Category Archives: Writing

Pride+Prejudice+Zombies: A Review

Jane Austen and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I’ve never liked Pride and Prejudice (not the first time I read it, not the second). Actually, I prefer Sense and Sensibility, but in general, my feelings about Jane Austen’s work reflect her feelings about the Bronte sisters’ work: she didn’t dig it.

I wasn’t too keen on the idea of throwing zombies into the mix either, but what can you do? I didn’t read that version, either, but I did take my little sister to see the movie over Valentine’s Day Weekend. If there’s one thing I can get behind, it’s celebrating a holiday I don’t care about with a movie about killing the undead.

Pride+Prejudice+Zombies was as hilariously horrible as I expected it to be. Men and women are sent to China (for the poor) or Japan (for the elite) to learn to the art of fighting and combat. The costumes were lovely, the scenery perfect. Point: at least Jane, Lizzie, and the other girls wore respectable (if not entirely historically accurate) clothing. There was a shade too much decolletage, but what did I expect? At least they stuck to full-length dresses and not skimpy “battle attire.”Plus, the knife holsters were an excellent addition.

The storyline was not what I expected. It’s vaguely like Austen’s novel, and Lizzie still gets to be the snarky delight she is, but they didn’t really develop the other characters. I’m not sure if they were relying on viewers having read the original zombie-free version. There was also a glaring lack of transition. The narrative bounced back and forth like a loose brain. The casting was hit-and-miss: Matt Smith was an excellent and thoroughly annoying Mr. Collins, Lily James was a great Lizzie Bennett. I wanted Lady Catherine (Lena Headey) to be a villain, but she was not. I had been convinced she had a legion of zombies set to keep Lizzie and Darcy apart.

Jack Huston was the BEST Wickham I’ve seen. Well, the best version of Wickham.

And I know this is going to be shallow, but I felt that Darcy could have been… more handsome. Bingely was super pretty. Darcy… meh. Maybe it was the styling. I liked him way more as the crow-man in Maleficent.

I do feel like they gave us an homage to the BBC version, starring Collin Firth, as this Darcy also has a dramatic swan-dive into a pond, from which he rises in a dripping puffy shirt. I might have cackled in the middle of the theater. Okay, I did.

Darcy confessing his “inappropriate” and “horrifying” feelings for Elizabeth was definitely improved matching verbal sparring with a literal knife fight. It was probably my favorite moment in the whole thing.

The highlight of the film was how well they maintained Lizzie’s character. I might not like Pride and Prejudice, but I’ve always appreciated Elizabeth’s steadfastness and confidence in herself. The addition of zombies only allowed her to be stronger. Counterbalancing Darcy’s earlier… demand that Lizzie marry him, at the end, he asks not for her to be his wife, but if she’d allow him to be her husband.

Alright, maybe that was my favorite part of the movie.

I’m a bit upset I paid so much to see it in theaters, but my sister enjoyed it, so it was worth the cost. If you missed it on the big screen, well, you didn’t miss much. I’d wait to rent it. A dollar feels like a more reasonable price.

What did you think? More over, what do you think Jane Austen would think

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Whatcha Reading? February 2016

I’m sure I’ll think of a better name for these posts at some point, but I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about the books I’ve read each month. I know people are always looking for things to read (I know I am), and while reviews are great and incredibly important to authors, I’d be here forever if I did an in-depth review on everything. Instead, here’s a brief tour of February’s books!

Finding Center by Katherine Locke

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I’ve never really been one for romance, but I absolutely adore Katherine Locke’s District Ballet Company series. I read Turning Pointe and Finding Center when they first released, and though I’d pre-ordered Finding Center, I didn’t get around to reading it until now. Sometimes I forget I have an eReader and even more books to go through.

The romance is flavoring on top of book devoted to portraying mental illness, therapy, and recovery in a positive light. It’s an incredibly accurate depiction, and the writing is gorgeous.

Zed and ballet are my two greatest loves

It took all of Aly’s strength to get them back after a tragic accident ripped them from her six years ago. A long road to recovery led to her return, dancing full-time for the District Ballet Company and carrying Zed’s child. But Aly is slipping. Each day becomes a fight to keep her career from crumbling under the weight of younger talent, the scrutiny of the public eye and the limitations of her ever-changing body. A fight she fears she’s losing.

I’m scared Aly is broken to her core

Zed recognizes the signs, but he doesn’t know how to fix her. The accident left him with his own demons, and while he wants nothing more than to take care of the woman he loves, it’s getting harder the farther downward she spirals. When Aly’s life is threatened and Zed’s injuries prevent him from saving her, he’s never felt so useless, so afraid he’s not capable of being the man Aly and their child needs.

