Monday, May 27, 2019

Google Search: 'MURICA!!!

A post by Mary Fan
Hey everyone! Mary here, and it's my turn to do a Google Search. It also happens to be Memorial Day, which is an American holiday to commemorate fallen soldiers (and, in true American fashion, an excuse to have big blowout sales and eat way too much unhealthy food).

Since this is an American holiday, I thought I'd see what people are asking Google about this lovely country and answer for them. As a born and bred American, someone who's lived here my entire life and received my all education in American schools (save for that one year I spent in Hong Kong as a seventh grader), I should be more than qualified to answer any and all questions about this country. That's how it works, right?

Okay, let's see what people are asking...

1. Why is America called America?

Ooh, ooh, teacher! Call on me! I know this one! It's because of Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer and cartographer who demonstrated that what's now known as the Americas were not, in fact, part of Asia (as people thought back in the 1500s). And of course, the United States of America became a thing thanks to the Revolution back in the late 1700s, and people are too lazy to come up with a cooler name or say the whole thing, so America came to refer to just the USA, even though technically it should refer to two whole continents.

2. Why is America in debt?

Because of the military industrial complex? Seriously, why are we spending kajillions of dollars on fancy planes when... OH wait, that's just part of the story, isn't it? I mean, we do spend too much on... anyway, I digress. I think the real answer has to do with bonds. Like, people buy government bonds, so the government has money to buy those fancy planes and do other fancy government stuffs. But these bonds are basically fancy IOUs, and... WTF do I know. I dropped out of the economics department in college. True story.

3. Why is America so unequal?

That would be because of deregulation of the industries and the manipulations of the tax code to favor corporations and wealthy individuals, Stan. Don't like it? Tell rich people to pay their effing taxes like everyone else.

4. Why is America a republic?

Because the Constitution says so. And the Founding Fathers wrote it into the Constitution because they feared mob rule. Like, they wanted the will of the people to govern, but they also understood that people can be stupid. Really stupid. So instead of a direct democracy where any idiot can vote and decide how things work, they set up a republic where any idiot can vote, but that vote goes toward deciding which smarter, more qualified person can actually decide how things work. Basically, the Founding Fathers wanted a buffer between everyday idiots and the law of the land in case some whackadoo showman good at riling up the masses but terrible at everything else ever decided to run for office. The point of the republic is that even if everyday idiots were fooled by this whackadoo, the smarter, more qualified people representing them would put a stop to the whackadoo-ry before he effed up the country. Oh wait...

5. Why is America a popular destination for immigrants?

It's the economy, stupid. The American economy is one of the strongest in the world, which means you can make a lot more money here doing the same work as in other places (or doing less skilled work, which is why you have doctors from less developed countries working at cafeterias in the US). And then there's the whole history of this being a nation of immigrants and yadda yadda, but let's face it, if this "nation of immigrants" had a failing economy where no one could make a living, not only would the immigrants stop coming, but there'd be an exodus. Or, at least, that's my theory. I dunno. Like I said, I dropped out of the economics department.

6. Why is America a two-party system?


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Back Jacket Hack-Job: My Sister, the Serial Killer

Hey all! I'm going to do a hack job on a book that has a lot of hacking in it. With a knife! For those who do not know the shtick, we describe a book we love poorly. As if we're writing horrendous backcover copy. You know when you've just finished a great read and you try to summarize it to a friend, but you babble on and on until finally you say something like this: You need to read it yourself. I'm not doing it justice? So that is this in blog post form.

I must preface this post by saying that I really loved this book. It was campy and darkly humorous and right up my alley. And non-Western. It's set in Nigeria. And for this lameoid American, the setting and cultural norms made the narrative that much more intriguing. Also Braithwaite paints characters like Picasso. Anyway, here goes...

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Two sisters. Karede who is the responsible, neat-freak, older sister and Ayoola, the hot, fashion-forward, sociopath younger sister. And they live with their mom. Their dad is dead (for good reason--he was terrible).

