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Archive for the tag “Kris Norris”

Musical Musings #3

musicalmusings

It’s time for another Musical Musings, and this month, the subject is songs that remind me of my parents, my sibling(s), and my childhood. This should be fun! Also, I’m guessing it’ll be long. Because music. And family. You’ve been warned.

We’ll start with my dad. When my parents split, there were the weekend visits with my dad, and that meant car rides with the radio tuned to one of three things. Lions football, Tigers baseball, or country music. He’s a big country music fan–but you know, only “real country–not this new horse shit they have nowadays”. (Random thought alert: having spent many of my formative years surrounded by cow shit, I always wondered why he seemed to consider horse shit so much worse. I’m gonna have to ask him one of these days.) 

And while there are a ton of songs that remind me of him the biggest are probably The Gambler by Kenny Rogers and Ring of Fire and I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash. They always make me smile. Oh! And Delta Dawn – the Tanya Tucker version. I bet I can still sing that. Not gonna try, though.

There are so many songs that remind me of my mom, I don’t even know where to start, after all, she’s the reigning queen of Wildly Inappropriate Bedtime Songs. For instance, we got a lot of protest songs as lullabies well as other songs you wouldn’t normally sing kids like Brandy or The Eagles’ Take it Easy, Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, The Beatles’ Lady Madonna and Eleanor Rigby, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, pretty much all of John Denver, Carole King, and Simon and Garfunkel, but especially Cecelia. My brother, Tim, loooooooooved that song. But the two songs that probably most remind me of my mom are the Peter, Paul, and Mary covers of Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Blowin’ in the Wind and Don Mclean’s American Pie. You know…for those feel good bedtime vibes – lol. But, I think I get my love of sad songs from all of our Wildly Inappropriate Lullabies. And you know what? I’m good with that.

I have four siblings, so buckle up.

My brother, Tim, is closest to me in age, and when we were younger, we fought. A lot. But when we got along, we had some music in common. Like, I bet if pressed, we could both still sing the entire libretto of Jesus Christ Superstar. (Random side note: Probably the best birthday present I ever got [even better than the signed Brian Froud print] was when Tim surprised me with tickets to a really great touring production of JCS in the early 90s.) But without fail, the song(s) that always make me think of Tim, without fail, is the entire Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction album.

When it first came out, I loathed it–probably just to be contrary because he loved it so much. Fast forward to me moving 500 miles away, shortly after getting married. My husband was finishing up his final year of college, and one night, we were at the bar where he was on a pool league. Some bastard started playing Mr. Brownstone on the jukebox, and I was suddenly so homesick and missing my brother so much, I went into the bathroom and cried.

I’m gonna wait here a sec while that sinks in.

I sobbed overfucking Mr. Brownstone. In a super dodgy bar bathroom. In the U.P.

After that, I may have gotten my own copy of Appetite for Destruction. I am nothing if not nostalgic. You guys oughta know that by now.

I’m happy to report that Tim and I still have some music in common–like Hamilton. We went to go see it in Chicago with our kids (and our sister) a couple months ago. And in theory, we’re going to see Les Miz this year, too!

Next up is my brother, Martin. Now, Tim and I are a bit older than our younger siblings, so sometimes, when our mom was teaching night classes, we’d be on deck for singing Wildly Inappropriate Lullabies at bedtime.

I’ve got several songs that remind me of Martin. Puff the Magic Dragon is a big one. One night when mom was singing it to him, he started wailing. Sobbing like he’d lost his best friend. He realized at that point that Puff is a fucking depressing song. He started sobbing for my mom to fix it. So she had to make up a new, happier verse to finish the song with. Poor Cait was in high school before she realized that no one outside our family knew there was fourth verse.  My kids think there’s a fourth verse, too.

All the Mumford and Sons songs remind me of Martin because he’s the one who introduced me to them. (Yay, Martin!) But the song that always makes me smile and think of him is Turn Down for What. The year that song came out, he was constantly in my face shouting, “Turn Down for What!” He’d begin or end phone calls that way. It was constant. And annoying. But like most things, Martin, it made me laugh.

Fast forward to that summer, he and he’s awesome fiancée were getting married and asked me to officiate the ceremony. So, I got my internet minister’s license (like you do when your brother asks you for a favor) and helped plan the wedding. His wife didn’t know what music to pick for the recessional, so I said, “We could always do, Turn Down for What.” Because she’s awesome, she thought it was hysterical, she also wanted to keep it a secret from Martin. So we surprised him with it at the end of the ceremony. The look on his face was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. He recovered nicely, though, and danced his way back up the aisle.

Then, there’s Andrew. When he was little, he looked and acted so much like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes that I bought him a stuffed tiger.  He had asthma and had to have nightly nebulizer treatments–so many, that he burned out a nebulizer. And like all junk in our house, it ended up in the garage where he cracked the casing off it and attached jumper cables to it and a car engine and jump started it.  He was that kid.

