It’s Not My Problem YOU’RE on a Diet

I enjoy romances. I think every story is better with a romantic subplot, be it a thriller or hardcore military sci-fi space opera. I’ve written everything from slash fanfic, to steamy paranormal romance (Redclaw Security), to passionate, but closed-door historical romances (Redclaw Origins), and now cozy mysteries, which aren’t romances at all, but have a romantic arc (Ginny Reese Mysteries).

These days, as both a writer and a reader, I find myself leaning more toward off-page/closed door stories. That’s just where I am on my storytelling path in life right now. It doesn’t mean I find stories with more spice icky, or obscene, or whatever. Between the overwhelming stresses in my life and world events, such as the pandemic, I find myself craving a certain kind of story to get me through the day–and for me, personally, that happens not to be very spicy at the moment.

And might I say while I’m fine with describing stories with on-page sex scenes as “spicy” or “steamy” or filling up my texts with hot peppers or eggplant emojis, I LOATHE almost every term we use to describe books with no on-screen sex. “Sweet” is barely tolerable to me–it makes my teeth ache to think about it. “Clean” and/or “wholesome” make me want to throw things–as if stories with open door sex scenes are some how dirty, immoral, and obscene.

Romancelandia: we need a better term for closed door romances!! But I digress.

I happen to wander across this dividing line at will, choosing what level of heat I want to experience on a given day, in a given story, with a particular set of characters… and I know many other readers who do as well. There are also strong vocal defenders of their preferences. You’ll see discussions of “do they bang?” and there are websites devoted to providing readers with the information they desire about the kind of stories they seek. And yes, sometimes there is an element of condescension in some of these discussions conducted by the “we want banging!” side.

But you know what’s NOT there? Condemnation of readers and writers who prefer something else. 

Today I saw on Twitter a romance author share part of a communication she’d received from a reader that chastised her for taking what seemed to be a fun premise and sinking into “lewd” content that caused the reader not only to throw the book away, but contact the author to advise she should write more “wholesome” books.

I’m sorry, but this is wrong. You didn’t like the book? It didn’t meet your expectations? Fine. That happens. If that’s not the kind of story you want to read, you chalk it up to a mistake and you don’t purchase from that author again because now you know that this is the kind of story she enjoys writing. Have very specific reading needs where the romance heat levels don’t exceed your precise definitions? Create or join a Facebook or Discord group where you can gather with like-minded readers and share your recommendations.

I can’t imagine someone going to a closed-door romance writer and saying, “Based on the cover, title, and blurb, I thought this was going to be a fun, sexy romp. Instead, there was a level of chastity from the very beginning that made my skin crawl. How dare you take the characters into the bedroom and shut the door in my face! I was going to share this story with my friends, but instead I threw your book in the trash where it belongs. If you would consider taking that puritanical stick out of your characters’ butts and write a real, steamy romance story, I would consider reading it.”

Do you see how ludicrous that sounds?

What is different about the stance of some of the “wholesome” books-only reader is the level of righteousness that infuses their sense of entitlement. The implication that anyone who enjoys any other kind of content is somehow immoral, crude, and needs to be shamed. That their content should be modified–or banned.

Book banning is on the rise here in the US, with the rallying cry of “We must protect the children!” (despite the fact there has never been a mass killing of schoolchildren from reading a book, whereas guns are now the leading cause of death of children and adolescents in the US). Now a Virginia delegate, not content with having books reflecting diversity removed from schools, has filed a lawsuit against Barnes and Noble to prevent certain books from being sold to minors. Yes, in some cases, there are adult themes that can be controversial. However, the Virginia Beach school board member who has been spearheading many of the book banning campaigns reportedly hasn’t read many of the books she wants banned. I think it is very telling that the ten most frequently banned books in the US at this time most often deal with themes regarding self-discovery and embracing the differences of others. In Wyoming, some librarians may even face criminal charges for stocking certain books, usually pertaining to sex education and LBGTQ issues.

