What will cause a DNF for me

Just recently, I began an audiobook that I stopped listening to in frustration after four chapters. It was a mystery, a best seller, and highly recommended. The author and title shall remain nameless, but it brought up issues for me that I wanted to talk about.

First of all, there were four narrators/POV. The first four chapters introduced nine characters and I didn’t really like any of them. I’m sure the lukewarm response I had to one of them means she was going to be the central character in the end. The plot was intriguing. A remote island, a big event, lots of interesting conflict, and definitely tension. Yet, as the introduction to the characters progressed, I realized I didn’t care if all of them were murdered. It’s a wedding and the bride was unlikeable, the groom was awful. The best man is a selfish wanker and the maid of honor-which is the POV where I proverbially threw my book against the wall–is completely fucked up. Two of the guests were limp dishrags of people with an inability to be honest with themselves at least. The other groomsmen were rich assholes. The whole set up really didn’t hold my interest because they were such flat, two-dimensional characters. And they shouldn’t have been.

Their POV was deep POV which should mean I could get into the skin of the characters. Yet, their thoughts were so completely asinine, I just couldn’t get there. I got absolutely no warning when the Bridesmaid started cutting herself.

Yeah. I was done. What’s worse, is the author’s set up made me supremely unsympathetic to the character who, in her mental agony, felt it necessary to take a razor blade to her skin. When I closed out the book and removed it from my library, I wondered what had caused me to have such a negative reaction to the book.

Was it my mood? Possibly. Yet, as I said, I was on board for the plot and the situation. I just required characters to care about.

Was it the multiple POVs? This could be possible. I don’t mind glimpses of other POVs but I really do prefer the story to revolve around one or two characters.

Was it the writing? Maybe. In my mystery mood, I’ve read Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie. Marsh frequently writes stories with unlikeable characters. “Murder At The Dolphin” for example. But the main character that drives almost all the narrative is very likeable. And Marsh allows us to see the ugly characters from the POV of others who don’t see their ugliness. So, it makes the unlikeable characters palatable. Whatever the author was aiming for in the Book I Did Not Finish completely missed me. Apparently, however, it does it for a lot of other readers.

What causes a DNF for you?

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Why A Narrator Matters–Review of Alice Coldbreath’s Victorian Prizefighter Series

A Bride for the Prizefighter by Alice Coldbreath

I’m not sure how Alice Coldbreath ended up on my radar. I started with her Vawdry Brothers series and read them all voraciously, moving onto the Karadok series. When “A Bride for the Prizefighter” came out, I was hesitant. It seemed like a straightforward historical set in the 19th Century. And it is. But this story is even better than the Karadok world books. So let me talk about the story, and then I’ll go on about the narration part.

The story is about an English school teacher named Minerva, or Mina. Her father had just died and leaves her completely alone and friendless. Now, where many historicals might have this concept, Coldbreath adds the right details to make the story more engrossing for me. Mina’s mother had divorced her first husband to marry Mina’s father. This action caused Mina’s parents to remain anti-social and extremely correct in behavior and conduct. Mina, however, is a real flesh and blood person who secretly reads romantic stories from the papers and isn’t a cold, unfeeling bitch. Before his death, Mina’s father writes to the only “family” Mina has left-a half brother who was born before Mina’s mother divorced, left behind to be raised by the Lord she’d left. This half-brother, Jeremy, arrives the day after the funeral and takes Mina away. Jeremy is drunk and annoys Mina quite a bit. To her shock and dismay, Jeremy arranges for her to marry Will Nye in return for Vance house, a parcel promised to Nye by Jeremy’s father, but never given to him. Nye, once a prizefighter well on his way to fame and fortune, now runs a rundown public house called “The Merry Harlot”. Mina, with no other options, marries Will Nye.

Mina’s grief and despair never defeats her. She is an amazing, strong woman and I admired her. Despite her own sheltered upbringing, she keeps her opinions about other people’s station and behavior to herself, recognizes kindness when it comes her way, and accepts others for who they are rather than what they wear or what class they seem to be. Though Mina had a million reasons to be angry about her circumstances, she doesn’t allow that to destroy her happiness. Will Nye is, for the first part of the story, a figure of mystery. His motives, his past, all influence his behavior, but those things aren’t revealed until further into the story. He is a tough man, who has made something of himself despite his circumstances. These two people are drawn together and find something very special. There’s some suspense and bad guys all handled with a very deft hand.

Coldbreath doesn’t belabor their damage or spend loads of words explaining. Everything unfolds perfectly. The details in this story are clearly well researched and I loved how the author didn’t whisk through the awesome sex scenes without describing the reality of petticoats and so on. All of it was brilliantly done.

