All posts in the rants category

An overly long justification of some questionable library purchases

Published October 23, 2014 by Shannon

Of all the things I imagined writing about when I first started seriously book blogging back in 2007, defending the Twilight franchise was not one of them. I think I’ve told the story of how I discovered Twilight before, but I’ll share it again. My sister cornered me and read the first three chapters aloud to me.

“Neato,” I said to myself, because that’s how nobody talked in 2006. “I can’t wait to go back and finish this excellent coming-of-age story about a young girl who has to adjust to living in darkest Washington and dealing with her prickly dad. It’ll be like all those YA books I read as a kid, only updated for modern readers.”

When Edward was introduced, and continued to dominate Bella’s every waking thought, my interest in the book dissipated. I mean, if I wanted to read paranormal romance, even back in 2006, I could find a lot more stuff out there, most of which contained appropriate amounts of smut. Twilight didn’t even work for me as crack, because sparkly vampires aside, it was mostly just boring.
Skip to several years later. When 50 Shades of Grey was published, I dismissed it out of hand. After all, I could go read some Harlequin Presents if I really wanted to read about alpha-hole heroes and terrible relationship dynamics. I could find badly written BDSM on Literotica for free, even. I did read all of the recaps Jenny Trout wrote of the series, and that convinced me they were really not for me. But I couldn’t seem to stop reading the criticism of both Twilight and 50 Shades.

I really liked Jenny’s take on 50 Shades, because I thought it was pretty ballsy of her to snark like that about another author’s books. Plus, the recaps were funny, and they came from a romance writer, so there wasn’t any of the subtle condescension I’d encountered in a lot of the 50 Shades material I’d seen online.

Since my abortive attempt to read Twilight, I have successfully read a lot of feminist theory as well. One of the things I’ve taken away from what I’ve read is that sexism isn’t always horrible and flashy and obvious. Often it’s quieter and more insidious. It’s finding myself on one of my favorite communities online having to read yet another screed by some know-it-all nerdy dude in his early twenties who used “Twilight” as shorthand for “awful writing.” It’s listening to other women say things like, “I mean, I like romance, but ugh, Twilight, amirite?” It’s being one of those women myself. It’s realizing that Twilight and to some extent 50 Shades can be the shorthand for “stupid romance that girls like.”

Lately I’ve been reading Anne Jamison’s excellent Fic, which is a brief overview of a few moments in fannish history. Jamison is a literature professor who’s taught courses on fanfic, and she devotes a lot of time to the Twilight fandom, including the pull-to-publish phenomenon, and what she’s written has really intrigued me. Some of the fics she used to teach actually have been pulled to publish, but she points out that they were doing interesting things with the source material that made them worthy of analysis.

Which is why I checked out several of them from the library: Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Bastard, Sylvain Reynard’s Gabriel’s Inferno, and I shelled out money for Shay Savage’s Transcendence.. I’m curious if I’ll find any of these works derivative or transformative. (I’m particularly excited about the Reynard piece because he’s a man and I’ve been promised actual Dante and fewer marriage contracts. Also, the Savage is about a cave man who can’t speak and the time traveler who loves him. Sounds delicious.)

Jamison’s book has made me think a bit more on my position about fanfic with the serial numbers filed off. It’s not quite as easy as changing some names to make a buck, and it’s not as if alternative universe fanfic didn’t exist before Twilight. (Hello, Uber Xena… which provided a struggling bisexual wee Shannon with her first taste of healthy and sexy lesbian relationships.) So I can’t entirely say it’s always wrong. I can be dismayed that 50 Shades entered the cultural zeitgeist instead of something I find less problematic, but, I mean, Twilight didn’t give me well-rounded characters. Maybe these ficcers turned pro writers can at least improve on that score.

I don’t know how this will go. Or even if I’ll end up reading any of these books. But I’m kind of excited to see what happens.

#YesAllWomen Quiet moments of creepiness

Published May 25, 2014 by Shannon

The #yesallwomen hashtag on Twitter is necessary and compelling reading. If you missed it, or haven’t seen much about it, there’s a good explanation of it here. Go read that. I’ll be here when you get back.
So now that we have that out of the way, it’s story time. Because I can’t write about these things in 140 characters, and it’s a topic I’ve needed to bring up for a while.