With new life comes new hope. And with their fractured lives already hanging by a thread, Aly and Zed must discover if they have what it takes—both together and apart—to rebuild and carry on.

The prequel novella, Turning Pointe, is free if you want to check it out, which you do.

Second Line and Chasing Ghosts by Kira Butler

These two short stories are part of Kira’s Short Fictions and Curiosities series. I enjoy serialized fiction, and there’s a new story posted every month, for FREE.

Chasing Ghosts was essentially a dash through a time-capsual manor, where everything was left in media res. Second Line was a beautiful ghost story set against Katrina-ravenged New Orleans. I enjoyed both very much, and I can’t wait to read what’s up next.

The Damsel and the Daggerman by Delilah S. Dawson

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Remember when I said I sometimes forget I have an eReader? It’s always a nice surprise to find a Blud book I haven’t read.

Bad boy knife-thrower Marco Taresque is the hottest and most dangerous performer in the caravan. He keeps to himself until a pesky female journalist arrives, anxious to interview him about his checkered past—his last assistant disappeared under mysterious and bloody circumstances, earning him the nickname “The Deadly Daggerman.”

Unsinkable journalist and adventurer Jacinda Harville doesn’t take no for an answer, and she’s determined to wear down Marco no matter how threatening—or incredibly desirable—he might appear. He agrees to an interview—but only if she’ll let him strap her to a spinning table and throw knives at her body. How can she say no? And how can she resist him when he leans close for a kiss that strikes her more sharply than any blade? It’s the first time she’s let a man get the better of her, and she’s determined it will be the last…

Like all of Delilah’s Blud books, Damsel doesn’t disappoint. There’s a nice subversion of tropes, more caravan adventures, and some infuriating and sexy banter. Bonus: you don’t have to read any of the novellas in order.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

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This one I wasn’t sure about. Weird West, much like romance, isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse. When I found I was on the Diversity in Weird West panel, I pulled Wake from my shelf so I wouldn’t feel like a total poser. Touted as Lonesome Dove meets Buffy, I was sure what to expect.

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She’s a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don’t call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound ability is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn’t understand what’s under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding — at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin… if the monsters along the way don’t kill her first.

I should have expected an insanely intense ride. Nettie, a biracial, genderqueer bronc wrangler turned monster hunter, has an incredibly strong voice, and the pacing is phenominal. I can’t remember the last time I finished a book so quickly. Just go read it, okay? The sequel, Horde of Crows, comes out later this year, and I can’t wait.

The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude (ARC)

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If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen that I was commissioned to design eight character cards for this book. Though I spoke with Sarah about design, inspiration, and the personalities of her characters, I wasn’t going to get the chance to read it until May.

Until an ARC fell into my outstreched claws.

Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night. 

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

The May Queen Murders, much like Wake of Vultures, blew me away. The setting echoes M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. I’m kinda of mad at myself for failing to puzzle out the mystery. Okay, I’m really mad at myself. It was great read, full of suspense and superstition, and it was so refreshing to see a Mexican-American main character. There’s plenty of diversity, and of course, my favorite–murder.

It’s available for pre-order, so get on it.

Follow @SarahEJude on Twitter to check out the character cards, and stay tuned to find out how you can get a set of your own.

And that’s it! That’s everything I’ve read in February. I think. This month is starting off with Cecilia Dominic’s The Mountain’s Shadow, and hopefully many more.

What did you read this month?

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AnachroCon 2016 Track Schedule!

I’m so thrilled to be back at AnachroCon this year, and I cannot WAIT to spend the weekend meeting new people and gushing about the things I love! If you want to see me, here’s my tracklisting for the weekend:

Friday:
3:00 p.m.: Spiritualism and Horror: Connections
5:00 p.m.: Horror Television: Penny Dreadful, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural
8:00 p.m.: Ghost Story Readings/Tellings

Saturday:
10:00 a.m.: Crimson Peak and the Gothic Horror Romance
11:00 a.m.: Stoker and Poe: Influences on Contemporary Fiction
3:00 p.m.: Magic, Miracles, and Medicine: Healing and Experimentation in Alternate History
4:00 p.m.: Diversity in the Weird West
5:00 p.m.: Research in Alternate History

If at any point this weekend you want to find me, 90% of the time I’ll be in Dunwoody 2, either sitting at the table or sitting in the audience. For the full schedule of events, including Victorian Astronomy, signings, and tea dueling, you can download the schedule here.

