What Are Female Superheroes Wearing? (And Who Fights Crime in That?!)

I still remember my now-teenage son, back when he was a little kid, asking me about superheroes. He was fascinated with them and loved a great superhero story. However, he looked at one of his action figures, turned up his sweet young face to me, and asked, “Why is Wonder Woman wearing her underwear?”

Good question, kid, I thought. Instead of answering, “Because she was drawn by a man who wanted his superhero to turn him on,” I scanned my brain for an answer that would ring true yet retain his innocence. My answer? “That’s her swimsuit. She was raised on an island surrounded by water, so she went swimming a lot.”

Not bad, eh? Kind of my own superpower to come up with that one on the fly!

But it’s still a good question. Why on earth are female superheros dressed like they’re about to film a sexually-laced hip-hop video instead of fighting crime and pursuing justice?

I’ve long been a fan of superheroes, starting with the classic TV series Batman, in which Adam West and Burt Ward POWed and KAPLATed their way to justice. Then there was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, the cartoon Justice League (including the Wonder Twins—anyone remember them?), and even the not-so-well-done Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis that aired on Saturday mornings. I’ve seen numerous superhero movies from Christopher Reeve’s Superman to all but the last X-Men to Guardians of the Galaxy (a recent favorite).

As much as I love superheroes, I still don’t understand most of the fashion choices when it comes to women. So when I realized I had a superhero-themed costume party to attend this summer, a fellow attendee and I had this conversation:

Her: How come all the women superheroes have no clothes on? How can you fight crime in a thong…

Me: I’ve wondered that too. Like we’re sitting around and thinking, “Hey, I’m ready to go fight crime. But first I need to put on my strapless top so the criminals will have lots of cleavage to distract them and my breasts will jiggle properly when I’m running. And I need a thong up my butt, because nothing says ‘I’m fearless!’ like a willingness to floss your crack. And stiletto heels, please, because if a woman can’t run, jump, and kick in ridiculously high heels, how can even bother to call herself a superhero?!”

Wonder Woman lasso

Here’s my lasso of truth! Tell me: Is this costume too revealing?

When I started actually shopping for costume options, I was shocked how many choices were preceded by the word “sexy,” as in Sexy Supergirl, Sexy Spidergirl, Sexy Wonder Woman. Really? We need to add more sexiness to that Amazon princess’s corseted look?

Stop the madness, people! This is no way to dress women in 2015! Or really any century, decade, or year.

No self-respecting crime-fighting woman would wear such get-ups. They are impractical for the physical feats expected of superheroes. They make the female class of superheroes out to be eye candy more than serious justice fighters. They don’t give the right message to young women who can be beautiful and powerful without being overly revealing. (Oh yes, you can, girl!) Moreover, they make emulating them for costume parties require a year-long gym membership and/or several pairs of Spanx.

Yes, there are some exceptions, and I applaud the creators of these more relatable female superheroes. I’d like to see more.

What do you think of the costumes for female superheroes? Who are your favorite female superheroes? How would you design a costume for superpowered crime-fighting?

Authors Are Fangirls Too!

This past weekend, I attended the RT (Romantic Times) Booklovers Convention in Dallas, Texas, where hundreds of authors, publishing industry professionals, and readers converged. It was a hodge-podge of writer workshops, industry panels, reader events, and entertaining socials.

I could report a lot of takeaways from my experience, but what hit me most was that authors are fangirls too! What do I mean?

No matter who I was with, whether a writer still seeking a contract or a multipublished bestseller, we all had someone who made our hearts flutter or our knees shake in their presence. It was that oh my gosh, did you see who’s here?! shriek. There were quite a few big name authors like Kathy Reichs, Charlaine Harris, Kiera Cass, Francine Rivers, Eloisa James, and more.

But we also had those niche authors we’d followed and read with delight. When we’d savored their books, we never imagined we’d meet them, much less chat or get an autograph or, as one multipubbed author mentioned, sit on a panel with them.

And I don’t think this ever goes away. Even if by marvelous fortune, I became a well-known, bestselling author, I am fairly certain I’d keel right over if Judy Blume or J.K. Rowling walked into the room. Be still my bookish heart!

What’s especially lovely is meeting someone whose books you adore, and finding out the author is authentic and delightful in person. For instance, I met Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French KissLola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After, and we had a great little conversation. (I feel even better now about recommending her novel to so many teens!)

