The Rest of the Story

I was sitting in church. My toddler had confiscated the iPad, but I wasn’t worried, because you have to have the code to unlock it.

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Turns out I should have been worried.

I looked over and saw that my little beastling had somehow accessed the photos. And the photo that popped up wasn’t really something that I wanted to show off in church. It was a full body shot of a man standing there in nothing but his boxer briefs.

I frantically confiscated it and tried to hide it from view as I turned the dang pictures off.  There were many such pictures on that iPad.

Scandalous, right?

Or was it? Before you declare me a horrible person with a shameful secret, let me tell you the rest of the story:

We got the iPad for my husband’s work. This was several years ago when the iPad first came out. My husband helps develop Apps and as they switched from iPod to iPad, they needed it to test them. They develop acupuncture apps, and these apps need pictures to show where each point is located. The photograph was for work. It was indeed a picture of a man in nothing but his boxer briefs, but it was in no way provocative. These photos had been shot for this specific purpose and had the man standing in many very specific positions that showed off the muscle and bone structure. My husband could then add in dots to represent the acupuncture points.

Unbeknownst to me, the iPad was equipped with a little icon that appeared on the lock screen that allowed you to look at your photos as a slide show while the iPad was still locked. (We later got rid of that feature). So, since the only photos on the iPad were those that my husband used for work, those are the ones that showed up when my toddler touched the icon in church.

So, why am I talking about the (not) scandalous pictures on my iPad?

Because, despite the fact that there was nothing shameful about the photo, I still felt the need to hide it, quickly and quietly, glancing around as I wondered if anyone had seen it, and worrying about what they might think. Because we all make judgments. We use the information that we have and we call it as we see it.

We have to make those judgment calls; those little judgments are often necessary to make daily decisions. But are those judgment calls accurate or fair? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes the situation will be exactly what it seems. Sometimes, no. And I’d venture to guess that most of the time, the answer is no. There is more to the story than what we see. There are reasons, explanations, and history that led up to the moment in time where we step in and make an observation.

I’ve met people (and I would guess that you have too) who have shifted my perspective just by telling me their story. I walk away wanting to write their narrative, to remember the words they used, the emotion exhibited when they gave certain details. I want to share the understanding I’ve gained because before I met them, I didn’t understand. Then suddenly, after hearing them, I get it.

That’s the reason we tell stories. We share our tales of pain or triumph, of fact or fiction, so that we can help each other understand. Oftentimes a book can act like that proverbial pair of shoes. We put on the shoes as we slip into the story, and we go for a walk. Maybe it’s a mile, maybe it’s ten. And hopefully at the end of it, we’ve gained a little bit of compassion and sloughed off one or two of our snap judgments.

There’s always more to the story, and as authors, we can use that. Imagine a character and a situation that interests you, one that’s strange and dramatic and pulls at your heart. Now tell me how they got there. Tell me the rest of the story.

 

Us vs. Them

In books there is almost always an Us and a Them. Us is the perspective the book is told from. It’s the right side, the side that you are supposed to be rooting for. Us is the protagonist, the hero, the heroine. Them is the person or group of people that Us is fighting against. Them is the antagonist, the wrong side, the villain.

Us vs Them creates conflict, which is what stories are built on.

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Unfortunately, we also have Us vs Them in real life, and real life is rarely as clear cut as books like to show. We have it in religion and politics. We create sides among businesses, between socio-economic classes and between races. We shouldn’t, but we do.

Sometimes I feel like the media is just another author, pitting one group against another for the sake of a riveting story. You want to know which characters are the most fun to write? Villains. What fun the media must have as they take turns casting one side as the villain and then the other.

A grand jury verdict came down yesterday for the case in Ferguson. As with any verdict, one side is relieved, vindicated, the winner. The other side is confused, upset, and left to continue mourning. The law is far from perfect. Law enforcement, lawyers and judges do the best they can. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong. And sometimes there may not be a right and wrong, just two sides to a story. I’m not going to speculate on which category the Ferguson verdict falls into. I am in no way qualified to make that judgement.

Now that the verdict has come, those who are dissatisfied are reacting. They are responding with pain and grief. Their pain is real. Their grief is real. I mourn with them, and any who lose loved ones. But does continuing the fight between Us and Them accomplish anything?

I lived in St. Louis. I spent my (awkward and often difficult) high school years there. I have friends and family scattered throughout the city. The conflict between those who agree with yesterday’s verdict and those who don’t has resulted in rioting and violence in a city that I love.

I know that those who mourn feel the pain acutely because from their perspective, it was unjustified violence that caused Michael Brown’s death. They want justice for him. Of course they do. They feel like the law has failed them and they want to do something about it.

I just don’t understand how more unjustified violence will make it right, or do any good at all. The people in Ferguson and the surrounding areas are not the perpetrator, so why are they being punished? Michael’s mother is left without her child. I cannot imagine that pain. But what if this rioting results in more parents losing children? More children losing parents? Will that solve the problem? Will it make anything right?

Becoming the perpetrator of the crime you abhor will never make anything right.

