Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Medieval Holy Week and Easter



It is now Passion Week and we are in the last stretches of the Triduum, the three days prior to the feast of the Resurrection or Easter, which includes Holy Thursday, commemorating the institution of the Eucharist; Good Friday, the day Jesus died; and Saturday, the Easter Vigil, the mass where catechumens are initiated into the Church and Easter is awaited. Lent ends on Holy Thursday but these three days are still a solemn celebration.

Easter. The Venerable Bede, an English saint and historian of the 8th century, tells us that the term comes from a Teutonic goddess of dawn and spring. However, the Greeks used pascha, originally having nothing to do with the verb paschein, "to suffer," but later writers preferred the symbolic association. In fact, it comes from the Aramaic dialect of the Hebrew pesach which means Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Jesus made much of that when he explained the Eucharist at the Passover Seder with his Apostles (Jesus symbolically associated himself as the new Moses, delivering the people not from an earthly bondage but from a sinful one; he is the manna from heaven, etc.)

Want to know how to calculate when Easter is? According to the Roman Catholic Church, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox, which is the 14th day of a tabular lunation (new moon). Got it? But in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine wanted to make sure that Easter was a separate holy day from anything Jewish (God forbid that the Jewish Savior have anything relating to his own faith. And I include a big chunk of it just so you get the whole feel for the time period):

When the question relative to the sacred festival of Easter arose, it was universally thought that it would be convenient that all should keep the feast on one day; for what could be more beautiful and more desirable, than to see this festival, through which we receive the hope of immortality, celebrated by all with one accord, and in the same manner? It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom [the calculation] of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded. In rejecting their custom, (1) we may transmit to our descendants the legitimate mode of celebrating Easter, which we have observed from the time of the Saviour's Passion to the present day [according to the day of the week]. 

We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews, for the Saviour has shown us another way; our worship follows a more legitimate and more convenient course (the order of the days of the week); and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast. How can they be in the right, they who, after the death of the Saviour, have no longer been led by reason but by wild violence, as their delusion may urge them? They do not possess the truth in this Easter question; for, in their blindness and repugnance to all improvements, they frequently celebrate two passovers in the same year. We could not imitate those who are openly in error. How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are most certainly blinded by error? for to celebrate the passover twice in one year is totally inadmissible. But even if this were not so, it would still be your duty not to tarnish your soul by communications with such wicked people [the Jews]. Besides, consider well, that in such an important matter, and on a subject of such great solemnity, there ought not to be any division. Our Saviour has left us only one festal day of our redemption, that is to say, of his holy passion, and he desired [to establish] only one Catholic Church. Think, then, how unseemly it is, that on the same day some should be fasting whilst others are seated at a banquet; and that after Easter, some should be rejoicing at feasts, whilst others are still observing a strict fast. 

For this reason, a Divine Providence wills that this custom should be rectified and regulated in a uniform way; and everyone, I hope, will agree upon this point. As, on the one hand, it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord; and as, on the other, the custom now followed by the Churches of the West, of the South, and of the North, and by some of those of the East, is the most acceptable, it has appeared good to all; and I have been guarantee for your consent, that you would accept it with joy, as it is followed at Rome, in Africa, in all Italy, Egypt, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Libya, in all Achaia, and in the dioceses of Asia, of Pontus, and Cilicia. You should consider not only that the number of churches in these provinces make a majority, but also that it is right to demand what our reason approves, and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews. 

To sum up in few words: By the unanimous judgment of all, it has been decided that the most holy festival of Easter should be everywhere celebrated on one and the same day, and it is not seemly that in so holy a thing there should be any division. As this is the state of the case, accept joyfully the divine favour, and this truly divine command; for all which takes place in assemblies of the bishops ought to be regarded as proceeding from the will of God. Make known to your brethren what has been decreed, keep this most holy day according to the prescribed mode; we can thus celebrate this holy Easter day at the same time, if it is granted me, as I desire, to unite myself with you; we can rejoice together, seeing that the divine power has made use of our instrumentality for destroying the evil designs of the devil, and thus causing faith, peace, and unity to flourish amongst us. May God graciously protect you, my beloved brethren.

