If Jason Bourne Were Written By A Woman

I went to see the new Jason Bourne movie yesterday as part of hubby’s birthday festivities.  We actually marathoned all its predecessors (except for Legacy) before going so that teenager would be caught up on the storyline, so all the details of the originals were fresh.  I was really looking forward to this because I love watching Matt Damon fight, and I was excited about finding out more about who he really is.

I am sad to say that I found the entire movie disappointing.  I literally sat in the theater rewriting everything from the first pinch point on.  I felt like the entire thing was lazy storytelling, shoddy camerawork, and a bunch of nonstop action for action’s sake.  Now I love me a good action movie–but only if it is supported by an actual PLOT.  The first three Bourne movies were.  This…was not.

So I’d like to talk about everything that was wrong with it and what I’d have done different, as a writer.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Let’s just stick the preview in here for space.

 

SERIOUSLY, IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS, LEAVE NOW

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Still with me?  Okay then.

What’s wrong with Jason Bourne

So one of the things that makes The Bourne Identity compelling is how Marie grounds Jason.  We can see from the beginning that, despite whatever badass training he has, he’s actually a good person.  How he deals with her the entire story shows that and is a constant counterpoint to the fact that he turns out to be an assassin.  And then they go and kill her off early on in The Bourne Supremacy.  I’ve never quite forgiven them for this, particularly since that never happened in Ludlum’s books (which, I grant you, I never read).  But from a narrative standpoint, I can see what they did there in taking away the one person who believed in him absolutely.  It sets him on a path of vengeance for the rest of that movie and the next.  I didn’t like it, but okay.  Now part of what I noticed on this binge watch we did of the early movies this week is that they allude to some kind of history between him and Nicky Parsons, his handler in Paris.  To my mind, she was being set up as a potential love interest, so when I saw her listed in the cast list, that’s exactly what I expected and what I wanted.

What we GET is her risking her life at the start of the movie, hacking into the CIA to retrieve all their black ops files.  It’s a two purpose action: 1) She wants to get more information on Jason and who he was (a very personal motivation) and 2) She (working with some other hacker dude) want to expose all these programs from what they view is a corrupt government.  So she sets up a meet with Jason in Greece (who we first see riding in a truck to some fight somewhere, jumping in the ring, knocking a dude out with one punch, and then going on his way elsewhere–what the hell he’s doing there is never explained and we just kind of assume he’s been going around doing underground fighting maybe as a way to make ends meet?).  They use a public demonstration as cover and this turns into a riot that is the backdrop for a LOOOOOOONG ass chase scene (because of course the CIA figured out Nicky hacked them and has sent teams after her and Jason), at the end of which Nicky is fucking shot and killed. 

This is the point where they officially lost me.  Because it’s the lazy play, the obvious play.  They did it with Marie, and now they’re doing it again.  They’re treating him like James Bond and taking away everyone who could possibly care for him because he’s supposed to be a forever tortured badass and toxic to everyone who comes near him.  This absolutely didn’t work for me as a viewer because there is absolutely nothing to soften him, nothing to humanize him.  They wanted him as close to unhinged as he ever gets because, according to the Treadstone shrink, they believe he’s lost his reason to exist by leaving the program and he might could be brought back into the fold (and since he is, of course, a multi-million dollar asset, that’d be handy, right?).  But it just doesn’t play out like that.  Jason is never really unhinged.  He’s an in control badass (with apparently 72 lives).

Part of what made the original movies work is this contrast between who he is, who he was because of Treadstone, and the tiny kernels we find out about who he was before that.  That made those first three movies (but most especially the first one) very character driven, despite all the action.  We don’t get that in Jason Bourne.  The ONLY piece we find out about his past is that his father was an analyst for the CIA, he’s the one who envisioned the Treadstone program in the first place, and the mysterious “they” had Daddy killed off in a bombing in front of Jason (who was special forces) in order to motivate him to volunteer for the Treadstone program (which daddy didn’t want him to do).  The rest of the movie is totally a revenge plot taking out Director Dewey (dude behind the decision to kill his daddy) and the assassin/agent who actually killed daddy.  That’s it.  That’s all we got.

One of the other things really missing from this movie was the one-upmanship.  Jason is always ahead of the CIA in the other movies.  Because he’s the best.  He’s a total badass.  So that’s where we see stuff like him calling in and making reference to the fact that he can see Pam or that he’s caught Noah in a lie because he’s actually in Noah’s office or whatever.  There’s really only ONE moment of one-upmanship in Jason Bourne–at the very end when the hotshot cybercrimes chick, who they sort of try to lead you to believe is helping Jason for possibly noble reasons but who is really just in it all for herself, finds a little video recorder in her car proving that he heard every word of her conversation with whoever the bigwig was she was talking to when the audience finds out she’s not a nice person at all.

Jason was never motivated by wanting to expose the black ops operations.  He’s always been in it to find out who he was.  I think they were TRYING to make this movie about him carrying on what Nicky would have wanted, but it was an epic fail because they didn’t spend any actual TIME with Nicky outside the damned chase scene.  And I never bought that’s really what Nicky was in it for either.  The dastardly CIA black ops sector is tied in with a very Big Brother social media monitoring plot that, while timely to present day concerns, just didn’t really feel like it fit with the same kind of former spy movies the previous three were.