Karede is a no-nonsense nurse and Ayoola is a freaking murderer. No joke. I'm not giving away spoilers, it's in the title. And who does Ayoola call when she needs help disposing of a body? Karede. That's right. Which Karede does because she feels a responsibility toward Ayoola.
[Jake Peralta voice: Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.]

Karede is an enabler which she feels bad about. And Ayoola has no remorse. She's ready to upload selfies to Instagram when the blood stain hasn't come clean from her dress. Sh*t hits the fan when Karede's number one crush takes an interest in Ayoola. Karede knows what happens to men who date Ayoola. They don't often get a second date, if you know what I mean. Karede has to make a choice. Save her man or save her sister. (Justice scales) What does she do?

I just learned that this book has been optioned for the screen and holy hell, I hope it gets made. Because I am here for it. I am here for all of it.

I'm obviously not doing the story justice so go read it for yourself.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Phobias That Impair Writing

Recently, a friend commented about a phobia he has—Trypophobia. I had never heard of this before, and then I saw someone else post about about it today. This got me thinking about all the weird phobias out there. Oh my word. How do people function?? Anywho, that got me thinking about what kind of phobias would be bad for writers. I’ve pulled some from this very helpful website and grouped them into three categories below (Mild, Harmful, and Cataclysmic) and given some tips on how to overcome them in the writing world. 

MILD: These phobias will make being a writer difficult, but you can overcome the challenges with a bit of strategic planning.

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia - Fear of long words
— Just use really short words.

Papyrophobia - Fear of paper
— We live in the age of technology, so enroll in Kindle Unlimited and forget the paperback.

Scriptophobia - Fear of writing in public
— Make sure to set up a cozy place at home to write. I mean, not everyone wants to be one of those cool cafe writers anyway.

Nomatophobia - Fear of names
— This will take a lot of creativity for the novel writers out there. Names are kind of a necessity. Although, in my book SHATTERED ANGEL I do have a character without a name, so it can work with a bit of creativity. Maybe just write about animals?

Epistemophobia / Gnosiophobia - Fear of knowledge
— Non-fiction writers won’t get anywhere with this phobia. Sorry, but switch to fiction. While fiction writers also need to gain knowledge of their subject, fantasy or science fiction is always an option. Then everything can just be made up.

The following four go together:

Allodoxaphobia - Fear of opinions
Catagelophobia - Fear of being ridiculed
Doxophobia - Fear of expressing opinions or of receiving praise
Gelotophobia - Fear of being laughed at
— Just make sure to not read any book reviews. The editor’s review could still be an issue as that one can’t be ignored. Just make sure he/she knows about the phobia ahead of time so they can sugar-coat their review as much as possible.

And another grouping:

Octophobia - Fear of the figure 8
Quadraphobia - fear of the number four
Quintaphobia - fear of the number five
Triskaidekaphobia - Fear of the number 13
 Authors with these phobias either need to be short story writers, or make these particular chapters really short. They can also be skipped all together. It might confuse readers, but who says conventional rules have to be followed all the time?

HARMFUL: These phobias will make being a writer really, REALLY difficult. Especially if you have a combination of two or more.

Bibliophobia - Fear of books
— This one can be overcome by only writing on-line articles.

Cyberphobia / Logizomechanophobia - Fear of computers or working on a computer
— I suppose there are a handful of people out there who still write with pen/pencil and paper, but the reality is that these days a computer is needed to get any real work done. Writers with this phobia should just write for fun.

Cenophobia or Centophobia / Ideophobia - Fear of new things or ideas
— The only choice for writers with this phobia is to rewrite old ideas. That works well for some, but it can get redundant for the readers really quick. My best recommendation for writers with this phobia is to become really knowledgeable on copyright law…

Atelophobia - Fear of imperfection
— Since nothing is ever perfect, this can be a big challenge. However, I assume people with this phobia become good at defining their own level of perfection. A writer with this phobia will have to be satisfied with only having one manuscript/story/article since they will spend a lifetime trying to perfect it before publication.

