Wonder Boi Writes

Olympic Countdown – Curling

Hello and welcome back to my Olympic countdown.  Let’s start off by announcing that the winner of last week’s comments drawing is Virginie.  You get to choose either an ebook of Edge of Glory or an audio book of Trails Merge. Just email me at Rachel_Spangler@yahoo.com with your choice.

And now on to this week’s entry on curling!

Those of you who follow me on social media know I love curling and have filled the position of skip of the Lusty Shams at the Buffalo Curling Club.

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What you might not know is how the game is played.

Curling isn’t a sport that many people follow, much less play in most of America, but it always gets a boost in Winter Olympics years as many people cock their heads to the side in confusion as their TV screens fill with images of people in loud trousers shout and sweep big rocks down a sheet of ice.  When I tell people I curl, the most common comment I get is, “That’s awesome. I watched that during the Olympics, but I still don’t really get it.”

So here’s your crash course in curling.

The equipment is simple enough.  You need a sheet of ice with some concentric circles at each end, and 16 smooth rocks or stones with handles. These each weigh between 38-44 pounds or 17 and 20 kilograms.

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You also need curling shoes, or slip ons to go over your regular shoes: one to grip, one to slide.  The block you push off of is called a hack.

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You need a broom for each player.

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The part of the ice with the target is call the house, and the middle of the target is called the button. The line that cuts the house in half from top to bottom is called the tee line.

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On most curling teams, you have four players (a mixed doubles event is being introduced this year, but let’s stick to the basics). The positions are easy enough to follow. They are first, second, vice, and skip. In competitive curling, there are ten ends, which are like rounds or innings.  In each end, every person on the team throws two stones, alternating stones with the other team. Generally, the order stays the same with the first throwing first, the second throwing second (easy, right?), followed by the vice and the skip.  So the order of play for each end will usually look like this,

Team A – First throws
Team B – First throws
Team A – First throws
Team B – First throws

Team A – Second throws
Team B – Second throws
Team A – Second throws
Team B – Second throws

Team A – Vice throws
Team B – Vice throws
Team A – Vice throws
Team B – Vice throws

Team A – Skip throws
Team B – Skip throws
Team A – Skip throws
Team B – Skip throws

None of the rocks or throws have special names except the last stone of an end, which is called the hammer, because you hope to use it to hammer the other team, who is out of shots.

Easy enough to follow.  Now the next layer comes in the sweepers.  When the first is throwing, the second and vice sweep. When the second throws, the first and the vice sweep. When the vice throws, the first and second sweep.  Then the skip and the vice trade places, and the vice acts as the skip while the skip throws and the first and second sweep.

If that got a little confusing, don’t worry. You just need to know that most of the time the first, second, and vice all rotate sweeping for each other, and the skip only comes down to that end of the ice to throw the final two stones.

So what does the skip do the rest of the time?  They call the shots, using their broom to indicate the direction they want the rock to go, and hand signs or voice commands to indicate the type of spin and speed they want the person throwing to use.  They stand behind the house and watch both the line and the speed of the stone and call out commands to the sweepers.  When you hear someone on the ice shouting, “HARD!” or “Up up up!” that person is acting as the skip.

The skip can help sweep their own team’s rock at any point.  They cannot sweep the other team’s rock until after it passes the tee line. Mostly they do a lot of yelling and a little sweeping.

So, why do the sweepers need those commands, or for that matter, why do we need sweepers at all?  Well, in short, science.

You see, curing ice is pebbled with very fine dots of waters that are sprayed on top and then allowed to freeze. This guy is pebbling the ice.  Then the tops of the dots are shaved off.

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See the texture now?

As the stone travels down the ice, it spins where it catches on these tiny bumps, causing it to slow down or move slightly from its starting trajectory.  The friction of the brooms can warm up the ice though, causing a thin layer of water to form and even or lessen the pebbles for a second or two, thus creating a path of least resistance.

Contrary to popular belief, the brooms do not make a rock spin in different directions, but they can speed up or slow down the rate at which a rock spins, which contributes to the path it takes.  If you speed up a rock’s rate of spin it will curve more, if you let the rate of spin slow down, it curves less.

I can tell you from experience that the sweeping is much harder than it looks, and faster, too.  Staying upright while hurrying down the ice with your body weight pressed forward on a moving broom while your feet push and slide offers a tremendous core workout, and the difference it makes is often inches in a game of centimeters.

Okay, so those are the basics of who is doing what and why, but what’s the point?

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Well on the surface it’s simple: You hope to finish the end with as many of your stones as possible as close as possible to the button.  The scoring often gets confusing to first-time observers, because they think points are awarded for proximity to the button or by the color of the ring the rocks land on.  Not true.

When all the stones are thrown, the team that is closest to the button gets a point for every stone they have closer to the button than the other team’s closest rock.

Okay, I get that can sound a little confusing, so here are a few illustrations.

