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I’ll Get There Eventually

It’s the first of December, which means about three weeks to the end of fall, the solstice, and the deadline for sending cards and otherwise preparing to share a little seasonal joy. Which means the chances of me publishing Ocean’s Lure this fall, as I have previously announced here and there, is somewhere near nil.

Picture of wide gravel path through a marsh, to trees several kilometers away.
Salt Marsh Trail, Dartmouth NS. It’s a long walk across the marsh, but you get there eventually.

The good news is that this acknowledgement will not send legions of fans into a frenzy or require stopping of any presses. My failure to meet my self-imposed publishing deadline bothers no-one but me, and me not that much. I rationalize this lack of concern as being good to myself and forgiving of my faults (which is sort of connected with the seasonal celebrations). And it’s not so much laziness as experience resetting goals.

For example, a few years after graduating high school, I decided to obtain an English degree. I thought it might help me write (spoiler alert – it did that, and much more). I started a part-time university program, then dropped out after four courses, out of money. I started again a few years later at a different school, took one course, and failed it twice. (In hindsight, picking a university for its recruitment poster may not have been the wisest decision. I cannot reproduce it here, but you can view Heather Cooper’s stunning University of Guelph recruitment poster at Library and Archives Canada.) Five years after my first attempt, I finally enrolled in a program and stayed in it. It took a total of twelve years for me to earn a three year degree.

So if it takes a little longer to get my first book out, that’s okay. I know I’ll get there. This year is hard for everyone, and we all need to be good to ourselves (and limit travel, social distance, and wear masks). And I haven’t spent all my free time surfing in hopes of finding nuggets of good news and reassurance friends are okay. Among other things, I started a website and twitter account for Somewhat Grumpy Press, the small press that will eventually publish Ocean’s Lure (and has already published Recycled Virgin). It’s also been a good year for editing projects. At this rate, I’ll be able to quit my day job, write and edit novels part-time, and enjoy the royalties from the books I write and sell in…fifteen to thirty years?

Meanwhile, watch for Ocean’s Lure, coming spring 2021. Probably.

As Expected, Ontario Gives Film Classification to Industry

I’ve been studying film classification systems, or movie age ratings, for years. I wrote undergrad essays on the subject, an MA thesis on it, and have published journal articles. You can find some here. There are also many blog posts. I’ve concluded that, for all their flaws, film classification systems are necessary, desirable, and best run by the government (in a democracy). That’s what we have done in Canada, along with many other countries.

Graphic of cougar profile, with word restricted superimposed.
The Restricted Cougar (copyright by and registered trademark of Consumer Protection BC). Used by permission. Previously used to identify restricted films in British Columbia, and now retired.

The United States has a voluntary system of film classification, run by the film industry. It favours films from the larger companies, ignores regional differences, and practises invisible censorship (films are quietly altered before or after production). It’s not responsive to public concerns, and while the classifiers are nominally independent, film industry representatives dominate the appeals board. Finally, contrary to what might be expected, censorship still occurs with age-classification, and industry run classification has more censorship and more restrictive classifications than government censorship.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child encourages countries to have film classification systems, in order to protect children from film content that may be harmful to them. The Convention also requires that children participate in decisions that affect them, including film classification. The United States does not meet these requirements, but has not signed the Convention (it’s the only country that hasn’t). Canada has signed the Convention, and more or less meets these obligations to children with mandatory classification in most provinces, and the participation of children in film classification in some provinces.

In short, the Canadian system of film classification is better than the American system, for many reasons. But, just over a year ago, the Government of Ontario stopped classifying films, choosing to rely on the ratings from British Columbia as an interim measure while they developed a “new approach.” In a journal article published earlier this year, I predicted Ontario would likely adopt the MPAA ratings, to the detriment of independent film makers and film viewers, especially children.