Except, of course, by about 1000 AD, there was the Great Schism and we have a Western Roman Church and the Eastern Orthodox, who celebrate Easter on different days. So take that, Constantine!


Eggs as a symbol of spring and renewal have been around a long time. Hebrews used the egg as well as doves and lambs as temple offerings, which is why the egg is one of the symbols on the Passover Seder plate. The egg was later adapted by Christians as a resurrection symbol of a tomb with new life emerging. On medieval tables, eggs were left off of the menu during Lent and preserved for the Easter season (fifty days following Easter up unto Pentecost—oops. Pentecost or Shavuoth is also a Jewish festival celebrating when Moses received the Law from God. Following those pesky Jews again. Can’t escape it, apparently. Well, they did because Christians absconded with the holiday and now celebrate is as the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter.)

During the Middle Ages came the emergence of the Passion Play, sort of the first theatrical performances done by the laity post Christian era before this re-evolved into theatre as we know it (the Greeks had theatre as we know it but after Christianity took over, these sorts of things—heroic epics, love stories, strong women—were looked on as pagan and not to be emulated. Performing religious plays about Jesus and other biblical persons and events were acceptable, though they got more and more elaborate as time went on.) Medieval Passion Plays are still performed in Europe, the most famous of which is the one performed in Oberammergau, Germany, though it’s first performance was in 1633, taking it decidedly out of the medieval era but with the spirit of the medieval version. Plagues, the Hundred Years War, all caused a great deal of suffering. The community vowed to perform the Passion of Jesus every ten years in thankfulness of their survival in all this suffering and they have done so. It has not been without controversy, however. They struggled in the last few decades under an anti-Semitic stigma and many Jews and Christians alike called for it to be pulled or at least revamped. Eventually, it was reworked though the anti-Semitic overtones of the passion itself are hard to overlook. Jews do come off as the bad guys. 

Anyway, the Catholic Church falls all over itself these days denying Constantine's diatribe, and even as the Passion is read at mass, they explain in strong words that the Jews must not be considered the bad guys. Let's put blame on the Romans where it belongs. 

Easter as celebrated in the Middle Ages was as solemn as one might expect. Life followed the Church cycles. Feast days were celebrated, well…religiously. This was entertainment, community, something fun after the dreariness of winter. You got days off of work! Very important. And even though there was a distinction in classes, everyone celebrated the same thing at mostly the same time. And as always, processions were a big part of the community event. After the Easter season ends with Pentecost, we are back to the liturgical calendar’s ordinary time, where only the occasional feast day pops up to stave off the boredom of spring, summer, and early fall when it begins again with the coming of Advent.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Summer I Spent At The Library

It's no secret that I don't make a lot of dough. Neither my husband and I would call ourselves "comfortable." And in the summer, it gets mighty hot here. Three-digit-temps-for-days-on-end hot. Our electric bill shoots up from $140 a month to $400 a month--for about three months straight. That is no laughing matter.

So my plan one year when we were particularly poor not too many years ago, was to spend my days at our local library...in THEIR air conditioning and wait till about five or six in the evening to go home and turn on ours.

And it was a good plan. I had it worked out. I would bring my laptop and some secret snacks and set myself up. I had earphones and could plug myself into Pandora to cut the ambient noise and concentrate on my writing.

Now I've always been a fan of libraries. As a kid living in Los Angeles, my mom would take us every other week to the local libraries where we got to find all sorts of marvelous books and TAKE THEM HOME! What a concept! And every once in a while, we'd take the trip downtown to the Los Angeles Main Library, with its WPA murals and walls of card index catalogs, all those brass knobs. Yeah, the olden days before computers, folks.

The Los Angeles Main Library.

Libraries were places I did my initial research for my medieval mysteries before I stretched my researching muscles and headed to the local university to their library, where I could really dig in deep for the books I needed. I had to pay for a library card there because I wasn't a student, and it was part of the deal that if any student needed the book I checked out I had to return it tout suite. Fortunately, in my little corner of southern California, no one seemed to be a medieval history major. No one ever wanted the specialized books I checked out.