I have a couple songs that remind me of him. One is John Denver’s Country Roads. He loved that song and wanted mom to sing it to him every night. Or me. Or Tim. When he got married a few years ago, he surprised my mom by having the DJ play it for their mother-son dance. It was the greatest thing ever–even though I suspect most of the guests were confused. Especially, when the rest of us got up and sang along. Then, he also had the DJ play Carole King’s Tapestry so we could dance to it. If I was putting him to bed, he always asked me to sing that to him. And yes, I cried my eyes out when he wanted to dance with me to that song. Incidentally, I now sing it for his daughter when I babysit her.

That brings us to Cait (of Texts from Cait fame). Trying to narrow Cait down to a song or two is going to be next to impossible, but I’ll give it a go. Meatloaf’s Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad will always remind me of Cait. And Tim. Because when it was his turn to put the kids to bed, he’d rock Cait to sleep, and I’d hear him singing Two Out of Three to her. And it was honestly the cutest thing ever. And it was just as damn cute when he sang it to his own kids.

But there are so many songs that remind me of Cait, like Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid, because she thought the line bright young women, sick of swimming was pregnant women, sick of swimming for years. And sometimes we still sing it that way. And nobody karaokes Janis Joplin like my baby sister. Cait’s Piece of My Heart is amazing.  Then, there’s the entirety of Fleetwood Mac musical catalogue. Not to mention all the 60s girl groups. And literally everything Cher ever sang. Also, Cait does a brilliant Cher impression. Jess Jarman was treated to this phenomenon once upon a road trip. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her love of Bowie. But I think I have to go with ABBA’s Dancing Queen for Cait. She adores all the ABBA, but Dancing Queen is her go-to song forever. It cheers her up when she’s in a bad mood. It makes her even happier when she’s in a good mood. And whenever I hear it, I think of Cait.

Okay, the last topic is childhood–which is tough since, with the exception of Part of Your World, all of the songs here remind me of my childhood. But…if I had to pick just one, it would be Sonny and Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves. I know – wildly inappropriate on so many levels, but when I was little, it was my very favorite song ever. And also, I wanted to be Cher. Never was a little pudgy blonde girl so disappointed.

I realize this was probably far more than you bargained for when you started reading, so…sorry? But anyway, if you’re still with me, what songs remind you of your fam and childhood? Share!

And be sure to check out the other bloggers’ song memories. Deelylah, Kris, Paige, Gwen, oh, and my friend, Amanda, likes to play along with these Musical Musing prompts, so she blogged, too.

Flash Fiction #58 – When the Wind Blows

 

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This month’s song fic is When the Wind Blows by The All American Rejects. Here are the lyrics and the video if you want to give it a read and/or listen.

I stood in the middle of the living room and stared at her. She was playing with the dog. It was always the fucking dog. I didn’t have anything against dogs–even small, yappy ones like that–but the dog had become her way of brushing me off. Any time I brought up something she didn’t want to discuss–or even hear–she’d start playing with the terrier.  Like now.

“Does Bella want a treat? Does she? Does mommy’s baby want a treat?”

Predictably, Bella began dancing and yapping at Shellie’s feet, drowning out everything else in the room, and our conversation would be conveniently forgotten. I turned and went into the bedroom. I knew when I’d been dismissed.

I used to think we’d get back to our discussions–that she’d get a handle on her distractibility. Instead, Shellie would navigate around whatever we’d been talking about in the first place, avoiding it like it was quicksand. Then, she’d just act like nothing had ever happened and expect me to play along. I eventually realized that this wasn’t markedly different than the rest of our relationship. Bella had just made it easier for Shellie avoid stuff she didn’t want to deal with and made it more obvious to me. I supposed that little mutt had done me a favor.

I unzipped my backpack and started packing. It wasn’t like I had a lot there. One drawer in the dresser and half a shelf in the medicine cabinet. Unplugging my laptop and phone I shoved them in my computer case and grabbed both bags.

Shellie looked up at me as stepped into the living room, and her brow furrowed. “Where are you going?”

“Home.”

“I thought we were going to watch a movie.”

I grabbed the bag of dog treats off the end table and shook it. Bella danced around my feet, putting her little paws on my thighs. “Does Bella want a treat? Does she?”

“Karen? What are you doing?”

“I’m giving Bella a treat,” I said, keeping my gaze fixed on the dog. “Aren’t I, girl. Yes, I am. I’m giving the puppy a treat.”

I gave her two. I figured owed her for being instrumental in figuring shit out. Tossing the bag back on the table, I pulled open the front door.

“When are you coming back?”

The dog darted for the open door, but I gently nudged her back. “Who’s a good girl? That’s right, Bella is,” I crooned to her in that same annoying voice Shellie insisted on using.

From the corner of my eye, I could see that she’d stood. “Karen?

“Bye, Bella.” I shut the door and walked down the front steps.

I could breathe again.

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to see what the other bloggers came up with. Kayleigh, DeelylahKris, and Siobhan.

