Thursday, August 31, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. It's not news that folks, especially public figures of some sort can experience harassment and hate speech on Facebook and other social media.  ProPublica is trying to track some of this
2. As heartwarming as every rescue boat or rescue story coming out of Texas is, it's easy to forget how huge the Houston area in particular is, and how some neighborhoods are not seeing boats and reporters floating through. 
3. I had not really heard that Waffle House prides itself on staying open through weather disasters (which, yes, I did read a book with that concept baked in and had assumed it was exaggerated) and that they have teams they deploy to areas.  Please tip your staff well, because that may mean they haven't gone home yet. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Diversity is Not Harming You, Unless You're a Bigot

A well-known romance author made a post on a member forum for RWA over the weekend about how the group's focus on diversity is what's causing the organization harm, and the group used to be better and yada-yada.  I am not a member of the member board she posted this to, which is why I'm not going to mention her by name because there's a way bigger issue here.  (I mean, she's a bigot and if you want to email me, I'll tell you who I've heard it was, but since I can't point you to what she said, we are going to leave it there.)
I'm sure she's not alone.  The publishing world is changing.  It's always changing, but certainly if you have been publishing for umpteen years, I'm willing to bet that all but a small few are seeing lower advances, publisher's attempting lower royalties, lower initial print runs, publishing is not the same.  It's easy to look around and say, well, the biggest difference I see is that there are more authors of color, or more people writing characters of color, or disabled characters, or LGBTQ+ characters, and I used to be a bestseller without doing that, so, this emphasis on that is hurting me. 
This is of course the equivalent of saying readers used to only have spaghetti to choose from and now there's grilled cheese and tacos too, so if we got rid of the grilled cheese and tacos, people would have to eat my spaghetti again.  
The reality is that readers do have far more choice, RWA has adjusted to that, publishers have adjusted to that, and as an organization of romance writers, I don't think less writers or less books helps us at all. 
But the other thing I know, is that there are plenty of folks who left RWA because they were self-publishing or publishing digital first and RWA wasn't offering what they needed.  I hope we can get some of them back.  I know there are authors of color, disabled authors, and LGBTQ+ authors who saw someone flip out and thought, well, where there's one there's many, I'm not giving money to that place.  I hope RWA can move to show those authors, those writers, that people In RWA have their back.  
And, the point of private member boards is in part to give members a place to talk about stuff they don't want to say in public.  But, if you don't see why being a poophead in private gets out, if you don't see that it gets out to protect those who now need to know to make sure not to talk to you at conference lest you think that's a safe space to air more bigotry, well, hi, welcome to the internet. 
To authors and writers who say this is why they didn't join or dropped their membership.  I hear you.  I can't at this point promise there aren't more poopheads.  I can't at this point promise that there won't be a workshop where an editor or agent says something silly or harmful.  I can't at this point promise another problematic book won't get nominated for an award.  I can promise there are people working really hard to move RWA in the right direction, and it's election time, so this is something that will factor into who I vote for for the board.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Faking a Bestseller