Ergophobia - Fear of work
— Writing is one of those careers that looks easy on the outside, but the reality is that it takes work. A lot of it. Unless a writer is some sort of writing savant who can crank out amazing books in a fraction of the time and are so good that they don’t have to market at all, good luck with that.

Athazagoraphobia - Fear of being forgotten or ignored or forgetting
— Let’s face it, only a select few authors make a big name for themselves. The rest of us are hoping that the people who loved (or even liked) one of our previous books will think to look up another book of ours. Many of us will be forgotten and ignored, unless we do the work to make them remember.

Phronemophobia - Fear of thinking
— This phobia probably straddles the line between this category and the next, but I suppose some might be able to glide right through a manuscript without any thinking. There just better be a darn good editor on the other end to do all the thinking.

CATACLYSMIC: Sorry, but if you have either of the following phobias you’ll need to find a new career.

Logophobia / Verbophobia - Fear of words
— Sorry, but no one can write without words.

Panophobia or Pantophobia - Fear of everything
— Those with this phobia have bigger issues than figuring out how to write. They first need to start by trying to figure out how to function in life.

I hope none of you writers out there experience any of these particular phobias, but if you do let us know how you have overcome them to let your writing career flourish. I’m glad to say I don’t experience any of these, but I might have a mild case of Entomophobia (a.k.a. a fear of insects). The case becomes near cataclysmic when it’s a cicada shell being shoved in my face (yes, just the shell can bring it on…), but we won’t talk about that. If you have a phobia let us know what it is in the comments!

~ Carrie

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Not Quitting My Day Job

You probably think every author dreams of quitting their day jobs and writing full time. That might be true for many, and I can't say if a situation came along that offered to turn me into the next J.K. Rowling, I'd turn it down. Or, maybe I would--that seems like A LOT of pressure and a lot of public attention, and I'm not sure I'd handle that so well. I also can't say I wouldn't like to see one of my books on a grocery store shelf.

But really, my biggest goal as an author isn't financial independence (don't tell my publishers I said that) or total commercial ubiquity. My main concern, for now, is simply to write and publish entertaining and high quality books that are hopefully popular enough that I don't have to think so much about promotions and book reviews. And that I can sell enough to justify my time and expense. At the least, I hope I'm allowed to keep telling stories--some way, some how. As pretentious as it might sound, I've always only written stories for myself. If I never published again, I hope I'd continue writing stories that please and satisfy me alone. It's why I totally understand the appeal of writing fan fiction--but that's another subject for another day.

I'm privileged, perhaps, to have this perspective because I can afford to have it. I can afford it because I am fortunate to have a great day-job.  Let me digress for a moment. I've always had a passion for creativity. As a kid I was fascinated with the arts--I participated in the drama club and took AP art in high school.
I'd also gotten it firmly stuck in my head that I wanted to be a chef. The women in my family were enthusiastic about food and cooking, and I saw that as a desirable and viable career option. My parents humored me and took me on tours of culinary schools like Johnson and Wales in Charleston.

But at the end of it all, my dad ultimately convinced me to get a more traditional education. I compromised, choosing to attend a state university that offered a B.S. in Food Service Management.

See, I've always had a bit of a practical side--a fear of leaping off that creative ledge and falling to financial ruin. The idea of being a starving artist was never romantic to me. Maybe I could be an awesome chef, but if not, I could at least manage a restaurant or a hospital cafeteria or something along those lines. People always got to eat, right? And I did do those things. I chased that dream. I cooked, I catered, I hustled. And after ten years of it all... I didn't want to cook for a living any more. All that hustle had drained much of the joy out of cooking for me. Also, around the time that passion was waning, I was getting married to a man who was single dad with sole custody of his toddler son. Not only did I want to have more time to spend with them, but I also wanted to be confident that I had the financial stability to raise a kid.

So I went back to school. I changed careers. I started working for the man. And you know what? It wasn't so bad. In fact, it was pretty great. I had benefits, a reliable income, paid vacation. A RETIREMENT PLAN! Maybe I wasn't creating masterpieces, but I could sleep at night feeling confident my family was provided for.

