Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Blinded by Science!

I think I blasted this out on all my social media, but I failed to mention it here.... Mason's "Wind Energy Team" participated in the Minnesota Renewable Energy Challenge a few weeks ago, and their team qualified to go to the NATIONAL competition in Anaheim, California. This is a pretty cool deal. Not only did these kids have to design and build a working windmill, but they also had to do an on-the-fly design and build challenge at the competition. Mason reported to me that their on-the-fly windmill actually successfully picked up ALL the washers.


These are our future engineers, my friends!

The only problem is that Washington Tech is not a rich school. The kids are required to fundraise 100% of the travel expenses. Added pressure is that the principal won't start the paperwork (which has a deadline of May 1) until they've raised a "significant" amount. Thanks to a lot of big donations (that biggest one is from us, because Shawn and I decided that we would have otherwise funded Mason's travel, so we should just go ahead an donate what we would have paid), they're getting REAAAAAAALLLLLY close to halfway. I'm fairly certain that the principal would accept half as "significant," but we don't know.

Thing is, there's no need to break the bank. Every little bit helps. So, if you've got a spare dollar or five dollars for science these kids would really, really appreciate it.

Even if you DON'T have a spare buck, you should check out their GoFundMe page, anyway, and watch the video to check out the cool stuff they're up to. The narrator is Mason's friend Rosemary, and you can see Mason in several of the shots (hint: the white dude.)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Another Day Where it Looks Like Rain...

...but it probably won't.

The last few days have been very dreary. There's been cloud cover and cold, moist winds that smell like rain. Yesterday, it actually sprinkled for all of ten minutes (it even thundered), but when all was said and done, it was a very lackluster show of moisture. I think my plants would really like some wet. If it's going to be dark and stormy-looking, I wish it would just commit to the idea.

Weather people are saying it might actually snow. Of course, it'll do THAT, now that every Minneapolitan/Saint Paulie spent the weekend uncovering their various gardens. My luck, the snow will kill the few things that have managed to sprout in my otherwise dead yard.

I think this is the year I give up on grass. I've been trying to re-grass the top of our hill, under our maple tree for the last couple of years. I usually have pretty decent luck getting grass to sprout, but it never manages to really take hold and survive the winter. I think it's time to look at a shade garden for the top of the hill. Ferns and hostas and stuff like that.

Usually, my biggest hold up for projects like this is money. Hostas are surprisingly expensive. Plants, in general. So, if you're local to me and you hear about plant sales/giveaways please let me know. I think this week I might go to Menards some dirt and start prepping the area. Somewhere in this house we still have a gift certificate someone gave us to Gerten's. I might have to make a trip out there soon to see what they have that might work under the tree.

In other, possibly more exciting news, I'm doing a reading tonight at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis from 7 pm to 8 pm. I'm going to be part of a group that's reading from the anthology we were all published in: BOUNDARIES WITHOUT: The Calument Editions 2017 Anthology of Speculative Fiction (link is to the Kindle edition, but it's also available in paperback). It's sometimes tough to find parking in Uptown, but I usually park in the ramp there behind the square or whatever it's called. Should be a good night. I hope to see some of you there.

For some reason Magers & Quinn could not get copies of PRECINCT 13 to sell, so if you go, you might want to ask them to order a few copies and/or bring your own for me to sign. This has been happening to me a lot--where I agree to be at various venues, and the book purchasers say that they can't get my most recent publication. The first time this happened, I discovered it was because SONG OF SECRETS was showing up as my latest release. That book has been completely pulled by the publisher for various and sundry reasons. But, even when I underscore to bookstore people that, no, please get my most recent Penguin release, they can't seem to manage it. I don't really understand why not. From what I can tell, all my romance books are still available. It's concerning. I suppose I should see if I can order some from Penguin for myself to sell (because that's what Magers & Quinn wanted me to do--bring my own for them to sell on commission, but I don't normally keep my own books around, since they SHOULD be easy to order.)

