Archive for the ‘SF/romance’ Category
Folks, I’m very happy to let you know about my two newest guest appearances on the Web, as I continue to promote my newest novel, CHANGING FACES. (Still just ninety-nine cents as an e-book, or ninety-nine pence for UK readers; grab it while it’s cheap, eh?)
First, I have an unusual dual character interview up at N.N. Light’s blog POTL (formerly Princess of the Light). I, the author, interviewed Elaine and Allen (in their original bodies), and asked them a number of questions. Here’s a bit from that interview:
“What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?” Then I look at them both, and ask, “Can Elaine answer this first? Allen, you always jump in…”
Allen mumbles something, and motions with his hand to Elaine.
“Ah, I like it when he goes first,” she says playfully. “It gives me more time to consider my answer.” Then she turned serious. “I am often hasty, and while I try to think things through, sometimes I just don’t. This causes trouble, but I can’t seem to break the habit.”
“I like all your habits,” Allen said, giving her a sidelong look. Then, focusing on me, he added, “I am reserved. This makes it harder for me to open up to people, and it takes a long time for me to make new friends. That’s caused me a lot of trouble in my life, especially as musicians are supposed to be gregarious sorts and I’m just not.”
“Who you are is just fine with me, love,” Elaine put in loyally.
I raised an eyebrow, and told them, “I like you both. So stop all this nonsense and just answer the questions, will you?”
“But it’s so much fun to tease you,” Elaine said.
Allen just laughed.
There are a number of other questions Allen and Elaine answered, including who their favorite person is (Hillary Clinton for Elaine, Nelson Mandela for Allen) and who their least-favorite person is (Donald Trump for both – my Hillary Clinton friends should love that, especially as many of them are LGBT and thus might be interested in a LGBT-friendly romance like CHANGING FACES).
So do, please, go take a look at that interview. I think you’ll most likely enjoy it (even if you politically do not agree with me, Allen, or Elaine).
The second guest appearance up today is over at The Story Behind the Book. It’s my reasoning behind why I wrote CHANGING FACES…as some folks have asked me, “Barb, why did you write something as strange as this, especially as you aren’t LGBT yourself?,” well, now you’ll have an answer.
Here’s a bit from that:
Years ago, and far away, I had an idea for a story. I saw, briefly, in a dream, two lovers—a man and a woman, even—arguing. I didn’t know why they were arguing. But I saw them. Then I saw two otherworldly beings above them. The lovers had suffered a car accident, and the beings did something bizarre, first binding the man’s soul into the woman, then the woman’s soul into the man. I wondered what had happened to cause all this, and set down to write what I’d seen even though I didn’t understand it.
That was the germination for my new novel Changing Faces.
As I wrote, I realized the man, Allen Bridgeway, had been a foster child, adopted late by a childless couple. And the woman, Elaine Foster, had also been a foster child, but she hadn’t been nearly as fortunate as Allen; instead, she’d been raped by five teenage boys while supposedly safe in her final foster home. Due to that awful event, she became an Emancipated Minor, graduated high school early, and went to college at the age of sixteen…where she met Allen and became friends with him.
Note that Allen knew from the start that Elaine was bisexual, and mostly dated women. So while he was attracted to her early, he never made a move…not until years had gone by, and he’d considered Elaine to be his best friend in the world.
The problems started when he asked her to marry him.
So, if you still haven’t bought a copy of CHANGING FACES as an e-book, but want to do so — and of course, it being my blog and all, I do hope you want to do so — here’s all the links I have, so you can go buy one right now:
Folks, I’m happy to let you all know about my latest guest appearance/interview, which is up today at the Writer’s Life eMagazine.
This, of course, is in support of my novel, CHANGING FACES. I’m doing as much as I possibly can to help get the word out about my book, and I would appreciate as much support with sharing across Twitter, Facebook, and other such social media sites as possible as I need all the help I can get. (No fooling, that.)
The Writer’s Life talks more about the writing process than not, so if you’re a fellow writer — no matter at what stage you may happen to be, from beginner to expert — you should enjoy today’s interview.
