Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Free Book! Free Recipe! Free Time?

by Bethany Maines

Ok, it’s the day before Thanksgiving and that means that you are either baking like a mad fiend or you’re kicking back while someone else bakes and wishing that you could be done with work so you could go home and get your holiday on.  My mom does the hosting for Thanksgiving and that means I skate by making the easy stuff like cookies, pies, and the cranberry sauce.  Only I make cranberry relish because it’s easier, and far, far tastier than the gelatinous glop that comes out of a can.  (See below for the recipe!)

Hopefully, you’re in a similar position when it comes to the holiday cooking and you’ll have a little free time to read something new this weekend. And because I’m feeling ever so thankful for readers like you, the first 5 people to comment get a free e-book version of my short story collection Tales from the City of Destiny. I will also be drawing one name after the five person cut off, so leave a comment no matter what, and then hop over to the Girlfriends Book Club for a second chance to win on my second blog of the day!  I will contact all winners by Friday 11/27.

Cranberry Relish:
  • 1 bag cranberries (the bags usually have holes, so a quick tip is to rinse them while they’re still in the bag and let the water drain out)
  • 1 orange (don’t forget to remove the sticker)
  • 1 cup white sugar (use less or more depending on taste)
  • Optional: pinch of cinnamon 
Directions: Rinse everything.  Chop orange in quarters.  Put orange and cranberries into food processor and chop.  Add cup of sugar.  Chop until everything is of relish consistency.  Put in bowl.  Pretend you slaved for hours.  Eat.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stephen King and I

by Sally Berneathy

A couple of weeks ago one of my local writers’ groups went to see Stephen King in person. I’ve been hooked on his books since The Shining in 1977. I got the book in the mail from my book club just before my husband-at-the-time and I went on vacation. Of course I took it along. I never want to be caught bookless. During that trip I spent more time with Stephen King than with my future-ex-husband. I made the right choice. That ex is long gone, but I still enjoy spending time with Stephen King.

When I heard he was coming to town, I was a little dubious about seeing the wizard behind the curtain. I am pleased to report that the reality is every bit as wonderful as the fiction. Who knew someone who writes about such dark subjects could be so funny and charming?

Though his talk was geared toward readers, as a writer I got a lot beyond the entertainment. His comments about his writing process validated my own process.

He said every book begins, of course, with an idea. That idea is the best one he’s ever had. The new book will be the best book he’s ever written, maybe the best book anybody has ever written. Then he begins the writing process and along about the third or fourth chapter realizes it is the worst book he’s ever written, maybe the worst book anybody’s ever written. But he continues to labor, cranking out the pages until the misbegotten book is finished. Finally, after four to six months of writing, he puts the book in a drawer and leaves it for a few weeks. Then he goes back to begin revisions…and wonders who put all that good stuff in there!

I finished Fatal Chocolate Obsession, my fifth book in the Death by Chocolate series, four days before attending King’s presentation. The excitement, self-doubt, trauma and exhaustion of creating that book were still fresh in my mind, and I could totally identify with what he said.

Once I get past the initial luminous idea and start creating the bones of the book, I realize it’s a terrible book and I have no idea what possessed me to try to write it. Fortunately, two things keep me plodding along: My critique group assures me the book is not horrible, and I have a history of going through the same traumatic process for twenty-three books (twenty-five if you count the two that never sold but we don’t want to talk about them).

Do I love to write? Absolutely! It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Is it difficult? Absolutely! I’ve been a legal secretary, paralegal, real estate agent, and computer programmer. Writing novels is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Well, getting rid of the most recent ex was right up there in difficulty, but that nightmare wasn’t fun. Despite the difficulties, meltdowns and hair pulling, writing is also the most fun of anything I’ve ever done.  

Knowing that Stephen King shares my trauma may make my next process of “It’s wonderful; it sucks; I can’t write this; I have to write this; will this stupid book never end?” a little easier. Or not. But at least I will know I'm in the best company!



