If you don’t like Goodreads…
When I was writing my “if you don’t like” post, the subject of authors commenting on negative reviews didn’t even occur to me. Goodreads is a great example of a place where it’s appropriate (for authors) to withhold opinions. Leaving a comment on a positive review is often seen as intrusive. Scolding a reviewer for mistakes, bad language, or a snarky attitude on a negative review is *really* not a good idea. If you think the reviewer is in the wrong, just let it go. The more popular you are, the more negative reviews you’ll get. It’s nothing to worry about.
Reviews are for readers. Goodreads is for readers. Go there and talk about books you didn’t write. Give some deserving author a 5-star review.
I’ve commented on my own reviews many times without incident, and even though I don’t see the problem with respectful responses, I’ve decided to stop. I don’t want to make readers uncomfortable or stifle conversations.
When I was a newbie author, just starting to navigate the waters of online blogging, negative reviews made me feel bad. Even critical comments on positive reviews stuck with me. They still do, because I care about improving my craft, and I consider any kind of feedback useful. I didn’t stop reading negative reviews because they hurt a little. I read more and more and MOAR negative reviews! I think I got over the sting. Now, I consider them a badge of honor. Critical reviews are the best. I love diverse opinions and disagreements, as you know Bob. When my book is the topic of any discussion, nice or not-so-nice, I’m thrilled.
I also like it when people buy my books. Word of mouth = sales. So I really, really don’t understand the pushback against negative reviews. They are discussions. THEY SELL BOOKS. The End.
If reviews bother you, but you want to continue reading them like moi, here’s my advice. Try *writing* a review, negative or positive. See how long it takes. Note how difficult it is to articulate a book’s strengths or weakness. You might feel the strange urge to get snarky about that annoying flaw. If you post the review, watch out for the typo you missed! Wait for the comments to roll in. You probably won’t get any.
My point is that reviewing is time-consuming and mostly thankless. Reviewers build audiences, like authors. It’s done out of love for books, which we all share. I don’t thank reviewers in the comments or via email anymore, but I can show my appreciation by being respectful.
Authors should be respectful, but reviewers are under no obligation. I’ve seen some reviews that cross the line into attacking an author’s appearance or calling the author names. Remember that GR is a social media site, and that some users are teens having conversations among friends. If you feel that a reviewer has violated the terms of service, you can flag the review.
This shouldn’t have to be said, but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should an author ever “out” a reviewer’s personal information or threaten a reviewer in any way.
My Twitter Hiatus
About two weeks ago I made a decision to go on a short blogging/tweeting hiatus. I think it was an impulsive decision, brought on by stress. I can’t remember for sure, which perhaps signals part of the problem. I’m forgetful and easily distracted.
Where am I?
Oh yeah. I don’t have a uncontrollable twitter habit, but I do let it sidetrack me. I treat it like a friend. When I’m bored, I go there to be entertained. When I’m feeling down, I’ll try to tweet something funny. When I get a positive response, the instant gratification can be a rush. It’s my break time that bleeds over into a needy, attention-seeking space.
Not that there’s anything wrong with seeking attention or craving instant gratification. I write for myself, but I publish for readers. Without satisfied readers, I wouldn’t bother to keep writing. I’m an entertainer. There’s something about getting a laugh on twitter that really fulfills that part of me.
So, why leave? Because I was spending too much time there that I didn’t have. For most of the summer, I’ve been getting up at 3 am. So has my husband. He’s got a construction job 2 hours away and he’s been working long hours to get it done. The kids are on summer vacation. I’ve been trying to write at least 1k before they wake up.
It’s a tough schedule, like 2 fulltime jobs, but hey. It beats working outdoors in 100 degree weather and spending 4 hours on the freeway.
If I drag my ass out of bed at 3 am just to waste half of my writing time online, it kind of defeats the purpose. Why be tired AND get nothing accomplished?
Twitter is a great place to procrastinate, but it also takes up what I call “thinking time.” The more I tweet, the more I think about tweeting. The first week of my hiatus, I found myself thinking about tweets a lot. The second week, I shifted to blogging, because that option was still open. What should I blog about? I didn’t blog more, but I thought about blogging more. Ha.