Stephanie Perkins and Me

Stephanie Perkins and Julie Glover

I’m eager to return to RT Booklovers Convention again, not only to meet authors I love, but the readers we writers love too!

What author would you love to meet? Who have you met already?

RT Convention in Dallas: Come Say Howdy!

The Romantic Times Book Reviews  is a genre-specific website and magazine. It doesn’t deal only with straight romance, but any novel category that includes romance. And it hosts a huge reader-focused convention each year, with this year’s soiree happening in Dallas, Texas.

Which is, in Texas terms, like my back yard. Only a few hours’ drive from the Houston area, I’m coming up this next weekend to enjoy the festivities on Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16. If you’re planning to be there as well, I’d love for you to come say howdy!

Where can you find me? I’ll be at the Shooting Stars Gala on Friday at 10:00 a.m. hosted by The Bent Agency and The Seymour Agency. I’m also planning to go Line-Dancing with the Literary Stars at 12:20 p.m. I’ll attend a few workshops as well and the awards ceremony that evening. On Saturday, it’s book fair time!

How can you find me? I will be looking like my picture (mostly) and wearing cowboy boots (at least on Friday). Because yes, cowboy boots go with just about everything.

If you’re in the area, be sure to come by! Day passes are available, and the Giant Book Fair is only $10. There’s a Teen Day Program as well for only $30. It would be well worth your time and money to come by, where hundreds of authors will be hanging out and signing books. Check it out at RT Convention.

And if you can’t make it, HOWDY anyway! Because a virtual howdy is better than none at all.

The Best Books You’ve Read (Lately)

Some books you really enjoy, and some books stay with you — as ones you’d recommend to others. The last novel I read was one of those, a story I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

So I looked back at my Goodreads account, and, while there are many books I’ve enjoyed lately, I wondered which ones stuck with me. Here are the last three that got meright here. (You know what I mean.) And they’re all very different in tone.

Love & Other Variables coverLove and Other Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander. From the book jacket:

Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.

The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop — until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.

By the time he learns she’s ill — and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness — Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).

This one’s a beautifully emotional ride, with lyrical yet authentic prose. It’s not a typical happily-ever-after, but a hopeful ending nonetheless. If you like novels that tug — or yank — at your heartstrings, you won’t be sorry you picked this one up. (You know, I think I liked it a bit more than The Fault in Our Stars.)

Don't Lick the Minivan coverDon’t Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to My Kids by Leanne Shirtliffe. From the book jacket:

As a woman used to traveling and living the high life in Bangkok, Leanne Shirtliffe recognized the constant fodder for humor while pregnant with twins in Asia’s sin city. But in spite of deep-fried bug cuisine and nurses who cover newborn bassinets with plastic wrap, Shirtliffe manages to keep her babies alive for a year with help from a Coca-Cola deliveryman, several waitresses, and a bra factory. Then she and her husband return home to the isolation of North American suburbia.

In Don’t Lick the Minivan, Shirtliffe captures the bizarre aspects of parenting in her edgy, honest voice. She explores the hazards of everyday life with children such as:

  • The birthday party where neighborhood kids took home skin rashes from the second-hand face paint she applied.
  • The time she discovered her twins carving their names into her minivan’s paint with rocks.
  • The funeral she officiated for “Stripper Barbie.”
  • The horror of glitter.
    And much more!

A delayed encounter with postpartum depression helps Shirtliffe to realize that even if she can’t teach her kids how to tie their shoelaces, she’s a good enough mom. At least good enough to start saving for her twins’ college, eh, therapy fund. And possibly her own. Crisply written, Don’t Lick the Minivan will have parents laughing out loud and nodding in agreement. Shirtliffe’s memoir might not replace a therapist, but it is a lot cheaper.

I related entirely to the challenges of motherhood, attempts at humor to relieve tension, strange things you find yourself saying, not to mention the intense aversion to crafts. And I laughed out loud many times. Yes, there are close-to-your-heart mommy moments, but just as many close-to-the-wine-bottle moments as well. Which just about sums up motherhood these days!

Aces Up coverAces Up by Lauren Barnholdt. From the book jacket:

Seventeen-year-old high school senior Shannon Card needs money. And lots of it. She’s been admitted to Wellesley, but her dad just lost his job, and somehow she has to come up with a year of tuition herself. But Shannon’s dream of making big bucks waitressing at the local casino, the Collosio, disappears faster than a gambler’s lucky streak. Her boss is a tyrant, her coworker is nuts, and her chances of balancing a tray full of drinks while wearing high-heeled shoes are slim to none. Worse, time is running out, and Shannon hasn’t made even half the money she’d hoped.

