Thursday, 23 January 2020

Cavemen vs Astronauts: Join the Debate

One of my favourite parts of the Hidden Diamond interviews is seeing people answer one simple question: Who would win?  Cavemen or astronauts.  (from the long running debate from season 5 of Angel).  It's interesting how many different interpretations come from those 6 words.  Some people assume hand to hand combat, others a conflict of civilizations, some just picked which they considered sexier.  Lots of fun answers from some very talented authors.

I thought it would be fun to do a little recap:

Lucy Farago (Romantic Suspense - August 2018)

I always found this debate interesting. What environment are we sticking them in? I get the whole instinct vs evolved debate, but playing field I think is more important. Put them in the wilds with no unfair advantage, cavemen. I’m with Spike, man has evolved to the point that most people wouldn’t survive a day without assistance.

Carey Decevito (Paranormal Romance - September 2018)

And I just took a trip down the Angel memory lane on this one. (Yes, I’m dating myself, aren’t I?) LOL So who would win? Both have merits really. I mean cavemen are who we were before we evolved both mentally and technologically. Let’s face it…cavemen became astronauts, so wouldn’t both win? Isn’t it in fact a tie in the grand scheme of things

Regardless, if you were to pit both of them against one another, I’d say the guy with the superior intellect (astronaut) would win. They do have the problem resolution skills and aptitude to research a hell of a lot more than cavemen would. Let’s just hope the problem at hand isn’t one too simple however. It seems the more knowledge we have, the more someone of superior intellect will suss out a complicated way to solve a problem when the resolution is so simple.

Rosanna Leo (Contemporary Romance - October 2018)

Uh oh. I don't think I followed this debate but I'll say astronauts. 

Jenn Burke (Paranormal Romance - November 2018)


A.M. Griffin (Paranormal Romance - December 2018)

Cavemen. Cavemen adapt. It’s scientifically proven (hello present day humans). Astronauts, while having smarts, really would be hindered if technology was taken away. Honestly, I don’t think anyone walking Earth today could outsmart a caveman when it came to survival.

Freya Barker (Romantic Suspense - January 2019)

I have to confess, I had to look up Joss Whedon. I am a certified non-geek. LOL. So I’m not sure what the debate is all about, it appears the man had quite a few on a variety of subjects, but when it comes to cavemen or astronauts, my pick would be cavemen, hands down.

Sally Brandle (Romantic Suspense - February 2019)

My off-the-cuff answer would be cavemen. Survival skills never lose their impact, whether you instinctively sense someone’s following you or recognize which berry you can eat.

Tamara Hughes (Paranormal Romance - March 2019)

I would have to think astronauts would win if for no other reason than their greater intelligence. They can plan attacks and maneuvers that would outsmart the cavemen. Plus, they can do all that weightless!

Eve Langlais (Paranormal Romance - April 2019)

Cavemen! Because they're stronger and meaner with great big clubs (and maybe a pet sabertooth or two, LOLOL. )

Barbara Nolan (Contemporary Romance - May 2019 Double Feature)

I am going to go with cavemen because they know how to live off the land. They know how to hunt and have basic skills of survival. They are nomadic which means they are also adaptable to their surroundings.

Rayanne Haines (Paranormal Romance - May 2019 Double Feature)

I love a good caveman but I have to say, Astronaut, hands down. Those guys and gals are in the prime physical condition of their life, would have access to medication and health care cavemen wouldn’t even know to dream about, and the military brains to back up any tactical operations to win in combat. Sorry Cavemen – you’re out. 

Olivia Dade (Contemporary Romance - June 2019)

Oddly, even though I could have written like twenty more pages about Jaime and Brienne, I have no answer for this. I want to say cavewomen? Somehow?

Jaycee Jarvis (Fantasy Romance - July 2019)

Astronauts for sure, and I don’t think they’d even need the technological advantage. Their germs alone would wipe out the cavemen.

Rhonda Frankhouser (Paranormal Romance - August 2019)

This is a timely debate for me to enter into, especially after my recent research binge of the Ancient Aliens series. I’m easily an astronaut girl. They would be smarter and more cunning. That alone would outdo the primitive sensibility of the caveman. 

