Flourishing Through Adversity

Let me start by saying this is not a short post. If you’re looking for short and fun, this ain’t it. I’m on a little bit of a rant but I’m also trying to reassure friends and readers who are finding it difficult to navigate the tidal wave of waters from the current administration of this country. I know I’ve said before that I wouldn’t get all political here, but sometimes I just have to. Especially since this morning the stress got to be too much for hubs and he blew up in such an out of control way, I had to yell at him, which I never do. And of course, it terrified all the babies and one peed on the floor.  I just have no words sometimes. Other times, I have to channel it into an almost rant. So here I go.

For those who wear Trump colored glasses (yes, I made those!) what I have to say today may not seem true nor resonate with you. That’s okay. You all can just pass on by since this post isn’t really for you. If you believe in alternative facts just keep going and don’t bother to read this or comment. I will, without malice, delete any pro-Trump/anti-what I’m saying comments unread. This isn’t the forum for those. There is enough negativity in this world and I’m not going to willingly subject myself to any more of it despite the fact that today’s post is indisputably political in nature which tends to draw out all the people who think differently than I do.

Just be aware that I bear you no ill will for being a Trump supporter. If you are one, that’s fine. Just don’t come to my blog or my Facebook feed and post your alternative facts in my space. I will unfriend you. I will block you. I will delete your Facebook posts and I will delete comments here if I have to. In return, I promise not to come to your space and post any proven facts or tell you that I think the POTUS is an irresponsible bully surrounded by people who will lie to support him (ie Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer) and people who got close to him in order to increase their own power base and agenda (Steve Bannon, Rex Tillerson.) You stay over there and I’ll stay over here, and we can get together when the subject is something we’re not polar opposites on. We’ll get along just fine this way. Respect my space and I’ll respect yours.

That being said, some of us feel as if we are living in a time of great adversity. We feel as if we were cheated during the election because our popular vote meant nothing for the second time that I can recall in my lifetime (Al Gore being the other one.) We believe the president (not going to capitalize it when he can’t even behave like one) is going to ruin our country, that he’s only there for the rich people, that the poor like myself are only going to suffer more under his leadership. We’re horrified by the way he uses social media to attack not only our allies (Australia) but our own federal judges (“so called” judges.) And we’re afraid of his ties to Putin, his closeness with Breitbart’s Bannon, the way he’s provoking Iran, needling the Israelis, banning Muslims and pretty much making the rest of the world community take a step back from us. He’s allowed Bannon to basically tell the world that the media needs to be shut up, restrained. His administration has been caught in numerous lies in the first three weeks and instead of apologizing for it they try to skew minds and reality by calling the lies alternative facts. That right there is where I personally took a step back.

When the government tries to get rid of or muzzle the media, when they spout lies that are proven to be untruths, and when they straight up push those lies on the people of this country, trying to make them believe that the truth is not the truth…that’s not a democracy. That’s Nazi Germany, Orwell’s 1984 and Nixon during Watergate. Which is why so many thousands of people have taken to the streets, something that has given me a spark of hope.

Let’s go to Dictionary.com for a moment and I’ll get back to the protests in a minute.

Fact [fakt]
noun
1.  something that actually exists; reality; truth:

2. something known to exist or to have happened:

3. a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true:

Yeah. No room for “alternative” facts there.  What the administration is saying may be alternative, but in no way are they facts. In actuality, they’re about as factual as the Bowling Green Massacre that Kellyanne Conway made up. And this is the pap that this administration is feeding us and insisting we eat. It’s no wonder we’re all nauseous.

Anyway, this adversity we live with daily, the fear that the global community will turn their backs on us because our POTUS is a bully and an authoritarian, the fear that he’ll let the apocalyptic Bannon, sitting on the National Security Council, talk him into eradicating radical Islamic terrorism by pushing the nuclear button, these are real fears that people live with daily now in this Trump ruled country. So how do we go about our daily lives now while living with very real fears?