What I would have done differently

Well straight up, I would not have killed Nicky.  In my version, they had some kind of history together.  Maybe it was after he became Jason Bourne rather than David Webb (to preserve the mystery about his dad) or maybe they’d been together before Treadstone and when he up and volunteered, leaving her behind in the name of going after the people who took out his father and becoming his handler was how she kept up with him because she still loved him and hoped to get him out someday.  I could make either of those play and be fine.  But for the sake of this hypothetical narrative, let’s go with the first.  She’s his handler, he’s her asset (while he’s in Paris) and Lord knows they wouldn’t be the first pair to develop feelings.  Maybe they acted on them.  Maybe they didn’t. (I’m a romance author…they totally acted on it in my version). But they had that emotional connection.  And then he gets his amnesia.  Doesn’t remember her.  Goes through all this stuff, they think him lost.  And then he shows up again.  And she helps him evade the CIA during the third movie.  So fast forward to now, the time period of Jason Bourne.

Jason has been off the grid, punishing himself, torturing himself.  Nicky’s been off grid, too, doing the hacker thing.  So she hacks in, gets this information, takes it to him in the midst of this riot.  They evade the assassin.  Maybe she’s hurt, but she doesn’t DIE.  She gets patched up, things get heated, and Jason starts to remember that they were involved before.  This engenders his protective instincts (even more than where they already are).  So of course he thinks he’s toxic and she needs to get the hell away from him because see evidence: Marie.  They argue, but ultimately she stays with him.  But all is not well because the cybercrimes chick managed to upload malware into the files, so when they go to access them, it pings their location.  So the CIA sends a team, the assassin, and manages to remote wipe the files (this was actually in the movie).  Another escape, but not before he finds the next piece of the puzzle, the dude who did the surveillance on Jason before he joined Treadstone (again, already in the movie).  So they go through that whole situation, where he finds out more about his dad, surveillance dude ends up dead, and we get the next piece of the puzzle that sends them to Vegas (happened in the movie–but in my version Nicky’s alive and with him).  Since the next leg of the story takes place at an epic tech conference, Jason goes about what he has to in order to expose Dewey and take out assassin, and Nicky does some awesome techy thing to contribute to the plan (the details of which I really don’t care about because that whole thread was kind of dull, but I’m working with what they gave me–anybody who doesn’t already think the government is watching what we do and say online is fooling themselves).  Dewey ends up dead, so does assassin, and Nicky and Jason split.  Jason meets cybercrimes chick, leads her to believe he might be buying in, and then leaves the video in her car to prove he’s not.  And then Jason goes off to meet Nicky at some rendezvous point, where we have one of those nice glorious moments like we had in Greece at the end of The Bourne Identity so that there is some kind of positive payoff to this whole mess.

So basically I could have tolerated the rest of the movie if they hadn’t killed Nicky off.  Because they could have achieved the same motivation for him by having that as a threat.  He’s permanently terrified of this possibility after Marie and it would’ve made for some great personal conflict to see him caring about Nicky, fighting that, and ultimately getting to have their moment in the sunset.  He NEEDS someone to ground him.  And I, for one, would much have preferred to get more about his background than the pitiful crumbs left to us.

End rant.

On The Subject of Profanity In Fiction

As an author, you know when you put any book out there that somebody, somewhere, isn’t going to like it.  You can’t please all the people all the time.  And that’s fine.  There are readers out there for everybody and everything (as proved by the popularity of the dino erotica, but that’s another matter).  As a general rule, I try not to read reviews.  Reviews are not FOR me, as the author.  Reviews are aimed at other readers–and love or hate, that’s someone’s opinion.  It’s being put out there to help other readers determine whether or not a book is for them.  But sometimes my will power fails, and I’ll go look.  Or see inadvertently when I’m looking at my Amazon ranking.

I’ve had various criticisms lobbed at To Get Me To You (thanks to the recent Bookbub, nearly my widest read work, second only to Blindsight, which has just been out for way longer).  

It’s too long/wordy/detailed.  That’s fair.  I did a metric ton of research on that book and because of who the shero was, the specifics of the marketing involved in saving the town were, in my opinion, important to the plot and to the setup of the series arc. That’s not for everybody.

It sounds like another book I read.  I am not the first person to write a small town romance set against a threat from a big box store, nor will I be the last. There are no new stories out there.  Just different ways of telling them.

It would’ve been better without the sex.  We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.  None of my books are classified as sweet romance, so if it’s a novel, they’re probably hitting the sheets at some point and that’s an important part of the romance arc.  Better that be out there up front, so nobody’s surprised.

It just wasn’t for me.  Dude, that is totally okay!  I try books all the time that aren’t my bag.  Sometimes it’s because it’s just not what I’m in the mood to read that day and sometimes it’s because it would never be something I was into.  There are millions of books out there.  Don’t waste your time reading something that doesn’t float your boat, because hey, this isn’t school and you aren’t being graded for not finishing something.

But the particular criticism that seems to be popping up most often (because several readers have felt compelled to email me about it directly) is my use of profanity in fiction.  And I don’t mean the usual lexicon of four letter words that have, over decades and centuries, been decided are taboo.  The objection seems to be of the “don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” variety.  One review insisted I used Jesus as a cussword.  I still maintain it was an exclamation or a shorthand interrogatory and that Jesus does not have the grammatical variability of a good F-bomb, but that’s personal preference and not something I’m here to debate.  No, the two points I actually want to address are the issue of intelligence and using profanity to sell books.

It is an oft lobbed criticism that people swear because they aren’t smart enough to come up with a better way to say things.  In fact, there have been psychological studies that prove this is not the case.  People who swear a lot are very low in the taboo quotient–meaning they don’t give a damn what society or anyone else says and aren’t going to be held back by arbitrary rules about what words are considered acceptable and what words are not.  I will happily submit myself or any of my foul-mouthed friends in any legitimate vocabulary competition to further prove disprove the assertion that we somehow lack intelligence.

