The Shape and Color of Your Piece

Today my 11-year-old daughter came to me upset because her older brother was being mean to her. “Do you ever think he might just be a bad person?” she asked.

It would be a lie to say I hadn’t wondered that about myself and all my children at different times in life. But I explained to my daughter that her brother is at an age where protecting his ego was the primary psychological directive. That often means cutting other people down to make himself feel better.

“Am I mean like that?” she asked.

I told her that, yes, she is sometimes mean. I’ve heard her be sharp-tongued. “I don’t mean to be,” she said.

“In that moment, I think you do mean to be,” I told her. I said it was like a scorpion stinging—it does it to protect itself, and it definitely intends to sting, but then, so long as the threat abates, it goes on with its life as though nothing has really happened. It doesn’t stay mean. It’s only mean when it’s angry or scared.

I went on to say that humans are pack animals that organize themselves in social hierarchies, and she and her brother are at a time in life where they’re figuring out where they fit in. “As children, you’re held in the societal bubble of your parents, but at adolescence you emerge to find your own place. Or, to put it another way, you’re a puzzle piece. And you’re figuring out what color and shape you are so that you can then find where you fit.”

In particular, my daughter is an equestrienne with a great love of musical theatre, and she struggles to find others who have the same interests and hobbies. We talked about how these years (the middle school years) are the most difficult because peers may try to force you into a place where you don’t fit. Or sometimes we’re desperate to fit in a certain place that isn’t right for us. Often we discover that the friends we had when we were younger no longer fit together with us, and that can be tough, too.

“We’re all still part of the same big picture,” I told my daughter. “Part of the same community, the same big world. Finding where we fit, though, can be hard, and it’s something you may have to do many times in your life. Every time you start at a new school, a new job, move to a new town… The nice thing is, eventually you know your size, shape, and color. You won’t have to try and figure out who you are, only where you fit.”

In the meantime, though, she’s still finding her edges. That’s part of adolescence—discovering your true self and having the courage to stay true to that self when others attempt to reshape you to suit their needs. Or when you feel like maybe you want to change your shape or color to fit elsewhere. Remember that any time you trim your puzzle piece, it makes you smaller, so that if and when you find your true place, you may no longer fit as perfectly as you would have otherwise. Be yourself. Take up space. Don’t apologize for being who you are. All easier said than done, but worth remembering.

Books: Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

It might be best (it usually is) to start at the beginning. Lies Sleeping is the seventh in the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series of books. I previously reviewed a number of the earlier books on my spooklights site, but I’ll give a small recap here, too.

Peter Grant is a police constable in modern-day London. But he has an unusual job: dealing with magical and supernatural crimes and criminals. The first book in the series is, depending on where you live, Midnight Riot or Rivers of London (same book, different titles). It’s a great book, and the second one, Moon Over Soho, is also very good. Somewhere in the middle of this series, at least thus far, it got a bit mushy and muddled. But I think that may be my perception based on having to wait a year between each new entry. If I went and re-read them now, I wonder whether I’d find them as much of a slog or as mildly confusing? I don’t really intend to do that, so it will be a question that remains unanswered.

Still and all, Lies Sleeping struck me as a return to form. By which I mean, I was engaged and able to follow everything with no problems. Given that I’d somehow missed that there were two more entries in the series (Lies Sleeping and False Value) and was therefore actually farther behind that ever, I would reason that this book was written more comprehensively than the last couple? But again, I don’t know that for sure. I did find it more fun and less work overall. Maybe that was due to my frame of mind, though. There are so many variables to consider in whether someone likes a book, movie, or other piece of art…

In this particular tale, Grant and his cohorts are on the trail of Martin Chorley, aka The Faceless Man. This has been the big villain for a while now, but finally they seem to be narrowing in on him and getting a sense of what he’s trying to accomplish. Motives are revealed, as it were. And it’s an interesting setup, with a bit of an abrupt conclusion, but that’s been par for the course in these books. I still enjoyed it.

