The Mystery Blogger Award

I was surprised and excited to be nominated for The Mystery Blogger Award! What an honor. Thank you to  Tamara Rokicki for nominating my blog.

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto Enigma. According to the creator “this award is for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.”

Mystery Blog Award

I was asked to share 3 things about myself. I hate when I’m asked to do that, lol.

A – I always say I’m a late bloomer because I seem to do everything much later than everyone else. I became a teacher late in life, a writer even later, and who knows if I will finally learn how to ride a bike in my golden years. Now you know why I picked the name of this blog.

B – I speak, read, and write in five languages in various degrees of fluency. In order of the most fluent to the least (mostly for lack of use throughout the years): Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, and German.

C – My first degree is in foreign languages and tourism and I started my adult life as a tour guide in my native Portugal. Challenging for an introvert like me, but I loved it.

Tamara

Tamara Rokicki

Now for Tamara’s questions.

 1. At what age did you realize you were a creative person?

Hard to say. I was dancing by the time I was three and writing by ten. I don’t thing I “realized” it as much as I was shocked to find out that not everyone was like me, lol.

2. What is the strangest food combination you’ve ever eaten?

When I first moved to the US I thought peanut butter and chocolate was a weird combination but I learned to love it. I would have to say it was the crunchy big butt ant I ate a few years ago as a dare (Colombian delicacy). It was not bad.

3. What is your favorite book genre?

Hard to say. I love paranormal, fantasy, realistic fiction, chicklit…but it has to have some kind of romance in it. I read YA, adult and sometimes even middle grade and children’s picture books. I just love a great story with awesome characters.

4. Who is your most memorable school teacher?

Her name was Gravata (which translated into Tie in English) and she was one of my highschool Portuguese teachers. She was very strict, hardly ever smiled, but somehow managed to make me love Portuguese lit. She also was amazingly cool under pressure as she proved it by staying super calm during an earthquake during class.

5. What is the one piece of technology you absolutely hate?

I don’t think I hate any technology. In fact I love it and always seem to have an easy time learning new gadgets. We live in an amazing time when our lives are simplified by all kinds of tools straight from an old episode of Star Trek. It’s more hating the way some people use the technology.

Okoto

Okoto Enigma

And now for some nominations and questions:

  1. Ailish Sinclair
  2. Books, Vertigo, and Tea
  3. Selma P. Verde
  4. Raine Balkera
  5. PerfectlyTolerable
  6. Unwrapping Romance
  7. Voinks
  8. Love Books Group
  9. Paula Harmon
  10. Austen Prose

Questions:

1.What made you start a blog?

2. Where would you travel to if money was not an issue? Why?

3. What is your biggest fear?

4. If someone was writing your biography what would be its title?

5. What is one thing you’ve never done but would love to to do?

My Best Posts (or those I liked the best, lol):

Romance Is Dead

The Angel

The Life and Tribulations of a Pantser

An Introvert in the Crowd

 

Again, than you Tamara for nominating me. Ciao!

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WHAT’S WITH ROMANCE THESE DAYS?

The great romance author, Mary Balogh was kind enough to allow me to reblog this great post from her website. Enjoy 🙂

My blog may be a bit controversial this week, but I will be interested to hear what you have to say.

I don’t read much romance. Yes, I know! There are two main reasons: (a) Reading romance is too much like what I do for a living each day. I prefer to relax with a mystery or mainstream read. (b) I don’t want to be influenced by what I read into following any trends or–worse–unconsciously plagiarizing. I prefer to follow my own vision. I have nothing against romance as a genre (obviously!) and I do actually read some. If an author is tried and true, I will read her books. If I read a review that catches my attention, I may try the book. And if I am asked to read a book with a view to recommending it, I will do it. And let me stress that I am more often than not happy with what I read and eager to come back for more from that particular author. BUT…

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Oh, there is a but, and it has little to do with the picture above, which I actually love and find very romantic. All too often these days I am finding that romances are filled cover-to-cover with sexual tension and sexual innuendo and sex, sex, sex. It is as if too many writers have been to too many workshops where they have heard how important these elements are to a romance and how to achieve the desired effect. I am finding characters who are literally panting for each other every time they set eyes upon each other–and even sometimes when they don’t. I find heroes getting erections all over the place and heroines  having the feminine equivalent. I find authors who use every excuse they can think of to get their characters in bed with each other, and even when this can’t be done, then said characters are imagining having sex–in excruciating, graphic detail. And this applies even to historicals, even to Regency heroes and heroines. These characters are totally sex-mad. They are addicted to sex. They need to be in rehabilitation! And I am not even exaggerating too, too much. Is it just me? Have I just happened to hit upon the few books like this that are out there? Or is this the trend now in romance? And I won’t even get into cover art, for which the authors are not always or even often responsible.

