Diversity in Tunerville and I Promise to Finish the Series, Y’all

Yep, I wrote a sequel. Yep, that’s the one I finished in December 2018. Yep, there will be one more.

Last year, I got into a discussion with some people who were reluctant to buy into book series because they’d previously been burned when a writer bailed and didn’t finish. I understand how frustrating it is to get invested in something that disappears (Firefly, anyone?), but traditional publishers will ditch a series if the first book doesn’t sell.

Since this is my enterprise, I’m free to plunge ahead regardless. I don’t know if anyone beyond my blog or my friends will read my current work. Even if that list is small, everyone on it deserves the best and most complete story I can give them.

With that in mind, I formally declare my intention to FINISH THE DAMN SERIES.

yelling cat sitting on a tiny polka dot sofa

Whether you want it or not!

Image by Deutsch / pixabay.com

Now that Tunerville is out and you may have read it already, I want to talk a little bit about the characters in the context of diversity. If you have not read the book yet and would rather not know anything, you might want to bail on this post now.

If you haven’t read it yet, you can get Tunerville (and my story collection, The Shiny Folk) here. I’m not sure that Amazon is shipping physical books currently; due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re focusing on supplies. Paperbacks might have to wait. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get a free app here. It works on everything.

Consensus seems to be, rightfully, that lived experiences are best and most authentically portrayed by those who have lived them. The controversy around Jeanine Cummins’ recent novel American Dirt is a case in point. The linked article contains a quote from actress Eva Longoria, who points out:

“There’s a bidding war over this book, which means all the publishers wanted this book. And they wanted some sort of way in to a different community. The problem with that is that the publishing industry is 80% white, from agents to editors and publicists.”

I don’t think it’s impossible for a white, cisgender, straight author to write about a culture or identity to which they don’t belong. However, because the majority of white, cisgender, straight authors are divorced from anything other than our own experience (and this is by design in a white supremacist society), if we choose to, it falls on us to approach it carefully.

The LGBTQ characters and those of color in Tunerville function in the book’s close orbits admittedly without much friction. The Crew is inclusive; they coalesce around their shared interest in ghost hunting. Gabriel, who is black, is the one who started the Ghost Crew. His wife Ann-Marie is a law student. Josh’s new boyfriend Trevor is welcomed, his extreme disengagement the only eyebrow-raiser.

While Chris’s impulse to help ghosts is laudable, it takes him a while to grasp the real meaning of the saying “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” The media attention around Chris drives Josh to remove himself from the Ghost Crew for his and Trevor’s safety. In a stinging diatribe, he serves Chris a blunt reminder of the latter’s selfishness — and his privilege:

“[…] just because you don’t hassle people for being who they are doesn’t mean everybody is so enlightened. You don’t have a clue. You can walk down the street holding somebody’s hand and nobody throws a beer bottle at you.”

An invisible hand clamped over Chris’s mouth. Neither Josh nor his last boyfriend, the other victim of that attack, had wanted to report it, lest they invite more harassment or scrutiny.

“Nobody objects to where you live,” Josh continued. “Nobody leaves nasty notes on your car. Nobody tells you, ‘You better keep away from my kids if you move in here.’” He choked on the last word. “You got what you wanted. I’m trying to have what I want. And I will not lose this relationship because of you.”

Chris faces a public shaming directly after this conversation. It’s a hard lesson for him. The tuner is a great leveler — a reminder that everybody dies. But the questions it raises bring out the tendency of people to judge and categorize. The ghosts of all demographics find themselves reduced to a novelty, their humanity the subject of endless debate.

The viewpoint in Tunerville remains grounded in that of the white, straight characters — Chris, Hannah, and Hector, with a brief sojourn into Dean’s head. Of these, only Dean could be considered marginalized; as an incorporated ghost, he’s well aware of the prejudice the newly resurrected face. He’s not only out of place but out of time.

I think she can understand that.

I wanted to make a point there about Chris’s self-indulgence beyond the longing that drove him to invent the tuner in the first place. He’s a creature of privilege whose ability to indulge his own desires without question has never been challenged. When it is, he bristles, but since he’s good at heart, I let him embrace the opportunity to widen his view, which is what we all should be doing.

ESPECIALLY RIGHT NOW. Viruses have no nationality, y’all.