Promptly Penned: Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 

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Heads up, guys. This promptly penned is probably going to to be super short. I’m heartsick (and terrified) at the latest (continued?) political shitstorm facing this country. But I’m going to give this a go anyway.

Prompt: Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For example, there are 20 spells for making tea but none to save yourself from falling off a cliff.

I stood in the richly appointed penthouse office, my feet sinking into carpet so plush, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t the entrails of enemies or something, and forced myself to maintain eye contact with this guy.

He laced his fingers together beneath his chin and stared up at me–charming smile firmly in place. “I’m surprised to see you. Our business has been satisfactorily concluded.”

“Maybe for you. I want it back,” I choked out.

He leaned back in his chair. “You know the rules: no refunds or exchanges. All sales are final.”

“You misrepresented the product.”

He smiled. “That’s called advertising.”

“There’s a difference between advertising and lying.”

“Tomato. To-mah-to.”

I sighed. Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “There are twenty spells for making tea but none to save yourself from falling off a cliff.”

“So, stay away from cliffs.”

“Funny.” I glared at him. “That was just an example.”

“Look, you sold your soul. You got the ability to do magic. I don’t know what else you’re expecting.”

“I expected to be able to fix the government. I thought I could make all this,” I gestured toward the morning’s newspapers spread across his desk, “go away. I thought I could make things better for people.”

He was laughing before I’d even finished speaking. Asshole. “There’s not enough magic in the world for that.” He made a shooing motion with his hand. “Off you go.  Why don’t you go make yourself a spot of tea.”

He burst into another fit of laughter as I stalked from the  room, stepping aside as his assistant headed toward him carrying a cup of coffee. I muttered a spell under my breath as she passed. I may not have been able to save the world from certain destruction, but I’d managed to manipulate a couple of the tea spells to include coffee. I hoped he had a padded toilet seat. He was going to be there for a while.

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out Jess, Siobhan, Deelylah, Kris, and Gwen’s stories, too.

I Wish I’d Learned This Earlier Than I Did

Lessons-Learned

Welcome to another episode of Therapy with Bron. But hey, I figure if I struggle with this shit, some of you might, too.

I try really hard not to live my life consumed by regret. There are too many other things I’d rather be consumed by–laughter, love, a good story, kitty and kid cuddles, nature, music, etc. But even though I try not to dwell, I do have some regrets about things that I wish I’d learned earlier in life.

Like…

1.) How to say no. 🎼🎶🎵 Lord, show me how to say no to this. I don’t know how to say no to this.🎶🎵 (What? You thought I’d pass up opportunity for a Hamilton reference? Foolish mortal.) This is one of those things I’ve never been terribly good at. I’m not saying that I go along with everything that’s ever suggested to me, but I’m often overly concerned that me saying no to someone will hurt their feelings. In the past, I’ve found myself agreeing to projects or taking on obligations that I didn’t really want to do. Weirdly, these boundary issues have never really extended into my relationships with my husband or my kids or my daycare kids. I don’t even know what that says about me.

2.) Asking for what I need doesn’t make me selfish or weak. I’m not sure why this is such a damn struggle.  I mean, it’s really common sense, right? If you need help or you need a hug or whatever, just ask. I think that societally we’re all under the misconception that need = selfishness/weakness – both of which are heavily frowned upon by western society. While I’m clearly not a professional psychologist or a sociologist, it seems like most women skew toward selfishness (particularly older generations) though, with younger generations, I feel like they’re pretty equal. And the majority of men seem to lean toward weakness. Of course, neither of these things are true and most of us are more than willing to cut others slack we won’t cut ourselves, and that’s not healthy.

3.) Self-care is necessary and doesn’t make you selfish (there’s that word again) or lazy. Self-care is any activity that you choose that helps you relax in order to maintain your emotional and physical health and helps you feel able to continue to function. Currently, Parks and Rec and all manner of crafting are self-care go-tos. I think I must have internalized a lot of weird opinions about selfishness and laziness, and TBH, I’m not even sure where they came from. Catholic school seems the most likely place, because it wasn’t from my mom who was my primary parent/caregiver. I mean, she’d encourage “mental health” days from school when we needed them, and trust me, very few school age kids in the 80s had any kind of grasp of mental health.

4.) Being proud of yourself isn’t bragging. I think a lot of us, women especially, have a lot of anxiety tied up with any kind of pride in themselves and their work. For whatever reason, it seems more acceptable to verbalize pride in your children as long as you’re not that person and that’s all you ever talk about or the person who takes ownership of their children’s accomplishments as though they’re responsible.

But back to being proud of yourself for a sec. For a lot  of women, (focusing on women here, because there’s a definite gender difference with this issue) there’s a special kind of anxiety that comes along feeling any kind of pride in yourself or your work. And actually verbalizing that pride? Hahahahahahahahaha. No. Even if we’ve worked our asses off, and are genuinely pleased with something we’ve done, we won’t say anything positive about it. We might even speak negatively about it or say nothing at all.

