This month Persephone's Orchard is a free download as an ebook (see Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and other sites too), and I've been contributing guest posts on my take on Greek mythology to many lovely book bloggers to help spread the word.
Since the posts are fun and brief and a nice diversion from the news, here's a roundup of them for anyone interested:
10 Things I Like About Persephone. E.g., "She has an interesting marriage story..."
10 Things I Like About Hades. For one: "He does not have blue flames for hair. No one except Disney has ever said so, and they are making things up."
"No one ever knows about all my cats": The Inscrutable Divine Trickster Hermes. "Yes, he’ll screw you over sometimes and drive you crazy. But he’ll also surprise you with unexpected gifts."
It's always the right time to immerse ourselves in good books, and it can be especially therapeutic in stressful eras. Hope you are all finding time to read something excellent!
What I've basically been seeing in online discussions this past week (a condensed parody, if you will):
The left/center: Holy crap, I’m scared and sad for women, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, immigrants, Jews…
The right: Ugh, we’re FINE with women and gays and whatever religion you want, srsly, stop whining
DeplorableJimBob17351: WOMEN AND JEWS SHUT YOUR MOUTHS!!! MUSLIMS AND ILLEGALS GET OUT, TRUMPS GONNA GET U LOL!!!! MARRIAGE SHOULD ONLY BE BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN, GAYS R DISGUSTING!!!!
The left/center: Um. That. Right there, that. Did you…did you just see that?
The right: Well everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Hey JimBob, good to see you! Great week, huh? Come on in, help yourself to snacks.
See, it's not that I think my right-wing friends are racists, sexists, xenophobes, and homophobes. I know you're not. You wouldn't be my friends if you were. The problem is that those on the right are a little bit too okay with sharing the party with people who are those things. This shouldn't even be a left/right issue. This should be a "decent person" issue. I'm not seeing enough denouncing of those attitudes from those on the right, and that is what bothers me. The response keeps on being, "We're not all racists! YOU'RE racists!," which does not really answer to the problem nor help at all.
If you want denouncing from me, of liberals wrecking property and being violent, in the rare events where that's happening, then yes, I do denounce that. I even denounce liberals carrying "Fuck Trump" signs, because we absolutely would not condone "Fuck Hillary" signs if she had won. Let's be adults and let's be decent people using respectful language just as we're asking everyone to do, I say to my own side.
So, those on the right...can you do a little more denouncing of the absolutely clearly wrong verbal behavior and attitudes, please?--which I am seeing EVERYWHERE online, by the way, without even having to look for it; this is NOT a myth or a few scant incidents. It's happening to me and my friends when we express even mild concern. The trolls have been unleashed, it's worrying, and surely it's not the America any of us want to live in.
I don't plan to discuss politics a lot on here. I've never liked it and still don't. But I want to put this out there in the interests of healing a wounded nation and trying to understand what's happening. Discussions welcome; flames and ranting not welcome. From either side. You have the rest of the internet for that. Thank you.
I want to pull out my mom voice on the entire internet today:
“Don’t flame people you don’t even know! You were raised better than that!”
Seriously, please, everyone on both sides - on ALL sides - remember the complex human beings at the other end. Today I talked a flame-commenter around to a “You’re right, I’m sorry for saying that” because I responded reasonably and respectfully, and found common ground with them. There IS hope for the country if we all do that.
Preface: Some of you have been around long enough to remember when I used to call myself a conservative (or at least a libertarian), because like a lot of people in their 20s, I had a phase where I read Ayn Rand and listened to charismatic and persuasive conservative friends and didn’t like taxes. But that isn’t me anymore, in case you couldn’t tell. (Well, I still don’t LIKE taxes, but I’m more at peace with them.) In reverse of the “liberal at 20, conservative by 40” trope, I’ve long since come back over to the liberal side, and embraced the values that were, to be honest, always at the heart of my thinking. I mean, I did spend a lot of my supposed conservative phase arguing with those conservative friends, because I was never fully okay with the LGBTQ-derogatory attitudes, the misogyny, the over-reliance on religion, or the stingy healthcare, to name a few issues.
So, though I wasn’t worried about the election of George W. Bush back in the day, I’m not feeling all right today. (But really, in hindsight, doesn’t Dubya look a lot more appealing now in comparison?)
