Just Try

SnoopySinger Colbie Caillat recently released the music video for “Try” {posted below}.  The song, and it’s message, struck a chord immediately.

The opening lyrics to “Try” are:

Put your make-up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?

And here is part of the chorus:

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

The song is about women in general, who try so hard, either through dieting, make up, spending money, etc.,  to get people to like and accept them; to get society to like and accept them. This song, and it’s video, beautifully expresses the theme of the  Seven Dress Sizes collection. While watching this video, my mind went immediately to this particular collection of short stories.

No, not just because I have a story included in this anthology, but because I think we (regardless of age or sex) need more stories like this in the world and in circulation.  They need to be read, to be discussed, and most importantly, they are needed as a counterbalance to all the “standard of beauty” none sense that our girls and boys are being indoctrinated with.  Seven Dress Sizes takes you into the lives of seven different modern women.  All struggling, in a full scope of shapes and sizes, to find the keys to unlocking their confidence, self worth, and acceptance of their individual brands of beauty.

My grandma use to tell me all the time: “Don’t eat anything prepared by a cook that won’t eat their own cooking.”   This is a creative paraphrase as I can’t remember exactly what she said, but you get the idea.  Why would you eat anything (no matter how desirable it sounds, looks, or smells)  if the person who made it won’t eat it?  There are so many people out there in the world that are willing to hurt, maim, starve, nearly kill, or bankrupt themselves all to get other people to like and accept them, when they can’t even like and accept themselves.

We face so many societal pressures, and not just women, members of all minority groups (be them based on sex, race, or privilege).  There has been a time when we’ve all been caught up on trying to be something we’re not, just for the sake of fitting in, or not being ridiculed, or gaining something we think we want/need.  As a mom of 3, I am hyperaware of the many negative images and pressures that exist in our world. I wore myself out trying to keep all these negative influences away from my children. I then took a different approach.  Yes, I still teach my kids right from wrong, but I also place a high priority on allowing them to develop their own personalities, their own interests, and their own quirks.  But giving them this freedom to grow is not enough, I make them to own up and accept themselves for what they are: the things that make them unique, special, and beautiful.

Most of the time, this is involves lots of jokes and laughter. You should SEE some of the outfits my youngest puts together, but as long as it is age and weather appropriate and doesn’t clash too horribly, I let her roll with it.  I can’t tell you the number of times I joke with my son about his love of all things camping and outdoor survival related (seriously, I’ve NO CLUE where he got that from, because it most certainly didn’t come from me).  But hey, he’s not harming anyone and he’s learning valuable skills.  So even though it’s not my thing, or most people’s thing,  it’s perfectly okay that it’s his thing.

But sometimes a serious conversation is needed to reinforce their values, morals, and norms, AND to reassure them they are fine the way they are. I tell them often they cannot, nor will not, ever please everyone all the time. Once my daughter came home in tears and wanted to cut her locs off–which are halfway down her back– because someone told her she “looked like a boy” with them. My response to her was “We can cut your hair if you want you, it’s 100% your decision.  You are beautiful with or without locs, with long or short hair.  However, we are NOT cutting your hair because of something stupid and idiotic some child said to you.”  It took her a couple of months to think on this, she decided she didn’t want to cut her hair after all. 🙂

This is my way of instilling a strong sense of self confidence, self worth, and self love  in them.  This is something that took me nearly 30 years to grown into and develop on my own.  I wanted to give them a leg up on the learning curve. I think it’s working and wish more adults would start living and loving for them, not some unobtainable society standard.

Hey, go be you!  Try loving and accepting you for exactly who and what you are. Try not downing those that are not like you or that don’t live up to your standard of beauty, whatever that is.  I’m not saying don’t strive to improve yourself, no one is perfect.  But try looking at yourself with an honest filter vs. the hypersensitive, harsh one.

Just try.

 


7 Dress Sizes

 

 

What is a woman’s worth ? What is beauty? Depending on culture, commercialism, family, or our peers, men and woman have allowed society to dictate a woman’s worth based on nothing more than the outer shell of her existence.