The government has now introduced amendments to the Film Act, which scrap ratings, and call for age recommendations and content advisories to be issued by film distributors, with the distributors to supply contact information for complaints. This is apparently to ease regulatory burden. However, if film distributors have to prepare a special recommendation and advisory just for Ontario, and staff a complaints desk, there’s not much change to the regulatory burden – if anything, it’s increased. If this goes through, I fully expect the film industry to announce that the existing MPAA age recommendations, content advisories, and contact information meet the requirements. In other words, Ontario will end up using the MPAA ratings, and this may put pressure on other provinces to follow suit.

Who benefits from this change? Large film companies. Why is it being being done? Because the Ontario provincial government and its supporters have the ideology that government is bad, and business is good. From decades of studying film classification systems, I know that’s wrong when it comes to movie ratings. From witnessing the collapse of American democracy and growing social inequality thanks to small-government conservatives and neo-liberals, we should all know by now that the ‘business does it better’ mantra is bad for everything and everyone, except large companies and wealthy individuals. I take little comfort in predicting this sad shift to the film industry providing film classification in Ontario, and hold out hope that more reasonable approaches continue in other provinces.

Review: Red, White & Royal Blue

Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston, is not a book I would have chosen for myself. I like my contemporary romances to have relatable characters, and I find it hard to sympathize with the romantic struggles of the very, very, rich. I admit enjoying historical romances, most of which feature wealthy Dukes or similar, but these stories are so far removed from reality in the quantity and qualities of these characters that they are easy to enjoy. In these trying times of pandemic and crazy right-wing politicians, my near-daily dose of Duke meets impoverished lady is a treasured escape. Why would I want to read about the highly privileged offspring of contemporary world leaders? I read enough of that in the news. But Red, White & Royal Blue was selected for my book club (now disbanded due to pandemic and layoffs), and I purchased a paper copy. It sat in my TBR pile for months, until I selected it for a bathtub read, largely out of a desire to reduce that pile.

Book Cover - Red, White & Royal Blue.
Click image to buy from Amazon (affiliate link – I get money if you do).

Most people seem to love it, some hate it, and I found it good if not great. Spoilers ahead.

Red, White & Royal Blue, published in 2019, is set in a parallel universe United States, where the 2016 election was won by a Democratic, divorced, woman, with a biracial family. In other words, the United States became even more progressive and liberal after Obama. The right wing is still out there – Mitch McConnell and the Westboro Baptist church are mentioned and mocked, and a corrupt Republican presidential candidate obtains emails from a private server in a political thriller subplot – but racial and gender equality and diversity are unthreatened.

The president’s two children, Alex and June, in their early twenties, live at the White House. Together with the vice-president’s grand-daughter Nora, their best friend and former lover of Alex (and possibly June), they fully enjoy their celebrity status as young, hot, singles. They’re also brilliant and work hard in various fields, and we get regular reminders of how smart, wealthy, and desirable they are.

In the fall of 2019, Alex creates an international incident when he gets drunk and fights Henry, an English Prince and heir, at a royal wedding (the parallel British monarchy has an elderly and long reigning Queen, named Mary, but is otherwise different, and I never did figure out exactly where Henry fit in the line of succession). Henry, like Alex, is a tabloid heartthrob, and Alex has long held an unreasonable dislike for him. To patch things up after their fight, the PR departments of the two nations arrange for Alex and Henry to have a few friendly visits.

Romance novels tend to have an arc of friends to lovers, or enemies to lovers, with some obstacle to the relationship, because there’s not much story potential in a few dates and becoming lovers. A plot challenge is bringing together two people who are compatible, keeping them together long enough for propinquity to kick in, and quickly enough so the relationship is the central plot thread. One way to accomplish this is some form of a marriage of convenience (used in both historical and contemporary romance). The ordered friendly visits are essentially the marriage of convenience that turn our enemies to lovers (and, as is often the case, the attraction was there all along). Social media, and the ability of either party to fly across the Atlantic on a whim (rich kids, no pandemic), make up for the physical distance.

