Advice for Aspiring Writers From Jesse Kellerman

“…there is no standard for what makes someone a writer other than the act of writing. There’s no licensing exam; no certificate of merit. There are academic programs…but in my opinion they’re basically worthless…”

“…so the real question to ask yourself is: Do I enjoy doing this? Does it fill a void that would otherwise be unfillable?If you love to write, and you are willing to write, and you actually write, then you’re a writer. End of story.   Jesse Kellerman

I have been a fan of the Jonathan Kellerman books for a long time as well as the exquisite novels by his wife Faye Kellerman. It must be in the DNA because their son, Jesse Kellerman, is making a name for himself as both a playwrite and a novelist.

He has several award-winning novels under his own name, and last September he teamed up with his father, Jonathan, to write The Golem of Hollywood–a book I’m looking forward to reading. In the meantime, I went to Jesse Kellerman’s website, and blog, and found this priceless set of gems for the aspiring writer–the excerpt above is from this piece. Go have a look!
Advice for aspiring writers by Jesse Kellerman.

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Romance Writers of America: Is There a Diversity and/or Jewish Problem?

The Short Version: A self-identified Christian-Inspirational Romance writer wrote a “Romance” novel about a Nazi who falls in love with a Jewish woman during WWII…and at the end of the novel she apparently converts to Christianity…and everyone lived happily ever after.

Except some of the people who read the book. They think the author has co-opted a story that primarily belongs to the sufferers of the Holocaust for her own spiritual agenda and financial benefit. More conceptually, they think the Romance Writers of America (RWA)(tm) professional organization should be held accountable for the lack of diversity, and/or for wearing subtle systemically provided, organizationally sponsored (even if by default) anti-Semitic blinders that enabled said book to become a Finalist in the recent RITA awards. So, at least two main issues.

The Long Version: I came across a Twitter post by Katherine Locke, Romance author, (@Bibliogato) and traveled to her Tumblr blog to read one of many articles that questioned the Romance Writers of America (of which I, too, am a member) wisdom, intent and apparent lack of appreciation for Diversity, and possibly Jews, when that organization placed a certain novel in two of its RITA  Awards category.

I have excerpted a portion of her blog with a link to the entire piece–and following Locke’s excerpt, you’ll find a few others, including an eye-opening piece from Romance author Suleikha Snyder who actually attended the recent annual RWA convention. I have included a couple other excerpts from others related to this subject.

It took some back-tracking, but I then found several other authors and media reviewers who felt much as Locke does, including Sarah Wendell of the popular SmartBitchesTrashybooks site. Indeed, information in the review of the book on the Smart Bitches site seems to be where the questions about this book, the author, the publisher and the RWA first began.

Both Wendell’s open letter to the Board of Directors of the RWA  and the SBTB review of For Such a Time are further down. Snyder, and others, have been writing about racism in publishing for years, and many wonder that it took the RWA name to give the current lift to such concerns. In a series of Twitter posts, Snyder put some of the concern in perspective. Her Tweets from 8/6/15, also further down in this article.

But here’s what got me looking into this issue.

From Katherine Locke:

You might not be aware but a few weeks ago, a book called For Such a Time by Kate Breslin was up for a RITA from the Romance Writers of America. It’s an Emmy or an Oscar of romance writing. The book was published in 2014 and I had personally never heard of it prior to reading the Smart Bitches review of it. That is what I’ve linked to as I’d rather not link to its Amazon or Goodreads profiles. In short, the book is a retelling of the Book of Esther (a Jewish story about a strong Jewish woman, who saves her people, and keeps her faith, and is not a romance) in which a Nazi camp commander saves a Jewish woman from Dachau and takes her to Theresienstadt in then-Czechoslovakia. There, they fall in love, and through a magically appearing Bible, find Jesus, and save Jews. At the end, the woman converts to Christianity because that’s her redemption arc. There are multiple factors at play here. First, the author, Kate Breslin, co-opted the horrific, unimaginable tragedy that happened within living memory to other people to promote her own agenda (evangelical/inspirational Christianity). Second, her agent, her publisher, and multiple RWA judges, not to mention the HUNDREDS of reviews on retail sites and Goodreads, did not think this was problematic. Third, the way we, across religions, have begun to approach the Holocaust is problematic and dangerous.

Read her complete blog essay On For Such a Time by Kate Breslin and Writing the Holocaust.