Pajiba has been documenting everything that happened with the book that tried to take the number one spot on the YA New York Times Bestseller list.  I want to address one small part of the fallout.  There has of course been some suggestion that the folks that uncovered this did so out of spite, or because they couldn't believe some book they've never heard of made the bestseller list, or that lots of people buy a bunch of copies of their own book to get on the list.  So, let's address those. 
1. People get mad at books all the time.  The idea that people could have used their spite to get it removed without any other irregularities, is nuts. 
2. It's surprising when a book most industry pros haven't heard of makes the list, especially the top spot, but it's not unprecedented.  What surprised people here was less that, but that it somehow sold perfectly (usually some bookstore puts the book out a little early, etc) in an incredibly high amount, and that, if you looked, there were no copies of the books to be had anywhere. Not even a digital version. (The digital is now available, and yes, sometimes things get stuck in the push to go live process, but really, if you didn't have it ready to go on the day you hit the list?  I wonder.  It basically says book sales were not your priority.)
3. It is kind of an open secret that if you can front the money to buy several thousand copies of your book and schedule it all for release week, then sure, you'll probably make the list.  The reason for spending the six digits doing this would cost*, is that you expect to make money back in several ways - future sales, especially through positioning the book as a bestseller and speaking engagements.  While the stated reason for these bulk buys of this book was to sell it at cons, there is not yet any evidence there are enough of these books to do this.  In other words, they got sales listed in the system, and most all of them have not been fulfilled.  Because the book is out of stock.  So...even if they were planning to sell it back at cons, there aren't currently enough books to do that.  So, and yes, this is me speculating at this point, but it mostly looks like they printed enough books to have a launch and to give out a few giveaways and then faked 18,000 sales because there aren't actually 18,000 copies of this book.  So, the Times amending their list because sales are at this point not fulfilled is not spite, it is reality.  I could release a book and call 50 bookstores to order my book and not spend a penny because the book is out of stock.  But that does not make my book a bestseller, because a key part of that word is sales, and none of the sales have been fulfilled. 

*The book is priced at 29.95.  To buy 5000 copies already has you over 100,000.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvey Help

Lots of things happened in book world over the last few days, and I will get to them.  But you may have heard we have a historic flood going on in Texas and since the storm isn't done yet, we are really at the very beginning of all of this.  If you have the means to donate funds, there are a lot of resources that I've collected here.  Do whatever your normal due diligence is for charities.  In general, local charities tend to already have plans and contacts in place to get to the people there, and are more likely to be there, not just this week, but in the years to come.  As we have seen from other storms, this recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Even tiny amounts help, they join up with other people's tiny amounts.  And if you can't give until next month, or next year, as I said, this is a long term thing and it's really okay.  And if you can't give at all, that's also okay.  Your survival comes first. 
Global Giving is crowdfunding with the intention that the money will go to local non-profits. 
Humanity first is giving out hygiene kits and other early necessities. 
Feeding Texas is the Texas arm of Feeding America.  (And if this reminds you that lots of people need food, Feeding America donates to food banks in your areas when you donate to the national arm.)
Austin Pets Alive has been rescuing many stranded pets. A lot of evacuation centers or hotels don't allow pets, so people often have to make tough choices. 
Texas Diaper Bank provides diapers, something a lot of evacuation groups don't have or have enough of on hand especially if folks had to leave their place unexpectedly. 
GoFundMe has aggregated the Harvey specific fundraisers. 
Portlight focuses on the needs of disabled folks displaced by disaster. 
Team Rubicon is a group of military vets with relief and rescue experience. (Just a note, this group was highly recommended, there is not a Harvey operation listed on their webpage yet, but their social media indicated they are in the process of getting a group together.)
Houston's Coalition for the Homeless works with the homeless, which sadly we expect there to be more of after this. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Project Runway: Recycled Teams