As a cishet white woman (who isn’t a ghost — yet), discrimination is not likely to affect me. Nobody is profiling me or trying to deport me. My only experience of marginalization is being female in a male-centric world and dyscalculic in a math-centered one. I don’t face death and abuse every time I walk out the door.

I couldn’t leave out people who aren’t like me entirely, because they exist, in my world and in Chris’s. When I wrote this book, I knew less than I do now, and I know less today than I will tomorrow. Every day is a chance to learn.

For now, staying in my lane felt like the safe choice and the most respectful one. I’d rather hear those stories from the people who lived them.

Book 2 will feature more Hannah. And lest you think I fridged Josh, he will return. I have plans for him.

At some point, I’ll have a job again and when I do, perhaps I’ll have enough money to do a Goodreads giveaway. They charge for that and it’s not cheap.

In the meantime, listen to the Toilet Paper Knight — stay home and stay safe!!

He’s not the hero we deserve, but he’s the one we need right now.

Sorry, I’ve Been Away Fighting For Your Rights and Let’s Talk About Revision

*peeks*

U up?

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been spending a ton of time there tweeting about voting, Brexit, and kittens, oh my! It’s hard to think about anything else right now. Every day brings us more crazy.

In addition to that, I’ve been job hunting. Still nothing there. I’m still halfway between overqualified and underqualified for just about everything, as well as trying to figure out how to make a career change with my old pal dyscalculia. But enough about that

Been busy with this, too. Go see it before it’s out of cinemas or I will disown you.

Let’s talk about revision!

Tunerville has been copyedited a total of fifteen times. I’ve had three beta readers and two editors (thank you omg, free copy for sure). It’s the latter I want to talk about.

You may think your manuscript doesn’t need a professional look-see, but you’d be wrong. Writers who aren’t working with a publisher, you need to budget in professional editing services if you can (or furiously cultivate some friendships and your network). You cannot properly edit your own work. You just can’t. You’re too close to it.

“In writing, you must kill your darlings,” said William Faulkner, Stephen King, and this glaring white-tailed sea eagle. Believe them.

Image: Phil_Bird / freedigitalphotos.net

I just finished a massive revision of Tunerville on the advice of Editor #2. And I mean massive. We’re talking major restructuring, the painful but necessary killing of many darlings, rewrites, and even brand new scenes. I went in with a plan; it took two weeks of intense and focused work.  

Despite how exhausting it was, I LOVED IT. I love editing. I love rewriting. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I hate writing first drafts. I wish I could just download my brain. Yes, of course my dream is to do this all the time. And to secretly be an Avenger. A grad school wisely teacher told me no amount of writing is wasted. So even if something is less than perfect, you will learn from every mission. Every encounter with an Infinity Stone will exponentially increase your power. Oh sorry, I mean every time you sit down at the computer. 

Is it better? I hope so. I probably won’t hear back until the end of August, but in the meantime, I have a lot of other work to do — and hopefully actual work to do. Unemployment is not a vacation.

Book 2 has commenced. I’m mulling over whether a grand overhaul of Secret Book is even worth it. I have two other books in notes stage. A garage sale is in the offing, in case I have to move. I’m still resisting (online, even if I can’t travel to marches).

Meanwhile, please enjoy the smooth beauty of this heirloom tomato. I grew it myself. And check your voter registration. We outnumber them, but it only works if we show up at the polls in November.

Cherokee Purple variety, if you please. A fine tomato for fresh consumption.

*shameless plug*

If you haven’t yet read my short story collection, hop on over to the Buy Me! page of this blog and download a copy for only 99 cents. Bought it and liked it? Share the link!

*addendum*
For a friend who is hotly anticipating Avengers 4 along with me because more Cap and Bucky.  :)

Molly Ringwald’s New Yorker Piece on John Hughes is Right, and Here’s Why

Recently, Molly Ringwald, a member of the popular 1980s “Brat Pack” group of young actors, wrote a piece for The New Yorker where she analyzed watching some of her old films with her daughter, notably the John Hughes vehicles that made her a star.

Ringwald rightfully pointed out how Hughes altered the face of teen films. To paraphrase, until then, actors playing teens were older; the everyday aspects of their lives were not given focus; female characters had no real efficacy. Hughes changed all that. His films were popular, funny, engaging, and those of us who watched them could identify with the characters. We saw ourselves on screen — our fears, triumphs, and foibles.