There is no perfect number. No measurement or shape is safe under the judgmental eyes of the world.

No eyes can judge a woman as harshly as her own.

 

 

**Music & lyrics are property and copyright of their owners; provided here for educational purposes and personal use only.

State of the Industry: African American Romance

LaTessa MontgomeryWith it being Black History Month, I wanted to spark a bit of conversation about a genre I’ve loved since the mid 1990’s:  African American romance.  I’ve seen its popularity grow over the years, but it’s still not at the level of its mainstream counterparts.

Today, I am over at Savvy Authors sharing my thoughts about African American romance, its place in today’s market, & its possible place in the future and what this means for writers and readers of this genre.

Head on over and join in on the discussion.  I’ll see you over there. 🙂

Book Reviews, What Do You Say?

ReviewI’ve had a multi-faceted  association with book reviews over the years.  First, as a reader with a limited book budget, I would seek out reviews on new authors or genres I’d not read before. True, everyone is different and not every story will resonate with every reader, but it helped me feel a bit better about spending my few little bucks on a new title.  Did it always work? No.  But I’m an analytical person, so I always feel better about a decision when I can do a little research and gather a few data points. 🙂

Out of my love for reading, I became a professional reviewer for  Romance In Color  in 2005, and moved up to the Senior Review Editor shortly after that.  I did this for roughly 6 or 7 years.  It was through this experience I got to see another side of the review process.  I worked closely with publishers, and authors in some cases, to get professional, objective, and unbiased reviews done  in a timely fashion on the newest releases.  From this experience, I learned the importance from a marketing and PR standpoint reviews held for the authors and publishers.  Not only did I, as reader, look to reviews to help decide which new titles to try, but authors and publishers look to them as a sort of “word of mouth” advertising and exposure option.  Favorable reviews could be used to encourage additional readers, as positive soundbites on marketing materials, or mentioned during author events to make a point (either about theme, story, character, or a wealth of other things).

And now, as a published author, I look at reviews in yet another new way.  My first release, a short story in the Seven Dress Sizes collection, is out and I’ve received mostly good feedback on it, both in person and in the form of published reviews.  As an author, I am always interested (good or bad) in what someone thinks about my writing, how it’s received, and whether or not they picked up on themes, motifs, or point I was trying to get across.  But me personally, I like to look at them from  that standpoint.

I’ve presented 3 different angles from which I view reviews.  Today’s What do you say? topic is:
What are your thoughts on leaving book reviews?  If you do reviews, do you tend to leave a review on an official review site (such as GoodReads or Amazon)?  Do you prefer to use your personal website or Facebook page?  Or do steer clear of written reviews, prefering to actually speak to others about your opinions on books? (such as through a book club, when asked, or when speaking to others about books)

Image courtesy of DreamsTime

 

Just because?

On February 26, 2012, an unarmed 17 year old young man, by the name of Trayvon Martin, was senselessly killed because he was deemed “suspicious” by man that shot him.  It is assumed this is in part because of his race (he was African American) and the fact he was dressed in a hooded sweatshirt (hoodie).  This case has sparked a nationwide outrage because of the circumstances under which Trayvon was killed, the rationale behind the shooting, and the fact the man responsible has not been arrested, at the time this blog was written.

Now, my intent with this post is not to discuss whether or not I believe a miscarriage of justice was performed in this situation (just for the record, I do); nor to debate whether or not I feel the shooter based his decision to pursue this young man on a stereotype (because just for the record, I do).

It is to discuss something we, as writers, do on a regular basis as part of our characterization and storytelling.  Writers of all walks of life and genres tend to use certain widely held beliefs (and misbeliefs on occasion) about people, groups, places, etc. to make our writing more relatable to our readers, to assist with pacing, and to help drive home certain connections, feelings, and attitudes we wish our readers to develop about our characters.  Using certain widely held beliefs, whether they are true or not, helps us add humor and assists us in establishing reader expectations as to how a character looks (feature wise) and provide believable motivations for their actions, goals, etc.  In my opinion, this is kind of, sort of like using stereotypes, or at least bits and pieces of them, to make our job easier.