My commenting hiatus hasn’t been as successful. I didn’t even check twitter, because I knew I would lurk like a mofo. But I read some blogs and made a few comments. I really tried to limit my commenting, because it takes up so much of my “thinking time,” it’s not even funny. I don’t subscribe to any blog feeds, but I check. I compulsively check to see if anyone else commented, or responded to my comment, or made a reference to my comment. I’m very involved with myself, aren’t I? This is unattractive. Look away!
I’m getting derailed, I think. You see how easy it is? This all relates to an idea I have about losing the thread of the story. You know when you get in that writing zone, and you don’t want to stop? But you have to because of other responsibilities. And then, when you start again, it’s harder. The longer your break, the harder it is to pick up that thread. If you take frequent breaks, you might never get back in the zone.
At least, that’s the way it is for me. Some writers are able to juggle several projects at once. Others are fast and efficient and…unswerving. I’m not. My mind is not a steel trap.
Gosh, I didn’t even get to the point. I wanted to report on my success (or failure?) in upping my word count, and to talk about the way I use twitter (not for promo). But this is going long, and I have other things to do (of course!) so I’ll save that for another time.
Here’s wishing you some lazy days and/or productive ones! Hope your summer is going well, regardless.
If you don’t like this blog post, don’t read it
Sorry, blog friends. I’m just trying to make a point. It might take a few paragraphs. Ahem. Also, I’m on a twitter hiatus, in case anyone is wondering.
I’ve encountered this type of comment a lot online: If you don’t like xyz, ignore it. If you don’t like Jon’s books, don’t read them. If you don’t like Jane’s reviews, don’t read them. If you don’t like criticism of ___, don’t read it. If you don’t like Jill, avoid her.
(These are all made-up examples, by the way. Everyone loves me.)
Sometimes this makes sense. Sometimes it’s best to walk away. Some comments are better left unsaid. Some people/topics aren’t worth the trouble.
Other times, I don’t get it. How about this gem: If you don’t like America, leave! If you don’t like Barack Obama, vote for someone else! The second one is fine. Please vote for Obama though. The first sort of statement is the one I’m troubled by. It suggests that nothing is worth fighting for, no one can learn/change/grow, and voicing any opinion is a waste of breath.
Going back to the original example, “If you don’t like ___, don’t read it.” Well, how do you know you won’t like something before you try it? What if I’ve read ten of Jon’s books before and liked them all, or read ten and hated them but want to keep trying? That’s my right. It’s also my right to voice my opinions. When someone says “If you don’t like…” are they really just saying, “please shut up”? Because it seems like an attempt to halt discussions and/or stifle opinions, and I don’t understand that.
Opinions, especially differing ones, are the best thing about the internet! Learning takes place when people disagree. I’m not just talking about me me me, proving I’m right, and sharing my awesome ideas with the world. I mean that I actually like learning stuff from other people. I don’t mind disagreements.
Let’s pretend that I posted a review of Brave, the movie, which I did NOT like. At all. If you tell me that you loved it, I won’t get upset. Maybe I’ll learn something from hearing you out. On the other hand, if you tell me that I shouldn’t see movies I don’t like, or that instead of bitching about a movie, I should go to a better one, or that I could spend my time doing something more productive than complaining about Brave, I might assume that you’re trying to shut me up.
Why do that?
Please, let’s not try to shut each other up. You’re welcome to not read this blog post if it bothers you, but…uh-oh. It’s too late, isn’t it?
All About Romance gave CAUGHT IN THE ACT a great review! I love it when that happens.
A couple of snippets:
“It’s a rare feat when a romantic suspense story strikes the perfect balance between a believable suspense plot and a satisfying romance. I’m pleased to say that this is one of them.”
“Is this a warm-fuzzy read with rainbows and kittens? In a word, no. It’s dark and difficult. The bad guys are truly scary. It’s painful and emotional and pushed me out of my comfort zone. And in my opinion that is what some of the best fiction does.”
I’m so flattered! This is one of my favorite reviews ever.
Want to read it? I’m giving away a print copy at Wicked Little Pixie. Leave a comment for a chance to win. There’s a “tasty” adult excerpt to read.
Hungry for more? I’ve got you covered! Check out my guest post about orgasms and female anatomy at the same site from last week.
Hope you’re having a great summer! Stay cool, hot stuff.