It inspired me to get the next one.

A Substitute Wife for the Prizefighter

Benedict Toombs has been in prison for 9 months and now that he’s out, he has decided he wants respectability and a family. Betsy Anderson, a woman he met before his incarceration, seems to fit the bill. She’s pretty enough, her family is religious and upstanding, and she wrote him pretty letters while he brooded in a cell. Yet, during a dinner to celebrate their engagement, a brooch goes missing and it’s not Betsy who keeps the fine, Christian guests from accusing him of the theft. It was Lizzie Anderson, Betsy’s judgmental sour-faced cousin, who faces the harsh crowd of diners and declares a beloved Reverend Milson was the thief. Lizzie, who saw her idol Milson steal the broach, is devastated. To make matters worse, her aunt and uncle who took her in when she was orphaned, insist she detract her truthful statement. When she doesn’t, she is cast into the streets with no money and few belongings. The situation causes Benedict to see Besty and the Andersons were not what he wanted. The engagement is broken, but Benedict hatches a plan to get revenge on the sour-faced woman who disapproved of him so staunchly. Almost immediately, it’s clear Benedict isn’t really after revenge. Lizzie is brave, but not long-suffering. Her world is ripped away from her and she realizes she has depended on those who really had no love for her. All of her beliefs and judgments are challenged. She does not crumple. She also doesn’t become bitter and ugly. When Benedict holds out his hand to take her as his wife, she takes it. Then, he whisks her into the world of traveling fairs. I loved this. Benedict has family issues and Lizzie is pulled into some of the conflict. But Benedict doesn’t leave her hanging. He protects her, cherishes her. His character, honed by years of living among selfish parents and making a break from the cycle of neglect, is one of solid dependability. I fell a little in love with Benedict. Good thing I didn’t though. Lizzie would kick my ass.

The story of how they come to forge a bond of love is beautiful in my opinion. They COMMUNICATE. I didn’t find myself screaming “TELL HIM YOU STUPID IDIOT” as I do in some romances. We get to follow as Lizzie finds her way in the confusing world of entertainers and vendors, finds a pet protector, stands up for what’s right, and finds love with Benedict. Though I’d like to see Betsy suffer a bit more, everyone gets what they deserve. Satisfyingly.

Now about the narration. Anne Flosnik is a staple among historical writers. I find her a bit ponderous and was heartily tired of her brand of narration by the time I noted Alice Coldbreath had audible books available. Damn. All of them were Anne Flosnik. I just couldn’t press “buy”. So, I skulked away and threw my hard won credits toward other authors.

Then, bliss.

A Bride for the Prizefighter had a different narrator. Carmen Rose. What a difference that made. I couldn’t press “take my money” fast enough. It was, amazingly, the perfect narration. It made ALL the difference. I highly recommend reading Coldbreath’s Victorian Prizefighters. And if you’re an audiobook enthusiast, Carmen Rose nails the narrations. Make sure you check them out to see if they’re you’re thing. I absolutely loved them.

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Mark Lanegan. You will be missed.

Some of you may wonder “Who the hell is Mark Lanegan? He was just some lead singer for some obscure band at the beginning of the Grunge Movement.”

Yes. You are correct. Full disclosure: I didn’t know who he was until a couple of years ago. The Redneck is the expert on the music connections that create an amazing career. For him, it started with Queens of the Stone Age. Somehow, Josh Homme leads to Alain Johannes, Mark Lanagan and The Screaming Trees.

Don’t ask me. I’m just here for the music!!! But I credit Mark Lanegan with something really important, something he didn’t even know he was doing when he did it. I credit him with saving my husband’s sanity and maybe even his life. You see, in July of 2020, my husband discovered that he had a piece of a spinal disc pressing on a nerve in his right leg. One of his spinal discs was completely blown out and two others were bulging. By October of 2020, The Redneck knew his work life was over.


The man has worked constantly since he was sixteen. His self-esteem was wrapped up in his job, his ability to support himself and his family, and his toughness. He did jobs others couldn’t, going without sleep, driving over 9 hours on a Friday night to come home to his family after working a 60 hour work week. Work was his “thing”. To him, it defined him. To me, it was only part of who he is. Once he couldn’t work anymore, The Redneck had no purpose, and slid into a very, very dark place.

A lot of this has come out in rage and distrust against the current status of the world.

But some of it has been redirected into two very positive things: Gardening and Music.