Unfortunately, having lived the past year homeless, with fear a constant, daily companion, I’ve learned a thing or two. I can tell you unequivocally that yes, you can do it. No, it’s not optimal, but it’s doable. First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself. Even someone as poor as me finds small ways to take care of myself whether it’s a bottle of special lotion with witch hazel from Mother’s Market for my neuropathy or a small bag of sugar free dark chocolate covered mints, it’s something that makes me feel good. And for those few moments that the lotion or the candy makes me feel good, I rise above adversity. I found out Friday morning that my friend and mentor Steve Duff had died the night before. The only thing that has made me feel good since the moment I found out and right now was those damned chocolates.

To rise above adversity, to flourish even, you have to commit to not giving in to it. Don’t let the fear mongering of our current government take away all the things you enjoy most in life. Don’t stay holed up in your home, watching the news, waiting for the next bad thing to happen.  Or conversely, don’t stay away from the news just because there’s the possibility of more bad stuff happening. With this administration, we can pretty much guess that more bad stuff WILL happen. But don’t let the fear keep you from being informed, don’t let them drive you away from the news or other shows that tell you what’s happening in the world and your local area. I watch the morning news because I want to know if there are protests scheduled locally. I want to know what my community is doing to fight back. I want to know if other cities are protesting. I find hope in the fact that so many people across this great nation (yes, it was always great and doesn’t have to be made great again) are taking to the streets in a show of solidarity against a man and an administration that would turn our democracy into an authoritarian society.

But to flourish, you have to continue to find joy in your life wherever you can. Hug your kids. Pet your furry kids. Cuddle them, cuddle your partner, your spouse. Watch your favorite shows, go to the movies. Eat the foods you love. Read books. Write and write and write. And post the good stuff!

I know I need to do more writing. The first new material I’ve written in more than two years, a military MM novella Extraction, came out Nov 18, my oldest brother’s birthday. I haven’t written a whole lot since but I need to.

And speaking of my brother reminds me that he always rose above adversity when the world was scary. My brother Tom marched with MLK. He belonged to the Democratic Central Committee and should have been at the Ambassador Hotel the night Bobby Kennedy died, but he got the Asiatic flu. He wore a “Legalize Marijuana” button in the late 60’s, something kids today probably can’t even comprehend as having been an issue so long ago. I remember him and my parents chanting “Impeach him!” during Watergate. Today, I see how many ways Trump is like Nixon.

I might have been young during the Nixon administration but I come from a family of individuals who were not afraid to be political, not afraid to tell me what was going on. Cesar Chavez visited my father’s barbershop in Gonzales, CA.  So did Leon Panetta when he ran for congress. Panetta knows my brother who has worked as a California lobbyist.  My brother Tom, at 76 years old, is still a voting member of the Democratic Party.  He’s never given up on democracy despite all the bad stuff he’s seen and lived through and causes and candidates he fought for — Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations, impeachments, protests and the eventual legalization of marijuana at least at the state level.

We shouldn’t give up either. We have options even though we feel as if everyone, everything is against us. Trump’s been put on notice as of last night that the judiciary isn’t going to stand for him making executive orders that are unconstitutional. They aren’t going to stand for him calling out our federal judges like a bully on a playground. And ultimately, more of us voted for Hillary than for him and he’s not untouchable. If Nixon can be impeached so can Trump. So just think about that for a moment, and then remember that we need to rise above adversity.

Join me in rising above, in flourishing during adversity. Let’s write and read and enjoy what we can in this life. If you feel bad just reading for pure enjoyment, go get a copy of All the President’s Men and read about history and the tenacity of two reporters determined to get the truth even if it brought down a presidency. I’ve read it before. It’s an amazing read. I’m going to read Switched by NJ Walker, about a guy who was switched at birth. It sounds like a really emotional, angsty read.

Speaking of angsty reads, I’m about 20K from finishing Out of the Pocket, the sequel or companion really to Scrambling. If you thought Scrambling was angsty, Out of the Pocket blows it out of the water. The first five thousand words of this book won the Rebecca Award a couple years ago. I wrote the rest of the book under the influence of Percocet and ended up having to scrap everything but that first 5K and start over. Now, it’s become a really heartbreaking story of two men torn apart by their jobs in the NFL.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to watch the news and see if there’s anything else good today. And even if there isn’t, I’m going to spend an hour reading and an hour writing before I head off to work on book covers for Louisa Bacio and JM Dabney and begin adding books to Sean Michael’s website. Have a great, flourishing Sunday!

