Things…and a Sneak Preview.

Well. What has happened in the near-month since I updated? I went to the Golden Crown Literary Conference, and annual writers/readers/publishers four day get-together/energy booster/meet up with friends old and new.  This year the Con was held in Minneapolis, MN. Well, Bloomfield, actually, just near the Mall of America.

What a con it was! My debut novel, Open Water (2011, Bella Books), though nominated in three categories was only shortlisted for one, “Debut Author.”  And…I won! I was one of three winners in that category and, luckily enough, the first award announced that night. Whew! Talk about getting it over with!

Posing with the wonderfully generous Karin Kallmaker. If you squint, you can see my award tucked between us.

The Con overall was great fun and a wonderful chance to reconnect with friends and to meet face-to-face with those I only know through online discussions.

I was so lucky this year to get to go.  Finances are exceptionally tight, but my stepdad gave me his mileage for my flight, and I offset the cost of registration by doing the program for the event.  My biggest cost was the hotel. Well, and the Lego Store at Mall of America. :::sigh:::

Another pic from this event was all of the Bella Authors dressed up for the awards. I love this photo!

We are, from left to right: Erica Abbott, Nat Burns, Jordan Redhawk, KG MacGregor, Dillon Watson, Karin Kallmaker, Mary Griggs, Pol Robinson, Rachel Gold, and Kenna White. Missing: Tracey Richardson, who had to head back to Canada.

When I returned, it was straight back into work on The Project (and I will update that soon).

It’s coming along quite nicely, and should soon be ready for its maiden voyage. Hopefully.

Now, with the success of one book under my belt (using the term “success” loosely here), it’s more than past time to focus on my sophomore effort. I was working on a new Olympic novel, Thin Ice, but have struggled because the story is far weightier than the first book.  For several reasons, chief among them being I want to get the Olympics books back onto the actual Olympics cycle, I have shelved it.

I have two others in the works, and last night finally got the “zing” to work on Celtic Tide, a contemporary romance sent in Ireland, featuring an American musician who, for her own reasons, settles in the town of An Daingean (Dingle, to the non-Gaelic speakers), in County Kerry.

Here is an excerpt:

Grace watched, mesmerized, as Anne’s hand flew along the neck of the fiddle, moving in counterpoint to the bow sizzling across the strings. Quick and bright, and too fast to distinguish one note from another, Anne’s fiddle filled the room with music, accompanied by Sean and Jamie. Eyes closed and foot tapping, Anne didn’t hesitate as Sean finished leading the first round of the tune, allowing Anne to pick up the melody. The music pulled an old man and woman to their feet to dance along. Tourists, American by the look of them, began to clap and laugh as the old gentleman spun his wife in a happy jig.

Tim looked up from the pint he was building and called out to the dancers, “Oh, it’s the O’Shea, is it? Well, boyo, go on then!”

The man smiled back at Tim and gave his wife another spin, pulling her arms down and across in front of her to lead the two of them through the bar, side by side, hands linked together at the waist, feet flying in tandem. Grace watched as the couple kept their eyes on each other and matched their steps together. They’ve done this for years. She laughed with the crowd as the woman gave her husband a saucy wink, ducked under his arm and began a faster step in time with Anne’s speeding fiddle.

The clapping grew louder as Jamie shouted encouragement, giving a yip as he changed key. Anne’s eyes opened and she grinned at him, raising an eyebrow in challenge. The old woman, feet flying and eyes alight, caught the exchange and shouted, “Go on with you, girl!”Anne grinned back and stepped up the tempo as she matched Jamie’s key and his change in tempo. Grace heard the transition from the fast slip jig to an even faster reel and laughed out loud as, impossibly, the two dancers moved to match the musician’s increased speed. Her fingers twitched as Anne’s bow danced across the bridge of the fiddle and Jamie bent low over his guitar, his fingers a blur on the strings.

The dancing couple once again joined together to match steps, waving two others to join them. As had the first two, the new couple easily swung into step, the four of them performing a complicated set.  Feet flashed, skirts whirled, and the music danced with them around the room.  The noise in the pub grew as the music did, ending with a crescendo of music, rousing cheers and laughter of both participants and spectators.