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Here, the green team had a lot more stones in the house than the yellow team does, but the yellow is closest to the button, so they get one point and the green team gets none.

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Above, both teams have two stones in the house, but both the reds are closer than either of the yellows, so red gets two points, yellow gets zero.

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This example is a lot more congested. Care to take a guess?  It’s hard to see for sure, but it looks to me like the yellows have three in the blue to be points one, two, and three, but red has the fourth closest rock, cutting off those other two yellows and making the score for this end yellow 3, red 0.

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Finally in this one, the red just barely looks to edge out the yellow, even though both of them are on the red circle.  This still means red 1, yellow 0.

So, only one team gets any points in any given end, and once those are tallied up, all the stones are cleared and the process starts over, with the team who scored in the previous end throwing first, and the team who didn’t score having the hammer (last rock).

They do this for ten ends, and whoever has the highest cumulative score wins!

There you have it.  Everything you really need to know to start following curling during this year’s Olympics.

There are a couple other rules that may come into play occasionally (stripping guards, hog lines, etc.), as well as tons of strategy for blocking and knocking out stones, but those are things the announcers will explain in detail if/when they arise.

In the meantime, here are a few curling shots to whet your whistle until you get to watch the real deal in Pyeongchang.

And finally, here’s this week’s question for the comment second and a chance to win a free ebook/audiobook: If you were on a curling team, what would you name it?

A few of my personal favorites are Sweeping With The Enemy, Rockin the Sheets, and Dwayne Johnsons (think about it).

Lay your best ideas on me.

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January 19, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Let The Olympics Countdown Begin

Okay,  before I get to the main subject of the blog, let me thank all of you who commented on last week’s post.  I did a random drawing, and Lynn Lawler won the free Rachel Spangler ebook of her choice. Congrats, Lynn!

And now, with the new-year tasks checked off, let’s turn our attention to the first big awesomeness of 2018, the Winter Olympics!

Clearly I am kind of a fan. I mean, if my writing an entire book about the lead-up to these games didn’t give that away, I don’t know what does.

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Some might say I am a bit obsessed.  I don’t know about that, but I have been known to make elaborate spreadsheets of view times to make sure I don’t miss a single viewing of my favorite events, which to be honest is most of them.  I may or may not have even set alarms to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to see some races/meets live so as to avoid spoilers. And as to spoilers, I have developed a detailed process for posting about events that provide for adequate spoiler spaces and safety blocks without having to stay quiet for hours until people in other time zones catch up.

If all those things add up to equal an obsession, then I’ll gladly take up that mantle and wear it proudly.

And what does that mean for all of you sitting at home in your varying level of interests and knowledge?

Well for one, you get to share in my excitement, and everything is more fun when you can manufacture some excitement about it.  What’s more, though, you get to share in my knowledge of sports, which will helpfully let you enjoy them a little more without having to do all the intensive researching and spreadsheeting on your own!  Over the next four weeks, I will be blogging about some of my favourite events and, of course, sharing  some of the things I learned while researching Edge of Glory in the hopes of giving you some background in sports you might not be as familiar with, so by the time they grace our TV screens, you will not only be able to follow the action, you’ll have a few talking points to impress your viewing companions.

For starters, Winter Olympics sports are divided into three categories: ice sports, alpine sports, and Nordic events.  Why the Nordics felt the need to call their sports “events,” I do not know (maybe someone will tell me in the comments), but they did, and that give us three overviews to do.

Ice sports are, fittingly enough, played out on ice.  They include.

Bobsled – Two-man, two-woman and four-man
Luge – Men’s singles, women’s singles, mixed doubles and mixed team relay (new) Skeleton-  Men’s and women’s skeleton event
Ice Hockey – Men’s and women’s
Figure Skating – Men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pairs, mixed team event and ice dancing

Speed Skating – (Long track) 12 events – 500 m for men and women, 1,000 m for men and women, 1,500 m for men and women, 3,000 m for women, 5,000 m for men and women, 10,000 m for men, team pursuit for men and women

Short Track Speed Skating (8 Events) –  for men and women 500 m, 1000 m, 1500 m, and also the 5000 m relay for men and 3,000 m relay for women.
Curling – (A personal fave!) – Men’s and women’s, plus a new mixed doubles event

Alpine events are basically the skiing and snowboarding events where you’re pointed downhill at all times. They include:

Alpine Skiing (A Rachel favorite you’ll hear more about) (10 events – 5 disciplines for men and women) downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom, and super combined
Freestyle Skiing – (five events) aerials, moguls, ski cross, ski half pipe and ski slope style
Snowboarding – (4 events for men and women) parallel giant slalom, slope style, half pipe, and snowboard cross (another Spangler favorite!)