He would spend time looking at videos of musicians he loved, finding one with a great drummer that led to another band, another musician, another story. He discovered Mark Lanegan’s autobiography on Audible and talked about it for days. He introduced me to Lanegan’s music which I hadn’t known. I fell in love with some of Lanegan’s dark lyrics and haunting music. I’m not as invested in the different aspects of music as my husband is. I hear a band and I listen to the music. I don’t think about who is in the band, where they’ve come from, and the rich history of their evolution. I’m a Philistine. If it moves me, I love it. The Redneck is much more in depth in the way he listens to and supports artists.

Thanks to Mark Lanagan, his music and his books, my husband had something positive to focus on. And something to relate to.

I have a few favorites by Mark Lanagan, but this one…..this one is my absolute favorite.

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The Girl in the Mist by Kristen Ashley

So I have a bit of a Kristen Ashley addiction. First of all, the woman writes A LOT and that means I don’t have to wait long for another one. Second, she almost ALWAYS makes me laugh. I was a little hesitant with this book. It seemed like a more serious offering and I have been avoiding serious. Like, please, Kristen, don’t make me cry. Again. Her Rock Chick books have been about my speed. Or Period Romantic Suspense. But Contemporary serious? Nope. The world is already too serious for me.

I should have known that Kristen wouldn’t disappoint. I was worried in the first couple of chapters since Delphine didn’t seem like a character I was going to like. She’s rich. Like, 2% famous being stalked rich. At first, she seems to me like a rich woman with too much money to spend and she’s spending it in Misty Pines. But as the story unfolds, I come to love this-GET THIS-fifty-three year old (my age) heroine. She’s LEARNED from her life. She’s no whiny “Poor me” fucked up woman who can’t get past her mistakes. Her daughters are amazing women who reveal exactly how Delphine parented them. Celeste’s addition to the story is when I start to get interested. The suspense itself is good although I will say that I figured out who was behind all the bullshit pretty early in the story. Not the details, mind you, just the character. I’m not even sure what clued me in, but I was sure it was this character.

So, the story. Delphine has moved to Misty Pines to escape a very crazed stalker who has kidnapped people to “enact” a famous television show that Delphine starred in years earlier. To my surprise, the stalker story isn’t the main focus. The whole story is really about a killer who wants to challenge the retired FBI profiler, Cade Bohannan, who lives next door to Delphine, and has been tasked with protecting her. Full disclosure: This story has three threads that requires a reader to pay attention. The story of Delphine’s stalker in the background, the murders, and the very messed up scandal that explodes in Misty Pines. All of Kristen Ashley’s stories are fast-paced, with awesome dialogue, and scary, scary edge-of-my-seat scenes. This one lived up to that reputation.

I like that Cade and Delphine are who they are and don’t twist themselves up into pretzels to fall in love with each other. Cade’s son Jason is an awesome character. Kimmie was probably my absolute favorite character. She’s a hoot. I won’t say this story was as “light” as the Rock Chick books. It definitely had some very dark moments. I will say it was riveting and suspenseful and just what I needed.

If you haven’t given Kristen Ashley a try, check her out. https://www.kristenashley.net/

She may not be your cup of tea, but if she is, you’ll enjoy her immensely and her backlist is huge.

Thanks, Kristen. Thanks for giving me exactly what I need every single time.

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Movie Review “Dune: Part 1”

The Redneck and I went to the movies for the first time in two years last Friday night and saw “Dune: Part 1”. Before I go into details regarding this offering, perhaps I should clarify my relationship with the book “Dune” by Frank Herbert.

I discovered this book on a search in my very first foray into the “Adult” part of the library.  In those days, the Napa library was a small place with one side dedicated to children’s books and I remember they had a thin metal barrier (like on a subway) to get to the adult section.  By the time I was ten, the adult library was Valhalla.  My Dad, realizing I longed for more substance in my reading, made it possible for me to check out books from the adult section of the library.

The Sci Fi section was two bottom shelves in the back of the adult library.  I planted myself there and read every single offering they had.  I read “The Illustrated Man”, “Dragons of Pern”, “The Mists of Avalon” and so many others.  But the first book I fell in love with was “Dune” by Frank Herbert.  It was the first real book (that wasn’t a Harlequin Romance) I bought for myself at the second hand bookstore.  I waited impatiently for the other releases.  I loved the whole Dune universe. 

When the move “Dune” came out in 1984, I wondered how the hell they could take my beloved book and make it into a movie.  A purist at the time, I was very disappointed in the movie and shook my head.  No one, I thought, seemed to truly understand the book.  It was NUANCED.  It was SUBTLE.  The 1984 movie felt like a sledgehammer being used on china repair. 