Here’s a bit from that:
What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?
I don’t do well when I have to force myself to write. I don’t know why this is, but what tends to happen is that I’ll get maybe a little writing, maybe just barely enough to get me to a good part of the manuscript/story in question…and then I block. Hard.
So I’ve learned that if at all possible – if I’m not on a hard and fast deadline – it’s best to take a break for an hour, or maybe even a day.
That seems to help.
Any writing quirks?
There’s one group I tend to listen to, when I need to write something emotionally powerful. That group is Stabbing Westward.
What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?
Actually, many of the people I know tend to see it that way, because I haven’t made much money with it as of yet. But that doesn’t concern me all that much, because the people who matter to me, as well as those who mattered but have passed on – my late husband and my late best friend among them – definitely understand (or understood) why I do what I do.
And if anyone who doesn’t understand it wants to tell me what to do, it’s not going to harm me any. I’m not about to listen to them, so let them natter on all they want.
There’s lots more there, so please do go take a look at this interview, and share it far and wide.
Now, as to the “plus” part of this post? Well, tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and I plan to write a blog tomorrow that will talk about various women writers who’ve influenced me. (Yes, I will mention CHANGING FACES and the guest appearance of the day. I have to. It’s part of proudly promoting my book. But I want to remind you all that I have more to offer, too…)
The plan right now is, I hope to about four or five other female writers I know, and give links to their books and blogs. I figure that way, I’m helping to pay some of the help I’ve received forward a little.
So, do take a peek at that tomorrow, OK?
Otherwise, I hope to talk more about baseball, maybe a little about politics (as I remain incredibly frustrated by many of the actions of the Trump Administration, but as I am still recovering from that nasty case of the flu, and have some lingering bronchitis to deal with, I have decided to de-emphasize it in many respects until I am completely well), and any current events that may strike my fancy, too.
In other words, business as usual. (Insert big, evil grin here.)
Otherwise, what’s on your mind? What would you like me to talk about next? Give me a yell in the comments, would you?
Folks, I’m happy to let you know that I have a new guest blog up over at Adriana Kraft’s website today. It’s called “Love in CHANGING FACES,” and has a few more anecdotes about my novel’s protagonists Allen and Elaine, not to mention their unusual love story.
Here’s a bit from that, to whet your interest:
When I first started the story that became my new contemporary LGBT-friendly novel, CHANGING FACES, I had no idea what I was getting into. All I knew was one scene: my couple, Allen and Elaine, were in a crisis. She wanted to leave him. And that would’ve been a fatal mistake. So two aliens—or angels, as I wasn’t quite clear yet what they were—decided to help them…the next thing Allen and Elaine knew, they’d been in a car accident, and Allen had woken up in Elaine’s body in the hospital.
Where was Elaine, you ask? That wasn’t so simple. She was…elsewhere, talking with one of the angels. (Yes, I decided they were angels, after a while.) And it was up to Elaine whether or not they were going to be able to go forward, albeit in different bodies than before.
This scene still exists in the current, final, version of CHANGING FACES. But the reason for that scene is not exactly what I thought it was, many years ago when I first started fiddling around with this story. You see, while Allen is a straight man in love with a beautiful woman, Elaine is gender-fluid, bisexual, and would rather be in a male body even though she will always think of herself as female.
No wonder I was confused, hey?
I also answered another question that I get often, that being, “Why did you write something like this?” My answer, also from the new guest blog, is this: “I really don’t know. Sometimes I think the stories pick me rather than the other way around.”
Does any other writer feel this way?
(I figured I’d ask, ’cause I am honestly confused myself as to why I write one story rather than another one. I never have been able to figure that out.)
Anyway, please do check out the latest guest blog. Adriana Kraft and I know each other through the behest of Marketing for Romance Writers — a quite valuable, though utterly free organization to join — and I appreciate her willingness to extend a guest blog invitation very much.