The conclusion of the blistering email I received this morning was that you don’t need profanity to sell books.  I agree with this 100%.  You don’t need profanity to sell books.  And that isn’t why I use it.  I use profanity in my books for verisimilitude.  Because that’s HOW PEOPLE SPEAK.  What those characters swear about and what curses they choose says something about who they are. People swear when they’re angry or upset or when they stub their toe for the umpteenth time on the coffee table.  People swear when they’re impassioned.  People swear.  Period.  Cursing is language. It’s a part of the rich tapestry of life and I employ it with my characters because it’s just another layer of detail that makes them real, makes them relatable.

Now maybe that’s not relatable to you.  And that’s fine.  You may choose not to swear at all.  You may choose never to take the Lord’s name in vain.  You may actually believe that saying “Lord, that person is crazy,” is wrong.  That’s your prerogative.  But it is not mine.  My characters swear.  I swear.  We’re all going to continue to swear, and we aren’t going to change that because it makes you uncomfortable or somehow violates your personal principles.  So please, go ahead and review my book poorly on that front.  Shout it from the rooftops and tell your friends.  Because you are not my target audience, and you’d be doing me a favor in scaring away any prospective readers who share your particular sensibilities.

Meanwhile, may I direct you to Harlequin’s Love Inspired line?  Or their religious suspense?  Or other segments of Christian romance?  These genres actually do have a convention of limiting or eliminating swearing and they may be more to your liking.  You should probably just avoid the other 90-95% of adult fiction entirely.

P.S.  I’m leaving comments on for now.  Feel free to express your opinion, but play nice or I’ll dropkick your butt into the spam folder.

Out of Routine and Impending Snowpocalypse

Updated: OMG, I have been trying to get this post written for two days!  

Blanket FortI don’t know what it is about holidays that just pull me totally out of routine for DAYS.  We were closed for MLK Day on Monday.  I spent THE ENTIRE DAY in my JAMMIES.  I can’t remember the last time I did that when I wasn’t sick.  It was pretty fabulous.  The blanket for was still up from girl’s night on Friday (because this is how we chose to watch Sense and Sensibility in honor of the passing of Alan Rickman </3) and I spent the whole day camped out in the living room by the fire.

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The writing has been going well.  I probably won’t quite finish this novel by the end of January, but I’ll be close.  I’ve cranked out 12.7k since my last check-in (which was Sunday before last).  A bit lower than I wanted, but I had stuff going on and needed to figure some plot stuff out.  All in all, I think this draft is going pretty well.

I’m in a mode for re-evaluating covers at the moment.  I did some playing around with cover options for Just For This Moment over the weekend, and was messing with Know Me Well, which I’ve never been happy with.  It doesn’t fit with the rest of the series.  I was operating on a shoestring last year financially and wasn’t able to hire my original cover designer.  Now that things have picked up, I think I’ll be rectifying that.

I was supposed to be traveling to Natchez for work today (because it’s now THURSDAY…where has the week gone?) but that just got cancelled due to the fact that they are apparently supposed to be having a literal blizzard type storm in south Mississippi tomorrow.  SNOWPOCALYPSE.  Preceded by a bunch of tornadoes and hail today.  Yay. Not.  Of course, probably we won’t get more than flurries here and not get out of work…because that’s almost always how it works.  I just want one snow day.  Is that too much to ask?

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Shameless plug!

Anyway, just as well I’m not having to travel and figure out how the heck to eat on Whole 30.  I’m on Day 18.  Over the weekend, I finally made the executive decision to allow myself one cup of tea a day as I like it.  A lot of Whole 30 is learning what foods are problematic for your body.  I already know that what goes in my tea doesn’t bother me.  I did the full elimination diet for allergies a couple years ago.  Since I’ve been drinking tea for nearly 20 years and I know perfectly well I’m not going to STOP drinking tea, now that the caffeine withdrawals are over with, it didn’t seem worth NOT drinking it.  Especially since my weight loss had stalled out because I was compensating for not having it by over-eating a bunch of other stuff (which totally didn’t satisfy the craving).  So.  Tea.  And the scale is moving in the right direction again.

Since I’m in the office today, I have a bunch of paperwork to catch up on.

Manifesting the Positive in 2016

Welcome to 2016.

It really won’t feel like the new year for me until Monday, when I dive into the new/old routine that is daily life.  I’ve enjoyed my holiday, gotten some rest and some quiet.  Done some reading (knocked out Tawna Fenske’s latest, The Fix Up and Tara Sivec’s Seduction and Snacks, both of which were flipping hilarious and awesome).  Finished writing a Wishful holiday novella (which I’ll release next holiday season).  And dove into a new project.  But I miss being in a routine.

Fitness

I spent some time yesterday deciding on a new weight lifting program to kick off the new year (the Fat Loss program from Beautiful Badass by Nia Shanks, FYI).  I am ready.  I feel like a slug.  Other than walking the pups, I haven’t exercised in two or three weeks.  I found some beginner tai chi on Amazon Prime that I might take for a test drive later today.  I’ve always wanted to learn tai chi.  I have no idea why except it always looks so…calm and soothing.