Yet, when the mini-series was created and shown on Sci Fi, I avidly watched it.  This time, I wasn’t as much as a purist.  As long as the series got the gist of the book right, I was willing to love it.  Released in 2000 with Alec Newman as Paul Atriedes and James McAvoy as Paul’s son Leto, the series covers the three book series “Dune”, “Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune”.  This was NOT for the purist, but it seemed to capture the essence of the Dune universe.

All this to say, I have pretty high standards regarding “Dune”.

First of all, be warned.  The opening says “Dune: Part 1” so I think it should be known that this movie does NOT cover the whole first book.  Second of all, be warned that this movie seems to be aimed at “family” audiences.  In other words, some of the subtle violence, ugliness, and sexual exploitation that is inherent in much of the Dune story is missing here.  The Baron Harkonnen, an absolutely abhorrent being in the book, is more like the Marlon Brando character in “Apocalypse Now”.  The horror.  The horror.  His penchant for young boys is cut out of the movie completely.  The actor Timothee Chalamet plays Paul Atreides perfectly.  Broody, pensive, serious, and very strong.  The Gom Jabbar scene, a pivotal moment in the book that MUST be done well, was well done though the movie leaves out a chunk of the dialogue there that I think foreshadows the future of the story, shows Paul’s character, and sets a tone I think is missed.

The scenes in this movie are short, moving from one to another very quickly.  I told my husband there was a lot of navel gazing.  “Here look at this totally cool onithopter!”  “Here is this awesome view”.  “Look at the dunes?”  There were unnecessary silences.  The pomp and circumstance of the official handing over of the planet Arrakis to Duke Leto seemed a bit strange to me.  I mean, I understand it was to show the Emperor’s power and strength etc. but that scene was not in the book and was not necessary to the plot.  They skipped a HUGE scene from the book that, to me, showed the complicated politics in the Dune universe.  The dinner.  In the book, there is a formal dinner in which all the aspects of political power on Arrakis are represented and show themselves.  For some reason, two of the directors have ignored it.  The mini-series had it and used it to introduce other main characters who weren’t at the dinner in the book BUT they fit perfectly IMHO.

Liet Kynes death?  Actually better than the book.  In fact, I liked the way this movie handled Liet Kynes, although I wish we could have had more. 

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho was a great choice.  Again, the details were a bit different, but Momoa understands this role of loyalty, duty, and sacrifice.  He plays it well and, I think, shows the relationship between Paul and Idaho which play a huge part in the Dune universe. 

I loved Oscar Isaac as Leto.  He had few scenes and had to hold them with his presence.  He did this extremely well.

Now, Jessica.  My favorite part of the Dune universe is the Bene Gesserit.  Part Magic, Part Science, Part mysticism, the Bene Gesserit are the most amazing creation in the Dune universe.  It is through them Paul obtains “The Voice”.  It is through their “Missionaries” that Paul finds sanctuary with the Fremen.  It is their generational outlook that, in the end, catapults Paul, the Atreides, and all his descendants into evolution and survival.  Rebecca Ferguson played the role of Jessica with all the character’s angst and drama worn on the outside so we could see it.  None of Jessica’s true regal beauty shines forth in this movie, BUT Jessica’s total kick ass survival methods were on point. 

The movie did covey the story.  A powerful family is forced through politics to take over a planet with a natural resource imperative to the known Universe.  Betrayal and murder awaits them and survival depends on one fifteen year old boy to take the mantle of leadership and avoid a future of death and bloodshed.  In the indigenous population on Arrakis, Paul Atreides finds a fighting force to regain his family’s losses, a woman whose love will sustain him, and an unknown future at his command.

Funny.  That’s what it is all stripped down.  But Frank Herbert’s world building was a layered and complicated as the human body.  I will say this movie has added to the story.  I have always said that no movie could truly capture the whole story on the screen.  I still think I’m right.  But this movie will give life to much of the story and still holds the core of it. 

For someone who loves Frank Herbert’s Dune series, I will say the movie generated discussion about the whole Dune Universe. I’m glad I went and saw it. 

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The future awaits…

Let’s talk about publishing.

I began to write in 2004 with the idea of getting published as a romance author.  That led me to Harlequin, which led me to the Harlequin forums, which introduced me to Romance Divas, which led me to e-publishing. (Whew).

I wrote a Romantic Suspense which was rejected by Harlequin and two agents.  At the urging of my then critique partners, I submitted “A Taste Of Christmas”, a short story for the holidays, to Cobblestone Press.

Lo! And Behold!  I was offered a contract.  The book was published December 2006. Simultaneously, I had become fascinated by and determined to try my hand at Erotic Romance.  I was introduced to some of the early Erotic Romance Writers who I loved and followed avidly.  Eden Bradley, Joey W. Hill, Robin Rotham, and Crystal Jordan showed me a new genre that led to my absolute love for BDSM Romance and all its tributaries. 

