Search This Blog

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday Reflection: A Decision About My Writing

 I signed my first publishing contract in the summer of 2008. Before that acceptance email that completely changed the way I viewed myself when it came to writing, I basically just wrote as stories came to me. I wrote because I wanted to know the rest of the story that was playing through my mind. I wrote for myself. The first time someone told me they liked what I had written I was shocked. These crazy stories I make up in my mind weren't supposed to actually go anywhere or do anything for anyone. Not even me.

Now it's been over ten years since my first book landed on the shelves of Barnes and Noble and I'm completely indie-published. I don't have a company to help me edit, publish, cover, and promote my stories. I'll be completely honest, there are days where it doesn't feel as if all the work is worth it. Does anyone care if I ever publish another book? Is anyone actually waiting for my 3rd Gargoyle book, 4th Archangel book, 2nd Shapeshifter book, or any of the erotic stories I have yet to republish? Maybe, maybe not. I've had to really think about this over the past few months because independent publishing is not cheap. I promised my husband at the very beginning of this journey that I would only spend money I make on my books on book-related things. I lied. Luckily, he's a wonderful man with a great job, and I work fulltime as well. However, I've had to take things very slowly with anything new that requires not only a book cover (of which I am barely capable), but also a real editor rather than a free Beta reader. This, my dear readers, is only one of the reasons I don't have more books available for purchase right now.

At the beginning of the year I had great hopes of having the third Gargoyle book out by the summer. Then Covid-19 happened and I've found it very hard to concentrate on writing. The plethora of blog posts over this past months are my way of getting back into the swing of things. I'm hoping oiling my writing muscles in this way will bring my mojo back. I think it's working. I certainly am not having any trouble writing the blog posts. But even once I get the book done I still have to pay for an editor. A couple of months ago I invested in another beautiful cover from the very talented Kanaxa. I can't wait to share it with y'all, but that's not happening until I have a release date. I have to finish the book first.

So, what was my great epiphany about my writing? What is the decision I've come to as mentioned in the blog title? I've decided to stop worrying about trying to keep up with the expectations other authors have for themselves and to be more realistic in the expectations I set for myself. I've decided to start writing for ME again. I still want to keep my readers happy. I love y'all and am completely humbled every time I sell a book. However, I can't live under that pressure right now. I'm going to once again look at each book as a story I want to tell rather than a possible source of income. Luckily, I have the ability to do that because as mentioned above my husband and I both work. I'm going to stop looking at my author brand as a business (at least for the moment) and consider it an expression of myself I want to share with the world. I hope you will join me on my journey.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sunday Reflection: Nonredeemable Heroes/Heroines

 There was a recent blowup online about a romance book that supposedly had a Nazi soldier as the hero. Once the dust cleared the publisher apologized for the confusing cover, which is full of swastika flags, and said the hero is actually a British soldier. I don't know whose bright idea it was to cover that book in swastikas, but in today's climate of hate from white supremacists, especially in the US, it was a terrible idea. But let's dig a little deeper into why there was such a swift, harsh reaction from #Romancelandia. If you're on Twitter at all you will notice there a few topics that get a large collection of romance readers, authors, and bloggers up in arms. The one this hit upon is a terrible choice in "hero". If you're reading a romance book, there is going to be a heroine and/or hero. So, let's look at the ones that shouldn't ever, ever, ever make the cut.

Racists: it's always been a struggle for minorities in the US to get a fair shake at literally anything at all. Some things have gotten easier, some things have gotten harder, and some things have stayed the same. So, let's look at why using a Nazi soldier, or any flavor of white supremacist is not ever okay. Racism is a learned trait that usually takes some time. The average romance book only has so many pages, and usually sticks to a tight timeframe. If a person learned their racist traits from their parents then that's at least eighteen years of indoctrination the love interest would have to muddle through. I'm not saying it can't be done, but should it? The hero/heroine can start off on the wrong foot (see enemies to lovers trope) but it can't be so bad that we absolutely hate them from page one. The reader has to believe they are savable, that there are redeeming qualities to the character to make it worth our time to want them to become a better person. Sorry, but racists just don't fall into that category for me.