Claire Gem (Paranormal Romance - September 2019)

Cavemen. They learned how to survive long before all the fancy technology was invented to help them. I can’t see an astronaut battling with a mastodon and winning.

Jeanine Englert (Historical Romantic Suspense - October 2019)

I vote cavemen, every time. If you can fend off a dinosaur, find your own dinner, and survive the elements, I think you could outdo an astronaut.

Julie K Cohen (Paranormal Romance - November 2019)

Cavemen. In every book you read and movie you watch, inevitably the modern day protagonists (astronauts in this case) drop their fancy guns or suffer from technological ‘glitches’. When that happens, the protagonists are left with just their wit, which is great if they have the time, materials, and know-how to construct what they need (think MacGyver here).  The cavemen, meanwhile, won’t stop to think the situation through. Their animal instincts to survive will probably kick in faster that the astronauts’ ability to think their way out of a fight.  And guess what?  If they do end up in a hand-to-hand combat situation, those cavemen are probably in better shape than the astronauts. Survival of the fittest.

Barbara Russell (Steampunk Romance - December 2019)

Well, I know that Buffy and her friends will have something to say about this, but the answer is obvious. The astronaut. Have you seen the Martian? A guys who can survive on Mars for more than a year can take a caveman. Unless the caveman is like Angel . . .

As for my opinion, I'm holding that in reserve for now.  But I'd love to hear yours in the comments!

Previous post: Growing Up Is Overrated.  People always told me that I'd have to give up the things I was passionate about when I "grew up".  They were wrong.

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Monday, 20 January 2020

Weekly Update: January 12-18

Weekly word count: 2595

Not much to share this week.  The RWA stuff seems to be getting quieter (except for microaggressions/shouting on the published author boards).  They've put out a call to see who is interested in serving as a Board member/President.

I qualify to volunteer as a Board member, but not as President.  But, to be honest, I'm hesitant to put my name in the ring.  I've pulled back from my volunteering at ORWA because I was finding it stressful.  I don't know that I want to jump into the national level, especially given how difficult it's likely to be.

And yet, I feel guilty for not stepping up, because I do care about making changes and making RWA free of discrimination.  If I can, shouldn't I?  I'll have to do some thinking about it.

This week's Tarot reading was the Page of Coins, reversed, for the past, the five of Staffs, reversed, for the present, and The Fool, reversed, for the future.  All reversed cards, which is always somewhat ominous.  The reversed Page of Coins usually points to a missed clause in a contract or bureaucracy, something that has been overlooked but is going to come back and bite those involved.  The reversed five of Staffs suggests a time of setbacks and being overwhelmed.  And in its reversed position, The Fool is not a card of optimistic trust.  Instead it warns of being unprepared.

Doesn't look like a good week for me, but maybe it's just a warning to be cautious going forward.  The missed clause one causes my legal-minded pessimistic brain to go into overdrive.  There are a number of actual contracts that I depend on these days, not to mention the unwritten social contracts that I sometimes mess up on because I'm not good at understanding what's happening in social situations.

Maybe I'll just put my head down and write.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Growing Up Is Overrated

I've just finished watching the documentary Never Surrender, about the fandom around the movie Galaxy Quest and it has reminded me of something very important.

Being able to get excited about something that we care about is the great gift of life.

I can't count the number of times that someone has told me that someday I'm going to have to grow up.  Usually what they mean is that I will need to stop enjoying things that I love.  No more buying action figures.  Or talking for hours about a show or movie.  Or wearing costumes and wigs to pretend to be a character.  These are usually people who say they like who I am, but just want me to be a quieter, more sedate version of myself.  One that doesn't embarrass them with my general lack of coolness.

Groot thinks I'm cool.
And you know what?  I have grown up.  And I have realized that the problem was never my inherent geekiness.  It was a culture that prizes cynicism over enthusiasm.

To that I borrow a line from Adam Savage: I reject your reality and substitute my own.  And my reality is full of amazing, fun things that I am desperately passionate about and enjoy sharing with others.  And then there are other amazing, fun things that other people are passionate about and I want to know about those things, too.  Sometimes I won't end up feeling the same way, but I can be happy for them.  And they can be happy for me and we all end up having a great time.