Last are the Nordic events, which include:

Biathlon – (11 Events) men’s 10k sprint, 12.5k pursuit, 15k mass start, 20k individual, and 4×7.5 relay. women’s 10k pursuit, 12.5k mass start, 15k individual, 4×6 relay, 7.5 k sprint, and the mixed relay
Cross-Country Skiing 12 events (6 for men, 6 for women): individual sprint, team sprint, freestyle, pursuit, classical, and relay
Ski Jumping – (4 events) – Men’s individual large hill, men’s individual normal hill, men’s team large hill, women’s individual normal hill
Nordic Combined – Ski jumping plus cross country skiing (3 events, men only) individual large hill /10 km men, individual normal hill /10 km men, and team

So there you have it!  So much to learn about and look forward to.  Also, free books!  Because what better way to foster excitement than free books?! So for each blog I write in the lead of to the Olympics, I’ll ask questions for you to answer in the comments section and then do a drawing to select the winner, who will have their choice of a free audiobook of Trails Merge or ebook of Edge of Glory.

So for this week’s drawing, I’ll ask you to look at the list of Winter Olympics sports above and tell me which ones are your favorites to watch, or which ones you want to know more about!

 

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January 11, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Happy New Year

I am smidge supersticious.  I usually blame my massive sports fandom. I never say “no hitter” when someone is throwing one. I don’t ever step on a foul line. And if the Cardinals are losing in the 3rd inning of a post-season game, I have to eat crab rangoon (It’s a long story.). However, as the “on this day” feature on my Facebook has spent the last few days sending me photos from New Year’s Days past, I’ve realized my Southern influences might have actually made New Year’s as steeped in superstitions as the baseball playoffs.  In every year of recent memory, the tree has come down and the house cleaned on New Years Eve, so as not to carry any mess from one year to the next.  I move heaven and earth to be with the people who matter most to me. Susie and I do not usually go out unless we take Jackson with us for fear of starting the new year with our family split.  And on New Year’s Day we always eat black-eyed peas (Hopping John) with honeyed cornbread and some kind of greens to symbolize both frugality and prosperity.

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I can’t remember how long we’ve done these things. Facebooks says for at least the last eight years.  Some of those years have been good, some of them have been bad, most of them have been a mix, still the tradition means more in the doing than what it does or doesn’t actually do (which is probably nothing more than putting a wish in my heart).  And yet this year we did none of those things.

There’s no Christmas tree to take down because we didn’t have one. We weren’t home to deep clean the house, also, because we don’t have one.  I mean we’re not homeless, but we’re traveling.  We’re renting a lovely little seaside cottage in England, but as we spent the holidays with family back in America, there was neither a holiday mess in the cottage, nor anyone there to clean it.  You see, we sort of straddled the new year, not fully in any place except 27,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.  When we left America, it was still 2017 for about 4 more hours, and by the time we landed in Ireland and then England, it had already been 2018 for about 7 hours.  There was no countdown, no ball drop, no glass of champagne. At some point I did look over at my wife and whisper, “I guess it’s past midnight wherever we are right now. Happy New Year.”  And we shared the quick, chaste kiss of two women surrounded by strangers with a kid snoring softly across their laps.

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We had to make quick  airline connections, so there was no breakfast.  Lunch was in a train station coffee shop, and dinner was literally the only thing left in the freezer when we made it to our cottage, a frozen pizza.  Even if any of the stores had been open, I doubt I would’ve found the fixing for a Southern-style New Year’s dinner in them, and I know I wouldn’t have had the time or energy to assemble such a feast after being awake for 28 hours.  Any other year I would have legitimately freaked right out at losing nearly every one of my holiday traditions/superstitions. This year I didn’t.

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This year I spent the new year flying east.  I got to 2018 hours earlier than I otherwise would have if I’d stood still.  This year I sped toward the rising sun, and by doing so shortened my time in darkness.  This year I didn’t celebrate a new start. I went out to meet it.  This year I traded superstition for symbolism in action. And it felt good.

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I don’t know if I will end the year in a place I love. I don’t know if I will end the year healthier or skinnier. I don’t know if I will end the year more prosperous (doubt it).  I don’t know if the Cardinals will make the playoffs.

What I do know is that I’m not going to sit around waiting for my dreams to come true.  I can’t control the cosmos or the world at large.  In the theme of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Aaron Burr, “I am the one thing in life I can control,” and I am not going to be a passive observer in 2018. I am going actively seek it out and ask, “What cool things can I do today?”

With that in mind, I’ve made my list of goals (not vague resolutions like “eat less, smile more,” but tangible, measurable goals) as action-oriented as possible.  But I’ve also made peace with the fact that sometimes life has something better in store.  Sometimes you start a year in a small college town with no real changes on the horizon and end it on a plane to the place you’re living on the North Sea in the border lands of England. I’m not just open to that, I will run out and greet it.

In the meantime, here’s some cool stuff I’m looking forward to trying.

Finish level 3 of Rosetta Stone

Have a Full interaction in Spanish

Learn to Sail

Cook 12 new things

Attend 4 book events

Take an online course

Visit 10 new Cities/Towns/Sites

Entertain friends 12 times

Write two novels

Write 25 blogs before December

Read 12 grown up books

Watch 12 documentaries

Do at least one thing that scares me.

