The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 2 – Grammatical Correctness

[This article first appeared in Night Owl Reviews]

Got some bad news about pet peeve #3…see newly-added definition #4 at And this is why “grammar” rules aren’t really rules.

I used to wonder what was more important—wordsmithing or storytelling. This was when I was on my O. Henry Prize kick, reading dozens of beautifully written short stories that received high praise despite lacking plots or any deep meaning (to me, anyway). As a result, for a while I believed wordsmithing was more important and focused a lot on improving my prose. Then I realized short stories were a career dead end and began focusing on novels, where I came to the opposite conclusion, and the one I believe today: ideally you want to be good at both wordsmithing and storytelling, but storytelling should always take precedence. Beautifully constructed sentences and imagery are great and all, but if they don’t coalesce into anything meaningful it becomes tiresome after a while, like the O. Henry stories did for me; it’s the literary equivalent of navel-gazing.

In the end, words are tools you use to tell your story. Continue reading The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 2 – Grammatical Correctness


The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 1 – Show, Don’t Tell

[This article first appeared in Night Owl Reviews]

See? Even Hemingway said stupid crap sometimes!

I’m generally of a mind that rules are lame. You don’t know how much trouble I’ve ended up in because of this attitude, being a military member and all. Example:

Me: Why can’t I put my hands in the pockets of my uniform? It’s winter and it’s cold.

Severe-Looking Instructor: Because it’s unprofessional.

Me: Frostbite is also unprofessional.

Severe-Looking Instructor: Drop and give me twenty. Continue reading The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 1 – Show, Don’t Tell


Getting Ready to Publish, Trying Not To Claw Face Off (Allergies)

Greetings my legion of fans! (…I know you’re out there playing hard to get, you coy little minxes…)

I know I said I would post more, and then didn’t because I forgot there are only 24 hours in a day and a lot of that time is unfortunately taken up by lame stuff like sleep and hygiene and working at a paying job and spending time with the family, etc.

Truth be told, trying to legitimately self-publish my first book (Battlefield High) is pretty freaking hard. Sure, I technically self-published Spice of Love back in 2015, but I knew nothing back then…


…so I just dropped it on Amazon with little to no marketing, and three people and my mom bought it.

BUT I’m doing it right this time, with a self-pub plan and checklist and everything! I’m totes legit now. Maybe I’ll flop, maybe I’ll be the next Wool, who knows!

When reading up on how to self-pub the right way, however, it can be super-overwhelming. You need to do about a million things yourself, such as making/buying a cover, all the editing, all the formatting (“Why do extra blank pages appear out of nowhere when I convert my epub file into a MOBI file in Calibre? WHY GODDAMMIT??”), reviewer requests, marketing, etc…OH YEAH and all the other stuff to spit-shine my adjacent products like my newsletter and website. For instance, I eventually need to update my newsletter format, change my FREE BOOKS page, update Spice of Love and try to market that again to maybe people who care this time, pay attention to analytics and start tracking shit like clicks and impressions and buys and………AND………AND…..


But you know what? It’s still almost certain to be better than the traditional publishing route.

Now I’m not gonna go into a “WHY ME??” pity party rant about how much trad-pub sucks balls for everyone except a tiny sliver of successful authors at the top or whatever, because nobody wants to hear that. I did learn a lot going the trad-pub route, so in that respect it was worth it just to experience both options first-hand and be able to weigh the pros and cons of each.

I will say this, tho – I was shocked at how little value went back to the authors via the trad-pub route (again, excepting the sliver of big authors at the top). In fact, most of the publishing world is geared toward making money off authors rather than with authors. Since most new authors will get little to no marketing help from their publisher, they’ll often suggest hiring a PR firm or paying for your own ads. Personally, I ended up spending a lot more money trying to market my previous trad-pub books than I will probably ever earn back off sales, and I don’t think my experience is unique.

Which is unfortunate. So thank goodness for the rise of self-publishing! It’s a lot more work, but you have a lot more control and can own your potential failure rather than bitching about how trad-pub is so unfair………like some other losers I know……WHO ARE NOT ME…………………


ANYWAY, also making things about a thousand times harder are the worst allergies I’ve had in my entire life. I seriously want to claw my face off right now, or cut off my nose with a butter knife just to allow air back into my nasal passages. Sorry if you now have disturbing images in your head. One of the dangers of being a writer!


