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Writer, Messenger, and Professional Weirdo
Yay! Pictures! Pop Quiz! What do all these pictures have in common:
If you said:
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Full disclosure: This is not a funeral home whose phones I have ever answered but the “it’s taking too long to get the cremains back!” is a message I’ve taken many, many, many times for several dozen different places.
Unfortunately where I am I can’t watch the video and it doesn’t say in the article how long the families were kept waiting. To be honest though, I think anything over a week is too long and I’ve talked to families who’ve been kept waiting several weeks. Understandably, they were less than thrilled.
Of course my first instinct is to shield the director because he pays for the service that gives me a paycheck and there are several people in the world who don’t understand that the one thing funeral homes don’t usually do is pick the body up and immediately chuck it in the fire. I have talked to nurses who make sure I know to tell the director to not cremate the body until the family has had a chance to view it.
So. Um. Speaking of people who should know better…
Things that I know that I can’t actually tell you while I have you on the phone because I’m expected to play a certain degree of dumb: A funeral home cannot (and will not) cremate a body until all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. If they don’t wait until that’s done, they’re either in a place where the laws are really relaxed (not likely) or in big trouble because that is a HUGE no no. Oy.
So I’ve heard anywhere from 24 hours (if it’s prearranged and the family/doctor/coroner has already signed off on it and even then, while close, it’s not a pick up-chuck into fire situation) to a week. If it takes anything more than that people start getting irritated because memorial services start getting pushed back. Burials don’t happen (yes, people bury urns – my grandfather was cremated and buried in a garbage disposal at his request …that should tell you everything about my sense of humor right there). Stuff like that.
And like I said, my first instinct is to shield the director, but I can’t wrap my head around this one. How long did the families wait? The wording on the article is weird and sounds like the bodies were actually just stashed in the shop. If that’s the case: dude wtf?!
Also: Y’know. Randomly. I think the comment on the article calling for the directors to be jailed for life is a tad excessive. Perspective, my darlings. The dead don’t care if they’re left hanging before the barbeque. They ain’t goin’ anywhere on account of a sudden case of dead.
I feel for the families. I do. Every time I take that sort of message I feel bad, because I am a human being with who still knows what the word empathy means. But the dead have no such feels to give. They weren’t killed by the director. They were just left hanging, and there is a massive world of difference between the two.
I also note that nobody’s pointed this out:
WTF is a funeral home doing with a second hand store? Think about that for a minute. Do you really want to shop there?
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