She also noted how uncomfortable it made her to view these films in the current #MeToo atmosphere. In particular, the sexually aggressive and harassing behavior of the John Bender character in The Breakfast Club could be grounds for a lawsuit today. In the film, it’s played for laughs, and Claire, Ringwald’s character, responds positively to it in the end. In Sixteen Candles, Farmer Ted’s deal to return a classmate’s pair of underpants for a chance at an unconscious (and non-consenting) woman is equally problematic in light of our newly awakened sense of how women in 2018 are still treated as if they aren’t quite human.

Sexy anti-hero and “criminal” John Bender, played by Judd Nelson.

Image: thebreakfastclub.wikia.com

In those days, behavior like Bender’s (and in real life, Harvey Weinstein’s) was ubiquitous. Pushback was rare. Nobody talked about consent. In most of these films, men, or boys, did have all the power. The female characters existed as a means to an end (status) or offered an end in themselves (the quest to get laid as seen in Porky’s). Getting the girl one had a crush on was a major achievement that implied a woman can be acquired like a coveted object or trophy.

I think Ringwald made a good case for viewing these things as debatable. They always have been, but for some reason, perhaps self-preservation or internalized misogyny, many women who grew up during that time did not view them as such. I’ve already seen pushback on her article in my own circles. A notable example came from a male writer I know, who stated that he saw Hughes’ portrayals of teenagers as semi-authentic for the time, and that Ringwald doesn’t speak for everyone.

Of course, they were authentic. And Ringwald does point that out. But when does nostalgia become a reason to dismiss acknowledgment that these characters exhibit attitudes we no longer wish to entertain? Society evolves and the things we took for granted then absolutely should make us uncomfortable now.

I have the same feelings as Ringwald when I read some young adult (YA) literature from that era. In my own personal library, which contains a large amount of YA and children’s literature largely because I have a horror of discarding books, I had one from a library book sale called A Different Kind of Love (1985)Protagonist Elizabeth, nicknamed Weeble, is a fourteen-year-old girl in a single-parent family whose visiting uncle’s affections become inappropriate.

Author Michael Borich deals with something we don’t often think or talk about when discussing child molestation — that being touched and held and in turn, loved, feels good. That it’s possible for a child who is being victimized to have affection for an abuser. And that abuse often comes from people we feel we should trust or love, and how difficult and confusing that can be for victims, and why it’s so hard for them to speak up.

Reading it did make me squirm, mostly because the adults, though concerned, are so blasé about the situation. At the time of publication, teachers were not mandated reporters, so a trusted educator in whom Weeble confides does nothing more than advise her. Her mother kicks her brother out of the house (good), but no one calls the police. And though Borich declines to explore it, the mother’s first reaction is a common one in molestation cases where a family member is involved: disbelief.

Though some might think dated materials can be safely retired, I think it’s fine to use them for a larger discussion. I did end up ultimately discarding the book in the interest of space. But in my mind, I’ve moved forward from that time along with society. I know if I have children that talking to them about Weeble’s confusing feelings and the proper adult reactions, whether I use her as an example or not, would have to be part of that particular discussion.

And I would let them watch Hughes’ films, once they’re old enough to understand and talk about them. Ringwald makes mention of racism and homophobia in Hughes’ writing; it’s there, and it’s obvious. Hughes was both progressive and backward, and this uneven dichotomy shows glaringly in his treatment of exchange student Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles.

Yes, Long Duk Dong was a horrible Asian stereotype. Even his name is a racist joke. In contrast, we have his sexy girlfriend Marlene, a character referred to as “Lumberjack” (Deborah Pollack) because she’s taller — and thus less desirable — than the prom queens. Lumberjack is athletic, strong, and confident. She takes no shit and goes after the boy she likes. She’s also affectionate and in touch with her desires. She’s the best character in the film.

Debbie Pollack and Gedde Watanabe in Sixteen Candles (1984)

Image: imdb.com

I can’t blame Gedde Watanabe for playing The Donger; at the time, few non-caricature roles for Asian actors existed.  Despite this and Samantha’s father referring to his oldest daughter’s fiancé as “an oily bohunk,” a slur used to refer to people of Hungarian or Slavic descent, I don’t think these films should be binned. In addition to Lumberjack’s positive portrayal, the targeted audience of this film found much to identify with in Samantha’s family dynamics and her attempts to navigate a crush on the cutest boy in school.

