Saturday, May 29, 2021

In the Public Eye - #RomBkLove

One of the things that fascinates me as the internet and other forms of social media create new ways for a person to be a public figure, is the many ways that fiction has begun to reflect that. There's a song about how everyone in a small town is famous. Right now we have celebrities, people who are famous on just one app, and well everything in between.

In thinking about this, it occurred to me my initial fascination with this was a book I read as a teen - Ellen Emerson White's White House Autumn. It was the sequel to The President's Daughter, the title of which is a spoiler. But we follow Meg as she has to move to DC and attend school where now her mom is president, and she has secret service agents, and how do you even date when you have a secret service agent?

Those books appear to be only available in kindle form these days. But there are still plenty of stories about falling in love and also navigating being a public persona.

Meow Or Never by Jazz Taylor - Bookshop link Now this is a middle grade and you might be like Tara, we are talking romance, but trust me, Avery has a huge crush and also some social anxiety which means she has barely been able to talk to Nic her crush. But Avery discovers a cat in the closet at school and sings to it, and now Nic wants Avery to audition for the school play. Exactly as cute and angsty as you might imagine.
Content notes: Depiction of panic attacks, references to off page child abuse.

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala - Bookshop link. Raffy has a streaming channel where he details his cosplay work. So now he's entered a huge cosplay competition, and it looks like his ex-boyfriend has teamed up with his main competition.
Content notes: Depiction of panic attacks, some parental biphobia, and manipulative parenting

I'll Be the One by Lyla Lee - Bookshop link - Skye is entering a K-Pop reality show taking place in the US. She's fat, and she knows she'll have to extra wow the judges (and her mom) to convince folks she should win and she will not be distracted by a very cute boy. Who is maybe also kinda famous.
Content notes: fatphobia directed at main character, some depiction of social media abuse.

Now That I've Found You by Kristina Forest - Bookshop link - Evie was set to break out and be the next big star in her family like her grandmother, until an ex-friend posts an embarrassing video on social media. Evie has a plan to get back into Hollywood's good graces, she just needs the help of her now reclusive grandmother. Except that not long after she arrives, her grandmother disappears. Now she needs the help of the very annoying even if he is maybe cute Milo. The Love Study by Kris Ripper - Bookshop link - Declan agrees to go on Sydney's You Tube advice show to get dating advice. Except that, eventually, it becomes pretty clear that Declan really wants to date Sydney.
Content notes: Depiction of panic attacks. (Yes, I am realizing I have a second theme here.)

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner - Bookshop link - A showrunner and her assistant make a bit of a splash when pictures of them looking cozy on the red carpet make them look like a couple. They aren't of course. But maybe they wish they were?
Content notes: Depictions of workplace sexual harassment, discussions of racism in Hollywood.

Quick note, if musicians are your fave fictional public people (a totally valid choice) - you may want to go check out the Day 13 post for #RomBkLove Now I had to hold myself back from flooding this list with more. What are your favorite falling in love when everybody is looking at you stories?

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. This oral history of "A Different World" was a nice peek into their memories of being on the show. 
2. This piece on learning to ride a bike in Jerusalem was a look into life as a Palestinian.  
3.  My very biased note is that there is a scuba mystery being serialized over on this blog.  Biased because I am related to this person. Only one chapter up so far, but you can get a sense if this story mood is for you.  

Monday, May 24, 2021

Defend Yourself's Bystander Intervention Training

I took another bystander Intervention course.  I know, I get a little excited.  This one was through the Defend Yourself.  It was two hours and was designed to be very interactive with story sharing, breakout rooms, and such.  
As such, I feel like comparing it to the Hollaback ones (both the one with AAJC and others) is somewhat unfair.  While the Hollaback ones have some polls and chats, this was more interactive.  As such, the group dynamics are going to play in to your experience of the course a little bit more, ie it won't ever really be the same course twice.  
Because Hollaback focuses on street and bar harassment in their core mission, they are approaching a lot of this as what happens if you are out and see two strangers interacting.  
Defend Yourself works a lot on empowered self-defense, so there was an emphasis on using body language and stance, to think about the physicality of the situation.  
Overall the basics of bystander interventions remain the same, but in all cases, the opportunity to think through strategies, share past strategies, and to even practice saying things like, "Oh no, that's not acceptable" can help.  
The class was free, although donations were accepted.  