Is this what readers want? Is this what authors are being urged to write? What is it with authors of romance these days? (Not all, I repeat!). Romance novels, very generally speaking, should have the three components of sex, romance, and love. Sex is very much a part of a romantic relationship and certainly has its place in a love story. But what about the sheer romance that can make a novel utterly magical? And incidentally it is the romance of a relationship that has given its name to the whole genre. What is romantic about two characters who have the unrelenting hots for each other, even when they scarcely know each other or are caught in a dangerous, potentially life-threatening situation? And what about love? Is the assumption being made that when two characters have had a certain amount of sex with each other and perfected the art of giving and receiving orgasms ad infinitum they therefore love each other and will live happily ever after? What about the gradual building of a real love relationship, moving through romance and sex to something steady and wonderful and likely to last for an eternity?

Give me a wondrously romantic love story any day of the week, even if the most daring foray it makes into sex is a kiss the hero feathers over the heroine’s fingertips (Georgette Heyer’s Frederika) rather than the endless sex romps that sometimes (or maybe often?) intrude into the genre. Right, your turn. What do you have to say? And do feel free to really disagree with me!

www.facebook.com/AuthorMaryBalogh

http://www.marybalogh.com

Challenge (Are You Game?)

A teacher friend of mine, the very talented Katlyn, wrote this wonderful flash fiction piece as a response to a picture prompt. As soon as I heard her read it I knew I had to post it here. So very appropriate for a romance writer’s blog. But let’s turn it into a challenge of sorts. Read her wonderful, spicy story and finish it. No longer than one thousand words and keep it clean(ish). You can post it in the comment section or link it to your own blog. Your choice.

The picture prompt was Norman Rockwell’s “At  the Breakfast Table” . Thank you Katlyn  for allowing me to share it. Enjoy (I know I did).

Breakfast by Rockwell

The restaurant was more crowded than he would have hoped. “Drat,” he mumbled as he waited, cursing his decision to meet here. He knew she would be looking for a man with a hat and a copy of yesterday’s edition of The Post, but he guessed she would not expect him to be fully hidden by it. Oh well, desperate times and all.

He attempted to read, but was too distracted by the bustle of the cafe and his anticipation of what was to come.

Soon he felt a presence, and was torn between remaining fully camouflaged by the paper and sneaking a glance around it. He opted for the safe alternative- a glance downward.

He noticed  the billowing of a floral dress, a pair of black stiletto heels approaching him at a somewhat alarming rate. The chair across from him moved and then settled. Her leg tapped his underneath the table. He blushed.

He could feel her leaning in. She whispered  through the still expanded paper, “Having second thoughts?”

He tried to stop his hands from trembling. Discretion was his first priority, and a shaking newspaper was far from silent. “Only about the location,” he whispered back. His necktie felt suddenly tighter. He loosened it. Then, with a sudden bout of bravado, he breathed, “Where can we go?”

Fourth of July Giggles (or Chuckles)

A fellow writer posted a seriously amusing short piece on the NaNoWriMo facebook page and I just thought it was too good not to be shared. So with his kind permission, here it is (I gave it a title because I’m a little OCD about that–I hope  you don’t mind):

A Fourth Re-Enactment

by Joseph Kennedy

Boston_Tea_Party_w

“Kids, it’s July 4th. You know what to do.”

“Fill the bathtub, and dump the tea in there.”

“Yep. Let’s get on with it.”

“Dad, you know mom gets pissed when we do this.”

“Recognizing our heritage is important. I’ll make it up to her.”

“The tea party took place in December. How about we leave her the ginseng?”