Working for the man didn't kill my creative side. Instead, it reduced my stress and provided the security I'd needed to feel okay about being creative again. And, a few years after I got married, that creativity started coming out of me not as culinary dishes or paintings or theater, but as words. Words I put together to form stories. I'd always been a voracious reader and a hobby writer--I took AP English in high school and completed a English minor in college and filled notebooks with bad poetry and half finished novel ideas, but writing wasn't "practical" like cooking, so I never thought of it having career potential.

Personally, I'm not sure it ever will. I've learned that, for me, taking a creative passion and turning it into a business risks robbing that passion of its joy. My enthusiasm for writing isn't something I'm willing to jeopardize, so, for now, it makes a damned fine side-hustle. One I'm thrilled I get the privilege to do and hope I'll continue to do for dozens of years. And, by the way, I still love to cook, but for a more limited audience. My friends and family appreciate my efforts, and for now that's more than enough.
Sometimes I'm lucky enough to get to combine my love of cooking, art, and books in efforts like this: "Bookie" Cupcakes I created for a Red Adept Publishing party last year.

Monday, May 13, 2019


Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey, everybody! Hope you're doing well.

Since Mary and Karissa covered "Avengers: Endgame" last month in this post, I figured I should take a minute to examine the other great pop culture event of our time, before the discussion suddenly turns colder than a White Walker's heart next week.

I'll preface this by saying I don't intend to reveal any spoilers, but odds are I will, just by accident, and even if I don't I guarantee you someone in the comments will, so don't read on if you're not caught up on "Game of Thrones."  But, that being said, I intend to focus a bit on "Game of Thrones" as a template for writing, so this is not so much going to be a spoilery nerdklatsch as the sort of writing-related essay you've come to expect from this blog.

So, my first experience with "Game of Thrones" was the TV show.  My best friend's girlfriend at the time turned the show on and told me that if I could watch for ten minutes without wanting to keep watching, I could go home.  And if I couldn't I'd have to stay and watch for the rest of the afternoon.  So, naturally, I stayed and watched for the rest of the afternoon.

I didn't have HBO at the time, but I was very intrigued by the show.  I began discussing it with friends who were readers, which naturally led into the whole A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is better than the TV show debate.  It's funny, I guess that debate's kind of been settled this season, though probably not in the way any of us would have liked.

And so, for my birthday that year I received the first three books in the series.  I quickly read the entire extant series and then for the first five years of the TV show I was one of those people.  Honestly, I understand there's a visceral thrill in seeing something on the screen, but the books were just so, so much better.  Whole plot threads and a barrel of characters had to be excised just to make the damn thing watchable.  The show is great, but the books are so much broader and deeper, and if I may say, damn readable.  It's rare that I find myself hurrying through a book like that, just desperate to find out what happens next.  Say what you will about George R.R. Martin's writing process - and we're about to say quite a bit - but the man knows never to leave you bored, not even for a page.

So, time passes, the show not only catches up to the books, but then, something unexpected happens: chronologically the show bypasses the books.  Suddenly, somebody like me, who had always had his intimate knowledge of the characters I had hundreds of pages to get to know, had nothing to fall back on.  In the first few seasons, if the show's producers used a narrative shortcut, and somebody acted like a dummy or some deus ex machina solved a problem, I, as a reader, at least knew what had "really happened."  And so I couldn't rage at the show very much.  

For instance, one of my greatest regrets is that in the first season the show entirely skipped Tyrion's battle with the wild men.  He gets conked in the head and passes out and the battle just happens offscreen.  I didn't like that, because it was a really cool battle that showed off Tyrion's cleverness both as a strategist and as a manipulator of people.  But as a writer, I get it.  There's really nothing new you learn in that battle.  We already know Tyrion's a clever strategist and manipulator.  And they didn't, in those early days, have the budget to stage a battle so extraneous to the larger plot.

