Wonkomance, LIVE!

Win_Lose_WONK copyNext week the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention is going down in Dallas, and Wonkomance is going to be there! On Wednesday at 2:30, A.J., Amber, Cara, Shari and Shelley are going to be hosting a fun event for readers called Win, Lose or WONK, and we’d love for you to join us! The room will be divided into two teams. Us Wonksters pick a pair of index cards at random—one quirk, one occupation, inspired by some of our own books—and draw, Pictionary-style, the resulting mash-up romance protagonist (i.e., “nudist billionaire” or “narcoleptic pilot”). Whichever audience member shouts out the correct answer first wins a signed book, plus a point for their team, and the team with the most points at the end of the hour wins the game! Fun, right? Plus there’s going to be free candy and shit. We can’t wait to see you there!

Even if you’re not coming to RT, we still want you to participate. We’re soliciting suggestions for quirks and occupations from your favorite wonktastical books, ones that’ll be fun to draw and make for wacky character combinations. For quirks, think adjectives—unusual personality traits or habits. For occupations, think nouns—actual jobs or things like “zombie.” Just toss them in the comments, and be sure to mention which book they’re from. For example, “Beekeeper, from Ruthie Knox’s Truly.” Have at it, kids!

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What I Carry ~ A Guest Post by Tamsen Parker

Hello everyone! Please welcome the return of our friend Tamsen Parker for another thoughtful guest post.

A few weeks ago I read Heidi Cullinan’s CARRY THE OCEAN. If you haven’t heard about this book, it’s a m/m New Adult romance that features one hero who has autism and one who has severe depression and anxiety. If you know anything about my reading habits, you know kink and mental illness make my one-click finger twitch. No kink here, but the blurb and the awesome cover totally sold me.

carry the ocean bigger

As I was reading, I found myself alternately thrilled and devastated. Not just because that’s what well-written romance does—makes us feel things deeply—but because representation is powerful.

In Jeremey, the hero with depression and anxiety, I saw myself:

“Though this is pretty much me in a nutshell. I worry about all the rules, and then panic because there’s no definitive answer to anything.” (Loc 413)

“”It makes it difficult for me to be with people, but if I’m not with people, I feel more lonely.’” (Loc 505)

“Why was everyone acting like I was sick? Like I had a heart condition, not a stupid habit of being upset in public and easily overwhelmed by life? ‘I’m fine,’ I told her again. And again.” (Loc 845)

I’m upset because you’re upset. […] This is my best and my best isn’t good enough for you. […] I don’t know how to fix this, and I’m afraid there’s no fix” (Loc 920)

For much of my life, I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. But because of the way they manifest for me, no one realized it. It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I started seeing a therapist. I didn’t try medication until I was in graduate school.

I don’t have the type of depression that means I can’t get out of bed in the morning or makes me suicidal. I don’t have the kind of anxiety that results in panic attacks. My symptoms bleed into my shyness and introversion and even my kinks, things I believe it’s really important not to pathologize. Which makes it difficult to tell what’s okay and what’s not okay. And because the edges are so blurry, for the most part, anxiety and depression are low level unpleasant hums that make life more difficult for me but that I manage.

Until I don’t.

This has been a hard year. A really exciting one in a lot of ways, but not without difficulty. And the past month has been brutal. Mr. Parker and I have both been travelling a lot, our beloved dog passed away, we’ve been dealing with unanticipated car and home repairs, throw in some illness for good measure, and some interpersonal conflict (which, as you can imagine, I’m super with) and the stress has been through the roof. And stress exacerbates what are annoying but livable symptoms.

If you’ve received an email from me, I can pretty much guarantee I’ve read it at least half a dozen times before I pressed send. More if I don’t know you very well or if it was of particular import. And I’m still terrified I said something wrong.

I usually do well when interacting with people one-on-one, and my old job required that I regularly talk in front of large groups of people. I was good at that and I enjoyed it. Small groups are where I flounder. I get paralyzed. Because I can’t read all the cues, I can’t tailor my humor or my opinions to everyone. I don’t have the protection of being an authority, and I’m certain I’ll say something wrong or stupid. These thoughts frequently result in me saying nothing at all.

Changes in plan or routine are difficult for me. Sometimes not just difficult but completely overwhelming. Having a spouse who travels frequently and a child, period, mean that consistency is a fantasy of mine.

I’m self-aware enough to realize that sometimes my feelings are my anxiety and/or depression messing with me, but that doesn’t mean I can always sort them. Sometimes I have to check with other people—Would this make you angry? Is it rational to cry about this?—because my own feelings can’t be trusted.

I worry that I am difficult to love. Or like for that matter. Even if you’ve been nothing but kind to me, I fear that will stop. Which is why I’m often cagey with my affections. Especially with the people who mean the most to me.

I frequently want to ask for help but I don’t because it’s not that bad. And people have better things to do. Or I don’t rate that level of time or effort. When I finally told my husband that I’m afraid because I think my depression and anxiety are getting worse and he offered to help, I felt like I had failed.  I’m an intelligent, educated, capable woman. Why the hell can I not handle the very basic act of existing? But as Jeremey says, “sometimes being alive is v hard” (Loc 1236).

