandered into a thicket of fanfiction.

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Whatever color this is means you’re in Supernatural. Run away while you still have some happiness left.

2. Dysfunctional Family Saga. “Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” says Leo Tolstoy. He wasn’t around to see the genre of Literary Fiction become a thing, or he would have known that every unhappy family will end up in the fiction section.

The parents will have issues. Someone will be an alcoholic. One or more of the kids may be flirting with drugs. The ones that seem to have it together have NOTHING together, not really. No one will have a healthy sexual relationship. Devastating accusations will be thrown that will seems to shatter the family beyond repair. Kooky Aunt Betty will be kooky. Food will be cooked and eaten in tense silence. Basically, everyone is a hot mess.

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Isn’t this cozy

3. Childhood Memories (with bonus body of water). What would literary fiction be without childhood memories? A lot shorter, that’s what it would be.

Unhappy childhood memories abound, and something about water just jerks these people back. Ponds, creeks, rivers, definitely the ocean. All of these characters grew up by water somehow and something life altering and suitable for flashbacks happened there. What about people who grew up in the middle of the desert? No childhood memories for them until they move near some water.

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childhood memories coming to squash her flat

4. Someone Died. That’s the Plot. We know who, because we read the book description, the only question remaining to be answered is what that death will mean for all of the characters in the novel. The main character just lost someone and they will spend the book reflecting on the loss until they have an epiphany when they break a cup or drive by a barking dog or something.

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Literary Fiction life hack. Don’t spread ashes when it’s windy

5. The Title is a Metaphor And 99.9% of the time it will include the words ‘The’ followed by ‘a Novel’.

Anyway, once you have read through ‘The Lake of My Childhood: a Novel’ and taken all of the darts the author throws your way (what with all the deaths and the needle-sharp prose) you close the book and consider the lessons it taught you. And right there on the cover glares that title, the one that seemed vague and incomprehensible but somehow pretty when you bought the book. And it turns out that title was a metaphor. The settings were a simile. The main character’s love of coca-cola was an allegory. Every stinky sock dropped on the floor symbolized something. This is Literary fiction. Everything is a metaphor.

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His toothbrush . . . was a metaphor

6. Adverbs and Adjectives and Alliteration, oh My! This genre is all about the descriptive language remember. Purple prose or perish.  If thrillers are the modern minimalist end of fiction then the gilded, gothic slot is definitely filled by literary fiction.

In the quest for evocative language some of the authors include . . . a tad too much. In this genre, more than any other, you are judged by your writing and it takes some real talent to walk that line between gripping prose and dripping adjectives.

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Authentic depiction of an author, waiting for their novel to show up on Goodreads all covered in judgement

7. Killing Off The Mentor. Is someone in the book the heart and soul of a group? The one who keeps the other characters human when everything around them has gone wrong? Perhaps . . . the dearly loved older mentor? *author rubs hands together in a threatening manner*

Hello, my name is The Author. Prepare for that character to die. At the most emotionally destructive moment, when the author needs to make it clear that they can seduce you into loving a character enough to care whether they live or die, they will be killed off.

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If George R.R. Martin kills Daenerys I’ll burn his beard off.

Reading Challenge 2017

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If you’d like to read up on some Bad Boys yourself, you can sign up here at delightedreader.com.

Some Rules for you:

5 books minimum.
The books have to feature a bad boy hero, pretty much any bad boy goes as long as he’s alpha.
Only romance books, but any sub-genre.
Sign up between Now – November 30, 2017.

Time to update my progress on this challenge. For some (probably deeply buried psychological) reason I love me some bad boy romances. When I get the chance, aka I’m nursing the baby to sleep, I whip out my phone and head for the Kindle app. This challenge has been a great excuse to click “buy” on those books I would save for later before.

The historical romance 2017 challenge introduced me to Lisa Kleypas (yay!) and this challenge has introduced me to Gena Showalter and Kylie Scott. The good news just keeps piling up here. These two ladies are awesome, and I’m so happy I found them.

Time to add to the books read (6). I am well on my way to Level 1, capturing the bad boy and having way too much fun.