And then as a published author, I was invited to lots of different libraries for events--panels, discussions, luncheons--and got to see the marvelous variety out there. Some had theatres attached for community productions. Some had amazing fish tanks and enviable children's sections. Some had computer banks the likes of which were only once seen at NASA. Still others had chi-chi gift shops, passport offices, and Friends of the Library bookstores.

Seriously. This is the Cerritos Library children's section. 

But that summer I spent there taught me a lot. For one, a LOT of people are there all day. Seniors were there, who were probably doing the same thing I'm doing; then later in the morning, moms with their kids for storytime. And then I was surprised that still later in the afternoon, teens from high school showed up, doing research together or just studying. Wow. And all through the day, people coming to use the computers to apply for jobs or just use the internet (yeah, not everyone can afford it at home), and still others to watch movies on the computer. And yes, people just there to read. It's the whole community in miniature. I felt good being a part of it. I felt like...part of something bigger.

My local library.

That summer was not too long ago. I was a published author then, not making a whole lot. Still not. I might be making trips again to the library. Thank you, Librarians, for making everyone feel welcomed. Libraries prove time and again that they are an integral and necessary part of our society. Please support them.

Monday, April 1, 2019

April Fools



There are a lot of conjectures as to how we came to serve pranks on this day. Was it when the Gregorian calendar changed over from the Julian in the 1500's, confusing farmers on the proper day to start summer planting? A Roman winter festival? A Celtic spring festival? None of the above? All of the above? The fact of the matter is, no one knows for sure.

Perhaps it might be more helpful today to look at Fools themselves, the Jester kind, that is.

The origin of the court Fool or Jester is not medieval, but he certainly was a part of court life at this time. He can be likened to the comic actors of ancient Rome who were not necessarily attached to any particular household. The Chinese Imperial courts had clever men to poke the occasional jab at the nobles. Poets, musicians, and scholars were perhaps "discovered" and brought to court or in the homes of minor nobles. According to Fools Are Everywhere:The Court Jester Around the World by Beatrice K. Otto, "...a letter dated 26 January 1535/36 from Thomas Bedyll to Thomas Cromwell (ca. 1485-1540) recommends a possible replacement for the king's old jester:

Ye know the Kinges grace hath one old fole: Sexten as good as myght be whiche because of aige is not like to cotinew. I haue spied one yong fole at Croland whiche in myne opinion shalbe muche mor pleasaunt than euer Sexten was . . . and he is not past xv yere old.

Fuller's History of the Worthies of England (1662) gives an account of the recruiting of Tarlton, jester to Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603):

Here he was in the field, keeping his Father's Swine, when a Servant of Robert Earl of Leicester . . . was so highly pleased with his happy unhappy answers, that he brought him to Court, where he became the most famous Jester to Queen Elizabeth.

The most famous jester to me--besides Yorrick from Shakespeare's Hamlet, that is and Danny Kaye in one of my favorite films The Court Jester--was Will Somers, Henry VIII's jester (pictured above with an old Henry on the left). There isn't a great deal of information about his life and there was at least one book of historical fiction written about him that I recall when I was a kid. A man of infinite jest, was Will. In fact, I'm writing a medieval mystery series with Will as the unwilling detective. See the beginnings of that here.

May all your tom-foolery do as well today.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Most Frequently Asked Questions



It's inevitable. Readers get very excited to meet real authors and they have burning questions they gotta ask.

Whenever I’m at a bookstore, library, book club, book fest, or literary luncheon, there are a few questions I get asked all the time. One might even say like clockwork. I never mind answering them because each audience is new and they really do want to know the answers. Some are pretty standard, and some are downright goofy.

I’ve put together five and we’ll start with the fifth most asked question.

5. How long did it take you to get published?
This is a long answer, to a long situation. It took me fourteen years, all told. But I didn't just write ONE book and try to sell it for fourteen years. I was writing away, these historical novels. And while I was doing that, I was researching how the industry worked, and I found out I needed an agent, so I began my search. This was way back in 1992.