In closing, Ringwald writes:

John wanted people to take teens seriously, and people did. The films are still taught in schools because good teachers want their students to know that what they feel and say is important; that if they talk, adults and peers will listen. I think that it’s ultimately the greatest value of the films, and why I hope they will endure. The conversations about them will change, and they should. It’s up to the following generations to figure out how to continue those conversations and make them their own—to keep talking, in schools, in activism and art—and trust that we care.

My writer friend can discount the misogyny in Hughes’ films because as a man, he never had to deal with it. We’re not too disparate in age and we both grew up with these attitudes. It took time for me to parse my own internalization and discard them. I still enjoy the films too and I understand where he’s coming from. It’s hard not to romanticize the past, but we also have to recognize the tarnished aspects of it.

Ringwald’s instinct to watch her films with her children is a good one. So is her desire to initiate a discussion involving the elements that have changed or evolved over time. No, we no longer feel that sexual harassment is funny or entertaining. Yes, you’re right to feel uneasy about it, and here’s why. If kids today can recognize that when they watch the films, and parents are engaging them on these topics, then we’re on the right path to a more respectful society. John Hughes’ films can serve as a tool to get us there.

Screw You in the Ass with a Cactus, 2016

You really are clawing at everybody on your way out, aren’t you, 2016?

Carrie Fisher, actor best known for Star Wars (Princess Leia, General Organa!) / writer (Postcards from the Edge and other books) / mental health and women’s rights advocate, at 60 (WAY too young), of a heart attack.  I have no words.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Marion Curtis/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock (6196713x) Carrie Fisher with Dog Gary 54th New York Film Festival Screening of HBO's Documentary 'Bright Lights', USA - 10 Oct 2016

Photo by Marion Curtis/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock (6196713x)
Carrie Fisher with Dog Gary
54th New York Film Festival Screening of HBO’s Documentary ‘Bright Lights’, USA – 10 Oct 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image:  tvline.com

Ricky Harris, comedian / actor (Everybody Hates Chris)at 54 (also WAY too young), of a heart attack.  I wasn’t a huge fan of Ricky’s, but I liked him on the show and I didn’t want to forget him here.

Jerod Harris / Getty Images, file

Ricky Harris in 2011. Photo: Jerod Harris / Getty Images, file

Image: nbcnews.com

George Michael, musician (formerly of the 1980s pop duo Wham!) / secret philanthropist, at 53 (okay, now this is getting stupid) of heart failure–quietly in his sleep, apparently.  I know a story about George where he doesn’t come off so well, but anyone can have a shitty day.  I liked his music.

Image: tvline.com

Richard Adams, writer (Watership Down–the bunny book) at 96, which is kind of old (but awesome).  He also wrote The Plague Dogs–it’s a very hard read because after you finish it, you want to kill anyone who experiments on dogs.

richard-adams-2016

Image: rte.ie

Liz Smith, actor, Royle Family and The Vicar of Dibley, at 95, also of being old (but still awesome).  I loved her as the dim-witted Letitia Cropley on Vicar.

Nooo not Mrs. Cropley!

Nooo not Mrs. Cropley!

Image: BBC / theguardian.com

RIP, folks, and party hearty with those who have gone before you.  Our only consolation is that this bastard tire fire of a year from Planet Hell has only four more days left.

To end on a lighter note, read this tweet.  It made me laugh out loud, which I think Carrie Fisher would have liked.  And everybody please take good care of your hearts.

5 Myths about Writers That Will Get You Smacked with a Book

I love being a writer.  I love talking about writing and its sometimes maddening accoutrements.  But I’ve discovered that you have to be careful with whom you discuss certain aspects of this most excellent and odd activity.

Odd? What a strange adjective. How could typing page after page of hallucinations for hours at a time be considered odd?

So many people subscribe to common myths about writing that I often find myself patiently (or not so patiently) debunking them, when I really want to knock them right out of people’s heads with a dictionary.  Common beliefs about writers include the following.

That we’re all drunks

Many, many, many people consume alcohol or use other substances for recreation, inspiration, or escape.  Why is this so persistent when people talk about writers?