Story 1: I was nine years old, and seemingly overnight, my body grew in ways I didn’t understand. I had to wear bras, which were the height of uncomfortable fashions, and still are, though decades later I’ve come to realize there is no better alternative. During that summer, I ended up taking summer school classes with another girl about my age. For whatever reason, my TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired) had the lessons at this girl’s home. The girl had two siblings close to our age, and I had to play with them when my teacher was working with the other girl. I don’t remember what we played, but I sure as hell remember them groping my breasts–those strange things I wasn’t so comfortable with myself. I did tell my teacher, and it did stop, but I had to go through junior high and high school with them. One of those boys was on our football team. The other was in the orchestra. Basically, they did pretty well for themselves, all things considered. At any point, did I ever get an apology from them? No, I did not.

Story 2: When I was living in my first apartment, I met a man online through a role playing game. He was married, and they were expecting a baby. He was also local to me. Occasionally, he would IM me with flirty messages, but I thought he was harmless because… married. With a baby. I ended up meeting him, and he ended up taking me back to my apartment due to reasons that are too complicated and irrelevant. When we got there, he hugged me. And then didn’t step back when the hug should have ended. His hands started moving in non-regulation ways. I was terrified, and the moment lasted for what felt like a long time before he pulled away. I closed the door between him and myself with relief.

Being a nonconfrontational person even then, and more so than I am now, I called a mutual friend and told her what had happened. She was appropriately sympathetic and she did talk to him. Did I get an apology? Kind of. I got a “I’m sorry you were so freaked out. I didn’t mean anything, Jesus. Besides, you hugged me.

Nearly 15 years later, I now live in an apartment by myself. A male friend (who is also happily married) has been wanting to get together at my house instead of his, where we have been meeting. At first I thought my reluctance to let him was silly. I mean, he wasn’t even interested in me that way. But then, I hadn’t thought that other guy was, either. So I had to email him and tell the whole story. Unlike the douchebag above, he totally got it and has never pushed to be alone with me in my space again.

Story 3: I have heard from a number of blind women that conventions for the two national consumer groups for the blind often feature men sort of “accidentally” groping women. Because oopsie, they’re blind, and they didn’t know the women were there. Convenient how much reaching around to explore their surroundings happens at breast level. Having heard these stories from numerous people has dampened my desire to attend any of these conventions. I’m sure they provide much that is valuable. But I don’t want to be cornered in some elevator by a creeper with wandering hands. Been there, done that. Don’t need to do it again.

What’s worse is that I can name names. I have heard terrifying stories about very prominent men in the blindness community who have used their power to make moves on women who had less power. I have no reason to believe that if I ever met them, and ended up alone with them, anything would happen. But I’m certainly not taking the chance. None of the women whose stories I have heard have ended their tales with, “And then he felt super bad about groping me/making unwanted suggestions/crossing my boundaries and apologized.”

Story 4: I don’t know how many of you know this about me, but I read romance novels. Some of them are steamy. Since Twitter is where my romance reading friends hang out, sometimes I get into giggly, bawdy conversations about them. Sometimes this bemuses some of my non-romance-reading followers, but they either put up with me or quietly unfollow. Given how little I pay attention, I honestly don’t know.

Several weeks ago, during the 24-hour Readathon I tweeted something about how I wanted to write something, because all the books I’d been reading had caused my creative juices to start flowing. A few minutes later, I got a DM from someone who was not a romance fan, which read, “Are you sure those are the only juices that are flowing? I know what you read.” After staring at that for a few minutes, I shot back with something like, “Wow. That’s a really rude thing for you to say. You’ve lost your DM privileges.” I felt proud of myself in that moment for not putting up with shit that makes me uncomfortable. Did that guy ever apologize? No. He bitched in DMs at a mutual friend about how humorless I was.

No one has ever asked me to do any sexual acts that I wasn’t down for. But “accidental” groping, bizarre boundary-crossing private messages, and men making me feel otherwise unsafe are all too common. The heartening thing about the #yesallwomen hashtag was reading other women’s stories and learning that I wasn’t alone or unreasonably creeped out by the things that happened to me.

