Words Are Hard

Writer, Messenger, and Professional Weirdo

Category Archives: Controversial Statement

Picture time!

Yay!  Pictures!  Pop Quiz!  What do all these pictures have in common:

If you said:

  • They are all examples of awesome books.
  • They are six of yours truly’s favorites.
  • Every single character on each of these covers is white.
  • All of the above.

The answer is D: All of the above, but before breaking out the pitchforks, I’d like to point out it’s the covers I’m on about, not the content of the books.  Mercedes Lackey is pretty in your face about sexuality, Jim Butcher has characters from all over.  Ditto for Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  Pratchett (and I picked that book in particular for a reason) is pretty vocal about deconstructing racism in many of his books and he’s funny when he does it.  Double win.  So content is not an issue here.

What is an issue is that you can walk down the fantasy/sci-fi section in any book store and be hard pressed to find a cover that doesn’t feature that lovely Caucasian look.  We default to it.  Granted, you might find one or two and, as time goes on, you’ll find more and more and that is a good thing.  Having a white person on the cover of a book isn’t bad.  Having nothing but white people sorta is yeah – especially when other people exist in the world.  Hello!

Like I said: we default to white.  Especially if we are white (hi!).  My leading lady, Sam?  Her looks were based off of a mix of this lovely lady and this one – because I am no less susceptible to falling into the default rut than anyone else.

Then something weird and totally unintentional happened.  I sat down to write the second draft.  Joseph stopped being a priest and Sam’s hair got curly.  A person whose intentions I’m sure were pure [sarcasm tag] pointed out that an urban fantasy novel with an obviously African American lead (that’s right: curly black hair = obvious African American) wouldn’t sell easily.

Thank you Mister Fillion.

So what did I do?

Nothing, actually.  It became a quirky side-story to tell and make people laugh or roll their eyes.   I didn’t change her personality, her description, nada.  She’s pure nut-bar pixie dream girl who will mess you up if you look at her boyfriend funny.  She’s been that way since her initial makeover during that fateful November.  If people wanted to see Sam as black I was totally okay with that.  I couldn’t (and still can’t) think of a good reason why it would be a bad thing.  Then the time came to describe her to my cover artist, because yeah, Sam’s going on the cover.

And while I realized that it didn’t matter to me what color her skin was, I could do one of two things:  I could “correct” the assumption that curly black hair = dark skin, because that’s just a dumb assumption to make no matter what.  Or I could jump in with both feet and go, “Yes, this creative, spacy, smartass hyperactive half angel superhero who is her boyfriend’s knight in shining armor is, in fact, a black girl.”

And if it really didn’t matter to me, then why couldn’t she be?  We’ve got plenty of pretty pale girls in the genre and Sam is not herself if she isn’t standing out from the crowd.  She usually does this by wearing Rainbow Brite arm warmers, mind you, but y’know: whatever.

And if having a black girl on the cover of my self-published e-book means I don’t sell a copy to someone, then gosh I …I just don’t know what I’d do!  /sob

That may have been a lie.

This happened unintentionally.  At first, Joseph didn’t have a last name.  When I actually needed to give him a last name it took me a very long time before (and writers will understand what I mean when I say this) he just sort of sat down in my head, exasperated, and said: Singh.

Oh.

Well okay then.

I didn’t start out to make a statement with my characters.  It sorta happened and I’m good with going with the flow.  My first goal is to tell an entertaining story.  If I manage that and just one person who hasn’t had much in the way of heroes to look up to finds one in Sam or Joseph (or Ben, or Gretchen, or Theo, or Simon – have I mentioned that the majority of the cast is not white?) then awesome.

I hold no illusions.  This will never ever be my day job.  My book isn’t going to end up in the fantasy/sci-fi aisle at your local bookstore so putting characters with darker skin on my cover isn’t going to make the slightest dent there.  It makes my job more interesting because what does a white girl know about this sort of thing?  How do you write a character of color?

Gosh!  Turns out it’s not a whole lot different from writing a white character.  You give them flaws and strengths and personality quirks, just like any other character.  You make them as rounded and real as you possibly can while avoiding the landmine field that is offensive stereotypes which really isn’t that hard.  And then you hope you did it right and if you didn’t, you listen to critique and then you apologize and change what needs to be changed.  Chances are if you treated your characters like people you did mostly okay.  At least, I hope so.

I also trust that if I hit on something offensive by accident, my friends would graciously beat the ever loving snot out of me until the stupid went away.

Here, have a bunny:

BUNNY!

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Hello I Have Opinions

NOTE: I’ve come to the conclusion that it feels sort of fake for me, one to whom verbal cursing comes naturally, to try and cover every f-bomb with something clever (that is very rarely actually clever) – and we’re all adults here, right?  Right.  I apologize if swearing offends you, but it’s starting to grate on me and this is my blog so bugger it.  Onwards!

I am convinced that the entire internet exists for no other reason than to make me uncomfortable while in the very same moment making me insanely jealous at everyone elses’ apparent expertise with social media.  Lookit me blog this!  And Facebook that!  And Instagram this!  And Twittertwittertwitter!