On the other hand, maybe my lack of other books will inspire more listeners to buy a copy of the anthology. I'll look at it that way. Besides, I suspect that a lot of people who know me have already bought their copies of Precinct 13 some time ago. :-)

Friday, April 07, 2017

Hold my Beer, People are Wrong on the Internet (again)

I jumped into the fray on FB because I just couldn't take it any more.

A friend of mine posted a link to this article: Bashing Romance Novels is Just Another Form of Slut-Shaming. I skimmed it, because anyone who has professionally published romance, like I have, has been there, done that... and had to do it again in the comment field.

I don't know why romance garners such hatred.

Actually, I do, but I don't like to think about the fact that readers, even other women, will happily poo-poo romance as 'not real writing' because it's predominately women writing for a largely female audience--and, yeah, it's just like this author says, it's worse than that because women's sexuality is involved. I gave up going to WisCON partly because I got really sick of having to defend my writing as worthy. I think certain women really hate on romance because they fear it's everything strong, smart women are supposed to eschew. It apes the patriarchy and only lonely, white women of a certain age, sitting at home in their aprons, read romances.

Not true.

Plus, everyone knows romance novels are just bad writing, right? They're just full of lines like "her velvety womanhood" and his "thrusting manhood."

Yeah, I won't deny these phrases EXISTED (in 1973), but they're _just_ not that popular in 2017 (BECAUSE THEY WERE MERCILESSLY MOCKED IN 1974). The truth is simple. Most romance readers want what all readers want: a good book devoid of overly purple prose. Yes, I have to write about body parts, but most romances fall into the "hot" category, which is sexual but NOT EXPLICIT. It's not erotica, people. You actually have to go into another section of your bookstore to find that stuff, okay?

Speaking of bad writing, someone ALWAYS has to bring up "the formula."

This insistence that all romances are written to a formula provided by the publisher is a big part of disrespect. I'm sure this formula exists (or, more likely EXISTED) somewhere. HOWEVER, even now, Harlequin has to post on its web site, that, NO, THERE IS NO FORMULA, outside of genre expectations (i.e. a romance should, you know, have person a meeting person b and falling in love). Sorry, folks, but you're expected to write a good book--an original, creative book, with plot and characters--JUST LIKE A REAL WRITER.

Because, guess what? Romance writing is real writing.

Look, I get it. I used to be the same way. When writing science fiction novels, I would occasionally mutter, "OMG, this is so HARD, I should give it all up and just write romances!" Because I believed it, too. I believed that, somehow, romance was easier to write because it was just silly hack work. Smut. Fun sexy times with no plot beyond slot b and tab a.

Yeah, no.

Writing romances is just as hard writing any other book. There is no formula to follow. No editor anywhere (outside of maybe a satirical publisher) wants a character, made of cardboard and Fabio hair, named "Lance Thrustsalot." If you "read that somewhere" it was likely on a porn site or possibly in an article published in 1973. (I blame everything on 1973; it was a bad year.)

I had to come up with all of it when I proposed and wrote my nine romance novels. All of them, too, I put just as much blood, sweat, and tears into as I did any other writing. I don't know if I can express how much I hate this stereotype, because it completely and utterly devalues the work I did and the books I'm proud to have written.

OMG, just stop already. Don't make me come in there.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

EVENT: Panel Discussion at AZ Gallery tonight (Jan 17)

Tonight I'm going to be at a panel discussion about "Women in SF and Writing Female Characters" with fellow writers Victorya Crane and Abra Staffin-Wiebe at the AZ Gallery in Lowertown at 7-9 PM TONIGHT (January 17, 2017).

The AZ Gallery is located at: 308 Prince St, Suite 130, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101

For more information check out the event's Facebook Page.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A good book and a good cause

 I contributed to Jim Hines' on-going fundraiser for Transgender Michigan, one of the only transgender helplines in the country that's 24/7. If you've been wanting to try Resurrection Code but never got around to buying a copy, now you can do it AND support a good cause!

As an FYI, there are very few physical copies of this book left. The publisher shipped me the remaining stock after the book went out of print. It also features a trans character. I know a lot of my readers bought this book when it came out, but like I say, this is a chance to help out a worthy charity as well!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I Finally Slept... You?