My biggest disappointment with the story is the obstacle to the relationship – the need to keep it secret. This is a common romantic obstacle in non-hetero romance, and it represents an odd stage for the non-hetero romance story: Society is open enough for these stories to be told and appreciated, but closed enough that the need for secrecy is an acceptable plot point. Hopefully, some day the need for secrecy obstacle will be relegated to historicals. Meanwhile, though a realistic obstacle, in this story it seems at odds with the otherwise utopian tone of the book, and it is ultimately revealed to have been a non-issue. Friends, family, co-workers, and most of the public are supportive. A few of Henry’s relatives are concerned, but their dislike is limited to how it affects the image of the royal family, not personal animosity. One is left wondering why the characters were ever worried about it.

I was also puzzled by the lesser obstacle of Alex coming to terms with his bisexuality. On the one hand, cool that it was not a big deal to him. On the other hand, given his past experiences, the bisexuality of his best friend, and his long interest in Henry, it seemed a little odd that he’d never thought about his same-sex attraction until he enjoyed a great surprise kiss from Henry, and that he then picked a new label relatively easily.

There’s a slight YA tone to the story – the coming of age arc, youth saving the day, and the concerns of the adult world being distant thanks in part to the wealth of the characters. The sex scenes drift to vagueness whenever things get steamy, to the point where sometimes I had to go back and read them again to see what, if anything, happened. During one, Alex says “After that, things got hazy,” and he’s correct. The main characters are fond of Star Wars (the original trilogy) and know the mid-1980s film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which is a treat for older readers such as myself, until I wonder how likely it is that people born this century would be fans.

Those disappointments aside, this is a delightful read. First, of course, there is the happy ending, with everything working out for the characters, the broader utopian vision of the United States without Trump or the dark forces that support him, and the individual and international celebrations of gender, sexual, and racial equality and diversity. Romance novels tell us what is possible. That’s usually at the individual level, and while the relationships between Alex and Henry and their friends and family are perhaps too good to be true, they are something to aspire to. At the national level, while this story is firmly set in a pandemic-free 2020, with its climax the US election, it’s still a possible future. With the announcement of a Biden-Harris presidency, that possible future is a little more likely.

Second – the romance. Wow. We’d all love to be romanced the way these guys treat each other. The novel includes some of their texts and emails to each other, which are hot, sweet, and sometimes include quotes from historical novels and love letters, such as this passage from Michelangelo to Tommasco Cavalieri:

I know well that, at this hour, I could as easily forget your name as the food by which I live; nay, it were easier to forget the food, which only nourishes my body miserably, than your name, which nourishes both body and soul, filling the one and the other with such sweetness that neither weariness nor fear of death is felt by me while memory preserves you to my mind. Think, if the eyes could also enjoy their portion, in what condition I should find myself.”

Letter, July 28, 1533, from The Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti by John Addington Symonds, 1893.

Then there’s the museum scene. Alex and Henry sneak out of the palace one night, and explore a closed museum, ending with a dance to Your Song in one of the galleries. Unlikely? You bet. Sign of privilege? Absolutely. Heartbreakingly sweet grand romantic gesture? Oh yes.

Finally, the structure is impressive. McQuiston knows their Checkov’s gun and uses it repeatedly, to great effect. Symbolism is uneven, but present enough to be appreciated, and pacing is strong. There are a few great visuals that would be fun on film.

Despite the all-too-familiar White House setting, Red, White & Royal Blue is far enough from realistic to be a pleasant escape. Judging from the success of the book, many agree. The escapades of these wealthy privileged brats is told with enough humour and affirmative messaging that to criticize them or the story seems curmudgeonly. And I note that Henry, like the Dukes of my historicals, has misgivings about his source of wealth. The characters are hardly relatable, but they are decent folk at least, and the final scene of the story is a beautiful quiet moment that left me very pleased the book club recommended this book.

Fall Thoughts

September, and the last few weeks of summer, have flown by. At the beginning of the month, I took a long delayed road trip, and that was followed by two weeks of self-isolation. Did I write while traveling? No. Did I write during self-isolation? Also no.