First they want to police the school library. Then it’s the public library. Now it’s an attempt to force a private company to do the same.

But tell me again how we shouldn’t perform background checks and waiting periods on people wishing to purchase automatic weapons, increase the age limit on buying guns, place restrictions on how much ammo can be purchased, and so on. It’s not the same, you say? You’re right. Because no one has ever walked into a school and killed a classroom of kids with a book. No one has ever walked into a church, a grocery store, or a movie theater carrying a book they got from the library and murdered the people within. No one has ever stood at window of a Vegas hotel and killed or injured nearly 500 people by lobbing books at them.

In another attempt to prevent school age children access to banned books, some school districts are removing the digital library service Overdrive from school access. Why? Because Overdrive lists books prohibited in those school districts.

Amazon has long dampened the ability for erotica to be found on a site search–now recent changes to their policies have stripped some books of their best-selling ranks and moved them out of their former categories into the erotica section, which greatly limits visibility and the ability to advertise these stories on the platform. Amazon makes up 80% of the average indie author’s sales. Amazon has the right as a private company to do this. Just as you have the right as a consumer not to read material you don’t want to read.

I find it ironic that the people who are the loudest about the “slippery slope” arguments when it comes to the 2nd Amendment have no problem icing down the sidewalks for the 1st Amendment, however.

Now you may think, well, this won’t affect me or my reading. And if you are part of the clean/wholesome only crowd, you may be right. For now.

Because there is always going to be someone out there who decides that their version of wholesome is the only correct, morally pure version–and that all other kinds of “wholesome” stories must follow suit or be banned.

And that’s my problem with this aspect of the creeping Purity Culture. It’s not enough to say, “I’ve decided to eliminate all gluten from my diet.” It’s saying “Gluten is an evil, horrible ingredient that should be banned from all food, and since no one in my family is eating gluten, we don’t think you should either.”

We don’t want pizza in our schools. Bakeries should stop selling cookies, croissants, doughnuts, and bagels. I refuse to have these things in my home and I DON’T WANT YOU TO HAVE THE PLEASURE OF CONSUMING THESE FOODS EITHER. The very fact that you take pleasure in a slice of warm crusty bread, fresh from the oven and slathered in butter means you are an immoral, filthy person. And if you are an immoral, dirty bread-eater, then your crude habits are putting my children and family at risk of doing the same. And THAT I will not tolerate.

See how that sounds?

You want to give up eating gluten? Want to go keto? Be my guest. But don’t cry foul when you have to walk past the bakery early on a Sunday morning and the smell of doughnuts reminds you of how good they can be.

An Embarrassment of Itches is Shortlisted for a Selfie Award!

A bit of a funny story here. See, I tend to submit my stories to a lot of awards contests. Not because I have an inflated idea of their worth–it’s mostly because I figure the more eyes I get on my stories, the greater the chance they will be seen and read by even more people. And if they final or win awards, the extra validation doesn’t hurt either.

This year, I found myself with my first ever cozy mystery, and many of the awards contests I’d entered in the past for my romances didn’t apply. I scrambled to find appropriate contests to enter and didn’t find out about some of the most prestigious awards contests until too late to submit. When I came across the Selfies, I banged out a submission but as soon as I clicked “enter”, I thought I’d made a big mistake.

There were no subcategories, only the single one of “adult fiction.” Mysteries, romance, women’s lit, you name it. All under one roof. And hosted by Publishers Weekly and Booklife. Kind of a big deal. I actually went so far as to wonder if this was even an appropriate contest to enter, and if I should contact the people in charge to see if I could get a refund. I figured they would email me and say An Embarrassment of Itches didn’t qualify, or at worse, they would keep my money and say tough luck, so in the end I let it go. Lesson learned, right?

Only last week, I got a Tweet from Maria Vale congratulating me on having Itches shortlisted for a Selfie. Because it was announced in Publishers Weekly!!! And I did one of those embarrassing, “Excuse me, what?” responses, and then dashed off to check my publishing email, which I don’t check nearly as often as I should because there was an email congratulating me on making the shortlist.