Drexting

I rant on occasion. Not as much as I used to, but I do. I don’t always rant about the world of publishing either. I could seriously rant about the state of the economy in Southern California where middle class people like me make double the minimum wage per hour, haven’t had a significant raise in years and can’t even get an apartment because the price is so high and the main requirement is to have 2 to 3 times the rent in income. Yeah, that’s a huge rant with me. Being homeless because of the economy sucks ass. No one will help you because you have a job.

DSC_0099Despite how much and how long I could go on about the homeless situation in Orange County, I have something else on my mind. Like being homeless, it’s on my mind daily or almost daily anyway. It’s on my mind the five days a week I venture out into traffic in the Catmobile to go to work.

Drexting. Driving while texting.

At first, it only happened once in a while. I’d glance into my rear view mirror while approaching a red light or stop sign and find the person behind me not slowing down, their head tipped down. It dawned on me that they were texting or checking their email on their smartphone and not paying attention to the road in front of them. So I started keeping a little bigger gap between me and the person in front of me in case the person behind me with their face in their phone didn’t stop.

TrafficOptimistically, I thought this sort of thing would stop happening as the police started ticketing people for using their phones while driving. Not so. Now, when I look in the rear view mirror or at the cars on either side of me, it’s the exception rather than the rule to find the drivers paying attention to the road. It seems like everyone around me has their face tipped down to their phone.

I’m an excellent driver. I’ve been to racing school twice. I know about mechanical things in my vehicle because I worked in a repair shop in college. I understand my car and the ones around me. And yet, it’s scary to drive out there with all the people who don’t get it.

Obviously, they are not thinking. They are texting. And texting while driving is not what an intelligent person does. I look at these people and many of them don’t LOOK stupid, but they are sure ACTING stupid. It reminds me of the saying “Stupid is as Stupid does.” And boy, do they does.

So many rear ender accidents from this and so many people who see the accidents, know it’s against the law to be holding your phone and using it in any manner while driving, and yet they still do it. I wonder how many times they’ve looked up from their email or text and had to slam on the brakes. Yet close calls to no deter them.

greenlightWe wonder why the traffic is so much worse these days. Think about it for a moment. How many times have you been behind a slow car and passed them only to find the driver either talking, texting or doing email on their phone? Same thing for drivers who don’t go when the light turns green. And the drivers who drift over the line? Them too. They are all part of the traffic problem because they are impeding traffic.

It’s rampant. I know it’s not just here in SoCal. It’s everywhere. And it’s also causing accidents which cause our insurance rates to go up. I wonder why the people doing this don’t realize this, especially if they’ve gotten into an accident. Rott tells me that these people know what they are doing. They know and they don’t care or think it will never happen to them because they’re such a good driver. Such utter bullshit.

I find myself using my horn far more than I ever did before. I honk at people at lights almost daily. They, of course, are busy with their phones. Many times it takes two honks to get them to go.  Rott yells at them a lot. “GO STUPID!” is probably his most frequently spoken phrase, followed by “It’s the big pedal on the right!” Nice.

DrextingAnd I can see how road rage would increase from all this drexting. I know I’m a lot more angry than I use to be when I’m driving and it’s all because of these inconsiderate drivers. I try to find a station on my satellite radio that engages me and makes me sing along so I care less about these idiots. And the one thing that keeps going through my head as I look in my rear view mirror and deal with these morons day in and day out is…don’t you want to get where you’re going? Don’t you want to get home? Because someday you’re going to be paying more attention to your phone and you’re going to run into something big in front of you and you may never go home again.

Much love to you all out there. Drive safely.