Being an artist of any kind means you will spend most of your free time putting your innermost thoughts, dreams, ideas, and visions in tangible form for others to consume.  It has a personal element.  Rejection can hurt.  Self-doubt is rampant.  But a lot of us cope just fine with these issues and don’t need to self-medicate.

Except maybe with a little retail therapy.

Except maybe with a little retail therapy now and then.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King says, “Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak.  They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do.  Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what?  We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.”

Well said, Mr. King.

That we’re crazy

Anyone who thinks outside the box or who has an imagination, or who is even slightly different from the accepted norm of whatever society or clique you’re talking about, is often branded with this label.  Okay yes, we enjoy looking up stuff like what sound it makes when you hit someone in the head with a hammer, but it’s research.

True mental illness is nothing to joke about.  There have been famous writers who suffered from various ailments.  But there also exist great works produced by artists with no discernible pathology.  Despite the Lord Byron quote at the end of the linked article, we’re not all crazy.

And as Chuck Wendig points out in this post, our lifestyle can make us look (and act) a little bit unusual.

That we have or will earn lots of money

Laughing Batman

Image:  knowyourmeme.com

Even Batman thinks that’s hilarious.

Writers can make a decent living if they keep more than one iron in the fire.  If you’re lucky enough to go viral, speaking fees or workshops can be quite lucrative.  Freelancers can work as independent contractors for corporations.  They can write for publications, do copywriting, grants, white papers, and proposals.

Creative writers, especially novelists, have it a bit harder.  Traditional publishing doesn’t pay very well, and most new writers don’t get million-dollar advances.  Indie authors can make more money overall these days (see this blog post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch for an illustrative breakdown of numbers), but it still takes a long time and a lot of work.  Almost every writer I know who has published one way or the other has a day job.

Acting is a good analogy.  Out of all the working actors in the entertainment business, the big moneymakers only comprise the tip of the pyramid.  And like writing, acting isn’t a steady job.  It’s freelance work.  Fame doesn’t last for most people, so you’re better off grabbing what you can get while you can get it.

It’s not easy being fabulous.

It’s not easy being fabulous.

So if you want to make money writing, diversify your income.

That we welcome advice from non-writers

Okay, here’s where I get bitchy (thanks, Vivien).  I figure skated for fifteen years.  I met tons of people during that time who had never been on the ice.  They came mostly from two camps:

  1. People who were really impressed that I skated, even though I wasn’t great at it, and who said things like, “I think it’s terrific that you do/did something so cool.”
  2. People who don’t skate but think they can coach you anyway.

Writers get number 2 a LOT.  If there is any phrase in the English language that will make me grind my teeth to nubs, it’s You know what you should do is….

Writing is a craft and it takes time to do it well.  Publishing is a complicated business.  I don’t know everything about it.  But I’ve tried to do my homework, and it chaps my britches when people who know next to nothing about it think I couldn’t possibly understand what I’m talking about.

Or that I’m being NEGATIVE when I say that a positive response to a query does not mean I’ll be able to fly first class to Europe next spring.  That’s not being negative; that’s being realistic.

If the advice is coming from someone in the actual field, then bring it on.  But someone whose aunt self-published, does not know what the word query means, or who has never written anything beyond an email is not qualified to tell you how to run your career.

I know what’s best for you, dear.  Let me handle it.

I know what’s best for you, dear.  Let me handle it.

 Image:  americanprofile.com

Family, friends, and even coworkers speak to you from a place of caring.  They want to help and show support.  Some of them cannot do this without trying to fix things or offer suggestions.  But remember, communication is a two-way street.  If you just want to vent, let them know this.  Say, “I’m not looking for advice; I just need to unload.  Can I have an ear?”

That writing isn’t work because we enjoy it

Writing a book is like doing the same homework assignment for six months.  It’s exhausting mentally because it requires intense concentration.  And physically because you’re sitting still and using your hands to perform a dexterous task (typing).

Sometimes writers have to work instead of come to the pub quiz or the girls’ night.  Sometimes they have to disappear for a few hours over the weekend or a holiday because they have a deadline or a client request or they just don’t want to lose momentum.

Yes, we love it.  We also hate it.  We want to have a drink and come eat birthday cake with you and wash dishes while drinking wine after the turkey or ham has been decimated (okay, no I don’t want to wash dishes, though I’ll take the wine).  But we have to work.