Heart of the Dragon-Gena Showalter. Dragon Lord Darius’ story and the one woman who can make him feel again. A redemption story. Heat Level-scorching.

Jewel of Atlantis-Gena Showalter. Secret paranormal agency operative Grey and his lovely Jewel fight off every monster imaginable to win Jewel’s freedom. I had to laugh a few times because they are literally either having sex or thinking about having sex on every page, even when ducking, hiding and fighting off demons. Heat Level-scorching.

The Nymph King. Gena Showalter. Valerian, king of the nymphs, finds out that he’s very much resistible to the one woman he really wants. He sets out to seduce her, and she never had a chance. This one was my favorite, kind of a ‘taming of the shrew’ story. Don’t judge. Heat level-OMG scorching.

Flesh-Kylie Scott. Surviving the zombie apocalypse might take more than one man for Alie. She whines a bit much for my taste, but she did just live through the end of the world. Mènage story, heat level-hot to scorching but interrupted by lots of flesh eaters.

Dirty-Kylie Scott. First in the Dive Bar series, tattooed hunk Vaughn comes home to find a weeping runaway bride in his bathtub. The drama is constant and so well done. I could not stop reading. Could not. I had to find out how they would get out of this mess, and Kylie didn’t disappoint. Heat level-sweet and spicy.

Twist-Kylie Scott. Second installment at the Dive Bar. OK, first of all I have a soft spot for bearded gentle giants so I was already rooting for Joe. Alex doesn’t go for the lumbersexual type and she tells him so. With lots of F-bombs. I loved this tale of looking below the surface. She really does fall for his amazing personality, unlike a lot of other romance books where all it takes is some rippling abs. Lets just say she learns to love the beard. In spite of a left-field insertion of an over-the-top ex girlfriend for Joe to add plot! I still loved this book. Heat level-scorching sweet pepper.

Now I really want to read Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive series, but I kinda want to get them from the library because those 4.99$ kindle charges add up and the series is 4 books long.

There’s probably some sort of librarian code that the erotic books stay hidden in the back under plain brown paper. What is the etiquette here? Do I just march in (with my two small children, grubby jeans and probably-got-washed-sometime-this-week hair, let’s not forget I’m a housewife) and demand to be taken to the mommy porn section? I will figure this mystery out, and report on how it went in my next update.

When am I a Writer?

So, what is the universally accepted definition of a “real” writer?

When can I tell people, “I’m an author” without feeling like I’m stretching the truth so thin you could read quite small print through it?

lies

Published authors who have achieved what I would call a universally accepted definition of “success” have something to say about this question. Let’s take their definition as a correct one, because we can all assume they know what they’re talking about.

Their views on the subject boil down to: If you are writing things down, you are a writer. Full stop. They say nothing about being published, numbers of books sold, money, careers, fans, or personal satisfaction.

If you put down your thoughts using the written word, you are a writer.

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Yay! I’m a writer!

This post by Jerry Jenkins sums it up nicely. Like the others he says you know you’re a writer when you’re writing but in a new twist he adds in the requirement of conscious growth.

” . . . real writers want the feedback. They want to get better, to learn, to grow, to succeed.” (Linked article, 7/20/15). In his definition it’s not enough just to put words down on paper and leave it at that or say, ‘I write some and talk about writing and read about writing and most of all talk about the writing I’m going to do’. You must write and also want to do it well. You must put in the work and feel the drive to improve.

work hard

There’s a lot of truth in that. It’s possible I agree with him because he confirms my own thoughts (and that’s always nice) but I do want to learn and grow and succeed. I want to soak up everything and get my words on the page in a way that will not only suck readers in, it will stick in their minds.

Some of the best times in my life have been sitting in the sunshine slipping into another world through an author’s words. I want to return that favor. I want to seduce readers into caring about the people I create, to trap them in a web of how things could be, not how they are in real life. In, you know, a good way. Not a creepy way.

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I genuinely want to hear about what I’m doing wrong so that I can start doing it right. Someday I want my books to mean as much to a reader as my favorite authors have meant to me. A little immodest, I admit, but that’s my goal.