I’m so excited to be back, and I hope to see you there!

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Mystery Diagnosis and EDs

I usually don’t talk about the really personal stuff. I’ve spoken about my depression and anxiety and my attempts at better self-care. I’ve written about dealing with death. I’ve mentioned, occasionally, my recovery and progress.

About seven months ago (back in May), out of the blue, I developed an extreme skin sensitivity. I thought it was an allergic reaction–turns out it’s an autoimmune condition known as Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis, or LCV. Since May, I’ve been to three different doctors, on five rounds of medication, had 15 vials of blood drawn, a chest x-ray, and a biopsy. My bloodwork is normal, which is both great (cause nothing’s wrong with me) and terrible (cause nothing’s wrong with me.)

Initally, I was told to wait it out. That the symptoms would go away. And they did, for about two months. This most recent flair, however, devastated me. The pain in my joints made walking difficult–which doesn’t help when your Day Job is walking around and moving. My ankle swelled to the point where I was on bedrest for four days. My skin went from ant-bite pain to continuous electroshock agony. Seriously, even my dog’s ear brushing my ankle felt like death.

I became so physically sick, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Luckily, I’d managed to get in with a doctor right after Christmas. I’d have been hospitalized otherwise because there was no way I could “stick it out” until May or February. My mother had to drive me to the appointment because I couldn’t.

I’m doing better now. I still hurt, but not nearly as bad. In dealing with my diagnosis (as it is), I’ve run the course of “Why me?” and “This isn’t fair” to “Why can’t they figure this out?” and “I just want to look normal.” I want to wear my new swing dress and my new heels, but I can’t because my ankle is a mess and my legs, a horrorshow.

I’ve heard “It could be worse” more times than I’d like.

Yes. It could be worse, but I’m entitled to how I feel. Just because it “isn’t worse” doesn’t mean I can’t be upset about it. It doesn’t negate my lack of self-confidence, it doesn’t mean my pain is less real. My skin is on fire. My blood vessels are combusting. So far, these last three months have been the worst I’ve endured in my life. Combine my not knowing if the vessels blowing in my skin will soon be the vessels blowing in my organs on top of seasonal depression and anxiety, and well… I went dark.

I’ve never been that level of terrified before, and I never want to feel that way again.

And then you level “It could be worse” with “Well, you didn’t eat for four days, so you’ll lose weight. Whatever works, right?”

Wrong.

Prednisone is a great drug.It’s saved many of my friends. It tastes like hell, but it’s the “cure” for LCV. The downside to prednisone: bloating, weight gain, increased appetite, mood swings, irritability, etc. My GP suggested I weigh myself every day to curtail the symptoms, which, as a gal in recovery from an eating disorder, is definitely a mindfuck.

I have a tendancy to disregard how healthy/strong I feel in favor of a number on a scale.

Like many girls, I developed my ED in high school. I wouldn’t binge and purge, I just wouldn’t eat. And then I’d go to band practice after school and pass out on the field because I didn’t eat. They’d force feed me Gatorade, but no one really did anything. As a result, I have to make myself eat. I have an app on my phone to log what I put in my mouth because if I don’t, I won’t eat enough, and I want to make sure what I’m eating is healthy. I make it a goal to eat every 3-4 hours, snack or meal.

I’ve been working on my weight and getting healthier on and off. I’d been doing well until the first round of prednisone, wherein I packed on 15 pounds in addition to what I’d lost.

When I became sick, I fell into the cycle of “you’re sick because you didn’t eat and now you’re sick because you did.” For the first time in my life, I actually made myself throw up because I was convinced I’d feel better. It was horrific, and then: “Well, you’ll be skinny. Whatever works.”

Since they increased my dose, I’ve gained 4 pounds in three days. I know it’s bloating. I know it’s the medication. And yet I still feel deeply upset with myself. Before the increase, I was maintaining, if not losing. I’d worked hard to keep myself healthy. Seeing the numbers increase shook me, compounded with the echo of “whatever works.”

Last night, while making a protein smoothie with a new mix I’m trying out, I was given a lecture about what I’m eating and how many calories I’m consuming. It wasn’t a positive chat–it was a personal attack.

Food shaming happens frequently in this house, and it’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve heard. When I first started trying to lose weight, I joined Weight Watchers. The moment the leader told me that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” I fucking quit. My goal is to NOT feel guilty about making the choice to eat.

Sometimes you just need a piece of chocolate. And that’s okay.

