August 31, 2015

Opinion vs. Attack — Where's the Line?

I came across a post last week that really rubbed me the wrong way in a world where we claim to fight for positive (healthy) body image and against bullying. While I agree with half of this post's point, rather than sticking to the real issue (lack of variety in models used on book covers), the author targeted one model specifically:

Image used in original post
"I mean, how many book covers have you seen this guy on? No less than fifty for me, and he's not even good looking! ... People, please stop wasting your image credits on him! He's UGLY and overused! Save your money! 
...I really do think this guy is butt ass ugly. I will not read any book with his face on it. All those beautiful men on Shutterstock and you choose HIM? *gags*"

Yes, people are entitled to their opinions. Yes, the author may in fact think that the model is ugly, fine. But what the author of this post is doing, rather than making a general point about the overuse of certain models and possibly the laziness of some authors/designers when searching for images to use, is attacking this one model's livelihood and personally insulting him.

Same model
Sure, as authors we hear negative opinions all the time, but we as a community tend to recognize that personally attacking the author—as opposed to criticizing a book/story—isn't acceptable. "This author has such an ugly profile photo, we should all stop buying his/her books!" would, I hope, be seen as absurd.

As commenter Rainy Kaye said:
"This article is really unprofessional. Discussing an industry issue is one thing; blatantly insulting someone's looks is another."

In addition to being disconcerting and plain mean, I feel the choice the author made to target one specific model detracts from the valid point hiding in this post. We should absolutely make an effort to find unique cover models and images, whenever possible. And perhaps more importantly, we should strive to represent different looks among our characters so that we couldn't use the same model for so many covers.

But simultaneously, we shouldn't go around attacking people who are just doing their jobs. It's not the model's fault he's so popular among writers and cover designers—that simply means he and the photographers have done a good job providing the types of shots people want to use! It's on us to strive for a unique cover, not on the model to stop posing. And either way, it's completely inappropriate to campaign against using one person's services based on a personal opinion of his looks.

What say you? Is the linked post nothing more than one person's opinion? Or should the author have avoided targeting one model when making this point?

One more. My opinion? Not what I'd call ugly!

August 24, 2015

Mortal Musings Release Week is Here!

It's here!! Difficult as it is to believe, Mortal Musings officially releases tomorrow! (Or tonight, depending on your time zone!) There's a lot planned this week, and this post covers it all for easy reference (read carefully!). I hope you'll join me in celebrating!!

Kicking off today: the Blog Tour

Twitter Release-Day Giveaways!
  • AND anyone who tweets buy links or retweets any one of my tweets about Mortal Musings will be entered to win an autographed paperback!
  • Keep in mind: There's no limit of times you can enter, so tweet and retweet away!

Facebook Release Party — Thursday, August 27th
  • Games! Prizes! And all-around fun!
  • Everyone is welcome to join, and the party takes place entirely on this Facebook page!
  • 4pm–7pm Pacific Time, which is:
    • 5pm–8pm Mountain Time
    • 6pm–9pm Central Time
    • 7pm–10pm Eastern Time
    • In another time zone? Use this world clock!

Want yet another way to win? Enter the Goodreads giveaway! And don't forget to add Mortal Musings to your TBR!

August 19, 2015

“Unbelievable” Romance in Real Life

I'm a couple days late with this post, which also isn't the post I originally intended to share this week (about Print on Demand providers). That post is coming still, but I have a good excuse for the delay! I was on the other side of the country, at the wedding of a close friend.

Photo credit: Sugar Daze / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
I'd like to share the real-life story of this couple, because of how it relates to the romance genre. (Yes, weddings are romantic, but as you'll see I mean more than that.)

He liked this girl right away, so at a party hosted by mutual friends, He bravely made his way over to try his hand. She completely dismissed him, and since He believed her to be entirely out of his league, He accepted that and let it go. (As She later told me, She had actually been entirely oblivious to his attempt, as her mind was in a very different place with work stress that night.)

A couple years later, through mutual friends, He subtly maneuvered it so that they would once again be at the same party. Despite other relationships, He hadn't forgotten her and wanted to try again. Once again: no luck.

He then moved to the other side of the country.

A few years later, the two of them attended a wedding weekend of mutual friends. Both single, both in the right frame of mind, they finally hit it off. He approached and tried his hardest to make an impression, and She was impressed. That wedding happened at some cabins in the woods, and they spent the whole night talking (with some not talking mixed in). I've heard this story from both sides now, and it's fascinating how hard He tried...while She actually gave him nothing but positive signals that He completely missed.

Of course, none of this changed that they now lived thousands of miles away. At another wedding the following day, He got some advice from that groom, a former professor (who had met his wife on a plane ride!). The wise professor pointed out that, had he himself not taken the chance on this woman he'd been seated beside on their short connecting flight, he wouldn't have been getting married that day. With this encouragement, my friend took a chance on reaching out and starting a relationship with this girl that had been on his mind for years, despite all the distance and false starts.

With many Skype calls and trips across the country, following long and frank and intense conversations about how they saw their lives, and despite some pushback from concerned love ones, within a few months they were engaged. And their wedding this past Sunday was beautiful.

So often, romance as a genre is criticized for its lack of believability. "Relationships don't work that way," we're told, and we're setting "unrealistic expectations" for those seeking love in real life.

