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Friday, February 27, 2015

Work in Progress: Invitations and Rejections

"I really thought publishing books would be enough," she laughed. "Boy was I wrong."

January first, I decided to start charging a speaker fee (one which could be offset or eliminated by an equivalent or greater purchase of my books) and I am actively seeking out more and different venues in which to sell my stories.

As a result, I have TWO paid speaking engagements lined up, and one sale event. I am giddy beyond belief that two groups who couldn't find time to arrange for me to come speak to its audience when I was offering to do it FOR FREE are now paying for the privilege of my company and expertise.

But some rain must fall on my happy news, as I am still getting rejections like this one:

"Thank you for your interest in [LIT FEST NAME]. Yes, our roster is set and about to be announced. The Foundation realizes that the face of publishing is rapidly changing but at the moment the policy is to invite authors who have been paid for their manuscripts. Many wonderful independently published books are being written everyday. Still, I am sure this policy will remain in place for the foreseeable future."

I know more than a few of the authors on last year's list. There's an eclectic mix of not quite obscure to obscure writers being represented.  Some are University professors with an audience limited to students in their classes. Many are small press, which could include niche press. Like a poetry book with a stapled center and a cardstock cover could be considered superior to one of my books because a university press put its name on it.

On one hand, I understand that not all independent books are created equal. But being arbitrarily excluded from events and libraries because I am not employing middle men (and getting involved in disputes such as HACHETTE V AMAZON) hurts me, readers, and the industry.

There's not much I can do about it -- unless someone wants to buy my book(s) when it's (they're) still in manuscript form? Sure -- I'd like that, too. Give the responsibility of marketing, editing, cover design, LAYOUT (my most frustrating publishing element) -- to an army instead of making me do it myself. Give me more time to write and attend workshops and do speaking tours. If I wanted to take the time to research

But I don't like giving up control (and ultimate responsibility) of and for my books. Is there a grey area to exploit here? Without giving up control -- I need some investor with deep(ish) pockets willing to pay me for my manuscripts and yet let me keep control of their being published in book form. But that sounds like a small press. And around I go again!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

RIP Bertrice Small & Book Review Thursday

A little late for book review Thursday. Nonetheless:

A literary agent I follow broke the news that romance writers Bertrice Small died earlier today.

The two Bertrice Small novels I own are Phillipa and Rosamund. Both are historical fiction about heiresses that came in contact with Henry VIII while he was married to Catherine of Aragon. If you’re someone who must read everything about Henry and Catherine, no matter what, pick these up and enjoy.

When it comes to sex, Small made me feel like a prude – a very dirty prude. And what was worse was how unbelievable the sex was.

Not unbelievable as in great – just unbelievable.

Does anyone’s penis really work like that? And does any woman really like that? Really?  Her terminology didn’t just make me blush – it made me laugh. 

Don’t judge. Don’t judge. Shame on me for judging (and mentally getting out the measuring tape in my own bedroom). Nope. No way. Even thinking like that makes me a dirty, dirty girl. 

But what Small did was create historical romances that allowed people to fantasize about sex while reading under the guise of reading about the time period of Henry and Catherine. It was not unlike watching Reign on the CW (which is off until March 12 -- grrr). Maybe she gave someone (besides other romance authors) some good ideas. Maybe her push of the envelope gave someone else the freedom to reclaim sex. 

Small has 68 books on Amazon with publishing dates from not happened yet back to the mid-1980s. That puts her first book out just a few years after Nora Roberts started publishing. Both were/are prolific female romance writers, though IMHO, Small could have learned a lot more from Roberts.  

But I read both. I took different things from both. Because of Small, I did not venture into other bodice rippers and other novels that were listed the genre of romance over another genre. Perhaps that was “small” of me. 

Perhaps one day, I’ll discover whether or not it was.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Women Wednesday: Geena Davis and the Upcoming NWA Film Festival

Arkansas has been receiving some incredibly bad (and sadly deserved) press of late as a result of patriarchs running our government backwards towards 1950. But on this Women Wednesday, I want to talk instead about the fabulous Geena Davis and her film festival that is coming to BENTONVILLE in early May.

