Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Little Mantra

My political views do not make me a loser just because the side I voted for lost. This loss does not make my views wrong. My gender does not mean I'm less than. Neither my upbringing nor my blonde hair mean I'm ignorant. Neither my kindness nor my life choices make me stupid. My anger on behalf of the oppressed does not make me hateful. My anger at violence does not make me personally violent.

I am an intelligent, educated, compassionate, cultured, well-traveled, open-minded, endlessly empathetic, ever-reading, ever-seeking writer, musician, artist, and student of life, who cares about people and animals and the planet. Yes, my heart bleeds for them all. No, that's not a bad thing. It is a bad thing to stop caring; it is a bad thing to stop evolving. It is a good thing to be cautious; it is a bad thing to live in fear.

I am far from perfect. There are more things I don't know than things I do. Sometimes I hate myself. Sometimes I give in to fear and spiral out of emotional control. But I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and there is comfort in that. Life has an ebb-and-flow rhythm; this also is comforting. Eventually, it's all going to be okay. Just love, love, love.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I don't know.

I haven't posted on this blog in ages. It's practically defunct now. Probably less than one person will even see this post. Whatever. I'm having a difficult time coping with the outcome of this election. I have never been a person who harbors anger or resentment. It has always been very easy for me to see the other side of an argument, to see where someone else is coming from, to let things go. If someone honks at me in traffic and then speeds around me and cuts me off, I always think, "Maybe they're on their way to the hospital. Maybe they're having the worst day imaginable." That's where my brain goes. I do not like to engage in chaos and historically have refused to give it my time and energy. I do not like to perpetuate negativity. But I'm dealing with a lot of negativity, a lot of anger over this. I don't understand the other side of this argument. I can't see where the conservatives are coming from. I find it outrageous that any reasonable person could accept this man for the highest office in our country. I'm dumbfounded and flabbergasted and befuddled and flummoxed and a hundred other colorful words that brighten up this sentence in a hopelessly grey post. There have been so many deal-breakers here. Many times over he should have cancelled himself out. But people said, "Nah. That's no problem for me." Or maybe didn't even give it that much consideration--maybe there are people out there that have yet to be confronted with these arguments. Maybe that's where the real issue lies--maybe people just haven't been informed. I don't know how anyone with any sort of online presence could have missed all this craziness but I suppose it's possible. Either way, it hurts. I'm sad and scared for minority groups who must now face oppression and hatefulness on a whole new, much deeper level. I'm angry at people's apathy about this. I'm angry at the hate, the violence, the anti-intellectualism, and the gaslighting. I'm angry that they could turn a blind eye or try to play the equivalence game and make out like the two candidates were essentially identical. They weren't. One is a decent human being. The other is a sleezeball is not a decent human being.

Every time I read or studied about radical, turbulent times in our history, whether in elementary school or college, I always thought, "Well, at least we've gotten past all of that. At least we don't have to fight those battles anymore." I thought we were more evolved than this. I truly thought we had progressed past this point. Now, I admit freely that my understanding is colored by my own privileged experience. The only discrimination I have received in my life has been for my feminine gender, my blonde hair, my very pale skin, and my weight. I have not grown up with black or brown skin, or a religion that is seen as Other; I have not grown up LGBTQ+ so of course it was much easier for me to blindly think, "Thank goodness we don't behave that way anymore." But I still thought there was an element of, "We find this unacceptable and we won't let it get that bad again." But here we are. Swastikas being painted on buildings, nooses being painted on vans, slurs being spoken, punches being thrown. And regardless of a person's reasons for voting for him, they have to see that he spoke to these hateful groups--that these hateful groups found something they liked in his rhetoric. How do people justify that? How can they qualify it or compartmentalize it? How do they ever stop thinking about those who are genuinely affected by this? Because I don't. I can't.