Multiculturalism & Romance
There have been a number of interesting discussions lately about the prevalence of white, straight, able-bodied and otherwise privileged characters in romance. This is a complicated topic and I don’t know if I can do it justice with a short comment. I also feel weird about entering a thread for readers and giving my life story, going on and on about my books etc. So I’ll do it here, where I’m expected to talk about myself! I’ve been neglecting my blog anyway.
The first thing I’d like to address is privilege. When white authors like me write characters of color, they get things wrong. The same idea can be applied to men writing women. Men don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. They don’t have to worry about their physical safety as much as women do. They make more money for the same job. They have male privilege, and any man who denies that is deluding himself.
White privilege is also undeniable. As a white author with a white name (Jill Sorenson, Whitest Name Ever), white people are more likely to read my books than those by non-white authors. This is my privilege. Even if I write about people of color, white people will assume that I’m doing it in a way that doesn’t upset them or make them feel racist.
What I don’t do, or try not to do, is exoticize or fetishize people of color. Some romance novels featuring POC are sweeping fantasies about dark sheikhs who overpower fainting white women. I’m not going to look down on that, but nor would I dismiss the complaints of POC about this stereotypical representation. Do real sheiks mind? I don’t know. It seems fairly harmless to me, but I’m a white person with a white perspective. Whether I approve of sheikh fantasies or not, I don’t write books in that style.
In the discussion I linked above, someone said that white people don’t have to think about race unless they want to. I’m going to disagree. I think about race every day. When I watch a movie without people of color, I notice. Race isn’t something I compartmentalize and ponder about when I’m feeling philosophical. It’s part of who I am.
I live in a diverse community and I’m part of a diverse family. Multiculturalism is important to me as a mother, a wife, and a resident of San Diego. I walk my daughters to school every day, and I run in my neighborhood. I don’t insulate myself inside an air-conditioned SUV. I don’t even own an air-conditioned SUV! If you can live in a border town without being confronted by race and culture, maybe your head is buried in the sand. Or, you are very rich.
What I don’t have to think about on a daily basis is prejudice. I’ve never felt snubbed because of my skin color. No one assumes I don’t speak English. The only time I have to deal with prejudice is when other white people make racist comments in my company, thinking I’ll be receptive to this because I’m Very White Looking. They are wrong.
Here are a few more ideas I’d like to respond to.
Some readers have said that half-white characters or mixed couples are more palatable to a white audience. This is not my motivation for writing characters like this at all. My husband is half-Mexican. Intercultural couples are the norm in my family and circle of friends. Almost everyone I know is mixed-race or in a mixed marriage/relationship.
Another comment was made about a “built-in” readership for multicultural authors. Asian authors have a built in readership of Asians, in theory. For Kimani Romance, most readers will be African-American. White people will read mostly white characters. I don’t feel that I have an additional or automatic reader base with Latinas. I wish I did. The reality is probably that my audience is made up of readers who normally read white characters, and the multicultural aspect narrows that base.
I can’t speak for other authors, but that is my feeling about my audience. Readers have said that they don’t look for authentic depictions of culture in romance. Too often, they are disappointed by stereotypes.
Two personal examples. My husband has a lot of female cousins in their teens and twenties. They read exactly what other girls their age read: Twilight. The Hunger Games. Harry Potter. If they’re looking for better representation, I don’t know about it. They do tease me about the sexual content in my books, which they approve of.
When I was at the RT Convention last year, I signed books next to Kerrelyn Sparks. She had so many fans, many of them young Latinas. I sat there, unnoticed, with my gritty romantic suspense featuring a twenty-something Latina heroine. What could I do? Those girls wanted fun paranormals. They didn’t even glance at me. *weeps*
I didn’t know how to reach that demographic. I still don’t.
What I do know is that my readers have begged for stories featuring Eric Hernandez from The Edge of Night and Maria Santos from Caught in the Act. But those books haven’t sold like hotcakes, so I’m on the fence about writing sequels. I feel like I need a breakout hit first.
My next two books, Aftershock and Freefall, both feature white couples, but there are secondary characters of color. Actually, there’s a skinhead sort of guy in Aftershock and I’m nervous about how he will be received. I’m hoping to write a third book in that series, Badlands, with a Mexican-American heroine. I haven’t abandoned my interest in multicultural characters or race issues, although I’m trying a different tack. Wish me luck!
