Words Are Hard

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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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Suddenly: A Blog!

Whoops.  I’ve been waaaaaaaaay lax with the posting.  Mostly I’ve been lazy and the longer I go without posting something, the guiltier I (inexplicably) feel and then I continue to avoid it and it all just sorta spirals until oh right this thing exists in the world.

So hi there!

But I have been working and the first half of the story is very near ready for line-editing!  Also: In just a few short days it’ll be NaNo time!  I enjoy NaNo in that I love making myself write so much in so little time.  It’s not good writing, and a lot of it is rambling and babbling and incoherent, but it’s fun nonetheless.  This year is the first year I’ve made myself sit down and plot it all out.  I’m taking a break from writing about Nephilim and decided to write about cliched Circus Vampires ™ in the 1930s American dust-bowl era and their groupies instead.

Told from the first person (ew ew ew I hate writing in first person why did I decide that would be a good idea) point of view of one of those groupies …After she’s been committed to an asylum in the 1940s.

So it’s a family-friendly story.

On a whim I decided to try the snowflake method of outlining because I stumbled across it via Google and it seemed like a good idea.  What I’ve ended up with is the entire book in non-prose form, so that should make this November slightly easier.  Considering how many hours of overtime I’ll be working, that’ll come in handy.  We’ll see.  I’m usually a pantser but considering how much re-writing and trashing and restarting and and and — that I’ve done on The World Outside I’m going to try something different this time around.

So anyway, that’s what I’ve got.  It’s not much but it’ll do for now.  I’ll hopefully remember that I have this thing when I need to whine about how November is (or isn’t) going!  Maybe I’ll stick a lil word counter up in the sidebar.

Hmmm….

Life Is Sorta Funny

I’m trying very hard to stop flaking on this writing thing, but it’s sorta difficult.  Apart from making snarky posts about my work-life, what have I been up to?

Not a whole heck of a lot, really.  I mean, I’ve been working.  Yours truly is now a supervisor and if THAT doesn’t fill you will fear and dread, then you may need to get your doom meter checked.  It’s just one of the many reasons I haven’t been able to really DO anything.  I’m winding down my only day off this week while writing this and when I wake up tonight I have a whole six days back on, two of which are thirteen hour shifts.  It’s also been somehow busier than normal so every day I leave work wanting to punch kittens.

Did I mention I quit smoking in April?  I’ve been on the razor edge of a relapse for the past two weeks now.  I still have some of the medication I took to help me stop, but it makes me very ill so it’s not really an option at this point since I haven’t called into work in over two years and I’m not about to start now.  So far, so good though.

So LOTS of reading has been happening and up until yesterday I was on a sorta kinda forced sabbatical from The Project.  The beginning has been throwing me left, right, and center and I think, given a little bit of poking (and prodding from the spousal unit), that I know how to fix it.  So yippee!  I get to do that this week – maybe.  Writing at work isn’t really an option unless I’m writing by hand (ow ow ow ow), so we’ll see how much inspiration I have after coming home from a night of not being able to strangle nurses who think calling before the body is actually ready is a good thing.

But all that being said: Hooray for upswings!  The fun part about being me is that I have a very, very mild type of mood roller-coaster.  I was diagnosed manic depressive before it became known as bipolar, but I don’t really think of myself as bipolar because it’s been so long since that diagnosis was handed down and things have changed (like puberty – puberty happened).  I’ve gotten very good at picking out when the downswing hits and when the upswing starts so when I’m feeling crappy and teary and whiny for no good reason and I can’t find plot for love nor money, I can recognize it.  It doesn’t make it better, per se, but at least I know that it’ll pass.

I just started the climb back up the coaster so I’ve got at least a month or two (if I’m lucky) of productive good times before I dive back down into the miasma of self loathing.  The medication I’m on isn’t strong, so it takes the edge off, but that’s about it.  I don’t get as high, but I also don’t get as low, so it evens out and, frankly, I’m lucky.  It could be much, much worse.

Anyway, babble babble babble, and apart from sorting the beginning of the story out somewhat, I’ve also got a new set of plot bunnies in the back of my head.  Technically, I suppose, they’re old plot bunnies, but like all things, I finally have a plot to go with the characters.  I started up that bible (lower case ‘b’) last week so maybe when I’m done with this book I can take a break from The World Outside and throw together something (not sure what – whether short-ish novella/story or novel) about lesbians in the circus.  There might also be vampires involved because I don’t like vampires much these days, so if I get to make life hell for a pair of them (the vampires, not the lesbians), I’m going to take that opportunity.