There are a lot of characters to keep up with in this series, which may turn some readers off. A lot of rules of magic that are sometimes vague, though explanations for the vagaries of magical practice are written into the text (“hang a lampshade” as they say). Peter Grant’s snark and humor are what keep me coming back; he’s the everyman trying to keep up with what’s happing around him, and I think readers identify with that. Still, I’ve never found his relationship with Bev very compelling, and that’s escalated in this book and is set up to be brought forward in future books. It’s not annoying enough (yet) to stop me from reading them. But the more characters are added, and the way everyone seems to be smarter and better than Peter—pretty soon that’s going to become tiring and annoying rather than funny, and I don’t know whether I’ll be as interested in these books at that point. You can have an imperfect protagonist, but he needs to learn and get better at a rate that keeps the reader invested in him. Peter seems a little behind this curve. He’s the worst student in this “class” of people learning magic, so to speak, and it’s increasingly difficult to cheer him on and believe he’ll ever make the grade.

Peter’s “governor” Nightingale is very adept and interesting, on the other hand, and that worries me because we all know the mentor figure has to die eventually. I might not be able to stand that.

TL;DR: I liked the first two or three books in this series, felt a few in the middle were undercooked, but found this one enjoyable again. Taking a modest break to read some manga before queuing up False Value.

Movies: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

If you’ve seen Blades of Glory and you liked it, this is probably the movie for you.

Honestly, I expected something more like Documentary Now! or This is Spinal Tap, but this does not have the mockumentary style in that it doesn’t pretend to be following things as they unfold, nor does it interview characters, etc. It is, in fact, a fairly rote and mostly tame movie. There are over-the-top moments, but not as many as one would think. There are some truly funny moments, but… not as many as one would think.

This is the story of Lars and Sigrit, who grew up together in Iceland and formed a musical duo they call Fire Saga. It has been Lars’ dream to win the Eurovision Song Contest, and when, due to a fluke, they are submitted as Iceland’s entry… things go about as expected. Each have their heads turned by singers from other countries, they fight, things fall apart, disasters occur. And yet, it all comes across as very mild. The would-be villains are not all that terrible, and no problem seems insurmountable, nor do the issues remain unresolved for very long. The result is a lack of any real tension or conflict.

Pierce Brosnan does a nice turn as Lars’ disapproving father, and Dan Stevens likewise is fun as the Russian singer, but it’s not enough to keep things from being mostly bland. This is a “cute” movie. It has a pretty good soundtrack thanks to past Eurovision entrants coming on as cameos. But this is not a gut-splitting comedy. It’s a movie that wanted to be both sweet and funny and landed in the middle of the road.

That’s not to say it’s not worth watching. I can recommend it with the caveat that if you’re hoping for LOL you’re more likely to get chuckles.

Good vs Good Enough

Sometimes I worry I’m not a good enough writer to achieve the things I want to achieve. I know I’m a good writer, and a competent one, but I’ve come to understand that good is still miles away from good enough.

It’s true in anything that a person can be bad at it, okay at it, competent, good at it… And then we usually skip (in our mental scale of ability) to great or amazing. He’s a “pretty good” musician, we might say, but she’s a “great” singer. But somewhere between good and great is good enough. Because good can only get you so far, but good enough gets you much farther. Good might win you a few fans and followers, but good enough can get you a record deal.

We all strive for great, of course. Those of us who create for a living—we all want to do it not just well but wonderfully well. That’s a tall order. And it’s not a bad thing to have standards and goals. But we also have to learn to be okay with good enough. Because good enough means we can still reach those goals, even if we have more work and learning to do.

So here I am. I’m really only aiming for good enough right now because I barely have the energy. And I’m so, so afraid I’m not good enough and that nothing I can do will make me good enough. That I’m a lost cause. That I’ll never be more than good, or even competent, as a writer.

This is the reality: sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you won’t make it. I don’t say this to discourage anyone! But we do live in a society that likes to tell the story of how someone persists and eventually makes it. We don’t like to hear that hard work sometimes doesn’t pay off.