You know I love overanalyzing a team challenge.  It's episode 2, but I think it's important to remember that we've had a week to think on these folks and they are probably in day 4, so like they barely remember where the bathrooms are. 
They were taken to a recycling plant and given five minutes to shop, right after they'd been split into teams that, yeah, totally placed the twins on the same team.  (We'll talk about that.) They grabbed things, they went back to discuss things, and team beach resort basically worked like professionals and ended up safe, so while I am seeing promising things in Margarita, we are going to ignore all of them this week.  
Team Ballin' With a Budget had Aaron, Ayana, Batani, Brandon, and Kenya, so two highs and a low from last week, and a very large range of styles which is hard in a challenge where they want you to make something cohesive and yet representative of your own style.  
Team Tsunami had Amanda, Amy, Sentell and the twins - Shawn and Clare.  Now look, I hate referring to twins as a single entity, they are distinct people and they deserve to be treated as such, but they are doing nothing to help this and still appear to be giving mannequin interviews together, and they are sharing an apartment.  Basically, short of going to the bathroom together, I don't know how they could be spending more time together, and we saw this on "Top Chef" where there was a wife and wife team together.  Unless they are planning to get eliminated together in a double elimination, one of them is going home earlier than the other, and they need to be ready.  
Okay, like I said at the top, it's day 4, they are still working on their coping as the reality of the thing hits them. 
Team BwB got a troubling lack of cohesiveness from their Tim critique so revamped some stuff and actually created a great collection.  If you didn't know it was made of recyclables you wouldn't be shocked or anything, but you would nod, and say that's so cool.  It was nice to see Batani be forced out of safe mode, and hopefully she will stay there. And Kenya struggled, but got it together and still seems so surprised to get praise that I want to hug her though the TV.  I personally think Brandon and Aaron are kind of skating, but, their team was the best this week, so there we go.  I was thrilled to see Ayana win.  She's right that fun, fashionable, and modest is a gap in the market, and if she keeps making fun stuff like this, it will be a great season. 
Team Tsunami - Shawn was thrown, still seemingly confused and doubting from having been in the bottom last week, and her team was all ready with ideas, so she kept nodding and smiling, in a way she seemed to think was convincing. Amanda quietly asked Claire if she thought there was something the team could do to help. Claire then kept talking to Shawn, and as Amy noted they just seemed to be feeding off each other's negativity.  Sentell tried to give Shawn a pep talk and their Tim critique went okay although Claire and Shawn still had no clothing pieces, but the team had great suggestions every time an issue was raised.  Which is to say, it seemed like a team with skills and plans to fix things.  
But alas, "Project Runway" teams generally need all their members to recover and Sentell in particular seemed to let concern about Shawn distract him from his outfit.  It's possible his outfit still would have been terrible, but it created the classic "Project Runway" conundrum, we the audience knew Shawn had been an anchor to her team, but her outfit also looked better than Sentell's.  And in the end it is supposedly about the clothes.  
Sentell, sensing the way the wind was blowing in their post-runway discussion, did mention that he helped with Shawn's top. Oh, and Shawn. Shawn, Shawn, Shawn. You referenced having watched "Project Runway" which means you know that into every season comes so-called real women.  So, sure, you didn't know you were getting a "curvy" model, and doing something new with recyclables is a challenge.  But it is something everyone on your team is dealing with.  It is also something that in this season will happen again.  So, saying you're not good at designing for people of size translates to, I am unprepared for handling the challenges this show will provide. Also, who do you think watches this show?  Your future customers.  Guess what size they are likely to be? You worked for Betsy Johnson and I know she makes clothes larger than a size 2. 
And as guest judge Maggie Q pointed out, the model wasn't even plus sized.  (I think Shawn was trying to be sensitive in her terminology, but they posted the model's measurements, and basically, she was what I have come to understand the industry calls a swimwear model.  She was tall and slim, but she had definable breasts and hips.) 
The team each got asked who the weakest link was, they all picked Shawn except the ones who had a sister standing on stage. But Sentell went home.  
I don't think this was producer intervention, Sentell's outfit was legit the worst this time.  But Shawn and Claire have to figure out how to separate themselves or go down together soon. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. Nicola Yoon talks about trying to help her daughter have balloon princesses that look like her
2. This article dives into how the NFL reflects that regular contact with people unlike yourself is not enough to unpack your privilege unless you work at it. 
3. A street artist paints unusual shadows

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Thing in Front of Another Thing

In the US today there is much discussion of the eclipse.  I am not along the totality (which somehow sounds incredibly dire and science fictiony even though I recognize it is exactly the right word).  But it is interesting when the world, the universe really, does things that are both perfectly normal and outside of our normal day to day existence. It has created memes, changes to traffic and tourism, and a lot of discussion about looking or not looking at the sun. 
I hope no one accepts strange potions or plants today, but if you do, well, here's hoping they make a great movie or musical about you. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Project Runway Could Get a Driver's License

