Thursday, September 29, 2016

RRBC Recruitment: My Responsibility as a Writer

Today is Recruitment Day for one of the author groups to which I belong, the Rave Reviews Book Club.  It's a great group if you're looking for some marketing and learning opportunities and you're willing to help out your fellow authors.  The theme this time around is "My Responsibility as a Writer."

It should go without saying, but my first responsibility as a writer is to write good stuff; that means you need both good ideas and good execution.  One without the other is pretty pointless.

I also feel an obligation for my books to have some socially redeeming value.  I write supernatural fantasy at the moment.  I'm not ashamed to say that it is escapism at its finest.  Even so, I try to say a few things about life in the course of the adventure.  I include characters that are gay, lesbian, and bisexual, and I make them real people, not caricatures consigned to serving only as villains.  I include people of color as well as biracial individuals, and they aren't just there to be the first people to die.  Representation matters.  It matters to people of color to see themselves represented in stories.  It matters that most pop culture is often white people from cover to cover.  Diversity enriches the reading experience for everyone.  It teaches empathy and an appreciation for what makes America great.  It isn't tokenism to believe that the default race of every character needn't be white.

I feel that one more responsibility that I have as an author is to promote reading and literature in general.  One way I do this is by promoting my fellow writers.  RRBC is a great place to do that.

So, writers and readers, I recommend you give the Rave Reviews Book Club a glance.  You might like what you find.  Tell them I sent you.  ;-)

Monday, September 26, 2016

My Happy Hysterectomy

When you have gynecological problems severe enough that you start googling things like "hysterectomy," you quickly find that the internet is a wast expanse of horror stories.  There is an endless supply of women who feel like they have ruined their lives by removing their misbehaving uterus and/or ovaries.  You find yourself reading one tale of woe after another.  You find people who make surgical menopause sound like a curse from the devil himself: warping your personality, ruining your sleep, and killing your sex life.  You'll find whole groups devoted to keeping women "whole."

Well, I'm here to tell you that I am perfectly fine with my total hysterectomy and oophorectomy.  Thrilled, even.  Delighted.  Relieved.  Happy.  You get the picture.

I had the trifecta: uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and recurring complex ovarian cysts.  The fibroids made me severely anemic.  The cysts would twist and bleed, sending me to the emergency room in agony in the middle of the night.  All of them conspired together to make my periods a nightmare of pain punctuated by rivers of blood to rival the book of Exodus.

Now, I could have been more conservative in treating these problems once they were finally diagnosed.  I could have had the cysts surgically removed for biopsy, saved some ovary, kept the uterus.  I could have treated with hormones and prayed that would be enough, and if I had been interested in preserving fertility, that would have been the way to go.  But our family is complete, and I was weary of managing problems that could possibly be eliminated with surgery.  I didn't want this all to continue hanging over my head, leading to future suffering and future surgery down the line.

So, at 36 years old, I decided to get rid of the whole shebang.

And I am totally fine.  I'm better than fine.  I feel better than I've felt in ages.  I certainly feel more "whole" than I did with garbage organs junking up my abdominal cavity with blood and inflammation all the damn time.  And I've been lucky that my estrogen patch works like gangbusters: no mood swings, nor hot flashes, nor insomnia.  I haven't gained so much as a pound.  I don't feel like less of a woman.  None of the dire things I read about have some to pass.  I am perfectly happy with my decision.

Would your surgery go as well as mine did?  Who knows?  Only you can decide how to treat your own problems, in light of your own particular situation and desires.  Surgery always has risks and always causes pain, even if you're lucky enough to go the minimally invasive route, as I was.  There is a sense of loss in forever closing the door to childbirth.  That grief is real, and it's something you need to have a plan to process, preferably before you go through with the surgery.  If you lose your ovaries, it might take you time to balance out your hormone replacement with the help of a good doctor.  You may not luck out on the first patch you try like I did.  But please don't let the internet terrify you out of considering surgery if you and your doctor think it will help you.

There are good stories, too, among the Hystersisters.  It's just that most happy people don't bother talking about it on the internet.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Author Profile: Julie Watson

It's my pleasure today to profile New Zealand Author Julie Watson.  Her book Born for Life: A Midwife's Story serves as both memoir and history, detailing both her personal journey as a midwife and a mother of loss and the changes in maternal care that have taken place over the course of her life.  Very well-reviewed, I commend this book to anyone interested in exploring both the miracles and tragedies of childbirth.

From her bio:

"Julie grew up in a small rural town in New Zealand.
She started work in the local maternity annexe on leaving school at the age of sixteen. She met Barry and was happily married until the unexpected death of her second baby at birth. This tragic event in her life led to depression loneliness and despair.
Life was full of challenges and it was during this time that Julie became a Christian. In her late thirties she did her training to become a nurse and a midwife fulfilling a life long dream. 'Born for life' tells her story and she hopes it will encourage others to follow their dreams even with life's difficulties.
Julie has traveled extensively and has worked in several countries around the world, caring for women of different cultures and nationalities. Midwifery continues to be her passion and love."

You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Moment of Gratitude for Singing in the Car

I was singing along to the car stereo the other day, and I had a revelation: I hadn't enjoyed that simple pleasure in months.  Months, people.  Like, at least six of them.  I've been feeling so cruddy this year that I hadn't even had the energy to sing in the car.

Those of you who know me know how much I love music.  I've been singing in groups and choirs since I was a kid.  But before my surgery, I was so anemic that I couldn't get through a hymn without getting dizzy from shortness of breath.