I mean, if I wanted to paint a character as a thug, I may dress him in baggy pants, a hat pulled down so low it covers his eyes, and a sweatshirt.  If I wanted to paint a character as a prep, I may dress him in khakis, a polo shirt, and some loafers.  Using a few generalities and commonly held beliefs about these two groups of individuals, I am able to give them the appropriate flavor. My gangster character may have some from a low income background; my prepster may have come from an upper middle class.  And given the social circles  they each hung out with, I can come up with goals, motivations, and conflicts for them that will be believable and true to the characters I created.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I did not point out that there’s a balance to using this technique.  All good authors I know, whether they are published or not, know that you run the risk of creating an unintended caricature or being offensive to the group of individuals (be them bound by race, ethnicity, hobby, lifestyle choice, etc.).  Speaking for myself, I take care to not use sweeping judgments of any one, or group of, people, places or things in my stories.  Why? Because it’s not my style, unless, of course, my intent is to purposely showcase a prejudice or misbelief to prove a point.   In fact, one of the tenets of my author’s voice is the  acceptance of others and their choices, whether or not you agree with it.

Let’s be real, making judgement calls and assumptions about people we don’t know is a part of life.  It’s one of those things we, as hiring managers, parents, etc., do on a regular basis.  There is a reason you dress a certain way for a job interview.  There is a reason some people dress a certain way when meeting the parents of their girlfriend or boyfriend.  There is a reason criminals use disguises.  It helps them better fit certain roles so they can get into a position to take or destroy the object of their fascination.

This got me to thinking, is it really fair to judge anyone just because of the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, the way they dress, or their lifestyle choices? No, it’s not.  It’s one thing to make an informed decision based on information you’ve gathered visually and verbally, yet quite another to take any type of action based solely on just one factor.  Heck, my gangster character could just as easily wear a shirt and tie; my little prepster could have a penchant for jeans and hoodies.

The Martin case has touched me in many ways.  I will limit my observations here to as they pertain to me, the author.  As a writer, I will remain cognizant of how I choose to shine particular lights and shadows on my characters.  I also plan to be more focused on my craft and the stories I want to write and the characters I want to showcase.  I’ve met some resistance in the past with one of my manuscripts because it features predominately African American characters and an interracial romance.  But why should the “mainstream”  pass on it just because of the race of my characters?  Why should the marketing and selling of any book be radically harder just because it features minorities or special interest groups?

And lastly, what right does anyone have to judge my writing, your writing, you as a person, or your characters just because of … well, anything?

 

Love at First Sight?

A fairly common trope in the romance genre is that of “love at first sight”.  Within the context of fiction, this concept is readily acceptable as long as it’s well written and executed.  One of the joys of reading romance, according to informal polls I’ve read and taken, is that is allows the reader the opportunity to escape their lives, if only for a bit of time, and allows them access to fantasies that may be missing from their lives either at the moment or altogether.

Some detractors of the romance genre say this escape tendency causes people to have unrealistic expectations of how “real” relationships work; therefore setting them up for romance failure in their personal lives.

So, this got me to wondering (uh oh is right 🙂  ) exactly how many of us (romance readers & writers and people in general) believe “love at first sight” truly exists?

I don’t know if I believe in this concept, per se. But I do believe that while it may take someone a while to admit to themselves that they are, indeed, in love with someone; I think it takes very little time to actually “fall” in love with someone.  Think about it, what does falling in love really mean?

In my opinion, falling in love is an active thing that begins the moment you meet that special someone, whether you’re aware of it or not.  I believe the “falling” is a constant process that continues throughout the span of a healthy relationship.  It could start out small, like a snowball rolling downhill that picks up substance and speed as it travels along…  Or, it could start out like “WOW!” all big and in your face and continue to grow from there.  It varies from person to person.

As someone that both enjoys romance and writes it,  I’m interested in your opinions of “love at first sight”.  Is this a theory you subscribe to?  Or do you feel it’s just a bunch of commercialized hooey?