Sorry for such a long post. Did you make it to the end? You are awesome.
Thanks so much for the support so far, Dear Readers. It means everything to me.
Hola amigos! Look what I found on Amazon yesterday:
Emociones turbulentas is Stranded With Her Ex in Spanish!!
¿Problemas en el paraíso?
Una reserva de fauna exótica era un sueño hecho realidad para la bióloga Daniela Flores, hasta que descubrió que su exmarido era el jefe del equipo de investigación. Sean Carmichael había ido a las remotas Islas Farallón a estudiar tiburones asesinos, pero un verdadero asesino andaba suelto amenazando a la mujer a la que nunca había dejado de querer. Y ahora sabía que debía protegerla. Abandonados a su suerte durante una letal tormenta, Sean juró ir al infierno y volver para salvar a Daniela… y para tener la oportunidad de comenzar de nuevo.
Here’s the English version with the shark fin, which I love:
Trouble in paradise?
An exotic wildlife preserve is a dream come true for conservation biologist Daniela Flores. Until she finds out her ex-husband is leading the research team. World-famous shark expert Sean Carmichael has only grown more ruggedly appealing in the time they were apart…the passion between them more intense than ever. But how could Daniela forgive Sean for betraying her when she needed him most?
Sean had come to the remote Farallon Islands to study killer sharks. Now a real killer is on the loose, threatening the woman he’s never stopped loving. And this time, he knows he can’t walk away. Marooned together during a deadly storm, Sean vows to go to hell and back to save Daniela…and for the chance to begin again.
I’ve had two other translations (Icelandic/Dangerous to Touch and Thai/Crash Into Me) but this is the first one I’ve seen online. It’s extra exciting because 1. I’ve studied Spanish and I know it pretty well 2. I write a lot of Spanish-speaking characters, including Daniela Flores of this book. I’ve always wanted to see my books in Spanish.
In the summer (fall?) of 2009 I went on a ride-along with the Chula Vista Police Department. I was about half finished with THE EDGE OF NIGHT. I think it took several weeks to make the arrangements. I had to put in a formal request and they probably did a background check on me. Despite my youthful indiscretions, I was cleared!
On a side note, I also toured the San Ysidro Port of Entry on the US/Mexico border in 2010. The process for that visit was much more stringent and the officers were very formal. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures and many of my questions were dodged. Homeland Security is serious!!
Anyway, I mention that because I had a very different experience at the CVPD. Everyone went out of their way to be helpful and there were no dismissive attitudes about my work or the romance genre. Perhaps because I visited on a slow night, the officers had time to indulge my questions.
Shifts for the Gang Suppression Unit/Street Team begin in the afternoon, so I was instructed to arrive before 3 p.m. on Saturday. Chula Vista is about an hour from Fallbrook, where I live, and I don’t have cause to visit this area very often. I’d taken my daughters to the Chula Vista Nature Center a few weeks before. I drove around a bit and saw the nicer neighborhoods on the east side.
When I arrived at the station I waited outside these doors until a uniformed officer let me in and took me up to meet the gang unit! It was very exciting. I spoke with Sergeant Powers, the head of that unit, for over an hour. He answered every question I could think of. We spoke about everything from what kind of guns the officers carry and day-to-day operations to local gangs and special investigations. No question was too big or too little.
Then it was time for the ride along! Powers introduced me to Officer Isabel Chavez, a member of the Street Team. Although THE EDGE OF NIGHT features a male police officer, I was delighted to have the opportunity to pick the brain of a lady officer. She was very personable and professional. I admire her bravery because this is a job that few people, male or female, have the guts to do. Solving crimes appeals to me and I love forensic science but I could never be a beat cop. The stress would kill me.
Speaking of stress, I’d been in the squad car with Officer Chavez for a few minutes, asking questions about technology and whatnot, when she gave me safety instructions. If she pulled anyone over, I was to get out and stand behind the open passenger door where I would be less of a target. In the event that shots were fired, she showed me an emergency button or something like that. I can’t remember because I was getting nervous, imagining worst-case scenarios. My husband hadn’t wanted me to do this ride along! And I’d reassured him that everything would be fine.
