Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Have a Confession...

I've got a crush. Actually a number of them. Since my youthful years so long ago.

I'm picking up this topic from Jennifer Ambrose at The Charmed Bracelet. (Go there and read hers, it's a good post, along with many others!) She brought up the subject of literary crushes from childhood, which got me thinking about my own reading habits from yesteryears.

To be honest, I don't think I read as much fantasy when I was younger. The books that stick out for me now were mostly school books: "The Great Gilly Hopkins" (I loved how tough she was), "Julie of the Wolves" (possibly the start of my love for wolves), "Bridge to Terabithia" (I wished the world they created was real, and even now, I cry a little near the end), and "Tuck Everlasting" (I think my opinion of Winnie and the story changed every few pages, it brought up some complicated issues with immortality to my young mind).

My introduction to fantasy was probably through movies--I can still recite whole passages from "Labryinth" even though it's been a few years since I've watched it--but my first fantasy book that I recall was in fifth grade. [This is another story for another post about an awesome substitute I had. I'll tell it you later. ;) ]

After that, there were some books and characters that really stayed with me, mostly in the fantasy genre.

1. Vanyel Ashkevron in The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey

He went through a lot of tragedy, but he still worked hard to protect those he cared about, and he sacrificed a lot. I was struck by how he just kept going, even when he wanted to quit. This was also the first book I recall having gay and lesbian characters, who were main characters and side characters, and who were treated as individuals (both by the author and within the story's society). This is still something I feel is lacking in a great many books.

2. Alanna from The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I should add the main character of Pierce's second Tortall quartet as well, Daine (and, frankly, her third with Keladry). Alanna was a twin (which I am not, but twins are awesome!), and she defied her family in order to become a knight. She was strong-willed and created a new family of friends and people she cared for and who cared for her (Jonathan, George, and the royal spymaster, Miles, a great father figure). I've always liked stories that showed the important side of friendship and non-blood families.

Daine was a softer character, a little more introverted, and had that wolf connection I loved, and I felt a more personal connection to her. I think that's something a lot of [young] readers look for, a character they can step into.

3. Sabriel from the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

I saw this at a Scholastic book fair at my school. I will admit part of the reason I picked it up was because the titular character had a name similar to mine. A young girl on a journey to find and rescue her father, taking up a huge responsibility in the process--now that I think about it, this might have appealed because of my own childhood a little bit, where I felt my responsibilities (to get As in school, be "perfect") an inescapable burden, but one I was driven to achieve. Honestly, I really need to reread this series, because I've enjoyed Nix's other work and it's been far too long since I traveled with Sabriel.

4. Dorothy and Elphaba from "The Wizard of Oz" and "Wicked" by L. Frank Baum and Gregory MacGuire, respectively

(Idina Menzel as Elphaba)

Okay, so I've read these both in only the past few years, but the play of good versus evil and how those lines can be blurred so much is a theme I'm finding in some of my own work. I saw the Judy Garland film when I was very young and of course, imagined myself in Dorothy's place, but nowadays I think of that scene when the pair first meet and of the confrontation that ends with a bucket of water, and I ponder all the possibilities for new and different stories. Like a lot of fairy tales, I'd like to find a new interpretation and write my own version, because I think there's a lot to be said for finding or making your own path, listening to authority, and the homes and families you make for yourself.

(I feel like there may be a analytical article in all that. Huh.)


There are others. I stuck to characters from series, but as I mentioned in Ambrose's comment section, Eddi from "War for the Oaks" and Jack from "Jack of Kinrowan" are also strong characters that have stayed with me through the years and deserve a reread. They've also helped shape me as a writer in ways I can hardly begin to quantity or qualify.

So dear readers, who are your literary crushes from your childhoods? I'd like to know. I'm curious that way. Comment and better yet, link to your own post. I'd love to read them!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blogger Cookies, not the tasty kind

Blogger apparently doesn't want me to comment on posts anymore, blaming my cookie settings, which I never change (though I did delete them recently, along with my temporary files). I've gone into my internet options to allow Blogger cookies and it still won't let me leave a comment. In my own blog. Ergh. >.<

I'll admit it. Computers confuse me. I will never understand them quite as thoroughly as I'd like to. (~~~flashback~~~ I was halfway through high school before we even had a computer in our house. Even then, I got it as a donation from my school, from the bunch they were getting rid of, because we couldn't afford one otherwise. ~~~end flashback~~~)

Anyway, there's are posts coming in the next few days, but I'm hopefully going to figure this blogger/cookie thing first.