Not writing doesn’t mean I was not productive – I have three editing projects at different stages, and worked on those. I updated the website for Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, and did some planning for the publishing of Ocean’s Lure. And I did some exploring while travelling, to the extent it can be done while observing COVID-19 restrictions.

Fall in Cape Breton. From a previous road trip, but appropriate for discussing Ocean’s Lure, which takes place in Cape Breton during the fall.

Lately I’ve been telling people Ocean’s Lure will be coming this fall. In August, that seemed a long way off. Now it is fall, and the clock is ticking. However, it’s a self-imposed deadline, which means it is less important than the deadlines for my editing projects. I’m not going to be too hard on myself. I consider that self-care, not laziness.

Beach in Cape Breton.

This is the first year since 2012 that I have not participated in the 3 Day Novel Contest. In recent years, the contest has been poorly run, and the new management that appeared less than two months before the 2020 contest weekend did not inspire confidence. By then, I had decided to support a new contest on that weekend, the 3 Day Novella Contest. I am now one of the judges (and thus also have a story-reading deadline). Thanks to previous years’ entries, I have several romance novel first drafts, and I’d rather finish them than write another draft. And that’s another reason for getting Ocean’s Lure out. Much as I love the story, and working on it, there are other stories I want to tell.

My drafts pile is starting to resemble my to-be-read pile, but that’s okay. I’ve no fear of running out of things to read, or things to write. Life is good.

What’s in a Name?

What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Romeo and Juliet 2.2 .887-891

When I started writing romance novels, I created a female pseudonym. Among other reasons, I write academically, and, at the time, I thought it a good branding strategy to keep my academic writing and my romance writing separate.

Several years passed as I drafted and revised my novels, and with Ocean’s Lure approaching publication, I stopped using the female pseudonym. Most romance writers I met, especially through the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, accepted a male romance author. Having made progress on various writing fronts, the notion of establishing my romance writing brand as something separate from my other writing seems unimportant. Maybe this is because I’ve grown weary of the concept of personal branding. I’m just me, with many interests, including writing, of many kinds. And I wanted to spend more time writing, and less time promoting myself thorough multiple social media accounts.

When I made the decision to stop using the pseudonym, several well-meaning people recommended I publish romance using my first initial rather than my full name, to keep my gender quiet. It was suggested that some romance readers would not consider anything by a male author. I decided against this, but last week ran a Twitter poll to check that advice:

Twitter Poll. If you read contemporary romance, would you read one by a male author? Never, 0%; Sure, why not, 87.5%; Depends on blurb/reviews, 12.5%; Depends on author bio, 0%.

First, the good news. The vast majority of respondents answered “Sure, why not?” That’s reassuring. However, the bad news is that there were only 8 votes (that’s out of 198 people that saw the tweet, over four days).

I’m not sure this is a meaningful result, as least with regard to whether or not romance readers would read one by a male author. What I do learn from this poll is that I don’t need to worry about losing sales by using my full name. I need to worry about reaching potential readers.

My marketing strategy, such as it is, is to wait until I have three books out, rather than invest a lot of time, effort, and money marketing one book. But I’ll still let people know when the first one is available. If sales are slow (and, being realistic here, they will be), I know not to blame my male name.

The Palm Tree Solution

My forthcoming novel Ocean’s Lure has been read by half-a-dozen beta readers (thanks!), and I am reviewing the comments and making edits. On the whole, the comments were positive. It stood out that regular romance readers were generally more positive than non-regular romance readers, which I found reassuring, and no one suggested I was doing any of the terrible things men do when writing female characters.

He says he loves her, he says he loves her not.

One comment was that my hero makes a verbal declaration of love too soon. It’s a fair point, and I struggled with whether to include it when I wrote the draft. Verbal declarations of love are a delicate subject, and I am much influenced by a 1986 Vicki Hearne essay in the New Yorker, in which she wrote, among other things, “Cats do not declare love much, they enact it” (August 25, 1986). At the same time, I felt a verbal declaration was something my character would do. I should confess that I also felt readers might expect this – much as I do not want to ‘write to market,’ I also know such declarations are common in the genre, and perhaps expected by readers.