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. This piece on the echochamber of pandemic grief, spoke wonderfully about how both the changed rituals of grief in these times and and how for some there is the disconnection of differing ways to navigating a pandemic. 
2. This piece on breaking up with and re-examining childhood reads was thoughtful.  (WaPo link so, may be paywalled.) 
3. This piece on baseball as a lifeline for a former hostage was fascinating. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

What Hidden Object Games Have Taught Me

So I will go on a kick for video games.  I should clarify, that I play games on my phone, so they are all phone games.  I did collection games like Neko Atsume.  I did time management games like Sally's Salon.  I did - uh - chapter games like chapters.  My usual pattern is that I will get very obsessed and then one day I am done and I stop.  Or I finish it but like none of the sequels as much.  
My current kick is hidden objects games.  I started with Hidden Objects: Cat Detective Agency.  It is very clearly marked as in development, so yes, I have now found all the cats and just replay the levels waiting for them to make more.  
And then I found Pearl's Peril and June's Journey.  And I discovered several things.  At first, because I am stubborn and cheap, I waited for the energy to refresh and which is why I started playing two.  Except of course, eventually you have so many fake rooms in your head it takes longer to complete each level because wait, was the fan in this corner or that corner.  You have to decide if acing each level as you hit it makes more sense than the fun of progressing forward.  You have to decide if you are building a cute, well designed island or just plinking down building to get the points you need to get to other levels.  
I also discovered my scores were better at certain times of day.  Not just because eventually you get tired enough that thigns make very little sense.  But also because at peak sunshine streaming in the window time, I just can't see the screen well enough to be as thorough. You are encouraged to join teams, like the page on social media, and do various other things to get more energy, more points, and more chances.  I have chosen to do some and not other of these things.
As often happens to me deep in the throes of a new thing, I discovered I walked around and looked up, and in corners, at the edges of things, because my eyes were now trained to seek new things out.  I looked behind people in video chats, carefully scanning their background.  (Okay, technically I have always done this if people sat in front of a bookshelf.  
Right now I still love it, although my love has returned to normal levels where I also remember to read, and do other things with my eyes.  
But the other thing I learned or was reminded of was the learning process itself.  Now this differs for different people, but for me, going carefully works better than going fast.  These games have a time component and a hint option.  It's easier to go fast when stuck by getting a hint.  But getting a hint often meant I forgot where the thing was the next time I had to find it.  So I was better off finding it myself and sacrificing the short term time gain for the long term memory.  
This is something I have found true in real life too. I am terrible at asking for help with tasks.  But often when I did, I also didn't retain the process. I was better off getting someone who would lead me through than having them demo and me watch.  So what had seemed like an I have to do it myself flaw, was actually an innate understanding of my own learning process that I needed to figure out how to better communicate to others, so I could get the best kind of help for myself.  
Also, nothing will teach how weird the English language is than being asked to find a bat and not knowing if you are looking for a long skinny sports thing or a winged thing.  

Friday, May 14, 2021

LTAFS Wraps Up

In the last post for Let's Talk About Fictional Sex, we had the Question Box.  
And the ebook version of the series is now available.
If you found this newsletter entry before the others, here's the info: Let's Talk About Fictional Sex: Writing Sex Scenes That Deepen Character Sex scenes provide authors an opportunity to explore their characters more deeply. (Pun intended!) Fiction is not a how-to manual, but sex scenes are about more than how much description the author dedicates to the act. The choices characters make, from communication to contraception, are an often underutilized way to demonstrate your character's experiences and expectations of both the world and their relationship expectations. In this series, we'll take a look at some of the basics of how the choices characters make regarding reveal their character. Started as a newsletter series, but expanded into ebook form. Universal link here: 
Newsletter posts will return to every other week for a while.  It was a fun run though.  

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. #RomBlLove has started and today's theme of musicians is a particular reading fave of mine.  (Spoiler, I may be making my participation a little more official this year.) 
2. I read Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream House, and found it at times lyrical, at times educational, but one thing it isn't is sexy.  It's a book that is honest about how the things we want and love are also sometimes not healthy for us, for sure. But it is unequivocally a book about an abusive relationship.  Machado writes about how the message that relationships that are great at times can also be awful is important for teens, and that keeping the book away from high schoolers won't save them from learning that dildos exist. 
3. As a fan of tricolor cats in all their variations, I was fascinated to discover that calico lobsters exist.  Spoiler: Freckles does not get eaten. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Celebrations and the Sadness

I've been holding off writing this post.  It is seemingly ridiculous for a thing I have had to convey by phone and text and email to feel any more or less real because it shows up on the blog, but somehow it does.  
My mother died last week.  It was also Mother's Day last week.  And also my great aunt's 100th birthday, which thanks to some access to vaccinations, meant her kids were able to travel to be with her safely.  
My mother did not want to be treated like a person who was sick, and so she carried on, happy to talk about books and other highly entertaining things that were not the boring details of being sick.  It did mean that convincing her there was a deadly pandemic was a bit of a challenge.  I was incredibly grateful that the state of Connecticut happened to be trying to engage in a decent number of sensible precautions, because it turns out being an adult child does not mean your parents have to listen to you the way they listen to other adults. (I know, this is a shocking turn of events.)  
But yes, I have been telling folks for about a year that grieving in a pandemic is a challenge, and that continues to be true.  I am lucky enough that I am considered fully vaccinated now, so travel is and will be possible for me, but not yet all the folks who loved her.  It is also fortunate that live streaming and other virtual methodologies have become more common, so that I get to video chat with friends and relatives near and far, centenarians, and other lovely people.  
I have been thinking a lot about this story of our trip to the wall.  Mostly because I think it encapsulates some of the work my mother put into creating great experiences for those around her, even when the experiences did not quite live up to her dreams, she still worked to make the best of it.  