Okay, so about five seconds later, Officer Chavez flips on her lights and pulls over three young men in a car, one Hispanic and two African-American. I have no idea what’s going on and she doesn’t tell me. As she gets out and approaches the driver’s side, her hand hovering near her service weapon, I try to remember what I’m supposed to do. Press buttons? Stay inside? Run away? Panic!
I get out of the squad car and stand behind the open door, my heart racing. She does her thing, checking the interior of the car and asking questions. The minutes tick by. Soon the black men are sitting on the curb a few feet away from me. I feel like I’m being rude by not making polite conversation, but I’m not sure what to say. “Excuse me, are you under arrest?”
This is taking a long time and I’m getting hungry. I decide it’s safe to sit in the passenger side of the squad car. I eat a slice of cold pizza I brought from home. The driver, a Hispanic teenager, is handcuffed and put in the backseat. Again, I feel awkward. I’m dying to ask him what he did. Officer Chavez is still outside, talking to the other guys and searching the vehicle or whatever.
Finally I finish my pizza and sneak a glance at the boy. He’s painfully thin and looks so nervous it breaks my heart. Getting arrested is awful and I feel sorry for him. I ask him what his name is. “Eric,” he replies. Now, I’ve already created my character so this is just a coincidence. This boy isn’t my Eric. He doesn’t look tough, he has no tattoos (that I recall) and he couldn’t beat up a cat. There are similarities, though. I think he was 20. He was polite and quiet.
Turns out that he was arrested for drug possession. I don’t know how much to reveal about the arrest because of legal issues (I might have already said too much in using a first name) but marijuana was involved. Unfortunately, the boy also had a tiny amount of another substance (half a pill). That little bit was enough for a felony arrest.
Can you imagine? A felony arrest for half a pill. And I think he’d been pulled over, two blocks from the station, because one of his friends wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
Processing this arrest took a few hours. Officer Chavez did some sort of chemical testing on the substances and showed me how they process evidence. It was very interesting.
The amount of paperwork required was less interesting. I sat in the holding area for a long time, scribbling in my notebook. Nothing else of note happened that night. Officer Chavez and I spoke at length about a broad range of topics, including my travels in Mexico. She was friendly and I liked her. Near the end of the shift she took me around to the graffiti hotspots so I could take pictures.
For some reason I can’t find most of those shots. There were no artistic masterpieces a la Eric Hernandez from THE EDGE OF NIGHT. It occurs to me now that many of the fictional liberties I took with Chula Vista were positive. I might have exaggerated the rough neighborhoods, but I romanticized other details.
Thanks for stopping by! Hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes.
Woo! I’m back from LA and recovering from all of the overexcitement. I was nicely surprised by the quality of workshops, events, and parties at RT. Maybe I am easily amused (I do need to get out more!) but I thought the convention was excellent overall.
WARNING: this post is link-heavy and name-droppy.
I arrived Wednesday at noon with my roomie, fellow San Diegan Jackie Barbosa. The Westin Bonaventure is a huge hotel with a head-spinning layout. I have no sense of direction and spent a considerable amount of time walking around in circles. Finding the right elevator, staircase, floor, and/or escalator was a never-ending adventure!
I’m a total workshop slut and RT delivered in this respect. The first day I attended a couple of digital publishing presentations, one given by Angela James, who is cute as a button and a pro public speaker. I also saw a demonstration by the LA field division of the ATF. They had a tactical dog attack the moderator!! It was good fun and very informative.
A group of romance authors dressed up as historical figures for the Saucy Sirens Through History event. This was a well-executed interactive theme party.
Wed. eve brought the Ellora’s Cave Bollywood party, which wasn’t as tawdry as I’d expected. There were no men in thongs or sloppily drunk authors! The female dancers in particular were fantastic. Only one male dancer went shirtless and he had a nice bit of hair on his chest. Good times, great party favors.
On Thursday morning I woke up sick! Ugh. I felt headachy and queasy all through breakfast and couldn’t attend any workshops. But I took some meds and pepped up enough to do a reader-meet-type thing at Club RT. LB Gregg was there. She is such a doll. Love her.
I went to lunch with Tracy Wolff, Beth Kery, a reader from London (?) and a couple of RWA SD buddies. By this time I was feeling better, but not 100%. I arrived late to a lively game/workshop with Victoria Dahl and others. I needed a nap and this event was the opposite of that. Next I went to a talk on writing sexy series romance for Harlequin. Lynn Raye Harris, Kimberly Lang, and Kira Sinclair really know their stuff and it was a treat to listen to their Southern accents. Cute girls, all three.