So do we give up then? That’s an individual choice. There is the sunk cost fallacy of, after having put in so much time and energy, one feels they simply cannot stop. But there’s also the nagging idea of never knowing when you might break through. That’s what keeps people playing the lottery after all. To continue is an ongoing gamble. Each person must decide for him- or herself how much of their time and energy they’re willing to wager. And the answer to that question can change by the day!

These past few days I have struggled. I’ve felt pretty down about myself and my work. This has happened before—once for an entire year in which I did not write anything but one short story… that thankfully got published because I think it might have ruined me as a writer if no one had wanted it.

Currently, I have two projects. One is a massive rewrite from scratch. The other is a fun new little thing. They weirdly have a lot in common, though I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to ruin anything. I have sketchy outlines for a couple more books after these, too. So it’s likely I’ll continue to write. And hopefully one day one of these* will be considered good enough for an agent or publisher.

Now Available: The K-Pro

What can a fairy godmother do for a man who already seems to have everything?

Andra Martineau is a K-Pro—a living good-luck charm with the ability to make people’s dreams come true. But when led to help up-and-coming actor David Styles, Andra’s presence seems to be more curse than blessing. With the help of David’s incorrigible co-star, Andra begins to realize the true nature of her power… and David’s hidden identity as well. Will she be able to save David from himself?

This book is what I call a “paranormal romantic comedy.” Which is somewhat unusual, and that’s why I think I never did find an agent for it. But it’s a fun, light romp with a mythical twist, perfect for summer. I hope you’ll give it a read and leave a review when you’re done.

I originally published this one in 2013 as my first full-length self-published effort. I’ve learned a lot since then about having a good cover, etc. The K-Pro is now available in paperback and also on Kindle, and is free to read via Kindle Unlimited!

What Color Am I?

When I was little, I had white-blonde hair, blue eyes, and skin dark enough that the Latina women at the laundromat would berate my mother for trying to “pass me off as white.” They thought she was bleaching my hair—that, based on my skin tone, I was half Latina myself. My mother told them again and again that, no, I just came out that way.

It’s an issue that has surfaced semi-regularly throughout my life. My grandparents called me “Texican.” At the time I considered it an affectionate nickname, and I’m pretty sure that was how it was intended. However, in retrospect, it’s somewhat racist, too. And inaccurate. Because I’m not Latina. I’m Creole.

But that doesn’t stop people from assuming. My daughter’s third-grade teacher went through the entire school year thinking I was Latina. I get people who walk up to me and start speaking Spanish until they notice my blank stare. I mean, I grew up in Texas, so I know all the signage: salidas, basura, piso mojadotacos y mas… Anything else I may understand or recognize (besides si and gracias) I’ve extrapolated from having spoken French, the languages being similar.

My early French wasn’t even “real” French; it was the Cajun dialect of Southern Louisiana. Later, I took French in high school and college because I figured it would be easy. And it mostly was except for having to remember which suffixes to use for the various tenses. Thank God they all sound the same when you speak it.

My dad’s family came from France in the 1780s. They weren’t Acadian (Cajun) in that they didn’t go to Canada only to be relocated later; they sailed straight to New Orleans then ventured out and settled in the Vermillion Parish area. At some point those lily-white French ancestors (who were actually from English stock that had settled in Brittany) mixed and mingled with, well… stories differ. But the result down the line was that some of us have olive skin that turns toasty after even a few minutes in the sun. My dad has the dark hair, too, but the blue eyes. My hair got darker as I got older but never as dark as his.

Fictional character Peter Grant (from the Ben Aaronovitch series of books) once said something about his “winter plumage” and I identified so hard with that remark. From late spring through early fall, for as long as I can get regular sunlight, I’m a nice brown. It feels like the right, real me. But come winter I turn a sickly yellow. I hate it. I spend winter longing for my color.

That said, I know that I don’t actually understand what people of color go through on a regular basis. My features are Anglo enough that, aside from that occasional assumption about what language I speak, the only real hassle I receive is for my gender rather than my skin color. I have the luxury of embracing my heritage without fear. If I encounter police, I generally don’t worry. I’ve never had cause to think my color would prevent me from getting a job. Or that, when I go into a store, people might think I’m up to no good because my color gives them preconceived notions about my morals. Maybe I’ve just been really fortunate, since I know Latinx people do face a number of prejudices. If I looked fully Latina rather than mixed, maybe that would make a difference. I don’t know.