12 dates with Susie

12 outings with Jackie

12 family game nights

Walk 1,400 miles

Burn 700,000 calories

Donate to a Food bank 4 times

Donate to 12 Democratic House candidates

Tithe all book and Bywater checks

Visit Spring Training

Have a Day of Yes

Pay off a credit card

Now, comment and tell me what you are hoping to get out there and do this year. There might even been a free ebook in there for one lucky commenter.

January 4, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Happy Holidays

All the holidays!  Whichever ones you celebrate, and the Spangler family celebrates a lot of them, I hope you’ve had the best of times.

I didn’t do my usual song blogs this year, and I know some of you missed them.  I sort of missed them, too, but I didn’t have it in me this year.  However, now that I’ve told a few people that, I worry that I might have given folks the wrong impression.  It’s not that I didn’t celebrate Christmas or that the world was too dark and sad for me to find the joy of the season.  The world is dark and sad and scary, which is why we particularly sought joy this year. We clung to it. We fought for it.  The holidays, like much of our year, were almost an act of defiance for us.  We did all the things, we went to all the places, we reached out to all the people, and we celebrated all the blessings, because that’s what we needed.

As one of my favourite Christmas songs reminds us, “God is not dead, nor does He sleep.”  Christmas is Emmanuel, God with us, even in the darkest times. The voice in the wilderness, the light in the darkness, the joy amid sorrow, we are pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. And this year, instead of just writing or reflecting, we went out and lived and loved with abandon, partially because that’s what Christmas calls us to, and partially because when the power structure wants nothing more than to break you, queer joy is a revolutionary act.

So with that in mind, here’s the 2017 Spangler year-end review. It showcases some ups and downs, but mostly a whole lot of things to love.

 

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Tale of Two Winter Romances

So, lately I’ve been banging on about my new winter sports-themed romance, Edge of Glory, and that’s because I’m pretty proud of it. As I mentioned in my last blog, I really love snow.  And I think you all know by now I love sports.  It only makes sense for me to put those things together.  In fact, it makes so much sense that Edge of Glory is not the first time I’ve done so.

Way back toward the start of my career, I wrote a romance called Trails Merge, which I set at a small, family ski resort.  That book was inspired by a vacation (also mentioned in the previous blog) that I took with friends in grad school. And funnily enough, that book had come around again just in time for the release of Edge of Glory, in that Trails Merge is now available as a new release in audiobook format!

Seeing (and selling) the two books/audio books side-by-side as new releases has left me pondering the ways they are the same and different. Trails Merge has a much more home and hearth setting, while Edge of Glory sees the main characters traipsing across the globe. Both books get holiday scenes which move the romance forward in different ways, and both books also use holiday scenes with big family gatherings. And both books offered me some good fun in the research phases, albeit in very different ways.

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For Trails Merge, I took my first formal ski lessons. I’d been skiing on my own for a couple of years but didn’t know any of the formal moves or terms needed to describe the things I’d been doing. The lessons helped my form, but more importantly, they gave me the language I needed to convey that form to my readers. The scene in the book where Campbell gives Parker her first ski lesson, and then a disastrous lesson for Parker’s ex much later in the book, both have dialogue taken exactly from the conversations I wrote off on my taxes.  Not a bad gig, huh?

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The other really fun aspects of researching Trails Merge was that I took a mountain tour in a snow groomer. Snowcats are the huge, tank-like vehicles that spread and shape snow across the slopes. When the guy giving the tour found out I was writing a book, he let me ride up front wth the controls and told me way more information than any lay-person has a right to know about snowmaking and grooming.

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So, when it came time to write Edge of Glory, I already had a pretty solid base in the basics of ski and snowboard terrain, but I was no longer working the realm of mom-and-pop ski resorts, or lessons for novices like myself.  Though I did take a snowboarding lessons with my son in which he and the hill both kicked my ass for 90 minutes, most of what I needed to know so far outstripped my abilities and access that I had to employ a lesson I hadn’t learned 9 years ago when writing Trails Merge, and that is to go ahead and ask important people what they know.

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Seriously, one thing I’ve found over the years is that people generally like to talk about what they’re good at.  Everyone likes being recognized as an expert in something other people value. And generally if you cast a wide enough net and are polite about it, you’ll find someone who has the time and inclination to talk to you about almost anything.

With that in mind, I put out a call for people with top level access to the worlds of competitive skiing and snowboard cross. A Facebook friend pointed me to the contact info for several Olympic snowboard cross racers, and I just started at the top of the alphabet and worked my way down until I heard back from Jacqueline Hernandez. For those of you who don’t follow the sport of boadercross, Jacqueline Hernandez is an actual Olympian who represented Team USA in Sochi.