But, as you can see, romance in real life is absolutely possible! Despite the challenges, this couple lived a real-life romance, though I'm sure when He was rejected twice it didn't feel that way. There's nothing unrealistic about a couple that hits it off one night doing what's necessary to make their relationship work, or of choosing not to wait some socially acceptable time to spend their lives together. And how wonderful that this relationship was encouraged by another couple, whose relationship would be considered "too unrealistic" by critics of the romance genre!

Real people live extraordinary stories to find their happily ever afters — and that's precisely what I love about this genre that reminds us that exceptional romance is entirely possible in our own lives.

August 10, 2015

Mortal Musings Release Festivities Update!

I have so many exciting things planned to celebrate the release of Mortal Musings, and I hope you'll all join me, so mark your calendars!

Basic info:

Print Preorder!
  • Do you want a paperback copy of Mortal Musings? Better yet, do you want one at the special preorder price of $9.99? Click the button below to order!
    • If you'd like an autographed copy, please email me with your order information.
    • Are you outside of the U.S.? Print copies are available through major online retailers and the Book Depository, or you can email me now to arrange a special order!

August 6, 2015

Silence Isn't Neutral

I talk more about queerness than Jewishness because of the backlash I’ve received for my Judaism. ~ Katherine Locke
I've written before about how reluctant — and if we're being honest, scared — I have been to share the fact that I am Jewish, to be "a Jewish writer" rather than just a writer. I don't call attention to that part of my identity, because attention is what gets you killed. It sounds dramatic, until you know that I was born in the USSR and my parents had to have contingency plans on how to keep us all alive in that moment when people would come barging into our tiny apartment to do just that: kill us. Until you hear that my grandparents didn't allow any of us to go to the opening of a synagogue because they were terrified it was a trap for Jews to be killed on the spot. Until you know that even today synagogues in "civilized" countries like France and the US require police protection because of the danger posed to Jewish people who congregate to pray.

Antisemitism, persecution, and the echoes of the Holocaust are a constant presence in the lives of Jews. Silence isn't an option, not when Jewish university students don't feel safe on US campuses, and not when a book like For Such A Time is published and then lauded.

There have been some amazing posts on the danger presented by this book, and it is dangerous. How many hands saw a book promoting violence toward and erasure of Jews and thought "This is a great story!" instead of "This is awful, antisemitic, and dangerous"? How many readers found the story romantic

The thing is, this book wasn't written to start a conversation; it was written as an uplifting, romantic, inspirational story.  As Katherine Locke wrote in a much more eloquent post than I can aspire to at the moment (and which I hope you will all go read): 
Kate Breslin stole a tragedy that wasn’t hers to promote her own personal agenda. And in doing so, she contributed to the erasure of both victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Her book is anti-Semitic, violent, and dangerous. It glorifies and redeems a Nazi, while removing all of the Jewish woman’s agency and forcing her to convert to Christianity in order for her arc to be considered redemption. It is, in fact, exactly what has been done to the Jewish people throughout history. For longer than Christianity has been a religion, Jews across the world have been forced to convert or to hide their Judaism to save their lives. That is violence. That is erasure. Kate Breslin’s book is violence and erasure.
And this book nearly won the Romance Writers of America's highest honor — twice. The people who allowed it to be published weren't neutral. The people who judged it for the RITA weren't neutral. The people who saw it, didn't think it was a good idea, and then didn't say anything weren't neutral. These people thought promoting the erasure of Judaism and finding the despicable "hero" redeemable and romantic was an acceptable choice. That isn't neutral.

Silence in the face of today's antisemitism is not much different from the silence of those who watched their Jewish neighbors be rounded up, dragged away, and killed.

And yes, I am concerned that there will be backlash for this post, that this may affect my upcoming release and my career going forward. But that isn't what matters. 

I am scared. But I will not be silent. 

August 3, 2015

Characters in Romance Novels are Always Beautiful...Right?

One of the criticisms the romance genre regularly faces is how "perfect," physically speaking, its characters are — how even the self-conscious characters turn out to be beautiful. I'm calling foul on this complaint, and here's why:

In romance, our characters fall in love with each other. It's a somewhat obvious statement, but an important one. Often, our characters' physical descriptions are shared with readers through the eyes of their romantic match. In other words, through the eyes of someone who is attracted to that character — who by definition finds him/her attractive.

When we fall in love, we focus on those attractive characteristics: the twinkle in his eyes, or the elegance of her hand; the breadth of his shoulders, or the lush curves of her lips, etc. We don't look at the person inspiring these feelings and judge him/her by the contemporary commercial standards of beauty. So you probably won't hear the hero in a romance complaining about his love's waistline, or the heroine about lack of muscular tone. These characters are seeing the best in their intended partners, and in their eyes, their match is beautiful. Perfect.

Of course, there are also some authors who only write to contemporary standards of beauty, describing a physique that is nearly unattainable for us mere mortals (paranormal romance sort of gets a pass here!). Many of us, though, know that one's ability to find love isn't conditional on an arbitrary definition of the "perfect" body, but rather on a deeper and much more personal connection between our characters. We write about real people, of all shapes (yes, including those matching commercial standards — they deserve love too!) finding the love of their life.

While you almost certainly won't see our characters picking apart the physique of their match, you will absolutely see them praise the attributes they find to their liking. That heartfelt appreciation, and attraction, is precisely why characters in romance novels almost always come across as beautiful.

This post originally went up as part of the My Crazy Corner 2015 Romance Blogfest.