I am simply flabbergasted by this. I know I say this a lot, but I am. I really am. And while I have few expectations against so many great names and titles, I am honored beyond words.

I do like this story, too. If you haven’t read it, please consider checking it out.

Who Do I Have To Kill To Win A RONE Award?

Hah-hah. Just kidding. But it made you look, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

I write cozy mysteries, so it amused my husband to suggest I would kill for an award. I told him if his brilliant idea for a blog post title backfired, I was blaming him.

An Embarrassment of Itches is up for a RONE Award for Best Mystery, and voting in this category to advance to the next round is now open! This is a prestigious award, and the competition is fierce! If youโ€™re not familiar with the awards, this is a prestigious indie book award run by InDโ€™Tale Magazine, and only those stories given a Crowned Heart of Excellence are candidates for a RONE award.

But as a debut author with a brand new pen name, I really don’t have the audience to garner the votes needed to move into the next round, so I need your help! 

In order to vote, you need to have an account with InD’Tale Magazine. If you don’t already have one, you should get one! It’s the PREMIERE magazine for indie authors. New accounts must be verified before you can vote, and voting for the category closes May 8, so don’t wait until the last second!

To log in or create an account with InDโ€™Tale Magazine, click here.

Or if you know you already have an account, you can go to the home page and go to the upper right corner to log in. Once you are logged in, the voting page is here. Look for week 4! Or you can search for the RONE awards from the dropdown menu along the upper right tab where it says InDescribe/Rones and search for the 2022 Awards.

I’m hopeful that with your support, I can at least make a decent showing. I’ve decided if Itches advances to the next round, I’ll have a giveaway of some sort. If Itches wins, we’ll have a party!

And if you could share this information, I would be deeply grateful–thank you so much!

 

How to Vote in the RONE Awards: An Embarrassment of Itches

Goodness, I’m late getting this post up! SO much has been going on. The Dog Days of Murder (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 2) was released April 2, and your response has been delightful! If I didn’t tell you before, An Embarrassment of Itches (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1) won the Mystery Category in the PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards, and has also won for Best Animal Story and Best Cozy Mystery in the Firebird Awards.

Kirkus Reviews enjoyed An Embarrassment of Itches as well, calling it “a well-paced and entertaining series opener with an appealing protagonist.”

And now I’ve been notified that An Embarrassment of Itches has been nominated for a RONE award! If you’re not familiar, this is a prestigious indie book award run by InD’Tale Magazine, and only those stories given a Crowned Heart of Excellence are candidates for a RONE award.

Here’s the thing. In order to move into the next round of judging, nominated books must pass a reader voting round. The truth is, as a debut cozy mystery author under a brand new pen name, I simply don’t have the following to make Itches a contender. That’s why I need your vote (and for you to spread the word too)!

Voting in the Mystery Category for the RONE Awards runs from May 2nd to May 8th. You may only vote ONE TIME and you must be logged in to the site to do so (to protect the voting process). If you don’t already have an account with InD’Tale Magazine, you must set up an account and have it verified before you can vote. I should have posted this ages ago because voting as already opened (and closed!) in other categories, but I got swamped and forgot all about it. So I’m posting about the registration process today and will send out a reminder when it comes closer to the Mystery week.

To log in or create an account with InD’Tale Magazine, click here.

Or if you know you already have an account, you can go to the home page and go to the upper right corner to log in. Once you are logged in (and verified if the account is new), the voting page is here. Or you can search for the RONE awards from the dropdown menu along the upper right tab where it says InDescribe/Rones and search for the 2022 Awards.

The competition is going to be fierce! I doubt seriously I will move into the next round of judging, but I would love to make a decent showing! So I would love it if you’d register to vote and/or spread the word! An Embarrassment of Itches could use your vote come May 2nd!