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I was so geeked that someone like her would actually talk to me that I pulled on her expertise at multiple stages of the project.  We chatted on Facebook about things ranging from training schedules to diets to locations, and even what a day of pre-season training would look like. There’s one scene in Edge of Glory in particular that hadn’t even been imagined until Jacqueline told me about a training exercise called “hiking the start section.”  Her description of this process was so interesting to me, I could suddenly picture my characters doing exactly what she’d described. To say that scene wouldn’t be the same without her isn’t an exaggeration, because I literally didn’t know such a thing existed until she told me. When you read the book, you’ll have to look out for Corey and Tigger stepping into Jacqueline Hernandez’s boots and know your favorite Olympians are doing the same thing right now.

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On the ski side of things, I was tremendously blessed because my friend Heather McEntarfer responded to my Facebook call, not just with contact information, but with an actual human contact.  It turned out that a man who’d grown up in the town I currently live in was a ski journalist. I would later learn that Hank McKee was legendary in the world of downhill ski reporting who had won the FIS Journalist Award, presented by ski racing’s international governing body for career contributions to the sport on a worldwide basis, but from the first Facebook message, I got to know him as a kind, exuberant and generous storyteller.

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Hank didn’t just relay information to me, he jumped in headfirst and pulled me along for the ride.  His understanding of skiing went so far beyond gear and trail maps.  He taught me what makes up a skier’s psyche. He told me stories about obsession and drive that defied the most human instincts to avoid bodily harm.  His insights shaped Elise’s formation at a minute level. And his attention to detail pops up in a million little ways. For instance, once over a big breakfast, he stopped eating and said, “If someone’s going to blow up a story about a skier’s personal life it’ll be the Austrians. Austrians are obsessed with ski gossip.  Who do you think exposed Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn?”  It was just an aside in the book, but but every time I read it, I thought of Hank and knew I got it right, even if no else ever did.

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Hank even went so far as to read a very early draft of the book and gave me some feedback while he was in town to sing with his long-time high school rock band, the Wretched Group.   Sadly that night, while he was rocking out on stage with his friends, I saw Hank for the last time.  He passed away, in true writer fashion, while working at his computer.  Hank never got to see the final draft of Edge of Glory, but I like to think he’d be proud of the role he played in the book it became.

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So as we head into this winter, I’ve got two items on the table for you.  If you’re looking to listen to a Midwestern ski romance set amid a warm home and a big family in audio book format, the new audible version of Trails Merge is there for you with plenty of authentic touches gleaned from my personal on-the-snow experiences.  If you’re looking for something a little more worldly and fast-paced, Edge of Glory is available in print and ebook and filled with insights shared by two amazing experts in sports most of us can only watch in awe.

Or you could just go ahead and buy them both!

December 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Snow!

My new book, Edge of Glory, centers around the world of snow sports. In the story I follow a downhill skier and a snowboard x racer as they race toward the Winter Olympics starting all the way back in summer.

I did a lot of research on training regimens, and I’ll write more on that later, but one of the things that really impressed me was that what I considered seasonal sports actually are year round endeavours. I read and talked at length with athletes who were putting in full-time hours in the middle of July, and every one of them was adamant about two things.  One, to be the best, there is no off-season, and two, despite the many summer hours in the gym, every one of them is working for the snow.

This was a mentality I had no trouble relating to. Not the working year round, or the being the best at anything remotely athletic, but the idea of killing time waiting for the snow to fly is infinitely familiar to me. Starting September 1, I check the ten-day forecast daily, first looking for the time where there are no more 80-degree days on the horizon, then 70s, then 60s, and on down until I see those night-time temps staying solidly in the 30s.  Then, one day I finally I wake up to the smell of snow.  Those of us who live in dramatic winter climates can smell snow coming days before it arrives.  It’s crisp and clean, and it rides on a north wind even stronger and farther than rain across the Midwestern plains.  And unlike the pressure drop preceding a hurricane, snow in the air makes everything feel a little lighter and more invigorating.

Or maybe that’s just me.  You see, when I speak of hurricanes, I know what I’m talking about there, too, because I grew up in Florida. I lived in the balm and heat of the sunshine state until I was fifteen.  When you grow up in a place where sweating on Christmas is not unheard of, the idea of snow is downright mystical. I remember being obsessed with it as a kid. I have only one memory of snow as a child (there are pictures of me in a pink snowsuit when I was one year old, but that’s before recollection takes hold).  One year, though, we drove to Illinois so we could spend Christmas with my grandparents and cousins.  We must have been there for almost a week without so much as a flurry, then on the day we loaded the car, winter weather reports started to come in.  I begged my parents to let us stay, but since they’d grown up in the Midwest and understood what a snowstorm would mean for our 20-hour drive home, they made no promises.  In my excitement, though, I climbed into the loft of my grandparents’ house and pressed my nose to the north-facing windows.  I shivered with excitement and dread as the clouds moved slowly across the park and then the field with two horses which I also enjoyed watching.  Finally, the pine trees at the edge of the lot fell under its shadow.  Squinting, I made out minuscule white flakes against their green bows, and I exploded down the stairs with my brother and cousins all jostling to get to the door.

