Saturday, July 20, 2024

Parade Day by Liz Flaherty

Taking the day off. Wishing everyone luck and happy marching in the circus parade today. I hope it's been a good week for the performers and everyone else involved with the circus. Until next week, may all your days be circus days. Be nice to somebody.

P.S. I did blog at Smart Women Need Romance today. Well, actually I wrote it several days ago... Stop by!

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Less than by Liz Flaherty

I usually only have Wednesday at the Window when I have a guest. Today, the guest is me. I wrote this for last night's Black Dog Writers' meeting. This morning, I added a little to it. Although it's written for writers and about writing, I think it matters in other areas, too. No one deserves "less than."

This week, I read a review on A Year of Firsts, a book I released last year. The title of the review was: This was a worthless and boring waste of time! One star was awarded, and the rest of the review went like this: “This was such a boring read. I seriously had a hard time getting into it. Was it me or was Syd always talking to herself? And I also wished the author made it easier to keep the characters straight. Too many names at once were just too confusing. And why did the chapters have to be so long? Oh, that made the read that much more daunting. Don’t authors know that it’s easier to read shorter chapters rather than longer ones? No, they have to go with 12 REALLY LONG and ENDLESS chapters!” (The book was 192 pages, just to give a hint of how LONG and ENDLESS they were.)

On Sunday, we went to watch a couple of musicians perform. They were retirement age, talented and funny and singing familiar songs. We liked them a lot.

After the show, I went to tell them how much I enjoyed it. My friend June was right behind me. I got there in time to hear one of them say they were both retired professors from a nearby private college.

As someone whose formal education ended with high school graduation, I am both impressed and intimidated by education and those who have a lot of it. (The exception to this is my kids, who have numerous degrees between them, but, as the saying goes, I did teach them to use a spoon.) I assume that people with letters accompanying their names other than M-R-S and Mom Emeritus not only know more than I do, but are smarter as well.

I asked one of the musicians what he taught. Art, he said, and talked about it a little bit, plus he said he painted as well. His partner taught history, but I didn’t catch whether it was art history or…you know…history history.

Behind me, June said I was interested in education and that I was a writer who’d written lots of books. Oh, my goodness, his face lit up. “That’s wonderful,” he said. “What do you write?”

Before I could mumble anything, June said, “She has 20-some books published. She writes romance.”

As impressed as he was by the fact that I had books published—which doesn’t carry nearly the cachet in its bag of tricks as it used to—was just how uninspired he was by the genre that I wrote. His face collapsed in on itself and he visibly recoiled.

He started to say something, and I admit to not knowing what it was. I just said, “Never mind. I saw your face. I enjoyed the show,” and went on to speak to his partner.

While my romance writing has segued pleasantly into women’s fiction over the years, I still have a loyalty to the genre that taught me a lot, entertained me a lot, and gained me publication and occasional paychecks. I still read it, although not as much. It grew one direction and I grew another. It became both uber-inclusive and uber-exclusive almost in the same breath. I just got old, which is where romance’s uber-exclusivity came in. The genre as a rule excludes people past their 40s wherever they can.

I guess that is the way genre fiction is. If you’re the protagonist in a cozy mystery, you can be old, but you’d better be quirky, too. If it’s horror, it needs to be…well, I don’t know; the only horror I’ve ever read was a couple of Steven King books that I thought I should like because he’s such a good writer.

And that line…that one right there before this…is the reason I wrote this.

Stephen King is more than a good writer; he’s a great one. His book On Writing was the most helpful instruction manual I ever read. But I don’t read horror or anything else that scares the bejesus out of me. The fact that I don’t read it doesn’t have a thing to do with its quality, does it? It just means I don’t read horror.

I read that Henry James said Louisa May Alcott was “not a genius” after he wrote a really awful review of Moods. While I’ve never read Henry James, I have read virtually every word Miss Alcott ever wrote and I will stack her genius up against his every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

But even then, if someone wrote in a genre not respected by the literati, a face was made. A writer’s work was denigrated. The words “less than” floated both silent and loud in the atmosphere just as they do now.

Romance novels often don’t hold their shelf space for long. They’re replaced quickly and easily. And yet the keeper shelf in my house is comprised almost completely of them. They, not the pretty hardbacks with their dust covers still intact, are the ones I re-read, that I’ve had to replace from eBay because I’ve literally read them until they fell apart. Less than? Hardly.

I have learned a lot in the process of getting old. I know about hair color, that refined sugar gives me heartburn, that either talking or looking down on someone else doesn’t make me any smarter or taller. I have learned that if the music’s too loud, you can leave. If you don’t like the book, you don’t have to read it. If artwork doesn’t touch your sweet spot, look elsewhere.

But don’t critique with the intent of harm. And don’t make a face.