I used to think that my creep radar was set to “really fucking high.” I have had conversations all too recently with my nearest and dearest female friends in which I’ve uttered the phrase, “It’s OK that I find this creepy, right? This is over the line to you, too?” I hate that I have to even have these exchanges. I hate that society has taught me too well that a woman’s reaction should be mild amusement. Just go along with the flirty IMs/”accidental” groping, but don’t get too excited, because the boundary between “chill girl” and “slut” is permeable. I hate that society has also insinuated that as a fat, disabled woman, I should be flattered by any attention no matter from whom, because it’s not like it’s going to happen that often, right? Creepy attention is at least attention.

It’s heartening to know that I’m not the only woman who’s heard these messages. I’m not the only woman who’s gotten these stories. Yes, many have had it worse, but in those moments of profound physical and mental discomfort, it’s easy to feel isolated. That serves the purposes of all the creepers. If we all talked openly about unacceptable creeping behavior, it would be less OK to do it. And that is a world I want to be in.

Just a note: If you want to leave a comment that contains the words “But not all men…” or “I certainly would never…” and you’re a dude, save yourself the five minutes, because duh. Not all men are creepers, but all women have been creeped on. This is seriously not about you.

The Importance of Braille

Published April 30, 2014 by Shannon

Braille has been a topic of intense discussion over on blind people Twitter. I was also interviewed today for a piece that will air on al Jazeera America sometime in the future about Braille, so it’s on my mind and I have all kinds of feels. Plus, this has been a topic I’ve wanted to bring up for a while and haven’t quite figured out how to frame it. Since most of my vocal readership is sighted, I’m hoping this will prove useful, or at least entertaining, and while I have no reason to believe that my interview will result in a terrible piece, when journalists talk with people with disabilities, the resulting stories are invariably fluffy and insubstantial, and this is important to me, so I wanted to make my position clear.

First, some background. I am in a position of privilege when it comes to Braille. My parents actively cared about my getting a good education. Thus, I started working with a teacher of the visually impaired when I was 18 months old. She taught me the basics of Braille at the same time my peers were taught the basics of print, so when I started school, I was able to keep up with my peers.

I was lucky in other ways. Not only did my parents do everything they could to make sure my education never suffered, up to and including moving to a better school district when it became clear my home school district wasn’t going to meet my needs, but–and here I am going to make a statement that will startle some of my sighted readers–I had no useable vision to get in my way. There was no alternative. I either had to learn Braille or be illiterate. I know of blind children who were never taught Braille because if they smooshed their faces right up against a closed-circuit TV, they could read large print. They might only be able to read six words a minute, but by Odin, they could read print so they didn’t need Braille. Some of these kids had to take up Braille out of necessity later in life. The people I’ve spoken to found it intensely frustrating, and while they might end up with a grasp of Braille, they weren’t ever likely to use it, let alone to enjoy reading for pleasure.

I, on the other hand, loved to read even as a kid, and somehow, the wiring clicked into place early in my brain that said that there were whole worlds to be discovered in books. I remember spending a summer at the local residential school for the blind and being fascinated by a copy of Little Women they had in the girls’ dormitory. For the next four summers, I tried to read that book, each year thinking I was a little older, so this time i would get it. I can’t remember if I ever finished it during those summers–I feel like I never did–but I wanted that adventure. I wanted the joy of cracking open the spine of some book I’d never read and discovering what lay within. My biggest disappointment about that residential school was how many Braille books there weren’t. I used to have dreams about being able to walk into a library and have floor-to-ceiling shelves full of books, all of which I could read. (This explains so much about the state of my TBR, but we’ll get there in due course.)

Fast forward through high school to college. in high school, all of my textbooks were available in Braille. I never read an audio textbook until I entered college, and it was an uncomfortable paradigm shift. Now I had to absorb everything through listening instead of through reading, and most of my text books came from a company called Recordings for the Blind, which has now rebranded itself as Learning Ally. (Which a number of screen readers think should be pronounced like “Learning Alley”, a minor detail I find both frustrating and amusing.) The textbooks were recorded by volunteers, none of whom had the skills to read aloud. At least, none of the volunteer readers I ever heard did. Many blind people I know have their RFB stories–listening to some book on Greek history, absorbing whatever nuggets of wisdom could be found, only to be jolted out of that frame of mind when the reader would let out a belch that never made it onto the cutting room floor. That happened to me, too, only the book was on domestic violence. I adjusted, though, and in the intervening 15 years i’ve come to rely on listening in order to take in new information. With the rise of digital technology, I can listen a lot faster than I can read. I even speed up my audiobooks as a matter of course, simply because I’ve learned to process what I’m hearing fairly quickly, and there are so many books, I don’t actually want to take 9 hours and 37 minutes to read something when I can finish it in five or six and move on to the next big thing.