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The amount of snow that actually came down was negligible. By the time we left it was barely sticking to the ground, but for that half an hour we danced and played and tried to catch snowflakes on our tongues, and then we scraped off the little bit that had accumulated on top of the picnic table and made the world’s smallest snowman.  In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t much, but it was enough to hook me.

The next time I saw snow I was 16.  We’d just moved to my father’s hometown in central Illinois. That year it didn’t snow in December. No white Christmas for us. I was gutted. What was the point of living up north if we weren’t going to get snow? Then very late on New Year’s Eve it dropped below freezing.  By the time my friends and I woke up from our sleepover, the flurries had started to fall. A friend drove me home in her little car, and as we tried to crank up the defrost, snow started to come in through the vent.  I had no idea this wasn’t supposed to happen. To me it felt like living in a snow globe. Snow, inside the car? Magic! My brother and I spent much of the day finding new ways to play in the snow. That may be why the trampoline didn’t last long in Illinois.

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My next great snowy adventure came in 2003.  Vermont had just legalized civil unions.  San Francisco had gone rogue and was performing same-sex marriages. George W. Bush and company were mounting a serious backlash. And I had fallen in love. Susan and I were both living and working at Illinois State University, a long way from either coast, but we decided Vermont was our best bet to get in on the possibility of legal status for our relationship. So along with a small group of friends and family, we headed to the mountains. We were there just long enough to get our license and then wait a couple days before tying the knot in a little white clapboard church.  So, what did we decide to do with that day in between? We decided that the day before our wedding was the perfect time to take up skiing.

Yes, you heard that right.  The day before we walked down the aisle, we strapped boards to our feet and tried to ride them down one of the biggest mountains on the east coast. I don’t have any pictures of that ski trip, as we spent most of the day careening out of control.  We were bad. We fell constantly. And in our Carharts and welding jackets and camo hunting clothes, we were clearly the rednecks of the run, but right before we left, Susan and I each had one really pretty ride down a gentle bunny slope.  Again, it wasn’t much, but it was enough.  We went skiing again for our first anniversary.  Then the next year we rented a cabin in the UP of Michigan with friends and had what is still one of the best vacations of my life.

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A year later we moved to Western New York, right in the shadow of Lake Erie. Our town averages 215 inches of snow a year. Susie and I were so excited the first time we heard we were getting lake effect snow that we actually drove to the lake because we wanted ringside seats (We didn’t really understand that concept fully yet.).  And when our boy was born within view of that lake, there was no doubt how he’d be raised.

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Watching Jackson have the winter experiences I dreamed of as a kid has been one of the most purely fun aspects of the last ten years of parenting.

And that brings my love affair with snow to the present.  The towns I lived in, both in Illinois and New York, have already seen their first snowfalls of the season, but I wasn’t there for either of them. Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m having another kind of great adventure as I travel around the UK with my family, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t missing the anticipation of a white winter just a little. My son pointed to a big hill we like to climb and said, “This will be so much fun to sled down when the snow flies.”  His smile fell and his shoulders slumped when I explained that there probably wouldn’t be enough snow for sledding here. There might not be any real measurable snow at all.

The thought had never occurred to him.  A December without snow was as completely foreign to him as the idea of a white Christmas had been to me at that age. Since then he’s mentioned several times that not having snow is sad. I usually redirect the conversation, pointing out all of the other magical experiences we’re enjoying, but I can’t quite disagree with him.

But fear not, this blog does not have a sad ending.  Last week we took an epic three-day road trip through Scotland, and low and behold, there atop Ben Nevis, an old friend greeted us.

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And before any of you Scrooges cut in, I understand that snow is cold, and it can be a lot of work and can be hard to drive in, but none of that outweighs the magic for me.  Seeing that snow last week gave me the first real joy of winter.  And I’m excited to share that with all of you and Corey and Elise.

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November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Edge of Glory Wide Release

Hey Friends,

It started with print books in Ptown, followed by ebooks on the Bywater website, and now Edge of Glory is available everywhere!  If you’re those Kindle fans who love the ease of buying your ebooks directly from the Kindle store, or international Prime members who need to buy from the big warehouses to get shipping that doesn’t cost a kidney, your time is now!

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And for those of you who have already gotten your copies, thank you!  The great reviews are rolling in.  And while I don’t ever go looking for them because of feelings and creativity and art for art’s sake and yada yada yada, my publisher does send some along from time to time and asks me to share them, like these from The Romantic Reader who gives the book “5 stars, hell all the stars. I love this book!”

Or Carleen Spry, who says, “Edge of Glory is, in my very humble opinion, one of the books to read in 2017. In fact, it’s probably one of the best I’ve read in two or three years.”

Or Amos Lassen, who wrote “When that romance comes, it is very special. I can say the same about this book; it is very special.”

