Monday, October 16, 2017

Me Too

There’s a social media campaign going on right now, where women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted post “Me too.” My feed is filled with them—the number of times they pop up makes me nauseated, because it shouldn’t happen. Ever.

Each time I see someone else post, I think about whether or not I should. I suspect there are just as many of us not posting, even though we could. Just because we don’t post “Me too” doesn’t mean it didn’t happen to us. We have lots of reasons for not posting, including not wanting to post just because everyone else is.

I get the point—to show how prevalent the issue is. Point made. Except, my Facebook feed doesn’t represent a slice of general society, enabling me to teach something new to someone who needs it. It represents a very filtered slice of my own friends. Just think about how many people you’ve muted, unfollowed or unfriended because of their politics or opinions or posts. We’ve whitewashed our newsfeed to mostly show people who think and feel like us. And we are the ones who are aware of how frequent sexual harassment and assault occurs. So I’d kind of be preaching to the choir.

This is a serious topic, and it’s taken on a bit of a "game" status. Sexual harassment or assault isn’t a game. It’s serious. While it needs to be brought out into the open, it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t lessen what’s been done. It needs to create a dialogue about why this is so prevalent and what can be done to stop it.

I don’t think this campaign does that, at least not yet. My first thought when I see these posts is, “I wonder what happened.” And frankly, what happened to someone else isn’t my business. Just like mine isn’t yours, unless I choose to tell you.

Sometimes I do choose to share, whether it’s in person or with a black-humored Facebook post or blog post that is meant as much to serve as a warning to people as it is to allow me to vent and feel better. But how I choose to share is personal, and shouldn’t be lumped in with how others choose to share their stories.

And that leads to another thing. The “Me Too” campaign combines harassment and assault. Harassment is a wide scale with many shades of grey. Assault is not. While I take seriously what I’ve experienced, in no way would I want to even suggest that my experience compares in any way to someone who has been assaulted or who has experienced something worse than I have. Does combining those two things lessen or trivialize the experience of someone who has been assaulted? I don’t know, but I’m loathe to post anything that might cause someone extra pain.


So to those of you who are posting, you have my deepest sympathy for what you’ve experienced, and my unending support. This topic needs to be addressed, and I truly hope that the “Me Too” campaign helps to do that. But to those of you—us—who don’t post, know that I see you too.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Have You Harassed A Romance Writer Lately?

There are a number of reasons I don’t talk about my books in every-day life. The biggest reason is I’m shy and hate talking about myself. But there are other reasons, including never being sure what kinds of reactions I’m going to get from people, even from friends. So I tend to keep quiet. However, there comes a point where I have to get over it, and I make an effort to talk about what I do, especially with people who show genuine interest.

And then there’s the marketing side. Most authors hate this part of it, but our books won’t market themselves, but we get out there anyway and try to get people to buy our books.

That’s what I did this weekend at a book fair near Philadelphia. It was a gorgeous day. The entire main street of town was closed to cars and more than 300 authors had tents set up with their books.

I was one of the few romance authors. I don’t know if it was because there weren’t very many others. Maybe it was my location. Or maybe it was my “lucky day.” But men came up to my tent and harassed me three different times during the day. One who tried to make a connection between my books and sex addiction groups, one who thought I should give away condoms and one who tried to pick me up. And another guy harassed the girl he was with for liking to read romance.

Now, I’m shy but friendly. I’ll smile at anyone who comes over to my tent, even if I don’t think you’re my target audience. And I’ll talk to anyone, including the people who come up to me and say they don’t read books—yes, that happens more times than I can count and makes me wonder each time why the heck they’re at a book festival, but I digress. One of the men, and I use that term loosely, tried to begin a conversation with my by asking me why I was smiling. Did he think I’d sell more books by frowning? Maybe he didn’t like my smile? Maybe that was his pickup line—he was the one who was trying to pick me up.

I follow a lot of authors on Facebook and I’m part of different writer loops and the one thing we all have in common, even highly successful romance writers whose names are known by everyone, is how we get harassed by people for what we write. Teasing is fine. I have a decent sense of humor, I can see why people might find certain aspects funny and I’m happy to join in. But there’s a line, and for some reason, men seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to ignore that line when it comes to romance authors (I don’t mean to pick on men—although in this case it was the men who were harassing me. Women do it too, but they are much snootier about it, attacking romance as not real literature, even though it is the highest selling genre—look it up.). And when crossing the line creates situations where I or other authors feel physically uncomfortable and unsafe, there is a problem.

