Virtually IRL

I laughed when I read AB Plum’s recent post about unhooking from the virtual world.  It has been a long time since I didn’t enhance my RL (real life) experience with some sort of virtual interaction.  Photos on Facebook, the occasional witty comment on twitter, blogs and websites, they are all part of my life. Partially this is simply a function of my life and jobs.  As a graphic designer and a writer, social networking is part of the must do list. As a designer, it’s important that I be able to design ads for Facebook and other social media platforms and understand how the platforms function.  As a writer, it’s important that I use those platforms to reach an audience.

Which is not to say that I’m an expert.  As a designer, I get to create content and simply walk away.  The writer half of me definitely has it harder.  I have to remember to post (you wouldn’t think this was hard, but…), to come up with valuable and interesting content, and then not waste all of my writing time on marketing and social media.  On the other hand, for the last six months I’ve been swinging very much the other way.  I have not been doing a lot of marketing.  I have in fact been writing.  A lot.  A ton.  Lots of tons.  So much so that I’ve planned out my releases for 2018 and 2019. 

So, stay tuned for tons of updates later this summer.  Crime, sci-fi, a touch of fairy tales, and of course more than a little bit of romance are heading your way.  And strangely, I can’t wait to start marketing ALL of it.  If you want to get in on early give-aways (print and digital!) and announcements, join my mailing list at: bethanymaines.com/contact

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE STILETTO GANG 6.14.17

Parent Traps

A recent trip to the grocery store reminded me that Valentine’s Day is upon us.  As I cruised down a particularly pink and red aisle I saw wall to wall sets of movie themed Valentines for kids.  Which made me realize that as my spawn starts to become an actual kid certain things are barreling down on me.  Valentines.  Birthday parties.  Teacher gifts.  And all of them cause me to think – what the hell?

When did teacher gifts become a thing?  I don’t remember my mom having to essentially tip any of my teachers.  Teaching is an arrangement in which someone gets paid to show up and tell things to small people.  It was a nice arrangement with very clear cut guidelines – show up, learn/teach, go home.  Now all of my friends with older kids are dithering about teacher gifts around Christmas.  I recognize that teachers aren’t paid enough, but crappy set of lotion at Christmas is not going to make up for that.

And suddenly if you have a birthday party for your kid there have to gift bags for the children who attend. Birthdays are the day when everyone shows up and gives the person celebrating a gift.  Why are we now bribing people to attend?  If I have to bribe you to show up then you are not my friend.  I suppose the alternative theory is that the small children cannot handle the sight of someone else receiving gifts.  But… Isn’t that the entire point of parenting – teaching your kids to manage their own emotions?  So wouldn’t gift bags just be me supporting your poor parenting?

Valentine’s  Day has now become a flashpoint for grade school bullying.  Better give a Valentine to everyone or you’re a bully.  Sounds lovely.  You know what that means in reality? It means that I have to buy Valentines.  A kid can make four or five Valentines, but no grade schooler is going to hand-craft an entire classrooms worth of Valentines.  So now I’m stuck supporting the Hallmark industry?  Swell.

Can someone figure a way out of this for me?  Can I just carbon freeze my kid at three?  Or can I start a social revolution for those of us who are anti-social?  Somebody help!


Originally posted on The Stiletto Gang 02.08.17

Resolution Failure

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions.

Resolutions always seem to be negative statements.  They pit the resolver against something.  I resolve to lose weight, spend less, give up every fun thing ever, etc.

I much prefer to make goals. Goals take aim and move toward a change. I want to write more, be more healthy, learn French, wake up later.  I don’t think that last one’s going to happen, but it’s more of a lifelong goal.

And then there’s the artificial time construct of the New Year’s that tricks people into waiting to start a change until January first actually rolls on the calendar.  Of course, if I were resolving to do something horrible, I’d put it off as long as possible too.  But if I want to change my life for the better, then why would I wait? Now is always the perfect time to start.

Which is not to say that the turn of the year doesn’t cause me to reflect and take stock of how things are and how I would like them to go. Like a lot of people, I like to assess, predict, and then I make goals.  At the end of December, I jotted down some notes, made some plans and felt good about myself.  I’m usually pretty good at sticking to my plans and I didn’t expect this year to be any different.  But then I didn’t expect to be struck by inspiration that would send me furiously typing down the rabbit hole of a new story.