5.) Saying thank you when someone compliments you doesn’t mean you’re bragging. I know I’ve mentioned this phenomenon on the blog before, but dude…still a struggle. And I know I’m not alone. When someone compliments us or our work more likely to say, “Thank you, but…” That “but” is always followed by a variation of the following: “I got lucky.” Or, “I had a lot of help.” Or, “People are just being nice.” Or, “They like me.” Or “They just felt bad for me.” These are things I hear my colleagues say on the regular. These are things I’ve said on the regular. Granted, I’m much more cognizant of this issue now, and I try really hard to just say “thank you, I really appreciate that” without trying to downplay it. But it’s soooooooooo hard.

I know there are people out there who put this behavior down to false modesty or fishing for more compliments, but this is an anxiety-inducing issue for a lot of people.

6.) Imposter Syndrome is a thing that exists. A few years ago, I learned about this little thing called Imposter Syndrome. It, again, predominantly affects more women than men, but men definitely experience it, too–particularly men in academia. The simplified description is basically that you feel like you’re a fraud, you have no business being in your field, and certainly no business calling yourself an expert, and someday, everyone will find out that you have no clue what you’re doing and you faked your way through your entire career. This constant feeling that the other shoe is going to drop is most common when starting a new project, nearing completion on a project, and/or achieving any kind of success with a project. And the more successes you have, the worse this feeling gets. The end result is usually metric fuck-ton of anxiety and it makes sufferers hesitant to call any kind of attention to their work.  It’s fucking bullshit.

7.) That one Maya Angelou quote is 3012% accurate. The quote I’m talking about is: “When people show you who they are, believe them.” I have a tendency to take people at their word. I’m rarely suspicious of anyone’s motives, and if they say something that sounds reasonable, I believe them. Some might (and probably have) called me naïve or gullible. You know what? I’m not even going to argue that. I could have saved myself years of heartache, grief, anxiety, and second-guessing myself if I’d a.) come across this quote sooner and b.) paid attention to it. I think we’ve all had people in our lives who purportedly had our best interests at heart, cared for us, and only wanted to help or see us succeed. Yet, so often, their actions were at odds with what they said. And if questioned, they’d always have a reasonable explanation for whatever troublesome thing they did. If you’re particularly naïve or gullible, that bullshit can turn into some next level gaslighting.

8.) Listen to your gut. No, I mean it. Really listen. If something or someone feels off, even the tiniest bit, pay attention to that feeling. I’m not suggesting that every twinge you get about a person means they’re an axe murderer. But you know how you sometimes meet people and they seem super great, (and some of them totally are, btw–those usually aren’t the ones you get twinges about) but you get this weird little feeling in the back of your mind or the pit of your stomach? Or even if everyone else really likes a person, but some indefinable thing about them rubs you the wrong way? Listen to those things. I’m not saying you need to run away and shun them, but maybe that’s a cue to slow down and observe this person a bit more before including them in your inner circle. Those little twinges are rarely wrong.

Okay, that’s it for Bron’s Life Lessons, today. Be sure to check out what Jess, Deelylah, Kris, and Gwen wish they’d learned earlier.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Spring Where I Live

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Things are only just now starting to get green in the area of Michigan where I live, but the flowers are finally blooming and soon my lilac bushes will be, too, and I’ll be in heaven. But for now, I have wood violets, grape hyacinths, regular hyacinths, daffodils, and the crab apple blossoms.

What’s is like where you are? Be sure to check out Jess, Deelylah, and Kris‘ spring, too!

Flash Fiction #56 – Ever the Same

flashficsong

Okay, so we’ve got to new blogger for the flash fiction posts–please welcome Siobhan Muir! Yay, Siobhan, we’re glad to have you!

This month’s song fic is Ever the Same by Rob Thomas. Here’s the video and here are the lyrics if you’re interested.

Laughter bubbled from her, and she clapped her hand over her mouth–as if she were just as unfamiliar with the sound as he was. Her hazel eyes sparkled with bits of brown and copper and gold mixing with brilliant green as they captured his gaze. He couldn’t look away from her. How had he ever thought she was plain? He  was obviously a fucking idiot.

“Hey, after we clean up here, why don’t we…” he began, but his words died as soon as they hit the air.

Her eyes widened, fixed and unblinking as she stared over his shoulder.  The blood drained from her face almost as fast as her smile faded. Her head dropped and she appeared to stare at the table between them, but he could see she was staring through the curtain of her hair. Glancing behind him, he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, and he turned back to her.

“Are you okay?” he asked, laying a hand on her arm.

She jerked her arm away from him as if she’d touched a live wire. Her gaze flew briefly to  his. Her pupils had blown so wide they’d all but swallowed the irises, and her breath was far too rapid and shallow. Her fingers had turned white from clutching so tightly to her phone. “I have to go. I’ll text your driver. I’m sorry…I can’t–”

Whatever she couldn’t do, he wasn’t going to find out any time soon. She was race-walking toward the bookstore exit, and there wasn’t a goddamn thing he could do about it, he still needed to finish the Q&A portion of the evening. As much as he wanted to chase after her, he couldn’t. These people had waited here all night. He glanced down. Her purse was still under the table.