Lex_Sig

 

New Ways To Be Offended

Every day on the internet, on the streets and freeways of Orange County, on the news, at work, getting lunch, going to the grocery store, the gas station and more…I find things to be offended about. And I sadly know that is true for you too. It’s called, The World We Live In. Yes, you can also find positivity everywhere you look too. It just seems that it’s harder and harder to find those positive things.

responsibleadultWhen I turn on the TV, I hear the GOP candidates fighting, almost literally cat-fighting, with social media memes and picking on each others’ wives, name calling, and behavior any good mom knows is that of a truculent five year old. Even CNN’s Anderson Cooper pointed this out, telling one candidate, “That’s the answer of a five year old.” I can’t help but wonder what is happening to our country. And then I see responses to blog posts that remind me how damned childish people in this country are. No wonder we allow political candidates to behave so childishly when we can’t behave any differently on the internet.

So an author friend blogged about a publisher. The comments on the blog really reminded me of how childish people behave on the internet. To me, and I could be wrong, it appeared that some of these childish comments were not from the author’s usual readers and friends but by people, either staff, friends or authors, of the publisher. I’m not a fan of publishers or other people who send their “troops” to defend them on a blog they would never normally read. That, in and of itself, is an immature and classless way to act. If you’re a good publisher, you don’t need people to defend you. You take the high road and you ignore that stuff. It’s like ignoring bad reviews. Most authors don’t engage in arguing with readers over a bad review. We ignore them.

2614477212_ba712347ba_oI’ve been out of the blogging loop for a couple of years and I should have realized that this kind of thing still happens out here. I guess I forgot because, geez, those people that came over from the publisher to get their point across on the author’s blog, a blog they wouldn’t normally read, totally offended me. Like really pissed me off, offended me. That’s a new one for me!

I don’t know why a publisher would condone such behavior. The publishers I’ve been with have been much classier than that. I guess I’ve been lucky on that front, to have publishers that take the high road, that embrace diversity, that care for their authors and don’t want them to look like fools out on the internet.

UnbreakMe2_432I suppose I just found my positivity in that mess I read yesterday and this morning. I’ve been lucky in my publishing career to have publishers who care about me and my work, who are professional and behave in a professional manner.

That being said, I’m slowly getting back all my rights to my books at Jupiter Gardens. Unbreak Me will be back in my hands as of April 30. Not sure when it will go back out as a self pub, but it does have a revised cover.

Thank you for reading! Go forth and find the positivity in the middle of all the offensiveness out there!

Lex_Sig

 

Lies and More Disappointment

So my Kindle Unlimited experiment is still charging along and I’m also still reading books for contests. The disappointments I found at the start of all this didn’t stop me from continuing to read. For the contests, I have to honor my commitments. I know some judges give up if they’ve had too many poor books. They just burn out and quit. I tend not to do that. I take a break and read something I really want by a favorite author and recharge myself.  After all, I made a commitment so I stick by it. I don’t think it’s fair to quit although I do see that continuing on when you’re suffering from burn out could be detrimental to fairly judging the books.

fittobetiedI’m not burned out on judging so I’ve been reading along with only a day and a half pause to read Mary Calmes’ Fit To Be Tied which downloaded to my phone’s Kindle app at 9 pm on Thursday night. Love me some Miro and Ian. I also took a break at the beginning of the week to read one of my Kindle Unlimited downloads. And here’s where I get to the point of my post title because the book I read was more than a disappointment.

Thus far, I haven’t divulged any titles or authors and my issues with books haven’t been specific enough (I hope) for anyone to figure out the titles or authors. This might change now. I’m not going to tell the name of the book or the author or the editor, but when I tell you what absolutely disgusted me with this book, you might guess. Well, you might if you know how to spell band names.

I opened up a Kindle Unlimited book that seemed like it had promise. I liked what the blurb said at any rate. I had, if not high hopes, at least moderately optimistic thoughts about this one. Then I saw the copyright credits and thought I’d throw up.