 

An Embarrassment of Itches Spotlight and #Giveaway

What a whirlwind of events this month! The Dog Days of Murder had a smashing release day, and I’m thrilled at the reception it has received! I also found out that An Embarrassment of Itches has been nominated for a RONE award, and I’ll be doing a post later this week about how the voting process works to make it to the next round. As a debut author under a new pen name, I’m not holding my breath for moving forward, but it is a great honor to have been nominated! Voting for my category opens the first week in May, so stay tuned for more instructions!

 

In the meantime, Itches is being featured at The Mystery Section! You can enter the Rafflecopter to win a copy of An Embarrassment of Itches! Check it out here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dog Days of Murder is available for Pre-order Now!

You’d think I’d be better at this book launch/new release thing by now but nope, not really. ๐Ÿ™‚

It dawned on me that I hadn’t made a formal announcement regarding the upcoming release of the next Ginny Reese mystery! *dopeslap*

That’s right–The Dog Days of Murder is coming out April 2 (because I didn’t want to release it on April Fool’s Day) and you can pre-order it now from Amazon and these various retailers

Life for house-call vet Ginny Reese should be smooth sailing, right? After inheriting a significant estate from a client, she’s in the process of buying a practice from her longtime mentor (and rekindling her relationship with Joe, her ex) when an outsider–a hot young vet with ties to Joe–sweeps in and scoops the sale out from under her. Well, you know Ginny’s outrageous mother won’t take that lying down! When the newcomer winds up dead after everyone heard Ginny’s mother threaten her, it’s up to Ginny and Remy to find the real killer before her mother goes down for murder!

You can place your order now!

Romancing the Vote: The Most AMAZING Auction ever!!

Whew! Have you checked out Romancing the Vote’s auction to raise money for Fair Fight yet? If not, why not?

You won’t BELIEVE the amazing items up for grabs! No, seriously, if you haven’t gone to look yet, run and do so now! Facetime with your favorite authors! Manuscript critiques by industry leaders. Copy editing, cover art, consults with scriptwriters and show runners! Autographed books, gift baskets, HOMEMADE COOKIES, jewelry, embroidery, and more. You can donate directly to Fair Fight, or you can roll your sleeves up and dive into a bidding war for your coveted item! There’s something for every desire and budget, so check it out!

I’m offering a Redclaw Origins package, which includes signed copies of the award-winning Bishop Takes Knight and Bishop’s Gambit, as well as some swag and a mystery surprise gift (hint: jewelry).

But the auction ends soon! You only have until 8 pm CST on Feb 18 to fight for your prizes! So run, don’t walk, to the auction and get your bids in! Good luck, and happy bidding!

It Wouldn’t Be Valentine’s Day without a Party!

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an author of romances will overbook herself for Valentine’s Day.

But my ambitious scheduling is your boon! (How’s that for a nice, old-fashioned word?)

I’ve got so much going on right now! The Dog Days of Murder (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 2) is in edits. I’m busy working on Bishop’s Endgame, the final installment of the Redclaw Origins series. An Embarrassment of Itches (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1) is up for a year-end award in the PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards! The category is CONSPIRACY/THRILLER/MYSTERY/ACTION ADVENTURE/DARK COMEDY/HISTORICAL/FANTASY/EPIC FANTASY and the competition is FIERCE. I would be thrilled if you could help me make a decent showing by voting for Itches. You can only vote once, so read through all the categories and make sure you vote for all your favorite authors! (Or just look for Itches and vote for it! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Voting ends 2.12.22 so be sure to get your vote in while it counts!

The link for voting is here. I really appreciate your support!

The next thing is starting Feb 14, I’m participating in my third Winter Games on Facebook. Over 60 authors are banding together to offer books for the biggest, best, reader review party on Facebook. Love to read? Join the reader’s group and get in on the fun and games! There are regular giveaways, as well as free books for you to read and review. The person who reviews the most books in the two week time period is in the running for the Grand Prize, which gets bigger every year! So check out the Winter Game Reader Challenge Group and join in the fun! The party hasn’t officially begun but there are already lots of run-off events leading to the big day.