Anyway. For posterity, here is a record of thoughts I posted on other social media, between last night and tonight:
Nov. 8, 7:38 PM Pacific time (while votes were still being counted): Dude, okay USA, we'll save you, but you have to not make fun of our organic kefir habit for like a month after this. Love, the West Coast.
Nov. 8, 9:45 PM (as the vote became clearer): Me before tonight: I don’t know, this story I’m writing about a gay couple encountering prejudice, maybe it’s outdated.
Me tonight: Oh no it f***ing isn’t.
Nov. 9, 6:04 AM (because I woke up too early, unable to fall back asleep, and finally gave in and checked the news): Last night I dreamt I was in a big crumbling house, but friends had made their rooms in it really beautiful. Comfort from subconscious.
6:50 AM: This morning's thought that has helped boost me: well, new wave music arose and flourished under the era of Reagan, Thatcher, and the Cold War. So, creative types (and really everyone is creative if you find the right medium), we are needed and our time may be now.
Everyone line up and get your eyeliner and your mousse and your ruffly shirts! OK, I suppose the dress code is optional, but it could be fun.
Make beautiful stuff, guys. Don't ever stop.
5:28 PM: Nov 9 problems: not wanting to smile at people because I don't want to seem happy about the news, but not wanting to seem hostile by NOT smiling.
And finally, because I hope it gives you at least a brief laugh the way it did for me:
There's no way to write a subject line like that and not sound like a spam generator, is there? Nonetheless, here you go; three life-hack-ish tricks I have found useful lately:
1. Borax and sugar to annihilate odorous house ants (a.k.a. sugar ants or soil ants). You can find various methods for this all over the web, but basically you mix equally parts sugar and powdered borax (not Boraxo) with a little water in a small low container (I used bottle lids) and put it where the pesky ants keep getting into the house. They'll zero in on the sugar, take the mix to the nest, and get themselves and their nestmates killed by the borax. These teeny ants have plagued us ever since moving in, and despite regular exterminator visits, have been invading the kitchen this season more than usual. So in desperation I tried the borax trick, and hey! Invasion over! They swarmed the lid for about a day (which in itself was an improvement, since then it meant they weren't roaming the dining room table), then their numbers dropped dramatically. Fully worth the cost of a box of borax.
2. Alternate hot and cold water in the shower for overall well-being. This is an ancient custom, of course; the Romans with their many-temperatured baths knew of it, as do spas all over the world. (Those intrepid Scandinavians sometimes like to hop from their jacuzzis straight into a hole in the river ice. Naked. You're hardcore, people.) I'm more or less switching from 30 seconds of comfortably hot water to 30 seconds of "as cold as I can take it without screaming," back and forth a few times. The cold part is not particularly fun. But the process does seem to leave me feeling rejuvenated, and many people claim it's excellent for your circulation and immune system. So. Try it if you dare.
3. This isn't new, but is worth a repost, and anyway you can't have just two items on a list; you must have three: my cure-all spice drink. Helps with headaches, digestive issues, bloating, colds, PMS/hormonal blahs, and probably more, given all the crazy-high levels of antioxidants in herbs and spices. I'm having a cup right now and my "been a long week" headache is already improving. We all might need it as Election Day draws nearer, eh, America? (Seriously, world, we're so sorry to have subjected you to this.) Be kind to each other out there, everyone.
It has come to my attention today that I've been included in an AP article being picked up all over the country. It's not about my writing, my books I've spent years creating, NO, OF COURSE NOT. It is, like last time, about a moment of online frivolity, and, once again, is not representing my original post quite accurately.
The article this time is about whether "ballot selfies" are legal (answer: depends on the state), and they include a few tweets from those of us who posted a photo on Twitter with the #ballotselfie hashtag. This was mine:
And you will kindly notice, if you have eyesight, that my ballot is EMPTY in that photo. I would not go posting my filled-in ballot. That's just tacky. Nonetheless, some of the versions of the article, such as this one, say stuff like, "They're posting selfies on social media with their completed ballots," followed directly by the link to my tweet. UGH. NO I AM NOT. Would you LOOK before writing the article, please.