But it seems that the RWA may have a more systemic set of problems with regard to Diversity. After attending the recent RWA Conference in New York, Suleikha Snyder, author of Contemporary Romance novels, said a lot of things, but this is what first caught my eye:

“I’m sorry our browness and our queerness and our hair and our loudness have sullied the decorum and dignity of RWA. Except, wait, I’m really not.”

Suleikha Snyder : RWA15 in NYC: A Tale of Two Conferences

Sarah Wendell Letter to RWA Board of Directors (Excerpt)

The book is a retelling of the book of Esther set during the Holocaust, an ambitious undertaking to be sure. But in addition to the attempt at redeeming a hero who is a Nazi commander, at the end of the book, the heroine converts to Christianity, a narrative decision that also insensitive and offensive. Christianity is what redeems the heroine and the hero, and again, I’m at a loss for words to fully explain how and why this is so objectionable. But I will try. In the Holocaust, over 6 million Jews, and more than 17 million people in total were killed by the Nazis. In For Such a Time, the hero is redeemed and forgiven for his role in a genocide. The stereotypes, the language, and the attempt at redeeming an SS officer as a hero belittle and demean the atrocities of the Holocaust. The heroine’s conversion at the end underscores the idea that the correct path is Christianity, erases her Jewish identity, and echoes the forced conversions of many Jews before, during, and after the Holocaust.

Read Sarah’s full letter here Read the Smart Bitches Trashy Books Review of For Such A Time here.

Author Rose Lerner spent some time tracking down the more astounding of the reviews for this book. Her “take” is priceless. It’s fairly clear from her roundup that most of the people who actually read Kate Breslin’s book have ALMOST ZERO familiarity with or comprehension of those pesky, little historical facts. Lerner says:

“I tried to keep the commentary to a minimum, but sometimes I couldn’t help myself.”

Read Rose Lerner’s review of the Reviews here.

And Snyder’s long view perspective on the subject of Diversity & Racism, especially as that subject may pertain to RWA, offered a thoughtful summation in five 140 characters or less Tweets–the woman knows how to sum it up! From Suleikha Snyder:

I’ve been tweeting and blogging about race in publishing for years. It’s interesting to me that it’s a post about RWA that gets traction. This stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And there ARE people fighting for change within RWA and the romance community. Who have for years. I wonder if it’s because it’s easier for many to blame/point fingers at an organization rather than to look inward at their own privilege. There are people IN the genre, IN the industry with stakes who *do the work*. @FarrahRochon {Rochon is a USA Today Bestselling romance novelist} is one. She is kickass. Don’t erase that. Read outside your tiny comfort zone. Pay attention. The problems didn’t spring fully-formed last month like Athena from Zeus’ head.

And, perhaps one of the most edifying perspectives came from ‘someone on the inside’ of RWA,  Romance author, Courtney Milan, who is also a Director-At-Large in the RWA.  Her website Bio says, in part: Milan has been a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller, a RITA® finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance.  Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that….she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then…She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time. Milan expressed what she specifically identified as a “personal opinion” when she said:

This wasn’t fringe. It wasn’t an accident. This is a “change the world” level of problem. Remember that, because it’s what we need to do.

This is not what something looks like when fringe judges let something through. This is what a systemic problem looks like.

(Shoutouts to Catherine Lundoff(@clundoff) and Jeanne (@fangirlJeanne)(aka Makekesimoore http://makalesimoore.tumblr.com/)–neither of whom realize that early tweets from them helped me to track all this down and sort it out. If I didn’t get it right, it’s not their fault! Additionally, the excerpts and tweets, partial and full, were my choice, so if the chosen bits do not accurately reflect a person’s full opinion, or if I’ve missed any of the “yeah, but…” nuances, it’s all my fault, not theirs.)/ttt

The Death Strip’s first review…

I found a new author! Well, new to me anyway. I read the book, then wrote a review. I do that from time to time. He says I’m an angel! LOL…dark angel in black Armani, maybe. Anyway, check out my review and his book!

Del Nolan

cover in colour

The first Amazon review is in. 5 stars and articulate, generous words. Thank you so much T.T Thomas. You are an angel.