Monday, July 4, 2016

I Used to Wish I was a Vampire, but Now I'd Rather Just Have Clones

As I sit on the edge of my couch, not enjoying its cushioned comfort due to an obscene excess of fireworks booming just outside my door, I contemplate my otherwise lovely holiday weekend. My husband had the day off and we spent the day playing with our 1-year-old daughter, strolling her around the mall and such, and discussing our various projects. We are both very creatively involved. We each have multiple creative pursuits to pull our attention at any given moment.

For my part, I'm working on my new novel, a YA dystopia, of which I will say very little at this time, while also doing some light editing of Lone March, for a quiet second edition release at some point in the future. This clean-up is mostly for formatting issues, however, after careful consideration, I have decided to revise bits and pieces, mostly in Book One and mostly in the first chapter. I have toned down March's menstruation ignorance and made less of a show of her whole experience there. Most of that was written before I really knew who the character was. At the time, I was in the midst of writing my first novel, a funny confessional, and was still very much in the humor mindset, so naturally it leaked over into Moon-Linked. Even after I did learn who March was, I kept all that because I staunchly believed in the importance of the earliest possible opportunity to fit some humor into my otherwise bleak tale. But after some time, I've come to realize how much some of that stands apart from the rest of the series and the rest of March's characterization. So I have eliminated a few things. They are small and you probably wouldn't notice, if you were to re-buy Moon-Linked, which is something I don't know why you would need to do. But the book will be better, in my opinion, for future readers and strengthen the series as a whole. So there, I'm glad I got that off my chest!

I'm also finishing up some post issues with the paperback version of Book Seven and hoping to be done with it once and for all very soon. That will feel good.

My big news is that I have begun the recording for the Moon-Linked audio book! WooHoo! I have wanted to do the audio books since I first started writing the series and have thought often about it and I'm so excited it's finally happening! My husband helped me set up my own private little recording booth in my closet and got me set up with all the gear and told me how to work it and I've already gotten nearly 1/3 of the way through the first book. I can't wait to read the really fun bits! My plan is to release them chapter-by-chapter on Youtube, with a new chapter coming out every week, but for those unwilling to wait, I will also release them through audible and iTunes. I don't know how long the recording and editing process might take for each book but I would imagine it will be a while. Book One is the shortest in the series so hopefully the turnaround there won't be too bad, but I will keep you all updated on our progress.

I feel a bit bad for taking up so much of my husband's free time on his day off to help me with this, since he has so much on his plate already, but he is very supportive and always happy to help. Besides working full time to support us and our baby, he has occasional side projects that demand his attention and a web series with his friends that he produces, directs, and edits himself. If you are familiar with D&D, and especially if you're NOT familiar with it but would like to know more about it or perhaps start playing, you should check it out. We are also concocting a couple of ideas for some other web series we want to do so that's demanding a bit of our time as well. So I really just wish we could have clones, like that movie, Multiplicity, with Michael Keaton. And I could send one off to work on the new book, and Travis could send one off to his day job, and we could send a couple more off to work on all these web shows, and the audio books and so on, and we could just hang out with our daughter all day. Actually, wait, I really want to read the audio books. I don't want a clone doing that--I didn't think this through! Hmm...Maybe we just need to get better at time management. But no matter how you slice it, our plates are Thanksgiving-Feast-Full.

So some exciting things on the horizon over here! I hope you guys are as excited as I am! If you have thoughts one way or the other about audio books, read by the author, not read by the author, reading books/series more than once, reading books/series in multiple formats, like digital, audio, paperback, let me know in the comments. I'm very curious to see where other people stand on this and I'm really interested in finding out how people feel about author-read audio books. In fact, I've even put up a poll on my Twitter page, so participate if you are so inclined!

Happy 4th!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why Harry Potter and Twilight can Coexist and Everything Will be Fine (Or a Harry Potter Fan Makes a Case for Twilight)

Disclaimer #1: If you hate the Harry Potter vs Twilight debate, then use your common sense and don't read this post, it will just make you angry. That's how I ended up here, posting on this topic.