What was the other time I made the rounds in an AP article, you ask? That was back in 2010 when I won the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with one silly sentence, and was rewarded with headlines calling me a bad writer, because too many people do not understand the BLFC. (i.e., Those sentences are not from actual published books; they are all one-offs, written to be deliberately bad, for fun, by language-loving people with a bizarre sense of humor.)
But, in any case: go vote, my fellow Americans.
Writing inspiration I heard today, from Neil Gaiman, talking to Elizabeth Gilbert on her Magic Lessons podcast:
"Audiences, fans, only ever want one thing, which is more of what they liked last time. And it is your job as an artist not to give that to them. 'Cause what you have to give them is what they don't know they want yet."
I love this and I agree, because I like to write things that don't entirely conform to genre guidelines. But of course I instantly thought of all those really successful writers who do turn out book after book of basically what the audience liked last time. And they seem happy, and the readers seem happy. Well, Neil talked about them right away too:
"There are dolphins and there are otters. ...The dolphin will come up, it will stand on its tail, it will do a somersault...and that's great... A dolphin will put on a dolphin show. The reason why there are no otter shows... the problem with an otter is if you get an otter to do a trick, and you give it a fish, the otter goes, 'Okay, that was fun,' and next time it'll do something completely different. Because why would you do the thing you just did again? Training otters is always a complete failure because what they want to do is the next thing. They don't want to do the thing they just did, and they definitely don't want to do it over and over again."
He acknowledges he's an otter (Liz Gilbert says she is too), and so am I; and they hasten to add (as do I) that we aren't demeaning the dolphin types here. We actually really admire them, and of course publishers love them. Publishers are less sure about what to do with otter types like me. They want us to find a niche, become a brand, be a reliable source of This Type of Book--like the dolphins. But even having written fiction for, gosh, over 25 years now, I've never been able to define what my type of book is. Because I like to do new things. I'd get unhappy and boxed-in if with each book I did more or less the same thing as last time.
I mean, I kind of have a signature style. I always have a love story, so in every book, I do bring characters together, drive them apart with obstacles, and put them together again. And I always deploy humor, at least in occasional scenes if not in a full-on comedy genre kind of way. (Though sometimes I go all the way into full-on comedy.) But some of my stories are paranormal and some are real-world. Some are modern, some take place long ago. In some books the central issues are life-and-death, while in others they only crest as high as relationship implosions. And even with the love stories, I like variety, which is probably part of why I love bringing in LGBTQ characters--lots more possibilities! Yay!
Publishers can count on dolphin types for their consistent work. They can't count on me or other otters for consistency. But they can count on this: if we don't write what we want to write, we won't be happy. And if we aren't happy, our work won't turn out as good. So, it's a bit of a gamble, taking us on. We know and we apologize. But maybe we'll end up giving readers what they didn't know they wanted, and then everyone wins.
Luke believes he has his life figured out…and then he meets Theo.
It should have been simple—a summer spent with his girlfriend Zara at her family’s holiday cottage in Cornwall. Seventeen-year-old Luke Savage jumps at the chance, envisioning endless hours of sunbathing on the private beach and riding the waves on his beloved surfboard. He isn’t interested in love. Though his rugged good looks and lazy charm mean he can have his pick of girls, he has no intention of falling for anyone.
Nothing prepares Luke for his reaction to Theo, the sensitive Oxford undergraduate who is Zara’s cousin and closest friend. All at once, he is plunged along a path of desire and discovery that has him questioning everything he thought he knew about himself. No one, especially Zara, must find out; what he and Theo have is too new, too fragile. But as the deceit spirals beyond their control, people are bound to get hurt, Luke most of all.
And today, author Jamie Deacon has answered some interview questions for me! Check them out:
MR: I loved the setting and now I long to visit Cornwall. What is your connection/history with the area?
JD: Oh, I’m so glad I’ve inspired you to visit the West Country. It’s a beautiful part of the world. I was lucky enough to enjoy many family holidays in Cornwall whilst growing up, and it’s a place that’s close to my heart. And of course the Cornish coast is a hotspot for surfers, so it would naturally appeal to my hero!
MR: What are your favorite types of scenes to write? And what are the hardest?