This is our 16th time doing this, and well, things are different.  These whippersnapper designers are on to some of the tricks, one hopes, and we, the audience, are a little tired of designers who think they are the next new thing, and remind us of things we have seen before.  
These twins Claire and Shawn, I feel for them, because they are clearly so used to the Oh you're twins bit, and are aware that that's part of the initial interest, and that, they also are like their own people.  I know. This is radical stuff.  
There were other people.  They said things about their design aesthetics that I will believe when I see.  Oh, and one guy who's only made one dress.  Sure, sure. 
There is a designer, Ayana, who wants to design modest clothes that align with her Muslim faith, and that does intrigue me because I see no reason that couldn't be very successful on "Project Runway" and it has not yet been done. 
We're getting a range of models this year.  Size 2 to 22.  Now, I recognize that, underneath the whining from designers (and in fairness some excitement) there is a legit complaint that the dress forms are usually one size, and size 2-22 is not one size.  This doesn't mean the more traditionally sized runway models didn't differ from the dress form and require designers to work off the dress form, or make alterations.  They did.  And any designer who thought they were getting through the season without doing that, well, I'm not sure why they would be here. 
Mr. Menswear has of course gotten a curvier model for this challenge. 
And we have a model mirror this year, so the models can share some thoughts. 
Okay, there are so many, the show is barely give you more than a thumbnail sketch of each of them, and honestly, I've been through this rodeo before, it's barely worth me trying to learn all their names right now.  Obviously they are all skilled people who can sew more than I can (no more non-sewers, yay!) and some of them are going to just run into the inevitable wall, of my aesthetic is weirder than anything Nina, Zac, and Heidi will ever like collectively but maybe being here a few episodes will get me the attention of enough people.  Plus I assume they feed you in the sequester place the eliminated designers go before being released. 
There's one design that ended up safe that I would have called out myself, but as seasoned watchers know, it was either a one off for that designer or it will catch up to them and really the order the first six or so get eliminated in means very little.  
Mr. Menswear - Brandon - ends up in the top, haha, I suspected they were trying to psych us out, and here is where we also remember surprising people make it into the top the first few episodes, and that actually also doesn't matter. His outfit was fine.  It was not top three in my opinion.  
But Batani, as another designer had already pointed out, made an outfit that was more boring than her own for her model, which is always a shame as you stand next to it in judging.  Cha Cha made an outfit that was him, in the sense that he like ruffles and pink, but, as they told him, showed no interest in the person it was adorning.  Shawn made a wonderful top, and then, trying to show how edgy she was paired it with metallic shorts that did not look well made, so looked more like she ran out of time. Deyonte made a gorgeous dress that looked more resort but the judges did not care. Kenya made a dress with pockets making her the hero of the revolution. 
So, this season looks to be interesting.  Here's hoping sewing for differently sized people becomes just normal. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I'm so sad that the current touring star of "The Little Mermaid" is facing people being surprised that the mermaid looks Asian.  Fortunately some are also thrilled. 
2. Dreamhost is fighting a request to turn over all visitor info on a website to the government.  
3. I've really enjoyed Santino Hassell's co-written books with Megan Erickson, and have his NFL stories on my TBR list.  He talks here about placing queer characters with strong systems of support while they exist in a place where they are likely to be closeted. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Consent and Power Imbalances