In the meantime, head on over to The Charmed Bracelet and read about Jennifer's first literary crushes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

(SAWD) Seasons Affecting Writing Disorder

Not quite like Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it hit pretty suddenly today all the same.

See, most days lately have been like this:


(Not actually Hawaii, but it has been rather overcast here, so our skies have looked quite a bit similar.)

But today, when I had work to do on the computer, so I knew I'd have it on all day (in a house with no AC, ugh), it was a hot day. It felt more like this:


What does this all have to do with writing?

I finished one novel in the wee hours between 10 pm and 2 am over winter break one year, completed another in fits and starts, also into the wee hours while living in the dorms, but between these two, I wrote another novel all on my own--these others I completed by having professors waiting for pages. This other novel, I wrote the summer after I graduated with my Bachelors'. I was at home, resting after going full-force for far too many years, but I very quickly got antsy.

I don't do well at home with no plans or expectations. I don't do well with prolonged lazy.

But that summer, it was hot. This heavy, oppressive heat that just settles on your head and shoulders, and basically, every exposed inch of flesh. But I spent hours on my computer, typing hundreds of thousands of words until I had a complete draft.

This heat today felt like that. Somehow I had forgotten how hot summers get here (I know, people who have been to other areas of the U.S. and world can argue, but I am not a fan of hot weather, so this is unpleasant). But just a few moments of realization and I was brought back to that summer, how accomplished I felt, and despite the heat, was ready and gearing up to work on my new novel.

I know, I know, what I need to do is focus on editing one thing, not write a new one. :P

(This rambly kind of post has been brought to by a day filled with non-fun-writing work and the letters s and t, for sore throat. Yeah. I really hope I'm not getting sick.)

Happy writing everyone, regardless of the weather outside your door or in your room.

*First photo is borrowed from:
**Second photo from this blog and credited thusly: "Picture taken by Peter near Longreach, western Queensland, in July 2004."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

LGBT "Issues" in Genre Fiction

Disclaimer: I've been thinking about this topic for days, so below are my thoughts and opinions as they are right now. I won't claim they're 100% correct or complete (I always forget something, it feels), and I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me, but I don't want to start any fights. I just felt the need to organize my thoughts and present them here.

I say "issues" in quotation marks because a friend said something a few weeks back that struck me. "LGBT aren't issues, we're people." They're also individuals, but it seems lately, various people are too fond of treating them as a lump group.

So some of you may have heard about the Wicked Pretty Things anthology, and how one author's story, which had been accepted, was then rejected. The editor told the author she needed to change the gender of one character, so that the primary relationship was male/female, rather than male/male. This is despite the fact that it was m/m when first submitted and accepted. Other authors in the anthology have also subsequently pulled out of the project.

I won't try to guess at what the editor was thinking or how she truly feels about the situation or the story element in question. It'd be all speculation and unfair.

What I do want to discuss/think aloud about, is the fact that the presence of LGBT characters is becoming a bigger topic in the publishing industry, and one that despite a broad awareness, doesn't seem to have made much progress.

In an urban fantasy I'm working on, I have two characters who are openly gay and in a relationship. It's a challenge for me to write them being affectionate, more because I still have a lot to learn about romance in a writing sense and consider myself a novice in that area, and because I want to find a balance between not hiding their relationship and fan service (gratuitous affection), neither of which is fair. My goal is the portrayal of a solid relationship between two adults who, because of the story plot, have to deal with a lot of new stressors on their relationship.

I feel like it shouldn't matter whether these characters are gay or straight in order for me to show that, and I think it should have no bearing (I hoe it doesn't) on how likely I am to get this story published. I try to mimic real life in my casts, and in real life, a 3/4 Japanese woman in her 20s, living near the West Coast, is going to know a diverse group of people.

These two aren't my main characters, though they are present throughout the story, but there seem to be very few (if any) fantasy stories in the mainstream with LGBT characters, let alone as protagonists. That needs to change. One can make the argument (and as I heard some time last year, when a lot of blogs were debating about the inclusion of characters of color in fantasy) that a straight white girl shouldn't be writing characters who are gay men. ~shrug~ I can't say I'll get it right the first time, or the second, but I think there needs to be more diversity in fantasy, and if I can write a character who is foremost a person, and identifying as gay is one aspect of their personality, then I'm not going to shirk from that based on another individual's opinion.

I can only do my best to help make this change, but it's a change for the best IMHO, and I think the only way it will become more acceptable in mainstream publishing is for more people to include LGBT characters, and for more people to make it known that they'd read stories with LGBT characters. There's too much disconnect, so it seems, between what readers want, and what publishers/editors/etc. think readers want. That needs to change, too.