Rants

Last I heard we lived in the twenty-first century not in seventeenth century New England in the middle of the Salem witch trials. Still, a group of smallminded individuals with very little to do but stir up trouble decided that a 10th grade teacher in Pennsylvania needed to be hunted ambushed crucified outed. It seems this English teacher with 33 years experience teaching in the same school was doing something shameful behind the backs of the townspeople … she was writing erotic romance under a pen name to keep her private life–well, private!.

Oh, the horror!

Because you know all erotic romance authors are thinking about sex alllll the time. She probably was thinking each and everyone of the young men she was teaching was a possible research opportunity … yeah right! Where the hell would any parent in their right mind come up with that idea?

I started writing erotic romance before Little Boy Blue was out of high school. My children knew what type of books I wrote. Their friends knew what type of books I wrote. And trust me when I tell you there wasn’t one of them that wondered if their friend’s mother was thinking lurid thoughts about them. Ever imagine your parents “doing it”? Ewww … right? This falls in the same category IMHO.

The story broke two days ago. I must have read about it just a short time after it was released. I was in tears for Judy Mays. I wondered if the administration of the school was going to suspend her or worse. As a former teacher in a small town I know how rumors take on a life of their own and often steamroll over people and leave devastation in their wake.

But happily for Judy and her family, none of that happened.

What followed was a tidal wave of support on twitter and Facebook from the romance community (and many others) that warmed my heart. Judy’s situation went viral and authors all over stood up and shouted at the top of their lungs “Oh hell no!”. Within hours support on the facebook page topped 1,000 followers. Within 24 hours it had gone over the 5,000 mark and it’s still climbing … exponentially! Students, former students, parents, authors, heck people who only saw the story on the news, have all banded together to say that a teacher has a right to a private life. But it’s the romance community circling the wagons that just makes me smile. Despite the difficulty of acquiring contracts, romance authors support and encourage one another.

I know Judy. I had the privilege of meeting her at Romanticon in 2009. The woman is funny and kind. I have no doubt she makes English come alive for her students. And 33 years? Well, she’s got to love her job to stay with it that long. Despite the rough bumps she may have had to endure as this was unfolding, I suspect the publicity has give her sales a veeery nice bump.

I sure hope she and her family are able to take a nice, long summer vacation on someone’s small-minded stupidity!

Rock on, Judy!

I’m a writer
I’m a wife and mother
I’m the middle child of five
I’m a college graduate

I have many dimensions, but in the end I’m still Nina. A woman doing her best to live with multiple sclerosis. At its base, it causes plaques in your brain that block messages traveling along your nerves. This means it affects everyone just a little differently depending on what parts of the brain have these lesions.

And me? Well, my neurologist can’t quite figure out why my disease is so disabling when all the MRI’s show little damage to the nerve paths in my brain. *shrug* It is what it is and despite my best efforts, I can’t change it.

And the fact is, I live my life full out and try not to let too many things slow me down. I manage my MS with my doctors. What I DON’T do is spend hours upon hours on the internet looking for the latest and greatest drugs or possible therapies for MS. I don’t have time. I’m too busy living my life. But that doesn’t stop people who know me from doing that very thing. I can’t tell you how many times someone gives me an article printed from some magazine or internet article and suggested I give a new therapy a try. (One was tapping various parts of my body at regular intervals during the day … umm, yeah, they skipped all the fun parts.)

When I decline, often times they get very upset. I’ve had responses like “I would have thought a scientist would be interested in something like this” or “I can’t believe a college educated person wouldn’t pay closer attention to the latest break throughs”. Wai…whaa? I’ve lived with this disease over 20 years. I’ve tried enough medications and homeopathic remedies to realize–none of them worked for me. And that’s me. I don’t suggest to other people how they should manage their disease. It’s none of my business. But the bottom line is that I’m tired. I’m tired of getting my hopes up on another supposed cure only to be let down. I’m tired of medications that make me sicker than the MS. I’m tired of people thinking they know what’s better for me than I know myself.