Although it differs from the “if you write you’re a writer” definition it’s still my own personal definition. The goal post that I have marked out for myself. On the day I hear from a reader that they couldn’t put the book down, I will know that I’m a “real” writer. And I hope I will always feel the need to take the criticism and use it to get better.

Photo courtesy: stocksnap.io by Bonnie Kittle

15 Gorgeous Literary Tattoos

Books touch people in very personal ways, and the tattoos they get to memorialize that are as different as each person wearing one. I’m still deciding which piece of my favorite books I would like decorating my skin forever, but while I look for inspiration I can share the bounty! Just because it’s spring and I’m in the mood for another tattoo.

*I have tried hard to track down credit for each and every photo, but if there are any errors in my credits please let me know and I will fix it and/or delete the photo if needed. I really want the artists to get their due here!*

  1. I love Quentin Blake’s illustrations but I never would have guessed Matilda would make such an awesome tattoo!

sailorsfighting_instagram 

credit: sailorsfighting/instagram

 

2. My favorite place, the Discworld, done with some stunning details. Look at that shading!

tuomaskoivurinne deviantart.com 

Credit: tuomaskoivurinne deviantart.com

 

3. There are hundreds of deathly hallows tats out there but this Harry Potter tattoo is unique, and gorgeous.

redheadedstepkitten_instagram 

credit: redheadedstepkitten_instagram

 

4. Wow. Portraits are hard enough, but the placement, the background details, the quote hidden behind Mr. Darcy (who looks like his Matthew McFayden portrayal right? Or is that just me?) plus the sketch appearance of the portraits . . . I’m in awe.

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credit: _ankimichler_instagram

 

5. Not my cup of tea, but I have to respect the artist and it’s a quirky take on immortalizing Dr. Seuss.

recordedbooks_instagram 

credit: recordedbooks_instagram

 

6. Pretty cool tribute to one of my all time favorite books. Using the old illustrations is an interesting choice, but I like it. All hail the King!

Nikki fullcircletattoos artist terri 

credit: Nikki fullcircletattoos/instagram. Tattoo Artist:Terri

 

7. Oh I want. So much. It’s delicate, imaginative, colorful. Plus I love the new watercolor style. This artist, Luiza Oliveira, is pretty amazing.

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credit: Luiza Oliveira on Instagram luiza.blackbird@gmail_files

 

8. More watercolor. This one’s a little more abstract and I love the book details.

Leitor Nervoso 

credit: Leitor Nervoso/instagram

 

 

9. Something about the geometric design and colors catches my eye.

Justice Ink 

credit: Justice Ink/instagram

 

10. I love it. It’s fun, well done with the shading and lines, just a neat little book lover’s tattoo.

Gea Masi 

credit: Gea Masi/instagram

 

11. There are so many quotes as tattoos out there. SO MANY. The two most common I saw were lines from Sylvia Plath (I Am I Am) and Kurt Vonnegut (“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” and “So it goes”), but quotes made up probably 80% of the literary tattoos I found. I liked this one because there were no others from Dune and the Bene Gesserit litany.

tumblr nerdy tattoos 

credit: nerdy-tattoos tumblr

 

12. There’s an entire tumblr (NSFW) devoted to Stephen King inspired tattoos and I thought about including this huge backpiece of all his book villains, but the Pennywise was so well done it was a trigger risk. So I went with this pretty rendering of the KA from Gunslinger.

fuckyeahstephenkingtattoos_tumblr 

credit: fuckyeahstephenkingtattoos_tumblr

 

13. Any illustration from J.R. Tolkein is fantastic, but this map sleeve of his world is just awesome. I love the contrast of the red Smaug on top.

dwam_turbozerosalon_nantesFrance 

credit: dwam_turbozerosalon_nantesFrance

 

14. Pauline Baynes’ illustrations and The Chronicles of Narnia are my favorite. Once I’ve settled on the one I want, my own tribute to C.S. Lewis will be going up on the nerdy tattoos tumblr. This one is nicely done.

bit.ly_1MYIPamlucky7tattoo_instagram by @weirdxbeard S Lake Tahoe CA 

credit: lucky7tattoo_instagram by @weirdxbeard S. Lake Tahoe CA

 

15. I’ll end with my favorite quote from one of the best parts of my favorite C.S. Lewis.

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credit: alaskanamazon/instagram

 

Turns out there is an entire website dedicated to book inspired tattoos: The Original Literary Tattoo Blog. Looks like it’s inactive as of 2014, but they left the archives up and it’s worth a look if you’d like.