So I’ve been scrambling for books about both the circus and technical theater and in doing so, completely and totally forgot that I’d promised the spousal unit that I’d beta his former student’s sci-fi novel.  There’s also a book a co-worker lent me, as well as a newly acquired steampunk story with skypirates in it, Let The Right One In, and a couple other books recommended to me by way of this post that I wrote back when I didn’t have anything on my plate.

I need to learn how to read faster.

It would also help if this game weren’t so much fun. Nothing free should be this addicting.

Oh. That good huh?

This is going to be a short post, mostly because the upswing hasn’t come ’round yet and I’ve spent more time dramatically sobbing into a pillow than actually being productive. That may or may be hyperbole, but when one of your beta readers is asked the question, “Would you read past the first chapter?” and their resoundingly honest answer is a very blunt, “No.” it sorta bruises the ego.

Thing is (and this is why I haven’t posted any teasers of the first chapter), I know that bit is broken. It’s (no seriously) attempt fourteen or fifteen (or more, I lost count) at starting this dumb thing and every time I try to fix it, the entire story ends up getting changed. Tweaked. Fixed. Rearranged.

That’s not bad, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate it, but it is exhausting. Eventually I’ll be head over heels thanking dog for honest editors, but right now all I have to go on is a no and a vague idea that the info dump is too much, but not where or how. What makes it worse is this particular reader works days while I work nights, he lives an hour away, and has a small toddler at home. What this means is that I am astonished and humbled that he’s actually taken the time to go through my mess, but it also means that sitting down and talking through where the weak spots are and what about them makes the weak is just shy of being a massive headache.

This upsets me because he is actually qualified to tear the ‘script apart and the novel would (will, I suppose because I will figure this out) benefit from every blow he can throw at it.

The silver lining: the Editor (capital-I-am-being-paid-for-my-time-E) is working on it and she is equally qualified to rip it shreds. Obviously. I mean, I wouldn’t be paying her otherwise. She’ll also be much easier to get in contact with.

The second silver lining: People, if you’re going to marry someone, marry someone whose job it is to teach other people how to write. My wonderful husband took a gander and gave his professional assessment:

I think I know how fix it and no, you probably won’t have to rewrite the whole thing but I need to, like, show you because trying to describe it is hard. But like I need to go to rehearsal (did I mention he’s also an actor?) and you need to go to work so we’ll go over it in the morning.

Seven years of wedded bliss people. This is why. Of course now the big jerk won’t wake up…

A quick update post

June was not a good month for me.  July is shaping up to be not much better.  On the upside: I found an editor that will professionally tear apart The World Outside and that includes copy-editing!  And I won’t have to take out a massive loan to make it happen!  I am so excited!  More emotional black eyes!  YAY!  Additional upside: My mom made scotcharoos for the fourth and I, like, snagged a bunch before I left so NOOOOMYAY!

I’ve been working a lot, and there’s a lot of new things for me to do at work now so that’s sapped any and all energy I’ve had.  So while I have been reading a lot (dear Hitchhikers Guide: you have been defeated!  Love, me), no creative juices have been flowing, really.  At least, not many.  Bear with me here kids.  Hopefully the upswing is coming.  It usually does.

So anyway, because I’m keen to prove that I have been really busy the following is a paraphrased conversation I had earlier this morning with a guildmate:

Her:  Yeah, I’m gonna log off and go play this other game now, k?

Me: No worries!  How is that anyway?

Her: I love the events!  And since it’s free–

Me: Wait.  It’s free now?  As in, the whole game is free?

Her: …Yes…

Me: ……..

And then a co-worker had to go and post a screenshot of a raid or instance or whatever that was happening in a game I used to play where, to quote a mutual friend: “Warcraft and Cthulhu had a baby.”

So I’ve been really busy with work and stuff.  Really.

This is somebody else's desktop.

This is somebody else’s desktop.

Happy Father’s Day!

In honor of Father’s Day have a short story about a divine dad’s quest to find a babysitter for his precocious offspring so he can go to the Olympic Games.

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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.

So I Turned 18 on Monday Apparently

Oh noes!

