Red Flags: How a book was “born” (Includes ordering information)

For every book, there is a story about how it came to be.

The story behind Red Flags starts in 1997. The figure skating boom of the 1990s was in full swing. The Internet was in its infancy. Instead of blogs and social media, there were primitive websites and Usenet newsgroups. The hive of Internet skating fandom at that time was a Usenet group called rec.sport.skating.ice.figure, also known as RSSIF. The RSSIF-ers were a knowledgeable,  passionate bunch. Flame wars between different factions were common, especially during the summer months when there weren’t many skating competitions to dissect. Gossip about skaters’ private lives was discouraged, but it seemed unavoidable in an era where elite figure skaters were A-list celebrities whose latest escapades routinely made tabloid headlines.

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At some point during the summer of 1997, the RSSIF regulars got into a heated discussion over which topics should or shouldn’t be allowed. On a whim, I decided to write a little soap opera that covered all of the forbidden topics– closeted gay skaters, eating disorders, extramarital affairs, abusive coaches, crazy skatemoms, bickering pairs– albeit in a fictional skating world populated with characters who were completely made-up; they were not stand-ins for real-life skaters. I titled this soap opera The Strong and the Sequined.

I figured I’d keep the soap opera going for a few weeks, maybe a few months. But each time I posted a new chapter, I would be swamped with requests for back chapters. (Today, I would have posted them on a blog, but blogs hadn’t been invented yet.) I couldn’t believe people were actually reading my little story– I was literally making it up as I went along! I had only a vague idea of what was going to happen next. At that time, I was definitely a “pantser” not a “plotter.” The Strong and the Sequined took on a life of its own.

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RAISE Act: I wouldn’t qualify to enter the USA, but the main character from my novel does!

I found this Time magazine link via Facebook:

http://time.com/4887574/trump-raise-act-immigration/

Here, you can take an online quiz to determine if you would be eligible to legally immigrate to the United States under the proposed RAISE act. I was born and raised here, yet if I were a me-from-somewhere-else, I would not qualify. I am too old. I only have a bachelor’s degree. I don’t currently have a job offer, a Nobel prize, an Olympic medal, or money to invest in a commercial enterprise.

After I took the quiz as myself, I took it again pretending to be the 18-year-old main character from my figure skating novel, Red Flags. She got in!

Isn’t that something?

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First Day Of School

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It’s hard to balance figure skating with school, but Shirelle, Becky, and Connor took some time to pose for this First Day Of School pic. The school administrators are already getting after Connor for his hair, which is an even brighter shade of pink than what he had over the summer.

Connor’s reaction? “Meh. It’s no big deal. The judges at every competition I’ve skated in since I was ten have told me to tone it down. But I keep toning it up!”

Back to School in the U.S.S.R.

While researching my novel, Red Flags, I bought several old early-grade Soviet schoolbooks on Ebay. I wanted to see for myself what exactly Larissa would have been taught in school. The books also helped me learn the Russian alphabet!

Since it’s Back To School season in both the USA and in the former Soviet Union, I thought I’d share some of the illustrations from two of the books in my collection. On the surface, they aren’t so different from the Dick and Jane type books that were ubiquitous in American schools from the 1930s through the early 1970s. If you are from the U.K., you might see some similarities to the Ladybird series. But there’s a point where the similarities end.

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The Eclipse: Looking Down

Most eyes (safely shielded, I hope) looked toward the sky during today’s solar eclipse. But you could also see some unusual and fascinating sights if you looked down. Here are some photos I took of the shadows on the sidewalk. The eclipse gave the shadows of the trees a wavy quality. In the middle photo, it almost looks like a sand dune, but it was just ordinary pavement.

Oh, and the crickets were going crazy. Absolutely crazy!

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Don’t Call Them “alt-right.” Call Them What They Really Are– White Nationalists

I wrote and posted the original back in November. I am reblogging it now because of Charlottesville.

Jens Lyon

Don’t call them “alt-right.”

It makes them sound like a group of twentysomething-year-old College Republicans sitting around a Student Center table, trying to think of ways to get the campus hipsters to join their cause. “Let’s face it, fellas. At a liberal school like ours, Republicans have a serious branding problem. We need to change our name to something that sounds cool and trendy. You know, like alternative rock? We’ll be the alternative right. The alt right!”