So here’s what I want you to do. I don’t want your sympathy. I want you to actually do something. The next time you hear a man make a lewd comment, say something. Let him know it’s not okay and tell him it makes him look like an ass. The next time you see someone reading a romance, don’t judge her for “reading smut.” They’re reading. They’re escaping from reality—take a look around you, we all need an escape. You all congratulate each other for watching the latest reality TV show, so why are you judging someone who reads about two people falling in love? The next time you’re tempted to ask that question of a romance author—you know the question I mean—swallow it. Ask about their writing process or how long they’ve been writing or what made them want to write romance in the first place.


In other words, treat them like a human being. Show them the respect you’d like to receive. Or say nothing at all.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Welcome Kim McDermott

Please welcome fellow The Wild Rose Press writer Kim McDermott, who writes as Katherine McDermott.

How Can You Write about Places You’ve Never Visited?

Take a cyber vacation. While I had been to Paris before I wrote Hiding, I had never been to Monte Carlos or Breil sur Roya. How could I make these locations authentic in my book? The answer is research, fun research. I used travel brochures, tour websites, lots of photographs to read, visualize and learn about the places that my characters would be traveling.
In the process, I got to “visit” exotic places. I learned, for example, that Jacques Cousteau’s Marine Museum and Center are in Monte Carlos. I learned how Grace Kelly was killed on the winding treacherous road to the city. I learned that one of the popular gambling casinos was built to resemble the Paris Opera House. It was a mini-vacation for me and for my readers when it was worked into the book. In conclusion, authors, take your mini-vacation via cyber space and recreate it for your fans.

Blurb:

Teresa Worthington escape her abusive boyfriend, Alex, and flees to Paris to pursue a dream career in art. Alone and wary
of men, she gradually makes friends and explores her new home. She is distraught to learn that Alex is still stalking her but is 
determined to create the life she has always wanted.

Handsome, compassionate, and brave, Serge Gervais, a young Frenchman, slowly wins her trust. He shows her the sights of France and promises 
to protect her from Alex. Teresa finds herself falling in love for the first time until the unspeakable happens. Alex tracks her down and forces her into the catacombs beneath the city. Will Serge find her in time to prevent Alex's vengeance?Bio

Excerpt:

Alex illuminated the crypt with his light, and Teresa tried to interpret what she saw: uneven walls, a doorway surrounded by orbs, a floor
littered with dried reeds. No, they weren't reeds; they were bones. And the orbs were skulls? The catacombs! Her heart pounded in her chest like a jack hammer. Alex had withdrawn his knife. The blade glittered in the dim light of the torch which cast luminous shadows on the walls. What better place to
kill someone? What was another set of bones among the many? Lord, as you helped the Christians long ago who secretly met in catacombs, help me.

Buy link for Hiding (suspense romance) www.bit.ly/Daphnewin

Bio:

Kim McDermott was born and raised in Charleston, SC where she graduated
valedictorian of Middleton High School and cum laudi from the College of Charleston with a B.A. in English.  She received a Masters Degree in Counseling from the Citadel
and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in S.C. She has nine years of experience in
guidance.  She is also a Nationally Certified High School English and Language Arts
teacher who worked for Charleston Country School District for 28 years as both an
English teacher and a guidance counselor.  She is retired and currently teaches part-time
as an Adjunct English Professor at Trident Technical College.
She has free lanced for numerous regional and national publications including:
The State, Charleston Magazine, Standard, Blue Ridge Country, Reader’s Digest, Christian Single, Home Life, Straight, Evangel, Smokey Mountain Magazine, and others. 
She won the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s award in l987.  Her first book, All Work, All
Play published by Marco. She has two children’s books, a chapter book aimed at
elementary age children entitled The Underwear Tree and a picture book, Les Petits
Gardes. With Margie Clary, she co-authored South Carolina Lighthouses
published by Arcadia Publishing. 
She has published two romance novels with The Wild Rose Press: Hiding, a suspense thriller that won the Daphne Du Maurier Kiss of Death Contest from NRA and Abbey’s Tale, historical romance set in New England.  