Murderers: I've had to have this talk with my teenage son who has a ton of great story ideas pouring out of him. If it's going to be a romance book the hero/heroine CAN NOT kill anyone in cold blood. Self-defense? Sure. But it has to be the absolute last resort. Odd accident? Maybe. It would really depend on the circumstances and the character must be left emotionally devastated to know they've taken a life. Adding a murder to a romance book can be tricky, because it has to have a Happily Ever After Ending to be romance. If it's the hero/heroine holding the smoking gun, then they better have a very good reason.

Adulterers: This is my personal hot button topic. It's very hard for me to read a book where any cheating is going on, so I tend not to write them. There may be some past history mentioned, but nothing in the readers face, especially form the hero or heroine. My opinion is that cheaters will always cheat, no matter who they're with at the moment. So, there is no way a story with a cheater will end in a HEA if that cheater is a main character. In the book shown above the heroine starts off with the cheating boyfriend of the heroine from the previous book. I really struggled with whether or not to give Heather her own book, but quickly realized the story told in book one wasn't her whole story. It was the cheater's story. I was able to give Heather her redemption because she had been tricked by the cheater too, and then kicked him to the curb.

Sociopaths: The essence of a romance story is that two people come to care for each other deeply and fall in love. A sociopath by definition doesn't care about others. No matter what sub-genre of romance book you have the couple (or polyamorous group) will care deeply for each other by the end and show it in various ways. Though any one of them could show a lack of empathy at times, they can't be completely without it to the end.

I'm sure I've missed a slew of characters that you would never want to read as the hero/heroine of a love story. Feel free to comment below with others, or if you disagree with any of the ones above, tell me why.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thursday Review: Bill and Ted Face the Music

In February of 1989 I was thirteen years old and suffering through the Spring semester of my eighth grade year. All I cared about was heavy metal music and learning how to play guitar. All I wore was black concert t-shirts and real denim jeans (yeah we had those back then) with holes in the knees, plus the requisite Converse, or as we called them "Chucks". I don't remember how I watched the first B&T movie, but I remember wanting everything I could get my hands on. The photo to the left came out of a box of Bill & Ted cereal. I don't even remember what it tasted like. I also have a Bill & Ted comic book in my collection. Maybe someday I'll even read it. 

To say I was excited at the prospect of a new Bill & Ted movie is a bit of an understatement. I was ecstatic and fully prepared to head to the theater for opening night. Thanks to the pandemic (haha, yeah 'thanks') I didn't even have to leave my livingroom. In preparation for watching Bill and Ted Face the Music, my family watched Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. I think it's safe to say the first one is still my favorite. 

If you've never seen B&T 2, the third movie might have you scratching your head at some of the characters and the role they play. In the 2nd movie Bill and Ted meet Death, who at the end of the movie joins Wyld Stallyns. He plays a big role in that movie so I wasn't surprised to see him in the new one. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a majority of the actors from the first two movies reprised their roles for number three. It was great to see familiar faces, but a little sad to know that George Carlin could only be shown as a hologram since we lost him in 2008.

*Spoilers Ahead*

This movie was as ridiculous as I expected it to be, but better. I love that they went back to the format of the first movie in going through time to find historical figures. That it was Bill and Ted's daughters made it even better. I got goosebumps when Jimmie Hendrix started playing against Mozart. That was the best scene in my opinion and something I would've loved to see expanded on. Could you imagine being able to get legendary musicians from all through time together to jam? That absolutely made the movie for me. I also loved the couples therapy scene. It was exactly as I would've expected Bill & Ted to act with their wives even after twenty-five years. Absolutely hilarious.

The whole movie has a lot of throw-back to the first two movies. I like that they didn't act as if the second one never happened, or try to change any major plot points. I've seen some people on Twitter upset that a fat suit was used. I do understand those who are upset over it, and honestly it could've been left out. I believe the point was to show that Ted was drinking so much he gained weight, but other things pointed to him drinking too much so it could've been left out. That's really my only complaint about this movie.