Fortunately, I can have my cake and eat it too, by making the question of whether a declaration of love is appropriate the character’s problem, not mine. Making a plot or character problem the character’s problem works for a variety of scenarios. Not sure how to get a character from A to B? That becomes something the character needs to solve. Not sure if a nickname makes sense? Let the character explain it. Timeline confusing? Someone can explain it to another character. Is this just a way to sneak in exposition and cover or acknowledge awkward plot or character points? Yes, but it can be effective. I call this the Palm Tree Solution.

Armandoartist / CC BY-SA

Film director Richard Rush wanted a particular location for his 1980 film The Stunt Man (view trailer). The story concerns the making of a period film, set in northern Europe during World War I. However, the location Rush wanted had palm trees everywhere. As Rush explains in this interview (12:44 to 14:40), he solved his directing problem of the palm trees in his desired location by making it a problem for the director character in the film. Here’s how the scene he mentions appeared in the film (30 seconds at start of clip).

A bit of a cheat, perhaps, but my character will make his declaration of love, he’ll be unsure if that’s the right thing to do, and the heroine will suggest it’s too soon. This is in character for both, and he has the point of view at the time, so his hesitation is easy to add. My hesitation to include the declaration is addressed, those who’d like the hero to make such a declaration are satisfied, those who object are satisfied, and the story is improved. Thank you, beta readers.

In Defence of Social Media

I’ve been on Facebook for over ten years, and I am active on Twitter, Instagram, Library Thing, and GoodReads. I’ve dabbled with YouTube, checked out Tumblr, and even this blog is a form of social media. Time being limited, I have not explored other and newer options for being social online, and I am by no stretch an influencer, but I’m a regular user of some social media.

Now and then, friends, acquaintances, or some celebrity announce their departure from social media, citing concerns with the companies, loss of privacy, advertising, and disturbing material. Facebook is currently in the news for the prevalence of hate speech on the platform, and facing an ad boycott. The concerns about social media are valid, but social media is not without benefits, especially for more introverted persons such as myself.

My parents were immigrants, and our family moved several times. My second dad has roots in one province, but had already moved cross-country when he joined the family, and the family continued moving. Once on my own, I kept moving, for various reasons. I don’t have a home town, I’m not sure where I grew up (assuming I have), and the nine years I have now lived in Halifax (including Dartmouth) is the longest I have lived anywhere. Social media has allowed me to find and stay in touch with friends from previous cities, and helped me meet people in new cities.

Social media also helps me avoid the phone. I rarely feel comfortable phoning someone to ask how they are doing and find out what’s new. Social media lets me learn how they are doing without bothering them. This has been particularly appreciated during the pandemic.

And yes, the likes and other responses to things I post feel good. Maybe that indicates low self-esteem, but maybe that’s because I’m a writer, and I like to know that people are reading what I write. If your sense of purpose is to entertain and instruct with stories, being read confirms you are on track. It’s not just writers that seek validation – so do DJs, when they ask people to phone in, and actors and comics love getting responses from an audience. Positive responses are better than negative ones, but “any stroke is better than no stroke at all.”

Long before social media, I wrote a few stories for fanzines. (I’ve noticed my romance novel drafts play with the same themes I worked with decades ago.) I also contributed to an Amateur Press Association (APA). APAs are basically blogging in paper form, and date back to the 1840s. My “blog” back then (35 years ago, not the 1840s) was called “By Candlelight,” though I cannot remember why. Speaking of ancient history, in the 1980s I started communicating online using bulletin board systems, and joined CompuServe, which was essentially the same as Facebook. Over decades of moves and life events, sharing and communicating online has been important to me.

Social media interaction does not need to be profound. Some nights when I’ve been too stressed to sleep, I play word games with strangers for hours. That simple anonymous human connection can be intensely valuable.

Facebook may go the way of CompuServe, but if it does, I’m sure something else will take its place. People are social creatures, even if they are introverted, and social media, especially for the introverted, is a way to be social. Yes, large companies with questionable ethics profit from that, but small businesses and independent artists find audiences and make sales too, and yes, there is disturbing material shared, but there is positive and uplifting material shared too.