Food

My kitchen is FULL of veggies and fruits and healthy food in preparation for starting our Whole 30 on Monday.  I’m feeling so frigging bloated and UGH after holiday eating, I am READY.  I’ve been batch cooking for a week to get some things done.  Fresh, homemade marinara.  Four pounds of Whole 30 compliant sausage patties in the freezer.  Two pounds of venison meatballs.  I’ve been going through and indexing all my Paleo cookbooks and planning out the wazoo in Evernote (I’ve made that notebook public in case you get the urge to take a peek).   I’ve got all kinds of lists, recipes, and even a 30 day menu plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  I know perfectly well that will change as I try out new recipes (like the spaghetti squash fritters from Well Fed 2, which are a new favorite) and see what’s on special at the grocery store, but this takes the guesswork out so that there’s never any staring at the fridge trying to think of what to fix.  I’ve even got a whole section with recipes I tracked down for Whole 30 compliant versions of all my hubby’s favorite condiments (note to self: must make ranch this weekend).  The lack of availability of compliant bacon is sad, but we shall prevail.

Post Christmas, I bought myself a copy of Paleo Takeout (and OMG, the number of Chinese dishes I can’t wait to try once Whole 30 is over…) and Practical Paleo.  The latter is enormous, much bigger than I was expecting.  I always feel good about buying a cookbook that’s heavy enough to bludgeon someone in a pinch.  Makes me feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.  In this case, it’s so big and fat because it’s got one of the most comprehensive explanations of the science behind the whole Paleo diet, along with a metric ton of custom menus for all kinds of medical conditions.  If you’re considering going Paleo and really want a good understanding of what’s behind it, I highly recommend this book.  And then go pick up a copy of Down South Paleo, as it is the most accessible and full of comfort foods (that are still healthy and Paleo compliant!) of all the Paleo cookbooks I’ve tried.

Since I started learning all this stuff about nutrition and the food supply and the idea of healing through food back in 2010, when we figured out hubs is gluten intolerant, it’s really changed how I think about food.  There are things I’ve learned that, frankly, sometimes I wish I could unlearn because it makes my stomach turn [click any of the following at your own risk–you can’t unsee this stuff] (like the primary ingredients in grocery store chorizo, or what they use for “vanilla flavoring” in ice cream that doesn’t actually specifically list vanilla bean–GAG).  I am now terrified of anything that lists just “natural flavorings” in the ingredients–because the stuff the FDA allows to fall under that heading should never be approved for human consumption.  But apart from the serious gross me out side of things, I’ve learned how food science has mucked around with huge chunks of our food supply in ways that the human body has not evolved to handle.  Hence the enormous rise of adult onset food allergies in the last decade.  There’s all this pseudoscience out there that’s accepted wisdom in terms of what constitutes a healthy diet–which plays in to the enormous reliance on grains in the standard American diet–in the form of wheat, corn, and soy–all of which have been genetically modified (in the US anyway, where such things are not required to be labeled) and do really bad things to our bodies.  There’s been a corresponding rise of all kinds of allergies and medical conditions that are linked to inflammation that goes along with the increasing use of all these things in all foods.  Seriously.  Look at the ingredient label on anything that has ingredients.  They put wheat, soy, corn, and their derivatives (not to mention sugar and unnecessary salt) in EVERYTHING.  Because they are a) appetite enhancers, making people eat more (because Americans need to do that, right?) and b) fillers.  And it’s not just correlation research.  There are lots of scientific studies out there providing strong evidence of the link between things like our high ingestion of Round-up Ready wheat (did you know you were eating weed killer with your daily bread?) and leaky gut syndrome.  The reason you haven’t heard about it?  Real science doesn’t have a multi-million dollar ad campaign budget to disseminate its findings.  So you’re seeing all the big money ads from big food, lulling you into thinking that everything you’re eating is safe.

Anyway, I’m not actually here to give some kind of lecture on how everybody should go Paleo or whatever.  That’s completely a personal choice.  What I was working my way around to saying is that I really dig the idea of healing your body through food–REAL food–whole ingredients (fruits, vegetables, meats)–instead of through a bazillion medications.  It makes me feel like I’m getting less chemical junk in my body.  And it seems like almost every Paleo cookbook author out there has a story of some health condition that was dramatically improved by changing their diet.  I’m sure everyone’s mileage may vary, but feeling better is a good thing in my book.  I know one of the biggest objections to Paleo is the cost–because whole hog Paleo means organic, grass-fed, non-GMO everything and no question that is hella expensive.  The approach that I (and several of the cookbooks I’ve read) take to the thing is you do what you can.  If you can’t afford the organic, grass-fed meat, buy the leanest cuts you can afford, trim off the excess fat (where a lot of the ick is stored) and that’s still better than ground chuck loaded with growth hormones or whatever.  The point is to focus on REAL FOOD that doesn’t, in and of itself, have ingredients.  An apple is just an apple.  It’s not the dried kind that’s loaded with sugar and God knows what else.  Eating real food instead of processed crap is going to lead to improvements for anybody!

End soapbox about food.

Manifesting The Positive

In her recent post about bidding adieu to the old year, Ava Miles talks about a little ritual she has of writing down the stuff she wants to manifest in the new year.

The new year is always a time of reflection for me. Some days ago, I began the process with a list of all the things I was grateful for. The list topped out at three pages front and back. Hurray! Then I moved on to all of the things I didn’t want to bring forward, things like self-doubt, fear of the future, limiting beliefs, grudges, etc. You know what I’m talking about. Lastly, I picked up a fresh piece of white paper and began listing all of the things I wanted to have the Universe bring me this year with the caveat I now include with everything: “this or something even better.” I carry things over from year to year, sure, but I keep believing in them, keep sprinkling fairy dust on them, waiting for them to manifest.