I haven’t been able to do much the last month: I can’t go to the gym because I can’t walk for more than 20 minutes without pain and climbing stairs is out of the question. My knees swell. I miss the gym. I miss doing a lot of things. So I focus instead on eating well: protein and veg at every meal, healthy snacks, lots of water.

And yeah, maybe last night I had pizza for dinner. It’s not going to kill me.

But the toxicity will. I’m at the end of the seasonal depression. I made it through. I’m hoping my LCV will soon get under control. I have to relearn to deal with food in a safe and healthy way.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that I’ll always be “in recovery.” I’m never going to wake up and suddenly be free from my ED. Maybe it won’t have to be such a conscious choice for me, but I’ll always need to be reminded to eat. If my LCV is chronic (which I’m thinking it might be), then I’ll always need to watch my sodium to prevent flares.

Maybe one day I will wake up and my LCV will be gone. It happens. It’s possible. Right now, I’m dealing with the emotional fallout of suddenly having an autoimmune disorder. I’m ignoring the people who tell me I shouldn’t feel the way I do because “others have it worse.” I refuse to let myself be food shamed.

If I’m 100% honest, I’m not sure how to fight all of this, but I know I’m not alone, and neither are you. I’m not asking for sympathy; I’m looking for catharsis. Fight Things is hard. Talking about them makes it a bit easier, for me, enduring this trial, and hopefully for you, if you’re going through something similar.

You’re allowed to feel however you feel. There’s nothing wrong with being upset at upsetting situations. Make sure self-care is your priority.

I’m going to make a protein shake, take my meds, and do something I love.

 

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Courting Casualties, Ep 6: The Things in the Dark

As children, we were all afraid of something.

Play in iTunes

Courting Casualties is produced by me, Meghan Harker.

Since I was little, I’ve been obsessed with monsters, and that remains true today. I specialize in Victoriana, and I’m currently working on my own Gothic horror novel.

In the modern world, I’m the Horror Writer for GirlsInCapes.com, where I talk about horror in books, television, and film. I also write for CriminalElement.com, where I talk about American Horror Story and Hemlock Grove.

You can find me on twitter @ExquisitelyOdd, or on my website, ExquisitelyOdd.com. I’m also on Instagram at Meghan_Harker, where I post in-progress and completed artwork.
In case you were curious, I draw monsters, too.

The music in this episode is Gone Beyond, composed by Kevin MacLeod and used under the Creative Commons license. If you enjoyed this show, please consider subscribing. Reviews are also appreciated.

Thank you for listening, and as always,

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So I Tripped and Fell off the Face of the Earth…

Man, is this blog way overdue or what? Last time didn’t end on such a great note. I felt really down and useless, but the truth is, I didn’t stop writing. I finished Katherine Locke’s SECOND POSITION and her book helped me realize that the thing causing me to fall apart (writing) was the same thing holding me together. I couldn’t stop. Stopping was never an option.

So I revised a different book. By some miracle, I gained an amazing critique partner, and we swapped manuscripts. It was instant chemistry, and she made me feel 130% better about everything. I met my deadline, and as of right now, I’ve got a new query and synopsis ready for the terror that is querying. Again.

Most importantly, I learned something critical about myself.

I am not a contemporary writer. That’s not my voice. That’s why my first book didn’t go anywhere. It wasn’t a bad story, it’s not because I lack talent; I’m writing in the wrong era. New book? Victorian. It’s what I read most, it’s what I like most, and according to my past life regression experience, it’s where I lived once upon a time. To be honest, I’ve never read a lot of contemporary fiction, so why I thought that’d be the place to start is beyond me. But finding my voice was essential. Now that I’m starting a third book, same era, it’s worlds easier to move into the story. Going from my first book to my second was like pulling teeth. I found it nearly impossible to switch gears. Things are looking up. I have the support of my friends, a wonderful critique partner who sent me the most darling anatomical heart curio, and a book I believe will make it.

This weekend, I’m headed out to DragonCon, so if you want to come say hello, I’ll be around. I’m hoping to use it more like a writing weekend, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m behind on the podcast. I know. We’ll be back up and running shortly. September is just a mess of too many events, not enough brain power.

I need to pack, so I’ll see you all at DragonCon.

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what happens when your fierceness fades

World Horror Con was great. I got to spend time with my friends, get out of my own head for a bit, and I even got to sit a panel with Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures. The Women in Horror panel was particularly amazing. I wish we could have had two hours, or a whole day devoted to talking about what it’s like taking on horror in heels. The words from my fellow panelists were inspiring:

Surround yourself with positive people. Be bold. Go after what you want. Be courageous.