The RT Awards was next. I met Meljean Brook! And Lorelie James/Lori Armstrong! The ceremony zipped along—I’m a sucker for funny or sentimental speeches. Romance cheerleaders activate!!
I was really looking forward to the Faery Ball that evening. There were so many fabulous, intricate costumes but the event fell flat for me. The music wasn’t good. I don’t want to hear It’s Raining Men ever again.
Friday was the best day!! The Say Anything YA panel was fantastic. Such smart authors, one of whom looked about 16 but spoke like the PhD student that she was. Loved it!
After that I went to an interesting talk on the self-publishing revolution by Jane Litte, phenom author HP Mallory, and Smashwords founder Mark Coker. It was so nice to meet Jane in person. She’s very articulate and sweeter than I expected.
The last workshop I attended (Romancing the Killer Instinct) was a mixed bag. Barry Eisler is a handsome, charismatic uber-success story and I’m a big fan of Brenda Novak. Another panelist, a small-press author, seemed SO nervous and I felt bad for her. Must be impossible to speak eloquently next to Barry Eisler. Remind me to never try that.
On Friday evening I had dinner with Shauna Summers, Sue Grimshaw, and a bunch of Random House authors. It was lovely and I felt honored to be there.
I rushed to get to the Vampire Ball afterwards, which turned out to be the best party of the convention. The wacky comedy skit confused me (wtf was that?) but I loved the electric atmosphere, and the music was hot. I had to thank Heather Graham at the end of the night. Jolly good show!
Saturday was my last day. I had a blast at the BookFair and met so many awesome readers. Renee from Renee’s Book Addiction, Rowena and Holly from BookBinge, Lori from I Just Finished Reading. Hugs!! Love you guys.
Whew. I’m exhausted just thinking about all the fun I had. But I have a May 1st deadline so I can’t rest. I’m going to be a bit scarce for the next few weeks. If you’re wondering what happened to The Edge of Night photo tour, I’m waiting for approval from the Chula Vista Police Dept. to post my ride-along pics. Hope to share those soon!
THANK YOU to anyone who said hello at RT or bought one of my books. I’m so grateful for readers, bloggers, and reviewers. Couldn’t do this without you!!
Tags: farallon islands, research trips, stranded with her ex
Welcome to the Stranded Photo Tour! Although the official release date is March 22, Amazon says the book is shipping now, so I might as well kick things off. I’ll be doing giveaways and sharing inspirations for the story all next week.
My agent and I took a trip to the Farallon Islands, the setting of Stranded With Her Ex, in the summer of 2008. We’d been at the RWA National Conference for four days straight and were DEAD TIRED as we left Fort Mason by charter boat in the early morning.
My agent, the unsinkable Laurie McLean, made all of the arrangements. She even provided the dramamine, which turned out to be a real lifesaver.
The seas were choppy and it seemed like everyone on the boat was sick. People were totally throwing up left and right! Laurie and I were both a little queasy, despite the medicine. Other passengers who had taken dramamine were getting nauseous. It was rough. And cold! You know that Mark Twain saying, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”? Yeah. I was wearing a thin hooded sweatshirt and a light shawl, so I felt every wind gust. Thankfully, Laurie brought a wool blanket.
One of the passengers, who was also unprepared for the chill, started having convulsions or something. There was a doctor on board but we were all freaked out! I gave him Laurie’s blanket. He threw up on it. Ack!
At this point I thought we were going to have to turn around and head back to the mainland. But the crew was like “eh, sick dude, whatever” and they forged on. Apparently this was business as usual in the San Francisco Bay.
We arrived at the islands a few hours later. They struck me as cold and stark and unimpressive. Perhaps the least romantic place in the universe. I realized that I had my work cut out for me. What kind of crazy person would write a love story in this setting? Jill Sorenson, that’s who! The captain heckled me a bit about the plotline I was brainstorming, but I’m used to being teased in this fashion, and everyone on the crew was eager to answer my questions.
We didn’t see shark fins or elephant seals or anything cool like that. Even so, it was a great trip and a one-of-a-kind experience.
Thanks to Laurie for providing it!