 

WIP According to Terry Pratchett

The process behind writing a novel, as told through the genius of Sir Terry Pratchett and his quotable sayings.

Step one is to remember:

The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.” -The Truth

OK Sir Terry. I will keep my pen sharp, my prose sharper. Let’s do this!

Step two: Receive idea from Universe. Translate idea into story. Insert plot. This isn’t plotty enough. Add conflict. Stir. I’m only about halfway done. Any thoughts on the correct attitude for a writer Terry?

“There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: This glass is half full. And then there are those who say: This glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What’s up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don’t think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass! Who’s been pinching my beer?”

Step three: I’m not sure I can do this. There’s so much more to it than I ever imagined, and it only gets harder, instead of easier. This seems impossible sometimes.

“It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done. A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle of history” -Equal Rites

Step four: Stay ignorant of the possibility of failure and just keep writing. Hang a shrine to Dory above my writing space and just keep trying. I’m doing this. It’s flowing! Look at all these neat descriptions!!

“Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind.”-Eric

Step five: Right, right, sorry. I’ll tone it down.

“Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”-Hogfather

Step six: That puts a lot of responsibility on my shoulders Terry. This manuscript might be more rising ape than anything angelic. But I’m doing this. Critiqued and edited, polished, fixed, shined and fixed again. Is this hard work worth it?

“If you trust in yourself . . . and believe in your dreams . . . and follow your star . . . you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy”-The Wee Free Men

Step seven: It’s done. It will be published and people may like it. Fragments of my soul will rest in their hands while I trust that they will treat them well. And give me money for them, which seems to be a fair exchange. It could even be a success!

Any parting thoughts Sir Terry?

“Always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading, People like a show.”-Going Postal

Both succinct, and cruel. Nice.

On a related note, Terry Pratchett is awesome and you should read his books. Start here. Someday soon I’ll put a reading list of my favorite Pratchett books on here too.

 

 

WIP Stands for What Ideal Plot?

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April 5 Question for IWSG: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

 

Since I have nothing to market I opted to skip the question this month and go with full-on insecurity. So lets talk about my writing process, which looks something like this:

  1. An idea ricochets off of my none-too-stable mind, embeds itself and starts demanding to know, what if? The stupid thing won’t leave me alone, bugging me with scenes (these usually play out like a movie, always useful when waiting in a boring line) snatches of dialogue, tantalizing hints of story arc.
  2. If it bothers me enough, I start writing it down to make it go away. It’s like an exorcism. Trying to pin it down into some recognizable form, bleeding black onto the white paper and trapped there so it will leave me alone. I research a little, and then a lot. Outline a little, and then a lot. Figure out a tentative ending. The outline I favor breaks the story down into four Acts, small rise-and-fall action in each act building up to the huge rise of the climax and the gentle decent of the epilogue.
  3. By far the hardest step, turning the outline into a 60,000+ word story. Just finding enough time to sit down every day and crank out a thousand words is a constant challenge.
  4.  After the Sisyphean task of getting all of the words down the beta reading and critiques seem merely Herculean by comparison. Letting go of the ego to take the suggestions as they come requires some doing, sure, but I do it.
  5. A published book. (This part is merely theoretical so far.) From what I hear, I have several new numbered lists of ways publishing is so much harder than I thought to look forward to writing. Oh goody.

I am a neophyte at this process. It shows in my writing, and I know it. Finding new, exciting, evocative and fresh ways to convey the emotion my characters are feeling is so damn difficult. My second draft is mostly a round of me fixing my crap descriptions and clichéd phrases, diving so deep into the world of a Thesaurus I should be breathing synonyms.