And now here it is the end of January and I feel like one of those people who’ve managed to blow up their diet and their resolution two weeks after starting.  I mean, I feel guilty about not sticking to the plan, but not really that bad as a shove another chapter in.  In fact, that chapter was delicious and really would it really hurt if I had another?

I can always get back on the plan later, right?

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Originally posted on The Stiletto Gang Blog 01.25.17

I Swear…

The title of today’s blog is not facetious.  I do swear.  Kind of a lot.

fbombI try not to in public.  Much like public displays of affection, I find it inelegant to be assaulted by profanity that I’m not participating in.  I think keeping a lid on my foul mouthed habit is only polite and try to reserve it for private situations and friends who have known me long enough to not take offense.  As a result, a few of my acquaintances have been surprised to find themselves on the receiving end of a periodic f-bomb.  (Yes, I’m the person who should receive this paperweight as a gift.) In the past curbing my tongue has not particularly onerous, but since my child has moved into speaking and comprehending, you know, actual words, life as a purveyor of profanity has become more difficult.  Now I can’t even swear in my own home?!  Word swaps and humming the Star Spangled Banner do not really help.  (Son of a goat monkey, keeping my swearing on the inside is hard!)

In most of my books, I’ve minimized the swearing to a solid “hell” or “damn” because well, my grandmother likes to read my books.   But recently, I’ve begun working on a story that moves my swearing habit to the forefront.  Rather than really “messing some stuff up”, I am straight  “f***ing some s*** up” for a change.  And ooooh, does it feel good.  Ah profanity, how dost though trip lightly off my off my keyboard and onto the page?  Very lightly indeed.

fuckingladyMany comments on profanity seem to insist that profanity is the crutch of mind unable to think of something else to say.  I completely disagree.  To correctly use profanity one must have an understanding of language that allows you to use the f-word as a verb, a noun, and an adjective. (Yes, it really can – see examples here).

Will my completed manuscript stay chock full of profane goodness?  I don’t know, but I’m sure as **** interested to find out.

Dystopian Games

You’re stuck in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with 8 strangers and no food or water, who do you eat first?

Dystopian novels have held a prominent place on our national reading lists for the last few years and while I occasionally enjoy a jaunt into the horrific futures that we could create for ourselves they don’t really speak to me.  To me they frequently seem like the ultimate lifeboat game. While occasionally it’s fun to work through the logic of how to survive in a treacherous situation, the real answer to any lifeboat game is to not get stuck in the lifeboat in the first place.

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I was reminded of this principle recently when I visited a conference for my day job (graphic design). The conference was for public works personnel (AKA everyone who keeps your city functioning) and their lunch speaker spoke on how their department had handled an earthquake.  From personnel rotation, calling in reinforcements, clearing roadways, reviewing housing safety, clean up – this department moved swiftly with the goal of maintaining safety and returning their town to normal in the shortest amount of time possible (and they did a great job).  But having just read a dystopian novel I was struck by the realization that not one person in the room was thinking… “Bob, I’d eat Bob.”  They weren’t playing the game – they were strategizing about how to not get stuck on the lifeboat.

All of this led to four thoughts.  One – I’m incredibly grateful for our public works personnel.  From sewer maintenance, to bridge engineers, to water management, they deserve more recognition than they get.  Two – All of you great public employees are screwing up a perfectly good dystopian plot line RIGHT NOW.   We’re not supposed to be coming together to overcome a natural disaster and working for the common good!  Come on, people.  Where is the divisive hatred and the reaching for the shotguns? That’s it; I’m breaking out the zombies.  Bob is going to be dinner if I have to have three plot contrivances before breakfast.  Three – We as society need to invest more in infrastructure.  And four – Because we don’t invest more in infrastructure we all need to have 3 days to 2 weeks of supplies on hand depending on where you live.  Be prepared. Don’t let a dystopian novel happen to you.

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The Dingbat Approach

This month at the Stiletto Gang we’ve been talking about transitions and how moving to a new stage of life can affect writing. But I have to admit that as I sat down to think about the topic all I found myself pondering was the actual literal transitions of writing. One of the primary tasks of a writer is to choose not just what to include, but what to leave out. There are very few (if any?) novels that are told in one long continuous stream of time. And every time the writer skips over the trip to the bathroom or the drive from point A to point B she must choose how to indicate that transition.