3 Reasons Why You Should Never Skip The Inciting Incident

[This article first appeared in Night Owl Reviews]

“Nope, this is not rising to the quality I have come to expect from this author. Why did they skip the inciting incident? Why?”

Maybe I’ve been cursed by the book gods and need to sacrifice another virgin at the secret blood altar they keep in my local library’s basement (all the best libraries have one), but I’ve had crap luck with books lately. I’ve DNF’d the last four out of five books I’ve read, primarily for story mechanics issues. They’ve either dragged or didn’t establish a solid foundation before jumping into the action, or just weren’t very compelling stories. I’m a slow-as-shit reader, so slogging through a book I’m not that into can take weeks to reach the payoff of a “meh” experience. If a book doesn’t hook me within the first ~30%, I peace out and move on. Continue reading 3 Reasons Why You Should Never Skip The Inciting Incident


Jessica Jones, Season 2 – Part 2: Bye, Felicia (Jessica)


So, that happened. By “that” I mean Jessica Jones season 2, and by “happened” I mean mercifully ended so I can go on with my life.

Spoilers ahoy!!

Shortly after I wrote my bitch session about the first part of the season, I poked around the internet to see if other folks had concerns, too. They did! But the general consensus was the show took off after episode seven, when it’s revealed the Big Bad is Jessica’s mom and they bond over having super-strength and missing each other and whatnot. If only that’s what happened. In reality, it just kept getting worse until I cheered when the season was blessedly over. Hubby is happy too, cuz now he doesn’t have to hear me constantly complaining through every episode. Continue reading Jessica Jones, Season 2 – Part 2: Bye, Felicia (Jessica)


Jessica Jones, Season 2 – Part 1: What Happened To This Show?

I’ll admit it – I’m not a huge fan of superhero movies. They tend to prioritize spectacle and fanboy service over a compelling story…with some notable exceptions, including Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and a few of the X-Mens (Logan especially…where was Hugh Jackman’s Oscar nomination, dammit?? He was robbed!). Just the thought of hubby dragging me to Avengers: Infinity War gives me cold sweats of dread.

Of course, I like horror movies – the psychological kind, not the torture porn stuff – but can’t get hubby to watch those with me, so what good is he, really? I’m still trying to figure it out.

Anyway, even though I’m not a fan of superhero movies because of the lame stories and tedious fight scenes that go on forever (seriously: Hulk vs Thor, two un-killable beings punching each other for eighty billion minutes…WOW, how excitzzzzzz), I love the concept of people existing amongst us with special abilities. It opens up so many “What if?” scenarios – be good or evil? Live large or stay grounded? Keep your powers secret or tell the world? But for me anyway, the key to an interesting superhero story if focusing on how people with special powers interact with everybody else in the normal world, and how their alienation affects their humanity.

And this is why I LOVED the first season of Jessica Jones! Krysten Ritter was awesome as Jessica, a PI with serious inner demons and special abilities she didn’t want (super-strength) who’s just trying to get through the day in modern New York City. In fact, the title character of my Valentine Shepherd series is basically Jessica Jones if her superpower was seeing the future during sex (it’s a weird series I’ll admit, but worth reading if you like that kind of thing! Check it out, in fact). The show had a cast of awesome characters, including an ice-cold lesbian lawyer played by Carrie-Anne Moss, aka Trinity from The Matrix, a cute sorta-sidekick heroine addict, Jessica’s hot boy-toy Luke Cage (Mike Colter, who went on to his own show), a bunch of weirdo regulars in Jessica’s apartment building, and an epic villain played by David Tennant. It also had Trish, Jessica’s best friend, but she’s annoying as shit. Sorry, but Rachel Taylor, who plays Trish, just cannot convincingly deliver a line of dialogue.

So most of this awesome cast – and Trish – is back for season 2, which just dropped a few days ago. I’m halfway through the season, and…it hurts to say this, but it’s not very good. I knew it probably wouldn’t be as good as season 1, but this season seems particularly bad, almost like the writers couldn’t decide where they wanted to take the show, so they Mad Libbed it all together to form a barely coherent narrative.