It’s unbelievably frustrating. The idea, the movie scenes in my head are so clear. Sparkling, even. Detailed like you wouldn’t believe. But when I try to write them down . . . nope. It goes a lot like this:

Main character: “I can haz love? You smell great and I loves your pretty face.”

Love interest: “Yes. But not right now, cuz I is mad at you for reasons. You must waits a hundred more pages.”

Kissy smoochy loves ensue. Possible boners ahead. Use caution.

The end.

I might be exaggerating a tad. But that’s how it seems to me. Beautiful ideas circle my head refusing to land on the page in my clumsy writing. It’s like getting a lasso around butterflies. And my muse, nasty minx that she is, just dances around with them banging random ideas down on me and laughing. It’s not a nice laugh.

I hold on to the hope that one day after lots of writing and squeezing out words and editing and writing some more the emotion will flow more easily from me and onto the page. Practice has to make me better.

Writers in the know, please reassure me. Lie.

10 Brutally Honest Dinner Ideas to Fit Any Crappy Mood

What’s for dinner today? No other sentence I think to myself can be so frustrating, or leave me so blank.

Planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, eating and then cleaning it all up to start again. The repetition can wear you down.

On a good day some Googled lists and my old favorites are enough to get me through. Some days though, the thoughts that run through my head about cooking dinner are . . . less cutesy than the lists. To be blunt, my internal thoughts include a lot more F-bombs.

If you’ve ever had these thoughts before it’s time to open the fridge door (again) and try to will the food to cook itself, these links are for you. For each type of mood that accompanies meal-planning I’ve written down ideas and a link to some recipes to get the inspiration flowing and make that part of dinner, at least, a bit easier.

1. “Oh crap I got so busy this afternoon I forgot to cook”

Soup is your savior. Seriously, you can just toss everything and anything left over into a pot with chicken or vegetable broth, add any kind of side, and pretend you meant to make soup all the time. Twenty five to thirty minutes later the dinner you totally had planned all day, no really I meant to make this is done.

Try: Salsa Verde Chicken Soup via Root & Revel, Tortellini Soup via Real Housemoms, or this slideshow of 8 Super Simple Soups from Cooking Light.

2. “We literally need some veggies tonight or we will all get scurvy”

I feel you. Keeping constant fresh veggies on hand is enough of a struggle without adding in how to cook them in a tasty way or, worst-case, hiding them inside something else to trick your broccoli-are-death screaming offspring.

Try Pasta Primavera via Giadia de Laurentiis and Food Network. Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles via Budget Bytes (with a delicious homemade sauce that takes three ingredients.) Or 14 Veggie-Rich Recipes from Better Homes and Gardens. *Side-note, yes I know scurvy isn’t caused by lack of veggies.

3. “I am NOT IN THE FUCKING MOOD!”

Breakfast for dinner. It’s quick and hardly anyone will complain about it because everyone loves breakfast.

Always a good standby-egg and meat sandwiches, like Daniel Seidman lists on Delish.com. Maybe good old pancakes like these ones  via Incredible Egg.org. Or try 18 Healthy and Hearty Breakfast Ideas by Mara Betsch via Prevention.

4. “Seriously, I just fed you guys yesterday”

I think the endless repetition of prep-cook-clean is actually worse than the cooking itself. It’s like shoveling while it’s still snowing, while snowmen stand around the driveway asking, “What’s for dinner? What is that? I don’t like that.” Go away, snowmen. I fed your little snow bellies yesterday.

Leftovers are your friend in this mood. Rachel Ray, experienced mom that she is, has recipes she specifically made to be re-used as leftovers. Like her Turkey Bolognese (via Rachel Ray.com) that turns into Turkey Tomato Soup or Turkey Chili, all from one recipe. Or how about 22 Leftover Ham recipes from Taste of Home.com?