Turns out I was writing the wrong thing. I was writing historical novels, and the kind of historicals I wanted to write were not the kind that editors wanted to buy.  I didn’t like to concentrate on the kings and queens of England, but on fictional average people in extraordinary circumstances. After writing about twelve or so historical novels (and after three agents), I discovered that my choice of subject matter translated much better into mystery. After all, an average person, or a person such as Crispin Guest (the protagonist of my medieval mystery series) who was forced to be an average bloke, could be an effective detective while moving through the different levels of society with relative impunity.

In the meantime, I was writing about a book a year. And in that time I had several part time jobs. One of them was newspaper reporter. It's great training for being an author because it teaches you to cut to the quick, get to the point. I first sold stories to quirky magazines and then got a regular gig with my local papers, two dailies and several weeklies. I did that for eight years.

Time had marched on by then, and once I decided to switch to mystery, I discovered a world of other authors, indie bookstores, conventions, and professional organizations dedicated to mysteries that would help me limp along. I was no longer writing in a vacuum. It took me two years to develop Crispin Guest and the whole “medieval noir” milieu. Once I had that down and got in with my critique group of other historical mystery authors, things moved much more quickly and I was able to land my (fourth) agent and in two years get that contract from a big New York publisher.

4. Do I have a research assistant to do the research for me? And Bonus question, how long does it take you to write a book?
Hold on. Let me stop laughing first. This first question stems from two factors. Number one, readers think that authors make lots and lots of money.

They don’t.

In genre fiction, like mysteries, it takes at least five books out there on bookshelves (or more) before an author can even start to make a profit, and most of us still don’t make enough to live on. That’s because, for the majority of authors we just don’t sell enough books in enough numbers. Oh, you will always see mysteries and thrillers on the bestseller lists, but you will also notice that you see the same names over and over again, with few new additions. That’s because bestselling authors sell themselves at this point, whether that product is up to snuff or not. And a medieval mystery is not one of them. (There are the exceptions. If a well-known historical author decides to write an historical mystery, it is likely to get on the bestseller list because that audience is already primed.)

And number two, many readers think that researching is very hard and requires assistance. It isn’t and it doesn’t. In fact, if I had someone to do that work for me, I would miss out on some very interesting tidbits that one comes across when doing the reading oneself and scouring the footnotes. These are little items that get into my stories because they tickle my fancy. I don’t know if that is something that a research assistant would even ever show the author/client unless they knew each other well and recognized the sort of quirks that would interest the author.

But the fact is that I simply can’t afford a research assistant, or any kind of assistant for that matter. And I enjoy research. If you’re going to write historicals you’d better darn well enjoy snooping through dusty archives, chasing a trail down on the internet, or walking the stacks in a university library, because that’s what you’ll be spending a lot of time doing.

Which brings us to the bonus question: How long does it take to write a book? For me, longer, and longer these days. Look, I'm nearing my sixtieth year, and I'm slowing down. Somewhat. I mean, I still write two to three books a year, in two different genres. Writing series means that the same characters return for book after book—at that means producing at least one book a year in each series (I write a medieval mystery and a paranormal romance series, not to mention the other medieval mystery series I'm developing and more paranormal series I'm working on, too.) That keeps the readers reading and garners more readers when there is another chapter in the hero’s story to look forward to. Currently, because I am working on two books a year in two different series, I had to up the pace. But I still take one to two months of solid research time before I write one word, of either series. I’m pretty well up on the fourteenth century by now, the period in which my medieval novels take place, but there are always bits here and there, points of politics, real people I need to research, religious relics which play a prominent role in each book, and other bits I need to know about.

I used to develop the chapter by chapter outline of the book, but I can't seem to do that anymore. So I've become a pantser--that is, writing by the seat of my pants. Except I still mostly know where I'm going in any one book. I used to force myself to write at least ten pages a day, or about 3,000 words, but that doesn't work out for me and my attention span anymore. I give myself a deadline of FIVE pages and consider myself lucky to complete more. I edit along the way, so once the book is complete, it isn't the first draft, but many.

I used to like to write from about 9 am to about 3 pm, but nothing is straight forward anymore. The age thing. Hey, stuff changes, you know? Then I rewrite, give it to my husband to read (he reads all my work and comments. Every novel is dedicated to him) and used to send it off to my beta readers but don't do that anymore either, and then send it off to my agent—who might offer a few more suggestions for changes as well before he sends it to my editor...who will do still more changes.