This one won't win any awards or hit any Best of lists. However, considering the chaos all around us in the year 2020 I think it was just the type of refreshing mindless entertainment we need. It had great music, ridiculous jokes, and Keanu and Alex stepping right back into their characters as if they were slipping on well-worn jackets. I loved it and will definitely be watching it again.

If you decide to watch it take note, there is a final scene after all of the credits that's worth the wait.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hispanic Heritage Month 2020

 Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. Why doesn't it start on the first? I have no idea. To be honest, this is the first year I've publicly acknowledged it because I usually don't know it's coming and forget about it once it's here. I have an odd relationship with my heritage, but the fact is I'm proud to say I'm Mexican American, born and raised in Texas. 

I wasn't always proud of my heritage. In fact, I spent my entire childhood and adolescence wishing I was white. This is a fact that I've only come to realize, and come to terms with, in the past few years and I feel like I've missed out on so much of my rich culture.

The photo to the left is of my mama at an art installation I took her to for Mother's Day a few years back. It featured the Virgin de Guadalupe, a symbol that holds a special place in my mama's heart. As a teenager, I wouldn't have wanted to attend such an event. I rebelled against learning conversational Spanish. I never dressed or spoke in a way that would reflect my Mexican heritage. Looking back I can't say exactly why I felt that way, but being Mexican always felt like a stigma. I saw various things in my youth that led me to that, but there were a lot of wonderful things too, and I can only blame my perception of what was beautiful and accepted for missing out on that part of my culture.

I was raised on the north side of Houston in a diverse area, but mainly Hispanic. For middle school I was sent to a magnet school in a predominantly African American area but there were still different cultures around me. However, my closest friends were white. Once I hit high school we moved north to the suburbs and I was in a predominantly white school. It was a completely different social, economic, and cultural climate. I wanted to fit in like any teenager. I wished daily that I'd been born white, but that idea was never so simple in my head. I wished I was blond. I wished I was tall and thin. I wished I could wear the same clothes as my white female classmates and look the same way they did. But still I didn't realize I wanted to be white. I begrudgingly took Spanish class because I knew I could ace it, and I did. I was a member of the Spanish National Honor Society without being able to hold a conversation with my grandma in Spanish. I was a fraud. I felt like an impostor. 

It's been a few years since I've embraced being Hispanic, but eleven or so years ago when deciding on a pen name I didn't think twice about using Missy Jane. My real name is Melissa and Missy is a nickname. My real middle name is Jane. I joked that it would be easier for me to remember, but was that all? I can't help but wonder if I was subconsciously suppressing my roots. Was I trying to hide my brown skin with an Anglo-sounding name? Perhaps. If so, it wasn't something I thought about until the past few months when more and more Latinx authors have become known to me. They're all over Twitter proudly proclaiming their heritage. They put it in their books and on their beautiful book covers. Once again I feel like a fraud. I almost never write a blond character, but they do tend to have pale skin. I've started to make them darker. I've started to add a kink to their hair. I've started to hear Spanglish as I write and yearn to include it whenever a conversation happens that I know could happen in my own family. 

I can't promise that I will always get it right. I can't promise that I will be a good representative of my Mexican heritage. But I'm going to make more of an effort. I'm proud to say I'm Latina, Mexicana, Hispanic, Chicana, any one of the numerous words that means my skin is naturally brown, my black hair is naturally curly, and in the summer I wear chanclas.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sunday Reflection: Food Insecurity

I don't remember there ever being a time that I had to go without eating because of a lack of food. If you follow my Instagram, you know I get to eat some pretty good looking dishes. Growing up, there were some lean times and we certainly didn't have steak and lobster on the menu that I ever remember, but we did eat. My husband and I were young parents and there was a lot of Hamburger Helper in the early years of our marriage, but again, food was available for every meal. However, recent online posts of college students being given hardly anything during quarantine has created such an unexpected anxiety within me that I've had to really stop and think of why I seem to suffer from food insecurity at times. I don't go without. My family doesn't go without. But while kid #2 was in college I constantly worried about her having enough to eat. Kids #1 and #3 now live on their own and it's still something I worry over. 