I hope that those of you who have read Edge of Glory have had similar responses to the story and characters, because that’s really the goal here. Every time a new books comes out, I sit around waiting and hoping and praying that the story I put so much love and work into will resonate with someone else out there.  I’m not going to lie, I love that moment when I finally hear from a reader saying I achieved that goal. I adore getting that kind of feedback from readers, and so far I’ve gotten some really nice notes about this book, but here’s where I have to address one troubling comment has come up three times in the last two weeks.  It goes something along the lines of, “I’m not a reviewer, but….”

Friends, Romans, Readers, I desperately need you to know that you don’t have to “be a reviewer” to give valued responses to a book.  Authors are happy to simply hear, “I really liked your story!”  If you can add a sentence or two as to why, that’s the cherry on top for all of us, but it’s not even necessary.  That kind of stuff is soul-sustaining and I don’t want any of my readers to ever feel like they can’t comment on my Facebook, blog, or twitter simply because they don’t have the polish of some of our more established genre reviewers.

What’s more, your simple reviews of, “I really enjoyed reading this, 5 stars!” when posted on Amazon or websites like Goodreads sustain much more than our writerly souls. They sustain our careers.  Lots of advanced industry articles have been written on the correlation between reviews and the ways books are promoted on those sites (i.e. ads and bestseller charts and the “if you like this book, you might also enjoy everything Rachel Spangler has ever written” features), but the bottom line is the number of reviews matters.  It matters a lot.  And for better or worse, ten 5-star reviews that simply say, “I like this book” carry more weight than 2 long, elaborate thesis papers about  Virginia Woolfesque prose or the subtle classist work ethic permeating the plot. More positive reviews equals more help to authors.  It really is a simple as that.

So I guess I’ve written this entire blog to say thank you for reading Edge of Glory, and if you enjoyed it, I hope you will say just that on whatever review websites you can find because that sort of thing means a lot to authors, in a lot of different ways.

 

November 14, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Edge of Glory Sexy Pictures

That title got your attention, didn’t it?

Sorry, they might not be exactly the kind of sexy pictures one hopes for when researching a lesbian romance novel.  I did not find any Instagram shots of lesbian skiers and snowboarders in tawdry embraces, or semi-clothed lip locks you often find on the cover of our erotica novels.

What I did find, however, were pictures of truly powerful women with truly powerful bodies, none of which really fit with the type of bodies we traditionally see in Lesfic.  I know, I know. I hear from one reader at every conference that they want to see larger women represented in our fiction, and that’s absolutely what I had in mind when I wrote Beth from The Long Way Home, but that’s a different blog.  What I’m talking about with Edge of Glory, though, is muscular women.  And I don’t think I fully understood that when I started writing.

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During my first pages of my first draft, I will admit I thought of skiers, and to a lesser extent snowboarders, as skinny women. You wouldn’t believe how prevalent this image is.  So much so that my amazing cover artist Ann McMan almost had to use a hand drawn snowboarder for the cover of this book, because public domain images of female snowboarders generally look like this.

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I’ve watch more than enough snowboarding to call bullshit on that, but even as a winter sports fanatic, I’d only seen these athletes in the act of their their various professions, and when skiers are flying down a steep grade at 30 miles an hour in skin-tight Spanx, they looked pretty thin to me.  Snowboarders wear a lot more clothes (which is also another blog), but there didn’t seem to be any extra fat on them, and how could there be with the amount of calories it must burn to hold off the weight a competitor around an c-curve where crushing g-force meets almost reckless speed. Sure, I knew they were strong and fierce, but anyone who worked that hard and went that fast had to be super thin, right?

Wrong.

I mean, don’t misunderstand me, these women are not what anyone would call overweight, but that sort of skinny/fat dichotomy is super problematic for all women, and our community is not immune to dualistic thinking. I know I’m not. Thankfully, though, when writing this book, I had some real-life role models who refused to let me fall into that either/or trap by being comfortable enough with their badass bodies to show me exactly what I was working with.  The picture higher up in this blog is one I found while researching Olympic downhill skier Julia Mancuso’s off-season work out routine. Look at those shoulders!

And this gem happened to come out right after I started writing Edge of Glory, thanks to the epic body confidence of Lindsay Vonn.

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Why yes, yes that is a painted on swimsuit.  Go ahead and enjoy the view for a moment.  I’ll wait.  But before you’re ready to read on, can you take a moment to look at her thighs. Not a hardship, right, but I’m not just making the request to excite you or sell books by telling you this is the body my skier Elise is modelled after. I want you to look at those thighs, along with the thighs and glutes on pro-snowboarder Elena Hight.

