Wednesday, January 2, 2019

I Failed the Goodreads Challenge in 2018

I'm an avid reader but clearly, I need to read more. I need to read faster and I need to be able to count the manuscripts I read for work in my Goodreads challenge so I can complete my goal every year. According to my Year in Books on Goodreads I've read over 13,000 pages across 47 booksin 2018. You'd think I would be happy with those numbers but knowing that I'd set my Goodreads challenge to 50 books and failing it by 3 titles (which are currently sitting in my “currently reading” list) stings.

I’m a habit tracker, a list maker, 🎶a task list taker...🎶 and find it completely satisfying to check off or fill in a tracker with a completed task. Days where that doesn’t happen are usually marked as “frustrating or stressed” in my mood tracker. I need to complete tasks! It’s almost an obsession really. But even while failing to complete the Goodreads challenge for 2018, I was able to achieve my goal of diversifying my reading list. I devoted 2018 to reading more POC authors, more LGBTQIA fiction, more audiobooks, more nonfiction, and more new-to-me authors who have been killing it in the indie market. I read more books via audio than in 2017 switching between the Kindle and Audible apps throughout the day to finish a book while folding laundry, walking the dog, or driving my son to and from work each day.

I discovered the immersive fantastical worlds of Zoraida Cordova, Tomi Adeyemi, Nnedi Okorafor, and Sabaa Tahir. I lost myself in historical romances by Lydia San Andres, Alyssa Cole and the #SlayerofWords Beverly Jenkins. I laughed out loud with Sonali Dev and Alyssa Cole’s contemporary romances and fell in love with Edwidge Danticat’s brutally beautiful prose. I got to know Trevor Noah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jenifer Lewis through their memoirs and fell in love with the beauty of a Cuban sunset with Chanel Cleeton. I helped to rebuild Puerto Rico with La Borinquena then ran with thieves and murderers uncovering secrets along the way with Natalie Anderson and Karin Slaughter. Some books were purchased in multiple formats, some were borrowed from the library, others were gifted but all were treasured.

Failing to complete the goal of 50 books read in 2018 may keep me from checking off that list but it sure helped me discover so much more.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What's In Your Playlist?

If you had to create a playlist that defines your expectation of the year, what would that be?

I have several playlists on my phone for different things: Christmas playlists both Spanish and English, Movie Soundtracks both instrumental and not, a writing playlist and two “mindset” playlists. These are the ones I turn to, to start my day or motivate me one way or another. 

In 2018, I created the "Abundant Life" playlist; a mostly gospel music list that reminds me to stay centered and live my best life, abundantly. 

For 2019, I've decided to stick with my “You Got This” playlist; a playlist I created on my 39th birthday and have been adding to every year through my 45th. It’s a playlist of empowerment and reflection all at once with lyrics that remind me to kick ass and remember who I am with songs like Undefeated by Jason Derulo, Rise Up by Andra Day, and He Lives In You by Lebo M from the Lion King Soundtrack. It’s a playlist I put on shuffle while driving, walking, doing laundry, working around the house. But it’s more than that. It’s a real snapshot of who I am and what I think of myself at this very moment.

Here’s the playlist:
1. Undefeated - Jason Derulo
2. Live It Up (feat. Pitbull) - Jennifer Lopez
3. Best Day of My Life - American Authors
4. I Really Want It - A Great Big World
5. Am I Wrong - Nico & Vinz
6. Story of My Life - One Direction
7. Can’t Hold Us - Pentatonix
8. It’s Time - Imagine Dragons
9. Live Your Life - MIKA
10. Relax, Take It Easy - MIKA
11. Cheerleader - Pentatonix
12. Try Everything - Shakira 
13. Rise Up - Andra Day
14. Sing - Pentatonix
15. Raise You Up / Just Be - Kinky Boots Full Company
16. He Lives In You - Lebo M
17. Almost There - Anika Noni Rose from The Princess and the Frog
18. Dig a Little Deeper - Jenifer Lewis from The Princess and the Frog
19. Misbehavin’ - Pentatonix
20. Great Spirits - Tina Turner from Brother Bear soundtrack
21. Welcome - Phil Collins from Brother Bear soundtrack 
22. On My Way - Phil Collins from Brother Bear soundtrack
23. Rise - Katy Perry
24. If I Ever Fall In Love (feat. Jason Derulo)
25. I Knew You Were Waiting For Me - George Michael & Aretha Franklin
26. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me feat. Elton John - George Michael
27. This Is Me - Keala Settle & The Greatest Showman Ensemble
28. Fight Song - Rachel Platten
29. Confident - Demi Lovato
30. God Bless This Mess - Bon Jovi
31. We Weren’t Born to Follow - Bon Jovi
32. Blaze of Glory - Bon Jovi
33. What About Us - Pink
34. I Am Here - Pink
35. Praying - Pentatonix
36. Walls - Bon Jovi
37. Vivir Mi Vida - Marc Anthony
38. Girls Like You (feat. Cardi B) - Maroon 5
39. Granted - Josh Groban
40. You - A Great Big World