I was having this discussion with the family over breakfast and brought up my confusion over how emotional I get. Daughter #2 brought up something I had told them about my maternal grandma. Nana had lived through The Great Depression and knew what it was like to really go without. So she had some habits that confused me as a child but I understood as I got older. For one thing, she saved everything. She wasn't a hoarder, but more like the ultimate recycler back before it was cool. If Nana could find an alternate use for anything it never saw the trashcan. One thing I clearly remembered was her always scraping the bits of leftover food from our plates into a bucket for the neighbors livestock. It grossed me out, but she said it helped the neighbor. Anything that helped the neighbors was expected to be done without complaint.

Maybe it was knowing how Nana felt about food, and other things, that has the anxiety over a lack at the back of my mind? I have no idea. As I stated above there has never been a meal I missed because we couldn't afford to eat. Sure we've had to survive on ramen and rice and beans a few times, but even that was plentiful for our family. The thought that any child (yes I still consider college students children) is having to go without because of the greed or incompetence of the institution they've given money to absolutely infuriates me. Luckily, some enterprising students created an Instagram page for food donations. But this came to light because of a viral video. What about the kids we haven't yet heard about? Many campuses started classes two weeks ago. I can't wrap my mind around the thought of anyone's child going without food for a single day, much less two weeks.

If you would like to donate to a worthy cause, find your local food bank, and if  you don't have extra funds donate your time. Volunteering at the Houston Food Bank is something I've done a couple of times and plan to do again. We should all endeavor to help those around us who need access to food.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thursday Review: Taylor Swift's Folklore

I don't usually refer to myself as a Taylor Swift fan, nor do I shun her and her music. If one of her songs happens on the radio I'll likely start singing along. However, I will admit to a little bit of excitement when I found out she had a new album out. I was even more excited to find out one of the local record stores (Cactus Music) had been sent a few of her autographed copies of the CDs. So, of course I had to run down there at the first opportunity to buy it. 

First, let me say that I prefer her more upbeat songs. If I had to pick a favorite it would probably be Blank Space, though I have to admit I might prefer the I Prevail version best. This new CD doesn't really have any songs of that caliber, but given today's climate that's not necessarily a bad thing. I listened to the whole CD over the past couple of days while driving to work. It has a nice mellow, slow-paced feel to it that really helped while I was sitting in traffic. I think Cardigan might be my favorite song, but The 1 is firmly in second place for now.

Hearing the deep voice of Justin Vernon, lead singer of Bon Iver, was unexpected and did throw me off a bit. Exile isn't a bad song, but I think because it wasn't what I expected to hear it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. However, Betty has a cute country feel to it that I liked, while Epiphany and Peace both put me in a slower, sadder frame of mind. Not necessarily a bad thing. 

Overall the whole album felt like a step to the side, out of the busy humdrum of my usual day (Yes, I do have to go into work everyday M-F). It's a great CD to listen to for relaxation and to just slow things down a bit. It also brought home to me that Taylor Swift has a really beautiful voice.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Sunday Reflection: Social Media


It's Sunday, a day I've trying more and more to stay off social media to attend to other things. Though I consider myself "Christian" I'm not a church-goer, but everyone deserves a day of rest and social media can be downright exhausting.

I'm most active on Twitter these days, I think because of the faster pace. I tend to log on while I'm at work during the week because I have a lot of down time and I can take a peek at what the online world is talking about fairly quickly. But being on Twitter is a double-edged sword. It's a great way to let people know about my books, talk to bibliophiles of all genres, and get great writing advice. However, it can also be a pitfall of hate and negativity. Politics aside, there can be some really unpleasant people on Twitter which is why they allow you to block and mute accounts that you don't want to engage with or read posts from. So, what do you do when someone you want to engage with blocks you? The short answer is, absolutely nothing. Trying to engage with someone who doesn't want to engage with you will only lead to trouble no matter how you look at it. This isn't something I usually worry about, but I have to admit that finding out I'm blocked by someone I want to engage with is unpleasant. 