Disclaimer #2: I can speak with authority on all these things, having read them multiple times and seen all the movies more times than I can count.

First of all, let me just say I totally agree with the statement in the above image. "The Prince's Tale" (Chapter 33 of Deathly Hallows) is LIFE. It's beautiful and heart-rending and so, so tragic. It's why Snape became my favorite HP character. And JKR is a master craftsman. She built a world of Tolkien proportions--I would even argue that she built a richer world than Tolkien, in terms of character development and lore rules/standards/history. (And I spent years watching the LOTR trilogy quarterly, as in every three months, so you know I love Tolkien's writing. Reading LOTR goes without saying, as per Disclaimer #2.) Setting aside that brief comparison to LOTR, let's get back on topic.

Harry Potter is BY FAR the superior tale to Twilight FULL STOP.

HOWEVER, comparing Harry Potter to Twilight is comparing apples to oranges. The only things these two disparate series have in common is that they both deal with adolescents and they each have an equally rabid fandom. And Robert Pattinson.

Oh yeah, and Bonnie Wright and Jamie Campbell Bower were engaged for a while. And apparently Emma Watson and Kristen Stewart are buddies. The common ground stops there!

Yes, I agree that Bella Swan is an underdeveloped character who is often pigeonholed as the damsel in distress within the context of the story. And that, in comparison (as pointless as comparison is here) Hermione Granger is a strong, intelligent, capable young woman who GETS SHIT DONE. I also agree that the theme of Twilight is largely, "I will die without this other person."

But here's my argument: So what if that's the theme? Are we now saying that simply because the greatest fantasy epic of our time actually EXISTS that we can no longer enjoy a good old fashioned romance? How come we're not seeing this debate play out between Harry Potter and Insert Nora Roberts Novel Here? Well that's easy, because Twilight is YA; the characters in each series are roughly the same age as each other for most of it. With this logic, one could make the argument that Fenrir Grayback and Remus Lupin are essentially the same because they're both werewolves. What?! Or that Remus and Jacob Black are...okay, I digress. Forget this, let's move on.

People act as if the two are competing for the same title. They're not. They're separate genres. Well, they're both Fantasy, but one is Epic Magical Adventure and the other is Paranormal Romance. So I guess I should say they're separate sub-genres. The point is they can coexist.

Furthermore, I would like to set the record straight about this:

Yes, when Ron left, Hermione carried on. Because she's a total effing badass. Yes, when Edward left, Bella was overcome with depression. But that's okay. For one, Bella wasn't facing a genocidal war. There was no dark wizard for her to fight. So who cares if she wants to wallow? For two, the whole point of the story is her love for this guy. Would it really have been believable if she had just dusted herself off and said, "Oh, well, where's Jacob? He'll do just as well." I love getting into the melancholy and the malaise and the total emo-kid turns a character can take (like Harry in Order of the Phoenix). But then, I wrote The Lone March series, so, you know, it's clearly my thing. As a writer, it can be fun to explore the gloomy, moody emotions of your main character. When I wrote the character of March Howe, I straight up wallowed in her wallowing. I loved it!

And here's the other thing, by the end of that book, the same one where Bella spent four months somehow evading her clinical diagnosis, while the reader turned blank pages--which, by the way, I thought was pretty cool for the reader to be confronted with--she ends up rescuing Edward. She races across continents and runs head-first into a deadly coven's lair in order to save Edward from exposing himself and getting killed. Because that's the other side of this that no one seems to mention: Edward was just as depressed as Bella, arguably more so because he was actually going to get himself killed when he thought Bella was dead. It's all so wonderfully emo and narrowly misses its fate as being 'Romeo and Juliet with Vampires'. I mean, it kind of is, except for the tragic death scenario.