My self-esteem is strong enough that I probably won’t check the stats for this page, or worry about likes, but if you think I’ve said some interesting, or you agree, I’ll appreciate any likes or comments. Just don’t ask to phone me so we can chat about it.

Studying Romance Novels

During three decades of part-time university studies, I developed an interest in the social, industrial, and technical forces that shape the content and understanding of films. Various aspects of the subject continue to fascinate me, which explains why I still research and write about film classification systems, why I recently bought a Laserdisc player, and other eccentricities. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

Although reading and writing romance novels is a pleasure, I can’t help but consider the academic film theory I learned and how it might apply. Since much of the theory in film studies originates in literature studies, this is not a stretch, but rather than re-inventing the wheel, I should look at what has already been done. Step one completed: I ordered Janice Radway’s classic work, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature.

Meanwhile, I’ve just acquired a copy of Genre: The Musical. I obtained this for an essay by Richard Dyer: “Entertainment and Utopia.” To give credit where credit is due, this essay was brought to my attention when Linda Williams used Dyer’s theoretical approaches to musicals in her work studying narrative pornographic films.

Dyer notes that entertainment pleases us by showing utopia – a simple world where people have agency and intense feelings, and there is abundance, honesty, and community.

Richard Dyer’s categories and definitions of utopian aspects in entertainment. “Entertainment and Utopia,” in Genre: The Musical, edited by Rick Altman. Routledge, London, 1981, 175-189. Originally printed in Movie #24, Spring 1977, 2-13.

Sounds good, though he also notes that entertainment typically disregards issues related to race, class, and sexuality. We’ve made little progress, except perhaps on sexuality, since he wrote that in 1977. He adds that since our entertainments take place in a capitalist society, they promote consumption and the notion that capitalism can lead us to utopia.

For people to accept utopia in a story, there needs to be a connection to the present reality – without drawing too much attention to how the present is not utopia. That might make us question capitalism. Dyer proposes three approaches for how musical films attempt to connect reality and utopia without dwelling on the gap:

  • Separated, where the musical numbers present the utopia, and the story takes place in the present. This is typically a “backstage musical,” such as 42nd Street. The musical numbers eventually take over the film. It occurs to me that this is similar to romance stories where an ordinary person meets a billionaire (typically successful in business). Their world is the utopia, seen in isolated scenes before the ordinary person crosses over to it.
  • Integrated, where the musical numbers introduce the problem or the solution to the problem, in an effort to distract, and make both the problem and the solution literally upbeat. Mamma Mia, for example, resolves finding your father through a series of ABBA songs. This is like contemporary romance and especially romantic comedy, where meet cutes and misunderstandings are key parts of the plot. Suspense, faith, or erotica are other distractions, and there’s often a subplot of achieving business success. Like musicals, the lead couple may have several ‘solos,’ the supporting cast may have some numbers, and we end with the lovers duet.
  • Dyer describes the third form as the least common: Dissolved, where the film is somehow distanced from the present day. This is often done by setting the film in a past, which, no matter how grim it seems at first, works with our sense of nostalgia to evoke a glorious utopian era. Oliver! comes to mind as a musical film example. The distance is also a distraction. This category would apply to historical romances, as well as stories involving modern royalty, the paranormal, and even Amish stories, and may be the most popular form of romance novel. Utopia, or a happy ending, is easier to achieve in a more refined, magical, or simpler time.

These categories are not necessarily exclusive. An historical romance with a wealthy duke and comic misunderstandings gives us utopia that is primarily dissolved from our present realities, with elements of separation and integration. It could be argued that not all films, or even all musicals, present utopia. However, romance novels, with happy endings by definition, do give us utopia.