Now, for a few more thoughts about CHANGING FACES, as I seemingly have an inexhaustible supply of same:
Mind, me writing this particular story is — as a good friend of mine put it, wryly — like being a sportswriter at a D&D convention. It’s not expected, it’s not the audience I usually write for, and perhaps because of that, I don’t seem to have yet found my audience overmuch.
Of course, that does leave lots of room for improvement. And my hope is that someone out there will like what I’m doing, and enjoy it, and maybe learn something from it — though the last is optional, I can’t help but hope that down the line, more people will learn how to see souls rather than bodies.
Why is this important to me? I think it’s because I’ve always felt like I don’t really fit. I’m a big, beautiful woman in a society that worships thin women; I’m a younger-than-average widow, so a whole lot of things have happened to me much earlier than most people; I’m a musician, writer, editor, and have composed music (I need to get back to that, honestly), none of which are usual pursuits for 99.9% of the population.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always felt like a misfit that I want other misfits to find love and be happy. (After all, I did. And it was worth it, too, even though my husband has now been dead for twelve long years.)
What I know is, regardless of your sexual identity or gender expression, you deserve the right to be happy with someone you love. I don’t think it should matter a hill of beans if that person is the same sex as you, the opposite sex as you, or some other variation (intersex? gender-fluid?) thereof. What matters is that you love them. Period. And that you treat them well, and try your best for them, and be honest and trustworthy and loyal and caring, because that’s the only way that you can build a good love-relationship with anyone.
So that’s why I wrote CHANGING FACES. I want people to see others for who they are, not what they look like, and certainly not what they appear to be. Find out who they are. Care about who they are. And always, always be honest…that’s the only way to win at the game of love, even though sometimes being honest is a pain in the caboose.
Folks, yesterday I reviewed Lois McMaster Bujold’s GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always**). I enjoyed Bujold’s newest novel, the latest in her long-running Vorkosigan Saga, and said so over at SBR.
But the longer I pondered Bujold’s excellent book, the more I felt I had to talk about…and some of my thoughts just wouldn’t fit into a well-ordered review no matter how hard I tried. Which is why I decided to come over here instead, to my personal blog, and try to discuss some of the issues Bujold raised.
Because I need to discuss GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN in depth, I’m likely to discuss spoilers. If you haven’t read this book yet, but you intend on doing so, you probably should not read this blog until you have. (On the other hand, if you have no intention of reading Bujold, but just want to read my thoughts about a widow well past fifty finding new love again, all unlooked for, here’s your opportunity to do so.)
One, final caveat: As this isn’t the first time Bujold has discussed the ramifications of death in the Vorkosigan Saga — far from it — long-time readers of my blog may notice certain themes I’ve discussed before with regards to Bujold.
Anyway, here are some of my further thoughts about GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN:
- Bujold is bang-on the mark when it comes to depicting a widow, Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, who truly loved her husband, and has felt the depths of despair.
- Again, Bujold is bang-on the mark when it comes to how much widowhood has changed Cordelia. In some senses, Cordelia is much older, mentally, than she was when her beloved husband Aral was alive. This is due to grief, loss, and the frustration of no longer being able to be with her beloved husband. (Even in the far future, death can come suddenly and without warning — and thus it did for Aral.)
- Bujold continues to get it right while showcasing what a powerful woman does without her powerful husband at her side. Cordelia is too strong a person and too complex, besides, to allow grief to devour her. (But in some ways, it was a near thing.)
- I enjoyed the mature version of Oliver Jole, a character mostly seen in passing at a much younger age in THE VOR GAME. (At that time, Jole was a Lieutenant attached to Aral Vorkosigan’s staff.) He’s smart, has a similar background to Aral Vorkosigan and indeed knew Aral quite well in more than one sense…and yet, like Cordelia, he’s a man at loose ends. The fact that Jole is fifty and Cordelia is in her mid-seventies doesn’t matter one bit, because the pull between them — once acknowledged — is more than strong enough to deal with the age difference.