I loved this idea.  She goes on to talk about looking at last year’s list on New Year’s Eve and seeing what she’s manifested.  This fits in nicely with the “Thoughts become things!  Choose the good ones!” motto of Notes From The Universe (which I get daily in my inbox).  I’m a big believer in the idea that you get back more of what you put out into the world.  So I love the idea of really focusing on manifesting positive things in your life (particularly when we are often surrounded by a lot of toxic, negative people and things that we can’t get rid of).  It feels like a great way to balance.

So that’s on my do list for today.  A list of the things I am grateful for from 2015 and a list of the things I want from the Universe.  Maybe I’ll finally put one of those zillions of blank books I have to work for a daily gratitude practice this year (and I love that one of my BFFs totally knew to get me two…a pretty one and an ugly one I’m not afraid to write in–because she totally gets me).  The gratitude practice is something I’ve tried the last couple of years in various guises.  I’m still looking for the right format.  It’s not something I do well in digital, as it happens.  So we’ll try old school this year!

Best of luck to everyone for a fantastic and fabulous 2016!

Goodbye 2015!

Goodbye 2015!  It’s been a…full year.

On the last day of the year, I always like to do a quick inventory, looking at highlights of the year.  This often involves data–because I’m me and we’ve talked before about my potentially unhealthy love of spreadsheets.  So if that’s not your bag, have a fantastic and safe New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you in 2016!

So, to review:

  • I didn’t blog much this year.  A lot of that is that I was crazy busy with a project at Evil Day Job.  A lot was that I didn’t feel like I had anything interesting to say.  And a lot was simply that I was putting all my efforts into off screen sorts of stuff.   I’d like to find a happy medium for that moving into next year.
  • I didn’t have a focal word for 2015.  I actually don’t know if I made one for the previous couple of years either.  But I decided that the focus for 2016 will be INTENTIONALITY.  I want to approach all aspects of my life with intention–my writing, my health, my fitness.
  • Regarding Operation Goddess In Training, I’m up a few pounds from my low of the year, but I’m still finishing out the year 4 or 5 pounds lower than this time last year, so I’ll call it a win.  I established some new routines and habits this year and those helped, but I’ve been inconsistent (that comes back to that intentionality thing).  So I want to get more consistent with my routines for 2016.  Hubs and I are kicking things off on the 4th with a round of Whole 30 to reset our bodies.  I’ll be interested to see how that goes.  At the very least, I should carve off all the holiday chub.  I’m also planning to try Couch 2 5K again.  We’ll see how that goes.  When I did it back in September, I was having serious problems with histamine reactions to that level of exertion (Whole 30 should help with that)–breaking out into hives from running is rather unpleasant.  Which was why I stopped.  Either way, I’m updating my weight lifting routine and getting serious there.  I might wait until the Whole 30 is done to try C25K and focus on the lifting and maybe some yoga or tai chi for January.
  • We lost our Daisy this year.  That was tough.  But she was fourteen and it was simply time.  And it made room in our home and lives for Huck, who has been a joy.  We’ve spent the last 6 months turning back into a family with two able-bodied dogs and getting active again.
  • I read 70 books this year.  That’s down from 81 last year.  Most of it was small town romance, cowboys, and steampunk.  My new love is Maisey Yates’ Copper Ridge Cowboys.  Part of why it was down is because…
  • I wrote 350k words this year.  That’s up from 319k in 2014.  It breaks down to 297k in prose, and about 53k in plotting.  That worked out to 2 novels (Know Me Well [Book 3 in Wishful], Book 1 in Sooper Seekrit Project, a trilogy hopefully to be released summer 2016), 2 novellas (Wish I Might [Book 4 in Wishful, which will be coming out this spring in the Virtually Yours anthology] and Dance Me A Dream [another Wishful holiday novella that will come out next holiday season]), and one novelette (Once Upon A Setup [Meet Cute Romance #5]).  Oh, and my cookbook, HELP! Food Allergies Coming To Dinner: The Pinch-Hitter’s Guide To Cooking Without Gluten or Dairy.  I wrote 296 days this year (3 more than last year), and my average daily word count is up to 1187 (up from 1088 last year).  I only plotted 31 days this year (compared to 85 days last year), so I’m getting quicker about plotting things out, which is also an improvement.
  • I also won NaNoWriMo this year, which was kind of a bucket list thing I’ve been working toward for years.  I ultimately want to get to where NaNo level productivity is the norm.  I fully embraced Write or Die and the idea of getting up at 5:15 to write before my morning workout, something I’d been resistant to doing for YEARS.   But it worked.  So I’m going to keep doing it in 2016 because I have a VERY FULL SLATE with a whopping 9 (or 10, depending) titles I should be getting out the door (some of which being the ones I held back this year), and that’s the only way I’ll pull it off.

All in all, I did a lot, and I’m pleased with my progress.

Organized Life, Organized Mind

Dear God is it ever a two cup morning.  It’s all gray outside, such that I expect it to be winter and cold enough for a nice cheerful fire.  Which it SO IS NOT.  It is, however, 63, which is a heck of a lot better than the 85 we had all week.  I’m satisfying my crackling fire desire by taking advantage of one of my ambient noise stations and hanging out by the fireplace in the Griffyndor Common Room.  Bet you didn’t know you could do that, did you?  You’re welcome.