Friday, May 07, 2021


The next two posts for Let's Talk About Fictional Sex are up: 
And for an entirely different topic, I was back on the Let's Go Steal a Podcast to talk about the pentultimate episode of the original run of "Leverage" - "The Toy Job".  

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. I confess I find this unravelling of the man behind the Catch Me If You Can book (later "Oprah" appearances, movie, musical, and so on) fascinating in part because I found the book so unbearably smug, and of course in retrospect should have suspected it was that thing when you are trapped at an event with the person who keeps trying to impress you with unbelievable stories.  I am so sorry to the folks he harmed. 
2. Jenn at Reapprorpiate wrote a thougthful piece about the continued value of AAPI Heritage Month - aka May - and also her changing relationship with it.  
3. Audie Cornish of NPR's Office Hours piece with Elle has many lovely tidbits, including thinking about negotiationg for more than just pay. 

Monday, May 03, 2021

Some Notes About Awards

I made the decision last year to renew my membership in RWA last March when it came up for renewal because I had made commitments to the two chapters I was a member of.  They would have survived if I had left, but I decided to see them through, although I did think long and hard about what it would take for me to leave.  
I had a couple of thoughts about what would happen after. 
completed the board service role I was in, and notified my other chapter that I was going to step down as contest chair.  And I confess, based on the proposed award schedule, I realized that if I stayed as a member, I would be up for renewal right around the time they announced the new award nominees and would be in a position to say something if something needed to be said.  
It's a fair assumption that the pandemic has meant the idea of not paying for three (one national and two chapter) memberships didn't hurt my decision.  Overall, while I haven't agreed with every step the board has taken over the past year, I think they are doing things to make sure that RWA is still around for folks for more than just the next year, and that requires decisions not everyone is going to like.  They have also worked to implement several programs that I think are useful and interesting to new and mid-career writers.  
So, lots of lead up to say, that the finalists were announced.  There are some great books on that list.  And there is at least one about a protagonist who participated in a genocide finding love.  
Full disclosure, I have already shared my thoughts, in far more detail, than I will here, with the RWA board.  I am aware that the way the RWA awards are set up means that the rules cannot be altered or changed until the award cycle completed.  So I sent my thoughts so that I could be on record ahead of my membership lapsing, but am aware that this is something they cannot discuss until July.  (Do I think that in and of itself creates problems for RWA? Yes, I do.)  
I am aware that racism and bigotry exist in our larger society and RWA cannot fix this.  It is not RWA's job to fix this.  However, it is my personal opinion that the current awards process requires an incredible amount of free labor from members and other volunteers.  I heard from participants this year that they got eight books to read.  I read eight books and have read eight books in a similar time period, but reading eight books for a deadline is different.  Reading eight books you didn't select for yourself is different.  It's a lot.  
The current setup has three rounds - and initial round where only a partial is read, and the second and third rounds where the full book is read.  
Having run a contest I can also tell you that there's a lot of work that goes into finding people to read for all your rounds, gathering up all the documents, figuring out how to assign them so that everyone gets read by people in the correct categories, to say nothing of the person who inevitably tells you after all the assignments are sent out that they don't want to read X, and now you have to find backup judges.  
Other organizations use either a small committee that commits to a ton of reading to create their initial finalist list, or a voting submission process.  These options are not equal amounts of work, but they allocate the work differently.  
Because let's be really honest here, the current process is a lot of work, and it is not providing RWA with a better quality of finalist than other methodologies.  We have basically proven that many, many, times now.  I love some books that have been nominated this year.  I love some books that were nominated under the prior but not distinctly different process and even some that won.  I am not saying that some of the finalists and winners over the years aren't great books.  
But here's what I also know to have finaled and in some cases have won: 
-A book with a Nazi protagonist
-A book where one protagonist dies at the end.  (Not to be confused with undead.)
-A book with a protagonist who helped slaughter native Americans
I'm sure there's more to it than that.  I certainly haven't read every nominee.  
I love awards ceremonies.  It's really fun to watch people dress up and take home shiny statues.  Writing is a hard and often solitary job, and finding a moment of recognition in it is amazing.  
But RWA cannot take credit for the good books that are nominated, and ignore the problematic books that are nominated.  I know it's easy to critique other's work.  I know the board won't get to really dive in on this until July and I don't envy them that task.  But right now this process requires a lot of labor, and isn't really getting us to better results. So I hope they take the opportunity to make bold change with it.