On being thankful

This Thanksgiving will be the first in, well, ever that my family has been incomplete. The first time my son, a college junior, can’t come home, not even for a day or two, because he’s currently on the other side of the Atlantic. Strangely enough, the French consider the fourth Thursday in November to be just any other jeudi. Evan has classes, and so I have to figure out how to celebrate the holiday without him in it.

For me, that means planning an unconventional celebration. One that includes plane tickets and hotel rooms and restaurant reservations. Someone else will plan and cook the meal. Someone else will be polishing the silver and setting the table. But it seems more than appropriate, considering 1/4 of my family is on the other side of the planet, that we don’t gather around mine.

This doesn’t mean our Thanksgiving is cancelled, only postponed, or that I’m not thankful every day, because I am. For my friends and family, for my community of writers and their never-ending support, for my readers who seem to genuinely like me and my story, for the fact that I get to sit around in my pajamas all day and make stuff up for a living. Maybe that’s the lesson here — that giving thanks shouldn’t only happen a year.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Do Not Disturb (Writer Writing)

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This is me. Except that, you know, it’s not. (freedigitalphotos.net)

I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month!

This is my first year doing the challenge. I’m excited and hopeful and motivated and kicking a$$, and I have a good team of supporters cheering me on.

Anyway, since right now so many words need to go toward my WIP, I’m leaving only these few here today. I will tell you all about my experience next month.

Wish me luck!

Are you participating? I’m jdwrites if you’d like to connect over at NaNo.

The Passion Planner — It’s Not What You Think!

I’ve been taking an amazing life class called Becoming 360 which was created by the Uplevel Your Life/Uplevel Your Business coach, Christine Kane. I’ll tell you about the class one day soon, but what I want to talk about today is the Passion Planner.

It’s not what you think.

Recently, one of the women in the Becoming 360 private Facebook group posted a link to the Passion Planner 2015 Calendar and of course, I had to check it out.

It’s actually a weekly calendar designed to be a life coach that fits in your backpack…and I fell in love with it at first sight.

Passion Planner Calendar

Passion Planner Calendar

It’s designed to help manage your time, assist with goal setting, journaling, includes inspirational quotes and, well, I can’t do it justice. Just click on the Passion Planner link and check it out for yourself. There’s even a couple of sample pages that you can download so you can test it out and see if it’ll suit your needs and help you on whatever journey you’re on.

I’ve always used an informal system to track my time, but this calendar has everything I use on a daily basis, and it’s all in one place instead of scattered all over my desk.

What kind of work or planning calendar do you use?

Watch Out for Flying Pigs!

Why, you ask? Because for the first time ever, I’m sharing a recipe on Women Unplugged. It’s not that I don’t like to share, but I’m not exactly known for my cooking. But if I had a signature recipe, a recipe others routinely requested, it would be this. Pumpkin Bread.medium_5274906480

That’s it? Pumpkin bread? Pumpkin bread recipes are a dime a dozen. Yes, I know. But this one is better. Guaranteed. Go ahead and make it and see if I’m wrong… You can thank me later ;)

Pumpkin Bread:

1 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar (a little less if you add white chocolate chips)
1 cup cooked, mashed or canned pumpkin
2/3 cup water
1 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
1 bag white chocolate chips (optional, but why wouldn’t you?? Dark may also be substituted, but white is better)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, flour and sugar in large mixing bowl. Add the pumpkin, water, oil, and eggs and mix well. Spray or grease three 11 to 13 ounce coffee cans (or loaf pans) and divide the batter evenly among the cans or pans.

Bake for one hour or more, until brown or until a bamboo skewer comes out clean. Stand the cans upright on a rack for 15 minutes. Invert cans and remove the bread. Serve warm or stand the break upright on a rack and cool and wrap. Can also be made as muffins or even sheet cake.

Savor this moment, WU fans. It won’t happen again :)
photo credit: mccun934 via photopin cc

Stock Photos and Diversity

Two babies hugging, one black and one white.

This is the closest I could find to a multicultural couple on freeimages.com.

(Trigger warning for racism.)

One of the most fun (and sometimes frustrating) things about indie publishing is searching stock photo sites for book cover images. If all my characters were straight white people, this would be way more fun than frustration. There are thousands of images to choose from, for heat levels ranging from sweet to erotic.

But I also write gay and multicultural romance, and it’s like banging my head against a rock.

Clinch photos of gay men don’t exist. The men may be side by side, back to back, front to back, gazing at each other, holding hands, or kissing—but the traditional romance cover pose? No. Forget about it.

Also, it’s no secret that man chest and ripped abs sell romance novels. If you want a guy alone who’s got that going on, it’s no problem. But if you want two guys in a photo looking like they’re attracted to each other? They’re like, dude, what’s a gym? Or they’re well-muscled and over 40, while my characters are in the new adult range.

As annoying as all that is, the situation is even worse when it comes to multicultural couples. Stock photos of romantic couples featuring Asians of all ethnicities are scarce. And as you might expect, the number of photos of blacks is disproportionately lower than for whites.

In fairness, many of the photographers who contribute to stock photo sites are in Eastern Europe. So, if your photos feature mainly Caucasians, but you live in Caucasia, you get a pass. Otherwise, no.

As Courtney Milan wrote on her blog, even more shameful than the limited number of photos of blacks is the content. The black women in “romantic” stock photos are much more likely (on a percentage basis) to be nude or topless or wearing sheer fabric that leaves little to the imagination.

Also, black women in “romantic” poses are far  more likely than white women to be holding a gun on their partner. As in, among the handful of images of black women, there were several showing them holding a gun, but none among the thousands of images I’ve found of white women.

Saddest of all is how little any of this surprises me. I’ve lived long enough to expect this. I’ve also lived long enough to be running out of patience. This situation is unacceptable.

But it’s also a huge opportunity for photographers, especially those just starting out. If you know a photographer, spread the word. Indie authors need more images of gay men and people of color (and gay people of color).

People of all ethnicities read romance. They all deserve to see images of people who look like them on book covers. Fifteen years into the twenty-first century, this should not continue to be an issue. We can do better, and we should.

Have you noticed a lack of diversity on romance book covers? What do you think authors and readers can or should do about it? 

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