As someone who has worked with teens, I have been through many workshops, and signed many forms where I agree to several things.  It is entirely age appropriate for teenagers to explore and possibly redefine their sexual identity.  There are tons of ways for them to do this that are also appropriate in communal settings.  So, acting as a chaperone or facilitator or responsible adult may mean I witness these teens expressing themselves in ways that indicate that they are in fact sexual beings.  However, as the adult with the veto power, I exist in a place where I constantly have more power.  What they may be doing is entirely appropriate, my job is to maintain the space in which they do this.  
As an adult it is also natural and appropriate for me to engage in behavior befitting my place in this world as a sexual being.  However, when I have my responsible adult hat on, what is appropriate for me to be engaging in in that moment, in that space, is not the same as what is appropriate and allowed  for those teens. I teach sex ed, so I often talk about sex with teens, but we are doing so in a specific, here are the facts way.  I am talking about it the same way I would talk about voting rights, or history.  I am not sharing personal experiences.  We may reach a place where they feel incredibly comfortable sharing very personal information with me, and my job is to trust, and hold that, to continue to create a space where they can work to be their best selves.  
So, all of this is to say, teacher/student stuff has always been a huge hard stop for me.  It's not cute to me.  It's not adorable to me if they met somewhere else, or the student is wise beyond their years.  I'm not saying books cannot contain problematic behavior.  They can.  I'm not saying there isn't space for non-consensual behavior in books.  There is.  But these things are not romance.  We say a lot that there's one rule in romance, the happily ever after.  And relationships founded on power imbalance and lack of consent do not lead to happily ever afters.  Is there a way to do this?  Yes, but the stories that keep coming up are tittering at their pushing the boundaries.  People who think consent is a cute boundary to push are not trying to write a thoughtful way through this.  
If an author wants to write taboos they can.  If a publisher says that they are reviewing a book now that sensitivities have been raised when they are releasing an erotic romance line I have concerns.  It should not have gotten to the point of arcs for someone to say high schooler and teacher is problematic no matter the age of the high schooler. I personally am not even a fan of college student TA hookups, but that's a not for me good for you squick line.  High schooler and teacher is problematic.  The whole point of it is that it's problematic (I am saying this because I read the Edelweiss description which is all the first problem the marketing is about how it's problematic).  If no one in the line of acquiring editors thought that was problematic until the internet pointed it out that points to an even bigger problem.  
So, I am glad it's being reviewed. I hope it is either not published or published with drastic story changes. And no, I don't think that's censorship.  I think there's no way to publish this as romance.  So something would have to give. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

7 Things To Do

The events in Charlottesville over the weekend are terrible. But we are already seeing some familiar equivocations and it's time to stop.  
1. It's incredibly common to sneer at millennials and those coming up behind them for being weak and wimpy and demanding safe spaces in college.  What that ignores of course, is that women students asking for places where they can be among women, students of color asking for places where they can be among other students of color is not wimpiness, it is often self care. Watching folks with flags and torches march on a college campus is just one recent overt example of that.  
2. The various social media folks asking to identify the white supremacy marchers proved this, as several students said variations of, oh yeah, that's the guy who was always saying racist and fascist things in history class. 
3. This behavior on the part of white supremacists is not new.  If this is simply the first time it became clear to you that these ideas about supremacy go hand in hand with the idea that other people don't even deserve life, well, welcome.  
4. White supremacy is strong.  Ideas of supremacy that are threatened with extinction often become bolder, more violent.  There is no historical example of these ideas dying out without people fighting back.  Inaction is not an option. 
5. That does not mean you can't take time for yourself.  That does not mean you have to weigh in on everything that happens.  
6. It also means don't let the little stuff slide, but, but, of course, not letting racism slide doesn't mean don't stop arguing with your co-worker/friend/uncle until they agree.  Some days, just saying, hey, I'm not going to accept those statements, those "joke" in my presence is enough of a first step. 
7. This article had some tips about combatting racism. The other thing to remember is this can be done as an add on to the other things you do already.  If you already teach Sunday or Hebrew school, volunteer at a soup kitchen, fold envelopes for your local politician, if your life is already full, no one is saying you need to drop everything at show up at every vigil.  You can add this into whatever work you are already doing. American ideals and American reality have always been in conflict, but we can keep working to move them closer together. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. This deep dive into the theme song of "Duck Tales" is fascinating. 
2. I listened to a slightly different version of this story on Sporkful, but it was fascinating.  We all make shifts in one direction or another with our food and it can  make family interactions in particular really tough. 
3. Sarah MacLean wrote a longer piece on how the election had her rewriting her hero. (PS, I got this after Passion and Prose and yeah, delightful weekend read.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Passion and Prose