Mostly the natural color – it’s been that way for six (!) years. Normally I’m a medium to light brunette. A friend put some (very subtle) highlights in.

Except for the part where I didn’t.  I mean, I did get older, but I didn’t turn 18.  Add a decade …and some.  I just, y’know, had fun with hair dye.  My mother made the comment awhile back when I first bought this and stated I hadn’t done anything like that since high school.  She’s wrong.  The weirdest color I’ve ever dyed my hair was dark eggplant purple, no bleach, so it looked like a dark burgundy wine color.  Fun, but not exactly out there, if you catch my meaning.

But my hair is the longest it’s ever been and I sort of love it, so I want to have fun with it.  I promised myself that I’d do something fun with my hair once I finished the first draft of The World Outside.  Once I got it into the hands of beta readers.  Well, that happened.  So, since I was getting older, I decided to go blue. 😀

This, I am told by society, is not what a proper adult woman in her late 20s (okay okay early 30s) does with her life.

Oh gods!

I’m surprised that I didn’t even use the second bottle, but it’s good that I have it for future use.

Bugger society.

For real.

But I will admit that this sort of thing is scary if you’ve never done it before.  Oh god!  I have to go to work tonight too!!1!  What if I fry my hair and it all falls out!?

That isn’t what happened.  To be honest I’m not sure what color it’s turned out.  It’s still wet, I don’t have a hair dryer, and I spent the past hour and a half scrubbing the bathtub because blue dye is awesome like that.  *falls over*

If it’s too dark I’ll probably wait for it to fade and then go nuts with the bleach.

So why go about telling you all this?  Because I can and because it’s not often I do silly impulsive things like this, so enjoy your WTF while  you can.

……………………..Okay so two hours later how did it turn out?  Meh, not bad:

Eek

Yeah, that’s a filter. Too bad. I am not at all photogenic.

It’s exactly what I wanted, which is a dark navy blue in sunlight and black/really dark brown in indoor light.  This saves me some uncomfortable questions at work.  Though, I am thinking that this turning out the way I wanted means I will probably use more bleach and a brighter blue next time.  We’ll see.

A Place To Call Home

*cracks knuckles*

I mentioned the last post that short stories are not my strong suit, so I’m taking the opportunity while in hurry up and wait mode to practice.  And because I now have a soapbox from which to proclaim all my lovely thoughts and feelings, you get to read my bungling attempts at this stuff too.

Lucky you!

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Characters and Such

I want to write more short stories in this universe I somehow cobbled together and as I do, I’ll post them.  Short stories are one area (of several) where I’m not very strong.  You may have noticed I have a tendency to ramble.  This “skill” lends itself better to longer works.

A lot of the plotted stories (oh wow, planning!) will have to do with the minor characters that, while I love them, I wasn’t able to provide with as much “screen time” as I’d have liked.  To satisfy my need to write about them, you get to deal with drabbles about them.

Important Note:  While I’m only human and will mess up from time to time, this blog is as bigotry-free as I can possibly make it.  If things like boys (and probably later: girls) kissing makes you want to start ranting and raving and screaming about eternal damnation (or even if you’re just tempted to drop a “friendly” – these things are never actually friendly – note quoting the Bible at me like I’ve never read it before) then a) what are you doing here seriously?  And b) please just take your toys and go away because those sorts of comments are just going to get deleted.

All good?  Good.

Now let me introduce you to three who will be coming up in a couple days:

  • Theo is a Native American nephilim more at home in the big city than on the open plains.  He was born blind, is a master of close hand to hand combat, and sports a temper shorter than your average Smurf.
  • Simon is Theo’s saccharine sweet and eternally curious about everything ever nephilim boyfriend.  He also looks like somebody took him and dropped him in a vat of chalk dust and this makes him slightly self conscious.  He may also still be learning how to human because he grew up …elsewhere.
  • Raphael in the normal Christian centric myth is the turtle what uses the twin sai the archangel tied up with healing.  Here we’ve gone a step further: he’s got Life and Creation (though in his case it’s more creative than creating) in his corner too.  He’s probably had one too many glasses of wine – or hits on the bong, depending on the decade.

Those are the three you get.  Their story will be up soon!

As a general rule, my stories are probably best classified as “urban fantasy” – I write about nephilim and mythological figures like angels and demons in the modern day.  I love mythology and I love mucking about with parallel myths.  I also really like humanizing mythological figures.  So there’s that.

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