And so into the rubbish bin went that scene.  But as a reader, I knew what had happened and whatever plot holes it had caused in the show, I could easily fill in with my meta-knowledge.

Fast forward to season 6 and things are starting to get wobbly.  I remember the big complaint everyone had when the show took off on its own was that no travel ever seemed to take any amount of time.  Call it a fault if you like, but in the books - and consequently in the first few seasons of the show - it took for-goddamned-ever for anyone to get anywhere.  Westeros was understood to be a place with vast regional differences, and the reason for the differences between the seven kingdoms was geographical.  You couldn't just ride from the Wall to Dorne in one day.  I mean, hell, the whole reason the conspirators sent Dany and Viserys to Essos was because it was a continent away.  Nobody from Westeros could reach out and touch them there, at least, not without a lot of effort.

Then, suddenly in season 6, people are running from the Wall to Winterfell in an hour.  Everything became very compressed.  I mean, it was annoying, because it seemed to shrink the world, and we had just spent five years learning how lavish it was.  But, you know, sacrifices must be made for TV.  You use narrative shorthand, and sometimes that means relying on someone's suspension of disbelief to allow your story to function.  Jon Snow needs to be here for the episode to work, so Jon Snow's here, regardless of how long it should have taken him to reach there by horseback or whatever.  Okay.  Fair enough.

Three years later and I think it's fair to say the show is off the rails.  Little narrative tricks that I was willing to forgive last year, and that I absolutely didn't mind eight years ago because I had the books, have now all but swallowed up the show.  Characters we've watched grow up, known and loved (or hated) are suddenly just plot gremlins, doing whatever they need to do to speed towards a finish line that in the earlier seasons we weren't sure existed, and at worst were ambling towards at a leisurely pace.

Now all of a sudden it's: deal with walkers, quick quick quick, now deal with Cersei, quick quick quick.

It's enough to make you wonder if something is going on behind the scenes.  And ding ding ding, for that, dear reader, you win a cupie doll.  HBO, unsurprisingly, would've been happy to let "Game of Thrones" go on for eternity.  I'm not sure how that would have panned out, considering we've seen what happens in your average "Walking Dead" or "Grey's Anatomy" when something once beloved is allowed to just become a shadow of its former self.  But I think, assuming the producers didn't take it to an extreme, a more leisurely pace for the final seasons of "Game of Thrones" would've been much better.  It is a leisurely show, after all, with an army of characters, and you hate to see any of them given short shrift.

The audience, too, wanted more "Thrones."  I'm by no means an expert on Hollywood wheelings and dealings, but this might be the first instance I'm aware of where the producers were actually the ones who wanted to end the show.  Benioff and Weiss were offered essentially an infinite budget and near complete creative control to go on making one of (maybe the?) most popular television shows of all time.  And they said..."Nah, we're good."

It's upsetting, but not really surprising.  These guys have instant cachet now, and will probably be given insane budgets and creative control to go on to other things they actually still want to make.  I just wish if they had been so bored with the show they were working on that they would have handed it over to someone else who wasn't.  Because I'm not liking what I'm seeing this season.

I could point to any number of things.  And I'm pretty sure I already broke my mild "no-spoilers" promise so I could probably go into specifics now.  But I don't really need to.  If you're a fan, you've probably already read (and written) a hundred thinkpieces on everything from The Hound's latest haircut to Drogon's roar not being 100% accurate to real-life dragons.

You can pick and pry and prod ad nauseum, as much as you like, but for me what it boils down to is that this season the show feels hollow.  I don't know why anyone's doing anything.  They don't seem to be acting like the characters I've come to know.  They seem to be puppets acting out a particular set of behaviors in order to get to an already agreed-upon conclusion.  And in a sense, as writers, that's what we often do, but good writers make it so that the audience never notices.  With "Game of Thrones" this year I'm certainly noticing.

So, next week we bid our great national obsession adieu.  And I'm in the weird position of hoping that now that that's over, Martin can fix everything in the books.  Maybe once we have those in hand, we can go back to plastering over the plot holes of season 8 with our meta-knowledge.  Then maybe it'll all seem hunky dory again.  Here's hoping, I suppose.