Breath-Taking Suspense

From the opening lines to the final paragraph, this lean, taut story of suspense and choices made is memorable. Beautifully written, the style is at once sparse and filled to the brim with feelings and emotions. What does a man caught between two wrongs do to escape the torment of his choices? The author has achieved a masterful grasp of building a story with a pace and tension that keeps the reader on the edge while quietly building the characters’ inner conflicts to match the narrative action. It was a parallel universe of two men, two conflicts, two dramatic outcomes. The novella was as much neo-Noir as political thriller, and the author did justice to both genre. Highly recommended.


Why not check it out and maybe…

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If Only He Would Review Books…like maybe MY book?!?

This is the best skillet review you will ever read. In the world. Ever. There will NEVER be another skillet review like this one. So, give up now. But, if you must go into that kitchen cookware department, take James O. Thatch with you. These are his words. They probably belong to Amazon. At the bottom of his review, there is a link to take you to the skillet, but more importantly, if you go there and actually BUY the skillet, I get a half million bucks from having an affiliates number. If you don’t buy the skillet, click on the cover of The Girl With 2 Hearts, and presto, you’re on Amazon downloading my Free Book! Somehow, we gotta get this guy James Thatch into reviewing books. Lesbian fiction. Right. I’ll make more dough if you buy the skillet. LOL…dough, get it? Seriously, James O. Thatch. Remember the name. You probably saw it here first.

To Protect & Serve, January 9, 2014
By James O. Thach “@JamesOtisThach”
This review is from: King Kooker CIFP20S Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, 20-Inch (Lawn & Patio)
First off, let’s dispense with the polite fiction that these are meant for cooking. I know they have to market them that way for legal reasons, but honestly, if you’re hungry, throw a Hot Pocket in the microwave. If you want to defend your home, reach for a frying pan.

I believe you can’t have too much protection. I keep a sauté pan strapped to my thigh for conceal-and-carry, a wok in our closet, an omelet pan by the front door, and a waffle iron under my pillow. I may wake up with grid marks on my face, but I don’t lose sleep over home invasions.

My wife has a 10 inch saucepan. It’s a lady’s skillet, sure, but it’s a solid piece of iron, and she knows how to handle it. We take it to the range regularly–not to cook, mind you, but to develop wrist control. That’s the thing about frying pans–if you’re going to draw one in anger, you better know how to use it. If the perp gets control, you’ll be the one with the dented forehead.

As the primary protector of our home, I need to be able to face down any griddle fight. That’s why I invested in this 20-inch, 23-pound peacemaker. Just the sight of it will make an assailant crepe his pants. And this cast-iron monster will go through doors. It will lay an intruder out cold. A little backswing, and you’ll be washing his face off with Palmolive.

Some people say I’m crazy, keeping this much cookware in the house. But as for me, I’d rather have a 23-pound skillet and not need it, than need it and not have it.

GO GET YOUR SKILLET….and read the reviews. James’ review is the first one on the list because everyone loved it! Thanks, James. Oh, btw, I don’t suppose you’ve read A Delicate Refusal, have you? 😉 and, just coincidently? I mean, what are the odds, right? My most recent novel, The Girl With 2 Hearts, is absolutely Free on Amazon! I know, huh! You don’t have to subscribe, pay monthly, send me annuities, none of it. It’s free. I mean, c’mon, James. Even if it’s not your kind of skillet, it’s the best home invasion protection for the spirit that you’ll find anywhere! Really. 😉

Also? OK, here’s the absolute truth: James Otis Thatch is a wonderful children’s author–we knew he had to be a writer, right? Check it!

 

Screenshot 2015-03-17 22.06.22                                                    Just because…she knew about love and trains

 

Ageing into Lesbian-Feminism – An Excerpt from a Life

An “old” (but not very!) feminist who calls herself “a crone” has some timeless reflections on what Feminism brought to her life and brings to the young women of today, whether they realize it or not! Love this: “Like all important tasks, dismembering patriarchy is the work of my many lifetimes.”

The Philosopher's Eye

ari headColor

It was 1969, I was just 12 years old, and Stonewall had not yet happened. My best friend Linda and I hung out at the local schoolyard wearing army jackets with male names emblazoned on the pocket. She was not just my friend, though I had no name for what we were.

When I smacked a boy upside the head who tried to grab my breasts, the home economics teacher said if I couldn’t stop acting like that no boy would ever marry me. I had no vision of what life could be without marrying a boy and gay marriage was still an oxymoron; I decided that marriage was a trap that I would never willingly step into. I mostly still think that.