For me, that is the true strength of geek culture.  It's built on love.  (Which is probably why I feel that geek culture and romance culture fit well together.)

The Villainesses dance troupe
Galaxy Quest struck a powerful chord because at its heart, it's about geek culture.  It's about loving something so much that it becomes real in our minds, even when we know it's fiction.  It's about wanting to share that love with other fans and anyone who was even a little bit involved with the original, be they actors, directors, writers, anything.  It's why I go to Comic Con every year, because even though the cast and crew are often far less enamored of the final product than the fans, there is something magical about getting behind the scenes glimpses. 

The documentary reminded me of how far we've come.  Geeking out about something was shameful for most of my adolescence and adulthood.  We were the punchline of the joke, be it the Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons or the guys on The Big Bang Theory.  Now we're too far in the mainstream to be pushed to the side.  But there are still plenty of people who look down on the freaks in their costumes with their collectibles.

Of course, most of those people have their own fandoms.  Maybe it's music, or sports, or gardening, or baking, or science.  But it's something they're passionate about and that brings them joy in their lives.  No one should have to live a passionless life.

My passion happens to include six inch poseable figures, movies and shows full of special effects, and convention centers with thousands of people in costumes.  And I'm okay with that.  Just like I'm okay with my passion for stories that end with dreams coming true.

Previous post: Heroine Fix: Bluffing With Molly Bloom

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Monday, 13 January 2020

Weekly Update: January 5-11

Weekly word count: 3012 words

I'm about 3/5 through my second draft of Best Face Forward, with three weeks to go before Carina is due to be at ORWA.  (Though I've been wondering if they might cancel again with all that's been going on at the national level for RWA).

I've been exhausted from the combination of family and professional drama over the holidays.  I want my decorations to come down and to be back in my regular routine.  I want peace and quiet to hear myself think and regain my creative drive.

I'll start the weekly Tarot again next week.  Maybe the cards will have some good news for me.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Heroine Fix: Bluffing With Molly Bloom

Heroine Fix is a monthly feature where I look at amazing characters who inspire my own writing or who offer opportunities to improve my writing craft.  Warning: this post will contain spoilers.

I debated long and hard about whether or not to choose this particular character for this month's Heroine Fix because the character is based on an autobiographical book and movie, Molly's Game.  When a character is based on a real person, it can be hard to separate the fictional creation from the actual person, and make no mistake, even in an autobiography, it is a character, a version of reality rather than the objective truth.

However, having recently picked up the book Molly's Game, I was struck by several key differences in how Molly was presented in the biography versus the film.  And I think it provides valuable insight into how small differences in description and emphasis can make a big difference in the impact that a character has.

One of the most important thing in creating a compelling story is to create likeable characters.  The audience has to root for the protagonist, even if they are making bad choices or taking actions the audience finds distasteful.  This is often why movies and novels have idealized versions of people, even when the story is based on true events.

For the most part, the book Molly's Game and the film of the same name follow the same course of events.  Molly Bloom comes to LA and begins working for an obnoxious real estate tycoon who runs an underground poker game.  She takes over managing the game, eventually taking it away from him.  She is making millions of dollars on tips from players and running a successful entertainment business.  However, she runs afoul of a particular celebrity player, who runs her out of the game.  She moves to New York and starts again.  This time, some of the players in her game have ties to the Russian mafia.  She struggles with addiction and the challenge of being the bank of a multi-million dollar game, eventually taking a rake (a percentage of the pot, which is illegal).  She is attacked by the Italian mafia, who want a piece of her game.  The game is raided by the FBI and Molly is indicted as part of a RICO prosecution.  Her money is seized and she is destitute.  Eventually, she pleads guilty.

The story isn't exactly one of triumph, at least not on the surface.  So the question is, how does one transform this tale?

The first and easiest option is the sheer spectacle of it.  There's plenty of glitz and glamour in this story.  It's reinforced by Molly's narration, which often focuses on the cost and exclusivity of the trimmings of her lifestyle: the costs of hotel rooms, customized chips and tables, and designer clothing and shoes.  It's very clear that she enjoys having expensive things and the allure of regular contact with titans of industry, professional athletes, and celebrities.