Be bold, be bold, be bold.

We only had time for one question: “What do you do when your fierceness fades?”

I answered. The Friday before World Horror Con, I received some disappointing news. I was upset, I was disheartened. I reached out to my friends and asked them to help me up. They did. I shook off my bruises and went to WHC ready to be re-enlivened. I love conventions because as introverted as I am, I thrive off crowd energy. I love being around people who share my passions. I wanted to go and come back ready to fight.

I said that your fierceness will fade. Our moderator, Linda Addison, added that we’re only human. Of course our fight will fade. I said the best gift you can give yourself is a group of friends who understand, who support you, who will help you back on your feet when you fall to your knees.

And when I came home from convention, I felt worse. I realized that yes, I’d dusted myself off, but the fight had gone out of me. I reached out again and came up with comforting words I couldn’t feel. The bad news couldn’t hurt me. It couldn’t kill me, or threaten my family. I thought I would be fine. Take the sting, move forward.

I didn’t expect to be laid so low. I questioned my strength, if I had what it took to push forward.

maybe i’m not as strong as i thought i was

If you’ve kept up with me over the years, you know I struggle with depression and anxiety. Like everyone, I have my good days and my bad days. The last two years have been mostly bad days rolled into each other. During that time, when my world fell apart in the worst ways possible, I threw myself into writing. Every subsequent explosion I subverted with art. In order to keep myself together, I took up my sword and slashed my way through a new draft, a rewrite, short stories; I blogged for myself, for my freelance job. I didn’t stop writing, and I waded deeper as things grew worse.

I make a habit of avoidance. I don’t let myself feel because I don’t like appearing weak. I don’t like feeling weak. I won’t cry. I won’t scream. I keep everything like a hurricane brewing in my chest. I used that pain to put strength into my strike. I fought. I was bold.

I stood on top of the rubble and grinned because I’d made it. Things were looking up at last.

I thought I’d finally crawled out, but that’s the tricky thing about depression: it just slithers up next to you and holds you down. And no, one disappointing email doesn’t undo my hard work; I still have things in the wind. I’m not finished. But I broke my sword against that invisible wall. I hammered at it until my fists were bruised and I broke my nails against the bricks. This last time, when I fell, I couldn’t pick myself up. I asked for help, but my friends couldn’t get me off the ground.

I poured so much of myself into my work that I have nothing left to give. And with the nothing came all the harsh words and self-doubt and fear.

This is a difficult industry, and it’s easy to feel low when all you see are people putting their best selves out there. It’s hard to be happy for those with happy news when you don’t remember a time when breathing was easy. It’s isolating. You want to be happy, but you can’t remember how.

I don’t have the will to fight right now. It was suggested to me that I stop writing. I said I didn’t want to stop because I knew I wouldn’t go back. A friend told me she was afraid that if I didn’t stop, I’d burn out.

At this point, I think I need to finally honor how I feel. If I want to repair my sword, if I want to get to my feet, if I want to push myself up again, I need to acknowledge what’s happened. My fight is gone. I’m exhausted. In two years, I have taken little time for myself. I know this; my subconscious knows it.

I made myself scarce on Twitter. I barely responded to texts.

I stopped writing.

It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. The uncertainty of it is more frightening than thought of putting my pen down. Occasionally, Henry sits beside me in companionable silence. He knows why I can’t fight for him right now. He understands. He knows anything he says won’t heal me, but he wishes me well. He hopes that sooner (rather than later), I can fashion a dagger (a scalpel?) to cut my way out.

For now I’m going to stay down. To wait and heal. To get my strength back.

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There is No Such Thing as Moral Piracy

We lived in a world now where there’s little to no divide between authors/artists and the audience. It’s easy to Tweet a message to your favorite author or musician, comment on their Instagram, interact with them. With the fall of that barrier as comes a decline in morality. Accessibility also means everything is available, from people putting audiobooks on YouTube to copies of books being available for download through sites like Pirate Bay.

This week, one of my friends, Katherine Locke, had her debut pirated two weeks before released. The day before, another friend–a teacher–made a post praising her “resourcefulness” (I’m quoting here) regarding finding audio versions and PDF downloads of a very popular three-book series. She was relieved she wouldn’t have to pay $30 for each audio file and linked the PDFs to her webpage.