I discovered feminism with an insatiable hunger. I read every book, bought every woman’s music album and joined consciousness raising groups, and coming out groups.

Today my…

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Lesbianomics of LesFic…the Humanomics of Poverty

Lee Miller and Friend by Man RayLee Miller and Friend, Photograph by Man Ray

There are over 76 Million Baby boomers alive today. A report by the Williams Institute six years ago said lesbian couples over the age of 65 were twice as likely to live below the poverty line as opposite-sex couples. A study by the same organization in 2013 reaffirmed earlier findings and extended the scope of the study.

And yet, I hear many people asking “Why?” I “hear” some accusation in that question, some tonal intimation to suggest it is the fault of the senior and elderly lesbians. I think I can perhaps shed some light on the subject, offer some answers to these questions, or rephrase the questions.

At first, I wasn’t sure what this had to do with lesfic (the catch-all phrase for lesbian fiction that covers many genre from Romance to Mystery to Fantasy and beyond) and/or lesbian authors and readers. Then I realized that I know over a dozen authors who can no longer write (in some cases not at all, in other cases, only rarely) and a couple dozen lesfic readers who cannot afford even cheaper eBooks. Those are merely the people who I and other friends know.

The ones I know or know about are lesbian women mostly over 60 who struggle to make their way in a world that is harsh and unforgiving. Too many are older or elder lesbians with health problems who worked all their lives to find their (usually meager) savings and investments shredded by retirement age or soon afterwards. Some of the cause was corporate greed, some was a personal need to dip into said monies for extreme emergencies and for others there has been a quick erosion of even those savings to supplement a social security check that is low and puts them BELOW the US Poverty Threshold.

That social security check is low for many reasons. Common reasons include the cumulative effect of decades of no parity in wages, shorter time in the work force, not working by virtue of raising children (including siblings and other relatives’ kids), necessity to care for elderly and/or ill parents or family member, and a general exclusion from the various societal rights, family support and other benefits that non-lesbian women experience.

Additionally, lesbians, particularly long-term couples over 60, were not allowed to marry in their twenties and thirties and forties like their Straight counterparts. We cannot underestimate the very real financial repercussions of this. Without having had a legal and socially-accepted way to start their lives together, plan their financial future together and travel the arc of best practices of couples throughout the world, lesbians have been at a financial disadvantage. If their parents or other family members were unable, for whatever reason, to offer the guidance that most males receive, lesbians were, and continue to be, very much on their own, learning by doing, learning by failing and learning by influence.

The official “poverty level” in the USA is about 14.5% or about 45.3 Million people; between 2012 and 2013, 15.8% or just over 7 Million of those in poverty were female (19.9%, or 8 Million, were children, under the age of 18).

The number of people over 65 who are in poverty is about 4.3 Million. Keep in mind that the official poverty threshold level (a strange number that determines which, if any, of the benefits you receive) in this country is about $23,800 FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR! For one person over 65 living alone, it’s just over $11,000.

For a great many, though, living BELOW the Poverty Threshold is a grim reality. Social Security checks of $500 to $700 don’t go very far. According to the Social Security Administration, 46 percent of single people receive 90 percent or more of their income from Social Security. Many receive 100% of their income from Social Security.

It is a well-documented fact that alcoholism and drug addiction were prevalent factors in many over-60 people in this country when they were younger; the incidence for Gay and lesbian people was exceptionally high. Although many were able to re-stabilize their lives, the effects financially can spell long-term problems, not the least of which is trying to play financial catch-up at a time when job security for older workers is tenuous, and jobs for seniors are scarce if work is even possible given health, mobility and opportunity restrictions.

And in a relatively recent trend, the stressors of Baby Boomers transitioning to a new phase of aging (those over 65-70) are causing such stress and anxiety that a whole new wave of substance abuse and other behavioral addictions such as hoarding and gambling is alarmingly on the rise.

For others, a perfect storm of uninformed or non-existent planning, careless disregard for their own future well-being and a history of illnesses have brought them to this place. But does it matter how anyone got here? I suggest it does not; the situation is dire, it affects the entire nation. If the folks who managed to sock away a half million, three-quarters of a million or a full million dollars are running out of money–which branch of the judgment cops are you going to call? It does not matter how anyone got here; what matters is how we put our best minds and efforts into alleviating the suffering, the stigma and the sadness of realizing or feeling that no one cares. No one cares, any more.

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