I know people are doing it because they care. But really, do they have the right to be upset because I choose not to try their newest and greatest thing proclaiming cures and health benefits that they’ve just discovered? I’m not sure what part of the human psyche makes us react that way, but I’m really tired of having to defend myself. Because in the end, this really is, all about me!

So has this happened to you? Maybe not with an illness, but perhaps a career choice or a life path you’ve chosen? I’d love to know I’m not the only one out here having to juggle people’s feelings.

NOTE: April is MS month. Research continues to bring us closer to a cure for this debiliting disease. Please find an MS Walk or Bike-a-thon and sponsor a walker/rider. I’m so excited that this year, for the first time since I was a kid, I’m “walking” in a fundraiser with my electric wheelchair. My family is sponsoring a team. I wubs them.

So the other day I was shopping in a new store in a new state which meant finding replacements for some of the “standards” I keep in my cupboards. One of those basics is carbonated soda water. Not quite tonic, but similiar. I drink it all day instead of tap water. In Maine, we bought the store brand. Well, obviously I wasn’t going to find that in Rhode Island, so we found something that looked like it would fit the bill. Reasonably priced and 0 calories. Perfect.

Yeah, well, I poured my first tall glass and took a long swallow … and promptly spit it out. It was like drinking kool-aid with bubbles. GAH! A mouth full of sugar. When I looked at the ingredients I discovered it contained aspertame. Blech! I don’t like aspertame. I find it overly sweet. I ended up dumping 3 bottles of the stuff because I just couldn’t drink it. I was so bummed. I really felt that the product should have been more clearly labelled.

What’s this got to with writing? A lot actually.

A while back I bought a book that sound very intriguing. The title was about vikings. The cover showed a viking. The back cover blurb talked about vikings, ships and characters from different worlds falling in love. Yay! I was going to read a viking story. I settled in and within the first chapter was introduced to a “space bridge”. Wai … what? The “ship” turned out to be a space ship. The “other world” turned out to be outerspace. Now don’t get me wrong, I love science fiction stories. I read them all the time. Heck, I’ve even written a sci fi erotic romance. But I didn’t lead the reader to believe they were picking up a contemporary romp. The cover for A Touch of Lilly shows a planet with three moons and one of the guys has red skin … red skin. There is nothing that could lead a buyer to think they were picking up anything that didn’t include an alien of some type. Even if you never read the back cover blurb, you’re not going to think you’ve picked up a steampunk novel or an historical.

I felt totally jipped. The thing is, it might be a good book. I might even have enjoyed it, but I didn’t get past the second chapter before I set the book aside in disgust. It’s not what I plunked my money down for. I was looking for an historical romance and what I got instead was an eclectic mix of sci fi and historical which is totally awesome for the author, but not so much for the unsuspecting reader.

So how do you see it? Am I way off-base on this? Have you ever picked up a book you felt fell in one genre and actually turned out to be another? Did you feel like you got the old bait and switch? I’m just wondering if I’m feeling a little overly sensitive about this.

I don’t do this very often, but I’m feeling a rant coming on. A good old fashioned stomp-my-feet-hold-my-breath-shake-my-fists kind of rant. And I’ll tell you now, it has nothing to do with writing or publishing. It’s about colleges and their overinflated, insanely expensive tuition bills. Seriously, I just need to spew. Feel free to run now, ‘cuz it’s only gonna get ugly from here on out.

I really don’t know how kids are supposed to get a college education these days without selling their souls. Or their parents going to the poorhouse. IT’S CRAZY!! And frustrating!

Okay, I know I should have been putting money into college funds for my children, but I was a little more concerned about feeding and clothing them. Ya know, actually paying my bills as I went along. It’s not like we didn’t have anything, but I sure as heck wasn’t the first to buy the newest gaming station or crazy toy. And can you say used cars? Thank goodness we live in a state where duct tape is considered an acceptable automobile accessory. Seriously. It’s not like we went without, but I never had a surplus. Ever. I became very good at financial juggling.