- I even understood why Cordelia, once she felt alive again, wanted to bring more children into the world. (Children, I must note, that are to be fathered by her dead husband Aral’s sperm, and her own long-ago frozen ova.) It’s a subconscious way of declaring that she has more to do…and Cordelia, throughout the Vorkosigan Saga, has always been a maternal figure. (Having only one biological child never did suit Cordelia too well, methinks.)
These were the major things I thought while I read GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN at least seven times prior to reviewing the book.
But you might be wondering why I put a LGBT tag on this book, especially if you haven’t gone to read my review yet. (If not, tsk, tsk!)
It’s simple. Oliver Jole is bisexual. He’s not been attracted to too many women in his life as he seems far more drawn to men. But he’s powerfully attracted to Cordelia, and he’s not sure why.
Some reviewers at Amazon and elsewhere have taken Bujold to task for making Jole bisexual instead of a gay man inexplicably attracted to a straight woman. I don’t see it that way, however, because sexuality is on a continuum. Some men are only attracted to women, while some other men are only attracted to men. And the rest are in the middle somewhere, actually attracted to both in a way that’s going to make itself be heard…that is just the way human biology works.
Or to put it another way that’s closer to home: My husband’s brother, Sam, was a proud gay man. But Michael told me that Sam dated two women that Michael was aware of, and Sam showed every indication of being attracted to these women…Michael told me this in a bemused voice, but said he would’ve been happy if Sam had found anyone he liked, regardless of gender identity or sexual preference. Because love matters more than the outward form.
That’s why I have no problem with Oliver Jole being attracted to Cordelia. It’s quite possible that Cordelia herself is so attractive, it doesn’t matter what the outside shape of her form is. But if Jole is attracted to her body as well as her mind, so what? (Either way, it works.)
I also don’t have a problem with Cordelia taking up with Oliver, either. She’s been widowed for three years when she starts a relationship up with Oliver (as I read this section, I thought, Oh, Cordelia. You think it’s bad after three years, don’t you? Try eleven.), so there’s been plenty of time for her to adjust to her new reality.
Ah, but I can hear you now, readers. “But Barb,” you protest. “It took you at least six years to even begin to deal with your husband’s untimely passing. Why is Cordelia different?”
There are a number of reasons why. First, Cordelia got many more years with her husband than I managed to get with mine. Second, Aral Vorkosigan was over eighty years old when he passed away, and my husband Michael was only forty-six. And third, Aral Vorkosigan had done everything he sought out to do…while my husband was still in the process of making a name for himself as a writer and editor, but didn’t get the chance to see most of his work come to fruition.
Plus, every widow and widower’s grief journey is different. Some people grieve for years, then remarry happily. (I’ve known a couple of younger widowers in this position.) Some grieve for a couple of years, then somehow set most of the worst signs of grief aside but don’t date. And some, like me, take years and years to process it all, then figure out a coping mechanism (mine, obviously, is in finishing up my husband’s writing, because I can’t bear to see it incomplete) so they can get on with life whether they ever date again or not.
Grief is a very individual thing, you see. But one thing is very obvious about grief that many reviewers of GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN are completely overlooking.
You see, grief changes you. It can’t help but do that. You are in so much pain, and you hurt so deeply, that you can’t be exactly the same after someone you dearly loved passes from this plane of existence.
So the comments on Amazon and elsewhere that go along the lines of, “But, but, Cordelia is a shadow of her former self! And that’s not right!” have it all wrong.
Yes, Cordelia, when she starts out Bujold’s newest novel, may be seen to be lesser than she used to be. Her beloved husband is dead, and she’s been without him for three years. That can’t help but to have marked her…now, all she can do is go on (which, I note, is what Aral would want her to do), and try to do the best she can with the time she has left — which in Bujold’s universe could be another forty years, for all Cordelia knows.
Bujold characterized widowhood correctly, folks. You might not like what being a widow has done to Cordelia — mind, if you asked Cordelia prior to the start of GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN, she’d probably tell you she doesn’t like it, either — but Cordelia’s feelings and demeanor are accurate. Much of Cordelia’s fire is now hidden, because the loss of Aral, her husband, is just that profound…and even though she’s quite happy to be with Oliver after a while, Oliver is still not Aral, so not all of Cordelia’s fire comes back.