I’ve been quiet lately.  This is largely because I’ve been hella busy at the Evil Day Job.  I went on the hunt for a project management/productivity software/website that would help me take control of my professional life again, which descended into chaos back in January when the university insisted that our department wasn’t allowed to do it’s own thing with all Google products–which actually WORK properly–and instead forced us to go to the craptastic Microsoft Exchange platform, which has a non-functional spam filter, terrible interface, and generally has caused me to lose things left and right.  It’s made me disorganized and since I fully believe an organized life leads to an organized mind…this is a problem.  I tried out Producteev, Asana, and Azendoo (and a few others I can’t remember), before finally going back to Todoist, which I used a few years ago and moved away from (I THINK because the lists don’t remain accessible on my phone without an actual cell connection, which meant I couldn’t get to my grocery list while in the black hole of service that is Walmart or Kroger).  They’ve added a lot of bells and whistles since then.  I went ahead and upgraded to Premium ($29 a year) for the ability to send myself reminders about stuff, along with several other bonuses.  By far my favorite feature is the plugin for Outlook, which enables me to easily make an email that comes in a task on my list, which is then linked to said email (which I would’ve lost before as soon as it fell off the main screen).  So I spent a fair chunk of this week laying in the entire 3 year timeline of the current project at work.  And now I don’t have to think about various bits until they pop up.  So I’m feeling a lot more positive and in control of the situation (control being a good thing since I’m the project manager).

I’ve also been quiet because I’ve been making some changes to the website.  If you’re getting this in your inbox or directly through a link to this post, go click over to the homepage and check it out.  When I opted to go self-hosted back in January, I merged both my main blog and my cooking blog.  And, quite frankly, I have a lot of stuff.  This made for very confusing, multi-nested navigation and just a generally overwhelming user experience.  So my landing page has now been totally simplified to link to my three main areas: Books, Bites, and Blog.  I got rid of the nested navigation entirely for the books section and now visitors can click on the books link, get to a page that shows all my series and stand alones, and go from there into pages that describe each series, and from there, each book.  It’s all the same info that was there before, just a more obvious pictorial navigation (I hope).

I’ve still got more to do.  The food blog side is going to take quite a while, as I’ve got to go into each individual post to make some changes that will ultimately allow me to make a handy dandy thumbnail archive that’s much more easily searchable and user friendly.  I also need to update the SEO for each post, and insert the recipe card through my EasyRecipe plugin.  As I have well over 500 recipes…that’s just going to take a while.  So, for now, the recipes link goes directly to that tagged category and the nested navigation remains up top.  I also plan to put up an RSS link so people can subscribe JUST to my recipes rather than the whole blog because I know that quite a few people are just interested in that.  I also need to do an update for all my writer extras related to the downloads, classes, services, and my stuff for A Round of Words in 80 Days.  But…there’s that whole time thing.  So, it’s a work in progress.

I carried over the organizing motivation to my house last night.  Hubs and I got into a ridiculous fight yesterday morning that was, at the root, over space on the bathroom counter (as in there’s not enough and I was encroaching on his side and inadvertently getting my blush and powder on his contact case, which was then getting into his eyes because he’s blind as a bat and can’t see that there’s anything on it until his contacts are IN).  Our bathroom is something of a challenge.  It’s big, but it has virtually NO WALL SPACE.  It’s all doors–bedroom, both our closets, the powder room, the shower.  There’s not even a place for a towel bar near the shower.  We had to get an over the door rack to stick on hubby’s closet.  So…it’s a challenge.  Naturally the solution to this involved a solid hour trolling Pinterest looking for ideas.  In the end, I spent $5 on some plastic shoeboxes and drawer organizers at the Dollar Tree and came home on a mission.  I tossed 3 Walmart sacks full of expired or never used crap that I’ve been lugging around for YEARS.  I am so over the whole “But I might use it.”  It felt really good to clear all that out.  Once I’d done that, I got rid of 2 existing drawer organizers that weren’t really working in that space, and reorganized beneath the sinks, so that I finally had room in the drawers for a lot of what was being stored in a big basket on the counter (and therefore taking up half the counter real estate).  Then I went on a safari around the house for other containers and whatnot.  My mom mocks me for my obsession with baskets and boxes and containers of all sorts, but they come in handy!  I ended up having a 3 tiered decorative shelf that’s been sitting in the guest room floor for a year since it got replaced by a new painting I got as a gift from my mom.  That was JUST the right size for the lone 20″ of wall by my sink, where I had a little apothecary cabinet holding purfumes, nail stuff, and makeup.  I swapped stuff out of the packaging and into mason jars and other containers and managed to clear EVERYTHING off the counter but a small collection of use all the time things that I corralled with another basket I robbed from elsewhere in the house.  Then I ended up taking the little cabinet and putting it into the guest bath to hold my essential oil collection.  So, now I have two organized bathrooms.  Hooray for the purge!

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What is it about getting all cleaned out and organized that makes me feel like I can take on the world?  I kinda want to take the next week off and do the same to my whole house, but that’s not possible.  But I probably could manage to take a day off every couple of weeks to tackle a closet a day.  It’s so long overdue.  We’ve been in this house for 3 and a half years, and it’s never been done.  And due to the speed at which we ended up moving, it wasn’t done properly before we moved or when we arrived.  Plus all the stuff our various parents divested themselves of as soon as we had more square footage than a cracker box.  The clutter is not adding to my life, and all those things I’ve held on to for YEARS because I might use it–I haven’t.  So, I want to go through and toss anything I can, sell anything that’s worth a few bucks, and donate anything worth donating.  And if I can’t get what I want for something I’m trying to sell, well, hanging on to it isn’t doing me any good and isn’t adding value to my life or bank account.  Stuff is only worth what somebody’s willing to pay.  Getting something is better than nothing and getting it OUT OF MY HOUSE is worth something to my sanity.  So.  Yeah.  I’m on a mission.