He texted her, but there was nothing from her, and it seemed to take forever to finish answering questions for the assembled readers. Thankfully, he’d signed the bookstore stock earlier in the evening, so he could just grab his rucksack and Eliza’s purse and go. He continued to text her, but there was no response. He had no idea if she wasn’t getting his messages or was just ignoring him. As soon as he cleared the building, he started calling her. And as he expected, the calls went straight to voicemail.

As soon as he was in his room, he tossed his backpack and her purse on his bed, went to the doors of their adjoining rooms and knocked. No answer. “Eliza?” Nothing. He called her again. She didn’t answer, but he heard the muted sound of her phone ringing. She’d at least been there.

Worry sat like a boulder in his gut and he knocked again. What if she needed help? Crossing the room, he grabbed her purse rifling through it until he found her wallet. Her keycard was inside where he’d hoped it was. She must have gotten another card from the front desk. Heart in his throat, he walked into the hallway and knocked on the outer door. When where was no response, he called out, “Eliza, I’m coming in.”

Sliding the key into the slot, he sighed in relief when the lights flashed green and the lock disengaged. He pushed open the door and felt around for the lightswitch in the darkened room. When the overhead light flickered to life, there was no sign of her. The blackout curtains had been drawn, the bed was neatly made, and the bathroom was empty. He looked around for her phone thinking there might be some clue there as to where she’d gone. When he didn’t see it, he called her again.

He startled slightly as her ringtone sounded right next to him then was silenced. He turned and slowly opened the closet door. Elliza was huddled in the corner on the floor. Clutching her phone so tightly her hands shook, she glanced up at him, eye wide and face tear-stained. Her breath still came too frantic and fast.

His heart ached at the expression on her face. How many times had he seen that same haunted look on his sister’s face? Moving slowly, he stepped into the closet and sank to the floor, squeezing in next to Eliza. He slid the door along the track, closing them away from the light, and pulled her into his arms. She was stiff for an endless moment, then she sank into him, burrowing close, but she continued to tremble and gasp.

He pulled her over his lap to sit between to sit between his thighs and drew his legs up so they bracketed her. Her skin was chilled and clammy against him. Keeping his arms wrapped tightly around her, he pressed a kiss to the back of her head, and murmured, “It’s okay. I’ve got you.”

She took a shuddering breath that nearly broke his heart. “I — I’m sorry.”

“Shh. You’ve nothing to feel sorry for. But you need to slow your breathing before you pass out.” He took a long, slow breath, letting her feel the rise and fall of his chest against her back. “I want you to match your breathing to mine, okay?”

She nodded jerkily, hot tears splashing onto his forearms.

He took another deep measured breath and held it for a few seconds, hopeful as she tried to do the same. “Just focus on my voice and and the sound of my breathing. Those are the only things I want you to think about, now.”

She nodded again, still shivering almost violently.

He continued with his drawn out, exaggerated inhalations, quietly encouraging her as she gradually relaxed into him.

“Do you want to talk?”

She tensed.

“It’s okay. We don’t have to.” He smoothed his hands up and down her arms. “Whatever you need. I’m here.”

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ posts: Kris, Jess, Deelylah, Paige, Siobhan, and Gwen.

Promptly Penned: Complete Douchebag

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Prompt: “Wow. Can we just pretend, for one second, that you’re not a complete douchebag?”

So this prompt fits a story that I’m working on really well, so I’m just going to  throw it at these characters and see what happens.

 

Eliza spotted her charge in one of the glass elevators, descending from the twenty-seventh floor, looking for all the world like he was still half asleep. Though, when the doors opened and he stalked into the lobby, he looked less sleepy and more surly.

Oh, good. The diva behavior continues. This is shaping up to be a banner fucking day. “The driver’s out front.”

Angus grunted in response as he walked past her toward the revolving door. At least, she assumed it was in response. For all she knew, that could be his way of saying “good morning”. Or “fuck off”. She knew which was more likely.

Whoever said “never meet your heroes” must have been talking about Angus. And it was just her damn luck she’d been assigned to babysit him.

Following him outside, she pointed out the black SUV the publishing house had hired. He got in and immediately shut the door, leaving her to go around the other side of the vehicle. And of course, it had to be the kind she was too short to climb into comfortably. Or gracefully.

Once she was seated, the driver pulled through the half circle drive and onto the street past hordes of convention-goers, many, if not most, cosplaying their favorite characters and waiting in line for the doors to open.

Angus blinked blearily at the lines of people then sat up and turned toward her, his expression equal parts confused and accusatory. “Where are we going? I thought the whole point of staying at that particular hotel was because the con was being held there.

Eliza took a deep, slow breath, held it for a couple seconds, then slowly let it go, trying to release the sudden stress spike with it. “That is why we’re staying there. But, with all the other con guests, the hotel couldn’t accommodate your reader breakfast, so we had to book the—”

“My what, now?”