When Shannon receives a mysterious invitation to join Aces Up, a secret network of highly talented college poker players, at first she thinks No way. She has enough to worry about: keeping her job, winning the coveted math scholarship at school, and tutoring her secret crush, Max. But when Shannon musters up the nerve to kiss Max and he doesn’t react at all, the allure of Aces Up and its sexy eighteen-year-old leader, Cole, is suddenly too powerful to ignore.

Soon Shannon’s caught up in a web of lies and deceit that makes worrying about tuition money or a high school crush seem like kid stuff. Still, when the money’s this good, is the fear of getting caught reason enough to fold?

It takes a while to figure out what kind of novels you enjoy writing, but I recently concluded that my own voice is a lot like this: Take an outrageous concept, add interesting, real-life characters, and produce a whimsical, yet heartfelt story.

That’s Aces Up. It’s a fun romp of a novel, with a serious heart underneath.

As you can see, my tastes run the gamut here. I cried in the first novel, laughed a lot with the memoir, and let my heart skip happily in the third book. All of these books, however, had a strong voice. They left me feeling like I really knew these people.

Now it’s your turn to share! What are the best books you’ve read lately, and why?

My Very Own Coffee Shop (I Wish)

When I’m not working away in my home office, I get my writing and editing done at a local café or coffee shop. Oftentimes, I meet with other writers with the caveat that we chat a little and work a lot.

But it’s hard to find that perfect place to eat, drink, chat, and write. Which means that sometimes we dream about what the perfect coffee shop for writers would be like . . .

Cup of black coffee

By Kenny Louie via Wikimedia Commons

First, there must be coffee. Or, in my case, tea. (I don’t drink coffee.) There’s not much point in going someplace if you can’t at least get a hot or cold beverage you don’t have at home. So a good cup of coffee or tea (or a glass of wine in the p.m.?) is a must. My very own coffee shop might not have 400 hundred ways to order coffee, but you could get a quality cup of joe to keep you going as you write.

Second, there must be WiFi. Yes, there are times when it’s better to get off the Internet and get the writing or editing done. But many of us conduct book research on the Internet or access a thesaurus online or re-post a meme on Facebook during a quick writing break. So my ideal coffee shop would have unlimited WiFi and two routers, in case one goes kaput.

Third, the thermostat must be set at a reasonable temperature. We’ve ditched places that feel a meat freezer. So someone with a decent sense of temperature settings (probably not the person serving steaming coffee all day) needs to fiddle with the thermostat and make it comfortable for patrons. My coffee shop would stay at a nice, comfortable temperature, and if enough patrons complained, I’d move the dial.

Fourth, good-sized tables. Look, I know it’s a coffee shop, but tables the size of TV trays are not conducive to drinking and getting work done. Ideally, a good place to work has options — with tables for two, tables for four, and a larger set-up for groups. Which my very own coffee shop would have.

Fifth, electric outlets all over the place. Laptop batteries don’t last forever. Sometimes, a place is great, but you have to hunt down a hidden outlet and then crouch into the fetal position to plug your computer in. My coffee shop will have outlets at regular intervals along all walls. Plug away!

All of these things are make-or-break must-haves. But hey, it’s my very own coffee shop, so I am not stopping there.

How about a full menu of fabulous food? You need more than coffee to recharge, so my place would offer pastries, salads, sandwiches, entrées, and desserts. All at prices a struggling writer can afford.

By Bill Smith, via Wikimedia Commons (Wouldn't name mine after any senator, but breakfast, lunch & dinner? Yep!)

By Bill Smith via Wikimedia Commons (Wouldn’t name mine after a senator, but breakfast, lunch & dinner? Yep!)

gorgeous view can be inspiring. This is why writers long to have retreats at the beach, in the mountains, or in a quaint French village. Some amazing scenery can spur you on when you get a little stuck or feel the need to remind yourself there’s a world out there beyond your monitor screen. So my coffee shop would offer this view:

Microsoft Word pic (Just ignore that it's actually in the Caribbean)

Microsoft Word pic
(Just ignore it’s actually in the Caribbean)

An in-house bookstore will be available for perusal and purchase. Because what’s better than having a one-stop shop where you can eat, write, and buy your books. Get a little tired of working on that chapter? Go hunt down your next read, and your mood will perk right up.

