The tangled world of good girls gone real

I’m crunching egg shells over politically correct genre landmines here. I love the romance genre. I love the powerful cultural importance beneath the sneering sentimentality attributed to it, the trope of finding THE SOUL MATE who will love you forever and ever  forsaking all others and protecting you and risking his or her  life for you and never faltering in his or her desire for you and his or her love for the children you create together and the true and sincere belief that his or her life would be dirt under a roach’s feet without you. I. LOVE. THAT.  

Which does not mean I love the stereotypical submissive girly heroine who needs protection and coos and falls over in the hero’s arms, no. I want me some strong Maureen O’Hara to John Wayne in The Quiet Man (yes, I know it has its gender role limitations). I want Kat Hepburn to Bogie in The African Queen. I want Karen Allen as Marion in the first Indiana Jones movie, being a kickass partner to Harrison Ford, before the sequels festered into shrieking arm-candy bimbos and franchise kiddie attractions.  

But . . . I’m finding myself lost in a sweet-sexy-hot-erotica-tough-talking-tea-room-Golden-Girls-navel-gazing-renovate the old house-compilation of romance and women’s fiction tropes that are grooved deeper into the soil of commercial pop fiction than tractor ruts in a Georgia garden after a long spring rainy season.


How many morning glory verandas and sulky black-sheep-sons can we describe before old Aunt Lizzy keels the fuck over and lets us get on with something more meaningful? And I don’t mean exchanging Hallmark Card sentiments for the lives of sex gymnasts, or glamour seekers, or the “I’m so messed up” New Adult bad child-men and self-destructive bad girls,  nor the pseudo-tough Doc Savage stories of Hollywood style Special Ops heroes and heroines spouting fake military speak as they perform maneuvers even a bad Michael Bay movie would consider over the top. 

I’m looking for the authentic stories that actually say something about what’s going on in the world around us. I realize genre fiction of all types is about escapism, not about Messages, but I read so much about authors in genre fiction wanting to be taken more seriously . . . look, I can only speak to the genre I know best. Romance.  Excellent authors. Excellent storytelling. But . . . if our stories don’t go deeper than the “she’s empowered for her time, she kicks butt, she makes him respect her,” trope, then they’re just so much finely crafted confetti for the parade toward obscurity. Isn’t there something more substantial to be said than that?

“Social justice story lines” are not  your grandma’s panties dressed up as thongs. They’re the difference between offering candy to readers, or offering them a meal.   

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Coming in September: THE APPLE PIE KNIGHTS

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? The Apple Pie Knights
A Crossroads Café Novella
Deborah Smith
Publishing September 2014
14,000 words, 1.99

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Just not in the ways you thought.

Lucy Parmenter, 28, a former art school teacher from Charlotte, North Carolina, lost her beloved minister-father and her normal life after a brutal attack by two drug addicts she tried to help. For the past few years she’s lived at Rainbow Goddess Farm in the high mountains west of Asheville. The farm is a refuge and counseling center for abused women and their children. But for Lucy, now nicknamed “Yarn Spinner,” it has become home.
Now, frightening strangers have taken up residence in the woods nearby.
The traumatized veterans hiding in the woods set off all of her panic alarms. And yet, what two men did to her in her suburban apartment turned her into a veteran of a different war and into an empath who can help others suffering as she does . . .
“I still can’t go out in public without panicking, or stand to touch a man. I live at the farm, where I used to be a patient, and I’ll probably never leave there. I manage the farm’s sheep, llama, and alpaca herd. I live in a tiny apartment in a barn. I’ve learned to spin and crochet and knit, which I love. But my ‘normal’ life is over, and my dream of having a husband and family will never happen. Because no matter how much I want to forget, part of me will always think of every man as violent, and sex as an act of terror and threats. Even if it’s offered by a man I love dearly. I’m cursed. My life is filled with memories of war, like yours. Just a different kind.”
And yet her new friends, Tal and Gabby MacBride, aka the Biscuit Witch and the Pickle Queen, who have empathetic powers of their own, have introduced her via social media to their army captain brother Gus, stationed in Afghanistan. Gus has the MacBride family’s “kitchen charms,” just like his sisters, though his clairvoyant taste-testing focuses on beer blends.
From the moment he meets moon-pale Lucy via one of her shawl-draped camera-phone pictures, he wants to know everything about the ethereal woman who gazes back at him. He’s always been the tortured protector of a family torn apart by trouble. Lucy represents his most fragile redemption, and the deepest love. But until she trusts him he’ll have to make do with information about her mysterious past that he gets from his sisters and his brother-in-law Jay Wakefield, all of whom have promised to protect Lucy’s painful privacy.
Gus: None of you are going to tell me the truth about her problem—I get that. My sisters have said everything from she’s just “reserved” and was raised “sheltered” and might even be a touch “autistic,” but “in a good way.” You’ve all made a scout’s honor promise to Lucy.
Okay. She wants to tell me herself?
Jay: Yes.
Gus: Is she dying from a disease?
Jay: No.
Gus: Thank you, God.
Jay: You’re welcome.
Gus: Is there any legal, medical, ethical, or other reason why she and I shouldn’t be more than friends?
Jay: In my view, no.
Gus: What the hell does that mean?
Jay: No reason. Those are all the questions you get to ask, Captain. I love your pickle-queen sister dearly, and I don’t want to spend another decade trying to win her respect again.
Gus: Fair enough.
Jay: Am I right to think the force of your beer hoodoo is powerful around Lucy?
Gus: Very. Don’t ever repeat this. I know how it sounds. But from the moment Tal introduced her to me over the phone last fall, I knew something had stopped her fermentation too soon or infected her mash. She’s come out of it green and cloudy.
Jay: Can she be . . . re-brewed?
Gus: I don’t know, but by God, I going to try. I have to identify the cause, first. I’m getting a two-week leave in March. I’m coming to see her. I haven’t told her yet.
Jay: A little worried about her reaction?
Gus: A lot.