5. “I don’t even want to look at the stove, it’s like 1,000 degrees outside”

The one sure step to a spotless kitchen is never to cook anything in it. That tends to be impractical. But you can’t stand the thought of washing all those dirty pots, so what can you cook with the minimum of mess and without using the stove?

In this case, bust out the crock pot meals. These little pots are a gift from heaven. Maybe Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Potatoes via Damndelicious.net. Or just throw some sliced onions on the bottom, salt, pepper and boneless skinless chicken breasts (one per person, at least) on top, cook on low 8 hours or high 4 hours for some delicious baked chicken. If you don’t have one/ are not into crock pots, try 14 Easy Wraps from Betty Crocker.

6. “We will be everywhere BUT at home today”

Late meetings, events, the kids have after school games or practice, and the temptation is strong to stop by a drive-through on the way home so you all can eat at least a few minutes before it’s time to brush teeth.

If you know it will be a late night in advance, crock pot meals are your friend again. Throw in ingredients in the morning, come home at night to a meal. Try Crock Pot Ground Beef Stew via Food.com. Or Pork Carnitas via Recipetineats.com. For a whole honkin’ list of ideas try 29 Healthy Slow Cooker recipes from the folks at Delish.com

7. “I’m not hauling 3+ kids around the store alone, so we have no groceries”

The desperate whining for foods that will never actually pass their lips. The soul-shredding, migraine-inducing gauntlet that is the seasonal aisle (why are there toys for St. Patrick’s Day?! Surely a holiday for alcoholism doesn’t need to be marketed to minors?) It’s not hard to talk yourself out of a trip if it means you have to take the kids, but the end result is that you save your sanity and lose the groceries you may need for dinner.

To the rescue comes-Chili. If you’ve got some frozen ground meat and cans in the pantry you’ve got chili. No frozen meat? You’ve got vegetarian chili. Try Clean Out the Pantry Chili from Stephanie O’Dea. Boil up some chicken and whatever grains or noodles you have in a box in the pantry. Or try 10 Quick Recipes from the Pantry via Cooking Light.

8. “If I see another dirty dish, I’ll break it”

I don’t belong to the camp that insists you have to wash measuring cups after measuring plain water in them, and still I end up with more dirty prep dishes than can possibly be healthy for my sanity. Why does cooking take so many bowls?

One pot meals. Like One Pot Penne via Add a Pinch.com, One Pot Mac and Cheese from Jennifer at Show Me the Yummy.com, or 22 Easy One Pot Meals from Beth at Budget Bytes. (Beth is amazing. If you only click on one link from this whole thing, let it be hers because Budget Bytes is fantastic.)

9. “You can eat this or STARVE.”

There are days when I held it together all through the morning drop-off chaos. All through many diverse daytime challenges. All afternoon during pick-up, homework and whine time. And then, with a lovingly prepared dinner presented on our cheap plastic Disney princess plates (my husband likes the Jasmine one, don’t believe what he tells you) my beautiful children refuse to eat. Because a fleck of green herb has touched their protein. And all my shit is now lost.

It’s taco time. Picky eaters can add as much or as little as they like to tacos. Maybe Chicken Tacos from Jessica Merchant and How Sweet It Is.com or Easy Beef Tacos from Betty Crocker. If all else fails, 29 Terrific Taco Recipes from The Latin Kitchen.com-there has to be at least one your finicky eater will like.

10. “When I asked what you wanted for dinner you said food. So that’s what you’re getting”

Ha. You are allowed to want to feed them nothing but wilted lettuce if they answer your plea for inspiration with “food”.

If you’re a better person than I am, you can try this list of 50 All-Time Best Dinner Recipes from Food.com or show them this post. Just open it up and tell your helpful dinner planner to close their eyes and point.

And then they can make it themselves, since you are 100% over cooking dinner for tonight.

This post is also part of a fun, food Friday link-up where you can find plenty of amazing recipes, at Kriskamarie.com.

main photo credit: stocksnap.io by Jessica Ruscello

Romance Writers of America: Pros and Cons

Don’t run away! I see you backing away slowly. We’ve gone through the cons together, now it’s time for the pros. And there are a lot. There are enough, I think, to justify spending that initial 99$ plus fee to join RWA.

