Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seriously. Don't do this.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my brother's death. Just like clockwork, about a week ago I started getting postcards and letters from complete strangers assuring me that they know exactly how I feel. Um, no, you don't. Most of the people writing to me have never lost a family member in the first place, fewer still have lost one to warfare, and none at all are me. Don't presume to tell someone you know how their grief feels, especially when it's new. (And I started getting these letters in the first week after my brother's death, without any explanation of how they got my address in the first place. I'm not in the book.)

I've always had a knee-jerk cringe reaction to people who spin out elaborate mourning rituals for the deaths of celebrities (or worse, the relatives of celebrities). You don't know these people. You aren't a part of their family. You show more respect by keeping your distance, especially when the person you're pretending to mourn wasn't a public figure to begin with.

Granted, I realize that the people writing me are acting out of a sincere desire to be patriotic. If that's the case, lobby for the Veterans' Administration to get better funding. Pay attention to international events so you actually know what's going on in the world. Sit with a veteran for awhile. Please don't send me letters and postcards (most of them acting as if it happened yesterday, too, which makes it even more surreal) when you don't know me, my brother, or, more often than not, any soldiers either alive or dead. That's not grief, that's macabre performance art.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Everyone has to make a 50 Shades post sooner or later, right?

Jennifer Armintrout takes apart 50 Shades of Gray.

Oh, lord, 50 Shades. I have so many mixed feelings about this book. (Not about the quality, however. Never about the quality.) On the one hand: ye gods, it is a terrible, awful book that puts forth the same gender stereotypes and romanticized abuse as Twilight, James just takes the erotic undertones of Meyer and makes them explicit. It makes me twitch.

On the other hand, just like so much of the criticism of Twilight centers around icky girls daring to like icky girl things, much of the criticism of 50 Shades centers around icky women daring to like icky women things. (Plus a general "ewww, kink" reaction, which--um, if your objection is that Ana and Christian have a fundamentally abusive relationship, that's 'cause they do, and would even if they were vanilla enough to make an ice cream cone blush. Bedroom dynamics and accessories have nothing to do with it.)

Armintrout's review of 50 Shades has me howling with laughter because she appears to have grown a penis solely to accommodate the hate-boner she has for this book, and yet she can't look away. And that's sort of Meyer and James in a nutshell. Armintrout does a wonderful job of going chapter-by-chapter and discussing why Christian is an abuser, though, and she does it without once heading into a kink-shaming place. It also doesn't hurt that she's screamingly funny.

(I have womanfully resisted doing any Twilight reviews on this blog even though I read all of the damned things, because it seemed like a bit of piling-on. But when The Host comes out in theaters, I will probably not be able to stop myself. That book was--it was like looking into Meyer's psyche on so many levels, and it was horrifying. I screamed at the book as if Meyer could hear me through it. More than once. In public places.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Character Spotlight: J

If you had superpowers, would you automatically use them to do the right thing? Uphold law and order, stop supervillains and rescue stranded kittens from trees? In Super, the answer is an unequivocal "yes." Ophelia has a clarity of purpose that few of the other women in the series can touch. She wakes up in the morning knowing exactly who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

J is nothing like Ophelia. Being good doesn't come naturally to her. She's a smartass, a fighter, a drinker and general rabble-rouser. (And she would mock the hell out of you for saying "rabble-rouser", too.) The world's been kicking her around since she was very small, and she decided along the way that the only smart thing to do was kick back, both for her own sake and for the people who couldn't do it themselves. And because it's funny. Did I mention that J's not really a color-in-the-lines kind of girl?

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that I unabashedly, unequivocally love heroes. Why am I so fond of J, then, given that she treats the law as something to poke at with a stick while giggling? Because I also think it's interesting to see how heroes are made, the struggle to do the right thing. J's a fun, complex character precisely because she and Ophelia approach the world with such different viewpoints. The dialogue between them is my favorite of the series.

I also really like blowing things up. Probably best to get that out right upfront.

Check out Fire With Fire on Amazon, only $.99 for a limited time!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Leech and Sea Change

Twelve whole sentences? Why, doing two books at once comes remarkably close to being a post of substance!

The first of our offerings comes from Leech, the third book in my ongoing Super series, which I'm aiming to release late this summer, perhaps early fall. It's Mindy's turn to stand in the spotlight! I enjoyed the writing of this book immensely, as whispers of the end game start to come into play, and I got a chance to hang out in the head of a character who really didn't get much depth in Super. Here we go:

"Mindy didn't get angry often, but all of the sudden it was hard to keep her fingers from shaking, and harder still to keep them from squeezing down. Mindy took several deep breaths before she trusted herself to speak.