The point of me writing this is not for people to feel bad for me. I am blessed in so many ways and my illness is manageable. I also have the resources to call in the cavalry should I need it, and—possibly more importantly—be able to admit that I need it.

The point is not that I’m unique. I’m far from the only writer afflicted. I’m not exceptional. My story is no more interesting or valuable than anyone else’s. But every time I see someone talking about their depression, anxiety, or other mental health issue publicly, I think to myself Thank You. Thank you for saying something. Thank you for not being ashamed or secretive. Thank you for helping me feel like I’m not alone. And thank you to Heidi for giving these two heroes a happy ending without magically “fixing” things that can’t be fixed.

The point is that I want to return the favor. To say to all of you who suffer out loud or in silence that you’re not the only one.  You’re not alone. Because seeing yourself is important. Even though I use a pen name, I feel like the romance community is the place where I am the truest version of myself. So here I am—having read this post twenty times and still scared I’ve made a mistake, agonizing over revealing something that up until now I’ve kept very private—saying me, too. Because it’s important. Because sometimes knowing you’re not alone makes it less hard to be alive.

About Tamsen

Tamsen Parker is a stay-at-home mom by day, erotic romance writer by naptime. She lives with her family outside of Boston, where she tweets too much, sleeps too little and is always in the middle of a book. Aside from good food, sweet Rieslings and gin cocktails, she has a fondness for monograms and subway maps. She should really start drinking coffee. You can find out more about her and her books at tamsenparker.com.

Posted in Formative Wonk, Guest Post, Life & Wonk, Reading | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

All For You and The Lost Years

I recently had a conversation with a fellow mom in which I described these past few years of my life as “The Lost Years.”

I was having a bad day.

I don’t actually feel like these are lost years, but that was a day—a week, really—when it seemed that even every breath I took was for the glory of someone else…and no one appreciated it. Not even myself.

Shortly after that conversation, I read Laura Florand’s All For You, and I found myself thinking how perfectly Florand had captured a time in my life that is so far removed from the youth of her characters. She’s not just a gifted writer and storyteller—in All For You, she found a theme that transcends age and station, and the romance was all the more poignant because the barriers to love were the same that could be experienced with any kind of love. Romantic and platonic, filial ties, bonds of kinship…the closeness of those connections suffer and can even break apart completely when we make someone else’s happiness into our life goal.

Which is what the hero of All For You, Joss Castel, experienced when he abandoned the heroine, Célie, in order to join the Foreign Legion. He left her without explanation and without even a proper goodbye, but he carried her with him for the five years that he was away. Though she had no idea where he’d gone or whether he’d ever be back, he stayed true to her…dreamt about a life with her after he was finished making a name for himself that she could be proud of…he made her happiness into his goal, without ever asking her what made her happy. His actions were the stuff of dreams—of fairy tales, the maiden being rescued, and Prince Charming pulling her from a dragon-guarded tower in order to sequester her in another—and those actions nearly pulled the two young lovers apart.

For Joss and his idealistic way of thinking, that possibility would have meant the annihilation of five years of living…Lost Years.

But Florand not only manages to bring the two together, but she also gets Joss to learn that imposing one’s own expectations on another person’s life in the name of love and happily ever after isn’t actually heroic. And not only does she get him to realize and accept this moving forward…he manages to apply this mindshift to the past five years of his life. It’s incredible, how believable she makes it, and how afterward I found myself taking the same concept and reevaluating my own Lost Years with a new outlook.

These are wonderful years. Possibly not the best, but certainly not lost. They bring me joy. They bring me love. They move me forward. And in that sense, with that realization, perhaps these are years that I’ve been lucky enough to find simply by adjusting my point of view.

As to the book? Well, I can’t even begin to do the plot justice, so I’ll just say three short things and then give you the blurb and buy links:

  1. All For You is a story about the influence and impact of the hero’s journey on the popular psyche, the depth to which the concept of true-love-as-savior has permeated our society, and how disappointment with the impossibility of such a myth is difficult to process within such a heavily-ingrained, burdensome framework.
  2. All For You is a sweet-and-sexy, captivating and fun romance
  3. BUY IT.

AFY-FlorandAll For You

Some crushes aren’t meant to be.

When her older brother’s best friend left to join the Foreign Legion, eighteen-year-old Célie moved on to make a life for herself as a Paris chocolatier. Now, five years later, the last thing she needs is another man to mess up her happiness.

Let alone the same man.

But five years in the Foreign Legion is a long time for a man to grow up, and a long time to be away from the woman he loves.

Especially when he did it all for her.

Half strangers, more than friends, and maybe, if Joss Castel has his way, a second chance…

Buy links:  Amazon * Amazon UK * iTunes * kobo * Barnes & Noble

Learn more about Laura Florand at www.lauraflorand.com



Posted in Certified Wonktastical, Reading, Review | Tagged , | 3 Comments