So all told, I like to give myself at least nine months per book.

3. Now for a goofy question. Someone will inevitably come up to me and say, "I've got an idea, but I'm not a writer. How about I tell you the idea and YOU write it and we'll split the profits 50/50?"
How about we don't. For one, why is YOUR idea worth fifty percent of MY having to take the time and energy to write it? And two, I've got a million ideas. I don't need yours.

Bonus Goofy Question: Have I ever heard of you? I suppose if you have to ask the question, the answer would be no.

2. Is Crispin based on anyone you know?
No, he really isn’t. For those who aren’t familiar with the novels, Crispin Guest was once a knight and lord in the court of King Edward III, serving his liege lord John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster. When King Edward died, his son and heir, Edward of Woodstock (also known as the Black Prince) was already dead. That left the Black Prince's ten-year-old son to inherit the throne. There was talk about usurping the line of succession and putting Gaunt on the throne instead, and Crispin unwisely chose to throw in his lot with those fellows. The treasonous plot was uncovered in time, and all the other knights in the conspiracy were executed. Only Crispin was spared because of the pleas of his (innocent) mentor, Gaunt. Crispin’s life may have been spared, but all else was taken from him: his titles, his wealth, his status, everything that defined him. He had to reinvent himself on the streets of London as the “Tracker”, an investigator of crimes and finder of lost objects.


Except for his arrogant attitude, which is based on me, he is made up of whole cloth. He’s a bit of this and that. The dark broodiness of a Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, a bit of Errol Flynn in all those swash-buckling movies I loved, the cleverness and street smarts of Sam Spade from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (which is also where the idea for the relics and venerated objects comes from that populate the series), and a bit of that brave, clever man we all have in our imaginations. Throw in a dash of angst, something in his nature that makes female readers want to “save” him, and you’ve got an interesting character with an intricate enough backstory that can make him a long-lived character. 

And the number one asked question of any writer: 

1. Where do you get your ideas?
Where does anyone? I suppose some readers who can never imagine writing a story themselves think that writing a novel is a magical thing. And I admit, it is, rather. But because I’ve always written stories, even before I knew how to read and write (there’s where my sister became my assistant, so I suppose I did have one once.), it is second nature to me.

The whole idea of Crispin and this series developed, as I said, over a two-year period. I knew if I was to write a mystery that it would be a series with the same protagonist throughout. I wanted something different from your usual monk or nun detective, so I blended the idea of a hardboiled detective in a historical setting. It seems to work.

Crispin also has a sidekick, an apprentice. Now I never intended to have him in the story this long. He was going to appear in the first one and then disappear, but everyone liked him so much—my beta readers, my agent, my editor—that Jack Tucker—cutpurse street urchin, thief, and eleven-year-old orphan when we first meet him in Veil of Lies—that he became a permanent fixture in Crispin’s life. Which turned out to be a good thing, because he is a foil to Crispin’s poor attitude about his circumstances and a helpmate when it comes to investigating. He also grows up as the series progresses and we see him seasoning Crispin in his own maturing and mellowing. Currently, Jack Tucker is now in his early twenties with a wife and kids!

For my paranormal romance series, Booke of the Hidden, I dreamed it.

Yep. I had a dream of a woman named Kylie who finds this mystical book bricked up in her wall, and when she opened it, she released all manner of evil creatures into the world and it was her job to put them all back. I dreamed of the sexy demon of the Booke to be her love interest, and one of the local misfit Wiccans, Doc--a kindly old retired country doctor--who helps her out. And that was the whole basis. When I woke up from the dream I thought it was highly entertaining, and proceeded to tell my husband what I had just "seen." "Write. It. Down," he told me in no uncertain terms. So I went into my office and did, filling in the blank spots. Then I read the one page synopsis to him before he went off to work and he said, "Write. The. Book." So I did. All four of them. The third is set for release in May (Shadows in the Mist), and the fourth and last entry will be released in October (The Darkest Gateway).