She stared at him, growing sense of dread curdling her stomach. “Your reader breakfast.”

His dark brows drew together, and annoyance gave way to confusion. He was still ridiculously gorgeous. But every time he opened his mouth, that fact was getting easier to ignore by the second.

She crossed her arms over her chest. It was either that or strangle him. “Just out of morbid curiosity, when’s the last time you actually read a message from your editor? Or your publisher?” When he didn’t respond, she continued. “The breakfast was also listed on the schedule I gave you last night…which obviously, you couldn’t be bothered to read.”

“Nope. It’s still laying on my desk with my room key.”

“Wow. Can we just pretend, for one second, that you’re not a complete douchebag?”

He glared at her. “I don’t know. Can we also pretend that you’re not a ball-busting bitch?”

She stared at him, biting back every last thing she wanted to say. Things that would likely get her fired before the end of the day.

“No?” he continued. “Didn’t think so.”

Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyou!

Swallowing her internal scream, she maintained eye contact. “Eight a.m.: reader breakfast. 11 a.m.:panel: Near Future Sci-Fi — Genre of the Future or Too Close to Reality?” 

“Wait…I’m on that panel? I don’t even write Near Future Sci-Fi.

Eliza smiled sweetly. “Huh. Guess maybe you should read your email more often.”

That’s it for me this week. Now, I’m off to see what the other bloggers came up with for this prompt. Jess, Gwen, Kris, and Deelylah.

Top 10 Ways to Lose Me as a Reader

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Once upon a time, I finished every book I started. Then, I realized that my time is more precious than that. And once I drop an author mid-book, with very few exceptions, I don’t usually pick them back up again. But here are some ways to lose me as a reader of romance.

I’m focusing specifically on romance since that’s mostly what I write and a lot of what I read. Also, these are in no particular order. I hate them all equally.

10.) Awkward Dialogue.  If dialogue is consistently clunky, stilted unrealistic, or otherwise unfortunate, I’ll tap out. I know that sounds picky, but I read to escape into other worlds. But I can’t fully immerse myself in a story if the dialogue is bad.

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I did a dialogue presentation at my local writers group last summer and then uploaded it as a series of blog posts. If you’re interested in listening to me rant, you can find part one here.

9.) Too Stupid to Live (TSTL) Characters. This is a special breed of character. They’re especially prevalent in paranormal romance and romantic suspense, and even more frustrating, 99 times out of 100, the character is female. This is the character who proclaims herself to be strong, independent and self-sufficient. She can take care of herself, goddamn it. She’s also the target of a coven of angry witches/a pack of werewolves/a nest of vampires/a collection of mafia assassins/crooked cops or all of the above. The hero inevitably warns her that she shouldn’t leave the safe house/meet up with that sketchy sounding dude who says he’s got info on the real killer/go to Taco Bell. Our TSTL character does all of those things. Why? Because she needs to prove that she’s all kinds of independent, doesn’t need a man, etc. She doesn’t need a man. However, she does need is a fucking brain. Just because that advice came from a dude doesn’t mean that it’s categorically bad. Inevitably, the heroine goes out and does something dangerous because she’s got something to prove. And equally inevitably, she ends up needing the hero to rescue her. Prove your independence and ability to care for yourself some other way, and quit making stupid fucking choices.

Sometimes, characters take risks and go out in the middle of a witch-vamp-shifter-hitman-dirty cop-covered minefield. But it’s because the situation calls for it. If they don’t risk themselves something even worse could happen. But not to make a damn point.

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8.) Alphaholes. Why?!  Why are these bag-of-dicks characters still a thing?! WHY are these “men” considered romance hero material?! Let’s looks at the alphaphole checklist: Bitter and jaded about women and love? Check. Misogynistic? Check. Self-absorbed and mostly concerned about matters of the dick? Check. Tortured past? Check. Manipulative as fuck? Check. Considers heroine his property which voids her ability to speak to other men ever, wear clothing/have occupation/hobbies/thoughts he doesn’t approve of? Check. Check. Check. And super check.

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7.) Character Inconsistency. Now, I’m not saying that characters shouldn’t grow and change during the course of a story. That’s expected. Desirable, even. The thing I have a big old problem with is when a character is established in the beginning of a story begins acting utterly completely opposite to what’s been demonstrated as their personality. Certainly, there are things that will cause a person to react in a way that’s a little out of the norm. But when the characters personalities are like pendulums, swinging wildly out of control, from one extreme to the other, with absolutely no discernable reason for the seeming multiple personalities, I’ve gotta put that book down and back away.

I think I just had a bit of an epiphany as to why that happens, and if you’re still reading my rantiness, I’m about to share. I think that sometimes, the characters and the plot an author comes up with don’t mesh as well as the writer anticipated they would. And in an attempt to keep the plot going in the direction the author wants to, the characters are forced to react to each other/the environment/story events in a way that keeps their idea for the plot on track. The problem is, those characters are behaving in a way that’s utterly inconsistent with what’s already been written. The characters are basically being sacrificed for in order to adhere to the plot.