Since I can fill out a form and mark “Caucasian,” I guess that’s how I identify. And how people see me, at least most of the time. But there are times when I hesitate before checking that box. Am I really? I wonder. Well, I live as a Caucasian. Which means I live a privileged life. Something I’ve been thinking long and hard about lately.

“You’re lucky,” an old Latina woman told me once. “You can pass.” I don’t think I understood at the time just how lucky that makes me. I may never fully comprehend my fortune.

About Those Starred Books

I’ve finally gotten all the links up on my Bibliography page. If you click on the book images, you should be taken to the Amazon page for that title. (For Letters to Rob, you’ll be taken to the PDF.) I agonized about linking to Amazon, as I’d really prefer you to support indie bookstores, but based on pretty much all my sales info, most people are still buying from Amazon, and my job as author is to facilitate your purchases of my books. That said, please buy from indies whenever possible. You can ask them to order my paperbacks, easy peasy.

But this post is meant to be about the starred books on my Bibliography page. Titles with a star beside them have homosexual content. And the reason I chose to call them out that way is because I get really angry readers (and really bad reviews) when they aren’t “warned” that there are gay people in my books. Never mind that I usually categorize them in gay/LGBT metadata. I guess not everyone scrolls down that far? But to save from confusion and, hopefully, to forestall future frustration and ire, I’ve starred my gay books.

One supposes that if I always wrote gay books, readers would know to expect it. And if I would simply stick to hetero stories, no one would have reason to leave angry reviews. (Well, they might, but at least that one reason would not be valid.) Alas, I’m the kind of author who likes to write whatever she feels like writing at the time, meaning it’s a 50/50 chance there will be gay content.

Q: Why do you write gay characters?

Because I have many gay, lesbian, asexual, and even polyamorous friends. My best friend’s little sister is trans. I grew up with her, and I want all these wonderful people to populate my stories, too. Because they’re in the real world and therefore deserve to be reflected in the fictional world as well. And not as the focus of angst or voyeuristic lust, but as people. With jobs and relationships and all the stuff that comes with life in general. Sometimes there is angst, and sometimes there’s a bit of lust, but not always from their sexuality. Because sexuality is not what defines us. It’s only part of the whole.

I’m not saying that coming out stories or hot LGBTQIA+ erotica is bad. It’s just not my thing and not where I focus. Sadly, though, some readers still aren’t ready to have gay characters presented as “normal.” And when they read my books, they feel slapped in the face by that representation. SO. I’ve starred those titles as a fair warning to them.

Of course, if they come across my books elsewhere, they may not get that warning. Sigh. I like to think that if they’re given enough such media—that is, books and movies and television shows with gay characters presented in a normal, everyday context—they’ll get used to it and stop being so offended every time it crosses their paths. But some people cling to hate because that’s part of their identity. To let go leaves them feeling bereft of purpose. “If I don’t hate x, then who or what am I?”

I dunno. Human? Find a hobby. Preferably one that isn’t dedicated to hating whole groups of people.

Well, until that day, I will star the titles that have LGBTQIA+ content. As of this post, that only really includes gay, meaning I don’t have any lesbians or transgender characters, though I do say Richard in Faebourne is asexual. The second Changers book was meant to have a trans character, but I never did finish writing it. :/

I will try to do better.

This is an awfully long post for such a simple purpose, but I think the topic is, in itself, an important one. TL;DR: starred books on my Bibliography page have LGBTQIA+ content.


This is my new author website. I’m still working out where I want to put things. It’s a bit like moving into a new house, isn’t it? Which shelves go where and all that kind of thing. Please bear with me as I “unpack.” And let me know if anything looks or feels wonky or difficult to navigate. While I can’t promise I can change everything (some walls are load bearing and can’t be knocked down), I’ll do my best to make us all comfortable in the new space.