JD: I must have a taste for the dramatic, because I love writing scenes with a lot of angst, something which probably won’t surprise readers of Caught Inside. Opening scenes are the hardest for me, I think. Finding the best way to introduce readers to the story and characters can be a challenge. In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times I rewrote the first chapter of Caught Inside.
MR: Is there a genre you haven’t written yet but would like to try? How about a genre you’ll probably never write?
JD: LGBT stories are my passion, and I also can’t imagine writing outside young and new adult fiction. There’s something about YA and NA, the rawness of the emotion, how the characters are just discovering themselves and what they want in life, that really appeals to me. I’d definitely like to try my hand at something other than contemporary, though. I have an outline for a romantic suspense trilogy set in a prestigious art college, and even a tentative idea for a novel with a fantastical twist.
MR: What elements do you especially like to include in a love story?
JD: Lots of obstacles. I love tender moments and happy endings, but for me these are all the sweeter and more satisfying when the protagonists have had to work hard to get there.
MR: I must ask: are you a surfer? The descriptions of the sport in the book seemed realistic to me, but then, I’ve never really tried it!
JD: Hahahaha! No, I’m not a surfer. Like Zara, Luke’s girlfriend in Caught Inside, my balance is atrocious. The closest I’ve ever come to the sport is water-skiing, and it’s fair to say I spent far more time in the water than on it. I’m thrilled that my portrayal of surfing came across as authentic, though. It was really important to me to capture Luke’s passion, and I did a ton of research in an attempt to get it right.
MR: What are you working on now, and/or planning to write next?
JD: I’m currently writing Forbidden Steps, the second novel in my Boys on the Brink series. This one deals with a fledgling step family and all the tensions and conflict that so often results when two families are dismantled, then pieced back together to form something entirely new. The fact that my heroes are stepbrothers who fall in love only adds to the drama! In the meantime, a short story of mine will be appearing in an anthology of NA m/m romances about taking chances, due for release later this year.
I am looking forward to those new stories, for sure! In the meantime, connect with Jamie:
Jamie lives in a tranquil spot close to the River Thames in Berkshire, England, and has always been just a little out of place—the only redhead in a family of brunettes; an introvert far more at ease with dogs than with people; a connoisseur of simple pleasures in a society intent on the quest for wealth and fame. Despite an outward cynicism, Jamie is a romantic at heart, and, when not immersed in a book, can mostly be found writing emotional stories where young men from all walks of life are thrust headlong into the breathless, euphoric, often painful whirlwind called love.
Get Caught Inside at:
Today I'm excited to welcome back author Kaitlin Bevis, who, like me, loves writing Greek-mythology-based stories. And she has a new book coming out soon! Love and War, the latest in her Daughters of Zeus series, will be released on Oct. 21, and you can preorder it now. Read all about it here, and check out an excerpt too, and dang is that a gorgeous cover or what?
After narrowly escaping with her life, Aphrodite wakes up to find herself at the demigods’ base camp—a gorgeous tropical island. Powerless and injured, she has no choice but to glamour herself as a demigoddess in order to find out what’s really going on. Lucky for her, she’s not alone. Ares is with her, also in disguise. But she soon realizes she might be more of a liability than an asset when her panic attacks and nightmares threaten to expose them both.
Ares is as anxious as anyone to shut down the demigods’ plot. But right now, all he can think about is Aphrodite. He almost killed her, for Gods’ sake! And though the timing couldn’t be any worse, he’s falling hard and fast. He’ll do anything to protect her . . . even if it means sacrificing himself.
Still, they find allies in the most unexpected places . . .
More goddess than demigoddess, Medea is married to the rebel leader, Jason. But there’s something odd going on. Jason is acting very strange, and Medea finds herself drawn to a new demigoddess who mysteriously arrived on the island half-dead. She senses there’s more to this visitor than meets the eye. Little does she guess . . .
War is coming, there’s no doubt. But, in her weakened state, does Aphrodite have any hope of surviving it?
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Read an excerpt here!
Kaitlin Bevis spent her childhood curled up with a book and a pen. If the ending didn't agree with her, she rewrote it. Because she's always wanted to be a writer, she spent high school and college learning everything she could to achieve that goal. After graduating college with a BFA and Masters in English, Kaitlin went on to write The Daughters of Zeus series.