I’m also participating in the Romancing the Vote auction raising money to support voting rights. Last time the auction was held, we raised an incredible amount of money to donate to the run-off races in Georgia. Writers from all walks (but especially romance authors) donated their time, expertise, books, and more to the auction. There truly is something for every level of participation. Some of the big ticket items are one-on-one time with your favorite authors, critiques of your manuscripts, annotated copies of your favorite novels, consults with TV/movie producers and more. But there are also autographed books, gift baskets, embroidery, sticker, you name it! You have to check out the list of items up for auction–they are AMAZING. Auction opens 2.14.22.

I’m offering a gift package of signed copies of Bishop Takes Knight and Bishop’s Gambit (Redclaw Origins 1&2), as well as some swag and a mystery gift! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! From the auction website:

We are romance authors, readers, and fans who care about the future of this country and are inspired by fellow romance author Stacey Abrams to do what we can to preserve the right to vote. Democracy only thrives when every vote can be cast and counted, and we are fighting to help dismantle the legacy of voter suppression both in Georgia and across the country.

All funds raised through our project will go to Fair Fight.

Romancing the Vote is the sequel to Romancing the Runoff, which was coordinated by Alyssa Cole, Courtney Milan, and Kit Rocha in 2020 and raised almost $500,000 for voting organizations in Georgia. They are joined in 2022 by the same amazing group of volunteers, and their official “Take Care of Yourself” wrangler, Tessa Dare.

Direct link to my gift basket is here.

Yep. Valentine’s Day is going to be stellar! I hope you’ll join me!

What’s New in 2022: It’s a Party and You’re All Invited!

I don’t know about you, but somehow the end of the year snuck up on me without my realizing it. Life got crazy there for a while, and I never got around to making my EOY post, which is fine because I hate doing those kinds of reflective summaries anyway. I never seem to have been as productive or as successful as I might have hoped, you know?

Most of you who follow this blog know I like to create a power word or phrase for the coming year, and that looks like it will be a bust this year as well. I chose fearless for 2019. It was audacious for 2020. Resilent for 2021. I think maybe it’s time to retire power words for a while, don’t you?

I had a Tarot reading done for 2021 heading into 2022. The Tower and Judgement cards were major players in my life in 2021 (sadly, this could apply pretty much to every year since 2016), with the Devil and the Fool being factors in the upcoming year. I can overcome if I play to my strengths and ditch my issues with self-confidence and self-sabotage. Sounds ominous? I think so, too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I was recently exposed to Covid through the workplace, which led to a scramble to get tested. I’m negative at the moment, but isolating from my high-risk family members to be on the safe side.

All in all, I’m surprised I’ve gotten anything accomplished this month!

But the good news is I finished the draft of the second Ginny Reese book: The Dog Days of Murder! It’s off to editing soon. Look for a release date late winter, early spring! If you are signed up for my newsletter, you’ll get a sneak peek at the cover before everyone else! The gang’s all there: Ginny, her dog Remy, Ming the Merciless, the Siamese cat, as well as the cast of characters living in Greenbrier, including her mother, the indomitable Julia Reese! Ginny’s plans to open her own vet practice go awry when a newcomer swoops into town with mysterious financial backing AND a connection to Joe. Of course, this new veterinarian winds up getting murdered, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

I did a fun interview with Marcia James about pets in books and why I include them. Be sure to check it out and see some great pictures! 

Tomorrow, I’m participating in a big release day bash for Kerry Blaisell’s latest release, Damning the Dead. There’s going to be a Facebook party with 13 other authors, with games and prizes galore. Not only are you invited, but you should invite your friends too! It’s Jan 5 from 4-7:30 Pacific Standard Time, so be sure to join us!! Join the group now so you won’t miss a thing!