All opinions are just that, my personal thoughts, and should not be taken as a sales pitch to join RWA. I’ve discovered the ups and downs of the process and I’d like to share them with you so you can inform your own decision before you shell out your money. That’s all.

So lets jump in with the benefits of membership. If you missed part 1 of this series, you can find it here to read all about the downsides of joining RWA.

1. The fee for joining RWA comes with a lot of supports that you can’t find on your own.

Once you have spent that $$ to become a member, you are part of their online community and that means you get goodies that the average Joe clicking around their website does not.

You get a monthly newsletter, with lots of helpful articles and information. Resources, information, mentoring, networking, it’s all there for you as a member.

In one place online you can find all of the classes offered, lists of vetted publishers and agents for romance, a Writer’s Toolkit with explanations of all the picky little contract legal details you might run into, information about all of the chapters you can join (there are online only chapters too, in case you are not located in a big city and can’t make it to physical chapter meetings), help paying your RWA membership dues, chapter contests, conventions, meetings and any other way to connect you with fellow authors you can think of.

group hug

You will find links to articles or classes on writing, marketing, selling, market trends, querying and self-publishing (these can be free articles, or classes that cost $).

Best of all, from my point of view, every member who joins can list themselves on the site as volunteer critique partners and most of them do. It’s an entire library of people you can contact and ask to become your beta reader, and it doesn’t cost additional money beyond joining RWA in the first place.

I’ve had nothing but good experiences from reaching out to ask for readers. They have all answered my pleading email within a week, politely said yes or no, and then proceeded to be incredibly helpful. And kind. Did I mention kind? No one stomps on your dreams here. Add that to your local chapter of RWA-another group of resources just sitting there waiting for you to show up to meetings, and the amount of help you’re getting to write your book is amazing.

2. Spending the initial money to join RWA is the one and only part of the process that there’s no way around if you want all the perks that go with it.

After that you can make your own choices about what to pay money for. Don’t want to take their classes? No problem. Would rather not spend on entering RWA chapter contests? OK.

To put my two cents in, I look at it as an investment. There’s no way I could find so many great beta readers alone, for example. How much does a creative writing class cost from your local community college or an online writer’s website? The RWA classes might be cheaper. It’s definitely cheaper than spending upwards of 10 cents a word for a professional editing service. I like the rigorous critique available from the RWA chapter contests, and I’ve entered four different ones (still cheaper than a freelance editor). But if you don’t see the need for spending 25$ a contest, you don’t have to.

3. RWA is all about supporting the romance.

As I said before, if you’re a horror writer looking for career advice RWA is probably not for you. But if you write romance, there is no better place for you than this association that boasts over 10,000 active members. It’s kind of refreshing to find a big group of other people who recognize the difficulty of finding synonyms for ‘moist’ that haven’t been used to death, and don’t mind yet another conversation about it. Hazard of the genre.

If you’re looking for a similar community for your own genre, may I suggest this comprehensive list of writer’s associations from Writers and Editors.com.

To summarize two fairly long posts:

If you feel the need at this point in your writing career to find a large community of fellow authors to support, inform, and advocate for you, RWA is worth it. The membership fee can be seen as an investment and being a member helps to make you look serious about your professional career. The help is there, if you reach out for it.

If you are doing great on your own, self-publishing or querying like a boss and building a platform of support out of groups you’ve found already, you don’t have to add RWA in just because you feel like it’s expected. Think carefully about the pros and cons I’ve outlined and then do some more research on other websites before you decide.

Photo courtesy: Stocksnap.io by Bonnie Kittle

Countess Here I Come

 
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challenge link up

Current status: Yay for reading challenges.

Poking around looking for recommendations and reading other book blogs is fun anyway, and in the process I found yet another new-to-me author that I love. Not just love, but LOVE. So happy I discovered Eva Ibbotson’s historical romances!