I also stopped using Braille because it is bulky. Because Braille is a uniform size, and because it has to be rendered on thicker paper than does print, Braille books are divided into multiple volumes. To put this in perspective, the bane of my existence as a YA and a romance fan, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight clocks in at 544 pages in the paperback version. The Braille version is four volumes, each covering about 150 pages in print. So if you were a voracious reader like me who read a lot of doorstoppers, well, they had to go somewhere, and checking them out from the library for the blind meant they’d be mailed to your house, where you would have to find room to put all those bulky books. (And sometimes you might run into a mailman who rightly thought that he wasn’t getting paid enough to hand deliver all 12 Braille volumes of Stephen King’s It to your house, so your parents would have to pick them up from the post office.) And when I moved into my first apartment, there simply wasn’t that kind of room, and I didn’t have ready access to people who could drive me to the post office if the mailman got persnickety about delivering my books.

So I read on audio. When ebooks came along, I embraced digital first publishers because then I didn’t even have to wait for someone to record a book so I could hear it. I could read whatever books I was interested in on the same day as my sighted peers. In fact, it was the advent of digital first publishers that converted me into a dedicated romance reader, because romance readers made the switch to ebooks early and I did not want to miss that train. Now that Amazon and B&N have stepped up accessibility efforts with their various apps, I can read practically any ebook I want when my sighted peers can, and I cannot tell you how amazing that is. It’s one of the reasons I have vast quantities of digital books. I will never read all of them, but I can have them, and I can read whatever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t have to go through any gatekeepers to do it.

Even with ebooks, though, I was still relying on listening to the text. I thought that made me happy. In fact, I am sure I made some ill-informed dismissive comments about how Braille wasn’t useful or relevant anymore on various social media sites. Then I got my job at the library for the blind, which meant I now had access to Braille in great profusion again. Thanks to my job, I was also able to purchase a refreshable Braille display. I love my Braille Edge, and here is why: it is comfortable to read on. It’s easy to use, the braille is crisp under my fingers, and I can sit for hours and enjoy the reading experience.

Once I had my Braille display, I quickly realized how much I had missed reading for myself. This seems so simple when I say it, but I can read again. I am now able to slow down and process the text. I can give my own interpretation to the words and voices to the characters. I can learn how names are spelled. You can’t do that with audio. I remember being quietly overjoyed when I could call Meka and read aloud a favorite passage from a book I was immersed in.

These days, my reading is split fairly evenly between Braille and audio. If I know a book is going to take a while for me to read, and I want to spend that time, I read it in Braille. If it’s a smutty little novella I plan to read and then quickly move on, I’ll listen with text to speech. And I can’t entirely break the audio habit, so if a book is available on audio either through the National Library Service for the Blind, or through Audible, I’ll read it that way. It depends on my mood, really, how I read, and I like having the choice.

Unfortunately, Braille has fallen out of fashion. It’s easy to understand why. There are all kinds of devices that can render text to speech, and Braille is expensive to produce. Braille displays are not something just anyone can afford. Mine cost me $3600, and the state paid for it. When I need to replace it, I will probably have to take out a loan to buy another one. Luckily, this is feasible for me. But that wasn’t always the case. Braille is a specialized skill to learn, and the vast majority of blind people were not born to it like I was and may never develop it.

That said, it’s still important. For one thing, we would never say, “The Kindle has a text to speech feature. Why don’t we make all the sighted kids use that instead of teaching them their ABCs?” If people really put forth that argument, there would be a huge hue and cry about literacy, and rightly so. And that’s just it. Being a fluent Braille reader means I’m literate. As a literate person, I have more of a chance to get a decent job. I can write well and professionally. Hell, I can natter on about romance novels on this very blog. If I hadn’t been taught that essential life skill, I would do none of these things. So the people who think Braille is an outmoded crutch are flat-out wrong, and I don’t want to live in a world where literacy for someone like me is a concept that is out of fashion.