Books on shelves & stacks

From Superbmust via Wikimedia Commons
(Maybe not this many, but plenty of books.)

An on-site massage therapist. Hey it’s grueling to hunch over a laptop and work all day long. So there will be a small room in back for 15-30 minute massage breaks. Just loosen up those shoulders and that back, and then return to the writing chair refreshed and ready to create fictional worlds!

By Conny Nordin via Wikimedia Commons (Oh, yeah.)

By Conny Nordin via Wikimedia Commons (Oh, yeah.)

What would you like to see in your coffee shop? What perks would you add to make it a fabulous place to work and to relax?

How to Write a Tantalizing Book Blurb

Today, I’m thrilled to be guest-blogging at the fabulous blog by Jami Gold, paranormal romance author. Here’s a snippet of Jami’s introduction, along with where to find my tips for writing a tantalizing blurb, or book description, for your story.

I’ve spoken before about how no matter how we publish, we have to come up with a great book description—either for use as the query or the back-cover blurb. If we go the traditional route, we might have an agent, editor, or copywriter from the publisher help us improve our blurb before we’re in stores. But if we self-publish, we’re on our own. . . . 

Most blog posts about queries and blurbs focus on those first two steps with advice about what to include or how to structure our book’s description. But it’s that last step that can often take our blurb from good to great.

So today we have Julie Glover, who’s an expert at that last step. She’s here to share tips on how to make a blurb or query stand out. (And yes, she’s the one who stepped in to help me with my blurbs at that Step 3 phase—and was agenius!) Please welcome Julie Glover! *smile*

Read More.

Dare to Be Different: The Beauty of a Girl

boaw-logo-2015-originalThis post is part of the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest 2015.

Deirdre.

I still remember her name. Not because we were friends. She was a senior while I was a freshman in high school. Sure, we were both in the flute section of band, but she was first chair and I was way back in the second row hoping to make my way up to the front row someday. My dad knew her dad, but that didn’t make us cohorts. No, I remember Deirdre for one thing in particular: being different.

Different in appearance.

I don’t mean she bucked the trendy stuff and went all rebel—she wasn’t emo when everyone else was hipster. She didn’t conform to a different standard or subculture. She didn’t even seem to make a point of standing out, but she did.

Why? Because she was essentially her own trend.

Her hairstyle wasn’t the fad of the day. Her fashion was fun and quirky (and really nothing I saw on the racks, so I wondered sometimes how she did that). Her demeanor was confident, without being “hey, look at me!”

And I think about her sometimes. Because if I had to do high school over again, I’d be like Deirdre.*

I wouldn’t copy her fashion. Rather, I’d own my own version of beauty. I’d wear what I wanted, choose a hairstyle I liked, walk with a lot more confidence. I’d dare to be different. I’d be me.

Girl with interesting hairdo with flowers on it + blog post title

I’d choose a look that made me feel good about myself—whether it matched or clashed with current expectations.

Instead of worrying what designers said was “in,” I’d consider my body shape and dress to show it off. Instead of wasting hours with home perms, curling irons, and Aqua Net hairspray (the thing at the time), I’d let my straight hair be straight. Instead of comparing myself with a taller girl, a curvier girl, or just a prettier girl, I’d look in the mirror and take stock of my own assets. Instead of wallowing in self-doubt and body-image issues, I’d lift up my chin and walk with confidence.

I’d own my beauty.

Knowing it was unique to me.

I don’t have high school to do over again. Instead, I have these days to dress how I want, choose the look I want, walk with the self-confidence I now possess.

And I can encourage young girls to do and be better.

Young ladies, when I see you all in the school parking lot with the same hairstyle, I wonder who had to wrestle and wrangle with hair products, tools, and self-criticism to get that look…and if you ever want to do something different.

When I see a fashion trend catch hold, and school hallways filled with the latest thing, I wonder if you all love it for what it is…or if you ever want to wear something different.

When I hear you criticize your appearance and complain about your hair, makeup, body shape, or style, I wonder if you believe that down deep…or if you ever want to believe something different.

Believe in your beauty. It’s there—inside and out.

And go ahead. Dare to be different. Dare to be you.

When you’re my age (yes, a long time from now), you’ll be glad you did.

~ ♀ ~