And now my third child is in college and things are getting crazy. Between the tanking economy and enough stupid people in my generation who didn’t pay back their student loans (oh, you know who you are) there’s nothing left in the pot for interest deferred loans for my children and their friends. It’s an INSANE system where everyone looses except the financial institutions.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect professors to teach for free or college administrators to work for pittance (like the rest of us), but I’m just not sure why 15,000 kids need to pay $112 for a recreation fee and $45 dollars for an activity fee when probably no more than a third of them take advantage of the facilities “supported” by those funds. And please don’t even get me started on the $917 unified fee … whatever the heck that is!

And this is the bill from a state college where my child pays to live … because his field of study isn’t available at the campus within driving distance. It’s not like I’m asking for the moon here. Just a reasonably priced education for my child.

A lot of the problem is our income. We don’t make enough to pay the bill outright, but we make too much for my children to get financial aid. It hardly seems fair. And now you can’t even have your child be independent from you. (We tried that and STILL they wanted us to pay for her school.)

I love my children with all my heart. I want them to go on to college so they can get good jobs and support themselves. But this system is starting kids on the road to a debt load that will take them years to recover from. I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that this whole thing is discouraging. For me and my kids. I don’t know how other people do it.

All I can say is whoever thought money couldn’t buy you happiness never had three kids in college.

Really. Gone. phhht. Totally shot out the window. When did humans lose the ability to distiguish all shades of gray? It seems everything these days is either BLACK or WHITE.

This latest rant falls on the heels of the newly released FAA recordings of a child giving commands from an air traffic control tower. I know your first reaction is probably outrage. But hear me out. This wasn’t a random child talking willy nilly to TRAINED pilots. This was the son of one of the controllers who was home from school (probably due to snow or vacation … but who knows) and went into work with his dad. (And dare I add here that MANY working parents had to take snowbound children to school as they couldn’t miss ANOTHER day of work for fear of losing their jobs … but I digress.)

Anyway, this child (who sounds be around 8 or 9) pronounces very clearly that an airplane is cleared for take off. The pilot responds with a little chuckle. And the plane lifts into the air with the passengers completely unaware that anything untoward is going on in the cockpit.

There are only a few recordings of the young boy. Each time the words he spoke were clear and understood. He spoke to maybe 3 pilots ALL under the supervision of not only his parent, a TRAINED CONTROLLER, but the supervisor who was aware of the situation. Every pilot who responded to the child did so with the appropriate response, a little chuckle, and a quip or two about the outstanding job.

No one got hurt. And in my opinion this young boy’s presence in the control tower didn’t not endanger anyone. But some internet site that broadcasts control tower radios contacted the FAA. The dad and his supervisor have been suspended pending a full investigation by the FAA.

OMG! Seriously?

I know we have been having more incidences of controller errors and people have gotten hurt. I know airports have been the focus of terrorist activities. I know people are noodgie about flying these days. But when a child comes to work with their parent (for whatever reason) and “helps” out dad… should the whole world fall apart?

I don’t know, maybe I’m way off base on this. But I think the FAA is going too far. This is one of those gray colors that should not have been smeared all over the news.  

I love my “local” chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America) … despite the fact that they meet four hours from my home and refuse to change their meeting location for me. ;). No, seriously, without this wonderful group of writers I know the road to publication would have been filled with potholes of doubt and hairpin turns of confusion. They were there patiently teaching me about writing queries and synopses and submitting manuscripts. And when my first contract offers came in, they helped me sort through the confusion and make a decision. I really appreciate their support and guidance.

I enjoy my online chapters of RWA. I am able to be part of chapters that talk about the erotic romance industry and others that deal with the suspense market. There’s also a paranormal chapter which I haven’t joined, but it’s on my to-do list. These chapters are important to me.

I tolerate RWA national.

Why? Because I can’t belong to my local chapter or my online chapters without being a member of the national organization. But (through no fault of theirs) I don’t get anything from them, but a big fat bill once a year and a monthly magazine (that promptly goes in a stack in the odd chance someone will mention something I might want to read.) I don’t use their website or other resources. Not that they’re not out there … I just don’t need them at this point in my journey.