Now, I'm not going to delve too deeply into the arguments about the themes that many claim Twilight promotes, like domestic violence and abusive relationships, anti-abortion, religious undertones, etc. and so on. Or the fact that Harry Potter's themes are just, like, way better, you guys. But that's a hefty discussion for a different day. I will say though that there is something incredibly readable about Twilight. It awakens the thirteen-year-old in many of us girls and reflects a common fantasy of finding the perfect guy, who loves you for you, even if you're not the prettiest girl in school, or the thinnest, or the most popular. It's about finding a guy who can protect you, and, above all, pays attention to you and listens when you speak. I think that may be the most enticing part of the romance genre in general, at least for me anyway. I'm not a Fifty Shades kind of girl--BLECH--the sex doesn't draw me in to a tale of romance. It's the part about commanding the complete attention of the opposite sex. And that's why Twilight is in the fantasy genre, ladies, because guys who give you true undivided attention AND actually care what you have to say 24/7--like 24/7--is rare in my experience. And of course the idea of living forever with the one you love. Nothing wrong with that.

The point is, it doesn't matter that it's basically an indisputable fact that Harry Potter is better than Twilight. Harry Potter is better than most things in the world--and not just books. But that doesn't mean that Twilight is the absolute worst thing in the world either. It's fun for what it is. And I will probably read it again. You know, when I'm finished re-reading Harry Potter for the second time this year.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Why You Shouldn’t Stop Spending Money on Your Kids
(Even if they Get an Allowance)

By Erin Irvin

Can you name two topics where unsolicited advice is flat out infuriating? My picks are Parenting and Money! Put your hands together and you’ve got an internet bomb just waiting to go off. However, after reading some articles recently about things you should make your kids pay for from their allowance, I have a rebuttal.

Yes, we should teach our kids the value of money, how to save and spend responsibly, but I don't agree with this increasingly popular notion of making your kids pay for every extraneous expense from their own allowance. I grew up in a family with four kids and parents with blue collar jobs, who did the best they could for us. But we also didn't get to set foot in toy stores and never got any new toys unless it was our birthday or Christmas. And as an adult now, I feel there was a level of deprivation there that kids shouldn't have to deal with.

I’m not saying I resent my parents for this. I understand where this decision came from. My practical mother, who was juggling four kids alongside a 9-5 job (and making home-cooked meals and cleaning the whole house from top to bottom every weekend by the way!) didn’t want to deal with taking us places where there would be things we wanted, like the toy store, when she couldn’t afford to get those things for us. So rather than seeing the disappointment on our faces (or hearing it in our voices) she circumvented the whole thing by just plain not taking us to those places. I get it.

But you only get to be a carefree kid for a few short years. Let them have an ice cream treat on a summer Saturday without stressing over spending their allowance. Let them have that action figure they've been wanting, even if it's not a holiday and, again, without pulling in the anxiety of wondering if they can afford it. My first instinct is always, "I can't spend money on that, that's too expensive, it's not necessary so why get it?" because this is what I learned growing up. I often heard, “No, you don’t need that.” It was true, I didn’t need another Barbie doll, or the stuffed monkey, or the travel size Guess Who game. But childhood shouldn’t always be about Need and never about Want. I can tell you that it taught me to be so strict with myself that I feel I’m never allowed to do anything fun because I feel like I don’t deserve it.

I understand this may make me sound shallow for valuing material goods, or ungrateful for all the wonderful things I did get growing up. I also know there are plenty of children out there who don’t get anything, who are abused or ill or wards of the state, and that toys and treats are low priorities for children who have little. But this is all the more reason to do what you can to make your own children’s lives magical and, yes, a little frivolous. Sadly, we can’t save every needy child from poverty, no matter how much we give to charity, but we can strive to do more to brighten our own kids' days.

So can we just be a little stricter with ourselves as parents, and adults, to save up our own allowances? We can still teach our kids the value of money with small allowances and take them places to spend it, but we should also set aside fun money, reserved for spending on our kids, in situations where they should just be kids and have carefree fun. These years are precious and finite, and they will spend the rest of their lives worrying about making rent and paying bills and saving for big expenses. Give them the break while they can get away with taking it.