First I noticed there were some blatant continuity errors. For instance, Jeri – the lawyer – hires someone to get in touch with Jessica for her (they had a falling out at the end of season 1) for reasons she won’t say, then finds out she has a serious illness. She later contacts Jessica herself because she wants Jessica to dig up dirt on her law firm partner so they won’t force her out due to a medical termination clause…So why did Jeri want to get in touch with Jessica to begin with if she hired the other guy to contact Jessica BEFORE she found out she was sick? It’s never explained, so I’m assuming it was a continuity error. Then there’s a scene where Jessica mentions it’s hot as hell cuz it’s the peak of summer, but then we see external shots that clearly show it’s springtime (people in light jackets, trees beginning to bloom, etc.). Then we meet a nurse who’s supposedly been on the run from something nasty she saw (sadly not in the woodshed) while on duty in a secret hospital ten years ago, but the actress is obviously in her mid or late 20s, so……..

(I looked it up – the actress is 33, so I guess it’s technically possible if she JUST got out of nursing school when the stuff in the hospital happened, but she’s also supposedly been been living on the streets for 10 years so there’s no way she looks that good even if you buy her age)

THEN Jessica gets a ridiculous tip that a shady doctor she’s looking for just might be hanging out in an aquarium next to an octopus because that’s where he used to go sometimes TEN YEARS AGO, and lo and behold he just happens to be there on the day Jessica cases the joint, and then the aquarium glass breaks but everyone runs out of the aquarium dry, including Jessica, but her phone is somehow soaking wet which conveniently prevents her from taking pics of the fleeing perps and WTF IS HAPPENING HERE?

This is just sloppy storytelling. I can suspend my disbelief for one or two editing errors or obvious contrivances but COME ON. Season 1 didn’t pull this shit. Also, this season’s villain isn’t nearly as compelling as David Tennant’s smooth-talking nightmare Kilgrave…in fact, at this point in the show (I’m up to episode six) it’s not even clear WHO the actual villain is, only that bad stuff is happening for some reason. And stupid Trish is still around, and we’re expected to care about her stupid problems.

On the plus side, Krystin Ritter and everybody else who’s not Trish continue to kill it, and Jessica’s slow-burning romance with her new superintendent is sweet and understated, a nice change from the insta-lust sex-fest (which eventually developed into sorta-feelings) she had with Luke Cage.

So. I’m still looking forward to watching the rest of season 2, hoping it’ll have a second-wind comeback! I’ll report on my final feelings when I’m done watching the season. Fingers crossed Trish decides to get help for her various addictions someplace far, far away!


No-BS Advice: Ultimatums Are A-OK!

For whatever reason, ultimatums have a bad rap—probably because people presented with ultimatums are usually pissed about it. They feel they’ve been unfairly backed into a corner, blaming the ultimatum giver for leveling threats at them.

But fuck that. An ultimatum is a choice between two courses of action as defined by the ultimatum giver, along the lines of “If you do or don’t do this, I’m going to do this.” There’s usually some kind of major consequence involved, hence the term “ultimatum.”

Life is a series of choices—note that failing to make a choice is also a choice—and an ultimatum is no different. The problem is people often mistake ultimatums for threats. A threat is using fear to force someone to act in a way they normally wouldn’t, ex. “Sign this document or I’ll kill you.” An ultimatum is forcing someone to take responsibility for their actions, ex. “Get help for your drinking problem or I’ll leave you.”

An ultimatum can seem like a threat, but the key difference is the ultimatum receiver’s fear is irrelevant; a person giving an ultimatum is stating a fact about how they will act, not about how the receiver should act. For instance, in the above ultimatum example, the receiver can decide to do nothing to curb their drinking. It’s the ultimatum giver who then acts to change their own behavior by leaving as they said they would, which may or may not affect the ultimatum receiver.

I see to many people stuck in crappy relationships because they think issuing an ultimatum is a shitty thing to do. It’s not! Remember, an ultimatum is about forcing someone to accept responsibility for the things they’ve already done, and you are being forced to act, not them.

So go ahead and issue an ultimatum if the situation warrants it—that is, if you’re ready for a change no matter what. Because you absolutely must follow through on an ultimatum; otherwise, it’s just an empty threat.


The Difference Between All-Male vs All-Female Events

The President’s Club Charity Event 2018

You might have read recently about the all-male charity event, hosted by a UK organization called the President’s Club, where dozens of the all-female wait staff – ordered to wear tight serving uniforms and sexy shoes – were subjected to an onslaught of sexual harassment so bad the 33-year-old organization disbanded one day after the story came out.

If just the first part of that description – an all-male gathering of rich guys who call themselves the “President’s Club” – doesn’t already scream “sexual harassment city,” then I don’t know where you’ve been, dude. Welcome back to planet Earth!