I understand this, and I hope it’s not just because I, too, am a widow who lost a dearly beloved husband.
Anyway, GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN is an unabashed science fiction/romance hybrid. I loved it, and thought it had depth, passion, wit, warmth, style, and great characterization.
But I can see where some people really would rather not see Cordelia so diminished (at least, before Cordelia decides to live again — and that decision, I might add, comes before she realizes Oliver is interested in her, much less they do anything about that interest). Because pain is hard to bear, even in a book…and Bujold is one of the best in the business at conveying that pain, even indirectly as through the excessively analytical Cordelia.
**– Note: Shiny Book Review is now found at the domain shinybookreviews.com — with an -s after review — as our old domain name was bought by someone else. If you’re following SBR, please make sure to follow it as shinybookreviews with the -s. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress…
Folks, it’s Romance Saturday. And long-time readers of my blog know what that means . . .
Yes, it’s true. I reviewed another romance again at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). This time, I reviewed Stephanie Osborn’s A CASE OF SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, book 5 in her Displaced Detective series.
A quick after-action report for y’all:
I enjoyed Stephanie’s latest very, very much. I thought the romance was stellar, and I agreed that something like this could very easily happen (though I have to admit that I took all the high-tech devices for metaphors).
Well, without giving too much of the plot away, a miscommunication between newlyweds Sherlock Holmes and Skye Chadwick-Holmes has caused major trouble in both their personal and professional lives. And while the failure of high-tech devices to work as operated is part of it (though there is an operator behind this failure; further reviewer sayeth not), the biggest problem between them is one that any newlywed couple can have.
“What’s that?” you ask.
Simple: it’s the problem of expectations.
While Sherlock Holmes is a fictional example (in both Arthur Conan Doyle’s version and Stephanie Osborn’s), the fact of the matter is that most newlyweds don’t see one another as real, live human beings with real, live failings. Someone like Sherlock or Skye has fewer failings than the average person, but both of them still have failings.
Instead, most newlyweds wear rose-colored glasses and want to believe their spouses are the absolute best person who ever walked the face of the Earth (save, perhaps, for Jesus Christ Himself, or Gautama Buddha, or maybe Confucius).
This is both a strength and a weakness, and it can be exploited by someone malicious, as Sherlock and Skye found . . . but if you can get past this, and see your partner as a human being with flaws and challenges, just like every other human being, it deepens and broadens your love considerably.
Look. My husband Michael was the most wonderful person I have ever met, bar none. But he was still a human being. He had flaws. (Not many, but he had a few.)
Did we have a newlywed blow-up? Not one as bad as Skye’s and Sherlock’s, no. But we did have a couple of misunderstandings, mostly because we were learning how to live with one another, and sometimes even with the best of intentions, you’re not going to be able to communicate with one another.
(Yes. Even two writers cannot always communicate with each other. Go figure.)
We worked around that. We found what worked for us. And that’s why our marriage worked.
In short, we met each other as real, live human beings with real, live failings. So we entered into our marriage with a more realistic expectation — granted, it wasn’t a first marriage for either one of us, so that possibly made a difference as well. (I’d say “probably,” but who knows? Not me.)
That doesn’t mean you don’t think the other person is wonderful. Believe you me, I did — and I still do.
But it means you see him as human and mortal. Not as a demigod. And that allows you to meet him on a field of equality, where you both have something to bring to the table.
Anyway, that’s why I enjoyed A CASE OF SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION so much as a romance. (I already discussed the mystery and hard SF elements in-depth in my review, but figured the actual romantic elements warranted a wee bit more discussion.)
You will, too, if you love honest romance with heart between two intelligent, passionate, hard-working individuals; if you love Sherlock Holmes stories (as brought to the modern-day); if you love hard SF along with your romantic mysteries; or if you love just-plain-good writing.