I knew about Ibbotson’s fantastic children’s series (Which Witch? has been a personal favorite for years) and I love her super British dry humor. Her children’s fantasy is like Roald Dahl in inventiveness, Diana Wynne Jones in humor, and unique to her in the sweetness of the stories. I was so excited when I found out she’d written romance!

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Book Review for the Create With Joy Blog Hop

I started with A Countess Below Stairs and loved it. It’s sweet, full of cool cultural and historical details and her trademark sense of humor. World War I is seamlessly woven into the story and you learn more about it from how if affects the different characters than from any kind of recitation of facts.

What other romance has a curtsy used as a weapon? Her descriptions are different too. She describes things in a way I haven’t read, like “duckling fluff hair” that sounds odd at first and then when I picture it makes perfect sense. She drops in little bits of French or Russian without explanation and trusts you to understand it from context, which is nice. I always love her dialogue and characterizations and this book was no exception.

The downsides: Ibbotson’s books are formulaic. In my case, I don’t care because she tells a story so well, but I know some people object to tropes. They are also incredibly old fashioned. TONS of adverbs, commas like you wouldn’t believe, old fashioned sayings and cultural norms from the 1900s that are jarring to us in 2017. For me it’s a reason to love the books, because I love weird old writing like Hodgson-Burnett or Dickens and enjoy being taken back to a different world in time. Because it’s an old-fashioned book it moves slowly and doesn’t contain a ton of what modern readers would understand as conflict, which some reviewers objected to.

So, working my way towards my 16 books and Countess status. I’ve got another two Ibbotson books headed my way to start reading, and i’m sure I’ll have another author in the mix by the next update.

Books Read:

  1. It Happened One Autumn-Kleypas
  2. Devil in Winter-Kleypas
  3. Devil Takes a Bride-Galen Foley
  4. A Countess Below Stairs-Ibbotson

Photo courtesy: stocksnap.io by Rachel Walker

Chapter One in the Quest to Publish

Lets be brutally honest. Have I read all the Writer’s Digest articles and endless guest Editor/Agent blog posts about editing, revising, re-editing, getting beta critiques, editing again, and just for a change, editing once more BEFORE you start sending out your fragile-winged query letters on breaths of hope for Agents to shoot down one by one?

Yes. Yes I have.

Did I follow that sage and undoubtedly accurate advice?

Nope. Sure didn’t.

In my defense, the high of finishing that LAST SENTENCE, of seeing in my mind’s eye the words “The End” followed by a big, fat, period . . . well that high can lead to silly things. Such as, to use a random example, sending out several query letters while AT THE SAME TIME frantically editing, revising, and making changes to my first finished manuscript. Sure I edited myself and had one beta reader look it over, but it now seems so incredibly badly written that I wonder why I had the gall to send out any queries at all.

In this I’m pretty sure I’m following the well trod footpath of aspiring authors everywhere. I will guarantee you that 181 years ago Charles Dickens finished the last sentence of The Pickwick Papers, hollered and danced around a bit (not that I did that, of course) and immediately  ran down the street to hand it to a publishing house in London. Without revising it. And then was smacked over the head with the bundle of papers by an exasperated Editor who had to fix all of his newbie mistakes.

By now, rushing off to query before you’re 1,000% ready and then realizing that this was a poor decision is practically a tradition, and I’m proud to continue it. As well as continuing the tradition wherein agents recognize you’re a desperate newbie and your manuscript is not worth publishing right now and send you rejection after ‘not for me’ after rejection.

As is also traditional I have now realized that I am NOT the exception to this rule, I have done what every author is warned not to do and does anyway. As promised, it has been met with only rejections. I can’t explain my thought process any more than to say that hope is the strongest fragile thing in the universe.

So, if any authors who have just finished their first manuscript are reading this I’m telling you; don’t send out the query letters. Physically restrain your fingers from reaching for the keyboard to hit send. Edit. Revise. Get a couple more beta reads in. Edit again. Start your second manuscript, put the first one in a drawer and bury that drawer in soft peat. Just don’t query yet.

But when you do query anyway, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. We’ve all done it too.

 

photo courtesy: stocksnap.io by Sergei Soloviev