Unbeknownst to me prior to the announcement, Davis has a long history of promoting and encouraging equality in film. Her institute and website, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, highlights statistics, factoids, and other relevant information to bring awareness to the lack of leading roles for women in film. And it showcases work she is doing to change those statistics.

Davis has played many characters that defy gender roles. In Cutthroat Island, she played a savvy pirate captain intent on finding the treasure that eluded her father -- the treasure her uncle killed her father and skinned the map on his head to find. In A League of Their Own, Geena Davis portrays a phenomenal pitcher who helps manager Tom Hanks prove that a woman's place is at home, first, second, and third. Currently on Grey's Anatomy, Davis plays a doctor with a brain tumor who reminds women that sexism is everywhere -- that women are continually discounted and having to fight that glass ceiling. I'm not going to say I approve of that character's every move -- in fact, when she first came on I blogged about hating her character (see here). But a part of me revels in the way that she takes what she gets and does not make excuses or apologize.

I don't think it's coincidence that Davis has sought out these roles that challenge gender stereotypes and turn them on their collective heads. And while I'm probably not rich or famous enough to make it to the film festival in the neighboring city to my hometown, I hope that Hollywood presence sheds a healthier light though the gray negativity that has been plaguing my state.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Commas Are Hard, Right? Another "Grammar Tuesday" Lesson from the Grammar Enthusiast

My son thinks commas are tough. And there are times when a writer wonders whether or not to include commas in sentences. One example of a comma argument is whether or not to place the Oxford Comma (the last comma in a list of things). Some insist on it, some say never use it, and most are somewhere in the middle. I am not concerned about discretionary commas. I am, however, concerned about the use of obvious commas.

Here are three of those obvious comma placements.

Dependent Clause Commas

Dependent clause commas set off extra information that is not vital to the grammar or meaning of a sentence. Once Upon A Time, On a Dark and Stormy Night, and For What it’s Worth are three phrases that should all be followed by a comma in the sentences they modify. The sentences in which they are found make complete sense and are grammatically correct without these modifiers, but we like them.

Conjunction Commas

The most common conjunctions are AND, BUT, and OR. These conjunctions attach two (or more) subjects, predicates, or complete sentences. Just like the way I listed them, BUT needs a conjunction comma almost always.

I like ice cream, but I really like ice cream sundaes.

I like watching hockey, but I don’t skate.

A vacation is awesome, but a resort vacation is more awesome.

AND and OR can often get away without commas, though commas are still used in lists.

I like apples and bananas. I like cake, cookies, and donuts. (The comma after cookies is the Oxford Comma.)

I’ll have apples or bananas with lunch today. I’ll usually eat apples, bananas, or grapes.

Appositive Commas

These clauses restate other information in the sentence, and are generally set apart from commas. The rule around appositive names has changed over time to drop the commas surrounding a name, but generally commas are used with appositives.

My brother, the older one, has a girlfriend now. (Unless people know some of the speaker’s siblings, knowing which one the speaker is referring to will be unimportant to them.) (The explanation statement used a dependent clause comma.)

My neighbor Daphne rides a scooter to school. (People used to set off Daphne with commas, but now it is not considered necessary.) (The explanation statement used a conjunction comma.)

My new house, the yellow one, will have wall-to-wall carpet. (Adding the information that the new house is also the yellow one adds information, but the likelihood is that the added information is not necessary.)

So there you have it! The three most common types of commas have been identified for your continued knowledge and enthusiasm. In fact, I would bet that the majority of other comma uses are actually comma splices or other incorrectly used commas.  However, that is a lesson for another Tuesday.

But* you don't have to take my word for it! Here are two additional resources to consult about comma usage:

Do you have a comma question, preference, comment, or pet peeve? Be sure to let me know!

*Most people were taught not to start a sentence with BUT. I think in informal writing, such as a blog post, starting a sentence with BUT is fine. However, it might appease others more if I'd written:
That's my lesson on commas, but you don't have to take my word for it!
However, you don't have to take my word for it!