Suffused with the rush and joy she always felt when there was music, good music, around her, Grace happily looked around the room. This was why she’d come here, to Ireland. This…the pub, the people, and most importantly, the music. She had read and studied all of her life, but she had always known she’d have to come here, to live here, to fully grasp what she’d read. It wasn’t just the music, it was the way it was a part of their lives. Grace watched as the four dancers made their breathless way back to their tables, as Tim began building pints again, laughing and joking with customers, most of whom he’d probably known his entire life. All the studying in the world couldn’t teach her as much as one night in a place like this. The music flowing from the instruments was born in the music of the community. To begin to understand it she had to surround herself with it.

And maybe in the surrounding, she could learn to live again.—

Today: Home Depot in Canoga park for three last things. Tonight: Writing.


Free Copy of Open Water…

In honor of today being another day in the grand scheme of US Olympic trials and hopefuls, I’m giving away a copy of Open Water. Add your name in the Comments on my Facebook page (Pol Robinson) and an impartial selector (I think I’ll have the dog do it) will draw a name tomorrow morning.

I’ll send you a signed print copy (or deliver it to GCLS) or arrange for an ebook for you (and sign it via Kindlegraph). If you already have a copy, enter anyway and I’ll send the book to you and you can give yours to someone else!

And…don’t forget!
Final Olympic Qualification Regatta
May 20-23, 2012
Lucerne, Switzerland


Reviews: To Read or Not to Read, that is the Question

(With apologies to THE Bard).

To read, or not to read–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of overwhelming flattery
Or to take arms against a sea of critics
And by opposing, end them […] aye, there’s the rub.

I opened my email this morning to a note from a friend that was along the lines of, “It’s okay, don’t jump off the bridge.”  Now, a message like that is tantamount to picking up the phone and having the person on the other end say, “Before you say anything, let me begin by saying…everyone’s okay.”  This friend then continued the positive message by encouraging me and building me up, then at the end included a link and said, “I assume you have seen this review.”

I had not.

Oh, the dilemma: To click or not to click on that review.

I tend to lean toward the Georgia Beers school of book reviews in that I don’t like to read them.  I am, despite my stocky build and “I can take anything” look, surprisingly sensitive.  It’s a running joke in our house that of all of us, I am the one most likely to love flowery “gramma” fabrics, cry at Hallmark commercials, and generally react passionately to all things. (I am also, to most people’s surprise, a SERIOUS introvert, but that’s for another blog). So, knowing how emotionally impacted I can be by such things, I hesitated.  Especially as this review apparently was strong enough to bring my friend to drop me a note; this is not someone who just casually emails me on a daily basis.

After a few minutes of waffling I decided, “What the hell, I’ll click and read the review.”  The review, after all, was offered by Lambda Literary, an agency that carries a great deal of respect in our community.

I clicked.

I saw.

I read.

In all honesty, the reviewer did not say anything that I have not said to myself either during the process of writing or after the book’s publication. I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses, and the reviewer pretty much nailed them as well.

The review was similar to a design I once submitted to an art director once.  After meeting with the client, the art director, the client, the other designers, the client, more meetings with more people and yes, another meeting with the client, I came up with a design.  A solid, workable design that incorporated notes from all of the above and my own input.  The art director tipped his head this way and that, resembling a curious terrier, then paused.  He rested his chin on his hand and said, “Well…it doesn’t suck.”

The entire meeting cracked up.  I blew out a sigh of relief.

“It doesn’t suck” was pretty high praise from an art director in that shop (a multi-million dollar shop founded on an animated rodent).

My book got the equivalent of an “It doesn’t suck” from an agency who regularly reviews gay and lesbian writing.  That means that it fell onto their radar, always a good thing.  It was my first book—the first of many, I hope. Could it have “not sucked” less (i.e. been called “spectacular”)? Yes, indeed.  On the other hand, it could have been called a “spectacular disaster,” so all-in-all, I’m good with what I got.

So, to Lamda Literary, I say thank you.

Even had you gone with option B above and said “spectacular disaster” instead, I would still have said thank you and meant it. 

Can a review hurt? Yes.

Should it? No.

Reviews are not meant to be a feel-good “atta girl,”nor are they meant to shatter an artist’s dream or creativity, especially if the reviewer does not also create in that medium.  They exist to give a reader a sense of the book.  To tell us if we want to part with our hard-earned dollars to support an author and gain a few hours of mental freedom.