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6.) Same Freaking Characters – Somewhat Different Plot. I think all writers have certain character types that they gravitate toward, and that’s cool. I know I do. I like writing academics or creative types – I have a lot of those. I’ve also written the occasional therapist, cop, sportsball player, carpenter, knight, barista, accountant, musician – oh, I guess that’s a creative type, DNR officer, business person, vampire hunter, priest, doctor, detective, god, librarian, costume director, well, you get the idea. There’s a lot of variety here. And I think their personalities are all pretty varied, too.

Now, I’m not talking about series here,  but sometimes, it seems like authors get in ruts where all they write are characters who are billionaires. Or military or former military characters. Or professors. Or writers. Or some form or current or former law enforcement. Or a cowboys. Or fashion designers. Or psychics. Or librarians. Again, I’m not talking series. But just the same kinds of characters popping up over and over.

The same can be said of character types, too. All the guys are alpha and cocky. All the women are kickass, take no shit types. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but if those are the only characters an author’s writing they can get a little stale after a while. Women are strong in myriad ways. Strength doesn’t always have to be about badassery.

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5.) Misandry Disguised as Feminism.  And while I’m on the subject of strong women, I want to touch on feminism in romance for a minute. I fucking love seeing (and writing) feminist characters–both female and male (and gender nonconforming) in my fiction. But here’s something I don’t love. I don’t love when authors confuse or conflate feminism with misandry.  While a feminist can certainly be a misandrist, they’re not always one and the same.  There are some writers who consistently write female protagonists who constantly bitch about men who are lazy, stupid, juvenile, selfish, worthless, pretty to look at–but that’s about it. The characters in the books I’m thinking of aren’t talking about a specific man for whom these things might be true. These are sweeping generalizations leveled at all men, including the love interest. Sorry, but I’m not buying that HEA. Misandry  is no better than misogyny, and I’m not here for any of it.

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4.) Head Hopping. Head hopping makes me stabby. So. Very. Stabby. Pick a point of view and stay there for the scene. Or better yet, the chapter. If you’re switching mid-scene, you’d better have a damn good reason. If you’re writing a romance I want to know what the main characters are thinking in their separate scenes. If it’s important to know about his BFF’s feels, s/he can tell us, out loud with dialogue. Same for parents, taxi drivers, random relatives, coworkers, etc.

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3.) Character Expectation vs. Reality. This falls under show don’t tell, and you see it most often with either character self description or description by the love interests. Often a character’s description of their love interest has no basis in reality. Like take Christian Grey’s description of Ana – brilliant, amazing, remarkable. NOPE. Sorry, Christian. There’s nothing in the text to support those descriptors. Ana is as boring, and honestly, not the brightest. I suppose you could say she’s remarkably weak-willed, but that’s about it.

Then there are the characters who self-describe as strong, independent women who love their jobs/hobbies/whatever and wouldn’t give them up for anything because whatever it is, is intrinsic to who they are as people. But, as soon as there’s interest from a man, all those things that were important to them? The very core of their personality? Gone. For the rest of the story, there’s no indication those traits were ever there.

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2.) Mostly Telling–Very Little Showing. When I was working as an acquisitions editor, I’d see a lot of manuscripts that relied on “telling” as their predominant narrative form. Don’t tell me that the airlock malfunctioned and everyone on the ship was terrified of getting sucked into the cold vacuum of space. Show me their fear – their cold sweat, the dude in the corner hyperventilating, burning up precious oxygen, and the woman who knocks him unconscious for the good of the many. Show me the tiny crack in the heavy tempered glass window, getting bigger and spiderwebbing faster and faster as it spreads across the surface making that ominous little tink-tink-tink-tink sound. Show me what’s happening so I can feel it.

This is an issue in all genres of fiction, but I find it especially problematic in romance. The author is asking the reader to take a journey with them–the journey of watching this couple (or grouping if it’s a ménage or poly novel) overcome their obstacles and fall in love. In order to do that effectively, the author needs to show us what the characters are feeling and experiencing. Don’t tell me he was more nervous than he’d ever been. Tell me that there were so many butterflies careening through his stomach, it lurched and for a second, he was afraid he was going to vomit as she answered the door.

It’s all in the details–and this goes for sweet romance as well as erotic. If the reader doesn’t see and understand what the character is feeling, there won’t be any connection with the characters. Don’t tell. Be like this little demon spawn and show.

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1.) Including Plot Elements Simply Because They’re Popular. This is when an author shoehorns in random things that really have nothing to do with the plot and don’t fit the characters at all. They just seem to be included in an attempt to boost sales. (Now, this may not be the case at all, but that’s how the stories read.) Examples of things I’ve see included in stories where they didn’t seem to belong and didn’t work at all with the narrative/plot/characters. Navy SEALS, over the top tragic backstories, BDSM, motorcycle clubs, stereotypical gay best friend, a stalker, sex clubs/dungeons, etc.