Here are a few more of my grammar articles, in case you were wanting more!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review Thursday: Among the Hidden Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

There are seven books in the Among the Hidden series (also known as the Shadow Children Series) by Margaret Peterson Haddix:

                         Among the Hidden / Shadow Children Series
Among the Hidden
Among the Imposters

Among the Betrayed
Among the Barons
Among the Brave
Among the Enemy
Among the Free

The main character of the series is Luke, a child with two older brothers who was not supposed to be born and must stay hidden. Hidden children face execution if found in this dystopian YA adventure. And knowing it is a dystopian adventure, it's not much of a spoiler to announce that Luke does break out of hiding and face many perils before, as the final title suggests, he becomes free.

In some books of the series, another character plays lead fiddle and Luke is a background character. All the characters are well developed, so that doesn't negatively affect point of view. Haddix is known for painting many hues of gray with so much color in worlds where the authority only sees black and white. This entire series is no exception to that.

I read the entire seven book series in a three-day weekend. I had started the series in 2002 or 2003, read the first three books, then quit in frustration because I knew the series would not be finished for many years. A year ago, I picked up the fifth or sixth book, thinking I had not missed that many in between -- but I had. So I had to start from the beginning and retrace my steps. It was worth the decade-plus wait. Haddix rarely disappoints.

Among the Hidden is a great series for YA fans of dystopian fiction. There are intense themes, deaths, intrigue, confusion -- you've been warned. There are no easy answers -- and isn't that why we read?

Images courtesy of Margaret Peterson Haddix's website. Haddix is also on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Women Wednesday -- Guest Blogger Charity Bradford and the Sensitive Subject of Rape

Charity Bradford, author of Fade Into Me; image is property of the author
Fellow NWA author Charity Bradford is guest-blogging for Women Wednesday today. Her book, Fade Into Me, is available on Amazon and touches on several HUMAN issues. I know everyone else is talking about Forty-nine Hues Plus One, but I'd rather talk about just about anything else. And supporting local authors feels like a great way to do that.

Why Doesn't Ryanne Report Her Sexual Abuse in Fade Into Me?

My newest novel (Fade Into Me, an Urban Fantasy Romance) was released on January 21st and it touches on a sensitive subject. One we don't talk about, but many of us are afraid of.

Something happened to my character, and she thought it would be best to never speak about it. Many people will read her story and ask why wouldn’t she say something and get justice? Sadly, lots of women don’t report sexual abuse, just like Ryanne. Back in November, I found an online article that talks about Real Reasons Women Don’t Report Rape.  I’ve summed up the top three reasons for you.

1.     Even if you report a rape, you can never get back what was taken from you.

2.     Two out three rapes are not ‘violent’ events. They are by someone you know—co-workers, friends, dates, etc. It often becomes a ‘he said, she said’ kind of thing.

3.     Often, those types of rapes occur when a woman has put herself in a situation that is hard to get out of. Maybe they planned for a little flirting but the man doesn’t stop when she puts the brakes on. In cases like this, women often MISTAKENLY think they are to blame.

I wanted to share the story of one person that Ryanne is partly based on. When she was around 14 years old she lost her virginity to an older teen boy. She was hanging out with her older brother and some of his friends. She found herself in a room with one of those friends and they started making out. At one point she put a stop to things and left the room only to have her brother tell her she didn't have the right to lead a guy on like that. He then told her she had to go back in there and finish what she started. In my mind this was rape. Some would say, "Why didn't she just leave the house? She could have still said no." However, we are adults looking back at this situation. She was only 14 and not equipped with the skills to deal with this. And the truth is even adults would find this hard. She didn't want to, but she felt she didn't have a choice. Later she couldn't say anything because the guy became her boyfriend and they'd had sex many more times. Who would believe that she didn't want to if she did it again?

Ryanne’s story touches on several other things talked about in the article: Someone she knew raped her and someone she trusted knew about it. She felt like she had to protect the second guy and his future by keeping quiet. She thinks it was her fault because she agreed to hang out with them. It’s a lot of baggage to carry. It’s the kind of thing that affects the way you see love for the rest of your life. Ryanne’s lucky though. She finds a man who understands it wasn’t her fault. He’s impressed by her strength to carry on and knows she's worth every ounce of love he feels for her. He just has to convince her to stop running from her future. 

For me, Ryanne's story is about Ryanne taking her life back. She's let the hurt, guilt and fear control her life. This story is really about her accepting that the rape was not her fault. That she has the right to be happy and loved.  