Chapter 1
The Hard, Fast Break

Some writers like to make each new location or time switch a new chapter.  It’s concrete. It’s self explanatory. And pretty hard for the reader to get confused. But others like to the soft break.

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In the typography world those little asterisks are called dingbats. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be themed to the text. Karen Harris Tully‘s series The Faarian Chronicles is a sci-fi young adult adventure centered on a planet that was settled by Amazon warriors of Earth. This gives the featured culture of the planet a Greek historical context (and strong feminist heroines) and makes the transition dingbats of the omega symbol fun and appropriate.

blank space

The softest break of all is the extra space.  As a graphic designer, I’m not in favor of these. It’s far too easy, in a longer work, for the extra space to get buried at the end of the page. Then what does the designer do? Force the text to start lower down on the next page? That looks awkward and can lead to confusion on the part of the reader. Not to mention the fact that coding these for the e-readers and online is more than a little bit difficult.  In other words, if I see these in a book I immediately think the writer is a jerk who doesn’t care about how much extra work their designer has to do.

im_a_designer_not_a_screwdriver_poster-rcc06134967db4a5d92aae443a039d1e6_wvx_8byvr_512Foolishly, when I first got into the publishing biz I found myself incredibly surprised when my layout manuscript came back for proofing that the designer had kept all of my transitions as I had typed them. Somehow I genuinely thought that I would send off my MS and somewhere out in New York someone would do something clever with my transitions.  I was kind of sad.  I didn’t want to manage my own transitions – I wanted someone else to do all the work for me.

Which when I think about it, is about what I think about life transitions as well. How unfortunate that there’s no magic wand or designer to outsource those problems to.  I guess I’m just going to put my lifestyle setting on “dingbat” and see what I get.

 


Originally published at the Stiletto Gang on 09.14.16

Who are you like?

One of the most common questions a writer hears is: Who are you like?  In other words, what (famous, more talented, richer, that I would have heard of) author are you like?  Of course, as authors we would always like to respond – I am like no one! I am a unique snowflake of infinite genius!  Bow down before my staggering work of novelistic achievement!  Possibly at this point is where we also start investing in a parrot, flowing robes, and a pencil thin moustache to twirl.  I’m not saying all authors would go full Disney villain. Clearly, the eyebrows and make-up require a more high-maintenance lifestyle than most of us are cut out for.  I’m just saying, nobody likes to think of themselves, as “just like” somebody else.

However, temper-tantrums and eyeliner aside, it is a useful question.  It does let people know where they should look for you in the library and where you fall on their reader spectrum.  For the record, I usually answer this question with – Janet Evanovich.  My series Carrie Mae Mysteries is female centered spy series, with plenty of hunks, humor, and huge action scenes.  However, I also write in another genre – contemporary fantasy.  I write modern day fairy tales about fairies, vampires, and what happens when a mermaid meets a SEAL.

Writing in multiple genres used to be very “not done” because the publishing houses found it hard to market.  The prevailing wisdom was that readers don’t read multiple genres (uh… say what?), Self-publishing has opened the door for authors to write whatever their unique snowflake heart’s desire, but it’s still a risk, and a challenge for those doing the marketing, to figure out what to say to the question – who do you write like?

I guess for now, I’ll have to go with this answer – I write like my fingers are fire with sheer greatness and my mascara is totally, totally on point.

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Originally posted on 8.10.16 at The Stilettog Gang

 

Batting my Lashes

leglampawardIn August I will be the recipient of an award from the local business newspaper – The Business Examiner.  Each year, The Business Examiner, holds a Top 40 Under 40 event celebrating business persons under the age of forty in Tacoma.  This year, my business partner and I are among the recipients!  The event includes a photoshoot for all the recipients and the resulting images get shown on the website and at the event. So of course we did what any sensible business owners would do when on the receiving end of a MAJOR AWARD (careful, it’s fra-jeel-ay)– we put eyelash extensions on the business account.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, eyelash extensions are individual fake lashes that are applied with careful hands, tweezers and glue to your real eyelashes.  The effect is that you have somehow magically grown giant cow length eyelashes.  Unlike a standard set of fake eyelashes that glue on to the eyelid above the lashline, these look integrated into your own lashes.  Basically, your eyes now look like every mascara commercial on TV.