So, a month after I was given a contract for my sweet romance, A Taste Of Christmas, I was offered a contract for “Tied Up In Tinsel” with Wild Rose Press.  This story is no longer available.  I wrote a series of BDSM stories set in a small town setting for Wild Rose Press which I received the rights back in 2015, and rereleased as “David’s House” series “Masked”, “Stripped”, “Burned” and “Owned”

And I was off.  Published in the new, changing publishing landscape of E-Publishing.  I worked my ass off and FINALLY was published with Ellora’s Cave where many of my Erotic Romance heroes were published.  I sent in a book to KENSINGTON!  It was rejected, but not in a horrible “oh-my-God! You-can’t-write” sort of way.

Then, disaster. 

One by one, my publishers went out of business.   At one time, I’d been published by seven e-publishers under two pen names.  By 2013, five of them were gone, or no longer sold Erotic Romance.  My editor at Wild Rose Press left and I received my rights back and self-published those books. 

My day job got insane with a new boss, new responsibilities, and more stress.  My writing hit a brick wall.  My last release of a new book was in 2015.  Six years in publishing is a LIFETIME.

All this to say that I’ve been poking the internet for upcoming “trends” in publishing.  What in the hell is going on out there?  How has publishing changed in the face of the pandemic? 

Today, I read this.  https://explodingtopics.com/blog/publishing-trends  written in August 2021. 

I also watched this video which I found interesting.

I finished my first new book (part of a series) and sent it off to a trusted writer friend for analysis.  Because six fucking years is a long fucking time.  Yes.  That needed the “F” word.

Everything seems to have changed.  It’s a new, glorious, scary world out there.  But you know what?  The story continues. 

I’ll keep you updated.

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The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh

I had reached that stage of the year where I had to reread an old favorite. Since my new favorite pastime is to listen to audiobooks, I found “Gaudy Night” by Dorothy L. Sayers (finally) on Google Play (expensive but worth it). I listened to the great Ian Carmichael read “Gaudy Night” and then “Busman’s Honeymoon”. I wanted more. I was not done with Harriet and Peter Whimsey. I had read “Thrones, Dominations” years ago. Unfortunately, the first two books Jill Paton Walsh completed with the approval and cooperation of Sayer’s estate, were too expensive for me (on top of the money I spent for “Gaudy Night”) But “The Attenbury Emeralds” was available as part of my subscription to Audible.com.

Peter Whimsey is now Sixty years old, Harriet (13 years younger) is forty-seven. Yet, Walsh gives Peter and Harriet a fresh love, not stale or weighed down. The beginning of the story is a narrative by Peter, supported by Bunter and questioned by Harriet, about Whimsey’s first case. (Referenced in “Whose Body”). Inspector Sugg (also from “Whose Body”) is a main character and it seems as if the book was going to be a trip to the past. I should have known better.

The title is deceptive. Only one emerald is threaded through the whole story. It begins with Peter taking his first foray into society after his devastating post-war nervous breakdown. This, by the way, Walsh deals with perfectly, showing how he is “Poor Peter” and struggles to take his place again in a world he no longer cares about very much. He becomes involved in the Attenbury family’s trouble when the emeralds are stolen. What is unique and amazing about this story, is that it doesn’t end with the resolution to the theft of the emerald. In a massive twist of fate, the new Lord Attenbury appears on Peter’s doorstep and makes a plea for help. Walsh uses this new dilemma in the Attenbury family to show post-war England and where all the descendants ended up.

This story is HUGE. It covers three generations, a personal family crisis for the Whimseys, and a twisted solution that was enough of a surprise to satisfy me. What Walsh has always seemed to capture for me (Thrones, Dominations was a very simple mystery in my mind. I wasn’t wowed by the book, but I loved the continuation of the Harriet/Peter Bunter story) is the relationships. Peter with his children, with Bunter, with Harriet, with his mother, were all explored. Harriet’s struggle as a Doctor’s Daughter, not nobility is laid out. The Duchess of Denver, Helen, is still a terrible person. She doesn’t improve. The Dowager is my favorite. I have loved her since Peter’s first book and still love her now. It was always the characters that carried Peter Whimsey mysteries for me. Walsh continued that tradition.

I loved “The Attenbury Emeralds” so much, I went on to read “The Late Scholar”. I was so sad to discover Jill Paton Walsh passed away October 18 2020. In a way, I am glad. Walsh didn’t have to write about the inevitable death of Peter Whimsey. She didn’t have to write about the death of the Dowager. The characters will continue to live in my imagination with no end, no death, even though I know it happened. Peter lived happily ever after, a sleuth, a husband, a man of honor. With his beloved Harriet.