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Whether openly acknowledged or not, the

Whether openly acknowledged or not, the book market is “now in a battle for both the survival of physical-world book selling and the trade publishing business model that depends on it,” Hildick-Smith said. “The choice is either to emulate the film industry, with its theaters and strong multiple channels of distribution, or else by default, go the way of the music industry, which has endured a massive revenue decline since it became dominated by digital distribution.”

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Now available for freebie borrows during

Now available for freebie borrows during the trial run of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited launch: FOREVER YESTERDAY, SAVING JONQUILS AND HEARING WINGS. I’ve also made WHERE THE FOXGLOVES BLOOM available for borrowing at Scribd — but I can’t put it in Amazon’s program because the novella is sold in a variety of places so that disqualifies it (Amazon’s rules.)

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Hey, spell my name right when you diss me, okay?

I’ve caused an uproar. An “uproar?” I’m sitting here listening to digital crickets chirp. Where is this uproar? The breadth and width of my Twitter and Facebook and blogging universe is far, far bigger than I ever imagined, since the only posts I can launch further than a long spit out a high window are pictures of my cats licking themselves.

Anyhow, today I’m one of the subjects in Digital Book World’s column by Dana Beth Weinberg.

Empowering Writers With Data

Not to belabor the points, smack a dead horse, etc. so I’m just posting the same answer I’ve posted at DBW. As follows:

One correction up front: my company’s name is spelled Bell Bridge Books, thanks.

As I think I’ve made clear in my blog posts and in private correspondence to Dr. Weinberg, I support her data and have followed her reports here at DBW in the past. My beef, as I’ve stated repeatedly, is with Romance Writers of America using her data in a disingenuous way at the upcoming national conference. When a topic is titled “Is there still a case to be made for traditional publishing?” and the program notes tell attendees that Dr. Weinberg will present “for and against” research about publishers, those who don’t know anything about her work will assume a negative slant. RWA has produced a dramatically skewed workshop schedule this year, in my opinion, overwhelmingly aimed at self-publishing authors and flavored with a bias against traditional publishing. The only other workshop dedicated to traditional publishing topics is titled “What good are agents?” So — with all due respect to Dr. Weinberg and her best intentions, statistics alone are often used as propaganda. Especially when presented out of context, at a workshop that does not include the publishers and agents about which she is offering conclusions. My concerns are about context and fairness. I wish Dr. Weinberg the best.

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Free Book Palooza Today!!!

Today is the first annual Digital Book Day, organized by bestselling author C.J. Lyons. Authors from around the world are giving away ebook editions of their novels. Yours Truly has put my novella, Forever Yesterday, up for free grabs. The project is a promotion for authors and a gift to fans, no strings attached. Just go to

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Why the messenger is not the problem at RWA

Put down yer flame throwers, troops. This is not the (Harvard PhD Sociologist and Queen’s College-CUNY Professor of Sociology) droid you’re looking for.

To further clarify my point from RWA Takes My Money
Then Asks If I Deserve To Exist
, my beef is with RWA’s 2014 workshop schedule, which I feel has an ugly bias against traditional publishing. With only two workshops specifically targeted to trad pub topics (I don’t count the publisher spotlights) let’s review the titles of those workshops:

“What good is an agent?” (Holy creepers, Batman, that’s rude.)
And: “Can a case still still be made for traditional publishers and agents?” (Geez, Batman, now publishers are cast in a negative light, and agents get dissed a second time.)

I took exception to the negative titles, and to the fact that the publisher topic will feature sociologist Dr. Dana Beth Weinberg.

I think it’s inappropriate for a non-industry voice to be the only speaker on a topic that has only one narrow window of coverage at a conference where all the major sponsors are publishers and where a substantial number of the published attendees write for traditional publishers.

But let me be clear: this is not a personal slap at Dr. Weinberg or her presentation, about which I do know quite a bit, actually.

Analyzing the Author Earnings Data

Earlier this year Dr. Weinberg took on the daunting task of vetting indie author Hugh Howey’s popular statistics on self-publishing. Her conclusions were not overwhelmingly supportive of Howey’s conclusions, a fact that earned her a whole bunch of flaming spitballs from his followers.

I expect she’ll present the core of that same report at RWA, and it will be fair to publishers as well as to agents. I also suspect that she’ll get grilled by self-published authors in the room. In my experience, that won’t be pretty.

I don’t want anyone in the trad pub posse going in there with crazy flaming spitballs ready to heave at her. She’ll have enough trouble, as it is.

So once again, let me be perfectly, Nixonianly clear:
RWA needs to get its act together.
But Dr. Weinberg is not the scapegoat for RWA’s poor judgment.

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