Thursday, May 9, 2019


By Cheryl Oreglia 
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath
As far back as I can remember I've always enjoyed writing. As a kid I wrote silly poems, and then short stories. I thought everyone did the same thing, but when I began adulting, I realized writing isn't for everyone. In fact some people hate writing so much they avoid it at all costs. No wonder texting is so popular? 

I allowed my voice to be silenced for years, afraid to honestly write the things I was feeling and experiencing, because I thought people would think I was insane. Although E.L. Doctorow says, “writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” I looked around my life, living in the suburbs with a dog, cat, four kids, a husband, and thought what the hell could I write about? I was doing my best to keep everyone fed and in clean underwear. 

It seemed like I spent half my day in the car and the other half in dishes, clothing, toilets, floors, and refrigerators. I didn't leave the house without a diaper bag, box of Cheerios, and full cup of coffee for a decade. This was not the fertile soil of a writer. Or was it?

There are millions of writers in the world, each occupying their own niche, putting out high quality papers, essays, stories, poems, blogs, screenplays, etc., but very few comparatively make money. This is the most underpaid profession ever, I'm a word whore, with an abusive editor. The woes of writing...

How could I justify spending all this time typing words into a computer when I could be doing just about anything else and earn a 'good' living? Selling tupperware, painting addresses onto the curb, modeling for Victoria Secrets (kidding). I had options.

Nevertheless, "the idea of writing begin to take hold, to gnaw and to push and to build until, like a pressure cooker full of fresh corn, it started to leak out in sprays of hissing steam," Nancy Slonim Aronie. And as Nancy states pressure cookers explode if you ignore them. 

Instead, I ignored the naysayers, and started writing. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you," says Maya Angelou. The early stuff was sort of like an appetizer, something nice that goes well with a glass of wine, but I kept at it, and some of my later work has a little more meat to it. Hopefully my next phase will be a decadent dessert that compliments a nice pour of port. 

Writers have to write. That is all there is to it. Sometimes I sit down to an empty page and wish my skeletal words would bloom like the foliage around me. After sprinkling a recent post with a few dehydrated phrases, I put it away, half expecting it to open like a tulip overnight. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on says Louis L'Amour. There is no magic, open the computer, and let it flow.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect,” says Anais Nin. I'm sure that's true but it sounds a lot like indigestion. Browsing through my life for material, I scan the memories, searching for some sort of deeper meaning embedded in the yarn, but sometimes a ball of yarn, is simply a ball of yarn.

Writing is most peculiar, I'm attracted to the mystery of the written word, but it's often evasive, and much of the time is spent editing, deleting, scrounging around in the gutter for just the right term. I've learned the simplest, most concise, and painfully clear word is usually the best choice. And then we have Mark Twain who says,  “substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” 

I'm damn excited about writing. How about you? When did you get started?

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we'll quibble with words.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Never Have I Ever - Reader Edition

Who wants to play a game of Never Have I Ever?

No, not THAT version. We're keeping it PG-13 here today. I want to play Never Have I Ever Reader Edition. Full disclosure, I borrowed this from Samantha Chase, whose new romance, TANGLED UP IN YOU, released a few days ago to RAVE reviews. Also, this might be slightly skewed towards romance readers, but I don't know...horror readers in the group, you tell me. Let's get started...

Okay, what's your number? Mine is a paltry 3: 
  1. I've never written to an author to complain about a book. As an author, I try not to publicly complain about a book ever because I think that's kind of crappy. And that's what DMs are for.
  2. I've never re-read a book more than 4 times. I barely have time to read all the books I want to read, so I'm definitely not in the re-read camp.
  3. And I've never worn author's merchandise. This might be lack of opportunity, though. Unless...actually...I do have a Harry Potter night shirt. So scratch that one.
My number is 2. Everything else? Yep, yep and yep.

So, come on...what's your number? Any here you feel are no brainers? What would you add?

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