 


Monday, September 25, 2017

Ten Hours

Do you know what you can do in ten hours?

  • You can get a full night’s rest.
  • You can put in a full day’s-worth of work, plus a little extra.
  • You can binge watch almost an entire season of whatever your favorite show is on Netflix.
  • You can travel to Maryland and back (and even make multiple stops for coffee and bathroom breaks—and gasoline)
  • You can do great work volunteering to help those less fortunate.
  • You can build something.
  • You can create something.
  • You can give birth to a baby.
  • You can canoe down the river.
  • You can hike a mountain.
  • You can have surgery.
  • You can tour a city, visiting museums, shop, eat and go home.


Or you can do what my husband and I have been doing and try to redo travel plans, dealing with incompetent people who are unable to help you, and spending most of those ten hours on hold.


Monday, September 18, 2017

The Car Place

I spent part of the morning at the car place. Again. No, we don’t have problems with our cars. Most times, I’m there for routine maintenance. But with three cars and me the only person with the time to take them, I spend a lot of my time in car places.
This time, I was at the dealer. A different dealer than usual—not next to the homemade ice cream place that tempts me no matter how early it is. They greeted me and led me inside, took down some information, and pointed me in the direction of the waiting area.
As I stood behind the closed door, I prepared myself for my usual car place waiting room experience:
  • TV blaring to some weird court TV reality show, with judges who always make me wonder…about a lot of things, or a game show where people dress up as chickens;
  • Stale coffee;
  • An endless parade of people who somehow manage to arrive after me and leave before me even though I’ve made an appointment;
  • The car person who always finds something extra that needs to be done.

With a deep breath, I entered.
  • The TV was on, as expected, but it was turned to Kelly & Ryan. Compared to the usual programs, this is a huge improvement;
  • There was a quiet room, where you can sit and avoid the noise. By the time I realized, someone else was already in there, but next time, it’s MINE;
  • I don’t know about their coffee, but there were BAGELS! And cream cheese! Again, I was too shocked to actually eat them, but they made me forget all about my coffee;
  • I was in and out in twenty-five minutes;
  • They did what I asked, and only what I asked and they took my coupon.

It was a lot better than I expected. I haven’t worked up the courage to steal the remote, yet, but with the quiet room, I might not have to. And I’m still not a fan of car places. But they were friendly and fast and I’m already home, with the rest of my day available to me.

Now they just need a homemade ice cream place next door...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Welcome Bernard LoPinto

Please welcome Bernard LoPinto, talking about his writing journey.