“All the tea.”

“It’s from Korea!”

“Okay. But then we’re adding the English muffins. Run down to the kitchen and get them.”

“Mom’s in the Kitchen with your six pack of Samuel Smith’s, a bottle opener, and standing next to the sink. She said it’s your move.”

“Damn. Okay kids. The Tea party is off.”

“Dad, the founding fathers wouldn’t have given in so easily.”

“Sam Adams had his own brewery.”

The Politics of Writing Diversity

-Fellow Limitless Publishing author Elizabeth Roderick wrote this great article about writing diversity. Thank you for sharing Elizabeth. Enjoy and comment below.-

The Politics of Writing Diversity

by Elizabeth Roderick

* Note to readers: I use the term “neurodiverse” in this piece. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it refers to people generally called “mentally ill”. I prefer “neurodiverse” for reasons I will explain in the article. Thank you for reading.*

Writing is a complex art. Words can be interpreted in so many different ways, depending on the background, culture, and experiences of the person interpreting them. We have to be aware of this, especially when we touch on emotional subjects such as diversity. However, if we have political concerns in the forefront of our minds—if we are walking on eggshells trying not to offend anyone—we run the risk of self-censoring, of watering down our characters and stories so that they lose their vibrancy and impact. They become soulless sermons that exist only to convey a moralizing message, and lose the beauty of art. I am going to explore how to find a balance when writing diversity.

I’ll start out by telling you about myself. My name is Elizabeth Roderick. I’m the author of many diverse books, and am myself a diverse person. I have a novel published, a racially-diverse LGBT romantic thriller titled Love or Money. I also have a series contracted, The Other Place Series, which is about a young woman trying to kick heroin and get her life together, and a young schizophrenic man attempting to make it as an artist. The first two installments of that series are set to release on May 31, 2016 and July 5, 2016.

My personal diversity is neurodiversity. I’m very high-functioning, but I have suffered from bouts of psychosis since I was a teenager, and have had a series of doctors and psychiatrists diagnose me with every letter in the alphabet.

So, now that you have some idea where I’m coming from and what my “expertise” is, let’s get to the subject at hand.

I recently had a blog reader take issue with my article on Writing Complex and “Mentally Ill” Characters. https://elizabethroderick.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/writing-complex-and-mentally-ill-characters/  He is a disability advocate, and had a problem with some of the terminology I used and concepts I presented. It was his first time reading one of my blog posts, and so he lacked context: he didn’t know I was speaking as an insider (which is my bad: I’d gotten so tired of talking about my psychosis etc. in other blog posts, that it seemed like tedious overkill to mention it again).

Furthermore, the reader, as a person with a physical disability, was sensitive to things potentially harmful to disabled people and their cause of equality. I can relate. You can get tetchy about that sort of thing when you’re constantly dealing with the fact society is set up to exclude people like you, and will discriminate and even physically harm you just because of who you are.

I am happy to say that this man and I worked it out, and we ended up Twitter friends. But it made me examine the language we use in speaking about diversity, because of how tricky it can become. In fact, this man, in taking me to task for my language, used language in referring to neurodiverse people that insulted me. The irony made me laugh out loud at the time—which I was glad about, because I needed a laugh.

He insulted me by referring to neurodiverse people as “disabled” and “mentally ill”. I understand that these terms are valid ones in their way, and I will use them on occasion. For instance, I’ll use “disabled” when pulling the ADA card, when the police or business owners harass or otherwise discriminate against my best friend, who is schizophrenic (people who don’t know him often get nervous and think he’s dangerous and/or on drugs. He’s not). In these cases, I’ll bring up the Americans with Disabilities Act and remind them my friend is part of a protected class of people, and they could be liable to penalties and other action if they discriminate against him.

Despite occasionally making good use of the term, however, neither I nor my friend (or any of my other neurodiverse friends and family) are mentally disabled, in my opinion. We definitely have our struggles, but I feel the disability is more society’s than ours, because we’re both incredibly productive in the right environment. (For a further exploration of this difficult topic, you can read my piece  On Madness and the Nature of Reality). https://elizabethroderick.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/on-madness-and-the-nature-of-reality/

At any rate, if you call either one of us disabled, we will take offense.