(Note: After writing this, I came across an NPR piece that gets at the worries concerning Braille in a way that was much more concise than this blog post. It’s worth a listen.)

On representation

Published January 21, 2014 by Shannon

My friend Lauren, who is awesome and savvy and who I secretly want to be besties with, tweeted today about how she thought it was awesome that they cast an actual trans* kid playing a trans character on The Fosters. I don’t watch the show, because I live under a rock where they don’t have cable service and I’m too cheap to afford Netflix, but after reading about this, I’m now determined to watch that show. Because it’s about time. In the year of our gourd 2014, we should be seeing the real faces of diverse casts playing diverse roles. It’s sad that we don’t, and that I am inclined to congratulate a show for doing something TV always should be doing means our media is in a sad state of affairs indeed.

That got me thinking about disability on TV. I can’t quote hard statistics, but I can think of maybe two disabled actors working today, and then my data may be wrong because I live under a rock. But I do have a story.

Picture it: Ciscily, 1912.

Or, rather, Kansas City, 2007. I was broke and unemployed, there not being a vast quantity of jobs out there for blind college dropouts, when a friend informed me that a local children’s theater was going to be putting on a play based on H. G. Wells’s short story The Country of the Blind. The play was going to tour the state, performing at schools, with workshops in which people would visit classrooms and educate children about blindness. They needed cast members. They dangled the carrot of paid employment before me, so I went for it.

In case you didn’t go click on the Project Gutenberg text file I linked to, the story involves a one-eyed man entering a country entirely made up of blind people. In the play, he’s all, “Hey, I can see. I will totes pwn these people.” Only to learn that the blind people actually were pretty self-sufficient without his help.

So, given that the story under discussion was about blind people, how many of the main cast (the ones with speaking parts and everything) actually were blind?

What they did was to have a group of sighted cast members playing all the parts, and a couple of legitimately blind people standing around as extras. They trotted the two of us out when they wanted to talk about how they were doing all this education and outreach. Occasionally, I went to one of the classroom talks we did and answered questions about my blindness from ten-year-olds, which was actually a lot of fun. But I didn’t get paid nearly what my sighted cast members did, despite the fact that I worked as hard as they did. I was trotted out for photo shoots, and they did their best to make me feel valued. But I wasn’t. I was a publicity stunt, and I knew it, and I did it because I didn’t think the odds were good that I would ever do theater again.

I knew what I was getting into. I also don’t resent the fact that I wasn’t a named character, because I am not an actor. (It is really hard to simulate facial expressions without those visual cues, especially when the scene you’re acting out is one you’ve rehearsed 987 bazillion times.) There were lots of things I did resent about the play, (but a lack of appreciation for my commensurate lack of talent wasn’t one of them.

But it’s still galling. I know what they would have said,if pressed to talk about why they didn’t hire blind actors. There were none to be found. Certainly not in Kansas City.

And yet.

When I was in high school, I was pretty much gently but firmly pushed out of theater. I enjoyed it, but my love for being in school plays couldn’t withstand the fact that I was hardly ever cast. I sometimes wonder, if I had been, if someone had looked at me and thought, “Sure, we could make this work” rather than, “I cannot handle a blind person on stage. This won’t work. Better keep her in the background,” if I could have learned something.

All that to say: a trans* actor playing a trans* character is wonderful and the least of what we should expect, but we need to push for more. Where are the disabled actors? Granted, representation of disability in movies and TV is still shitty, but at least we should be given a chance to represent ourselves. Maybe I wouldn’t have made a very good actor, but I’m sure there is some blind person who can fake all the facial expressions–or at least be taught to do so–better than I. We need those actors. We need for people to see us as we really are, not as some able-bodied/cisgendered/straight/whatever have you directors and actors’ visions of how we ought to be.

What I’m reading recently: Comfort books and torture porn

Published November 11, 2013 by Shannon

My goal is to write a post at least twice a week–more if the spirit moves me. Originally, this was going to be a set of quickie reviews of the books I’ve finished, but every time I try to write about this particular series, I struggle to find the right words.