But now … now there’s all this upheaval about erotic romance and electronic books and the powers that be in the national organization accusing me of not having a career-oriented mindset because I pub books without receiving an advance. (Never mind the fact that a high majority of authors never earn out their advance and therefore never receive a royalty check on their sales.)

I had been considering dropping my membership. But then an agent at the convention this past weekend mentioned that they really look at whether someone is a member of writing organizations to gauge how serious the author is about their career. Now, RWA was mentioned specifically (because after all, it was a group of romance authors), but then other writing organizations were also mentioned. But it did bring me up short.

Writing is my career. I do take it seriously. Some day I’d like to be NY pubbed (one of the “big” guys) and I’d like to have an agent. I keep weighing this whole RWA membership and trying to decide if it’s worth my money. Perhaps things will change. With all the members lifting their voices it will be hard to ignore us all. I truly believe electronic books are the new wave. Big houses like Harlequin, Silhouette, and Kensington all have erotic lines. These aren’t going away. It just seems to me that RWA is going to have to stop ignoring the kid in the corner of the playground with our funny looking toys.

It’s an interesting place and it puts me in a quandary as I continue to look at all the pros and cons. I am curious how you feel about the whole RWA issue.

Pirates. We love them. Johnny Depp played the perfect badboy we love to watch in Pirates of the Caribbean. That swashbuckling rogue with plenty of flaws, but enough heart to make our knees go weak with the hope of saving the poor boy from himself!

I love those pirates.

But … there seems to be an epidemic lately of internet pirates that makes my toes curl. Maybe as I have more and more books electronically published I’m just becoming acutely aware of the lengths that some readers are going to to steal books.

Yes, stealing.

Now, for those of you who faithfully read my blog and buy my books. Forgive me. This rant isn’t about you. It’s not about all the support you’ve shown me and other authors by stepping up to the plate and plunky down your hard earned cash and legitimately downloading books from a publisher (or second party vendor). We love you. We appreciate you. And we continue to write books that we hope you’ll buy and fall in love with.

I’m talking about people who buy an electronic book then forward to 10 of their closest friends. Or worse … set up an internet site and share files! Oh, this happens. It’s heartbreaking … and ILLEGAL!!!

My bread and butter comes from the royalties I receive from each of my books legitimately purchased. When someone sends my books through cyberspace to a friend I lose out and so does my publisher and the cover artist and the editor. Lots of people are affected. Not just me. It’s not innocent … it’s wrong.

How is this different from sharing a print book? That’s property. You own it. When you buy a book at a bookstore you have something in your hands that you can read and then share with your best friend/sister/mom. Like loaning your best leather skirt to your sister and she never returns it … oh, sorry I digress. Anyway, it’s tangible. You can put your hands on it. There are some statistics that say a romance novel is purchased once and read by seven people. Would the author/publisher like the other six to buy the book? Sure. But did anyone do anything illegal? Nope.

But an ebook is not the same. You have purchased the rights to use it for YOU. That means you can download it to your blackberry and your laptop and your e-reader. YOUR personal use. When it is forwarded to another person it’s considered “pirating”.

The only other comparison I can make is music. If you buy a CD it is yours to listen to and to share. But it is illegal to make 10 copies of it and give it to your friends. It happens … but it is also illegal.

Pirating is a federal offense and is punishable with up to $250,000 in fines and five years in jail.

This is serious business. Authors and publishers are vigilant about shutting down illegal sites. Unfortunately, there are some people who close down one site only go move to another corner of the internet and set up shop once again. They know what they are doing is wrong and still they continue. Please don’t support these sites. They offer books from NYT bestsellers and new authors just starting out like me. Neither of us is happy about our work being offered out in share files.

Chances are these words aren’t making it to the people who really need to hear them. Loyal fans of ebooks know that sharing files is not ethical. But I throw this out there in hopes to educate some people who truly may not have known that forwarding an e-book is considered stealing.

Okay, I’m stepping off my soapbox …

I’m a proud disillusioned card-carrying member of Romance Writers of America (RWA). An organization started decades ago (long before writing was a twinkle in my eye) that was established to support the writing careers of authors, specifically (as the title suggests), writers in the romance genre. I don’t know their exact mission, you can look it up. But really, this is going to be a little rant story about an organization that is just sorta pissing me off.