First of all, you either have to pay to search for a copyright online or you can do it for free at any Copyright Office. Most people aren’t going to pay to search these. However, many books have trademark credits, not copyright credits. You all have seen trademark credits right? Where the author acknowledges the mention of something that has a trademark. For instance, if you look up Romance Writers of America, you get this:

Word Mark ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA
Goods and Services IC 035. US 100 101 102. G & S: trade association services in connection with the promotion of high quality romance writing. FIRST USE: 19810215. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19810215
Standard Characters Claimed
Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
Serial Number 76679704
Filing Date July 19, 2007
Current Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition June 17, 2008
Registration Number 3494400
Registration Date September 2, 2008
Owner (REGISTRANT) Romance Writers of America, Inc. CORPORATION TEXAS 14615 Benfer Road Houston TEXAS 77069
Attorney of Record Janet F. Satterthwaite
Prior Registrations 1461390
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL-2(F)
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR).
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

So if you mentioned “Romance Writers of America” in your book, in the trademark credits you would note:

The author acknowledges the trademarks of the following items mentioned in this book:

Romance Writers of America – Romance Writers of America, Inc.

You can do your own search at the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS.) It is absolutely free.

Now, back to the lies part of my title.

The book I read had a copyright acknowledgement and I can unequivocally say that this author did not search for the items listed in her copyright credits. How do I know that she didn’t? For one, a bunch of them are spelled wrong. So I instantly felt as if she’d lied to me. If you had searched on what she had listed, spelled as she spelled it, you wouldn’t find it either under a copyright search or a trademark search. I know you’re wondering so I’m just going to show you the items from the copyright credits that were spelled wrong.

Scorpion
Def Leopard
Pat Benetar
The Notebook © Warner Bros 2004 Starring Ryan Gossling and Rachel McAdams

Screen-Shot-2015-01-19-at-6.48.24-PMNow, she also had Motley Crue (a US heavy metal band) on her list and it was spelled correctly on the copyright credits, but it was spelled this way in the book Motely Crue. The bands listed incorrectly in the copyright credits of the book and in the book itself are The Scorpions (a German heavy metal band), Def Leppard (a UK heavy metal band) and Pat Benatar. And of course, Ryan Gosling’s name has only one S.

Can you see why I would be turned off? She has a copyright list she never actually checked the copyrights on and she used a bunch of famous names and bands and never checked the spelling of those items. Worse than that, she used what appears to be a professional editor and the editor never checked these items or their spelling. That doesn’t seem very professional to me.

Well, after a few hours I got over my disgust and I decided to give the book a chance anyway. It didn’t disappoint. It was just as bad as the copyright credits lead me to believe. It was full of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. The characters were juvenile in speech and behavior. I actually liked the main characters. I wanted to see them together. But the entire story was so full of the fate, destiny and soulmates stuff that I expected to have vampires or werewolves or some other kind of shifter turn up. The level of “mates” stuff and coincidences happening in the book was so over the top I expected it to be a paranormal.

kindleunlimitedAnd so here I sit still disappointed in what I’m getting from Kindle Unlimited. You really can’t judge a book by it’s Reese Dante cover. She, like me, does covers for any author who can pay for one. She doesn’t discriminate between authors who can’t write and those who can. Neither do I. I don’t read most of the books I do covers for. She probably doesn’t either. So just because a book has a professional cover doesn’t mean it’s been professionally edited by an editor that knows what they are doing or that it was a decent enough manuscript to actually be published in the first place.

I feel bad for the writers out there who don’t know the craft well enough to realize they are being ripped off by editors who purport to be professional but who leave these books filled with mistakes a 6th grader could catch. Every day that I spend writing, I thank my lucky stars Mrs. Betty Hodgins who drilled grammar, usage, sentence structure and more into me in my 7th and 8th grade honors English classes. I hated her then, but my God, I love the woman to bits now because my editors are always happy with my work. (Translation, I don’t give them a lot to do. LOL)

It’s really sad that my experiment with Kindle Unlimited is going so poorly. And I’m even more disappointed by the fact that a lot of these self-pubbed books that aren’t that well written are making it into the contests I read for. It seems like if I want a decent book, I should look to who the author is and whether or not they have ever been published by a reputable house. That’s the only criteria I can find anymore that mostly guarantees I won’t be cringing over the misuse and misspelling of words every other paragraph.

Next time, I have a bone to pick about non-standalone (series) books in contests. Yeah, I won’t go there today. 😉 Happy reading everyone!