What I’ve been reading is the Unlikely Lovers series by Cheryl Brooks. I love her Cat Star Chronicles with a fervor that astonishes most people, because they are awesomely terrible and I literally cannot stop reading them once I start and why is the next book out in freaking July of next year? I was curious about her self-published contemporaries, so I bought the Unlikely Lovers books and proceeded to gobble them up one right after the other, which is quite out of character for me, since I normally am not a glom reader.

The books are pure fantasy, with heroines who’ve been around the block meeting heroes who are both passionate and nurturing. The Cat Star books tap into that same fantasy, but with more weird alien sex. There’s plenty of sex in the Unlikely Lovers books, and it’s inventive and makes me wonder at points just how biologically feasible any of it is, but that’s not why I read these books. I read them because I can be guaranteed a hero and heroine who aren’t complete assholes to each other, and reading about repetitive fucking has always worked better for me than repetitive violence.

Speaking of repetitive violence, I’m also slogging through Under the Dome by Stephen King. I like king’s work quite a bit, but this one feels like third-tier Stephen King fanfiction. I knew there were going to be rough days ahead when there was a brutal murder in the first few chapters. There are many, many characters and every time I get attached to one of them, they die. I’m also struggling to care about Dale Barbara, the book’s protagonist. He feels like a stock King hero, with a little Jack Reacher thrown in. (That’s not a compliment; I DNFed the one book featuring Jack Reacher I tried to read.) Also, of course there are the magical kids, and the over the top villains, and my hatred for Jim Renny in particular has nothing to do with the fact that I’m supposed to hate him; he’s just unbelievably cartoonish. I’m finding the book to be nothing more than a violent slaughter fest, but I’m reading it for Book Hoarders, so I will finish it. I just may have to stop and read fluff along the way.

That all said, a new Ava March book drops today. It is going to be mine and I am going to enjoy revisiting her imagining of Regency England with adorable men in love with each other. (Though that said, I just sampled the audiobook and am pretty sure I’ll be reading this one on my Kindle because that narrator isn’t doing anything for me at all.)

What are you guys reading? What else should I have my eye on?

The anti-Meoraq

Published November 8, 2013 by Shannon

(Needless to say, there is no Gann post this week. Meka and I will be hanging out in person, terrorizing the good citizens of Spokane. Therefore, I’m rambling all by myself.)

As I’ve often stated, I prefer my heroes a little more on the beta side. I do have the typical female fantasy of finding someone to take care of me, but the fantasy doesn’t seem to manifest in the typical way for me.

When I’ve read people’s discussions of alpha males and their appeal, I often hear about how it’s nice to have someone simply know and act on your needs, whether you acknowledge them yourself or not. I get the draw of that, but for me as a blind person, having people act on the needs they think I have isn’t sexy in real life. It is usually fucking patronizing.

That’s why I like my heroes beta. A beta hero is less likely to assume than he is to simply ask, and that means the heroine’s opinion actually carries weight. He will accept a no. He won’t arbitrarily decide anything.

I also love reading about heroes who are allowed some uncertainty. After finishing the reading for the readalong, I found myself reflexively wanting Meoraq to be wrong about something. Anything. I ended up seeking a book with one of the most uncertain heroes I’ve ever read. (It’s part of a loosely connected series and I’m in the middle of a glom so I’ll review the whole thing when I’m done. I realize it’s not really very edgy to want to read a book where the heroine is in a greater position of power compared to the hero. It’s still an unequal distribution of power, but I sometimes feel so powerless in my own life that I want my heroines to be competent and in control.

With all that in mind, here are some of my favorite romances of this type.

  • Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney: Hero is a fish out of water having been literally raised by wolves. Heroine’s father is studying him and helping to reintegrate him into society. Except for a ridiculous plot twist at the end, I loved this one and have been thinking it’s time for a reread. Michael and Sydney were just too awesome and sweet.
  • The Proposition by Judith Ivory: A reverse My Fair Lady scenario. As with the previous book, I liked that Mick was never treated like an idiot, and he often did leave Edwina flummoxed, but for her part, she was no ninny herself and they both had a lot to teach each other.
  • Outcast by Cheryl Brooks: OK, so the Cat Star Chronicles series is the kind of bibliocrack that won’t appeal to everyone, but I thought this one was wonderful. Lynx is so very wounded, and Bonnie is so innately kind. I loved that she was simply there, doing what she could for him without having to be all manic pixie dream girl and do quirky things to show him how to love.
  • His at Night by Sherry Thomas: I don’t know that Vere was really so beta, and much of his incompetence was an act, but the way he played so well off the heroine was a joy to watch. I believed in their HEA completely.