I still do not get Twitter.  Or Tumblr.  It’s frustrating but for me it’s like barging into a party like a clumsy ox where everybody knows everybody so now you stand around awkwardly going, “Um, hi?  Hello?  Will you be my friend please?  I make cookies!”

I do make cookies, by the way.  They are awesome.

This time of year is also a very uncomfortable year for me.  I grew up surrounded by pomp and circumstance (Catholic) and thus all the Season-y Greetings started to grate and nowadays I can’t stomach them for very long.  I’ve also developed some fairly strong opinions on things that tend to clash with the cheery feel-goods of the holiday season.

*Gets out soapbox.*

I’m an atheist and while I give zero fucks how many “Merry Christmas!”es I hear in a given season, it’s also very difficult for me to not launch into a tirade every time I hear things like “Remember the reason for the season!” while people are breaking down the doors at the nearest Target to get the new Barbie doll or whatever.

I do all my Christmas shopping online (yes, we do celebrate – with a TARDIS on top of the tree and everything!).

It’s also the season of bell ringers and it’s always very, very uncomfortable to walk by the box and not drop anything in.  I haven’t donated to the Salvation Army in years because while things may not be as bad as they seem, they are bad enough that there are better places to spend my donation money.

*Slides soapbox back under the bed*

So it’s a stressful time of the year for me for a bunch of different reasons.  November is usually a lot of fun, because NaNo, but this year I found myself stuck with hours and hours and hours of overtime.  I left work every morning and the last thing I wanted after 60 hours (6 days of 10 hour shifts) was to be responsible about something.  About halfway through the month I realized that writing was so far down the list of priorities for the month that winning NaNo was not going to happen.

And once I realized that, the pressure was off and winning NaNo did, in fact, happen.  Barely.

It was sort of a spotty month though.

This year NaNo taught me several things:

  1. I despise, with the passion of a thousand red belching heartburn plagued anthropomorphic volcanoes, writing in first person.
  2. It’s possible for me to hate my main character enough that I changed perspectives halfway through so I just didn’t have to deal with her.
  3. It’s my secret shame that I’m very rarely able to create a character who possesses a vagina that I don’t also immediately want to throttle.  I don’t know if this is some sort of subconscious self-loathing or what, but I suppose it’ll be something to work on.  Maybe if I shake them hard enough character development will start falling out.
  4. I really hate vampires.

But I still managed to make words on pages happen in large chunks during the very small amount of free-time I had.  That’s got to count for something, right?

So now it’s back to working on the book and some short stories and maybe if I grow a spine I’ll send some off and we’ll see what happens.

…And while I’m dreaming I’d like a pony…

P.S. No, you can’t have a pony. Or a moose. Or a mantis shrimp. Or a tardigrade. Or a crab. Keep trying though.

Aw. 😦

A Quandry

Sorry about flaking on Friday.  Last week was something of a busy and not very good week for me.  Erk.

Anyway, I come to you this morning looking for some help!  I read my escapist stuff sort of fast, so having finished Y: The Last Man I’m on the hunt for something new.

As for Y: The Last Man, I enjoyed it, actually.  I only had two issues with it:

Evolution doesn’t work that way and shock! deaths always tick me off because there was absolutely no reason for the deaths that happened other than the author wanted to tug at the proverbial heart strings.  It’s 99% of the reason I don’t really watch anything Joss Whedon puts out these days unless it’s been vetted to be Not Typical Joss, because it’s sort of pointless to get invested in his stories and characters because they’ll all just randomly die whenever Joss gets bored.

Why yes, I did find end of the Harry Potter series to be as satisfying as a cake made out of dirt, why do you ask?

*cough*

Anyway, seriously, I could’ve taken any other explanation for the “plague” – anything!  I’ll buy aliens, fairies, magic artifacts, A Wizard Did Itany bloody thing but pseudo-magic-science that they used.  When you try to have a real world explanation for something that is obviously absurd, try to make sure it’s something that can actually happen or at least reasonably believable.

/end rant

I’ve got the rest of Fables to catch up on, and a couple “new” series – Unwritten and Locke & Key – in the to-read pole.  They’re all comics and I’m sort of comic-ed out at the moment.  I’m slowly, painfully slogging my way through The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and while it’s fun, I don’t remember it being this much of a chore the first time through.  I’m eying Neil Gaiman’s new book but while I acknowledge that Gaiman is brilliant and ten times the writer I will ever be, the books themselves are hit or miss for me.  I’m not quite up to paying almost thirteen bucks for a book that I might end up loving as much as American Gods, but could just as easily end up bored with it ala Stardust (confession: one of the few times in my life where I’ve enjoyed the movie more than the book eek).

So what I basically want, at this point, is fun, escapist easy read stuff that I can get through in a night (so anywhere from 200-300 pages) and after looking at this and this (or hey, even closer to my own genre: this) I’m totally open to suggestions because what the heck.