Authors like Neil Gaiman have spoken about downloading their work for free and how they support it. But he’s Neil Gaiman. You’ve heard of him, whether it’s through his own work, or through Amanda Palmer, or you happened to go see Coraline when it came out. For Neil, illegal downloads of his book RAISED his sales. But he’s Neil Gaiman, with decades of writing under his belt.

Maybe the author my friend downloaded isn’t as popular as Neil (but you have heard of her,) doesn’t have as many books, but maybe wouldn’t be hurt by the loss. It still doesn’t make it right. There are dozen of resources available to educators. I know some children can’t afford the material, but we have libraries, and yes, they have audiobooks too. There are classroom discounts. In the age of accessibility, why not just ask the author? It’s an email to her or the publishing house.

If I can hunt down the rights to reprint a Cindy Sherman portrait in my college lit mag, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a solution to getting books without stealing.

Because you’re stealing.

Katherine, the one who had her debut stolen, is hurt by the person who pirated her novel. Piracy might help Neil, but it can kill a debut’s career. Sales are what get her additional contracts. Sales are what get you more of her work if you like it. Your inability or unwillingness to pay $2.99 won’t make her starve, but it might deny her a career as an author. She’s a brilliant writer with great ideas, but that doesn’t matter if publishing houses think she’s a poor investment because you bought a cake pop at Starbucks instead of buying her book.

When all you had to do was send her an email or tweet if you truly couldn’t afford it. Maybe she’d have given you the file or encouraged you to read the prequel novella, Turning Pointe, which is currently free on CarinaPress. You can read in its entirety before the launch of her debut, Second Position, which you can still preorder. If you’d like to preorder through Barnes and Noble, click here.

Contrary to popular belief, authors rarely make a living off their work. Making a living means you earn enough to not have a day job. That you can pay your bills. I know authors with more than 5 books out who STILL work full-time and write full-time, many who have multiple jobs outside of writing. Katherine has a day job, an editing business, rescues and rehabilitates cats, and writes full-time. I have day job, a freelance job, a potential second freelance job, and I write full-time.

“But J.K. Rowling….”

is an exception. She was lucky. Like Neil, piracy won’t hurt her sales.

A few years ago, Susan Dennard had her debut downloaded, and to add to the hurt of the theft, the person published a post complained about how long it took her download to finish. Susan’s response is reasonable, and she’s clearly angry.

Dear Person Pirating my Book,

I am sorry you can’t have your instant gratification. That book that I spent 3 years of my life working on full-time is now taking you a whopping ten minutes to download illegally. I mean, jeez. Talk about injustice.

I honestly can’t wrap my head around the fact that you’re waiting so many  minutes when I only spent 9 to 5 of every day since 2009 typing at my keyboard.

Okay, I’ll admit I wasn’t always typing. Sometimes I was scouring the document for plot holes or hand-writing my characters into corners only to then hand-write them back out again. Sometimes I was on the internet researching Victorian fashion (the book is set in 1876, in case you aren’t aware of exactly WHAT you are illegally downloading), or I was online seeking out a critique partner. Other times I was honing my query letter to get an agent or working on my 1-page synopsis.

But most of my time was spent writing (weekends included). So comparing all that time I spent on my book to your 10 minutes is just inconceivable for me (and I do think that word means what I think it means).

Wow, 10 minutes is just SO huge.

Yes, she is passive-aggressive, but she’s not wrong. We spend years writing, editing, query agents, crying over rejections, frustrations, revelations. We put ourselves into our work. Maybe people don’t realize how difficult it is to write a book. It’s not sit down and type and eat macarons. It’s HOURS of every day sitting in front of a screen and building a world. It’s the hardest fucking thing you can do and some days, it feels so impossible you want to quit.

That’s what you’re saying is worthless every time you download a book illegally. You’re saying our effort, our time, our emotional investment, is nothing because reading is your right.

I do want to point out, though, that you wouldn’t have to wait on my book if you bought it for your kindle or iPad or computer. Why, you’d have the file in mere seconds! And, because you would’ve BOUGHT the book, then I would get paid. And the cool thing about me getting paid is that I can afford my bills and then continue to write more books. I mean, hey—sitting at the computer all day ain’t fun and it sure as hell ain’t easy. Making enough money to keep my electricity turned on (so my computer will also stay on) is kind of important if I’m going to finish this series…and maybe even start the next.

Susan did finish the Something Strange and Deadly series, which I loved, and is currently working on her second series. Books are a privilege, and if you want the privilege of reading more, support the authors you love. If you cannot afford a copy, or lost yours, or misplaced it, go to the library. Borrow it from a friend. Ask for it as a gift.