Lex_Sig

So Disappointed

kindleunlimited So between being a judge for contests and the sudden urge I had to give in to Amazon’s requests for me to try Kindle Unlimited, I’ve been reading a lot. I’ve decided that judging contests and reading Kindle Unlimited books is more alike than you’d think. Not everything you get to read is worthwhile.

Of course, this is true of just browsing for a book anyway. You never know what you’re going to get unless you’re reading a tried and true favorite author. There’s just a lot of stuff out there from self-published authors and small barely known presses that is poorly written then poorly edited. The frightening thing is the number of 4 and 5 star reviews some of these books have and the fan gushing I’ve seen in the reviews.

Here’s what happened to me. I got a few books to judge for a contest. Some self-pubbed, some pubbed by little presses I’ve never heard of. One book in particular, by an author with an established fan base, had a story line that I’ve read before. Unfortunately for this author, the book I’d read before was written far better, edited far better and had much more believable characters. In short, this author took a known trope, butchered it, and didn’t hire an editor before tossing it out as a self-published book and entering it in a contest. Ouch. I couldn’t in all fairness give it a good grade. Luckily for me, the other stuff I read for the contest was better and I forgot all about the bad one. Well, until I got Kindle Unlimited.

So if you’ve never used Kindle Unlimited, it works sort of like a library. You can “borrow” up to 10 books at a time. If you really like and want to keep it, you’ll have to buy it. I figured for 30 days I’d give it whirl since I’ve no money to buy books right now. The problem with KU is that I ran out of good MM authors to read in a couple of days. I looked at a lot of reviews of authors I’ve never read, never heard of. Most of them are self-pubbed or with small presses I’ve never heard of. Sounds a lot like some of the books from the contest, right? Unfortunately, oh so right.

I started with books that had a lot of 5 star reviews. Fans of the authors gushed. The story lines revealed in the reviews sounded like they might be worth the read. As I read…and read…and read…I discovered a disturbing trend.  Some of these books and series had really good story lines but the execution – the writing and editing – left a lot to be desired. It’s really hard for me to enjoy a book when I’m rewriting it and editing it in my head. Go figure. All I find myself wanting to do is write an email to the author and offer myself up as editor to fix the book since the stories had so much potential!

As an example, take a book that’s first in a series. It had an interesting premise, the kind of MM trope I like, and the characters were engaging as was the dialogue. But just in this one book alone I found this:

She saddled up to him. Ahem, the word is sidled.

She had tract marks. Ouch. Track marks is the correct phrase.

They had to burry something. The word is bury…no clue what a burry is.

He expanded his energy. OMG. It took me a minute to realize the author meant expended. If this had been a sci-fi I might never have got that the word was wrong. 😉

He had deep seeded emotions. This one made me laugh. Deep seated is how it should have read.

He hoped he didn’t wonder off. Wander. How can you mix up wonder and wander?

Those are not the exact sentences because I really don’t want to give away the book and seemingly bash the author. She obviously had some major vocabulary issues.  On top of that her main character did something I don’t think I’ve seen a person do. “His breath heaved and his eyes pinched.” I didn’t know that eyes had appendages with which to pinch.

I’m not really bagging on the author. I read this with seriously deep sighs because I liked her story and I liked her characters and her snarky dialogue. I didn’t like the fact that no one edited this book. Well, maybe someone did, but if so, they had no clue what they were doing.

ThinkstockPhotos-470024761This stuff makes me sad. What makes me even sadder is the reading public that can’t see the things that are wrong with these stories. They don’t have enough knowledge themselves to actually call it like it is and give it 3 stars for a great story but really bad grammar, writing, and editing issues. Maybe if some of these authors knew they had a problem, they’d hire better editors. The vocabulary issues alone in that one book were just awful. My kid could have picked out the wrong words when she was in grade school. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the state of our school systems today that we’re turning out kids who become adults who don’t know the difference between tract and track, wonder and wander.

In the end, my Kindle Unlimited run has left me so disappointed although I guess I got what I paid for since the 30 day trial was free.

Hope you all have a happier reading experience this week!

Lex_Sig