A good review is like a good report to a parent on student work, a “dirt sandwich,” if you will.  Begin with the good, put the dirt in the middle, end with more good.  You can always find good to say and there is always something good that can be said.  A little good goes a long way.  A savvy reader can pull what they need from a good review, especially one structured in that good/bad/good format.

That’s not to say that I am unaffected by what I read and/or hear about my work.  If you stab me, do I not bleed? Which brings us back to the original question (and subsequent mauling of Will’s fine words).

One last thing.  Even at the lowest points in my self-doubt, and like any creative person I am plagued with self-doubt, I go back to my manuscript.  The one that was hand-marked by my editor, the redoubtable Katherine V. Forrest.  In there are comments and pointers and, every so often, this little gem, “fine writing.”

And once in a while, this: “very find writing.”

That’s good enough for me.


Buy the Book.

I sure wish we could make money from fanfic, ’cause if that were the case I’d be sitting on a cool million by this point.  One story alone has generated 180-thousand hits.

Alas, there’s that whole copyright infringement, yada, yada, yada.

Open Water from Bella Books.

But, that said, I do have a book published.

I am teaching my students “persuasion” at this point in the semester and the thing I emphasize most (after ‘ethical appeals’) is for them to not forget the “ask.” What is it you want your audience to think, do, or say at the end of their persuasive speech?

Then, in the shower this morning as I was trying to figure out which to pay: mortgage or hospital bills, it came to me.

I forgot the ask!

So, now I am asking.

If you have not done so, please buy my book, Open Water, available here: Bella Books. If you’ve already purchased a copy, consider buying another to give to a friend. Or two and donating one to either a local library or a local gay/lesbian center.

If you’re uncertain, you can read an excerpt on my web page, here: Open Water excerpt.

If you are at all concerned about the “lesbian-ness” of the book, let me assure you that this book is by no means a “how-to” manual.  Believe me, I was absolutely aware that my younger cousins would be reading this (as would be my multitudes of parents). And one such parent, this one a very conservative (“I live in McCain Country,” Florida) step-mom, said, “Wow, this is quite good! I actually couldn’t put it down!” High praise indeed from a Obama-wasn’t-born-here conservative.

Thus, keeping in mind what I have often told my students on the think/do/say plan, I would like you to think about what you can afford, buy the book, and tell others to do the same.

If you buy the e-version, you can get it “Kindle-graphed,” or you can drop me a note via my Facebook page and I will send you a personalized book plate.

‘Nuf said.

For now.

Thank you.


And This is a Tale of our Castaways…

And…here we go. A long blog post, made up mostly of photos. I will caption them so you can follow along. I may break this into two blogs as we have a great many adventures to share. Without further ado…we’re off…

Actually, this is really the hard way to do this. I am instead going to share the online album on photobucket. You should be able to click here to see it. Clicking will open a new window and a slide show will begin. You can click through the photos faster if you click on the righthand side of the window that opens.

Since the videos didn’t load into the slide show, I’m putting them here:

Black eating berries. At one point I thought, “Where’s the mama bear?”


Glacier National Park


View from the mountaintop.



Old Faithful.



Peak to peak ride down.


Yellowstone in general.

Enjoy!

Tonight: dinner and book edits.


Well Crud…Another Nine Days Passed…

I really am trying to write this blog more freqently, but…alas…I’m not. Another nine days have passed since I last posted. It has been an eventful nine days, that’s for sure. I’ll start with the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS). I have been a member of the GCLS since its inception. What is it, you ask?

Well…straight from the website:

The Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) is a literary and educational organization for the enjoyment, discussion, and enhancement of lesbian literature. Our goals are to support and strengthen quality lesbian literature by providing places for readers and writers to interact, to encourage and assist new writers and established authors, and to recognize and promote lesbian work.

Every year GCLS holds a conference, a fantastic gathering of writers, publishers, readers, fans, spouses/partners, and booksellers. It’s always a good time. The first one was held in New Orleans just six weeks before hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit, devastating the levees and so much of that beautiful city. I am eternally grateful that I attended that first event and took the time to tour the city.

Since the second conference I have limited myself to going every other year if at all possible; scheduling and finances being the primary reasons behind my decision. I also decided a while back that I would wait to go again until I had a book to hawk. Two years ago GCLS opened up a new and terrific opportunity: Pitch sessions. Publishing houses held individual, one-on-one meetings (by appointment) and we were able to get in, sit down, and pitch our stories to folks whom we might not have a chance to have view our work.