But it also demonstrates the first clear difference between the Molly in the book and the Molly in the film.  In the film, Molly draws a very clear line in the sand.  She will not, under any circumstances, reveal the names or identities of those who played in her game.  Not even when such a disclosure would grant her a reduced sentence or give her enough money to deal with her financial troubles.  This demonstration of integrity is one of the factors that can bring the audience onto a character's side.  We like someone who sticks to their principles even when those principles cost them.

In the book, Molly names a number of people directly, including the narcissistic Player X of the movie, described as a movie star who personally destroys Molly's LA game out of jealousy.  She also mentions sharing anecdotes from her tables on several social occasions.

Another difference between the book and movie is Molly's determination to be independent.  In the movie, she organizes a coup of the poker game when her obnoxious boss tries to blackmail her into working for free in order to continue to have access to the game.  Molly immediately gives fake numbers to the new assistant hired to replace her and starts her own independent glamorous game.  In the book, she does continue to work for the obnoxious real estate tycoon, without a salary.  Having demonstrated that she could take away the game, she's earns his respect and they continue with a business relationship.

Similarly, in the film, when Player X takes away the game, she immediately folds and moves to New York.  In the book, she confesses that she tried to continue the game for weeks, getting repeatedly blown off by the players.

These small changes make a significant difference in how the audience sees Molly.  Making clean breaks after betrayal is a sign of strength and confidence.  However, it is more realistic that she does take time to flounder and figure out what to do next.  People don't naturally take failure in stride without any hint of hurt or self-doubt.  But it makes a great story when a character can do so.  It gives the audience hope that they might be able to do the same with their own disappointments.

The biggest change is the erasure of Molly's romantic relationships.  In the movie, she is portrayed as fiercely independent, uninterested in entangling herself with any of the powerful and wealthy men at her table.  In the book, she confesses to several relationships.

Although I'm usually a fan of including a good love story, in this case, I can agree with the decision.  It's too easy to define a powerful woman by her love interest and involvement with men.  Romantic stories would have been a distraction from Molly's accomplishments.

All of the narrative changes were to increase Molly's independence.  They made her stronger, and more competitive.  Such as creating a freak accident to end her career as a competitive athlete and escalating the personal conflict between herself and her father.  

We've all had moments where we've been caught flat-footed by an unexpected aggression.  We've all longed to prove ourselves to the people who dismissed our talents and strengths.  We've all wanted to be glamorous and admired.  That's what makes the story powerful, because we can identify with Molly's determination to prove herself.

When writing our own stories, it can be easy to be caught up in what feels realistic.  But it's important to remember that what draws an audience in is a mixture of realism and larger than life actions.  We want our fiction to be better than reality, without making us remember the gap.  It needs to feel as if it could all be possible.

Because that's why we keep reading.  Or gambling.  For the possibilities.

Previous post: Reclaiming My HEA: My reaction to "if I was single, I wouldn't ever want to date again."

Previous Heroine Fix: Samantha/Charlie from The Long Kiss Goodnight

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Monday, 6 January 2020

Weekly Update: December 29 to Jan 4 (My RWA Statement)

Weekly word count: 3297

A pretty good week writing wise (despite the ongoing chaos with RWA national).  I've been focusing on Best Face Forward, which I'm hoping to pitch to Carina when they visit our local chapter in February.  I should have it polished and ready to go.

On Sunday, January 5, our local chapter held a town hall to discuss what has been happening at the national level with RWA.  ORWA will be putting together an official statement so I won't pre-empt that here.

However, I will make the following statement about what my intentions and stance are.

I do not support the Ethics Committee's decision to censure Courtney Milan.  I am deeply troubled by the language and substance of the complaint against her, as well as the apparent deviance from standard procedures.  The current administration of RWA has lost my trust.

That said, I am not giving up without a fight.  I am maintaining my RWA membership in order to have a voice in the restructuring and to continue to fight for diversity and inclusion.  I did not have a submission in the RITA but had signed up to be a RITA judge.  I will not withdraw as a judge, even though I believe the only ethical choice is to cancel the RITAs for this year.