I also use “mentally ill” on occasion, because most people don’t know what “neurodiverse” means, but I feel it’s a misleading term to be used in general. Sure, when I’m in the midst of a psychotic break or in a deep depression, I’m certainly ill, the way my body is ill when I have the flu. The rest of the time, I’m not. I may be, as a lot of people behind my back (or occasionally to my face) have said, “a little bit off”, or “eccentric”, but that’s not a frigging illness, people. We weirdos are what make life interesting.

Notice I used the term “weirdos”. This was one of the terms the blog reader took offense to: I used the term “weird” in referring to my complex and neurodiverse characters. I used the word fairly unthinkingly, because I was raised thinking “weird” was a compliment. I like being called “weird” instead of “off”, “mentally ill” or even “neurodiverse”. I also used it because, in context, I wasn’t referring just to neurodiverse characters, but also “complex” ones, so I used a catch-all term I felt was aptly descriptive.

For the reader, though, the term wasn’t apt; he was reading it as a physically disabled person, and he feels a kinship with all those he considers disabled, which for him includes the neurodiverse. I can well imagine why the reader doesn’t want to be called “weird” for using crutches or a wheelchair, especially because he hails from a different country where the term doesn’t carry the same colors and connotations that it does for me—a grunge-era girl from Seattle.

So, should I have changed my voice and not used the term “weird”? Or should I have used it along with a convoluted caveat, thus destroying the flow of the piece? Well, in this case, I kept the term, but added a caveat at the beginning of the post to give readers context about me. When we are writing stories, however, we don’t generally have this option; most readers aren’t going to plunge into the story knowing the writer’s background and beliefs, and so might misinterpret our narrative as being ignorance, bigotry, or an outsider’s point of view. Before I get to how I deal with this problem in fiction writing, I’ll talk about another way we can touch off political angst in writing about diversity: how we present concepts relating to diverse people.

Another thing my blog reader took issue with was the fact I said you could make readers relate to your complex and neurodiverse characters by showing they had a special skill. In my reader’s mind, this technique reinforces the stereotype of the “magical autistic person”. Autism is another form of neurodiversity that I have some personal experience with, and I completely agree with my reader that this tired “Rain Man” stereotype is aggravating. However, a large number of my neurodiverse friends and family have extraordinary talents in real life, and I don’t want to censor myself from writing about talented neurodiverse characters, because I feel they’re realistic. Also, neurodiverse people get so little respect from society in general, why should I be shy of writing about one of the things some of us are respected for?

My reader did make me second-guess myself, though. I don’t want to reinforce tired or unfounded stereotypes. In his words, he thought my piece didn’t “anticipate how clichéd a view of disability normie [this is how he refers to non-disabled, neurotypical people] writers have, how they’ll view what you wrote through misconceptions.” It made me take a second look at the schizophrenic main character in my Other Place series, and think about how people will view him.

This is something we should always do with our diverse characters, at least after we’ve written their stories: do a bit of second-guessing.

My schizophrenic character, Justin, is an incredibly talented painter, and The Other Place Series are magical realism books. Justin’s artistic career takes off way more quickly than artistic careers generally do in real life. Also, his connection with one of the other characters is close almost to the point of telepathy at times. People could definitely interpret the sort of “magical” world in my novels as me trying to say that neurodiverse people are somehow magical.

The reason I wrote the novels this way is twofold: it’s a compelling way of telling the story and presenting the concepts I’m trying to illuminate clearly. If I had written the books in a more realistic manner, readers might see only Justin’s struggles, and none of the beauty, magic, and mystery of his world. Because, and this is the other reason I wrote the books as magical realism: I think a sort of magic actually does exist in the world. I know, I know: I’m prone to psychosis, but hear me out.

These books were how I processed and explored the fact that I’ve seen some fairly bizarre shit in my life, and I believe that, at least in some cases and in some ways, neurodiverse people’s inability to relate to “mainstream” society helps them to see the world more clearly, and tap into something unexplainable. It’s an old concept, but I think I have a unique perspective, and that’s one of the reasons why I wrote these books. I just have to be sure I handle the subject with enough skill so that I don’t reinforce negative or false assumptions by non-psychotic people.