A Statement About My Writing
By Bernard LoPinto

About 50 years ago, I started believing I could be a writer.  That is until I showed a sample of my work to someone whose opinion I trusted, one of my college instructors.  She took two days to read my short story and then beat it with a three-pound hammer.  After pummeling me for what seemed like an entire day—about fifteen minutes in real time—she asked, “Do you have anything to say?”
I didn’t know how to answer.  Did I have anything to say?  I didn’t know.  What was I supposed to say?  Should I write about the war in Viet Nam, which, at the time, was tearing this country apart?  How about the intergenerational polarization that was also a feature of the sixties, or the British Invasion, or the sexual revolution?  I asked myself—more than once—what do I have to say?  Then I figured it out.  Nothing.  I had nothing to say.  As a nineteen-year-old suburban kid with nothing much going on besides my sexual prime, I hadn’t lived enough to have anything to say.  I just didn’t know it at the time.  So I decided that this writing thing was too deep for me and turned to simply finishing college, which for me was about all I could handle.  Life hadn’t happened to me yet.
Then life happened.  Career, marriage, kids.  It all happened, and it was all too busy for me to write about.  I kept a journal sporadically, and I began to think that I actually understood the craft of writing.  But I was too busy getting my family by to give any thought to the old question: Did I have anything to say?  Then some things happened that gave me something to say.
Looking for the one best way, I turned to the life of faith, committing everything to building a strict moral compass that would get my family through any storm.  I quit my job and we left our home, moving wife, kids, the dog and cat hundreds of miles to work with people sure to save the world for Jesus.  I became a minister, dedicating every waking hour—and every available dollar—to a check-your-brains-at-the-door religion.  We were on the true path.  Then it all went bad.
When I finally came to understand the lies, abuse, and betrayal that had been the subtext of the life of faith I thought I was living, I had no way to get a handle on what had happened to a decade of my life.  That’s when I turned back to writing.  Now I had something to say, and I used fiction to say it.  I had found my moral universe. 
Every writer works from his or her moral universe.  Dickens, whose anger makes him my favorite author, wrote of the immorality of a society that exploits children in Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations.  A crime writer’s moral universe might be simply, “Crime doesn’t pay,” or “No one is above the law.”  In Ayn Rand’s moral universe, the actualization of the ego is the highest good.  Whether or not we agree with an author’s theme is not important.  What is important is that the author expresses that theme in a way the reader understands and that it’s universal.[i]
My first novel took nearly twenty years to complete because I defined my moral universe as I wrote, and only recently did I take the opportunity to express my beliefs in detail.  Now I have it, dark as it is.
In my moral universe, nothing is as it should be.  People of faith wait for God to move in their lives, and wait, and wait, and wait. Sometimes he makes his presence known, sometimes not. There is no divine plan, no justice, just the hope that "maybe this time. . . ." And above all, remember, "Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it."
I am about one-third of the way into my next novel, tentatively titled, No Such Thing as Enough, and my moral universe is clearer to me now than when I started.  Consequently, the writing goes faster, and I have a better idea of where the story is taking me than with my first novel. 
As writers, we need to find our moral universe, our themes.  They are our starting point.  When our moral universe becomes clear to us, we can make it clear to others, and our writing becomes real and alive.



BLURB
It’s 2026 and the United States has fallen under the sway of an oppressive government where all citizens’ rights have been stripped, Red shirt platoons patrol; the streets, and people die for voicing opinions. Into this chaos step Sid and Annie Winthrop. The elderly couple set out on a journey of revenge against the Red Shirts who murdered their son.

Red Shirt members Victor and Brooklyn have devoted their young lives to the cause of the president in protecting the nation.  When attacks on their home town leave dozens of Red Shirts dead, Victor must help his superiors find the vigilante.

At their darkest moment, each couple finds a common bond in their suffering and must decide where their loyalties lie.


EXCERPT

The next morning, despite his patched knee, Sid went out, pretending to shop for bread, listening for anyone talking about the carnage of last night. He came home, threw the bread on the table, and hurried into the bedroom, Annie following closely behind.
“Did you have any trouble?” she asked.
Sid sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing his hands together the way he did when he had a riddle he couldn’t figure out. Annie sat down next to him, and he put his arm around her. “No problem, babe. It’s just that there are so many of them. They’re all over downtown, at least one squad on every block. They’re even on the side streets. One group is a few blocks away, coming in this direction. That’s why I hurried home.”
“But you’ve dealt with clowns like these before.”
Sid let go of Annie and started pacing. “Not like these. Half of them, I’ve never seen before. They have gold leaf on their helmets and gold braid on their shirts. Their bearing is different. They’re tougher, but we found that out last night. The troopers were searching people. I must’ve looked too old to cause trouble because they let me pass. If they hadn’t, if they had frisked me, I’d have been done.” He pulled the .45 out of its holster under his coat and placed it on the bed.
“Are you going to go out tonight?”
“Not after last night. I don’t want to do that again.”
“I never expected things to go like this. Those kids don’t know what they’re doing; they’re Rowson’s pawns, and I killed four or five with the car.” Annie wrung her hands. “I’ve hated them for so long, but seeing them go down last night… Is it hard for you, too? I mean after Vietnam and the police force? Do you ever get used to it?”
“I never have, and I hope you never do. When it stops bothering you, you’ll have lost a big piece of yourself.” Sid pulled Annie back into his arms. “I don’t like it, but we started down this road, and there’s no turning back. With the heat on us like this, let’s lay low for a while.”
When starting on a journey of revenge, first dig two graves. Or in our case, three.

Bernard LoPinto draws inspiration for his stories from his years in ministry and prisons, and creates a reality where the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, are easily blurred. He and his wife, Jeanne, live in Northeastern Pennsylvania.