Inspired By Theme

You know how you hit that point of the work day when it’s pointless for you to even be sitting at your desk because you’ve got the attention span of a gnat on crack, and all you can think about is chocolate, alcohol, or your Friday night plans?  (Possibly all of the above.  At ONCE!)

I’m. So. There.

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Seriously.  It feels like an hour has passed.  :looks at clock:  THREE MINUTES.

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My thoughts are super scattered, but those that I’ve managed to catch with a butterfly net are related to the books I like to read–the tropes and…not exactly subgenres (like…paranormal or contemporary would be subgenres of romance)…and not tropes (e.g. second chance romance or friends to lovers romance)…I’m not sure it’s a category either (just because in romance that has a very particular meaning)…hell, there may not be a dedicated word to what I’m thinking about.  Romantic themes maybe?  I’m talking about, like…cowboy romance.  I LOVE THE CRAP out of some cowboy romance.  It’s all Candis Terry’s fault.  She hooked me with her Sweet, Texas series and then her publishers decided some other stuff would have broader appeal and so far she hasn’t bent to my attempts to ForceMotivate her StarWars style to write more and indie publish it (seriously, Candis, I NEED SMILEY’S STORY).

I’ve read a lot of other cowboy romances since then, though none have captured me quite like the Wilder brothers.  And every time I pick one up, I think, “Someday, I wanna write my own spin on cowboy romance.”  I don’t know what that would be yet, but it’s hanging out in the back of my mind.

I’ve got a bunch of thoughts like that swirling through my head.  Wishful was just such a thought.  It’s absolutely my love song to my adoration of small town romance.  I’m sure it won’t be the only small town romance I ever write, but it’s likely to be the only one where the town is, in and of itself, almost a character on its own.  Or not.  I should probably not say never.

Bad boy romances.  That’s another romantic theme I love.  Whether it’s military/ex-military, spies, warriors, cops, bikers…  I love reading about some bad boys.  The Sooper Seekrit Project I’m plotting out now that I plan to try to write at the same time as Something’s Gotta Give is going to be my first play with that.

I also want to do something on an island (I have no idea why), something paying homage to female friendship (in the vein of la Nora’s Bride Quartet–I’ve got something in mind for that), and don’t even get me started on the various and sundry concepts I have to explore a steampunk world.  So much inspiration.  So little time.

What kind of fictive themes spark your imagination and make you think “I wanna write something like this someday?”

5 Reasons Why SyFy’s Killjoys Is Satisfying My Firefly Fix

So SyFy has a new show out called Killjoys.   Check out the trailer:

 

SyFy’s Killjoys is about space bounty hunters, y’all!

So, let’s talk about why I love this show.

  1. cast_killjoys_dutch
    Dutch

    For me, this show feels like it could happen in the same universe as Firefly.   The world, the tech–I have no problems imagining them running into Mal and the crew from Serenity.  The Company is this overarching conceptual villain, much like the Alliance.  They’ve set up this ruling class society that makes for all kinds of struggles between classes, with lots of people being subjugated–making for lots of CONFLICT CONFLICT CONFLICT.  There hasn’t been a boring episode yet, and each one seems to unfold a new layer for the viewer.

  2. The lead badass is a woman.  Dutch.  Oh, I have so, so much love for Dutch.  She’s this marvelous blend of Mal and Zoe with a bit of Inara thrown in.  She’s sassy, sarcastic, and kicks so much ass.  And the reason for WHY she’s so good at kicking ass lies in the mysterious past that unfolds over the course of season 1 (final episode of that tonight), which is a metaplot that’s sparked my interest from the word go.
  3. killjoys john
    John

    John.  Played by Sean Ashmore, John is this wonderful, snarky, science geek badass, who can fight and will put himself on the line for family–including the one he’s made for himself.  He’s loyal and wonderful.  Oh, and their ship, Lucy?  Totally in love with him.

  4. Davin.  John’s brother Davin doesn’t have the same growling appeal as Jayne, but he’s absolutely got the tortured hero down.  He’s whatever this universe’s version is of an Army Ranger or Marine–an ex-soldier who doesn’t know what to do with himself outside the military.  Courtesy of his brother, he gets pulled into their Killjoy team, which makes for some interesting intra-team conflict and some cool dynamics when he busts up in the middle of the long-term partnership between John and Dutch.  He’s got his ownbackstory mystery that’s been slowly unfolding over the season.
    cast_killjoys_davin
    Davin
  5. Well choreographed fight scenes and good pacing.  In general, I’ve been really happy with the fight choreography.  It’s gritty and sometimes bloody, and just well done.  The writing of the show itself has good pacing, very little drag time. They consistently deliver a solid episode, with resolution for whatever the episode problem is, along with an advance of the various threads of metaplot and further illumination of the world.  I’m picky about such things, so this pleases me muchly.  All in all, I call this a winner, and I hope like hell it doesn’t get canned.

Appreciating Silence

I’ve been getting increasingly sporadic about posting.  Some of that is that I’ve been blogging for 8 years, and after over 3100 posts, you start to run out of stuff to say that you don’t feel like you’ve said before.  Some of it is that I’ve been super busy with the Evil Day Job this summer, doing a lot of travel since May (and a lot of organizing of meetings of lots and lots of people, which is very time-consuming).  Some of it is that I got consumed with finishing Know Me Well because I was three months past my personal deadline (and ended up with a novel a solid 41k longer than the novella I set out to write).  When I get to the end of a book, EVERYTHING slides.  It’s why the first day or two after finishing a draft are dedicated to digging out the house, laundry, and my office at work.  And some of it is that as I’ve gotten older, I have developed an increasing appreciation for silence.