How do I keep readers from misinterpreting what I’m trying to say, though? The simple answer is, I can’t. No matter how careful I am, I’m always going to have people who don’t “get” what I’m trying to communicate. The same is true for all of us. And the more important your message, the more risk you’ll run of igniting an emotional response in your readers, positive or negative

That isn’t to say that we should throw all caution to the wind and ignore political concerns when we write, but I think having those concerns front-and-center in your writing, and self-censoring, can actually be counterproductive. Censored and overly-cautious writing sometimes isn’t very compelling, and often the only people who will read it are other advocates for the diverse community. At the very least, I don’t feel it’s the way I can best get my point across. Others will feel differently, and so I’ll leave the other methods to them.

My personal technique is to not self-censor or be concerned with political issues at all during my first draft. Since I’m never sure what my underlying message is going to be until I’m done with the book anyway, it’s not difficult for me. When the first draft is done, I’ll examine the beliefs and messages presented in the book (not the characters and concepts themselves) from many different angles, so I can anticipate people’s arguments and misinterpretations. When I’ve made sure my reasoning is sound, I’ll try to make sure my concepts are presented as clearly as possible by subtle tweaking in revisions, without censoring my characters or voice. If my opinions and viewpoints are well-reasoned and come from experience, it won’t keep the critics from hounding me, but I’ll be able to answer them with my chin high.

The long and the short of it is, we have to understand our characters and our stories, and we have to show readers their beauty and truth so they understand them, as well. We won’t always be successful, and we will likely endure criticism, but if what we have to say is important enough to us we’ll persevere anyway. That’s pretty much what making art is all about, in the first place.

*Note to readers: If you are a non-diverse person thinking about writing from a diverse perspective, you might want to check out my piece https://elizabethroderick.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/we-need-diverse-books-writing-what-you-dont-know/ Also, if you are writing a book from the point of view of a non-diverse character whose goal is to somehow “save” a diverse character from themselves or their situation, or if the main plot of the book is that non-diverse character’s “coming to terms” with another character’s diversity, I’m going to write a whole different blog post on that, and there are plenty others already written, which you should search for.*

Advice for Debut Authors-Guest Blog

author-pic-cristina-slough-359x400

I’m proud to present a guest blog written by Cristina Slough, author of Till Death Us Do Part being released on December 29, 2015 Enjoy !

Publishing is such a cut throat industry, as with everything. If you want to be successful, you have to constantly network. Sink or swim.

Next time you hold a debut novel, take a moment to think about the long journey it’s had before it reached your hands. It started as a little seed of an idea in the writers head. The pages will have been typed, deleted, re-typed, moved around a hundred times over.

The writer may have drank enough caffeine to sink a ship, just to write that one last page. It’s endured heartbreak as the writer has sent their baby off to query combat. Hoping to win over an agent or publisher, only to be rejected. Or worse, ignored.

Then, something magical happens. The moment the writer has been waiting for. An agent or publisher has said that simple, but powerful three-letter-word. YES.

The legal stuff follows: Contracts, negotiations, blah blah blah…

The book you hold is the result of a writer that didn’t give up. Then there is a team of people that turn a manuscript into a real book. Editors, designers, proofreaders, formatters, printers, digital experts. Ahhh, the list goes on. You get the idea, don’t you?

The journey doesn’t stop once the book is born.

The book is out there with all the other books, some of them are major superstars: Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Jackie Collins, and *deep breath* E.L James.

Suddenly, a new challenge, as the new book on the block has to shout loud to be noticed (aka marketing). Whether this be in a bookshop or online, if you pick the book up, it has somehow captured your attention.

If you like the blurb, you’ll buy the book.

A writer can only hope that their words have brought the story to life for you.

Long gone are the days when authors are given huge marketing budgets. Unless you are already a household name, or your book has been made into a movie. Believe it or not, much of the marketing is now up to the author. This is especially true for debuts. It’s not easy singing your own praises, telling people how fantastic your book is.

So, think about leaving an honest review, especially if it’s a book you loved reading. In the world of social media, you can reach out to people like never before. A reader praising a book is the best review an author can ever wish to have!