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Binge watching over 50

I’ve always been at the awkward age.  You know, I wasn’t raised on computers, but I had to learn how to use them.  My childhood consisted of a huge black rotary phone which graduated to a cordless phone and a beeper, to flip phones and, finally, smart phones.  I watched television on a black and white with an antenna and now, I watch Amazon Prime videos on my laptop.  When I started writing, I had a Dell Computer with “Word Perfect”.  Anyone remember that nightmare?  I still remember the first time I tried to have a writer friend read my stuff to help me into the world of publishing.

Friend: “ You need to covert this to Word.”

Me:  “It’s in Word Perfect.”

Friend:  “No.  WORD.”

Me:  “There’s a difference?”

Friend:  *internal screaming*  “Yes.  Word Perfect is NOT Word.”

Me:  “I don’t think I have that.”

Thus, I was finally introduced to Microsoft and the need to covert my entire life into Microsoft software. 

My online life started with AOL, You’ve Got Mail, Yahoo Groups, and…wait for it….wait for it…..MySpace.  I stopped keeping up with the latest social media with Twitter.  My co-worker is always showing me Tik Tok videos.  All I can think is that’s one more password I won’t remember. 

My point of bringing this up is a recent binge watching session I just completed.  I watched five seasons of one of my absolute favorite characters, Daria Morgandorfer.

A spinoff from Beavis and Butthead, Daria is all about high school for the disaffected. When it came out, I watched it voraciously.  It stands the test of time.  The show is over 20 years old. 

*a moment of silence as I ponder that horrible thought*

In the last month, I’ve struggled as Covid-19 has surged back and everything is in chaos again.  Nothing worked.  Everything annoyed me.  I was irritable and unreasonable and I knew it.

Enter the Daria Binge Watch.  I laughed my ass off.  I remembered why I loved the show.  It brought me back to the human race.  Well, sort of. 

I realized this may be my future.  I may go back to old music, old t.v. shows, old books, to try and recapture those times I felt safer, less stressed, more capable.  Yet, as I think about it, I never felt that way in the midst of those times.  It’s only in looking back I can see how gentler life was back then.

Or maybe, looking back is always shrouded in golden mists that sprinkle glitter over everything and make it seem shinier. 

In reality, today is all I really have.  It was fun to revisit Daria.  But I don’t want to live there.

La La La LaLa…….

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BOOK REVIEW: “You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey” by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

Book Review.  “You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey” by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

So, say you have a friend (or two or more) who is a person of color.  And say you’ve been raised in a pretty white neighborhood and white schools and so on.  AND say you’ve heard them sigh on the phone when you discuss something sensitive-something out of your experience.  Something like being pulled over by a cop, not because you’ve committed a moving violation, but because you are “not white”.  Or something like having teenaged boys and discussing with your friend about her requirement to have “the talk” and she’s not talking about condoms.

You might be, like me, only able to listen with a puzzled frown, wanting to be an ally, but then shit comes out of your mouth that is a product of childhood, education, and culture.  It was so bad that it has been suggested I read “White Fraglity”  (a good book.  Kind of academic.  Heavy shit.)

Full disclosure.  I struggled with “White Fragility”.  Not because I wasn’t on board with the ideas expressed in it.  Because the ideas were so heavy and difficult for me to wrap my entrenched brain around that I waded through it.  I’ll have to reread it a few more times to really retain that fucker. 

This book.  This gem.  This raw, funny, painful, beautiful book took all the same ideas I needed to get straight in my head and made it so I could get it.  Even though Amber and Lacey are fucking HILARIOUS, I am NOT recommending this book for comedy purposes.  I am recommending this for any person out there who still thinks being “Woke” is some kind of fucked up fad for Nice White Ladies and White Saviors.  I am recommending this for any parent who ever had to go to the school and fight for their kid.  I am recommending this for anyone who has ever said “It’s not fair!” about their life. 

Because this book reveals how my own “It’s not fair” was bullshit.  It shows that my understanding of racism and white privilege was academic at best and miniscule at worst.  Through story after story, Amber and Lacey tell about their experiences at school, work, and home and with law enforcement, government, and human resources.  They share things that made my stomach clench and my heart hurt.  Yet, I laughed so fucking hard, I couldn’t believe I was able to do it. 

Two stories have haunted me since finishing this book.  Amber Ruffin tells about the time she was a new driver and was pulled over by an older white male cop.  Lacey told the story about the competition her all black team participated in about Black History.  When I started the book, I thought my outrage was broken.  The last two years have strained every emotion I’m capable of experiencing.  Yet, those two stories made me think, “I would have LOST MY MIND if that had

happened to my kid.”  And in this book, I learned how Amber and Lacey’s mother chose her times to step in and fight.  And the many times there was no recourse.  