Erin Bowman, author of the Taken Trilogy, also has a post on piracy. Read it. It’s good. One of the comments is below:

um no. if i own the book but i cant find it im gonna read a pirated copy online. if i dont want to support the author (im looking at you orson scott card) but i still want to read the book i will pirate it.

And the response is brilliant:

Um, no. If I can’t locate the physical copy of a book I own and want to read it immediately, I am not entitled to STEAL a digital copy. I go find the physical book, or dig it out of storage, or wait for my friend who borrowed it to return it, etc, etc. There are books I own in print and ebook form for this very reason. Just because you paid for one copy of a book does not mean you get a second for free.

When you read a pirated book in any capacity, you are supporting piracy. You are telling the people running the site, “I support what you do, I think it’s okay to steal from authors, keep running this site and others like it.” It’s simple supply and demand. If no one downloaded illegal copies, these sites would not exist. People say ‘vote with your dollar.’ Well in this case, vote by not clicking.

Lastly, it is 100% your right to not support any author (or artist) you choose. But doing so through illegal channels defeats the entire purpose of making a statement. Go to the library and read OSC if you don’t want him to get another royalty from you buying his book. That library copy was purchased by legal means and can be read over and over without him earning another dime. Better yet, don’t read him PERIOD. That’s real follow-through. And then when someone asks you what you thought of Ender’s Game, for example, you have a wonderful chance to stand on your soapbox and explain that the book sounded awesome but you didn’t read it because you’re not supporting the author for REASONS.

I understand your points and how you are trying to justify your situation, but that’s exactly what they are—your justifications to steal anyway. Authors get paid royalties only twice a year, and many work a second job to get by. Every sale counts, and if you want more books written in the future, buy and read legal copies.

Some people find the ethics of downloading books illegally questionable. With authors like Neil Gaiman supporting it, it’s hard to think that stealing a copy of Second Position will do any real damage. You’re wrong. Plain and simple. Especially for new authors. Especially for debuts. Especially for anyone. Don’t steal our paychecks. Don’t tell me my three years of writing and editing isn’t worth the $2.99 Amazon’s selling the ebook for. Don’t tell my time and energy is worthless. And don’t let other people tell you it’s okay to steal.

Most of all, don’t hurt my friends and their careers.

If one day you find a large box on your porch and open it to find a fuckton of glitter is now in ever carpet fiber, in your hair, on your skin, your clothes and everything you’ll touch for the next thirty years, know it was me.

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COURTING CASUALTIES

I am pleased to announce that I’ve just launched my first podcast, COUNTING CASUALTIES.

LogoA twice-monthly podcast, I’ll be talking about gothic fiction and horror, fangirling over favorites like Lord Byron and Edgar Allan Poe, and hopefully entertaining you with humor. I’ll also be making “reads” casts, where I choose a Gothic work and, well, read it to you. Because I like those.

Wanna check out the first episode?

Episode One: Gothic Fiction

 

 

Like what you hear? Want to suggest a topic or ask a question? Follow the show on Twitter @CasualtyPodcast.

Again, I’d like to thank Amy Lukavics, Andrea Judy, Kira Butler, and Katie Locke for being my test audience. I adore you gals. I also need to add Brian LeTendre to the list of people I am indebted to. Thank you so much for your help. Brian ALSO makes podcasts and writes Lovecraftian things. Check out his work over here: http://www.seebrianwrite.com/

 

Intro/Outro music: “Ghost Story” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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The Problem of Lacking Diversity

The topic of diversity has been on my mind lately. It was triggered by a “joke” someone printed out and brought to me at work. This customer is known for bringing us the “Sunday funnies,” but what she gave me was mock bridal magazine cover rife with racist remarks about Muslim women. I shredded it, wondering what my Muslim coworker and friend would have said if she’d seen it. It was disgusting.

As I said last week, I was honored to sit on two panels discussing gender diversity and racial diversity in Steampunk literature and culture. I was incredibly nervous: What would I say? Who would I be speaking with? What do I have to contribute to the conversation?

At one point, I told the audience I was waiting to be denounced by the Fraud Police. I’m a cis-gendered straight white gal. What do I know?

Well, I know what it’s like to be a cis-gendered straight white gal in a world that cries out for diversity, but shuts it out at nearly every turn. On the gender panel, I sat with Milton J. Davis, co-editor of the Steamfunk anthology and owner of MVmedia, LLC, as well as Arthur Hinds, musician and author of Voyage of the Dragon. For ethnicity and race, it was only me and Milton.