'What are you doing here, Jane?' she asked the woman who had worn her face for more than a month while Mindy herself had been trapped in Evelyn's hell, the woman who had gone through her house and touched her things and stolen her life.

Jane's eyes were wide. She swallowed several times and at last managed, 'I need your help.'

Mindy startled enough to loosen her grip on Jane's throat."

The second excerpt comes to use from a little book called Sea Change, which is a ridiculously trashy paranormal romance that I wrote to blow off steam while Siren, Naomi's book, was kicking my ass in its first draft. It makes me so happy. It's about a young woman named Odessa who's running away from her life and finds herself in Key West, Florida, an island that has become very near and dear to my heart over the course of the past few years. When you don't fit into your old world any longer, there's nothing better than an island specializing in taking in weirdoes:

"She arrived in Miami after three days. Odessa stopped at a gas station, telling herself that she was only pausing to buy a gallon of water for the old man's radiator and a donut for herself. She was still sitting in the parking lot over an hour later with the water jug in one hand and her pastry in the other, thinking and ignoring the people who walked past the truck and snuck peeks at her. She was sure she was a sight after over seventy-two hours of driving across twelve states, her auburn hair sticking out in frizzy tangles where it had worked loose from her ponytail and red lines burned into her face from where she had remembered sunglasses but not sunscreen. Odessa looked like someone who had broken into the truck and was going to get her ass kicked once its real owner came back and found her there. And she still wasn't as far away as she could get yet."

Sea Change is still in its first draft, and I don't know when I'll have it ready for full human consumption. I'm aiming for the winter holidays, however.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Bisexual Women and Super

I've got to stop making promises I can't keep. Every time I swear I'm going to rededicate myself to using this blog regularly, I disappear again for weeks on end. I won't promise yet again that I'm working on it, because…well, I've done that a few times before, haven't I?

I'm here today, though, and wanted to talk about this insanely flattering review of Super that came to my attention a few weeks ago. My first reaction was to dance in a circle like a lunatic, because everyone loves being told they've done good work. If I weren't a bit of an attention whore, I would be content to write my books and then stick them in a drawer; to paraphrase Rachel Berry, "I'm like Tinker Bell. Without applause, I'll die." Seriously, Dear Reviewer, you made my day.

And then my second reaction hit me, which was to strangely feel a little guilty, because what I do in Super and its sequel, Fire With Fire really isn't all that special, or at least shouldn't be. I'm bisexual myself, and part of the first flashing spark that led to the Super series was my annoyance at the lack of bisexual characters in media. (Or at least the ones who are treated rightly--which doesn’t mean exactly to my tastes and specifications, either, lest you fear.) Bisexual women are in a very strange place with regard to their representation in media. We have more exposure than other queer folks, but the focus always seems to be about how we can titillate men. Katy Perry kissed a girl and liked it--but made sure we all knew she was going back to her boyfriend. Likewise, while there have been pretty big strides towards more acceptance of queer folk in books who are written to be characters rather than lust objects, the queer character in question is almost always a gay guy. (You want to get on my bad side and stay there? Use "GLBT" rather than "LGBT". Every single person I've ever encountered who does that has made sure that I knew abundantly well, as a woman, and a bi woman at that, where my place in the hierarchy actually was.) Lesbians and bisexual women are few and far between.

So when I decided to write Super, it was very important to me that I treat Ophelia fairly, perhaps in the way I wished I had been. She's bisexual, and it doesn't mean that she just hasn't made up her mind. She's bisexual, and it doesn't mean that she can't be faithful or that monogamy is weird to her. I went 'round and 'round with myself on the amount of tension to write between Marcus--Ophelia--Naomi, because all three of them are members of marginalized groups, and thus--I worried. About doing right by them, since there are still so few characters that break the mold out there. Which brings me back to the embarrassment factor: I don't think I'm doing anything special with Ophelia, I think I'm being honest. She doesn't get treated differently from any other character. (Oh, poor little J, because sex didn't fit in Super, she doesn't get to get laid for…awhile.) So I love the reviews and reviewers who praise me for doing right by Ophelia and Naomi (and I'm not pissing on y'all's shoes, oh, God, no, I would cuddle you to my bosom if that wouldn't be weird), but I also think that I wouldn't be as special if queer women in media being treated matter-of-factly weren't so unique. It's an odd place. I don't know what to say to mitigate it--it's always easier to complain about the gap than to fill it--other than to encourage people to break the mold, and praise everything good about their works straight to the high heavens.

I'm not going to make any hard or fast rules about when my next post will be, since that just seems to be tempting fate, but I do have a list of potential blogging topics that I'm working on. Cabbages, kings, why infomercials insist on making the very people they want to buy their products look like functional morons. See you then.