Where do ideas come from? A lot come from that “what if” factor. What if a young woman finds a supernatural book and has to step up to the plate to capture paranormal creatures? What if there is this irresistible demon helping here whom she can't stop thinking about? What happens if there is an equally handsome and human sheriff in town, too? What would YOU do?

Or what if a disgraced knight were to try to make a living on the mean streets of fourteenth century London? What would he do? How would he cope? How does he reconcile who he once was to who he is now? And what happens when any particular religious relic falls into his hands? What sort of power does it have? How does it spin the story? Will it become very important to the plot or just a McGuffin, a side note? Will he fall in love? And with whom? What will prevent that love? Or not?

When you build a fictional life, you come up with more questions than answers, and that turns out to be a good thing. It creates endless possibilities and lots more novels for readers to enjoy.



Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednseday

Sorry I stepped out in February. It seemed I had some writing to get to. No whinging today on the writing industry--though there is always plenty to whinge about. Today we're getting back to medievally things.

Welcome to the first penitential season of the year.

It's Shrove Tuesday today and it comes the day before Ash Wednesday. "Shrove" is past tense for "shrive," an Old English word meaning "to confess." It was a day to be absolved, to prepare for the penitential season of Lent ahead. This day is more recently known as "Fat Tuesday" because it is the day to rid your house of all the fat and sugars, all the fun stuff, in other words, in order to prepare for the solemn days ahead. Do you throw it out? That might have been the original intention but it devolved into gorging yourselves on fat and sugars by eating rich foods, cakes, and other goodies. In England, it's also called "Pancake Day", because you can consume pancakes made of milk, eggs, and butter, all the stuff you can't have during Lent. Mardi Gras came out of this tradition and took it a step further, though it does have medieval origins in taking things to the extreme. Not only will we eat and drink to excess but a little debauchery couldn't hurt either. After all, the next thing we do is go to confession so all that is cleared away...until next Shrove Tuesday, of course.


Ash Wednesday officially opens the Lenten season. The word "Lent" simply means "Spring" and comes from Germanic origins meaning "long," as in the fact that the days visibly lengthen. This day marks forty six days till Easter (Lent is a forty day season, but Sundays don't count in that forty days. Sundays, the Lord's Day, cannot be penitential and are considered "mini Easters." So you can cheat on your Lenten deprivations. However, in the Middle Ages, all the days of Lent, except Sunday, were meatless. During the rest of the year, even in Ordinary Time--non penitential time, that is--no meat could be consumed on Wednesdays, Fridays, or Saturdays in the Middle Ages. With Vatican II in the 1960s, that was changed to only the Fridays of Lent, just as the Fridays in the rest of the year were relaxed and meat could be eaten then. But the tradition goes on, because that's why you will note that in restaurants, the soup of the day on Fridays is always clam chowder. The Filet-O-Fish at McDonald's was invented for Lent. By the way, Fridays are "meatless" because Jesus gave up his own flesh on a Friday and so it was proper that Christians do the same on the dinner table. Fish is not considered "flesh" or "meat".)

On Ash Wednesday, Catholics are reminded that "from dust you come and to dust you will return." It is a very old Biblical sign of repentance and mourning. The Hebrews would cover their heads with ashes when in mourning or if a great sacrilege had occurred. The Medievals would go to mass and receive ashes in the sign of the cross on their foreheads and wear it all day. The ashes come from the burned palms from last year's Palm Sunday mass. It's forty days of the season because it is in remembrance of Jesus' fast and temptations in the desert when he prepared for his ministry.

Medieval people loved signs and symbolism and this was--as with most any religious holidays--a very solemn occasion and season.





Sunday, January 13, 2019

More Ranting on Author Pay



It's a neverending conundrum. Artists create art, consumers want art. Now we are in the era when consumers think it's their right to get the art...for free or as near to free as they can get it.

That's a real big scoop of nope, y'all. It's WORK to create art. It takes MONTHS to write a book. A good book, that is. And authors need to be compensated for that. It's bad enough that advances are down or non-existent. Small publishers offer a higher rate of royalty in compensation for not offering that advance. It's a nice idea, except if the small press can't market, your compensation drops. You're never offered 50%, by the way. And if you have an agent--which you should--they take their 15% off the top.