Here’s the schedule:

Schedule of participating authors:
  • Jeff D. Ellis ~ 4:00 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Bob Herold ~ 4:15 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Tena Stetler ~ 4:30 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Dan Rice ~ 4:45 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • McKenna Dean ~ 5:00 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Hunter Skye ~ 5:15 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Pamela Thibodeaux ~ 5:30 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Shelly Chalmers ~ 5:45 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Theresa Finn ~ 6:00 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Augustina Van Hoven ~ 6:15 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Janet Raye Stevens ~ 6:30 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Anna M. Taylor ~ 6:45 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Sally Brandle ~ 7:00 PM PACIFIC TIME

 

And now that I’ve finished the second Ginny Reese book, it’s time for me to go back to Bishop and Knight’s story. When we last left them, Rhett and Peter had become very close, but they’d also been fired from Redclaw and hired by the competition: Rian Stirling! We all know that Rian has his eye on Rhett as well, so this doesn’t bode well for our intrepid duo. Sometimes, however, you must form an alliance with an enemy to defeat a more powerful adversary. No spoilers, but we’ll find out the source of all those mysterious artifacts and why the planet has been seeded with them…

 

Maybe I should chose a power word after all. How does confidence sound? ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

What to Do When the Spirit of Christmas Ghosts You

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time getting into the spirit of Christmas this year.

Oh, who am I kidding? It’s not just this year, though for some reason, it feels even worse than usual. Normally by this time of year, I’m happily working my way through holiday romances and mysteries on the e-reader, as well as indulging in my love of cheesy Christmas movies on Hallmark and Netflix. I’ve picked a night to do my annual re-watch of the Muppet Christmas Carol, and I’ve decided which of my other beloved favorites to add to the list. Will it be Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer or How the Grinch Stole Christmas? It’s a Wonderful Life or Christmas in Connecticut? I rotate these favorite classics to keep them fresh but also to make room for new movies, like A Cinderella Story: A Christmas Wish or Last Holiday with Queen Latifah.

I normally hide presents all over the house (sometimes to the point of forgetting to recover and wrap them in time for Christmas), though we’ve begun to scale back on that too. Most years I become possessed by a seasonally driven urge to bake. Completely ignoring my lack of skill in the kitchen (oh boy, do I have a post to share with you about THAT at some future date), I try my hand at dozens of different kinds of cookies, filling the house with the scent of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Co-workers and neighbors are the recipients of anything edible that my family can’t finish, though I eat far too many of them myself.

We haven’t done the elaborate holiday dinner for some time now. The family is smaller, its members scattered. Most of us have so little time off from work that travel isn’t feasible, even if the pandemic hadn’t made it impossible or unwise. We’ve never been big on outdoor decorations, either, and when you have pets, Christmas trees with ornaments can be problematic.

So we’ve been scaling back on Christmas a little each year for a while now.

Last year, while the pandemic still raged and vaccination wasn’t on the horizon yet, there was a desperation to my attempts to get into the holiday mood. This year, there is just apathy. I haven’t been able to muster the enthusiasm to watch more than one or two of the new holidays movies out there, and haven’t watched any of my old favorites. I have dozens of holiday books on the reader, and keep scrolling past to read something else. The weather isn’t helping, either. It’s been a balmy 70 degrees here recently with nary a snowflake in sight.

But in a conversation with one of my friends this morning, she said that though she and her husband feel the same, they put up a few decorations, and were glad they did. She planned to watch a cheesy movie and drink some hot cocoa, and suggested I should do likewise.

You know what? I’m going to take her advice.

Scaling back doesn’t mean going all out Grinch. Maybe finding the Christmas spirit is a little like writing when the Muse has left you. 

Sometimes you just need to sit down and do it. Don’t wait for the feeling to come. Go out and grab it.

Or put another way, if you open your heart to the spirit of Christmas, it will come.

Tonight we took a chance on a new holiday movie, Single All the Way. Lately the newer holiday movies have been a little hit-or-miss with me, but this movie was one of the best, most satisfying holiday movies I’ve seen in some time. It perfectly nailed the goofy, strange dynamics of a loving family. The writing and acting was top-notch. It took the fake boyfriend trope and turned it on its head. Best of all, there were no bad guys, unless you count demanding bosses who expect you to work over the holidays. Highly recommend.