Politics and Prose had what was billed as the first ever romance panel on Friday. As a local member of the romance community, I had met most of these authors before, which led to the feeling that this was just a great night with friends. Historical romance author Diana Gaston moderated, and led romantic suspense author Mary Burton, contemporary (and other) romance author Alisha Rai, contemporary romance author Tracey Livesay, and historical romance author Sarah MacLean through questions about writing romance. They talked about how romance was something that grabbed them early as readers. Livesay in particular mentioned that reading romance taught her to look for partners that treated her well and provided orgasms. Burton said romantic suspense allows her to write about the hope of love and the hope and happiness of justice. They talked about how much fun the research is, but to learn when you are researching just to avoid writing. Rai said the joy of the romance community is that she can find people to have dinner with wherever she travels. She said she was reminded that her job is to keep writing hope to fill up some reader's well. Livesay mentioned her next book involves amnesia, which we all know made me super happy. When asked about reader letters, MacLean said she heard from one woman who had her first orgasm after her husband read her book. Livesay said she heard from folks who had friends or kids in interracial relationships and found, reading her books, that it might just be okay. Rai said people felt seen reading about brown heroines or depressed characters for sometimes the first time in their life. Burton said people would tell her they read her book while going through cancer treatments. And Politics and Prose is also starting a Romance book group, which sounds great, and hopefully will lead to more great events like this. This also covered the evening.

Friday, August 04, 2017


I wrote this open letter to the NFL a while back. I revisited it briefly here.  I love football.  It is tied to a lot of childhood and college memories, to say nothing of my having found the perfect sports bar.  (The sports bar, is, in my opinion perfect because it is mostly a soccer bar, and so there is a small but dedicated group of American football fans.) One of the early things I did with this blog was post my football picks
It's always an interesting thing, to me, to see where you hit the line.  Where you look around and say, I put up with, excused, ignored a number of things, and I hoped the following things would change with time.  And where you look around and say, yep, I can't support this any more.  Part of the reason I had switched to the sports bar was because I figured some small changes I could make included - not purchasing or wearing NFL gear, not attending games in the stadium, and not contributing to the ratings.  It was a tiny thing - the ratings part at least - but I figured these changes I could make. 
But I can't ignore that the NFL has continued to allow and pretend neutrality when it comes to racist team names that support and encourage racist fan behavior. And I cannot ignore that every time a football player breaks the law or cheats, we have to wait and see if they will be punished at all.  And yet, the clearest most obvious punishment is being doled out to a player who simply made a political statement. 
The NFL's treatment of Colin Kaepernick is just utter unexcusable crap. Even if the NFL had a leg to stand on as far as player morality, it would be crap. Teams have ditched quarterbacks that weren't working in their system before, even ones that had won Superbowls.  I am well aware.  (And yeah, I am still a little mad at the Ravens for that.) But actual low and underperforming quarterbacks have gotten chance after chance after chance.  The fact that the Ravens have an injured quarterback and and playing the we'll see if it won't make people mad game, is further irritating. The Ravens stood behind a player who stood up for marriage equality, even when a politician wrote to them to stop it. Behind countless players who committed crimes.  But apparently speaking up for the rights of black people is somehow too much?  You have to be kidding me. 
So, it turns out this is where I am drawing the line.  This is where I reached the too far moment in my head.  The NFL is a business, and they are free to not hire people.  Just like I am free to decide their pretense of separation from politics is crap, and choose not to watch.  


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. There's a new tatau kahuna - the first really - in Hawaii.  
2. Serena Williams talked about the need to close the pay gap - particularly for black women.  Her sister Venus spearheaded the change to get tennis prizes to be gender equitable, but there is much more work to be done. 
3. Janet Mock spoke about going on a show, only to have them use her to encourage another guest to advocate for violence against trans people.