Once upon a time a bunch of authors banded together and decided to create an organization that would support those writing romance and give it credibility in the publishing industry. They wrote by-laws and set membership dues and invited people with like goals to come be part of this wonderfully supportive organization. And they did. They came in huge numbers bringing with them all the shiny enthusiasm new members always bring to organizations.

Then it became apparent that the members didn’t all write the same type of love story. Little groups formed within this larger organization and chapters were born. Chapters could focus on different things like romance with suspense or paranormal elements or historical or erotic themes. Some chapters formed so writers in a particular area could get together and talk about all the wonderful aspects of writing romance and to show others the path to publication. Everyone was happy.

Then came small press publishers and epublishers.

Whisperings began in the back room as members showed up claiming to be published, but you couldn’t buy their book at Barnes and Noble or hold it in your hand. Well, they certainly shouldn’t get to sit at the “adult” table with the “real” authors, now should they?

So RWA quietly went about making these new enthusiastic authors feel just a little smaller. “Come play when you have a real book,” they said “… oh, and where’s your check for membership in the mean time?” The epubbed and small press authors shrugged, smiled, and continued to write their wonderful romances. They had readers clamoring for their next release.

At some point RWA decided to start two contests; one that would allow unpublished authors to submit manuscripts for judging called the Golden Heart and another to judge published books called the RITA (I don’t know if it’s an acronym people … but it’s not relevant to my rant, errr … I mean story.) Anyhow, everyone was happy to pay a VERY high entry fee to be judged against the best of the best.

Then … the epubbed and small press authors slapped down their money and handed their book to the judge. “No, no,” said the judge. “This isn’t a real book. You can’t be part of the RITA’s.”

So the author smiled and went back to her WIP’s and chose a manuscript worthy of being judged. With a big smile she handed her manuscript and a check to the Golden Heart judge. “No, no,” said the judge. “You are published. It wouldn’t be fair for you to compete against unpublished authors. Silly writer. Oh, but don’t you owe RWA dues?”

Now, the epubbed/small press author is very sad. She is proud of her accomplishments, but has to sit at the “kiddie” table and isn’t allowed to play with other authors. She’s published … but not. Guess what? She dropped out of RWA because it wasn’t supporting her dreams and aspirations. RWA said her career was just pretend.

The moral of the story … RWA needs to wake up and support small press and epubbed authors. The president claims that she doesn’t want the organization to be an “us” vs “them”. But RWA continues to exclude a large number of authors from their ranks.

It’s shameful. It hurts.

To add insult to injury, this year many authors entered the RITA contest for published authors in good faith. They have been told they didn’t read the rules carefully enough and their book has been disqualified and won’t be judged … and too bad for them, their entry fee won’t be refunded. WTF?

Silly RWA … you are alienating a WHOLE bunch of writers. In a time when authors need support, you make it an exclusive club. I would drop my membership if I didn’t have several RWA chapters that support and encourage my writing career.

I am blogging about this travesty, but I have also taken time to email my district representative on the RWA board. If you’re a member of RWA I would suggest you do the same. Changes won’t happen until enough people stand up on the kiddie table and shout “WE”RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!”

Okay, so I feel it coming on … a rant. You’ve been warned so read on if you dare.

Last week Amazon decided to stop carrying books by Print on Demand (POD) suppliers (which in turn affects most ebook publishers who go to print). Why? Well, I’m not sure. Something about they’ll only carry books printed by their business. Okay, I might have this wrong, but it’s something like that. I don’t know the facts because I haven’t been running all over the internet trying to understand exactly what they’re doing or not doing anymore and why they are or are not doing it. I know … you think I’m going to rant about it.

Well I’m not.

Is it a travesty? You betcha! But so is the fact that oil/gas prices keep climbing and corporate mucky-mucks get richer while I sit in northern Maine freezing my butt off because I can’t afford to keep my house any warmer than 65F. And the high cost of diesel is forcing the price of groceries up because companies have to pay so much to ship them to the frozen tundra where I live.