This book wasn’t written for me.  Yet, I am the one who has benefited the most from their willingness to share. 

Go buy it.  It wraps up difficult conversation in humor.  The laughs don’t take out the sting, but it makes the pain a little more bearable.  It isn’t an academic book with psychological explanations of racism and stupidity.  It’s true stories about the little day to day stuff we do and say. 

This isn’t an instruction manual on How Not To Be An Asshole.  And it isn’t put out there for some philosophical arguments about “cause” “effect” and “culture wars”.  It’s Amber and Lacey’s life.  It’s their stories. 

My job as the reader is to remember them.

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Inside the brain of this writer

There’s a conference room in my mind.  It’s a huge room with massive windows that let in natural light.  The table in the center is polished mahogany.  It’s shiny.  Around the table are mismatched chairs of various types-comfortable executive style, shabby secretary sheik, high backed leather, and squat pseudo leather chairs (black of course).

Ensconced in these various butt warmers are characters.  Some are dressed in Victorian style dresses and day coats.  Some are imminently forgettable.  A few of them are loud and annoying. 

I bang a gavel.  I need a gavel with this group.

“Okay. Thank you.  So we need to write today.  I’m almost done with your story…..Tesia.”  I delay in saying her name because I’d FORGOTTEN IT.  Yes.  It’s been that long since I’ve been able to get to that story.

Tesia, with enviable short red hair and freckles, just stares at me.  She is definitely pissed.  My characters often get really mad at me.  When Real Life takes precedence and I can’t meet with them to get the story details, they all tend to feel neglected and abused.  I don’t feel guilty anymore.  I’m fifty-three this year and I don’t do guilt. 

Luckily, Jezar speaks up.  “Tesia still has issues with the beginning.”

I nod.  “I’m sure.  The beginning is always difficult.”

“Infodumping.” She snaps. 

Well, fine.  “I tried to remove that when I changed the scene to a fight scene.”

For a moment, she looks mollified.  She liked the fight scene.  She’s a kickass character and, though she likes to play cards with Jezar, opening the story with a card game wasn’t her style.  The change was a good one. 

“I’m afraid I’m still not content with the amount of punishment Tesia pays,” Jezar states and stares out the window as Tesia glares at his profile.  “After all, she…”  Jezar goes onto to repeat shit I already know.  It’s on the fucking page. 

“Jezar, I’ve asked you before.  What else can I do?  She almost dies of a genetic illness and you save her.  She lets you get away with some serious fucked up bullshit because she knows she hurt you.  She’s SORRY.  What else do you want?”  I’m exasperated.  This is an ongoing discussion that makes me crazy.  It makes me doubt my content.  A lot.

Meanwhile, Tesia has crossed her arms and sunk down in her seat.  My other characters from different Works in Progress are eyeing her with interest.  I can tell she feels like they’re judging her. 

Finally, Jezar glances at her.  “I’m just letting you know that readers aren’t going to think she’s paid a very high price for being a racist asshole to me.”

He has a point.  Tesia used Jezar’s race against him calling him all the nasty names for Ardasians and being a total bitch.  She had a good reason.  But she kept him in misery for MONTHS. 

“She spends much of your story thinking you’re only fucking her so you can have the visions.”  I point out.

Jezar rolls his eyes.  “Fine.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  When you send this to Kate, I’m sure that will be enough.”

I sigh.  “We’ll set up a time to go over the possible changes after I hear back from Kate.”

Tesia mutters something but I’ve decided they’re done.  “Next on the agenda.  Any progress on the Arundale front?”

The hostility in the room increases to an unbearable level.  I glance up from my agenda and meet the very disgruntled gaze of my main male character Marcus.  18th Century werewolf.  An Earl.  And likes his spanky spanky. 


“Progress?” he says softly.  Oh shit.  That’s his pre-rant voice. 


“You’ve rewritten this SIX TIMES!” he shouts at me.  “How am I supposed to continue to have these POINTLESS meetings when you keep rewriting the story.  SIX TIMES.”

“Dude!  I can’t help it if you guys keep lying to me.  All you’ve given to me is that this is a threesome, she’s a witch and you and Simon are hot for each other and her.  That’s it.  And when YOU tell me the story, it’s completely fucked up.  Whatever conflict happened occurred when you were fifteen and you’ve told me three different stories about it!”

Mariann, ever the peacemaker and another badass, interrupts me.  “Jen, you know he doesn’t want to talk about it.”