Writing

I could go on, but this post would never end and I’m sure you have things to do.  When you talk to writers about writing, ask questions.  We love to discuss what we do.  Listen to what we tell you.  If you’ve read our work, let us know you appreciate it and enjoy it.

And yes, if you’re so inclined and we are too, buy us a drink.

A Farewell to Skating

I need to make a small announcement.

Relax, buddy; I'm not dying or moving to Mars or anything.

Relax, buddy; I’m not dying or moving to Mars or anything.

Image:  earthporm.com

After fifteen years of figure skating at my local rink, I’ve decided to take a break from the sport.  It has nothing to do with anyone there, with the city I live in–my dislike of it is separate from how I feel about skating–or anything related to the rink itself.  I’m just getting burnt out. I was going to wait until after the Christmas show this year to quit, but I think I need to take a step back from it now.

Skating has done a lot for me–it’s given me something constructive to do, it really is fun, and I learned to sew with really difficult materials (stretch velvet, anyone!?). But lately, I’ve found my focus shifting to other things, and showing up at the rink every week has become more an obligation than something I look forward to

It’s not just a weekend thing–my workouts have to take it into consideration, there is the clothing aspect, music, etc.  Anyone who skates knows that it’s not just a sport; it’s kind of a lifestyle and a mindset.

I don’t want to start hating it. I don’t want to go to the rink and feel like I don’t want to be there. I’m not ruling it out of my life completely. As long as I can physically and safely do it, I can return to it later, even as a senior.  Check out this skater if you don’t believe me!

Right now, there are a few things I want more than I want to skate. And in order to get them, I can’t divide my attention any longer.  Plus, skating costs money–and I want to spend that money on leaving this place because there’s nothing here for me.  With Pig gone (RIP little kitty), I don’t need to worry about finding a place that would suit her.

Recently, I received a request for pages from an agent, which was kind of a wake-up call—I had gotten into a rut of thinking I would never publish anything and nothing would change.  But hey, someone asked!  Even if they reject it, another might not, or they might not reject the next book. (When) that happens, I want to be totally ready to do whatever I need to do.

I have books I want to write.  I need to focus on coming up with good ideas and getting them down on the page.  I’m trying to stay creative–I’m teaching myself to draw.  And I’ll still be working out to stay healthy.

The skating program at my rink has grown a LOT since I started.  We now have more organization, we have other adult skaters–for a long time, I was the only one.  I wish them all the best and hope all their dreams will come true.

It’s time for mine to come true.

The white tree and the rainbow have decreed that it will happen--or maybe I'll just get wet.

The white tree and the rainbow have decreed that it will happen–or maybe I’ll just get wet.

 Photo:  Elizabeth West

The Light Has Left Us: David Bowie 1947-2016

david-bowie-2013

David Robert Jones, aka David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016) in 2013.

Image:  michaelcavacini.com

I always thought he would be there.  He lingered on the fringes of my childhood, lurked in the dawn of my teenage years, became cheerily mainstream through my college days and beyond.  There is no time in my living memory when he didn’t exist.  Until now.

I never bought a Bowie album growing up–I didn’t have to.  The radio played his songs.  Friends played his albums.  People hummed and sang the tunes.  Everywhere I turned, there he was.  I saw him on television, dressed as Ziggy Stardust, and thought, Who is this magnificent creature, and why can I not be like him?

Bowie created art not only in the form of music and raw, emotional paintings, but in surprisingly engaging performances in films like The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger, Labyrinth, and The Prestige.  I didn’t know much about him and I didn’t want to know.  He existed as a chameleon, an enigma, a person who was all things and yet nothing in particular.

Child in Berlin (1976), David Bowie

“Child in Berlin” (1976), 24×24 Serigraph–David Bowie

Image:  fanpop.com

They call the most iconic performers stars.  In most cases, this moniker is a misnomer, but for him, it was true.  Like a brilliant point of light, I could not look at him directly.  He was too much for me; I had to encounter him peripherally.  He was my first encounter with androgyny, with mystique, and with the idea that one could reinvent oneself endlessly.  Every time I saw him, he looked different, did different things.

This both fascinated and thrilled me, and it still does.  I knew if he could do this, keep starting over, exploring new venues and endless permutations of art and expression, I could too.  I did not have to be bound by my upbringing.  I too could be weird and proud of it.  I could experiment with genre and form and buck the conventions of branding and those who would pigeonhole my work.  What I want to create, I can.  No one can stop me.