Silence is a limited commodity in our world these days.  I heard a really fascinating story earlier this year about how silence is an endangered species.  About how there’s almost nowhere in the world you can go to get away from all the manmade noises of roads or airspace or a zillion other things.  I thought about that on my walk the next morning at dawn.  The sun was barely creeping over the horizon and the grass was crunchy with frozen dew (dear God, I can’t wait for fall)–and even then, I could hear people driving on the main road outside our neighborhood.  It’s a country road but still a main thoroughfare into town, and even at that ungodly hour, people were on it.  That was a sobering thought.

dont-talk-to-me-yet-coffee-mugWe are bombarded with noise–literal and mental–from the moment we roll out of bed.  Social media, email, voicemail when we get to the office, phone calls, meetings, people.  Given the choice, I like to ease into all this.  There is little that makes me more crazed than having to deal with people right after I get up.  I’m not a morning person AT ALL.  [I need this mug in a big way].  Earlier this summer, my boss and I had to leave at 6 AM for a meeting in the northern portion of the state.  She started talking as soon as we got in the car (not necessarily to me–I think there was a conference call going on, if I remember), all the way up there, all through the meeting and presentation, all through lunch with people after.  By the time we got into the car at 2:30 for the drive back home, I was absolutely fried and had to pull out my headphones and slap some nice neutral rain and ocean waves on my phone for the 3 hour drive back.  If I had to deal with that every day, I’d go absolutely starkers [that’s British for nuts–the Brits have the best slang].

My husband and I just joined a gym recently (it’s been nine years since I worked out in a gym and not at home), and I started going on Tuesday this week.  It’s one of those with 24 hour access (a novel concept for me).  The routine I’m getting into means getting up at 5:45, feeding the pups, taking them on our usual 1.5 mile walk (too damned hot for any longer right now), then heading into the gym to lift weights, work on forms, and jog (I’m starting C25k over again).  Then I clean up there, have my protein shake on the drive to work, and finally have my cup of tea when I get there.  Now, it’s worth noting that my husband is on night shift these days, so I don’t see him in the mornings when I do this.  This means I get up at 5:45 and I don’t actually have to speak to a soul (usually), until about 8:45 or later.  It’s GLORIOUS.  One day this week, I saw a guy leaving as I was getting to the gym (polite nod) and another girl as I was hitting the showers.  Otherwise, I was COMPLETELY ALONE in the whole damned place (and it’s big).  This was both awesome and felt like the setting for a suspense or horror scene (because this is how my brain is wired).

I’m not one of those people who has to have the TV or music on when I’m by myself.  I really don’t understand those people who are afraid of the silence.  Or maybe it’s that they’re afraid of their thoughts?  I don’t know.  In the evenings, after my husband leaves for work, the TV goes off, and at most, I’ll have MyNoise.net on with some kind of nature sounds (just because it seems to help me focus), while I write.  And maybe that’s part of why I appreciate silence–because I do a lot of thinking.  Workout out plot details, character arcs, the right way to build a romance.  At any give time, I usually have at LEAST 3 or 4 plots cooking in my brain.  There’s little more annoying than being on the cusp of figuring something out, or having a few perfect lines of dialogue that you need to hang on to until you can get to a keyboard or paper, only to have somebody come and start talking at you about something entirely inane and unimportant and completely derailing your train of thought.

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COME ON.

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This post is weaving drunkenly all over the place.  When I sat down, I was going to talk about looking for recipes, but I guess I got off on a tangent because I am surrounded by sleeping dogs and enjoying my morning cuppa in the quiet–appreciating silence before I dive into the day’s words.  Anyway, I guess my point at the beginning was that I haven’t much felt like adding unnecessarily to the noise out there lately.  I’ll blog when I have something worth saying–or when I feel like rambling into the void.

Meanwhile, it’s a two cup morning.

 

What Do Readers Want In A Series Bible?

Any author worth her salt (who does not want to go nuts later) keeps what’s known as a series bible to go along with any series she writes.  This is where we (theoretically) keep track of things like hair and eye color, relatives, interests, occupations, and all the myriad of details we don’t want to muck up in later books.  And even with series bibles, we sometimes still make mistakes.  :nobody saw me change the name of Gerald’s personal assistant in Be Careful after publication:  Series bibles are totally handy to keep track of all that stuff, ESPECIALLY when you have an ensemble cast like I have with Wishful.  I’m keeping up with a whole TOWN.

Readers have trouble keeping up with huge casts as well.  Sometimes they’re big messy families.  Sometimes not.  But either way, it’s a nice thing to have somewhere readers can turn to find out “Who was so and so again?”  “How is she related to him again?”  So I want to create that for you.  But I haven’t found a mechanism or format I really LIKE yet.  I’ve got something set up at Trello right now, but I really don’t like it at all.  And part of that is that I kind of don’t know what you as readers want.

A family tree for the big messy families is a given, but that doesn’t get at the scope of all the characters who are not Campbells or Montgomerys.

What do readers want out of a series bible?

  • Vital statistics?
  • Which books they appear in?
  • Brief summaries of who they are?
  • Who they’re related to?
  • Occupation?
  • Who they’re friends with?

Would you rather have a single page that lists characters by the book, focusing just on the hero and shero of each book, a la Fool’s Gold?   A downloadable list with every character listed (even the small ones) like this one?  Or would you rather have individual pages for each character, linked up in a more complex wiki style thing?

I am opening the floor to you!