Full disclosure, I'm a hybrid author; I'm traditionally published by a big New York publisher, a medium size publisher, and two small publishers, as well as self-publishing my backlist of reverted rights works, and new fiction. Having a variety like that kept me going for a long time, but everything loses momentum eventually, especially the older they get.

This article talks about how consumers have begun to feel entitled to books. For free. Hey, it's on the internet so it must be free, right? NO. It isn't. So when you buy a book at a thrift shop, or second hand on Amazon, or off a pirated site, that author gets nothing. Nada. Zippo. Zilch for that purchase or download. And the more that happens, the fewer books you'll get from your supposedly favorite author. It's the same as sneaking into a movie, or sneaking in under the rope to your favorite band's concert...or grabbing it from a shelf at your local bookstore and running out of the shop without paying. Yeah. It is that.

Think it won't happen? Look here.

Buy NEW books. Get them from libraries or ask your librarian to get a book (that's a sale to the writer, and a good one. If a library system buys several copies for all their branches, that's a huge win for an author). All food for thought for you readers and writers out there.

Monday, January 7, 2019

There's a Cat in the House

After my last two cats left us, we vowed not to have any more animals, except for the tortoise who will live long after us and who is currently hibernating till March. (That's the way to have a pet!) But... this mature kitty--who might yet be on loan instead of gifted--came to us by way of our son. He had two big dogs in his tiny apartment and little Luna here was left to her own devices locked away from the brutes. He needed to be relieved of a cat, I wanted a cat, so...there you are.





She's a stealthy bastard, and most of the time I have no idea where she is until she comes trotting out from whatever dimension she went into. But that's cats for you. They walk their own roads, and when you call them, sometimes they swivel an ear at you and sometimes they don't. That's why they were worshiped in Egypt and we weren't.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Writer Privilege


So I deleted a post on Facebook about a bookstore--Loganberry Books in Cleveland, Ohio--that wanted to show how sexism affects publishing by turning all the books written by men, spine inward in their fiction section. Store owner Harriett Logan — with the help of her employees and a few volunteers — deliberately flipped around all the fiction books written by men, hiding their colorful spines from view.
"I wanted to do something provocative and interesting for Women's History Month that also displayed the disparity of women working in a certain field," Logan explains. And that field, naturally, was book publishing.
"Although it might seem like there are just as many women as men writing books and working in publishing overall, power structures and implicit bias still influence which books get published and reviewed and, as a result, reach commercial success."
Some men commented on my post, taking exception to the "silencing of men" --something it said on the sign in the bookstore in the accompanying photo above. And I was snarky and patronizing about it in my replies to them. On purpose. Because it simply wasn't understood about the point being made, and that when WOMEN point it out, we are criticized.
They doubled down.
They still didn't get the point of the exercise. When women step forward to make that point, there is huge pushback from men, who start to say things like "reverse discrimination!" It's a bit like understanding white privilege. Poor white men who are out of work don't think they have privilege. They don't get that they still do, even if they don't have the fancy job and fancy car. That they can walk anywhere, anytime, and not be looked on suspiciously or have the cops called on them. There's a blindness when it comes to slaying sacred cows, white privilege, male privilege. The simple fact is, there is inequality in publishing. Men have the advantage. It is no secret why J.K. Rowling went with initials for her name. She didn't want readers to know she was a woman so that boys would read her books (and that's a whole other blog post right there, folks). She went a step further when she decided to write her Cormoran Strike mystery series and wanted to be just another writer out there...and chose a male name.
There are reviewers who simply will not review female writers, insisting that their work is inferior. There are lower advances for women, less publicity, less everything, and, apparently, less shelf space. And it's a huge economic problem. When we aren't reviewed, the eyes of readers--paying customers--don't see our work. Sisters in Crime, the mystery writer and reader organization, was founded on the inequality of reviews and became much more than what it started out to be. Their mission statement is to Promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers.
So men, this month-long "protest/demonstration" takes nothing away from you. In fact, you should be standing behind it. When one of us fails, we all fail. Don't get affronted, get educated.