Medical care is out of control. Prices are going up even as insurance coverage is going down.

And it’s all pissing me off and I’m tired. So, please stop asking me to care about what Amazon is doing. Because as terrible as it sounds … I don’t.

Let’s face it … I have neither the time nor the energy to sit down and write to Amazon, Mobil, or Blue Cross and Blue Shield. I could ask you all to boycott Amazon and stop buying books there. But there are enough people who will continue to buy that I’m not sure Amazon will even see a dent in their second quarter profits. I could choose not to buy gas and walk, which I can’t physically do or ride public transportation, which we don’t have or I could simply park my car and drive it when only absolutely necessary … oh, I do that already. I could stop going to the doctor until my insurance company bellies-up to the bar … oh, wait, I already do that too.

So what’s my point?

I know one voice added to a collective can make a difference. But if corporate greed abounds and pockets are deep enough to weather a public storm of discourse then change isn’t going to happen no matter how many people stamp their feet and throw temper tantrums.

Hey, I’m not saying “don’t try”. I’m simply saying that I have enough stuff going on in my personal life that I don’t need to jump on the bandwagon. The economy bites. Prices of everything keep going up and home values keep going down. My car is worth less than I owe since nothing is holding its value these days. And this trend doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. I’m too busy counting pennies for milk (which in Maine costs more than a gallon of gas) to worry about whether or not my friend’s book is available through Amazon. Harsh, but true.

I’m choosing to spend my limited physical resources trying to take care of my family and balance the family budget. I don’t have the energy to go on a letter writing campaign. Because I’ve done that before and nothing changed. The fact is POD and epublishing aren’t at the point of the big publishing houses in New York. Which is good. Without the constraints of high cost of printing, they don’t need to worry about quick turn around to keep their companies running. Wonderful, unique, and high quality writing is now available through these mediums that probably would never have been accessible to the public. People can find all genres, fiction and non-fiction, on subjects that may never have seen the light of day if not for POD and epublishing companies. Unfortunately, POD means people who want to pay to have their unedited, unpolished manuscripts printed could end up listing some pretty crappy books at Amazon. It’s a fact. So maybe that was the impetus behind their decision. I have no idea. Unfortunately it lumped some awesome epublishers who put out a great product along with them.

But here it is in a nutshell … Amazon no longer carrying high quality ebook to print companies on their site doesn’t change the fact that there’s some damn good writing out there that’s not with the “big boys”. It just makes it harder for people to find authors they may enjoy that will no longer be found by a simple search on Amazon. That’s a bummer, but not life threatening.

So have at your letter writing campaigns and boycotts, just don’t expect me to join in the fight. As apathetic as it sounds, I’m focusing my attention on my writing and my family.

 I’m just saying…

Okay, get your head of the gutter. The mounds I’m talking about are paper… tons of it. Okay, so maybe not that much, but A LOT!

It’s everywhere in my house and all of a sudden it seems to have taken over. It’s stacked unceremoniously on the kitchen counter and the dining room table. (You mean I’m supposed to eat at that table?) Anyway, I got so tired of it because I wasn’t dealing with it… so I moved the bulk of it in here to my office (but still didn’t clear off said table) on the coffee table. It’s sorted in piles to a certain extent, but now it’s taken over that horizontal surface.

Now it’s staring at me. Taunting me to deal with it.

Where did it all come from? Most of it is mail, but some of the stacks include receipts for small items that I’ve learned over the years I need to save. (I actually have the monthly debit receipts in an envelope… yay, small victory.) And I keep plugging away at it, but it never seems to completely disappear. I file and recycle and shred and still… there are stacks.

*sigh*

I know I’m not the only one… the other morning on a news program while I sipped my coffee I dutifully listened to an organizational guru talk about how to deal with the baskets and piles of papers the anchor had stacked around her house. It seems this is an epidemic!

In a day and age when we should be concerned about our forests it seems the amount of junk mail and unnecessary paper waste is incredible. What happened to going electronic to save trees?

Oh yeah, they did that too… they call it spam.

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