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There’s no thigh gap on either of them.  In fact, on both of them, their thighs are wider than their waists. Not going to lie, the task of describing thighs like those in prose wasn’t as easy or as enjoyable as one might expect.  You see, in English we don’t have a lot of ways for describing women’s thighs in ways that are both flattering and accurately portray them as large.  In our culture, large usually equates to undesirable, at least when talking about that body part. My editor actually put a limit on how many times I could say “stacked.”  At one point we went with “bodacious.” “Sizeable,” “thick,” “big,” “mammoth,” even “meaty” or “muscular” all seemed to have at least borderline negative connotations, and yet I worried that if I didn’t describe them at all, or gave a generic descriptor like “beautiful” or “sexy,” readers would fall prey to the thinking that had filled my own mind early on and equate those terms with “thin.”

And when you look at the skier’s mid-sections, virtually none of them are flat. They don’t have “pot bellies” or “spare tires” or any of the other pejorative terms we use to denigrate women’s completely natural body types, but neither do many of them have washboard abs. And that’s awesome, but you know what else is awesome, snowboarders abs.

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So often my characters get labeled as butch or femme, whether I write them with those labels in mind or not, which goes back to our dichotomy driven minds, but I’m not sure how and who gets to decide those things.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with readers putting their own types and fantasies on my characters. I want them too do that within reason. However, the women I follow in the snowboarding world don’t easily conform to those labels any more than their bodies conform to societal expectations of the female form.  Their cores are hard and cut and powerful. They do not have soft curves, they do not have gentle swells, they do not have flat planes. They have ripples and ridges and raw strength.  They are not classic examples of a feminine form, but neither does their strength make them masculine any more than skiers thighs make them mannish.

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These body types are beautiful, these bodies are sexy, and these body types are worthy of being praised for the ways they lift up the majestic female form while defying the boxes we try to force women’s bodies into.

And so that’s what I tried to do in writing Corey and Elise. Their bodies are not skinny, they are not overweight any more than their bodies mark them as necessarily butch or femme.  Elise has big, thick, stacked thighs.  Corey has jagged rocks for abs.  Both of them find those attributes utterly irresistible in the other.  Neither one of them feels any need to judge anything about the other’s personality or sexual proclivities based on those features.

I hope the same holds true for you all as you read Edge of Glory.

October 27, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Edge of Glory is Out!

The blog title says it all, folks. Today marks the Bywater release of my 11th full-length romance novel, Edge of Glory!

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We got our first taste of the release last week in Provincetown, and the response was fantastic!  Aside from our official events, I got to have a book launch party with some awesome friends and readers and my family at the beautiful Harbor Lounge in Ptown. I think Jackson was especially proud to be there, which of course made me proud that he’s still impressed with what I do for a living. I also think he may have sold more copies of Edge of Glory than I did, though to be fair, his happy little expectant face when he says, “My mom wrote this one,” is super hard to resist.

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Thanks to so many readers who came by our Bywater readings and signing, we sold out of every single copy of Edge of Glory in Ptown!  Let me honest, that’s a real heart boost for me.  I loved working with these characters so much, and I’m so excited to share them with readers. To know that some of them are just as excited to meet Elise and Corey as I am to introduce them gives me all the feels!

And since we actually had to turn a few readers away for lack of books to sell them, my amazing team at Bywater books rushed to get Edge of Glory live and online a few days early.  You can now get your very own copy in print or eBook exclusively at www.bywaterbooks.com

But wait, there’s more! We had such a rush on these books in Ptown that we decided to celebrate the big release by putting the entire Bywater catalogue on sale! That’s right, every single Bywater book is currently on sale, including Edge of Glory.  All you have to use coupon code Glory17 at checkout to get your discount!

So really, a new romance, an early release, and a sale…why are you even still reading this?  Go get your copy right now and start reading.

Please and thank you!

 

 

October 17, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Women’s Week Release

I am excited to announce that Edge of Glory is out!  Well, it’s out at Women’s Week anyway.  Folks who are in PTown right now can get their copies at Womencrafts ahead of the wide release.

Best of all, I got to hold the book in my hands for the first time. This is always a super special moment for me, but it usually happens alone in my home when the book box arrives in the mail.  For the first time ever, I got to share the moment, the one I’d worked for and waited for over a year, with my friends and colleagues who were all in Womencrafts when I walked up to the table.

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Thank you to awesome author Lynn Ames for getting this shot of me beaming proudly as I picked up my new baby for the first time. And here’s a happy, congratulatory photo bomb hug from trailblazer Marianne K. Martin.

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I really loved the special chance to share the culmination of such hard work with people who know what it’s like to stand in that spot.  It was also wonderful to have this experience in a place like Womencrafts. We are losing so many of our bookstores and gathering places that I appreciate the strength and fortitude it takes for women’s business owners to trust their livelihood to getting our work out to the reading public. I hold Michelle and her team at Womencrafts in the highest regard, which of course is why the whole Bywater crew worked double time to get Edge of Glory on their shelves before we even have it up on our website.

When the time came to get down to signing those first autographs, I couldn’t have been happier to be sitting along side my Bywater colleagues Carol Rosenfeld and Cheryl Head.

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I think it’s pretty clear from the way I’m still grinning at that pile of books in front of me, it’s going to be awhile before the high wears off.

October 12, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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