So what happens when someone you've never engaged with, or even knew of before, blocks you? Again, nothing really. Twitter is just an online platform not an arena full of people that you can touch and see. Most people don't have a real photo of themselves or use their real names. It's all superficial and shouldn't be an emotional thing at all. However, it can be. Not long ago the Romance Community was talking about an author that many people engage with and learn from but it wasn't anyone I had ever heard of. I clicked on the link to learn more about them and instead realized they had blocked me from seeing anything at all. I have to admit, I was really taken aback. If this person is so highly regarded and doesn't want to even know I exist, what does that say about me?! In essence, nothing at all. It could be that at some point I Tweeted, Retweeted, or even just liked a post that this person disagreed with enough to warrant them never wanting to engage with me. And that's perfectly fine. That's exactly what Block and Mute are meant to do. But it honestly took a couple of days for me to get past it because of how highly regarded this person is in our Romance Community. The worst part to me is not being able to make amends or explain myself because I have no clue why I've been blocked. But the truth is it really doesn't matter. I had never heard of this person before which means we probably have nothing in common other than being in the Romance Community. And that's fine because as individuals, there's no way all of us are going to get along.

For a lot of creators impostor syndrome is a very real, very harsh malady that we fight against every time we attempt to create. Social media can be both a hindrance and a life preserver. If you get positive feedback online it helps to realize that yes, maybe you can do this creative thing you've set out to do. But negative feedback (including being blocked, muted or ignored) feeds into that doubt that nags at the backs of all our minds when we have the audacity to try creating art. If this ever hits you just remember that social media is completely voluntary and not necessarily reflective of reality many times. It's okay if some people don't want to engage with you because there are others who do. No matter what you put out there, someone wants and maybe even needs to see it. Be your own best audience and keep creating.

If you'd like to engage with me online, I can be found here:

Twitter the quickest way to get my attention

Facebook feel free to send me a friend request, or to just know about my books/events like my Page

Instagram mostly pictures of my cats & food I've cooked or am about to eat, but occasionally books too

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Thursday Review: Project Power


If you follow me on any social media platform you've probably read me say that I don't watch TV. This changes during football season (and right now for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. #GoStars) but for the most part, I almost never watch TV. However, my husband is a non-stop TV watcher so every now and again I'll catch whatever he has on.

Days ago (what is time?!) I was relaxing on the sofa when he started watching Project Power. I didn't have high expectations because of some negative feedback I'd seen on Twitter, but I'll watch Jamie Foxx in anything so I went ahead and set my phone down.

In this sci-fi type thriller, Jamie Foxx is a man looking for his daughter who was kidnapped by a crazy woman who is trying to create super humans. Crazy woman created a drug that gives people an unknown superpower for exactly five minutes. The drawback is no one knows what power they will get the first time, if at all. Some people simply blow up. One of the opening scenes will be the most-memorable. In it Machine Gun Kelly (didn't know who he was until Megan Fox dumped Brian Austin Green for him) erupts into flames as his superpower and starts fighting Jamie Foxx. it's actually a really cool scene.

But, I think my favorite part of the whole movie is when Andrene Ward-Hammond is confronted by fake cops and Joseph Gordon-Levitt comes to her rescue. That whole scene is hilarious and the play-by-play between them was great. I loved it. My second favorite is probably when Foxx tries to trip Dominique Fishback up by giving her a long word to create a wrap off of and she nails it (sorry if this action has a name, I don't know what it is). They had great father-daughter chemistry in this move though she doesn't play his daughter.

There is a happy ending after some explosions and weird violence, a cool fight scene in a private club and Jamie Foxx kicking everyone's asses. Overall, I liked it. I love action movies and I love paranormal stories. And I LOVE Jamie Foxx. So this one hit a few of my buttons. I highly recommend it.