Monday, November 24, 2014

Bouchercon 2014 redux

It's been a week since Bouchercon ended and I miss the fun times hanging out with my friends.  For a recap of my trip, click HERE.

While in Long Beach, I went to the Hollywood Walk of Fame; saw the Hollywood sign; saw Steven Spielberg's compound, and saw the house on stilts that was featured in one of the Lethal Weapon movies.  I also saw many, many, many authors, which you can read about on my blog post.

Sometimes it's all about the food...

and sometimes it's about other things

and that was my Bouchercon. What was the last author/reader convention you attended? A book signing?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why I Can’t “Get a Sense of Humor” about Racist Jokes

by Linda Rodriguez

UPDATE: Handler has come out with a real apology that acknowledges the racist content of his remarks and is now matching the next $10,000 donated to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks fundraiser.

I congratulate him on actually dealing with what he did.

Wednesday night, the National Book Awards took place, and a multiple-New-York-Times bestseller and hugely successful white male author of children’s books, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), was the host. During the course of the night, he made several racist jokes, including bemoaning the fact that he hadn’t won a Coretta Scott King Award (for African American children’s book writers or children’s literature showcasing African American life--both categories together make up less than 3% of the field), calling two African American nominees for the award in poetry “probable cause,” and topping off his whole night of micro-aggressions with a major watermelon joke directed at African American writer, Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the award in children’s literature.

Here’s the entire event on C-Span. You’ll find the watermelon joke just after the 40-minute mark.

The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, and a number of other mainstream news outlets covered the awards the next morning and complimented Handler’s performance as emcee without ever mentioning any of these remarks. Just as the overwhelmingly affluent white audience laughed and applauded.

Not surprisingly, people of color and white people of good conscience were upset by Handler’s behavior at one of the most prestigious book award ceremonies in the United States. Articles and blogs were written. Twitter came alive over it. Finally, Handler apologized on Twitter with the usual non-apology—“my failed attempt at humor.” People rightly asked, “In what world are these things supposed to be funny?”

Then, the defenders came out. Online comment after comment after tweet after Facebook post after blog post of “What’s the big deal?”, “race-baiting,” “Get a sense of humor.” I’m used to them. We all are. Every time someone wealthy, famous, and white (and usually male) says or does something racist or misogynist, the defenders come out in force with these same comments. The comments include many that are much worse and sometimes downright foul, but I won’t detail those here because they’re from real trolls, while I think the comments I have listed are sometimes, at least, from people who genuinely don’t see or understand the racist or misogynistic content of the controversial remarks.

People try to explain why these remarks are a problem. I know I have many times. Usually without success. Perhaps it will help if I spell it out this time, looking at the watermelon joke, which caused the most uproar because Handler dragged it out for several minutes and included Cornel West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama. Woodson is a gifted young writer who has twice before been a finalist for this ultimate award. Winning it should have been a pinnacle point for her entire career. At that moment, this wealthy, successful, white male writer in her own specific field (children’s literature) reminded her publicly that, no matter how much she achieved, she would always be Other and lesser in his and everyone else’s eyes.

When you face these kinds of insults and injuries in little and big ways every day—even if the people who say or do them are truly unaware of the offense (and let’s be honest, they usually know quite well)—it takes a toll on you. Then, if you object, if you try to say, “This is wrong,” others who share the offender’s views tell you not to take it so seriously—“Get a sense of humor.”

I want to turn that back on them. To all those people who think it’s funny to insult and stereotype people of other backgrounds and genders, you get a sense of humor. Learn what’s really funny and not just cruel and embarrassing and referencing for fun traumas that have been inflicted on whole peoples. Grow some intelligence and wit, instead of making watermelon jokes when someone wins one of the highest awards in the American literary world.

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger hates me):

Thanks, Pam. Aren't you getting tired of these idiotic things, too? 

Mary, when they call me 'humorless,' I just ask them how something like this can be called humor.

Yes, Kay, it was very belittling. And one would hope that we were further advanced than that by now. Unfortunately, not.