I’m struggling to come up with a straight contemporary to include here. Or a romantic suspense, though I imagine a RS with a beta hero would be a very hard sell.

So. Any recs for anti-Meoraq books along these lines? Leave them in the comments.

Sunday Checkin- Where have I been?

Published May 12, 2013 by Shannon

My last blog post was in September. It is now May. A whole school year has come and gone since I last updated. For shame.

So what’s been going on? Let me make a list.

  • 1. I moved halfway across the country. (a good decision, though I miss my family)
  • 2. I got a job as a Reader’s Advisor at the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library. (More on that in future posts, I’m sure, but money and a job are both good things.)
  • 3. I have not been reading nearly as much as I would like, but I’m still plugging along.
  • 4. I have become friends with my roommate’s guide dog. I definitely want one of my own, if I ever get the vacation time for it.
  • 5. Part of my trip to work involves a ferry. Or, as one of my friends put it, somewhat incredulously, “So you’re telling me you go to work on a boat?” Yes, ma’am. That is what I’m saying.

I do want to talk a bit about my job, as it does relate to the purposes of this blog. Basically, our library lends books out throughout the state to patrons who are print-disabled. We’re part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and we’re also affiliated with the Washington State Library.
My day involves a lot of talking to people on the phone, many of whom are elderly, and trying to find appropriate books for them. Most of them simply can’t come in and browse the shelves at our library anyway, and it makes picking out books somewhat difficult.

I enjoy my job. The rest of the staff is warm and friendly, most of the patrons are extremely nice, if clearly somewhat lonely, and at the end of the day I feel rewarded because I’m keeping someone apprised of books.

The downside of my work, though, is that I’ve become more conscious of how much the Internet is a privilege. Many of our patrons are elderly, and don’t have computers, or couldn’t use them if they did. Many of our books are downloadable only. I, on the other hand, have thousands of books at my fingertips. I could go to Audible and buy any old audiobook I wanted. I have access to Bookshare, a website for the distribution of ebooks to the print-disabled. And now both the Nook and Kindle apps are accessible on my iPhone. there isn’t perfect accessibility–not every book I ever want to read is on one of those services–but I have it a lot better than my patrons do. Particularly if I want to research a specialized topic. As one of my colleagues put it, we have the contents of a small branch library in an affluent district. Which is fine for most things, but I know it frustrates people when we can’t fill their specialized niches.

I don’t know what the solution is. Clearly, everyone should be able to afford an iPhone and a computer, and there should be some magical way of transferring knowledge about how to use those devices into people’s brains somehow. Except there isn’t. And in a way I’m glad there isn’t, because I like that these older people need me. I just wish they didn’t have to.

The death of my Kindle

Published August 29, 2012 by Shannon

I have a sad bit of news today.

As I got up from my desk this morning, my Kindle took a header and fell onto the floor. I heard an ominous crack, and sure enough, it has gone to that great electronics shop in the sky.

I’m torn about this. On the one hand, I loved my Kindle. Amazon makes it so easy to buy things, and there are so many freebies. Being the book hoarder I am, I think that’s why I loved it so much.

On the other hand, I don’t know if I’ll replace it. The Kindle Keyboard is the only Kindle that is remotely accessible. Even then, it requires some finagling to make it work. There are features that only sort of work out of the box with what rudimentary text to speech is there. Given the fact that all I can do with my Kindle is read books, which is only part of the feature set available to sighted people, I feel a bit squeamish about replacing mine. I bought it used, with gift certificate money. I paid a little over half the purchase price, which is the only way I’d be comfortable replacing it now. And then I’m not so much supporting Amazon and their continued insistence on ignoring accessibility. They get their cut, I’m sure, but mostly I’m more comfortable paying a third party retailer.

On the other hand, I do have an iPhone. And I hate reading on it. Not, of course, for the same reasons my sighted readers would. I enjoy a smoothly flowing text to speech experience, and the frequent pauses for screens to refresh on my iPhone take me out of the flow of things. Also, there are fewer freebies. Or at least I perceive that there are.