Alt-right also sounds like the name of some long-abandoned Usenet newsgroup from the 1990s, a place where no one has posted anything since George W. Bush got elected.

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Don’t call them “alt-right.” Call them what they really are– white nationalists, white supremacists, white separatists, or neo-Nazis.

“Alt-right” makes them sound harmless. They aren’t.

“Alt-right” normalizes them. They aren’t normal. They must never be considered anything close to what our society deems normal. Here’s…

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Historical Research for Writers

A Writer's Path

by Sheree Crawford

Researching is, believe it or not, a skill that not everyone has. If you do have it you should definitely put it on your C.V.; good research is often the thing you do not see, but the want of it is blindingly obvious, especially when you write historic fiction, or you’re writing about cultures and people you don’t know anything about.

Research isn’t about consuming every piece of information you can find on your topic; it’s about knowing what is and isn’t important. You can learn this by taking a degree of some sort (History in particular will smack you in the face with research skill requirements before you’ve even finished the first year… whoo-boy that was a learning curve, I can tell you), or you can piggyback my History degree; go on, I don’t mind. I’ll share some of the pearls I’ve discovered while cracking…

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Trust Your Readers

A Writer's Path

by Josh Langston

After all, they trusted you enough to buy your book.

Let’s back up a step or two. Just who are these people who took a chance on your ability to string nouns and verbs together in an entertaining fashion? Where did they come from? Surely, they can’t all be related to you in some way, can they? I think not.

Consider these woeful statistics excerpted from the Literacy Project Foundation (There’s plenty more to read on their website, and I urge you to spend some time there.):

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Celebrating the 4th of July in the age of Trump

“I just don’t feel like celebrating the 4th of July this year.”

“I’m not in the mood for fireworks, parades, or any of that stuff.”

“I am so embarrassed by Trump that I feel like a hypocrite celebrating the 4th of July,”

“Our country is doomed. What’s there to celebrate?”

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These are the sentiments I am hearing from people in real life and from some of my fellow activists on the Internet. I admit I’m not in a celebratory mood myself. But I am making a conscious choice to celebrate Independence Day.

This year, I choose to celebrate the Americans in The Resistance, the ones who are actively opposing Trump’s behavior and agenda. I choose to celebrate the Americans who participated in the Women’s March, the Science March, and other demonstrations. I choose to celebrate the Internet activists who organize the opposition and keep them informed, the ones who remind us that #ThisIsNotNormal. I choose to celebrate those ordinary citizens who repeatedly call their representatives and storm townhall meetings. I choose to celebrate the comedians who make us laugh at this administration and the musicians who are releasing new protest music. I choose to celebrate the fact that we can demonstrate, we can protest, we can make fun of our elected officials, we can express our anger through art, music, drama, poetry, and prose.

In some countries, I would get shipped off to the gulag simply for writing this blog post. And if life in this country becomes unbearable, I am free to leave. In my novel Red Flags, the characters are trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Even when my main character is allowed to attend figure skating competitions outside the Soviet Union, she is under constant surveillance. She is told not to speak to foreigners, not to speak to the media, not to venture beyond the prescribed boundaries. She is well aware that KGB agents are watching her, even when she can’t see them.

But isn’t our country headed in the same direction?

It could go that way– if we let it, if we prematurely resign ourselves to such a bleak future. But as long as we continue to stand and fight, I will celebrate.

Happy Independence Day!

Useful Tips for Self-Editing a Manuscript

In addition to these tips, it helps to start at the end and read your manuscript backwards. I did this when I was proofing both of my books. It’s a great way to catch typos and other little mistakes.

A Writer's Path

 

by Emily Nemchick

Whilst there is no substitute for hiring a professional editor, self-editing is an important skill for any writer to hone. For one thing, the more passes a manuscript gets, the fewer errors will remain in the final product. If you are using an editor, be sure to self-edit thoroughly first so they can focus on the things you have missed. If you are not using an editor, then self-editing is doubly essential. Here are a few tips to make sure you catch as many errors as possible.

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