So, here's to you, Dr. Nguyen, gynecologic surgeon extraordinaire, and thank God for modern medicine.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book blogger profile: Patricia Green

Avid readers and indie authors know that book bloggers make the world go round.  Patricia Green is one of those bloggers in the trenches of the internet, helping to highlight the great books that deserve attention.  She wears many hats, serving as an editor, beta reader, and writing coach in addition to being a veteran reviewer.

Her blog, entitled Room with Books, features reviews, naturally, and everything else book-related, from interviews to blog tours.  A faithful member of Rave Reviews Book Club, she's built connections with many independent authors.

If you're a lover of the written word, stop by her site, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.  Happy reading!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Author profile: Staci Troilo

It's my pleasure today to profile fellow Rave Reviews Book Club member Staci Troilo. She's a prolific writer as well as an editor, and, unlike many of us, she actually has a degree in this whole writing thing.

The author is a proud Italian-American, and her Medici Protectorate Series brings you paranormal thrills with a taste of Italian heritage.  Her Cathedral Lake Series contains themes of family, tragedy, and redemption.

Her Amazon bio tells us:

"Her fiction combines dark, dangerous heroes and strong, capable heroines woven together into a contemporary tapestry of tantalizing romance. Compelling villains and gripping mysteries engage the reader from page one of her novels and her short stories feature ordinary characters conquering the odds in extraordinary situations."

Sounds fun, don't you think?

If you want to keep up with the latest from this gifted and successful writer,  be sure to check out her blog and follow her on twitter.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

She Dies at the End (November Snow Book 1) wins some awards

Being a self-published writer is not an easy gig.  It is really hard to break through and find an audience.  You pour so much of yourself into your work for very little in the way of financial rewards, and sometimes it feels like no one is reading your stories at all.  So when nice things happen, it is a great boost for the old self esteem.

Some writer friends encouraged me to enter book contests this year, so I took the plunge on a few.  It's been so gratifying in recent weeks to learn that She Dies at the End was selected as a finalist in the Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards.  This past week, I was even more thrilled to discover that She Dies at the End took Bronze for Supernatural Fiction in the Readers' Favorite Book Awards.

It was especially encouraging considering how much I broke all the indie author rules on this book.  I edited it myself, which is super dangerous, and you should never do that.  I designed the cover myself, which is also a pretty bad idea.  I just couldn't justify the expense at the time, not knowing if anyone would ever read it.  It's nice to have some strangers think I might actually know what I'm doing.

So, if you haven't taken a chance on me yet, please do.  And don't forget to leave Amazon reviews.  They mean as much or more to me as any award, I assure you.  Thanks and love to all my readers.  I couldn't keep doing this without you.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: Charms and Witches by Herb Mallette

Charms and Witches lives up to its title. It's truly one of the most charming books I've read in some time.

In a land where magic is real but somewhat rare, Cirie is a young charm maker eking out a living, struggling to pay down a debt incurred during her late master’s terminal illness. Though the grief and debt are a lot to carry, she manages to do so without bowing under the weight. Her somewhat monotonous existence becomes a lot more interesting when a traveling stranger named Lanton appears at the inn where Cirie lives and works. Immediately taken with one another, affection blooms over a board game and deepens over the revelations of Lanton’s secret mission. When the witch queen finds out what he is up to, it will take a remarkable love and determination to produce a happy ending. It is something of a romance within a romance, bright and diverting.

The author has created a fun and detailed world without resorting to dumps of exposition. The magic is described in a lovely yet unpretentious fashion. He has deftly drawn a cast of characters with whom you can't help wishing to spend more time, and for whom you can't help wishing for happiness. Even the money lender seems like an okay guy. Though the world is fantastical in its way, the characters behave like real people. There are no contrived conflicts between the romantic leads, which was a relief to me, as I am no fan of comedies of errors. It's also a bit of an achievement in this day and age to create an engrossing book containing no explicit sex or gory violence.

I loved this book, and I cannot recommended this author highly enough.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Harry Potter and the Mediocre Fan Fiction

I love me some Harry Potter, so when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out, I was excited to read it.  I have to say, though, that I was disappointed in many ways.  If you haven't read it and desire to do so, take warning of spoilers and snark ahead.

There were some things I liked.  I liked Scorpius.  I liked that we had two Slitherin children who were basically decent people.  I enjoyed seeing beloved and not-so-beloved characters as adults.  I especially liked seeing Snape again in one of the alternate timelines.  That's about where the liking stops.

Let's talk Hermione.  In one alternate timeline the boys create with the time turner, Hermione and Ron never got together, and we're supposed to believe that without the power of their majestic love, Hermione winds up bitter and mean and miserable, teaching at Hogwarts. 

Seriously?  Ron's love is her salvation, and no one else in the world would have made her a happy and well adjusted adult?  Ron?  That Ron?  The redhead? 

Their getting together was already like those sitcoms where the idiot husbands have impossibly awesome wives, but I was willing to let that go at the end of Book 7 for the sake of sentiment.  I just find it obnoxious to imply that there were no other paths to happiness available to the most important female character in the whole series.  In addition, Hermione was a kind person throughout the series.  Are we supposed to think the lack of a suitable husband changed her basic personality? Don't break up with your high school boyfriend, kids, or you'll wind up like mean Hermione.  If you miss your chance at one true love when you're 17, you might as well pack it in. 

Shoot, at least in the other, more dystopian, timeline where they aren't together, she's a badass rebel instead of Professor Umbridge 2.0. 

I just really felt this choice was tone deaf, showing a lack of understanding of the character's basic qualities as well as sending an ugly social message.  There were plenty of other things I took issue with, but this was the one that really got under my skin.  What did you think of the Harry Potter play?  Let me know in the comments.