What are the songs or playlists that define you? 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

What My Dog Has Taught Me About Life

Dobby is a 15-year-old mouthy miniature pinscher with cataracts in his eyes, a limp from being run over by a car a decade ago and the heart of a lion... in the body of a puppy.

While he barks bloody murder to get anyone to help him down off the couch, he can still jump up to the couch when he thinks no one’s watching. He sleeps a lot now but his ears still perk up at the sound of any crumb hitting the ground and while he can’t really run like he used to, he still canters like a mini stallion on his infrequent walls.
He avoids the outdoors if it’s raining, refuses to eat soft foods despite not having most of his teeth and gets in your face to sniff you when he can’t see you, which is most of the time now as his eyes cloud with cataracts. But he still gets playful, crouching down, his butt and tail wagging when he’s offered a snack and prancing around my husband’s buddies while they play cards in hopes of a few table scraps.
As I get older and the body aches and pains start, I look at my dog and think, “if he can still jump up on the couch, I can keep scrubbing this tub.” Okay, probably not the best analogy, but he’s an inspiration in many ways. Here are some ways he's taught me to live life a bit better.
  1. Don't let life get you down. Dobby couldn't care less about your political leanings, who you sleep with, what church you attend, or how you identify, he just wants you to sit down on the couch beside him, so he can get some of your warmth. It's not that he's ambivalent about the world his masters live in, he'd rather focus on the more important things in life, like how much time his Momma is going to spend on her Netflix binge of the British Baking Show, so he can stay curled up, catching some much-needed sleep beside her.
  2. He works hard at not working hard. He spends his days looking for ways and areas around the house where he can sleep comfortably. He knows sleep is a very important part of his health regimen, and he commits himself to it with laser focus.
  3. He doesn't let obstacles get in his way. Dobby will walk all over the laptop, remote control, books and papers strewn on the sofa to get to his sleeping corner. He refuses to eat soft food preferring to crunch on hard kibble with the remaining teeth he has left even if it takes him twice as long to eat.
He’s crotchety, ornery, ridiculously divaesque in his ways, but he’s still playful, loving, and at times, even helpful. I mean, he can still hear, so he’s sure to let you know every time the neighbor has company, steps outside or the breeze blows any leaves across our lawn. This is still his castle, after all and his instincts are to defend it any way he can. If that means barking at 3 a.m. to let everyone know he heard a sound somewhere, then so be it. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Why We Need More Male Friendship Books

Photo by Papaioannou Kostas on Unsplash
I'm a sucker for friendship stories. If a book has a strong, core friendship that lasts throughout the story, it's a good chance you've hooked me as a reader. Some of my favorite stories are adventure stories where a group of friends help each other achieve an impossible feat or where the main character defeats their nemesis with the help of their friends.

Photo by Aman Shrivastava on Unsplash
But while good friendships make for good stories, we don't encourage male friendships to thrive beyond childhood, and we don't encourage physical affection between them to extend beyond puberty. We tend to sexualize their bonds instead, creating rifts and establishing an environment of toxic masculinity. We tell our boys to be boys, to stop crying, to stop feeling or showing emotion after they reach a certain age (an age arbitrarily chosen by parents or the community they're raised in, by the way). We teach our boys that if they still hug or kiss their male friends, they're acting like girls, or equate affection to a homosexual relationship.