Last night I had plans to go to a board-gaming gathering of friends. Somewhere after an early dinner, I felt my body start to crash. It's been several days since I slept well, and while I really, really wanted to go to do something fun and get hugs and support from likeminded people I decided it was sincerely SAFER for me to stay home.

I took a long, hot bath. I found a book on my Kindle to read.

I slept for almost 12 hours.

One of the things that has been killing me is this profound sense of helplessness. Me and many of my friends don't know what we can even do. I don't have a lot of money to give to organizations, but I did have a little in my PayPal account and so I made a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center yesterday. I've determined that I need to find a local progressive organization and volunteer my time and energy this year. I've had several people offer to help me get back into my martial arts, and I'm going to take them up on it because I need to take care of my body, too.

But, the other thing that really, surprisingly helped was reading. Being able to find something that took my mind away from my fears and my anger and my hopelessness was profoundly helpful, soothing. So I feel like, even as I take to the streets, I can't forget art. Art needs to be consumed/enjoyed, but it also needs to continue to be produced. Now, I feel, more than ever.

This next week I'm going to find a place to volunteer and I'm going to write.

How are you doing?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Random Acts of Violence

Last night I had a reading at Magers & Quinn in Uptown. I kind of wanted to bail on the whole thing, of course. Like a lot of people I know, I spent much of yesterday breaking out into uncontrolled sobbing. But, we were talking about Women in Science Fiction and I'd made a promise. Moreover, the bookstore had made a concerted effort to have my books available and so I didn't want to let anyone down.

I didn't think anyone would come. Most of us are so shattered and the topic seemed so... I mean, as I was telling friends of mine earlier, I was feeling so beaten down that I was afraid that all I would manage was to burst into tears an say, "Why bother!? Misogyny won!" But, again, I thought, no, this is important. I need to do this. Besides, it's just a reading. If no one comes we can go to the bar and cry.

But people came.

I was supposed to meet my fellow panelists early at a nearby restaurant, but with traffic, my mood, and everything else, I didn't manage it. So I ended up at Magers & Quinn early and watched people come in. One of the first was a friend of mine from fandom, Sybil, who was still leaking tears as she talked about friends of hers who were seriously considering suicide. I had no words. We all feel so hopeless. But, I offered a hug and my sympathy.

By the time we started, the house was actually packed. It was standing room only as we started to tentatively talk about what it's like being a woman writing in a predominantly male dominated field. I talked about my added issues as a queer writer. We were sharing "war stories."

Out of the blue, in the back of the audience sharp words were exchanged. A chair went sliding. Someone got shoved into the stacks. I heard a sickening, wet-crunch of a punch being thrown. Everyone was so shocked it took a minute to even understand what was happening, but then people dialed 9-1-1, some guys rushed back to break up the violence. The aggressors stalked out with threats of "we'll see you outside." To which we responded, with, "No, we're calling the cops." No one knows what started it. Maybe a fight over a chair offered? Maybe thugs looking for PoC to beat up on? But the aggressors didn't seem particularly white (I would have said they were Hispanic, but they did not read as white, regardless), and they punched a white guy....? Were they looking for a white guy to hit (weird place given that everyone there were allies and the room was very much dominated by women and several other PoCs, including the victim's wife and children)? What hell happened? It was crazy. Beyond crazy to surreal.

I have never attended a reading/panel discussion that broke out into violence before in my life. I can only assume that this random violence was the angry version of my random tears. Something uncontrollable, volatile, hopeless. It might have been an attack on PoCs/queers/women, but what weird place to go looking for us! Why chose a bookstore when Uptown is full of taverns and clubs?

But what is even more astounding to me is that the reading went on.

After the aggressors stalked out, the cops called, the victim tended to... we went on. People stayed. No only did they stay, but we managed to talk about why what we're doing is important. People listened, people spoke, people asked questions... I cried randomly once, but we also managed--AFTER ALL THAT--to laugh, all of us, together.

I can't even begin to really process or understand what happened, but, despite how awful it was, we went on, you know? One step at time. One moment at a time. And we found a way to survive. More than that, we survived and thrived, together.