There are plenty of books where any of these elements work perfectly fine sometimes even together (just not all of them at once, please). But like anything else, any element included in hopes of boosting sales/popularity/visibility must be in tune with the characters and the rest of the plot.

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Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ lists to find out what makes them ditch books and authors. Jess, Kris, Gwen, and Deelylah.

Flash Fiction #55 – Steampunk Dude

 

Octavia turned up the flame in the gas lantern mounted on the wall of the subterranean workshop.  There was barely enough light to see, but she couldn’t risk bringing her work upstairs. If the guild realized what she was attempting to do, they’d stop her. And she couldn’t let that happen–not when she was so close.

Sliding her goggles over her eyes, she turned on her headlamp then wiped her greasy hands on her oilcloth apron. The last thing she needed to do was drop the soldering iron and bust it before she had a chance to use it. Activating the tiny hydraulic arm that swung the magnifying glass back and forth, she moved it out of her way so she could focus on securing it to the base, careful not to let the solder bead up and run onto his skin. Jules was already injured so badly, she didn’t want to make it worse by burning him with molten metal.

It was possible he wouldn’t feel anything no matter what she did. Sudden tears clogged her throat, but she swallowed hard, forcing them away and focused on her repairs.

Once his favorite accessory was secure–he’d be furious if he woke up and couldn’t use it–she gently pushed his hair from his face, exposing the tiny gears that now worked to open and close his left eye. Swapping out the soldering iron for a set of miniature screwdrivers, she made infinitesimal tension adjustments to the the roller chain around the helical cogwheels, until they spun without sticking.

The sound of metal hitting stone echoed above her, and she startled, dropping the screwdriver. It rolled under the workbench Jules sat motionless on.

“Octavia!” he father roared.

She glanced toward the tiny window set high in the heavy wood door. Lights bobbed as her father and several other guild members descended the steep stairwell. She was out of time. Dropping to her knees, she quickly turned the large clock key that protruded from Jules’ chest. It took both hands and all of her strength to fully wind it.

Fists pounded against the aged wood, almost drowning out the sound of the clockwork heart ticking to life. Jules slowly lifted his head, and her hands fell away from him as she sat back on her heels. Lifting his hand, he adjusted the magnifying glass and peered around the room, his left eye opening and closing perfectly.

“Jules?”

Tracking the sound of her voice, he turned toward her and stared, slowly blinking. There was no recognition. He saw her, but there was nothing there. Nothing left of her Jules.

That’s it for me today. Be sure to check out the other photo flash fic by clicking the names: Jess, Kris, Deelylah, and Kayleigh.

Writing Fears and Anxieties

Apparently, it’s time for another episode of Therapy with Bron.

It’s totally cool to back out of the room now. Honestly, I probably won’t even notice. I’ll just assume you were looking for the bathroom or something. Maybe you were trying to find the kitchen? I did just make cookies.

Oh? You’re still here?

*passes the cookies*

Okay, so…writing fears and anxieties. I have quite a few, but I’m willing to bet that they’re not all that different from other writers’ issues. We all seem to have a fuckton of them.

I feel like this is one of those topics I could go on and on about ad nauseum, so I’m just going to stick to the biggest, doomiest ones, otherwise we’ll all be here for ages.

So, in the fear and anxiety round-up, there’s the ever popular:

I’ll never have another good idea again.

This one usually hits as I’m about 3/4 of the way through a book. There a little voice that whispers, “This is it. The last book you’ll ever write. You sure you wanna finish it?”

I hate that voice. That voice is a total asshole. Also, that voice is dumb, because the voice and I both know that I have pages and pages of ideas. But somehow, that voice gets me to listen to it, and I suddenly think all the ideas I’d previously loved are shit. Stupid voice.

The people who buy and positively review or otherwise say nice things about my books are just doing it because they’re being kind.

This is a popular one in my head. Like I’m the author version of that kid with the lemonade stand on the corner. You know the one…he was always kinda grubby and sticky-looking and you hoped that he’d just spilled some of the lemonade on himself and got sticky that way. Because you really didn’t want to think about him actually making the lemonade. And the lemonade itself was always weak tasting and uncomfortably warm–but you bought it anyway, ’cause you felt bad for that grubby, sticky kid.

That’s a really long way of saying that sometimes, I’m afraid I’m that grubby, sticky kid on the corner who people feel sorry for, but instead of questionable lemonade, they’re buying books.

I’m a fraud, and someday, my secret will be out, and everyone will know.

This is the garden variety imposter syndrome that I think most authors probably face. It’s that clawing feeling that no matter how well I do, it’s not because I’ve worked hard to learn my craft or have dedicated tons of time and effort writing these books. Nope. It’s all because of some cosmic misalignment of the stars, and when everything goes back to how it’s supposed to be, I’ll be here like this:unnamedAnd everyone will know that I’ve just been faking this whole time.

Okay, so that’s probably more of my neuroses than anyone can comfortably handle in one day, so I say we should all go troop over to Jess and Kris‘ blogs and see what kind of cookies and anxieties they have going on.

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