By rejecting anything stereotypically feminine, men and boys are taught to reject an essential part of themselves, something that is to be valued. - Michael Carley, The Good Men Project

The truth is, we learn more about ourselves through the media than in any other way. Movies like Stand By Me, Goonies, and The Sandlot show us how boys can be friends, holding hands, hugging and even kissing on the cheek for comfort but soon as those boys grow up to be adults, their affection shifts. Their relationships are shown as distant while close.

So where are the books exploring adult male friendships that show men loving each other as they did when they were little? Why is it so difficult to show adult male friendships in genre fiction without adding a romantic component to their love? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for romance novels featuring same-sex pairings and don't ever want them to go away. I want more of them, in fact. Would love to see them on the shelves at Walmart and Target stores across America but that's a topic for another post. I want to find more of those stories and encourage storytellers to give us those great adventure stories where men have friendships that have lasted a lifetime; where they are affectionate with one another on page as adults.

We need more male friendship stories in adult genre fiction. What are some of your favorite books featuring adult male friendships?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Updating my #MSWL and expanding my categories

Everyone knows I'm a huge fan of romance (and if you don't know, now you know). I read it for pleasure and for work. It's my favorite bookshelf to peruse while at the bookstore and of the 166 books read on my Kindle, about 80% of them are romance novels. But what a lot of people don't know is that I found the romance novel shelf late in my reading career (and how awesome is it to have a career where reading is a requirement). I cut my "reading" teeth on the horror, thriller and science fiction shelves while in junior high school. I devoured books like The Servants of Twilight and The Face of Fear by Dean Koontz, the entire Scarpetta series (which I'm now woefully behind on and must remedy) and Stephen King's It. That led me to Bram Stoker and Anne Rice with terrifyingly beautiful vampires who crossed gender and stereotype lines seamlessly.

In high school, I got bitten by the science fiction/fantasy bug as my English teachers introduced me to Ursula LeGuin, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov and Madeleine L'Engle. I'd walk into my English class and find them reading some paperback with a tattered cover depicting some strange and wondrous world and immediately ask what it was about. Most of the time, they'd hand me the book when they were done with it and ask me to write a book report on it for extra credit.

My reading expanded in college with the discovery of urban fantasy authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs. I fell in love with the worlds they created, the kickass heroines and the love stories they wove through their plot. It inevitably led me back to romance where I could find all of the genres I loved within a romantic arc that delivered on the promise of a happily ever after no matter how dark the work seemed.

But I miss those days of reading books that made my heart speed up with fear, made my mind wander at the infinite possibilities of worlds and stories within the realm of the impossible or soon-to-be possible.

All of this to say, that I'm ready to expand my categories for queries and will begin actively acquiring more horror, thriller, suspense and science fiction works.

So what am I looking for?

  • Adult and YA Horror with a focus on works that twist a classic trope into a contemporary setting. Give me terrifying works where Bram Stoker's vampires are secret service to a Romerian zombie in the White House (then again, this could be less fiction than I thought). I want gothic horror, classic monsters reimagined. Scare me and thrill me at the same time. I dare you.
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy with a focus on works that blend the genres in new and inventive ways; where magic and science collide. Books like Binti by Nnedi Okorafor do this beautifully. I'd love to see some manuscripts for both adult and YA SFF that play with theme and form. Love hard science and space opera, galactic battles, spacefaring bandits and adventure stories set in space!
  • Thriller/Suspense with a focus on psychological thrillers that really mess with your mind. Think Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and A Killer's Mind by Mike Omer. I love strong female leads and if it's #OwnVoices or written by author of color, even better!
  • Mystery and Crime fiction with that whodunit you're chasing to uncover in a small town or metropolis. I like cozy mysteries but I LOVE murder mysteries with a thrilling pace. Would love a YA mystery featuring a diverse cast of kids solving a crime!
If you have one of these now and ready to query, follow my submission guidelines to query me. I'm excited to see what you've got in store for me!