I want RWA to be a safe space for all people, regardless of race, sexual orientation, disability, or any other marginalized identity.  I want it to represent the true best of the romance genre.  And I'm willing to fight to make sure that happens.

However, if RWA can't turn this around and resume moving in the right direction, they will lose me as a member.  I won't be a part of a group which is hateful or which uses their policies to target and silence individuals.  Up until December 23rd, I have genuinely believed that RWA was moving in the right direction.  I hope it is not too late to resume that journey.

It's hard to believe that it has been less than two weeks since the news first broke on Twitter.  There is a lot of speculation out there.  Personally, I don't endorse conspiracy theories.  I don't believe anyone manipulated events to create this result.  Sadly, I believe it is far more likely that this is the result of insular groupthink and overly strong egos who cannot admit when they have made a significant error.  And even worse, racism almost certainly played a strong part in how events played out, whether deliberate or unconscious.

I have nothing but respect for those who have chosen to cancel memberships or withdraw their books or judging from the RITAs.  I also respect those who have chosen to resign from various positions within RWA.  I'm sure t can't have been an easy decision and I'm also sure it was a choice of last resort for many.  I also have respect for those who have chosen to stay and try to make the RWA into what it should be.

Maybe some of the calls online are right and this is a doomed attempt.  Maybe the problems are too ingrained to fight.  But I take heart from historical precedence.  The worst backlashes are the final ones before social change takes permanent hold.  They are a desperate attempt to regain the status quo and have historically pushed the majority into realizing just how bad things are and how much they need to change.  So I hope this is the last failing gasp of those who have used their privilege to actively suppress others.  And if I'm wrong, then I will take what comfort I can from having done all I could to make a difference.

That's where I stand.  Against bigotry.  Against racism.  Against ableism.  Against homophobia and transphobia.  And against anyone who seeks to quash the less privileged down to make themselves feel better.  In the words of Peggy Carter, I'm planting myself like a tree and they can be the ones to move.  

This is my place.  Not theirs.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Reclaiming My HEA: Is Everyone Else Right?

Reclaiming My HEA is a regular feature about my separation and divorce.  I'm learning a lot of lessons about myself and finding the balance between romantic hope and practical reality.

Since I began sharing that I was separating from my former husband, there is one response I've gotten over and over.  People are generally supportive, and then follow up with something along the lines of "if I lost/left my husband/wife/partner, I wouldn't want to go back into the dating circuit."

The consistency of this sentiment has surprised me, though maybe it shouldn't have.  Dating is about being vulnerable.  It's asking complete strangers to judge you on your attractiveness, character, and worth as an individual over and over.  It's having to metaphorically kiss a lot of frogs that, frankly, are just frogs, perhaps with a few toads thrown into the mix.  It means exposing ourselves to physical and emotional risks (I've only barely dipped my toe into the waters and I've already been called a wide assortment of insults and had to report threatening statements.)

It's frightening.  There's really no other way to describe it.  So I can understand people not being eager to jump into it, especially if they're in a reasonably happy relationship now.

Yet, at the same time, I can't imagine being happy and satisfied with an expectation of long, lonely years and decades stretching out before oneself.  I wouldn't be okay with not having the close companionship of an emotional and physical partnership for the rest of my natural life.

Maybe those who have told me that they would prefer to remain single would change their minds if they found themselves in my situation.  Or maybe they're more satisfied with their own company (which is probably a sign of good psychological health).

It's almost certainly my inner anxiety talking when I find myself wondering if they're right.  Maybe I shouldn't be trying.  Maybe I shouldn't expose myself to the risks.  Maybe I should just try to be happy being on my own.

The other part of myself, what I like to think is the more mature and healthy part of myself, reminds myself that I am actually reasonably content on my own.  I enjoy the company of others, especially friends, but I also enjoy having quiet time to myself.  I have a healthy sense of my boundaries and have already demonstrated that I will not allow them to be compromised in a vain sense of wanting to be considered someone special.

Allowing myself to recognize what I want, versus what society expects me to want, is an important part of being true to myself.  And the truth is that I want someone to share a kiss with, who will think of me when he hears a love song on the radio, and whose company I enjoy.  And it's okay for me to pursue that hope.

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