On the other hand, Apple is committed to universal accessibility, so there’s a huge part of me that thinks I should just suck it up and deal. And, given the fact that I’d much rather spend money on books rather than electronics, I suspect that, for the sake of pragmatism, that is what will win out.

Still, I am sad to see my Kindle go. I will miss you, silly electronic gadget.

Jumping on the bandwagon: snark and the author/reader relationship

Published July 17, 2012 by Shannon

I wasn’t going to write about this anymore, but the Stop the Goodreads bully scandal has finally hit Dear Author, and I have wasted a day that I should have been spending finishing my reread of Outlander reading the comments. this whole kerfuffle has put a lot of different sorts of thoughts in my head, and I’ve been struggling for days to articulate them in the way I want to. I’m not sure I’ll succeed, but I’m going to try.

First of all, it’s not right for anyone, ever, to post another person’s personal information out there on the Internet. What the Stop the Goodreads Bullies people are doing is wrong. Full stop. Nothing justifies that kind of invasion of privacy. Particularly not putting an author’s books on an “authors to avoid” shelf or using snarky language in a review. As I said the other day, it’s a little like launching a nuclear missile at someone because they wouldn’t let little Johnny play with their toys.

Of course there are reviewers who are out of line. And they even post reviews on goodreads. However, being an adult capable of making my own mind up about any given issue, I can discard their opinions and come to my own decision. For example, a goodreads reviewer downgraded a book I finished recently and loved because the hero cried and she thought that made him less manly. I had the opposite reaction to that scene. I thought it was in character for him, and I didn’t think it made him weak. I have also added books to my “to read” shelf based on what I call the “douchebag reviews”. If someone hated a book for what seems like an asinine reason, like that the heroine had purple hair, I’ll often give it a chance, because that reviewer told me way more about herself than she did about the book. I can’t be the only one who is capable of doing this. If readers are all lemmings capable of being swayed by one or two people’s negative reactions, that doesn’t speak well to our intelligence or capacity for critical thinking, and if that’s the case, why would an author want a bunch of easily swayed lemmings reading her masterpiece of literature?

Here’s another example. A few weeks back I came across another example of an unhelpful review . This dissection is incredibly long-winded, it brings up many valid points, and is very snarky. It is also the least helpful thing I’ve read on the Internet. I couldn’t even finish it. It was pretty clear what the authors’ agendas were in writing it. I don’t even disagree with them. I do object strongly to someone taking the time to read something that’s going to fill them with so much rage, unless they’re hoping for crack and giggles, which these people weren’t. I think that post is out of line. Do they have the right to post it? Of course they do. I can also ignore it and keep on with the life I was planning to lead anyway, which remains free of that awful book. But I came to that decision all by myself, before I’d read that analysis, because, again, I’m capable of critical thinking.

That said, there are things I want to put out there as a reviewer. I am a pretty snarky person online, at least on twitter. I like to think I can even be funny, though your mileage, as ever, may vary and that’s fine. I also have posted and will keep posting negative reviews online, because if a book moved me to react, I have the right to have that reaction. I try very hard not to be malicious, to keep my opinions about the books I read and not the authors who write them, and I think I succeed. Mine isn’t and won’t be the snarkiest voice on the Internet, and it doesn’t need to be. And yet, someone somewhere will find my reviews distasteful. I remember a few years back an author I loved commenting that she liked my review of her book even though I “trashed” it. I think I gave it a B+. Obviously somewhere in my discourse I said something that offended her enough to use that word even though I enjoyed the book. I also have a gushing fangirly review going up soon with links to random youtube clips that are vaguely inappropriate but which amused me. I worry that the author, who doesn’t know me and my goofy sense of humor, is going to take offense, but I don’t worry enough to take the review down. After all, if I’m going to offend authors anyway no matter what I do, at some point or other, I might as well do it being me. And, as many others have said throughout these intensely long Internet brouhahas, reviews are for readers anyway, not for authors.

To summarize, opinions are like, well, well-worn cliches. Readers should keep doing what they’re doing, and authors should trust readers to not have marshmallows in our heads where our brains should be. Also, arguments about tone and niceness are tiresome and pointless since one person’s troublesome discourse is another’s perfectly acceptable, and no one is ever going to please anyone else. And because it can’t be said again, there is no excuse for cyberbullying and online stalking.