Buy it in Print
Buy it for Kindle
Watch the Trailer
Read the first 2 chapters

Summary of Links for Charity Bradford:
The Magic Wakes
Facebook Page

Some other links and articles about reasons rape goes unreported are here, here, here, and here.

Knowing why women (and men, for that matter) DON'T report rape is important -- it's important to understand WHY rape goes unreported. But how do we change this? What can we do to help those who have been raped reclaim their lives -- their senses of self -- their empowerment?

Monday, February 16, 2015

How (and Why) to Caveat Emptor

Many buyer beware stories start off the same way: someone stops by a house and offers to work fast and cheap. This work might include tree/limb removal, gutter cleaning, or roof patching. Often these tasks fall under the category of things a homeowner might consider doing him or herself, but if someone is willing to do it cheaper and with less hassle to the homeowner, then what’s the harm – right? The homeowner may be handed a business card or have a truck with a company logo on it. It looks legit – right?

What buyer beware stories don’t discuss, what may be impossible to determine accurately, is how many times these situations work out for the best. Boy Scouts CAN clean gutters. An enterprising young person CAN paint houses. Anyone with a chainsaw and a little experience CAN trim a tree. Why must a homeowner contact state and local agencies to check out every entrepreneur that comes offering help? Why must a homeowner pay taxes on services rendered at their home, under the table? If there were more problems than success stories, homeowners would be a lot more cautious. Therefore, it must be rare for things to go wrong.

Occasionally, however, things go wrong. And when they go wrong, they go terribly wrong. Like when a Little Rock homeowner posted for help on social media finding the people who did this:

A picture is worth a thousand words -- and in this case, easily thousands of dollars in damages.
image posted on ; Riley Adams -- homeowner and photographer

The tree crashed into the homeowner's three-year-old’s room. The owners were out of the house and no one was injured. Neighbors alerted the owners when the fly-by-night entrepreneurs fled the scene of the broken home and fallen tree. The owners tried to call the number on the business card they were given – but there was no answer. So the homeowners turned to social media.

Some commenters on Facebook turned on this family in their time of victimhood, crying "caveat emptor!" Many of them knew reasonable licensed tree-service professionals. Professional arborists, for example, would have cut the tree in pieces from the top down. It would have taken longer and cost more to do it this way. But it would have prevented the expense these “victims” will face in restoring their home. Reputable businesses cost more to run than businesses which fly by night. They often pay higher wages and corporate taxes, as well as having to pay for licenses, insurance, and bonding. These costs are worked into the cost of doing business and passed on to customers.

Many customers choose to risk rock bottom rates over paying the rates of businesses who operate safely and legally. Businesses have fairly fixed overhead costs. However, many customers fail to consider economy of scale. Dividing the fixed costs of legitimate businesses by two jobs yields a higher per job rate than dividing those costs by 20 jobs or 200 jobs. The more work a company contracts, the cheaper each contract. Conversely, the fewer contracts, the more expensive each contract. If small legitimate businesses can't get enough contracts, they are less likely to hire more help and expand. Worse, small businesses risk going under. As a result, every time a fly by night entrepreneur takes a contract from a legitimate business, everyone pays more -- and that's BEFORE someone's home is destroyed.

Homeowners may still choose to do work themselves; however, most city ordinances prevent homeowners from hiring unlicensed outside help. So if homeowners are caught hiring an unlicensed entrepreneurs, penalties could be imposed by various governing bodies. Most homeowners aren't penalized because by the time the governing body is informed about the shoddy workmanship, the homeowner’s personal damages are already significant. However, every time citizens support unlicensed business practices, they hurt legitimate small businesses and drive the costs up for everyone. 

Please visit the following government agencies or their websites for education and assistance before hiring cheap labor that costs more than was bargained for.

State Contractor’s Licensing Board
Homeowners’ Association Webpage or Bylaws
City Ordinance Bylaws for the homeowner’s city and state

Phyl Campbell posts parenting and how-to articles to her blog on Mondays. She is author of several books, including Mother Confessor, Carley Patrol, and Martha's Chickens & the Pirates. Check out her blog and website for more information.