My roommate for that year, Dillon Watson, and I sat up most of the night before in the bar polishing our pitches and snagging any author we could to read our proposals. Apparently word of our activity got to the publishers because when I sat down with one the next day, that was the first thing the owner of the company said. That she’d heard of our sessions and enjoyed knowing the work we put into our pitches. What a night. From that night came two things: First, Dillon’s proposal and book (Keile’s Chance, Bella Books, 2009)were pretty much accepted by Bella Books on the spot; and second, after pitching to four publishers, three expressed clear interest and one, Bella Books (owner Linda Hill) made my year by looking at me and saying, “Girl, you can write!”

What a thing to hear.

Life intervened almost immediately after and I waited two years before finally submitting my full manuscript to Bella, which, as the five regular readers of this blog know, was accepted. Open Water, the first in the Olympians series, is due out next spring.

So…to wrap up the GCLS side of things for this blog. I was not going to attend this year, finances being what they are. However, one cannot turn down frequent-flyer airfare miles that comp’d one ticket, or a last-minute offer of a free half of a condo. Really. The fates conspired and I will be spending five days in Orlando in early July. Awesome.

Other things this week. I finished teaching my Spring class and actually had a student complain that I didn’t give a final. Seriously? Get over it. It wouldn’t have helped your grade, honestly.

I am still polishing the manuscript to get it ready to hand off while in Orlando, so that’s occupying my time. Add to that designing the logo for the GCLS conference and designing and laying out the 36-page conference program.

And lastly, I have two more melanoma sites that are coming off on Thursday. :::sigh:::

Oh, and super lastly, I am the proud mommy of a baby iPad. Yay!

Tonight: recovering from cleaning the garage (really!) and a to-the-pain Scrabble game. Tomorrow, kayaking in Channel Islands Harbor with S and some friends.


What the Hell is Wrong with NBC?

Shame on you, NBC.

The photo above might have said it all for me. Might have put the final period on my bitching about NBCs male-centric, self-aggrandizing coverage. Might have. You’ll notice that we have one TV, one desktop computer, one laptop, and one iPhone set up.

The point?

We were hoping to catch just ONE women’s event (other than figure skating) during prime-time. All-men, all the time. That should be NBCs new motto. We could tell when the women didn’t make a medal round, that even was simply not shown. Thus the quest for programming with some women’s events.

No luck.

Then…the capper was this morning. The last day of the Olympics. THE day. US/Canada hockey at noon, but at 9 am the coverage was to begin with the last big event, the men’s 50K cross country ski event. Now, I’m not a huge CC ski fan, but I am a fan of the Olympics and the athletes.

Not that NBC gives the least little bit about that.

This morning I was treated to a pre-taped “news conference” featuring 30 minutes of Republican agenda. Following that was Maria Bartelomo’s money report from Washington DC. After that? Access Hollywood. Then? A Monk rerun.

Monk?

A…RERUN? Really?

Really?

What the hell is wrong with you people? Every four years we get to indulge in pure sport for 16 days. Just 16 days. Not to much to ask, really.

The clusterF*** that was NBC’s programming this morning seems to have been a last-minute decision, since the on-air guide showed Olympic programming from 9 am on. As did the much touted and often useless NBC website. In fact, every time we clicked “on now” I was taken to flash pictures of the events I should have been seeing online. Oh, thanks for that, by the way, for spoiling the finish of two events for me that way.

Now it’s 12:03 and it’s nice that NBC managed to break into their scintillating reruns (of a show that will be leaving the air this year) to broadcast live events. Big of you.

Morons.

I stopped watching NBC’s Today Show because I can’t stand Anne Curry’s oh-so-sincere lean-and-touch-your-knee “interview” style of asking a grieving parent/sibling/friend (or 10-year-old) how “do you *feel* about your loved-one’s painful death.

Now I will simply not watch NBC at any time.

Here’s hoping ABC can bid and win the contract for the Olympics in the future. Oh, how I miss Jim McKay and ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

Take a lesson NBC, or get back on the porch. Your coverage reflects your network; shabby and unplanned.

Tonight: Olympics if I can manage to find them.

Edit at 10:31 pm: Oh. Really. Cut away for…wait for it…the Marriage Ref? Are you out of your fucking minds? The next sound you hear will be the collective popping sound of the NBC exec’s having their heads pulled out of their asses.

Un. Be. Lieve. Able.