I turned to Mariann in frustration.  “He told me you were a murderer.  He wanted you to be the one who killed his….well, the man the world thinks is his father, but…shit.  The whole thing is a fucking mess.  I really need you guys to unravel it.”  I whirled back to Marcus.  “If you think you’re frustrated with six different versions, think how I feel.  Do you think I have time to waste all those words on BULLSHIT?”

“I prefer the current version.”  Simon studies his hands. 

I shoot a look at all three of them.  “Version?  That is what happened, right?”

The silence at the table is deafening.  I am infuriated.  “I’m considering skipping your story, changing the next in the series to a contemporary and tell some myth about your relationship that is mentioned in ONE FUCKING PARAGRAPH in a new story.”

Mariann winces.  Marcus narrows his eyes and crosses his arms.  Simon, the jerk, smiles.  He loves baiting me. 

“We didn’t initially want the story to show me as quite so…”  Mariann trailed off.  She’s beautiful, but damaged.  Her witchy power is amazing.  And she kicks ass even in four petticoats. 

“…Dominating?”  Simon says with a grin.

Now, I’m offended.  “She is not,” I snap.  “Just because she can fight with you side by side does not mean she’s-“

“He’s baiting you again,” Mariann murmured. 

I almost growl.  “Back to the topic.  Do we have in progress on the current story?”

Marcus yawns.  Simon grins.  “Not at the moment.  We are a bit stuck on the meeting with Marcus, as always.  His past influences his current behavior and, since my lover refuses to disclose his pain from those days, we cannot move forward.”

I study Marcus.  “I thought you wanted to share this story.  Was I wrong?”

He is very still.  “No.”

Mariann sighs.  “We need a little more time.”

I nod.  What else can I do?  “I’m sure you’ll let me know when you’re ready.”  Actually, I’m not sure of that at all, but I say it anyway.

Moving on.

“Next up, Yarina.”  I don’t even get another word out.

“I hate this.  Why does my story have to be concurrent with Nell and the others.  And why do you have to make me out to be a stupid ho?  I’m not happy.  Dimitri gets all the good lines.  He’s all “caro” this and “Princesa” that.  Meanwhile, I’m the BDSM ho from hell.”  Yarina waves her arms wildly as her voice raises.  “Plus, I look like an idiot.  Are you trying to make me a “Too Stupid To Live” female character?”  She stabs a long, slender finger my way.  “And if you use the word “exotic” just once to describe me?  I’m going to call you out as a fucking Nice White Lady to Twitter.”

I sigh.  I do a lot of sighing in the conference room.

“Now princesa, you know she has to follow the other published accounts.  We are limited until we get beyond the timeline already set.”  Dimitri pulls Yarina into his lap.  “You and I are the most important story since we wind up all the loose threads from the other three.”

 “I know.  But it’s a suspense story.  She always drags her feet on those.”  Yarina puts her head on Dimitri’s shoulder. 

“I want to make sure all the plot holes are filled in,” I said.  “You know I fuck those up a lot.  Remember poor Pogie in “Heart of the Storm”?  Two last names.  I want to make sure I get this story right.”

“She doesn’t make you a ho,” stated Nell.  She’s my HR admin from “Declaration to Submit”.  Somehow, she always knows how to put just the right tone in statements like that so they sound absolute.

“Well, I wish she’d get on with it,” Yarina said in an almost whiny tone.  I don’t tolerate whining.  Whining gets a character banished. 

“I don’t respond to whining,” I snapped.

“I know,” Yarina said with a heavy sigh.  Damn.  There’s a lot of fucking sighing going on in this room.

“So…as I asked before.  Any progress?”  I met Dimitri’s amused gaze and fought the urge to roll my eyes.

“As you know, the plot is still a bit sticky.  I recommend an Excel spreadsheet for a timeline.”  Dimitri said in a calming, soothing and fucking annoying tone.

“You only say that because you know I hate Excel spreadsheets.”  I gave up.  Moving on.  “Anyone else want to speak up?  The agenda is open.”

There was a heavy silence.  Yep.  This was how it had been lately.  I had seven characters giving me shit and everyone else had disappeared. 

Simon rose and came over to my chair.  He patted my shoulder.  Those 18th century males are downright patronizing.  “We are all you need, my friend,” he said in a cheerful voice.  He waved his hand to the characters around the table.  “You have a science fiction novel, a dirty contemporary novel, and, of course, a paranormal dirty historical.”  He bowed.  “We are quite enough.”

You know what?  He’s right.

Simon Says.

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Filed under Conversations With My Characters, It's A Rant! It's A Rave! It's Superwhiney!, Writing