I’m sure some of those books are actually very good but does there exist a book in the urban fantasy/modern-ish supernatural genre that does not have on its cover a sultry white woman (matching white dude and his washboard abs optional)?  Because they’re all appearing the same to me and that makes me sad because variety, spice of life, etc.

Here’s (essentially) what I’m lookin’ for:

  1. No vampires.
  2. If the main character is a woman, that she not only be able to save her own damned self, but is actually the one saving the dude and not the other way ’round.
  3. Romance is fine, but see point #2.
  4. If the main character is a dude can we please not with the washboard abs and the brooding emotional maturity of a sack of rocks disguised as him being deep and mysterious.
  5. A gay/lesbian/transgendered MC would be a definite plus.
  6. No vampires.
  7. Creative use of zombies is acceptable and encouraged.
  8. Werewolves will be considered on a case by case basis.
  9. No vampires.
  10. Fairies/Arcadia/changelings are pushing it but will be considered.
  11. Angels and demons are awesome.
  12. If the main character is female she is not allowed to be described using the following adjectives: clumsy, plain, boring, average – because we all know she’s not.  Additional unacceptable adjective: pale because every heroine is a boring average pale girl, can I please read about something else?
  13. A Wizard Did It?  Yes.  Anything in the vein of Harry Dresden would be super-awesome.
  14. Oh let’s stop being around the bush: If the MC is not white that’s not only fine, but encouraged.
  15. Cheap!  Anywhere between .99 cents and 5 bucks – most suggestions that fall in that price range will be indy and that’s cool.
  16. No *&*#ing vampires.

The floor is now open to suggestions!

Ack!

Since I started this blog last month I had a good buffer of posts ready to go, but it appears time has finally decided to get down and truly be a terrible, fleeting thing so that buffer has run out. You may have noticed that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are post days generally. Oh noes! It’s Thursday already and I have nothing for Friday!

So here, because the proverbial black eyes I asked for are starting to roll in: a rant on feedback, inspired by one too many writers going off the way wrong way after getting constructive criticism. Also notes to self because I’m going to need it in the coming weeks here. I cannot swear enough, people.

After reading the feedback our “friends” gave us: I HATE EVERYTHING

Getting feedback – real, very critical feedback – is a lot like working out (I imagine – I’m sort of allergic to working out). It can leave you feeling like you’ve just taken a good crowbar to the gut. You get the wind knocked out of you because you find out you’re not half as clever as you thought you were and all those funny little moments that you thought were genius actually weren’t. You want to curl up into a ball and cry and never, ever let anyone read anything you write ever again. In fact, you don’t even want to write anymore because OBVIOUSLY WE’RE JUST NOT ANY GOOD AT IT.

The reality is more complicated. Stick with me here. The beta readers are on your side. Unless they’re total asshats in which case they’re not going to be helpful and need to be ditched ASAP. I wish I had an easy to spot solution for finding out who is trying to help and who is just worthless, but I don’t.

And after the workout you’re sore. Your ego hurts. It hurts because this is your baby. You have spent days, months, years, a lifetime of anguish to get these words onto the page(screen). We suffer for our art. Even comedians are drawing the funny from a very dark well. These words are a part of who you are. The story is, in some primal way, your life and to have someone point out that maybe it’s not quite as solid as you thought hurts in an almost physical way.

But hey, we’re all adults here. We’ve been hurt before – it’s what led us to do what we do. I hate being told that, as a writer, I need to have a thick skin. I know this get off my case and let me sob into my beer gawd!

Ahem. Let’s assume that people are generally good. This is difficult for me so you’ll have to bear with me. I’m sort of a misanthrope. So somehow I have to convince myself that getting critical feedback is a lot less like getting beaten to a bloody pulp by a gang of forty and more like this:

After the sore, if you keep at it, you start seeing results. You’re story starts toning up. It starts building muscle. And it starts lookin’ good. Your beta readers are the gym baby and after awhile you start to feel like dancing because you have all the energy and there’s a healthy glow about you and you’re ready to face the WORLD!

HERE IS MY BOOK WORLD! READ IT! READ! ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

And it all comes crashing down after one stupid review on Amazon, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet, so my delusions, let me keep them.

Anyway! Coming up on Sunday I actually do have a post, in honor of Father’s Day. I’m not a fan of this day, generally speaking, but I do have a minor character who is a dad and the idea for the drabble was a cute one (shut up it is) so two plus two equals special post!

Note to self: go through said post and remove spoilers from said drabble, dummy.

Also incoming is a review (!!!). While I’ve definitely done some heavy-handed critique (my snark can get pretty epic, but I only break that out for people I know very well because generally speaking, they ask for it and give as good as they get *see above creys*), I’ve never done, like, a review before. I finished The Pull by Rob White last night at work, enjoyed it, and I’ve got some digesting to do before I get some thoughts together about it but really quickly: if you’re looking for something fun to read in your down time, definitely check it out.

I think that’s your lot.

Wait no. Have a Sassy Dancing Ood:

Now we’re done.

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Author, ranter, dad

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