If those who feel that justice has not been served feel the need to strive for a different outcome, I’m in no position to tell them not to. But punishing innocent people is not justice. It makes for a good headline but is that what we want to be?

My wish is that we can all strive for compassion and that we can stop allowing the media to turn us into characters for the stories they sell.

 

*I hope it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. I do not wish to vilify the media. Not all media outlets or journalists are doing this. But the ones that are seem to be the loudest. To the fair and fact-based journalists: keep fighting the good fight.

Clean Romance Box Sets

The fabulous Heather B. Moore has pulled together a project that I am so excited about. It’s called Triple Treat Romances. She has networked with and recruited clean romance writers of all genres and compiled them into multiple box sets. Each box set contains three full length novels. And they are all wonderfully inexpensive!

Check out the Triple Treat Romance website to get a look at all of the box sets. You can see which sets are already available on amazon and see the release dates of those that aren’t.

For example, in December, Just Ella will be released as a part of this box set. :)

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If any of you saw my post on FB about the definition of speculative fiction, this is why. I’ve come to the conclusion that since the world of Just Ella and Missing Lily is entirely made up and therefore does not exist, they do qualify as speculative. That and the fact that they don’t fit into any other genre. See this post for more of my thoughts on that front.

But I digress. I am thrilled to be part of these collections and ridiculously excited for the opportunity to get my hands on so many clean romances.

Clean Romance Authors UNITE!

When Did We Lower the Standard?

I heard a song the other day that started with the lyrics, “Guess it’s true I’m not good at a one-night stand.” The sadness of those lyrics struck me. The assumption that the majority of people are/should be good at having meaningless physical relationships speaks to just how much society has devalued genuine feelings and emotions like love, affection and caring. It’s become the norm to “use it and lose it.” The fact that the word “it” is used in that term should tip us off to just how much we’ve dehumanized each other.

The song is sung by a man and it got me thinking on the condescending remarks people tend to make that “boys will be boys” and “men can’t help themselves.” I’m guessing many of you agree that the latter is bull and that men can and should control themselves. But what of the first one? There is no denying that little girls and little boys tend to have different interests depending on their gender; but what does that have to do with the crippling idea that men have no self-control? Continue reading

Hidden Identity

1017468_10153870870980386_1048444126_n     When I started writing Missing Lily, my only objective was to tell Lylin’s story. I started my brainstorming by sticking her in a bunch of random (and usually uncomfortable) situations to see how she would react. I ended up coming up with several different ideas that involved some sort of a hidden identity theme. I think the reason I enjoy that idea so much is that the first meeting between hero and heroine starts with a blank slate. It sets aside any preconceived notions they might have and allows them to meet each other without that filter. Continue reading

The Evolution of Romance

This post was originally written as a guest post for Mythical Books.

A friend of mine pitched a story idea to an agent, saying she believed her story fit into the ‘New Adult’ category that has appeared recently. The agent’s response was, “Oh, is it erotica?” My friend assured her it was not, and the agent explained that in the publishing industry, the new category of ‘New Adult’ is used to put more explicit adult content in books meant for younger audiences than the usual ‘adult’ category.

This is more than a little disturbing to me. Continue reading

Last stops on the tour!

A huge Thank You to all the bloggers and reviewers who took the time to be a part of the Missing Lily Blog Tour. And, as always, a huge shout out to Kathy from iamareader.com. She’s a fabulous host and I’ve loved having the opportunity to work with her.

The Tour has ended, but there are still 4 more days to enter the giveaway. And only two more days to purchase the nook or ibooks version of Missing Lily. Then it will be exclusive through Amazon.

Check out the last stops! Continue reading

Interview, Lorraina’s song, and other things…

I did an interview with Curling Up With A Good Book.

Remember that Just Ella is on sale for the next 10 days, if you or someone you know wants to grab it.

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And I have another song for y’all! This is Lorraina’s song. Specifically Chapter 25.This is Say Something by A Great Big World. Love this song. Enjoy.

 

Blog Tour stops for the past couple days: Continue reading

How Romance Novels are contributing to Rape Culture

Before I was lucky enough to find blogs and other resources that I could rely on for book recommendations, I would troll Amazon. If a description caught my eye, I would look at the sample pages. In doing so I discovered a disturbing trend in romance novel plots. Two books still stick out in my mind. One started with a drunken man stumbling into what he thinks is his room at an Inn. He then assumes that the girl sleeping in the bed must be a prostitute and he treats her as such. The second book started with a ‘gentleman’ (it was a regency, I believe) coming upon a lady in a garden. He only sees her from behind and mistakes her for someone he was supposed to be meeting for a romantic rendezvous. He ends up assaulting the poor girl before realizing she’s not who he thought she was. When he does realize, there is no apology. He just turns on the charm, brushes it off as no big deal, and they part ways. Later, during the social gathering they are attending, he winks at her from across the room.

I went back and read the descriptions of these books and realized that, yes, in both cases I had just met the hero and heroine of the book. These were the two people that were going to fall in love and live happily ever after.

What the crap??!! Are you kidding me? Continue reading