The Stats:  In my neck of the woods they cost about $100 (plus tip) and last about two weeks.  At two weeks you can get a “fill” appointment that can cost $50, but wait until three weeks and that will cost more.  They take about an hour and fifteen minutes to put in and you must be ok with having your eyelids taped in place and have someone poking around on your lash line.

The Pros: As I said, your eyes now look like a mascara commercial ALL the time.  This is great when you just woke up and have no make-up on.  Somehow, I look delightfully rumpled instead of my normal slightly dead.  Since one of the rules is that you can’t wear mascara on them (impossible to clean without taking them out) there is less make-up time involved in getting ready.  And for the most part, people really can’t figure out what you’ve done to look so smashing.

The Cons: My eyes were a bit red and others report a stinging sensation on the first day.  For me, I just felt like I had grit in my eyes for the first two days.  Also, every once in awhile one of the falsies twisted around and stabbed me in the eyeball. Youch! They do have to be treated GENTLY.  If you’re a side sleeper, be prepared to lose a few early after they get ground into your pillow overnight.

Conclusion: If you’re looking at a week with multiple events, particularly ones where you’ll be featured in photos, eyelash extensions might be the way to go.  My business partner had the awards photoshoot, a family picture photoshoot and a high-school reunion in the same week – that’s the kind of week that makes the cost and effort worthwhile.  I probably didn’t need them for one photoshoot, but I’ve enjoyed batting my giant lashes for a few weeks.

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Cranking (Toddler) Tunes

Many things change after having a baby.  And I have to say that one of the things that I’m the most sad to see change is the amount of music I listen to.  Baby nap times seem to encompass the whole dang day! I used to have iTunes running almost constantly.  Not that it wasn’t a battle with my husband over what to listen to.  No, I don’t want more Phish.  And there’s only so much hip-hop and Grateful Dead I can listen to before going insane. (Yes, my husband is a hippy with a secret love of 90’s R&B.  He compensates for this deficiency by being ruggedly handsome and having the miraculous ability to open jars and kill countless spiders.)

The interesting thing is that, aside from the specific bands, where my husband I deviate in our musical tastes is an actual love of music.  He loves music.  Phish, Dave Matthews, the Allman Brothers, and the Grateful Dead all have one thing common.  OK, take a toke and make that two things – they’re jam bands.  I hate jam bands.  It’s just giant swaths of useless music that take away from the important thing – the lyrics.  I love the words. (Surprised?  Probably not.)  For me, music is like poetry with half the pretentiousness and way more shake-your-bootiliciousness.  And I like to play it ALL the time particularly when I’m working.  I find that music helps put me in the zone for writing and for design.

But with an in-home office and a baby, it’s become a lot more difficult to crank the tunes through the work day.  I was excited when the baby hit two and it became easier to send her to daycare/babysitting and there’s only one nap to contend with, but it has also meant that she’s tons more verbal.  With a toddler in the house, I don’t feel quite so comfortable cranking up a few of the songs I love, like Don’t Shoot Me Santa by The Killers.  I am perfectly prepared to explain that boys have a penis and some people are in wheelchairs and sometimes boys marry boys and girls marry girls.  But… I am not at all prepared to explain why Santa is shooting that guy in the song.  I’m pretty sure I see headphones in my future.

 

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Originally posted on 7.27.16 at The Stiletto Gang

Mascara Meh

I was going to say that I was in an on-going search for mascara that gives my lashes the appearance and silkiness of toddler, or one of those ridiculous boy who have won the genetic jack-pot of eyelashes, but don’t have any use for them. But to be perfectly honest, after the last debacle of a mascara purchase I’m simply looking for mascara that doesn’t leave my face covered in speckles of black.

This month I moved on to Scandal Eyes Show Off by Rimmel.  It had a fancy looking brush and exciting packaging design. I base many of my purchasing decisions on packaging design.  My theory is that if you’re the kind of company that can hire a decent graphic designer and then ALSO pay to get their design printed, then chances are that you make a decent product.  Surprisingly, this works fairly often.

However, in this case I was disappointed.  The mascara was clumpy.  It was flaky.  The weird ball brush tip actually got in the way when applying.  Either I needed to use only the ball tip or I need to cut it off so I could use the rest of it.  None of it was so hideous that I threw it away and ran out to buy a different tube; it was just mildly annoying.  And for these reasons, Scandal Eyes does not receive the Carrie Mae seal of approval.  On to the next mascara!

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