But it’s worth taking a step back and looking at why an all-male event might be inherently problematic versus an all-female event. Is it fair to assume a bunch of rich dudes getting together is fundamentally different in a bad way than a bunch of rich chicks networking and chewing the fat? After all, women-only or women-focused events happen all the time, and yet those are considered good things by basically everybody who’s not a Breitbart enthusiast. “It’s reverse sexism!” screams my MRA cat, Jenkins.

“It’s reverse sexism!”

No, it’s not reverse sexism, Jenkins, and here’s why.

Since this event was specifically segregated by gender, we’ll consider that particular dynamic rather than the class or race dynamics, which were also in play but less relevant to what happened. The event was designed to stroke the attendees’ egos such that they felt an extreme sense of power, thereby creating the illusion that they were worth more and could afford to donate more to charity. Psychology 101 right there. Want someone to give you money? Make them feel like a million bucks.

The question becomes, then, what does a stereotypically powerful male look like in our society? Let’s do some word association.

Male power = easy access to sex/females, money, wealth, status

Now let’s flip the gender.

Female power = ……………………………?? Easy access to fancy clothes, maybe? A powerful husband? Lots of babies (please no…)?

The truth is women are almost never in positions of extreme power the same way men are. Women are by no means immune from being corrupted by power, but the idea of how that corruption manifests is significantly different for men than for women.

Think about it – if you’re trying to create a power fantasy for a group of women specifically based on their gender (so they donate more to your charity), what kind of party would you throw? Would you have a bunch of male strippers as servers? The ladies would probably find that awkward and annoying – not that women don’t lust after men, but it’s not part of our power fantasy (Let’s be honest – the vast majority of women can easily catch a dick if they wanted, no matter their level of attractiveness. When it comes to sex, women usually have more decision power than men – one of the only facets of life where this is so – which is why rape is at its root about asserting power over women rather than being overcome with lust). Would you have the MC gush over how pretty they all are, maybe offer free makeovers for everyone? Again, weird. Offer free designer clothes? …What?

There isn’t a female equivalent to the stereotypical male power trip, and that’s why an all-male event is ripe for problems the way an all-female event isn’t. Now you know; tell your friends. I mean, you can try to make the case this isn’t true, as Jenkins keeps trying to do by howling in my ear and calling it a debate, but shut up Jenkins.

“It’s still reverse sexism! Your arguments are unsupported by DATA. Instead of engaging me in a totally rational conversation, you’re just walking away as if you have better things to do. Guess that means I win this round, because my argument is superior to yours!”

No-BS Advice: Tell Your Kids You Believe Them

If you, like me, are scared shitless that some human-shaped monster will take advantage of your kids, tell them this and mean it: “No matter what you tell me, I will always believe you.”

It broke my heart to read Olympic gymnast Kyle Stevens’ account of her sexual assault at the hands of Larry Nassar, the sports doctor who assaulted hundreds of girls and young women with impunity for years.

From a recent CNN article:

At 12, [Kyle Stevens] told her parents about the abuse, but they didn’t believe her. The abuse — and their denial — left her feeling brainwashed, caused a split in her family relationship and led to crippling anxiety, she said.

We all know you’re supposed to warn your kids about inappropriate touching of the “no-no square,” but what we don’t realize is how we also instill a sense of taboo around sex that effectively gags our kids when it does happen. Even in today’s day and age, when sex is supposedly “everywhere,” the fact we frame this observation in negative terms means we still consider it a bad thing. “Special victims” in police parlance are victims of sex crimes, meaning we’ve labeled the crime as especially heinous – something has happened to these victims that, we believe, is more damaging than a “regular” crime like a mugging or battery.

Know how sexual predators keep their victims silent? Not with violence or threats or tongue mutilations. It’s with shame.

They rely on their victims not to tell anyone, and it usually works.

Sex is “everywhere,” and it’s “bad.” So how do you counteract the message your kids get from literally everywhere to keep their sexual assault a secret so they don’t have to deal with the stigma? You vow to be their defender, and righteous avenger if necessary, by explicitly taking their side over society’s side. You make that vow by promising to believe them when they tell you something bad has happened to them.

Don’t let some piece of shit sicko think they can get away with messing with your kid. The first step to protecting our children is breaking the code of silence, and that begins with you.



Words with Weight