This is the lesson David Bowie taught me.  He crashed flamboyantly into my life and the lives of millions and left us just as quietly, without letting us know we would have a reason to mourn.  He did not share his pain and struggle with us but chose to give us one last gift instead–the complex and gorgeous album Blackstar.  I ended my journey with him by purchasing my first Bowie album tonight and listening to it with tears streaming down my face.

Rest in peace, sir.  You’ve earned it.

Book Review! The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light

I’ve been given a book to review!

For an upcoming blog tour, I am reviewing The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light, by Deirdre Eden.  It is the debut novel of a fantasy series set in medieval England.

Ms. Eden is a writer and speaker who runs Eden Literary, a company that provides services to writers such as editing, critiquing, promotion, book trailers, and others.  I feel honored that I was chosen for a Powerful Woman Writer Award by her blog, A Storybook World.  You can see it at the bottom of my page and find the link to the site in my blogroll.

Eden’s Amazon biography says:

My goal in writing is to saturate my books with intrigue, mystery, romance, and plot twists that will keep my readers in suspense. I want to see fingerprints on the front and back covers where readers have gripped the novel with white knuckles! 

Aside from writing, I enjoy jousting in arenas, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures.

She’s well qualified to write the action scenes in this book.  And looks the part as well.  This picture is super cool.

Deirdre Eden knight Zion PHotography Studio

Photo:  Zion’s Studio Photography at Amazon.com

In The Watchers: Book One, we meet fiery haired orphan Auriella, who has discovered a strange new power within her.  Charged with witchcraft, soon she is on the run, pursued by wolves and the dreaded Shadow Legion.  They are the nemeses of the mysterious and legendary Lady of Neviah, whose identity soon becomes apparent.

Auriella and a fellow captive, a chirpy pixie named Cassi, are rescued from the clutches of an evil hag by Ruburt the dwarf.  The three friends travel through a dangerous world, until they reach the patronage of Lady Hannah, who adopts Auriella.

Enchanted by her new life and a burgeoning first love affair, Auriella begins to turn away from her destiny.  But she cannot escape it for long, and soon, her comfort and safety is threatened, along with everything and everyone she has grown to love.

Through heartbreak and loss and with newfound skills and experience, Auriella must face her enemy and fight for her chance to become not only a legend but a knighted protector of the kingdom.

Though I’m not a reader of high fantasy, I enjoyed this book.  Tiny pixie Cassi in particular was an amusing character.  She and Ruburt the dwarf provide comic relief, and they stick loyally by Auriella through thick and thin, as real friends do.

Eden is a Mormon writer, and the theological research she draws on in her writing supports the story beautifully without being intrusive.  Not being Mormon myself, I don’t know a lot of it, but the whole Watchers thing (see the Books of Enoch) doesn’t come across as preachy or even particularly religious.

I would have liked the author to take me through some of the transitions a bit more slowly–some of them seemed rushed.  But I’ve just read The Lord of the Rings again and recently finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63, so the slow tempo of both those books (especially Tolkien’s) may be coloring my perception.

This story would be fine for younger readers who can handle chapter books.  It’s fast-paced and the language isn’t too hard for them.  Young adults and even grown-ups who like a quick read and a good adventure will enjoy it too.  While reading, I found myself wishing I had a nerdy bookworm kid with whom to share it.  This blog post will appear on my Facebook page, and I’ll make sure my parent friends see it.

It looks as though Eden has at least six books planned in the series.  I’m anxious to see what happens next, and how Auriella’s adventures play out.  I think it would make a neat animated film (or a series of them).

Find The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light on Amazon. Watch this cool book trailer here:

Exciting, yes?

Thanks to Laura Watkins and Theresa Sneed, Book Manager and Blog Tour Assistant of Eden Literary for providing a review copy to me.  Now go read!

RIP Robin Williams

No matter how we try to imagine it, we can’t know what is truly going on inside other people.  Actor and comedian Robin Williams battled many demons—among them addiction and depression.  This morning, he lost his fight.  My heart goes out to his family and friends as they mourn the loss of their loved one.

Rest in peace, dear man.  We’ll miss you dreadfully.

Happy Feet Two - European Premiere - Inside Arrivals

Image Credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images