I find it useful, when reading and writing romance, to be aware of the tensions between presenting relatable characters and situations and presenting a happy ending, and ways to address those tensions. I also find it useful to recognize how entertainment utopias may ignore social issues. Modern romance novels are often good at addressing issues of sexuality, but race and class are less frequently addressed. Agency (including sexual), intense feelings, abundance, honesty, and community are common to most happy ever after endings, but there’s room to add more utopian aspects. That would be good for everyone – and might help sales too!

There Must be a Better World Somewhere

A couple of months ago, I justified spending time writing on the grounds that the world needs positive stories (Pondering the Pandemic). Since then, things have gotten worse. We appear to be recovering from the pandemic, but there is still so much we don’t know about COVID-19. There’s no vaccine and treatments remain uncertain. Meanwhile, I’ve learned I have a cancer that probably won’t kill me, but does compromise my immune system. I’m more likely to be a carrier, and more likely have complications if I develop COVID-19.

But the pandemic has become old news, replaced by stories of racist murders, the protests those killings have sparked, the riots that follow some protests, the trampling of protest and press rights, and the escalating authoritarian madness coming from the American president.

With all this going on, I still believe we need positive stories, though in the last few months I have done nothing to contribute to that pool. My first romance, Ocean’s Lure (new title!), was with beta readers (the comments were mostly supportive). I could have been working on another story, but I started a new day job, and my editing sideline saw three projects originally to be done in sequence all come due at the same time. Another few weeks, and Ocean’s Lure will get its last revision before publication, coming late summer or fall.

Happy Reader Mascaron & a Sprinkler Alarm (New York, NY)
Some rights reserved by takomabib No changes made.

When I talk about writing positive stories, since I am writing romance, the key aspect is they demonstrate people finding supportive and healthy relationships. Within the genre, that’s the HEA – happy ever after. That does not necessarily mean the relationships are always a straight white man marrying a straight white woman. And even if that is the primary relationship in the story, I may sneak a less conventional relationship into backstory or subplot, and frame it in a positive manner.

However, there are other things I like to promote in my work. I believe every story is a political statement – it expresses what is good and bad about various power relations, group decisions, use of resources, and so on. So I try and show my characters, or at least my good characters, as respecting the environment, being concerned about poverty, achieving satisfying work, enjoying creative expression, appreciating (and representing) sexual and racial diversity, and so on.

It is easy to say that none of this is realistic. People end up in lousy relationships, with lousy jobs, and racism and sexism persist. Yes, that may be the reality, but stories can tell us what is possible. Writing and reading stories that portray optimistic solutions to social problems is itself an act of optimism, and a first step to resistance and change, leading to a better world.

How to Create a Shorter URL for your WordPress.com Blog Post

When you create a new blog post, WordPress automatically creates the URL slug – the last part of the post’s direct link – based on your post title. This means the link to the post will be your site name plus the date plus the blog post title.

That’s a perfectly functional link, but, particularly if you have a long title, you get a very long link. You may not care. Twitter automatically shortens links, Facebook does not show them, and people who view the posts from your blog page don’t need to see the link.

However, it’s easy to create a shorter link, which looks better when the link is visible, either on a page or in the browser address bar. It’s easier to copy a shorter link, and long links may fail in some applications, including email. And you might want a URL slug that describes the post more accurately than the title of the post.

Follow these steps to create a custom URL slug, when creating or editing your post:

  1. In the right-hand settings column, click the Document tab. If the settings column is not visible, click the gear icon in the upper right.
  2. Scroll down to Permalink, and expand that section. You can see the existing slug and URL.
  3. Type the new slug in the URL Slug box. Use hyphens or underscores instead of spaces and periods.
  4. You’re done!
Default link for this post
Custom link for this post

It’s best to create short URLs when you create the post, before publishing for the first time. You can change the URL slug of a page or post anytime, but, depending on how your site is configured, some internal links may stop working when you change it. Any external links you or someone else has posted will stop working if you change the URL slug.

If someone attempts to view your site with an invalid page or post link, they’ll get a blank page on your site, with the chance to search for what they are looking for, as well as your usual menu options, so all is not lost, but it’s a good idea to always test a link that you post.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like assistance with your WordPress.com site.