So we had me, the aforementioned white girl, a white man, and a black man. It was small convention, but at least we had three different voices for three different experiences.

A friend of mine told me she’d moderated a panel on diversity once and was bothered by the fact that the panelists were not racially diverse. More than that, when she brought it to the attention of the director, nothing was said. He didn’t see an issue.

In gender diversity, we spoke about a lack of non-binary representation. Genderqueer, nongendered or genderfluid characters are starting to appear in mainstream literature, little by little. That’s excellent. People want to see themselves represented in media they love.

I was asked how I’d go about writing a genderfluid character. Honestly, I have no idea, but it’s not a task I’d take lightly. I’d read, research, talk to genderfluid people about their experiences. I don’t know what that voice sounds like or how the experience shapes it. Teach me.

Several things were paralleled in the ethnicity panel and one thing rang out in both discussions: people are afraid to write the other.

Writers are afraid of fucking it up. Of misrepresentation. Of falling into stereotypes. Of being illegitimate. Of offending the people their trying to portray.

The dirty secret is, YES, you WILL fuck up. Someone WILL call you out. Someone WILL accuse you of the thing you fear most. The solution is to not to write the best black/asian/blind/genderfluid character you can, but the best PERSON you can.

Writing the other isn’t about what makes them “other,” it’s about what makes them a person. And if you open your mouth and start a conversation, you will learn. You will gain experience. People want to see themselves in the media they love; someone will be willing to help you if you ask.

It’s not enough for white writers to give racially diverse characters the change to be the protagonists; we need people of color writing people of color. We need more people like Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson, the editor and writer behind Ms. Marvel, which features Kamala Khan as the main character. She happens to be Muslim, as are her creators. We need more shows like How to Get Away with Murder, which stars Viola Davis as a strong and fearless lawyer, and also features a gay main character who isn’t ashamed or afraid to use sex to get information, and kinda accidentally falls for the first guy he used.

If you haven’t seen the finale yet, I won’t spoil anything, but next season looks like it will get into dealing with HIV. Please, please, please.

Milton made an excellent point regarding the need for more people of color raising their own voices. When people don’t see themselves included in the literature, or see themselves cast as slaves, prisoners, etc, they assume they’re not wanted. Who wouldn’t?

Take Steampunk. We were at a Steampunk convention, after all. In three days, I saw three black people. One was Milton. A fourth girl may have been Indian. I saw one Latina woman (who was a kickass Steampunk Sailor Mars.) When people don’t see themselves represented in something they might be interested in, they feel unwanted. Unwelcome. Here we have an alternately history where you are still a slave, or a mistress, or the tech-genius. Everything is centered in America or England. What about the rest of the world?

And it’s not just books. The Kingsmen film came out a few weeks ago. My first thought on seeing the trailer was “Mr. Darcy just beat up a room full of thugs using only a top hat and cane. SOLD.” And yes, RAVE reviews have flooded Facebook and Twitter, but with it came questions on diversity. All the lead “good guys” were white men. All the “bad guys” were black, or Asian, or handicapped. Even the girl who gets to join the Kingsmen isn’t given much if any agency. Sure, it’s a riff on the 60’s spy-film genre, but even James Bond had Bond girls who were independent, had a job or career, which, for the era, was downright unheard of. Oh, and they were racially diverse, good vs bad status pending.

That by no means makes it a poor film or detracts the enjoyment viewers got from it, but you can still love something while pointing out its flaws.

I will be the first to admit that I have not written very diversely, but I like to think I’ve done so (so far) with reason.

In THE KILLING TYPE, Charlotte is a white, middle-class woman. Why? Because her story centers around her schizophrenia and the treatment she needs to continue living her life. She needs her privilege, but it works against her. She’s a middle-class white woman who happens to be schizophrenic. Even when she’s being a reliable narrator, will you take her word for it?

Jonathan Gale, my detective, is bisexual. I wanted to include that aspect of his character without making it a big deal. I wanted to normalize it, but I hate having to use the word “normalize” because that implies it wasn’t normal to begin with. Who he loves has nothing to do with his job, but I couldn’t stand not mentioning it. He needs to be allowed to be himself, not because he’s bisexual, but because he’s Jon.

Though not a main character, Aaron, Jon’s best friend and medical examiner, is black.
It’s not diversity for the sake of having diversity. It’s about writing people. We need these voices. We need white writers to channel them. We need writers of color to speak out. We need men, women, genderfluid, and non-binary people.
We need to be inclusive, no matter what art we’re making or who’s making it.

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